I make no bones about my admiration for Francis Kurkdjian. One of the perfume world’s most maverick geniuses with the guts and the wherewithal to do his own thing in the face of huge perfumery empires, and who constantly turns out stellar & distinctive fragrances for designers such as Elie Saab (still a winner) and Carven as well as his own hugely influential releases from his house of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Throw in to the mix, a perfumer who actually speaks to perfume writers as if they have a modicum of experience and knowledge and actually, you know, know a fair bit about actual fragrance and history, who has a wry sense of humour and an innate understanding of the arts, and he always, and I mean always, makes for an interesting meeting.
When M Kurkdjian started to explain the fragrance to a small group assembled, hanging on his every word, saying how he had originally wanted to create a feeling and to name the perfume ‘The Space Between Us’, I got it immediately. This was a guy who listened to Massive Attack (‘Weather Report’ produced by Glasgow’s very own Craig Armstrong, and reworked phenomenally on Armstrong’s thematic ‘Space Between Us’ album) and who tried to recreate and to capture the feeling of openness, simplicity and of the soul amongst the elements.
Aqua Vitae takes the freshness of Aqua Universalis further by paring it back – less lemony fresh and more true to nature. This is the scent of skin, freshly cleansed and greeting the day. A breathe of newness. Of a light fresh breeze hitting tiny hairs on arms, of a slight brisk bristle of warmth, of shafts of sunlight & breeze through windows catching newly showered skin. Of newness and potential. This is almost will’o-the-wisp perfumery with its ghostly light, flickering & beckoning. So faint but ever present, there’s a feel good warmth to Aqua Universalis that’s pure love and being in the moment. It’s most attractive quality is in the kiss of confidence it gives to the wearer without showy-showiness or masking one’s own scent. Simplicity of thought.
There’s a faint lemon tinged opening breathe (Calabrian lemon and mandarin) that lingers then opens to richer fuller, tinge of warmth from the tonka bean, vanilla quotient as well as the Hedione. Now, Hedione (a bold, luminous, synthetic used to inject freshness and sunlight into many products which, oddly enough, has now been detected in natural jasmine) could be our controversial little vixen in this make-up. Instead, she glows like she’s had a glass too many champagne. Full of life and brimming with cheer, infecting the ingredients around her with buoyancy, namely the guaiac wood – a match made in heaven. Expect to be intrigued and won over by Aqua Vitae as I have.
Aqua Vitae: the water of life. I may just tell Francis next time I see him, that the same translation in Scots Gaelic for water of life is “usquebaugh”. In English, phonetically, oo-eesh-ka-vay. Say it quickly. It’s whisky. I wonder where that will take Francis next?
Aqua Vitae EDT is priced £175 (200ml) and £115 (70ml) and available from Selfridges, Liberty, Harvey Nichols and online from Maison Francis Kurkdjian.