|French department store Printemps was one of Baccarat's collaborators for the brand’s 250th anniversary.|
I didn't pay much attention to the news about the perfume Francis Kurkdjian created for the 250th anniversary of Baccarat back in the summer of 2014. After all, only two hundred and fifty crystal bottles were produced, priced at €3,000 for 100ml (and later $4,000), and I didn't think I was ever going to get to smell Baccarat Rouge 540 any more than I would ever own any of the special anniversary edition products commissioned for the event, among them a 27.6 feet tall crystal chandelier and a €20,500 tiara. Interestingly enough, nearly two years later you can still buy one of the 250 crystal spiral bottles featuring 160 cut facets on Baccarat's website (a completely unaffiliated link. I would be so lucky). I'm not sure what became of the tiara.
It all changed late last year when Maison Francis Kurkdjian was allowed to release Baccarat Rouge 540 under its own name and make it available everywhere the brand is sold.
What does a perfume named after the temperature (Celsius) required to achieve Baccarat’s signature ruby red color smell like? The process of creating the iconic red crystal involves a gradual heating of 24-carat gold powder with clear crystal. It's actually an excellent metaphor to the perfume, proving again that when Mr. Kurkdjian is good he's really really good.
The official list of notes (citrus, jasmine, saffron, sage, ambergris, oakmoss, cedar) doesn't tell the whole story. Rouge 540 has both an amazing clarity that is typical to Kurkdjian's work and an intense heat. The spices, orange, and bright classic floral veil feel celebratory, like the atmosphere in a ballroom with tall ceilings, huge marble-paneled fireplace, decorated with human-size white flower arrangements, and yes, lit with a thousand crystal chandeliers for the most luxurious celebration during the holidays. Saffron and orange have that Christmasy association of warmth (think of the modern classic Theorema as well as MDCI's Les Indes Galantes that was also released in 2015). It's immensely pleasurable, yet differs from the above perfumes in its formal polish and shine. You're not exactly lounging in your flannel pajamas when wearing Baccarat Rouge 540, but even if you do (and I most certainly did), you're still dreaming of sparkling lights reflected in countless gleaming window panes.
There's another interesting element to Baccarat Rouge 540: an almost animalic, skin-like facet. Where the more typical holiday perfumes tend to be more gourmand and juicy, there's only a sheer fruitiness to MFK's creation, and while the perfume is definitely sweet it's not quite dessert-like. This fragrance feels more intimate; like dancing in the arms of a partner and stopping every once in a while to nibble on sweet delicacies from a silver tray before returning to your waltzing. You get a bit flustered here and there, but never actually sweaty (no cumin here, or maybe just a ghost of it). One of the tall windows is open and lets the chilly winter air inside, mixing and wafting the scent of the flowers that were flown in from afar and the balsam fir garlands. The dancers' fineries remain almost miraculously crisp as everyone keeps twirling under the lights, wishing the magical night will never end.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Baccarat Rouge 540 ($300, 2.4oz) is available from osswaldNYC.com, Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, Bergdorf, and select Neiman Marcus locations.
Top image via alumind.com. Original Baccarat Rouge 540 bottle via the brand's website, and MFK's promotional image from a press release.