Perfume Review – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumière Noire Pour Femme

"Inner Motions, Untitled" #6 by Azadeh Ghotbi. Used with permission from the artist. Acrylic on canvas. Price available on request. Azadehgallery.com

“Inner Motions, Untitled” #6 by Azadeh Ghotbi. Used with permission from the artist. Acrylic on canvas. Price available on request. Azadehgallery.com (Link embedded within.)

Lumiere and Noire (Light and Black), an attraction and repulsion.

A black hole lit with the image of a mysterious perfume that attracts until it provokes self-abandon. It is the idea of two opposing powers that unite to create a whole that relates, at its turn, a new story. The mention of this duality is imposed as an obvious fact, like the emblematic blend of Rose and Patchouli.

That is the press description of Lumiere Noire Pour Femme, a chypre eau de parfum from Maison Francis Kurkdjian which was released in 2009 and which attempts to cast a new light on the rose-patchouli duet. Reading the description brought to mind the paintings of the artist, Azadeh Ghotbi, who often plays with textured reflections and with the duality of light and darkness.

"Inner Motions, Untitled #2" by Azadeh Ghotbi. Used with permission from the artist. Price available on request. Azadehgallery.com

“Inner Motions, Untitled” #2 by Azadeh Ghotbi. Used with permission from the artist. Acrylic on canvas. Price available on request. Azadehgallery.com (Link embedded within.)

Yet, Mr. Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire seems to be an attempt to go beyond his prior exploration of the rose-patchouli pairing in his creations for Guerlain (Rose Barbare) and for Juliette Has a Gun (Lady Vengeance). This time, it seems he sought to create something that was darker and much more of a “full-on” rose. To quote Denyse Beaulieu at Grain de Musc, Lumiere Noire Pour Femme is:

a full-on bodice-ripper of a rose, Baudelairian in its celebration of majestic female flesh –a courtesan trussed in velvet the colour of drying blood trimmed with jet beads, hair tumbling down her back as she downs a flute of champagne. Her shawl carries the smell of the patchouli leaves it was packed with to repel the moths on its way from India. A bunch of jasmine exhales its dying breath between her breasts. A sweaty tendril of cumin rises from her corset…

What a stunning visual! That description — in conjunction with the very cool, gothic vibe behind the name “Black Light” — made me fully expect a lascivious, debauched, sexualized rose fragrance. Yet, I found the perfume to be very far from sexual, dark, and twisty. Instead, on me, it was a beautiful evocation of Spring — a rich take on a field of fragrant, yellow daffodils intertwined with a fresh, mossy green, along with sweetly dark earth, dry woody notes, and a spiced rose.

Source: freehdwalls.net

Source: freehdwalls.net

The notes for Lumiere Noire on the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website are simply listed as: “Spiced Rose (cumin, hot pepper) Patchouli – Narcissus.” However, I have seen a significantly more detailed set of notes from Muse in Wooden Shoes who cites a very different list from the company:

Notes, according to the MFK site: rose, narcissus [or daffodil], pepper, lily of the valley, patchouli, balsam, orris, cumin.

I think that seems far more accurate, judging by what I smelled on my skin, so we’ll go with that version.

Lumiere Noire opens with a haunting note of daffodil-rose. It’s a dry rose with sweet hay, a rose turned on its head with a slight bitterness that is, indeed, a little dark. Yet, at the same time, it’s sweet and bright — a very successful interplay of the themes of light and dark. The daffodils add a mesmerizing touch that is very different and which I adore, though I confess to having a huge weakness for the flower in general.

Lurking underneath is a fresh, springy, brightly green patchouli, accompanied by light touches of dusty, dry spice. Though the hay note is the most prominent, the spice and chili pepper swirl imperceptibly in the background, working their magic on the rose to transform it into something much more fiery and much less sweet. At the same time, there is almost a citrus-like nuance, along with an earthy iris note from the orris.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com.

I can’t get enough of the daffodils and how brilliantly Lumiere Noire seems to replicate the whole flower. The scent feels just like a daffodil pushing its way up through the dark, loamy, rich earth (orris), and the fresh, sweet, green grass (the mossy patchouli), until its woody, brown stalk (the hay) rises up to meet the sun and the bud unfurls its golden heart to release its sweet floral scent (daffodil and spicy rose). It is a very Spring interpretation of light and dark, if you will.

The perfume is beautifully modulated, reflecting different facets at different times. Though the rose is always subsumed within the daffodils, sometimes it’s much more noticeable in the early hours; at other times, the daffodil glows even more brightly. Around the thirty minute mark, it’s the earthy, woody element which seems to rise to the surface, joining in the lead with the daffodils. After one hour, the rose returns undulating in greenish waves with the patchouli and narcissus, sharing the stage with the two in equal measure. Something about that patchouli note isn’t always pleasant; it can be a little sharp, very synthetic at times, and almost verging on the point of burning. Thankfully, it soon recedes, softening and blending in much better with the other notes.

Five hours in, Lumiere Noire is a narcissus-patchouli fragrance with soft hints of hay, rose, and earthy orris. There is a musky feel to the patchouli, along with some balsamic amber undertones, but they are not strong. For some inexplicable reason, the perfume feels a little like the middle stage of Tom Ford‘s Arabian Wood — a dry, mossy, green, patchouli with rose chypre that is neither Arabian nor primarily woody. The difference, though, is that Arabian Wood has a strong sandalwood foundation, along with honey, and more varied floral notes. Lumiere Noire’s daffodil note imparts a similar sort of dry woodsy character to the rose-patchouli duet, but it is a much stronger, dryer perfume as a whole. In both, however, the patchouli takes a turn into something much darker from its initial start. It’s not dirty, black patchouli by any means, and always feels mossy but, visually, it’s no longer so grassy. In Lumiere Noire, in particular, the patchouli turns from bright green and fresh into something much more potently dark and dry.

In its final hours, Lumiere Noire becomes dusty patchouli with narcissus, musk and the merest hint of rose. A few people on Fragrantica have said that the musky note in the drydown is like that of Narcisco RodriguezFor Her — a perfume also created by Francis Kurkdjian. I don’t really agree. Yes, Lumiere Noire has a subtle tinge of soapiness in the musk drydown that may evoke fabric softener, but it is just to a small degree on my skin. On a scale of 1 to 100, “For Her” would rate in the high 90s, while Lumiere Noire would be around a 10. To me, it does not smell clean, soapy, and white in the way that “For Her” does. The patchouli in Lumiere Noire is too green, mossy and dark for that, and it winds its way through every part of the fragrance. Nor is the musky element in Lumiere Noire so white and synthetic. I am not a fan of “For Her,” so trust me when I say that I don’t think the two perfumes share any great similarities.

Lumiere Noire lasted approximately 11 hours on my perfume-consuming skin which is quite impressive. The sillage was initially quite strong before it dropped, remaining at a moderate level until the sixth hour when Lumiere Noire became a skin scent. As a whole, Lumiere Noire is quite an airy perfume, almost transparently light in feel, but it is also extremely potent at the same time. I chalk it up to the powerful patchouli with its synthetic undertones. Whatever the exact reason, Lumiere Noire is not a fragrance that I would spray with reckless abandon; people may have to come near you to smell it, but once they do, it is quite pronounced.

All in all, I enjoyed Lumiere Noire and, at times, found myself sniffing my arm again and again with appreciation. I chalk it up to my love of daffodils and how, on my skin, the note either completely dominated the rose or lived side-by-side. In fact, I would say that the perfume had narcissus and patchouli in equal measure, followed only then by the rose. Either way, Lumiere Noire was a far cry from the bodice-ripper, sexualized rose fragrance that Grain de Musc recounted. No, my experience was much closer to that of the many commentators on Fragrantica who repeatedly mention the narcissus notes, the greenness, the grassy patchouli, and feel of Spring. Like me, very few of them experienced any cumin or chili pepper as an individually distinct, noticeable and isolated phenomenon. I ascribe that to the fact that Lumiere Noire is beautifully blended, but the absence of those notes in an individual manner may explain why so few of us shared Denyse Beaulieu’s hyper-sexualized interpretation of the fragrance.

As a side note, there are a few fragrances to which Lumiere Noire has sometimes been compared. On Fragrantica, a number of people found it similar to Vengeance Extreme by Juliet Has a Gun, while others mention Perles de LaliqueLa Perla or Eau du Soir. I’m not familiar with any of those fragrances, so I can’t comment. You may be interested, however, in an analysis from Muse in the Wooden Shoes who compared Lumiere Noire with Frederic Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, “one on each wrist”:

Before that, I would have described Lumiere Noire to be a Dark Rose, a dark gothic rose with kohl-lidded eyes. But next to each other, Lumiere Noire glowed like a candle, while all light disappeared into the far, far darker Portrait of a Lady, proving PoaL to be the true Darkest Rose I’ve come across. Eventually, I grew tired of the heavy balsam in the drydown of PoaL and sent my decant off to a good home with a friend. Although I think PoaL is a truly wonderful fragrance, I just couldn’t manage to wear it myself.

She far preferred Lumiere Noire, calling it “very sexy” and evocative of a boudoir.

I find the contrast between the two bloggers’ perception of Lumiere Noire and those of regular users to be fascinating. The bloggers write about the “celebration of majestic female flesh,” courtesans, boudoirs, and the spicy cumin evoking a trail of ravished, heated skin. The commentators on Fragrantica and Basenotes talk about Spring, wafting honeysuckles, aromatic gardens and green grass, the dominance of the narcissus over the rose, and even occasionally use that dreaded word: “clean.” It’s almost as if the sharply divergent impressions mirror that duality of light and darkness mentioned in the press release.

Source: Art.com

Source: Art.com

Well, I’m on the side of those at Fragrantica, because I thought Lumiere Noire had nothing to do with the boudoir. It is an elegant, sophisticated chypre that evokes Spring, sunshine, yellowness, and green. It’s very unisex, in my opinion, regardless of the “Pour Femme” designation and it’s also very wearable as a day-to-day matter. Lumiere Noire may not make a huge statement, but then I don’t think it’s trying to. It is meant to be an elegant, refined chypre, and it succeeded in that goal. For me, personally, it’s not full bottle worthy, but I think many men and women would appreciate its complexities.

As a side note, the “Pour Homme” version is similar, but has slightly different elements. It has cinnamon instead of cumin, and artemisia (or mugwort) in lieu of narcissus. You can read a brief comparison between the two at Grain de Musc, though the essence is yet another sexualized impression: “the mugwort keeps the rose tightly under wraps – as though the marquise de San-Réal had bandaged her breasts to slip into her half-brother’s slim black frock coat.”

If you enjoy chypres and are looking for a Spring scent that isn’t a typical, light, clean, fresh floral, but, rather, something with depth, body, green darkness and allure, you should give Lumiere Noire Pour Femme a sniff.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Lumière Noire Pour Femme/Pour Elle is an Eau de Parfum and comes in a 2.4 oz/70 ml bottle that costs $175, €115 or £115. You can find it on the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website which also sells samples of the perfume, along with incense paper and a candle version of Lumiere Noire. In the US, you can purchase Lumiere Noire from Luckyscent, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf GoodmanBeautyBar, or Bigelow Chemists. I don’t see any MFK fragrances listed on the Saks Fifth Avenue website. In the UK, you can find Lumiere Noire at Selfridges, Liberty, and Les Senteurs priced at £115. Les Senteurs also sells a sample of the fragrance.  For the rest of Europe, you can buy it from First in Fragrance for €125 (which is €10 more than on the MFK website), along with the full line with the candle or incense papers. Other European vendors are Essenza Nobile and Premiere Avenue. Elsewhere, you can turn to MFK’s Points of Sale for a retailer near you, whether you are in Asia, Australia, or the Middle East. In terms of samples, I bought mine from Surrender to Chance which sells Lumiere Noire starting at $2.99 for a 1/2 ml vial or $5.98 for 1 ml.

26 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumière Noire Pour Femme

  1. It’s always so curious when the reactions are so bipolar, but I guess that’s waht makes this hobby interesting. I loved the artwork you began the piece with; going to check out the artist’s gallery right now.

    • Her work is stunning, isn’t it? The tiny thumbnails on the site don’t do them justice and they should all really be seen close-up. As for Lumiere Noire, “bipolar” seems to be a perfect way to sum up the reactions.

    • Given the wide split in people’s impressions on this one, how did Lumiere Noire smell on you, Elisa? Was it lasciviously carnal, or the embodiment of Spring with daffodils? 🙂

  2. I haven’t tried this one but Lumiere Noire Pour Homme was not my kind of thing. The rose was fine but it had too much patchouli and cumin/caraway for me.

    • I don’t think there is cumin or caraway in the men’s version, is there? Regardless, given your feelings about patchouli and the strength of this one (not to mention its synthetic undertones), I’m not surprised you didn’t enjoy the fragrance. 🙂

        • Ah, okay. It’s been a while since I looked at the notes for the men’s version. If I remember correctly, Caraway is one of the notes that you don’t like very much, so I can see how that — in conjunction with the patchouli that you rarely like — turned the experience into a negative one for you. 🙂

  3. It was funny how my thoughts were changing as I was progressing through your review :): “I don’t like MFK so I’ll pass… – though the name is interesting, maybe I should… – but cumin is almost never good on me, I shouldn’t… – Arabian Wood, you said? I have to try it! – Narcisco Rodriguez‘ For Her… nah… – I love PoaL!!!” – you’ve got the idea, right?

    • Same here Undina…as much as I love to eat Indian food cumin on my skin is a big no-no…just doesn’t agree with my chemistry. Even a small amount is evident on me.

      • Oh, I agree on cumin…love to eat it, loathe the scent in perfumes! I find the bipolar nature of this fragrance to be a bit of a challenge. The days I want it to be bright, it turns dark, and vice versa. Too schizophrenic for me, but it is a fun fragrance to try.

        • Gretchen, in what way does it turn dark on you? Given the split in opinions on this one, I’m curious now about how it played out on your skin. Was it cumin-y at all? Carnal and evoking heated, warm flesh in a boudoir? Or just dark as in a dark green patchouli? 🙂

    • Heh, I love that I took you on a rollercoaster. I actually do think this is one for you to try. I smelled no cumin beyond a split second in the very opening, and then it was just a lightly spiced rose. As for Narcisco Rodriguez’ For Her…. blech indeed. Don’t worry, its soapy, musky horrors are not replicated here. That one really ranks about a 99 on the scale, while this may clock in at a 10. At best. But I think you’d enjoy Lumiere Noire, even if only for a sniff. 🙂

  4. I rather like cumin in perfumes if it’s blended well with other spices… and I so wanted this one to be a dark and beautiful bodice ripper. ~sob~ I guess I’ll just have to go comfort myself with some Absolue pour le Soir….

  5. Pingback: Perfume Review – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud: My Twilight Zone | Kafkaesque

  6. Another spot-on review that reflects my own experience with this fragrance.! I’ve been testing this over the last month, searching for a dark, bodice-ripping rose chypre, and I am now firmly in the camp that perceives this as bright, sunny and spring-like. It smells eerily familiar but I can’t identify exactly which other fragrance it evokes, so perhaps it is the overall feel, rather than the notes, that are triggering olfactory memories. To my nose, it is not very similar to Lady Vengeance – LV has a lot more lavender and rose up top and an overall darker patchouli/rose feel. Perhaps the connection is being made because FK is the perfumer that links the two? I get excellent longevity from LN, twelve hours later I’m still smelling a lovely chypre drydown. As a clear, non-fruity, non-soapy and non-too-sweet floral chypre, I would definitely get plenty of wear from from this over the warmer months but a couple of things are holding me back from full bottle status. One is the price and the other is a slightly synthetic quality, almost ozonic in its freshness, that I get in the early stages (admittedly, I did apply rather lavishly on my last wearing). Maybe a decant is in order…

    • Hi Clare, so nice to see you again. I’m glad I’m not alone in seeing Lumiere Noire as bright yellow, and in not finding any bodice-ripper aspects. As for the smell which is so eerily familiar to you, do you think it is the daffodils? Such a common, sunny floral smell, especially in Spring. (I wish perfumers would use the word “daffodil” instead of narcissus as I think it would set off more light-bulb moments for people in terms of identifying what they’re smelling.)

      With regard to the two issues you mention, I understand them both, and I do think that there is a hint of something synthetic lurking in the basis. Still, it’s a lovely scent as a whole, especially given the things you noted: it’s not soapy, not fruity, and not too sweet. I think a perfume split with a friend or a decant is absolutely the way to go if the price is making you pause! 🙂

  7. Well, that’s an interesting idea about the daffodil association. It’s spring in my part of the world (Sydney, Australia) but daffodils are not much a part of the landscape here. They don;t do so well in our climate although you see them in florist shops and the occasional garden where they are lovingly tended by elderly folk who have the patience to lift and replant them every year. They never seem to have a fragrance though .Fields of daffodils? Never! The fragrant little jonquils (the “other” Narcissus) are a bit more common and I have a vase full (florist bought) at the moment. So maybe you’re right. I’m a vase of jonquils!

  8. Was just thinking about this fragrance (have been wearing L’Arte di Gucci for the past two days and wondering what I will do when my bottle is gone) and ran across your review.
    It is quite interesting that you pick up on the narcissus so strongly – it’s a favorite note of mine as well – and the cumin didn’t show up for you. It certainly did for me (whoa. sex). But rereading over this review and some others, it occurs to me that the overall feeling of a fragrance and how we perceive it often can depend on *what else* we are accustomed to wearing. If, like me, you are regularly wearing florals, particularly the lighter ones rather than heavily indolic BWFs or deep saturated ones, a fragrance which bridges “light” and “dark” aspects might seem far darker to you, and its deeper elements more prominent in relation to your usual florals. You seem to favor, from the fragrances you’re choosing to review and the ones you claim as best-beloveds, much darker and woodier scents than I typically wear, and it may be that in relation to those, LNpf seemed light and springy.
    I’ve noticed, at least with regard to myself, that my “default setting,” my typical preferences, tend to influence my opinion of just about anything new that I’m trying, and I can’t imagine that I’m wildly unusual in that respect. I’ve never made a secret of my love for the girly-wirly stuff. I like soliflores and BWFs, I absolutely adore green florals. I like mixed bouquets and florientals and chypres, but the chypres have to have lots of flowers in them. Orientals are really, really tough for me (exceptions vintage Emeraude and Shalimar Light, which have no teeth to them, they’re all double-D-cup plushy). I don’t even hate fruity florals. In that world, Lumiere Noire is, yes, sexy.
    In that world, YSL Opium is eeeeeeeevil. If you get what I mean: not just dark and mysterious, but musty, unclean, nauseating, downright unpleasant. (To this day I can’t bear the stuff. Cannot. bear. it. I hate Youth Dew just as much, for what that’s worth.) We all have our likes, our loves, our dislikes and our OMG GEDDITOFFMEs…

    • Hi Mals, welcome to the blog. Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I definitely agree with you that our perceptions depend on personal, subjective yardsticks that will widely vary from person to person. Everything has to be put into that context of definitional standards, since reviewing is so obviously subjective. We smell through our mind, through the filters of our individual pasts, memories, experiences and baselines. 🙂 As a result, I don’t think there is ever a “right” or “wrong” in any of this, let alone one set answer. It’s all dependent on two things: subjective, individual tastes; and skin chemistry.

      Since I wrote this review, I’ve come across your comments on Fragrantica and elsewhere that show just how much we diverge in our personal tastes. There are a few exceptions, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re at polar opposite ends of the spectrum. But that’s great, imo. You’re extremely knowledgeable in your field, I hope I’m a little bit knowledgeable in mine.

      • I see that I neglected to mention what a thoughtful review this is – and indeed how thorough all of your reviews are! I had a little skim-through last night and it was page after page of beautifully-written, detailed reviews of… (this is embarrassing)… things that I probably would only put on my skin if I were being paid to do so.

        So far, nobody’s offered to pay me to wear perfume, more’s the pity.

        But THIS MADE ME LAUGH. I mean, really, how wonderful and freaky and fabulous is it that we’re both deeply into this whole fragrance thing and we like such widely divergent stuff?

        • And your comment made ME laugh! 🙂 😀 It’s true, we’re at such extremes for the most part. (More on that in a bit.) The thing is, my barometer and personal yardstick was set at the age of 7 with Opium, then, to a lesser extent, Fracas, Habit Rouge, Bel Ami, Joy, Femme, and others. When Opium is your baseline from childhood, it impacts things. I’ve also lived in the Middle East and have traveled quite a bit to places like India, China, etc., so my personal definition of what constitutes a true, proper Oriental is vastly different than most Westerners. What, say, a British person may interpret as an opulent Oriental scent from, say, Penhaligon’s, is not likely to be my interpretation of it. I always make a point of clarifying where I come from in reviewing things like that, though my regular readers know by now that my tastes are on the very…. er…. bold, intense….. 😉 side.

          Nonetheless, be that as it may, I do think you and I have one tiny area of overlap. The white florals. I may like mine a little more on the Wagnerian Valkyrie style than you, but that’s merely a question of body or potency. And I have agreed with you in the past in some matters. For example, I quoted you in my review of Téo Cabanel’s Méloé: https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/teo-cabanel-meloe-summer-citruses-freshness/ It may surprise you that I do like softer, more ethereal florals on occasion, like Serge Lutens’ De Profundis, or something like the recent, gorgeous white flower scent, Moon Bloom from Hiram Green. (Have you tried it? If not, you really should!)

          I also try to cover a range of scents, though I do tend to focus on the orientals and masculines. While reading your initial comment, I thought of how much you’d probably love Venezia Giardini Segreti (Venice’s Secret Gardens) from La Via del Profumo, an all-natural gardenia scent with roses, green notes, herbs and some honeyed creamy myrrh. https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/la-via-del-profumo-venezia-giardini-segreti/ I don’t know if the powerhouse jasmine, Tawaf, from the same brand would be your cup of tea, but if you truly love white florals, that is another definitely worth looking up.

          Most of all though, I think you may be wholly enamourmed with the classique feel of the feminine florals from Oriza L. Legrand, an ancient house going back to the time of Louis XV whose old 1900s-era scents have been brought back to life with slight modifications for the modern era. From the green floral with galbanum called Déja Le Printemps that is the favorite of Catherine Deneuve, to its super powdery, girly, soapy floral called Jardins d’Armide, or the cool lily, pollen, honey and Catholic monastery notes of Relique d’Amour, there may be a few there that would really surprise you. So, if you’re at all interested, even if it’s just in finding out about a super cool, ancient house, you can start here perhaps: https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/oriza-l-legrand-the-history-the-store-the-perfumes/ and https://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/oriza-l-legrand-relique-damour-oeillet-louis-xv-jardins-darmide-deja-le-printemps/

          Please know that I don’t actually EXPECT you to read any of those! But, if curiosity ever got the better of you, you wouldn’t have to do a search. I’ve simply enjoyed getting to know you better, and I hope that perhaps I may have the chance to do so further in the future. To me, it doesn’t matter if someone has polar opposite tastes, so long as they never attack me for mine, or say that I’m “wrong” for my views. This whole thing is far too individual or subjective for something like that. For me, the best part of blogging is meeting people like you to talk about perfumery as though we were at a cocktail party, passing around scents along with the tidbits, and having a fun discussion. Perfume should be like one big party — the rest is just a question of preferring red or white, beer or Scotch, cookies or icecream. 🙂

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