Skin & Fragrance Blog by Thom Watson

Oriental Fragrances, Floral Fragrances, Maison Francis Kurkdjian

A Love of Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 1

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Baccarat Rouge 540 is the result of a partnership of Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Maison Baccarat in celebration of the 250th anniversary of this iconic crystal house. Baccarat clearly wanted a fragrance that would be as decadent, sophisticated and finely crafted as their exquisite crystal creations.

Baccarat Crystal: 250 years of glassmaking excellence

If you’re unfamiliar with Baccarat Crystal; they are the glass makers to the elite, royalty and the uber-riche. Baccarat were founded in 1816 and received royal commission from decree from the King Louis XV in 1823. Their creations are flawless and are known for their incredible style, often partnering with some of the worlds highest profile object designers.

Their famous red crystal is made by clear molten crystal mixed with 24-carat gold powder that is then heated to 540 degrees.

If like me you’re a shameless fan of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kathy Hilton (Paris’ Mum) had a dinner party featuring around £50,000 of their glass on one table. So if it’s good enough for the RHOBH, then it’s a good enough vote of quality for me (“You heard? These sunglasses? $25,000”).

kathy hilton holiday decorations
Image copyright Bravo TV (source)

Also, if you’re looking for some time to kill, this fabulous video of how they make a Baccarat chandelier is well worth a watch. I apologise in advance if you fall into a ‘How It’s Made’ YouTube binge cycle, I can be lost in them for what feels like days.

Who is Francis Kurkdjian?

I’m not writing this article as a preexisting fan of Baccarat, although certainly a convert if I had the cash – I’ll stick to my £1 IKEA glass tumblers for now – but as a long time fan of Francis Kurkdjian and have had many the pleasure of speaking with him and learning about his various creations. He is an unassuming master of fragrance; there’s no Roja-sized ego here.

Francis on the left, me on the right at a launch some time ago.

Most people have experienced his work, with his most famous creation being my first fragrance love, Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male – a 90’s mega-favourite. He has created over 40 fragrances for well known companies alongside all his own creations under the label, Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Now I’ll always cover his fragrances honestly, and there have been a few that I never covered because they weren’t to my taste, but often his scents hit my olfactory bulb in all the right places. Pour Le Soir is absolutely my all time favourite fragrance; I will get married in this and I want to be buried in it (too dark?). Francis Kurkdjian’s scents are bold, complex and exquisitely layered, often with each layer that peels back as it’s worn being an almost completely different fragrance.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

At £215, this is not a cheap fragrance, but it’s not expensive considering the ingredients and work that has gone into this stunning creation – I always wish I could pass everyone a sample card whilst reading a fragrance review like this.

Something to bare in mind is that more than one spray of this will be detected by others from a 3 mile radius. So whilst gorgeous, go easy, and your £215 will last a very long time. I would, as an aside, keep this in a cupboard as all fragrance stays fresher for longer when hidden from natural light.

What does Baccarat Rouge 540 Smell Like?

The actual notes are a top of soft jasmine (Hedione) and saffron; a heart of ambergris accord (Ambroxan) and finally a base of cedar accord and fir balsam. However, it’s more complex than just those simple notes with some long standing technologies supporting the blend.

Hedione the jasmine compound

Baccarat Rouge 540 features Hedione, a 1960’s aromatic compound evoking the floral and very fresh delicacy of jasmine, with a slight lemony facet. Hedione is also described as having a dense, buttery-floral quality.

Ambroxan not Ambergris

Then there’s Ambroxan, a synthetic ingredient heavily similar to ambergris, the beautiful but horrifically sourced whale ingredient that is thankfully very illegal these days – occasionally pieces are found, but whales are no longer killed en masse to get it; whales are lovely.


Is Baccarat Rouge 540 for men or women?

This is definitely a fragrance for both men and women, I don’t think it lends itself to one camp over another.

From writing Manface and experiencing more and more luxury and niche fine fragrance, I learnt that when you get to a certain level, often above the £100 mark and outside of the high-street, male and female fragrance categories go out of the window. They are marketing tactics pure and simple.

Yes, certain notes are more traditionally feminine (roses, light florals etc.) and others more masculine (aqua, woods etc.) but I could show you a men’s rose fragrance that’d blow you away (also MFK) and a stunning feminine cedarwood scent you’d never think would work, but it does.

How does Baccarat Rouge 540 wear?

Baccarat Rouge 540 is definitely one of those fragrances that takes differently to different skins.

After spraying this on Mr. Manface, it was almost like another scent compared to how it sits on me; woodier on him and sweeter on me – but both delicious and meaning we can both go out in the same scent and you genuinely wouldn’t know it.

It’s difference on different skins, whilst a sign of a quality scent, I would always suggest getting hold of a sample if you’re coin conscious. If I’m not kindly gifted a press sample as I was with this, I love the website Fragrance Samples UK. Here you can get genuine samples of ultra-luxury fragrances to help avoid mistaken purchases. Here is Baccarat Rouge 540, I’m not affiliated, i just think it’s a good service.

Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540
Back of the bottle label featuring an iconic Baccarat chandelier

Where to buy Baccarat Rouge 540 and its product extensions?

Due to its huge popularity, MFK extended it into a many different products and ways to enjoy and experience this signature scent. If you want to know where to buy Baccarat Rouge 540 and its ancillary counterparts, I would always suggest John Lewis. They stock the whole collection reliably and are almost always the best price.

It’s worth noting that the popularity of this fragrance cannot be underestimated, I’ve come across multiple dupes of it which only happens when something really penetrates the fragrance zeitgeist, but they never manage to capture the magic, get yourself a genuine sample or try a smaller size.

The version I reviewed of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 is the Eau de Parfum for £215/70ml which is great value given its concentration.

There’s an Extrait de Parfum, a more intense version with some slightly tweaked notes of Bitter Almond and Egyptian Jasmine Grandiflorum. I’ve not experienced this personally but it sounds fabulous, starting at £185/35ml again, from John Lewis.

Then there’s the following, all worth a look. When updating this I wasn’t previously aware of the candle and have absolutely ordered one:

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