Hey big spender, how about a bottle of Baccarat Rouge 540 for 3,000 euros? I didn’t think so. It’s a gorgeous bottle, quilted with light-shifting facets, something that would be right at home on Rita Hayworth’s dressing table. But, good grief. For that kind of money, I’d expect it to get up and shake martinis.
Okay, how about this? Swap out the bottle and put the perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian, on the label, and it’s a mere $300 for 70 ml. Now we’re talking.
Baccarat Rouge 540 was first released last year as a Baccarat exclusive, then offered this year as part of Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The fragrance is the same. Kurkdjian lists the notes simply as jasmine, saffron, ambergris and cedar. I like Baccarat’s list of notes, which feels spot-on: blood orange, ambergris, cedar, oak moss, lavender and sage. Kurkjian classifies it as a woody-floral. To me, Baccarat Rouge 540 is a strange amalgam, at times gourmand or woody floral or fougère.
Baccarat Rouge opens sticky sweet, like sucking on a high-end blood orange Jolly Rancher. At first, the sugar put me off. Too sugared. But the texture, with salty amber and effervescent jasmine intrigued me. After a moment, the jasmine steps up its volume, and raw cedar — not so much as to recall the woodpile, but just enough to give the fragrance a definite woody feel — takes over Baccarat Rouge’s heart. Sure, it’s still sweet, but the round, scratchy, fizzy texture is interesting enough to keep me engaged.
Humming under the sweet jasmine-cedar heart is, at first, the idea of the ocean. It’s salty and clean and fresh. Then it veers scarily toward the calone-soaked Calvin Klein Escape (maybe the sweet orange plus lavender?) before righting itself into a sweet citrus fougère. As the jasmine fades a few hours later (ta-ta lovely jasmine!) Baccarat Rouge smells more traditionally masculine, although more Scarlet Pimpernel than Chuck Norris.
What I like about Baccarat Rouge is how it feels simple — sugar orange, jasmine, cedar, lavender — but how it queerly shifts its texture and approach as it wears on skin. The transitions could be four different short stories that somehow make sense when read in order. The stories are Blood Orange Syrup, Orange-Jasmine-Cedar, Jasmine-Cedar-Ocean, and Lavender-Sage. Each story could be its own perfume, but they work as a whole.
My guess is that not a lot of people will love Baccarat Rouge 540. Its turn of sweet to woody-floral to fougère might put people off, no matter how fascinating the textural changes. I’m not sure I’d wear it much if I had a bottle. But it sure is fun to sample.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfum is $300 for 70 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Maison Francis Kurkdjian under Perfume Houses.