Perfume Review – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud: My Twilight Zone

“I must have the wrong sample! It must be the wrong perfume!”

“What is going on???!”

“Am I crazy?”

Those were a few of the bewildered thoughts going through my mind, as I tried on Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian (hereinafter sometimes just shortened to “MFK“). It is a perfume whose scent was so little like its title or notes that I was thoroughly confused and had to dig up a second sample. As I splashed “Oud” on my other arm and took another sniff, I simply couldn’t understand what was going on. “Surely this can’t be right??!” Frantic scribbles on my notepad ensued, followed by my unearthing a third sample that I’d gotten as part of an eBay niche variety set. After splashes on a wholly different part of my body — this time, my leg, lest the skin on my arms was at fault — I finally concluded that I must be a complete freak who lived in the Twilight Zone.

Source: fabiovisentin.com

Source: fabiovisentin.com

On my skin, Francis Kurkdjian‘s “Oud” is a neo-chypre floral fragrance centered around carnation and daffodils (with a light dash of rose), sweetened by spicy saffron and rendered somewhat candied by syrupy, fruited patchouli that evokes Concord grapes and, later, apricots, with a subtle sprinkle of lemon. The whole thing sits atop an extremely muted, almost imperceptible base of smoky, woody elemi, and is then subsequently covered by a massive, walloping veil of aldehydic soap with synthetic white musk. Does this sound like a spicy, oriental oud fragrance to you??! On me, there is only the faintest (faintest!) twinge of agarwood — and that’s only if I really push it. (Honestly, it’s really a strong case of wishful thinking.) I’m so bloody confused, you have no idea. If I didn’t have the exact same scent wafting up from 3 different parts of my body and from 3 different samples, I would chalk it up to mislabeling and vendor error. But no, whether it comes from Luckyscent (x2) or Surrender to Chance, Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s “Oud” is always an ersatz chypre floral on me, and an “oud” fragrance in the same way that a Yorkie is a German Shepherd.

MFK OudThe starting point for my confusion was the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website which described Oud and its notes as follows:

Safron – Elemi gum from the Philippines – Oud from Laos – Cedar wood frol [sic] the Atlas – Indonesian Patchouli

A fragrance story sketched between the fine-grained sand of the desert dunes, the fragrant harmattan wind and the star-studded night – an opulent Arabian perfume born from a western sensitivity.

Do you see a floral listed amongst those notes? A citrus? Any mention of fruits or musk? No, neither do I.

Source: Flowerpics.net

Source: Flowerpics.net

And, yet, Oud opens on my skin with fragrant florals infused by the most beautifully sweetened saffron and patchouli. The top notes smell like a bouquet of the most syrupy carnations (and possibly, roses) mixed with a heavy dose of narcissus/daffodils. Coated by a fiery, spicy saffron, they are grounded in a base of soap that is, at least initially, somewhat subtle. The patchouli adds a fruited touch to the fragrance, evoking dark, purple Concord grapes mixed with plums. Lurking far, far, far back in the shadows is a hint of a dark, somewhat smoky resin.

Notwithstanding these other elements, however, the primary and dominant impression in this initially heady, satiny smooth, opulent fragrance is of florals, especially narcissus. The combination actually calls to mind Francis Kurkdjian’s earlier creation, the 2009 neo-chypre Lumiere Noire Pour Femme with its triptych of daffodils, roses and heavy patchouli. Lumiere Noire is a slightly more Spring-like fragrance, but the trio is similarly spiced, only with chili pepper and caraway in lieu of the saffron that is in MFK’s Oud. The overall effect, however, is strikingly similar: a spiced, slightly fiery, syrupy floral fragrance infused by a very fruited patchouli — with nary a bit of agarwood in sight.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Source: Shutterstock.com

For hours, the core essence of Oud remains largely unchanged on my skin — altering only in the degree of its nuances. Thirty minutes in, there is a sharply synthetic note that is incredibly unpleasant, and which feels almost like a white musk, but it eventually leaves after about two hours. The florals shift in primacy at various times, sometimes emphasizing the narcissus, sometimes more the carnation. Lemon comes and goes in the background, as do other fruits. The dark grape jam recedes around the forty minute mark, becoming less individually distinct and simply more reflective of general “jam.”  Later, it is joined by a definite nuance of apricots. As for the soapiness, to my chagrin, it not only increases in bent, but is joined by that unpleasant sharp synthetic note. Meanwhile, the flickers of smoky elemi and amorphous woodsy notes remain in the background, feeling incredibly muted. As for the supposed main character, the agarwood is the olfactory equivalent of Bigfoot or the Great Yeti. I actually wrote, “Where’s the beef… oud?!” in my notes, along with repeated questions about my sanity.

The final stage of Oud is only a slight variation of the start. It’s a soapy, musky, floral patchouli scent with flickers of vague woods at the back. The floral notes are still somewhat divisible into a spicy, rose-like carnation that is sweetened from the saffron, but eventually, around the sixth hour, the note turns abstract. In its final moments, Oud is nothing more than an amorphous, nebulous, sweet muskiness. All in all, it lasted just short of 11.75 hours on me, and the sillage was moderate to low. It actually became close to the skin around the second hour, but it only became a true skin scent midway during the seventh hour. Still, it’s a very long-lasting fragrance, whatever its peculiar, freakish manifestation on my skin. It’s just a shame that I don’t like it very much….

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

In utter desperation about the notes — invisible or otherwise imagined — I went online to the MFK Oud entry on Fragrantica. To my relief, there were a number of comments about the lack of any real oud in the fragrance, synthetic or otherwise. To wit:

  •  i barely notice the oud in it, shouldn’t be named oud,
  • There is no oud in this […]
  • It’s not oudh, but it’s definitely one well crafted perfume.
  • Another in the long line of those ‘don’t know why called Oud’.

Others seem to feel there was plenty of oud in it, so clearly, both the above commentators and I are in the minority. I’m even more of a freakish minority on the issue of fruity florals. Having combed through the internet, I found: exactly two references to florals on the Fragrantica page for the perfume; a fleeting mention of “jammy fruit” by the Non-Blonde (who did, in fact, detect the agarwood note); a brief reference to a “fruity veil” in Katie Puckrik’s review (which found the scent to be redolent of cheese and other unpleasantness); and one response to that review which said: “I cannot believe how bad this stuff is. [¶] Smells like a Fruity/Saffron chemical toilet bowl cleaner. [¶] It’s virtually unwearable.”

Just when I was ready to declare my nose to be irrevocably broken, I came across a comment by “buzzlepuff,” on Basenotes in which he wrote:

Mason Francis Kurkdjian Oud. MFK oud is a very easy to wear higher pitched but very smooth oud fragrancing. There are no bold or animalic notes of any kind. No harshness, no shrill or medicinal aspects. Why MFK Oud is so much higher in pitch than most oud blends is a mystery. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were unstated florals such as carnation or osmanthus hidden within the folds of this beauty. The stated notes of the composition are: Elemi resin, saffron, Atlas cedar wood, patchouli, oud. The fragrance has a fine grained smooth sheen of a satin fabric milled of oud and lemony incense woods. There is a slight finish that is the very softest suede leather for the base. This is an unusual and well balanced fragrance that is so finely crafted it has me looking for claims it was quadruple filtered. How else can it be so smooth? rating: 4.0 / 5.

It’s still a far cry from my quasi-neo-chypre experience, but at least he thought he detected florals (and carnation no less!), lemon flickers, and osmanthus (which means he probably smelled some apricot undertones, too). Okay, so I’m only partially crazy. 

Now, I grant you that my experience seems to be a very peculiar outlier as compared to the rest of the data out there, but I can only report on what happened to me. And, based on what I did smell, I don’t like MFK’s Oud very much. First, I cannot stand soapiness in any shape, size or form. Second, purple fruited patchouli sorely tests my patience — and there was a lot of it here. Third, what manifested itself on my skin simply wasn’t all that interesting. As ersatz chypres go, I found the “Oud” to be boringly commercial and mundane.

My anomaly notwithstanding, I found it interesting to see that other people’s perceptions of MFK Oud were quite mixed. Both Fragrantica and Basenotes (not to mention the reply comments to various blog reviews) are littered with highly critical remarks, though the majority consensus seems to be generally quite positive. The utterly disdainful ones are amusingly dismissive, while the occasionally horrified comments about scrubbers, astringents, synthetics, weird plasticity, and “women’s shampoo or hairspray” feel almost irate at times. Yet, I thought the most astute comment came from “Sculpture of Soul” on Fragrantica who wrote, in part:

It doesn’t smell bad, per se, but it smells very polished and mainstream. If this same scent came in a Hugo Boss bottle, everyone here would be slamming it for being safe, boring, and synthetic.

God, yes! I may have experienced a wholly different scent than the majority, but what I did smell would have been utterly lambasted if it came under a Hugo Boss or Calvin Klein label.

Nonetheless, the bottom line is that I experienced something that is in no way representative of MFK Oud’s usual characteristics. So, consider this entire review as what it really is: a journey into an olfactory Twilight Zone. I wish you all considerably better luck with the fragrance. But, if any of you had a similar experience, especially with regard to the florals, aldehydic soap or fruit, then I beg of you to let me know. I would like to feel a little less like William Shatner in Rod Sterling’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

tumblr_ljgiu0vU7u1qaf396o1_r1_500

The Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Source: Tumblr http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/nightmare%20at%2020000%20feet?language=es_ES

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Oud is an Eau de Parfum and comes in a 2.4 oz/70 ml bottle that costs $300, €195 or £195. You can find it on the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website which also sells samples of the perfume or a four-pack set of any MFK fragrance for €14. In the U.S.: you can purchase Oud from Luckyscent, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, or BeautyBar. I don’t see any MFK fragrances listed on the Saks Fifth Avenue website. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find Oud at Selfridges, Liberty, and Les Senteurs priced at £195. Les Senteurs also sells a sample of the fragrance. In France, you can purchase MFK’s Oud from France’s Premiere Avenue which sells it at the retail price of €195 and which I believe ships worldwide. For the rest of Europe, you can buy it from Germany’s First in Fragrance for €205 (which is €10 more than retail) or Italy’s Essenza Nobile (which also sells it above retail at €205). In Australia, you can find MFK’s Oud at Mecca Cosmetics which sells it for AUD$338. Elsewhere, you can turn to MFK’s Points of Sale for a retailer near you, whether you are in Asia or the Middle East. Samples: I bought one of mine from Surrender to Chance which sells Oud starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial or $9.98 for 1 ml. Luckyscent also sells samples.

20 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud: My Twilight Zone

  1. I think I have a sample of this tucked away somewhere. Now you have given me a reason to find it and try it.

    • Found it! And oh my, this one is nice. Right from the get go it is soft patchouli and oud. There is a spicy element reminiscent of Royal Oud but not nearly as intense. And there is something soft like a benzoin in the mix. It is lovely. I will waft it by the wife’s nose and see how it develops. What a funny thing how your skin wrecked havoc with this one, Kafka 🙂

      • *sigh* See, I had a Twilight Zone episode. There is simply no accounting for it. Some people didn’t get oud, some people got florals, some people got fruit, a number of people got synthetics, one person got carnation and a few of the other specifics (in a very minor way), but NO-ONE got the whole lot in one *AND* with the soapy touches en plus! I’m telling you, I feel like a freak. *sigh*

        I’m glad you experienced some Oud, my dear Cohibadad. Let’s just hope that the fruity patchouli stays at nice, sane levels for you, and that the rest develops in a lovely manner as well. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an episode of the Twilight Zone that I need to revisit on YouTube…. 😛 😉

        • haha. there must be an explanation. it’s like a science experiment. It was developing nicely then I was outside sweating in the sun and humidity so I will have to do this again sometime. From what I experienced I would say this is one of the best examples of a Westernized oud-based fragrance I have ever found. It is so well-balanced. The patchouli and oud are in perfect proportion so that they don’t overshadow each other. And I would guess that many Arabs would love this due to the true oud scent, but taken into a multifaceted Western direction instead of the standard linear pure oud oil. I have tried quite a few pure ouds in middle eastern markets and they vary widely, from the extremely heavy smoky woodsy, to the light sweet floral ones and this one seemed moderate. And I see what you mean by floral but when I examined it closely I think it was a combination of this particular oud and the patchouli that gives a floral impression. Quite a chemical achievement. Now, I am a complete fragrance noob and I could be completely off here in my analysis. My only regret here is that I really like this one, but my wallet would feel better if I find a reason not to buy more.

  2. I may have tried this at Bergdorfs but do not recall anything positive or negative. I will have to retry the next time I’m in-store. I keep picturing you walking around your house muttering “Where’s the Oud?” and the Hairy German cocking his head from side to side wondering what’s going on.

    • Honestly, that wasn’t far from the actual scenario which ensued. A certain frowning German looked at me with great concern as I kept muttering to myself (out loud), dashing from one place to another to dig up additional samples, muttering some more, and then finally just giving up in despair. I have no doubts that he thought I’d completely lost it. And, honestly, it wasn’t so much the absence of the oud that drove me nutty. It was all the damn florals! You should have SEEN my face at that first sniff when I smelled daffodils, carnations and a hint of rose. I was dumbfounded, and kept re-reading the list of notes going, “Elemi, cedar, patch– …. What??!! Where are the flowers??!”

  3. I just can’t imagine what you went though with this. The confusion the questions and all ending up feeling like William Shatner on that plane? You poor dear. Take too Mitzahs and call me in the morning.

  4. Wow you must really have some very unique body chemistry Kafka 😛 , and lol at the Twilight zone experience. I have never had a similar experience to be honest, but I would consider that maybe your skin wanted to play a trick on you after all the fragrances and chemicals you regularly spray on it. And from the above conversation I would really like to know what your Hairy German thinks about all this, and how he views the way you acted. On another note, all this perfume conversations made me remember a traumatic perfume experience that I had deeply buried in my memory, because of how embarrassing it was. About five years ago, when I was on my first year of college, I had Cacharel´s Noa, a perfume that I always would see on commercials as a child. Well one morning, I sprayed the perfume and for some reason couldn´t smell it and I ended up spraying a huge amount of it on myself in the end. When I arrived to my first class I remember people sneezing and coughing and then the teacher opening all the windows as wide as they could open! It wasn´t the Twilight zone, but my God was I embarrassed. I didn´t wear any perfume for a whole year after that. I had really buried that memory, so I do sympathize with you Kafka, when you have some unpleasant scent experience that won´t go away. As a treat to yourself maybe you should spray some vintage Opium, to make you feel better 😀 .

    • Once in a while, one perfume or another will go completely wonky on someone’s skin, and result in something totally out of the norm — I guess it was my turn with the MFK Oud. LOL. As for your experience…. ouch! You know, there is something called Anosmia which is when a person can’t smell a particular note or a series of notes. Sometimes, they can’t smell a perfume as a whole. I wonder if there was something in the Cacharel Noa that you were anosmic to, and that’s why you couldn’t smell it at all on your skin? Still, it sounds like a truly awkward, embarassing moment, and I don’t blame you for cringing a little at the thought. But the good news is that you’re back to being interested in perfume again! 😀

  5. I like to consider Oud as a new approach in fragrances. Is a bright fresh take on oud. The oud in it is very tamed and accompanied by lots of patch, florals and saffron. Its quite elegant, modern, long lasting scent. I often have a feeling that its quite addictive too, i need to sniff it once in a while lol. I`m a fan!

    • Wait, you got FLORALS as well?????!?!?!?! Aha! That makes me feel a bit better! 😀 As for your description of the scent, it sounds like a very accurate summation of what the fragrance is supposed to be like. Obviously, I wouldn’t know because….well, Twilight Zone episode. 😉 Still, I’m glad you love it, that you can smell the oud in a bright, modern, elegant way, and that it works on your skin, my dear. 🙂

  6. That really is NOT a typical impression of a perfume that is simply named OUD!
    Well, at least you didn’t have to suffer from a chronic headache that oud always gives you.

    • I actually don’t get headaches from oud; I get them once in a blue moon from the ISO E Super that it is sometimes paired with, if there is a massive amount of it. But yes, nothing about my experience with this scent was normal or typical. I honestly don’t know what happened. LOL.

  7. I’m laughing at your Twilight Zone experience, especially the inclusion of that GIF! (How I adore that show!) I could definitely smell oud in this one, but it was a lot tamer than others. Really an unmemorable scent for me altogether. Actually, it’s been sort of a shame. I only really like Absolue pour le Soir EDP and EDC from MFK. The other stuff didn’t do much for me.

    • Well, after Zafar, almost EVERYTHING is tamer…. 😛 Funny thing, my friend was wearing MFK’s Oud tonight and I could smell a vague touch of agarwood on his skin (yes, I demanded to smell. Lol), but it was still more patchouli than anything else. It’s his signature fragrance and when I mentioned the Absolue, he winced a little. Clearly, we have very different tastes. But, for me, as for you, only the Absolue has really blown me away thus far out of all the things I’ve tried. I really should try the Cologne pour le Soir version of it sometimes, but I almost don’t want to ruin the preciousness of the Absolue in my memory.

  8. Aw! I can imagine it must have felt like an Invasion of the Perfume Bottle Snatchers episode! I remember smelling this, and I remember it smelled like oud. But of the entire line, Absolue pour le soir is my favorite; the honey note in it is divine.

  9. Pingback: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud EDP Perfume Review | EauMG

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s