Francis Kurkdjian made Cologne pour le Soir and I drive a Mini Cooper.
Eau de Cologne works not just because of the combination of ingredients and how they smell. It has to do with how they work together and how the composition unfolds. We tend to associate cologne with its characteristic smells: citrus (fruit, leaves, woods) herbs, florals, musk. But I would argue, and so apparently would Francis Kurkdjian, based on his Cologne pour le Soir, that the defining attribute of eau de cologne is not its scent, but the character of its dynamic qualities over time.
We call cologne bracing and think that this quality is just a reflection of the sparkling scent of citrus. The bracing trait really comes from the volatility of the components. The top notes shine brightly but briefly. “Bracing” comes not so much from the tenor of the citrus notes specifically, but the alacrity of the top notes overall. In ten minutes any cologne you've ever tried goes from a flare to a much quieter glow. To mix my metaphors, cologne goes from shining brightly to a quiet whisper in a very short period of time. This is an attribute of all classic eaux de cologne.
Every Eau de Cologne that you've ever smelled smells largely like any other Eau de Cologne you've ever smelled. The composition can just as easily be considered a recipe as a formula. It’s in the public domain, it’s apparently easy to make, and it can be made from what you’d more likely call ingredients than aromachemicals.
Kurkdjian reinvents the Cologne by throwing away the recipe and looking more closely. His Cologne du Soir is a cologne by virtue of its dynamic qualities. He reconstructs the eau de cologne not on hesperidic notes, but on benzoin and rose, notes you might expect to find weighing down the classic oriental. Kurkdjian pares down rose and benzoin, making them lighter than air yet true to character. It’s a smart idea, and comes off beautifully. As in the classic Eau, the topnotes have a half life measured in minutes, but they’re a blast. Heartnotes unfold into basenotes, and what remains is a hint of a cumin-inflected incense with a rosy, musky skin glow. And it just feels effortless.
So, I drive a Mini. What I love about my car is that it's perfectly balanced. Just like Cologne pour le Soir. I can stomp on the brakes, stand on the throttle, or crank the steering wheel without fear of overpowering the chassis. It gives a beautiful combination of fun and expectability to driving. Similarly, no note in Cologne pour le Soir overpowers the rest of the composition. By focusing on the dynamics of the experience, Kurkdjian remains true to the sensibility of the Cologne, but gives us something new.
I would wear this stuff night or day.