The sun was setting in the East. The heat of the city sent shimmering swirls of dust into the air, blending with the smell of spices and the sweat of its people under the rose-tinged sky. But dusk was also when the invaders came. The fierce, sweaty, hairy men stormed the ramparts of the palace, attacking and forcing their way past the Sultan’s guards.
They ran down The Passage of Concubines before arriving at the Seraglio, the innermost sanctum of the palace and home to the Sultan’s harem. As they broke down the heavy door made from the finest sandalwood, the smell of their sweat and wet leather mixed with the swirls of incense that billowed from within. They entered the women’s quarters and beheld the naked beauties at their bath. It was an instant war between warm human flesh, the mysteries of women, sweet honeyed intimacy, and feral, musky masculinity.
The Favorite Consort haughtily stepped to the forefront, approached the leader of the invaders and placed one cool, honeyed hand firmly against his sweat-stained leather cuirass. “I will wash your feet with the nectar of the finest Persian roses, feed you molten honey and spiced treats in rooms of silk and incense, and perfume your leather with the finest sandalwood, if you leave the women unharmed.”
He stared at her, his swarthy face silent. Finally, he nodded but not before pulling her closer to demonstrate his dominion. Their bodies were a meld of musk, sweat, dust and spices, warm flesh, heady flowers, wet leather, creamy sandalwood, sour notes, smoky incense, and ambered honey.
That was the vision which immediately arose in my mind when I wore Absolue Pour Le Soir (“Absolue”) from the luxury niche perfume house of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Paris (“MFK”).
Francis Kurkdjian began his career as something of a young prodigy in the perfume world and has become one of its most celebrated, admired creators. As Luckyscent succinctly explains,
In the era of perfumer-as-star, Francis Kurkdjian (pronounced “kurr-janh”) has been the first to break away and found a house bearing his name. But Maison Francis Kurkdjian is not just another niche brand: its stated ambition is to become a house with “a soul and history”, the Guerlain of the 21st century. And if anyone can pull it off, it may just be the charismatic boy wonder who had already composed a blockbuster— Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Le Male— at the age of 25, and has since authored a slew of highly acclaimed scents, both mainstream and niche, from the cult Christian Dior Eau Noire to the best-selling Narciso Rodriguez for Her.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian released Absolue Pour Le Soir in 2011 as a more concentrated, spicier, naughtier, more animalic eau de parfum version of its 2009 cashmere and rose Cologne Pour Le Soir. On its website, the company describes the mood of Absolue as follows:
When the night takes on its own life, the tempo changes. Take along, longuorous [sic] breath. Linger till dawn, keep your head in the stars. You’re suspended in time.
The most detailed set of perfume notes that I’ve found has been on Luckyscent which lists the following ingredients:
Infusion of benzoin from Siam [aka Siam Resin], cumin, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian and Iranian rose honey, incense absolute, Atlas cedarwood and sandalwood.
Absolue Pour Le Soir opens on my skin with a rich, dark, molten layer of honey and cumin. There are notes of deeply resinous amber which conjure up a colour image of red-gold in my mind’s eye. There is almost a leathery note like wet, sweat-infused rawhide with an underlying sour-sweet element which evokes a hotly lathered horse and saddle. (It definitely helped contribute to my image of an attack on the seraglio!) I think musk can often have a leather undertone (to my nose at least), so I’m chalking it up to that because there is no doubt that Absolue is a musk perfume. The whole thing is overlaid by that rich honey and resin which oozes over everything like a wave of hot lava.
The cumin becomes much more pronounced after the opening minutes and it soon shares equal footing with the honey. And, yet, it almost feels as though there are other spices too, like cloves, star anise and cinnamon. Flickering and dancing in the background are the rose notes, creamy sandalwood, incense, and almost woody, sweet smokiness from the Siam resin. The resinous notes here don’t feel like pure Siam resin, and I have to wonder if they left out mention of labdanum. That is another resin, but it has a more animalic, musky, masculine, dirty edge to it. (You can read about both types of resin and their differences in my Glossary.) Given that Absolue’s notes don’t actually include any mention of musk as an ingredient, I wouldn’t be surprised if labdanum were used to create some of the more animalic, naughty accords.
There is something about the way that those resins combine with the spices, the rich rose, smoke and sandalwood that repeatedly makes me think of the middle to end stages of my beloved (vintage) Opium. I recently purchased a bottle of the latter from the 1970s (do not ever buy current Opium!) — and the similarities are pronounced in my mind, especially once the sandalwood becomes more noticeable. That said, the two scents are very different. Absolue is much dustier and heavily dominated by musk and cumin — which is not the case with the more floral-dominant spices of Opium.
The cumin is really interesting in Absolue. Unlike some of my other experiences with the note, it never has a really sweat-like accord after that first minute or two. Yes, there is an earthy feel to the scent, but it doesn’t make me give worried sniffs under my arms as some perfumes — like Serge Lutens‘ Serge Noire or Amouage‘s Jubilation 25 –have done. Moreover, there is nothing skanky, funky or intimate about the note or how it interacts with the other ingredients. Unlike the very animalic Musc Tonkin by Parfume d’Empire, there are no unsettling impression of deeply feminine intimacy or of unwashed panties. Rather, the cumin in Absolue Pour Le Soir just feels like the pure spice, albeit one which my nose is somehow convinced is mixed with star anise and cloves. The dusty, dusky dryness they impart are a perfect balance to the sweetness of the dark honey and resins; they prevent the perfume from being gourmand in any way.
As time passes, Absolue becomes much more of a true oriental in the grand old style. Superbly blended, the perfume takes on a more complex character and different notes peek out at different times. Sometimes, the creamy, spiced sandalwood is more pronounce while, at other times, the smoke and incense accords come to the foreground. All of them are tinged with cumin for the first hour and, then, by the floral notes for the second (and subsequent) hours, particularly the rich roses and the creamy, very indolic notes of ylang-ylang.
The indolic nature of the ylang-ylang may prove to be a problem for some people. Very indolic flowers — like jasmine, tuberose and ylang-ylang — can occasionally take on a very extreme character, evoking impressions of rotting fruit, plastic-y flowers or a litter box. That doesn’t usually happen to me and I’m on record as saying how much I adore some of the most indolic perfumes around, like Robert Piguet‘s Fracas. Here, however, there is a definite sour note on my skin which I suspect stems from the ylang-ylang. It arises after the first hour and lasts for another solid hour before the perfume transforms again, with the rich rose nectar taking the lead along side the creamy sandalwood and musk.
Over time, Absolue Pour Le Soir changes again. At the fourth hour, it is an absolutely luscious, heady, rich, rose perfume, with incense and sandalwood. In its later stages and during the dry-down, it is predominantly amberous resin and honey with just a dash of musk and a hint of creamy sandalwood. Unlike some, like the Candy Perfume Boy, I never smelled the metholated aspects of cedarwood or any hint of immortelle. Nor did I smell raw beeswax, as a few have mentioned on Luckyscent, or primarily incense notes. But I suspect that the perfume will change slightly each time one wears it, highlighting different facets and some of the comments on Fragrantica bear out that impression. It is a sign of just how brilliantly it has been blended.
I’d read a lot about Absolue Pour Le Soir’s “dirtiness” before trying it out and I really expected a skank monster filled with unsettling intimacy. I tend to struggle with those notes, so the online comments left me with much trepidation. It’s one thing when someone on Luckyscent says simply, “Dirty bee – very naughty, dirty bee!” But when a highly respected perfume blogger like The Candy Perfume Boy writes that it initially triggered a “fight or flight” reflex and that he originally “chose flight“….. well, one starts to worry a little! Not even the fact that he eventually succumbed to buying a full bottle, rapturously calling it a “beautiful, filthy beast” really allayed my hesitancy. Then again, Absolue Pour Le Soir made The Scented Hound, a perfume blogger who generously gave me a sample of the scent, gush in a way that he rarely does. He wrote that the perfume made him feel “incredibly sexy.” In fact, after succumbing to a full bottle (which seems to be a common theme when it comes to this scent), he later wrote that it “makes me want to take myself on a date.”
I think both bloggers’ assessment of the perfume is absolutely correct. As The Candy Perfume Boy wrote so beautifully, “[i]t is a fragrance that has the power to shock due to its dichotomy of ugliness and beauty.” However, I think that the “shock” will depend significantly on how much exposure you’ve had to really musky perfumes. I reviewed Parfum d’Empire‘s famous (infamous?) Musc Tonkin just last week and I think that may have immunized me from things that others may find to be a filthy, dirty beast. With Absolue Pour Le Soir, there is none of the animalic funk (and faint terror, if truth be told) that I felt at the opening minutes of Musc Tonkin. That was a truly “dirty” monster of an opening — all animalic fat, skin and hair. This is not.
Instead, what I found was something that was definitely musky, yes, but not truly animalic or heavily skanky. It was lovely and approachable and, as time went by, damn seductive! I keep having the insane vision of a bottle of Andy Tauer’s dusty, dry, spicy L’Air du Desert Marocain having a three-way with a large pot of musk and a big vat of honey. Well, that overlooks the bottle of cumin and the big vase of the most lusciously meaty, beefy, dark roses to be found this side of Persia. But you get my point.
Those who love clean, fresh or light scents will not be a fan of Absolue Pour Le Soir. Those who despise cumin notes, musks or rich orientals, likewise. But for everyone else, especially those who love spice or some naughtiness in their scents, I strongly urge you to try a sample. Absolue Pour Le Soir is a very unisex, versatile, luxurious fragrance which would work on a man or a woman, at the office or on a date. It has strong sillage for the first hour, after which it becomes moderate for the next hour before becoming significantly closer to the skin at the third hour. You don’t need to violently inhale at your wrist to smell it, but no-one across the room is going to be bludgeoned on the head by it either. It’s extremely heady, but not overpowering. (Unless you drown yourself in it, in which case, it may be a whole other matter.) And Absolue has fantastic longevity. On my perfume-consuming skin, there were faint traces of it over ten and a half hours later! On Fragrantica, the vast majority of voters put the perfume’s longevity in the highest category (“very long-lasting”).
Plus, by the standards of niche perfumes, it is almost quite affordable. (Well, as “affordable” as this sort of luxury niche perfume can be.) This incredibly high-quality perfume costs $185 for a 2.4 oz bottle – which is almost a third larger than the traditional “small” size of 1.7 oz. Other perfumes of this quality that I have tried have tended to start at $200 (again, for that smaller 1.7 oz quantity), with some going over $300. In my opinion, it is of infinitely better quality than a number of perfumes that I’ve tried from better known houses and that have been in the mid-$200 range. Moreover, it’s a lot more distinctive.
At the end of the day, though, perfume is meant to be a voyage of the senses — both of mind, smell, and imagination. For me, Absolue Pour Le Soir transports me to the Sultan’s harem. It initially conjures up visions of sweaty, musky, leather-clad warriors who have leaped off their mighty steeds just moments before entering the feminine heart of the palace. Later, it makes me feel like the Sultan’s favorite consort — perfumed, indulged, sensuous — as she reclines over brightly-coloured pillows of raw silk, confident in her power and beauty. At the end, in its absolutely intoxicating dry-down phase of honey and amber, it makes me feel as languid as a cat stretching out in the sun.
Warrior or Consort Queen… it’s all just a few drops away.
I’m so glad you love this my dear. To me, this is a mood enhancer. I wear this during the evening when I want to feel sexy and I wear it ever so rarely in the daytime if I am in a “don’t f*ck with me boys” kind of mood at work 🙂 Lovely review. Steve
Thank you, my darling Mr. Hound. It was all due to your generosity in letting me have a sample. “Don’t F*ck with me boys”….. Joan Crawford? ROFL! I love it. And, yes, I can definitely see how Absolue would let one feel as though one were tough, fierceless and invincible. xoxox
Ooh, this sounds divine, or at least very interesting! On a shallow note, I love the elegant simplicity of the bottle, as well as the font used. I see this house is taking the Chanel route of pricing: The 2.4 oz/70 ml bottle costs €115, while the 6.8 fl oz costs €160. That pricing scheme is the season I have three 6.8oz bottles of the Exclusifs. LOL. I will have to put this on my to-try list!
I think you, in particular, should definitely try this. Given your love for Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, and how this is a more resinous, sweet, honeyed take on that — with musk and roses thrown in — I think you’d find it interesting at the very least!
That sounds even better! Sigh. I had planned to go a few months without buying samples from StC and yet…I’m so, so tempted. Most hold off! MUST! After all, I have more samples coming and two bottles. LOL. The two bottles are justified (in my warped mind) because: I had planned to buy them forever ago and I just got rid of 3 bottles, so I have space. 🙂
Oh, God, I just tried this. It’s BEAUTIFUL. So, so elegant and refined. Pure luxury! I was a bit worried because it opened very animalic (in a way I found appealing, but still, I know I can’t do pure animalic) but then it’s a nice, gentle honey, rose, benzoin, amazingness.
Birthday bottle for August? This is DEFINITELY in the running! 🙂 I appreciate this review even more now that I’ve had the chance to try this.
It’s stunning, isn’t it? That animalic opening soon changed on my skin to pure beauty, so I’m glad it was the same way on you. But even during that opening, it’s never really raunchy or extreme. It’s all done brilliantly and with enormous refinement. I can definitely see you wearing this one, Kevin. Luxurious sexiness with a little, small ROWRR at the opening!
Honestly, this one is basically what I wanted/thought Ambre Russe would smell like. And exactly – it’s never Musc Tonkin levels of of raunchiness. Just enough to be totally sensual and sexy. Ug, it’s so beautiful. Which is really a shame, as I haven’t been very tempted by a full bottle lately. Oh wait, except Bel Respiro. Which came today. LOL.
I’m not sure if I should try it. Cumin puts me off from anything. I don’t like it in my food and probablyi n my perfume as well
Have you liked any perfumes with cumin in them, Lucas? If no, then this one won’t be for you either.
I think I don’t like any with cumin, especially when it’s more prominent
I’m iffy on cumin, too, Lucas. I don’t hate it in food (probably because I grew up eating Mexican food and it’s a common ingredient), but I think it can become overpowering very quickly. I have tried a few with cumin in them in the past, which leads me to believe I can tolerate it at times. But if it’s an absolute no-go every time, I think you’d probably smell it from a mile away and avoid at all costs!
I don’t like spicy food so cumin definitely doesn’t suit my taste. When I was in Lithuania, where cumin is added to bread I just couldn’t eat it. The smell of this bread just put me off. No toleration for cumin for me 😉
That is a very beautiful and affecting review of a scent that – while not my nemesis exactly – exemplifies pretty much my least favourite style of perfume. I am rubbish with indolic notes and heavily swagged orientals and had the exact experience you evoke so vividly here –
“Very indolic flowers — like jasmine, tuberose and ylang-ylang — can occasionally take on a very extreme character, evoking impressions of rotting fruit, plastic-y flowers or litter box”
with Caron Narcisse Noir, though it was a long time ago, admittedly. Amarige does weird molten plastic things too and both made me nauseous.
Absolue was just discordant and overly rich and resinous to my nose, but not scarily horrible like the aforementioned two. I did give my sample away pretty sharpish, mind. Indeed it may transpire that we are “Evil Scent Twins”, and what fun that could be…..
Ha! It sounds like we are complete “Evil Scent Twins” and you’re right, this will be a lot of fun! For me, the more rich, indolic, oriental, resinous, ambery, or narcotically heady…. the happier I am. That’s why I said to you a few days ago that even the good “mistaken” Illuminum didn’t sound like it was my cup of tea. Sheer, light, airy, translucent… all things I shy away from! I can recognise a good scent when it is one of those things, but I would never want to wear it myself. Lack of richness or headiness is one of the reasons why I haven’t liked the L’Artisan perfumes thus far, with the exception of Safran Troublant (and that is probably due only to the fact that I have a weakness for anything with saffron).
I actually wrote a piece that (implicitly) defended Amarige and which was called: The People v. Amarige — Prosecution & Defense. You might find it amusing: https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/the-people-v-amarige-prosecution-defense/ 😀
OT, thanks for quoting that line because I saw I left out the word “a” before litter box, and I’m obsessively perfectionistic. 😀
Outstanding, and had me laughing aloud in several places, notably the references to olfactory napalm, asthmatics, gurneys and “fruited animals devouring my skin”. The notion of tuberose suing was also a highlight. If Giorgio and Caroline Herrera get wind, they may bring a class action…!
😀 I’m glad you enjoyed it. Is this the time to say that I love Carolina Herrera and that, back in the day (way, waaaayyyyyy back), I wore Giorgio on occasion. *grin* Evil Scent Twins, indeed. Bring on the indoles and the super rich perfumes, I say! 😉
I find Absolue Pour Le Soir absolutely amazing. It’s unique , sexy, complex, long lasting with lots of development and charisma. Probably my favorite from MFK line.
I’m glad you liked it too, Ross. I sense we have some overlap in our perfume tastes, though I’m not generally a musk girl. 🙂 I plan on trying MFK’s Oud next, so we’ll see how that compares to some of the oud fragrances I’ve tried. I’ve heard it’s pretty fantastic!
MFK Oud impressed me as well and I’m contemplating about getting a bottle. I’m also curious with his new additions to the Oud line-Silk Oud and Velvet Oud(if I’m not mistaken with the names lol) although they say the price is around $400 per bottle…
I’m really curious about them too. I have a copy of the press release and I was going to post it, once I heard back from the PR agent about what the US pricing might be like, but the two you mentioned sounded fantastic. The one that made me whimper was Velvet Oud, if I recall correctly. It was whichever one had saffron and more spicy elements. Are they really supposed to be $400 a bottle??! Good God! I should ask the PR chap.
I’m never quite sure how interesting it is for people if I just post the press release for a single brand (which was another reason I held off), as opposed to a general round-up of upcoming scents, but maybe some people would be interested? What do you think?
I think it would be interesting to know about new MFK release. So far I’ve been impressed with this house and always looking forward what will come next 🙂
There are not that many perfumes that I hate. Absolue pour le Soir is one of those. I’m not sure if it’s my skin or my nose but all I can smell is an awful urinary scent. I read many positive reviews and logically I realize that others smell it differently but emotionally it’s hard to accept that somebody can actually enjoy that 😉
It sounds like the indoles in the ylang-ylang got to you. Which is unusual since I know you like a number of indolic perfumes. On me, there was the sourness for a little while — which was quite an unusual experience for me with indolic notes. But it never verged on urine. You poor thing, that must have been terrible! 😦
So, far, the comments seem to be evenly split between those who like it and those who didn’t. Well, perhaps 60-40 in favour. But I have no doubt that this one will probably be polarising. I think anything very musky or very indolic tends to be — and this one has both!
O no, not the sandalwood door. Irreplaceable these days.
Beautiful review of a beautiful fragrance.
I have been considering buying a bottle of AplS for some time, but there is a stage of the development in which it turns a bit heavy and opaque on me. The longevity, however, is phenomenal and its raw sexiness can’t be denied. Cumin and I get along very well.
I think I’m going for it after all…
Raw sexiness is right! I happen to love “heavy and opaque” scents when done as well as this one, but I do know what you mean. The middle stage with the faint sourness was the part which was my least favorite but, as a whole, it was pretty spectacular. And that final stage just ooooooooozed sensuality!
Given your comments on this, Trayee, Mohur and some others that you have reviewed on your blog, I suspect we have some definite overlap in our perfume tastes. 🙂
I don’t know how often I would wear AplS, but I think I must have it, just in case of emergency. I assume you must like Epic too then.
So many great perfumes before us…
I wish you a fragrant day.
I know, I love heavy and opaque, too, I’ve come to find. So many days I’m tempted to gas people out with a heavy, heavy dousing of something heavy and decadent, but I think better of it. 🙂 This is why I need to move somewhere perpetually cold, so I can feel more justified in heavy scents all the time. Norway, here I come! LOL.
You take Norway, I’ll take Copenhagen! 😉
Sigh, I’d take Copenhagen. Or Stockholm. Or London, for that matter. I’m really not picky! LOL. 🙂
Fabulous review! Once again you’ve intrigued my senses… This is definitely a fragrance I would wear when I want to feel sexy, a little bit mysterious & intoxicating…strong but not “in your face” kind of way. Absolue Pour Le soir sounds like it could be a secret (fragrance) weapon for both sexes! Lol! I think I need to order a sample:)
You know, “secret (fragrance) weapon” might be the perfect way to describe this! Have you tried any musky perfumes, Jackie? If so and if you like them, then you should definitely give this one a go!
Every women needs a “secret weapon”! 😉
I’m scratching my head trying to remember if I’ve tried a bunch of musky perfumes…does oriental musky perfumes count?
Either way, I’m about to find out if I like them…I ordered a sample from Surrender to chance:) Dive in head first! Right? Besides you haven’t steered me wrong, yet!! Kidding 😉
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This is one of my favorite reviews to read and reread. And whenever I wear this I find myself looking up the notes again to see if there’s musk or other animalic ingredients…. it’s a very convincing illusion if there really isn’t (sniffs self again just to be sure), SO MUCH GORGEOUSNESS! I want to be embalmed in it when I die, with bottles of Ambre Russe and Alahine and Opium and Aziyadé in my arms.
Also, I so agree about the resemblance to vintage Opium… they are indeed very different but I so get that similarity ever time I wear it, which only makes me love it more.
Thank you for writing such wondrous epic posts for the best oriental perfumes.
I’m so glad you get that vague similarity to Opium!! Sometimes, I just wonder if I have Opium on the mind (which, granted, I often do) but it really seemed like Absolue Pour Le Soir had some subtle call-back to the feel/sense of Opium.
I love how enthralled you are by the scent. Have you tried the Cologne version? I have not but some people have said that there is much more nuance since the labdanum isn’t as opaque or molten as with the Absolue version. I definitely want to get a sample to compare, but it will be a while. I have the MFK Oud to try and that one is supposed to be a stunner!
I have not tried the Cologne, it actually hadn’t occurred to me as I just assumed I would prefer the more intense version. I already have a MFK Oud sample in my cart, so perhaps I’ll add the Cologne as well. Doesn’t he have a series of Ouds as well? Velvet and Cashmere and Silk? I would love to find a fantastic oud perfume…. so far, the ones I’ve liked have not been oud dominant and the strong oud ones have sent me running to the nearest body of water to scrub them off. I do, however, love the natural raw material. I keep some diluted Oud co2 on hand to wear all by itself at times.
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I cannot get enough of this!
Yes, I come back here to this story often. I had to rescue the sandalwood doors.
Hi Lisana, welcome to the blog! What can’t you get enough of? Absolue Pour Le Soir? It’s a fantastic fragrance, isn’t it? So sumptuous! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂
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Love this one. It reminds me of Musc Ravageur in some ways (my whole family LOVES MR). It is like the dirty sibling to MR.
lovely review ..i’m very tempted ,do you think a man could easily wear this frag ,is it the cumin here like l’autre by diptyque if i completely dislike it it makes me feel like having bad smelling armpits
I haven’t tried the Diptyque scent, so I can’t speak about the cumin in it to compare. I don’t think the cumin here is intense at all, and I’ve tried scents with intense cumin. Absolue’s greater problem for some people is the honey, as that can be a troublesome note with some skin chemistries. Once in a while, it can turn sour or metallic. It didn’t here with me, and not on most people I know, but it can happen occasionally.
As for men wearing Absolue Pour Le Soir, almost all the people I know who wear it *ARE* men!! I know only 2 women who wear it, but everyone else is a man. I don’t know why some women think it is too intense, but they do. Perhaps it is too extremely oriental, a bit fierce, and not soft enough? Who knows.
Either way, this is definitely a scent that a guy can wear, so don’t worry on the gender thing. If you can take honey quite a bit of musk at first, and a small touch of dry spices, you’ll smell amazing in Absolue. It’s definitely a favorite of mine.
thanks so much i usually dont mind about gender perfumes my signature scent is mitsouko by guerlain
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While Jordan is obsessing over the sandalwood doors (wood chips by now) I can have the “honour” of posting the sallowest comment here and note that even in orientalist fantasies, the sun should still set in the west, no?
Post whatever you’d like, “sallow” or otherwise.
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