Monday, 10 January 2011

A London visit in which I discover Cologne Absolue Pour Le Soir

We visited our closest friends this weekend, who live in London. They live close to Canary Wharf, which for those of you familiar with London, will know is now one of the financial hearts of London. I say one of, because the City is still another hub, as is London Bridge, where one of London's most exciting new buildings, the Shard, is being erected. Canary Wharf, for those of you interested in a rudimentary history lesson, was not that long ago (say thirty years,) a derelict wasteland of old docks, at the northerly reach of the Isle of Dogs. Now it is a slick and buzzing hub of gleaming skyscrapers and concrete walkways set between canals, inlets and other docks. Now if this sounds like a homage, it really isn't. If it weren't for the fact that our friends live close by, we probably would never come here, unless I was a banker, accountant, investment banker or maybe one of those enforcers at the FSA, the Financial Services Authority, who regulate banks and other financial service firms in the UK. If that didn't set off the yawns across the world, then I don't know what will...

So what has any of this to do with perfume and more specifically, Francis Kurkdjian's Cologne Pour Le Soir? Well, in a roundabout sort of way there are quite a lot of shops at Canary Wharf, including Space NK Apothecary, which is a chain of stores that stock fragrances, skin care and bath products and that sort of thing. I've written about Space NK before. I must admit that until fairly recently I wasn't that excited by them, but I've discovered that they stock a fairly decent range of perfumes, including Serge Lutens, Francis Kurkdjian, Diptyque, L'Artisan, Tom Ford, Antonia's Flowers, Honore des Pres, Nasomatto, Annick Goutal and a few others. They also stock candles by Carriere Freres. 

My local Tunbridge Wells branch does not stock all of the above, and unfortunately the last time I visited, weren't getting the Kurkdjians. While I was in Canary Wharf, I walked past a Space NK store that stocked these, so I popped in quickly to try a few. I must admit that up till now I haven't been overly impressed by the Kurkdjian line, but to be fair I've only tried a couple that were so-so, but hardly earth shattering. So I tried Cologne Absolue Pour Le Soir and Pour Le Matin. Firstly, I should say that Pour Le Matin is quite good. It was surprisingly good, at least for me, which I wasn't expecting for some reason. But Pour Le Soir - damn this is stupendously good! I don't generally like to to rave about a perfume, but I can't help but do so in this case. I feel excited just typing this now...

As far as I know, the Absolue is a more concentrated version of the Cologne, like an Eau de parfum. According to Luckscent, the notes include benzoin, cumin, ylang-ylang, cedar, sandalwood, incense, honey and rose. At first application, the honeyed sweetness is most evident. It smells startlingly like actual, gloopy honey out the jar, tinged with resins and a smooth rose note. This phase is very good, but as the fragrance progresses, this honey-rose is joined by a gorgeous, smoky incense accord, supported by smoky sandalwood and cedar. There is something animalic in here, but I have to admit that for me this is secondary, although I do detect it to an extent. I'm more interested in that incense accord, because it takes me right back to my childhood, to the Easter Vigil Mass at my Catholic church in the small town where I grew up in South Africa. Easter in the Southern Hemisphere is in autumn, as the seasons are reversed, and the Vigil mass, depending on when Easter falls, can take place on some very cool autumn evenings. I don't want to make this a religious lesson, because it isn't, but for background, the Vigil Mass takes place after Good Friday, on the Saturday evening, and starts off very solemn, usually outside the church, where the Easter Candle is studded with emblems that signify the death and resurrection of Christ, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, and is then lit from the embers of a fire burning outside. The congregation stands around the fire, usually on a dark evening where the wind is sighing through the pines, the incense wafting over from where the altar boys swing censors. Now this  might not mean much to you, but the incense in Cologne Pour Le Soir smells just like this evening to me - not just incense, not just catholic incense, but the whole. The smell of pine, incense, smoke, dust, wind, cool breeze, warm woods of the polished pews once inside and also for some reason, like rosemary, although that doesn't really fit with my earlier image. In a long-winded way, this perfume smells like a part of my childhood, of the rhythms of life ancient and assured, comforting even.

Does this all seem a bit strange? Writing this now, it does, but honestly, that is what Cologne Pour Le Soir does to me, and represents for me. On paper, one could easily reduce this to a description that says this is a rose, incense and honeyed woods perfume. Simple. But it is so much more, masterfully crafted in my opinion. It has everything, and very well balanced at that. Yes it is slightly feral, but this is counterbalanced by all the other subtle facets, not competing and jostling for room, but in perfect harmony, with just enough off-kilter to keep it interesting and compelling. Lasting power is very good too - it lasted for about 10 to 12 hours on my skin and I can still smell it on a paper strip two days later. My only complaint is that Space NK in my town doesn't stock it, and Luckscent aren't selling samples. Damn, I'll have to visit Canary Wharf again!


  1. I wanted to love it , but it just didn't do it for me . I can't pinpoint why !
    I actually like Dior Mitzah much better for my ambery-honey fix .

  2. Carol I haven't tried the Dior, so I can't comment on a comparison, but I suppose we all have different experiences with a perfume. Do you like any others in the Kurkdjian line?

  3. A scent I need to try too. on my list. Thanks great article!

  4. Thanks Vintage Lady. I hope you get to try it soon!



Related Posts with Thumbnails