I've been thinking again about Kevin's recent post about samples. I recognize his frustration with so many niche brands: the ever-higher prices and well-designed websites don't always guarantee novel or memorable olfactory experiences. I deliberately stalled on trying the new-ish brand BDK Parfums (founded in 2016, but only available in the United States since 2020) because I had a hunch that, despite a wave of online adulation, this would be more of the same. But then I had a chance to receive a BDK sample set as a gift-with-purchase, so I gave in; why not?
If you're familiar with French and French-inspired niche perfumery brands of the twenty-first century, you'll recognize this checklist of familiar elements: "the most flawless raw materials" used in "conscientious artisan work enabling the creation of exceptional fragrances"; a founder who "grew up in the universe of perfumery," plus brooding black-and-white photographs of that founder; a bottle cap that's a nod to Parisian architecture (see Chanel No. 5 or Maison Francis Kurkdjian for earlier examples); minimalist labels with a sans-serif font (these remind me of Edward Bess)...not to mention overblown scent descriptions.
I've tried four fragrances from BDK's "Collection Parisienne" so far. Tl;dr: three of them seemed well-made but derivative to me, but should appeal to a Tom Ford-loving demographic that wants something a little harder-to-find; one was something I might buy if it were available in a smaller bottle.
"She goes toward her wardrobe, inspired by that tuxedo that will enhance her bodylines. It is the Parisian glam, she knows it well, the trends too. Her bohemian style and erotic energy leaves indelible footprints on the streets..." Rouge Smoking is a blend of bergamot, cherry, pink berries [pink pepper?], "black vanilla," heliotrope, Ambroxan, Cashmeran, tonka bean, labdanum and white musk, developed for BDK by perfumer Amelie Bourgeois. It starts off with a boozy cherry note. (Cherry is very on-trend in niche perfumery, thanks to the above-mentioned Mr. Ford.) There's also some vanilla-tinged tobacco in the heart...and then things start to feel familiar. The rest of Rouge Smoking reminds me of Kilian's Love (Don't Be Shy), with its teeth-grindingly sweet orange blossom meringue and clingy vanilla musk slightly muted.
"Her white shirt slightly open highlights her inviting curves. She adds a bit more black to her eyes. She slams the front door as her heels strides on the sidewalk. Just like every Thursdays, she’s going to the cabaret Place de la Concorde. Madam has high hopes like every night..." Here we go again! Pas Ce Soir's composition of black pepper, ginger, mandarin, jasmine, quince, orange blossom, Cashmeran, patchouli and "amber wood" was developed by David Benedek, the brand's founder. Synthetic-smelling patchouli, white florals, a semi-gourmand amber accord: nothing bad, just nothing new, either. Imagine a reformulated Angel with a dash of ginger added to the mix, and you'll get the picture.
"From this hand-to-hand seduction punctuated by knowing smiles, they end up slipping away to give free flow to more carnal desires. In the early morning, the sheets give off a scent of sleepless nights, mischievous and lascivious embraces." Apparently one of all those nights-out in form-fitting outfits has reached its conclusion. Gris Charnel was developed by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui with notes of fig, black tea, cardamom, iris, vetiver, sandalwood and tonka bean. It's a very smooth and well-constructed fragrance, although its appealing spiced-fig introduction turns less creamy, less spicy, and less interesting as the scent dries down into a more polished cedar/sandalwood/ambergris alternative to Le Labo Santal 33.
"In this garden of the sumptuous Palais Royal, out of sight, the pages of a book are slowly turning. Intrigued, a silhouette advances to start the conversation. It is there, at the end of the afternoon, sitting on a bench in front of a sumptuous bed of roses with a scent mixed with sand, where they meet..." Nuit de Sable's composition of cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, rose absolute, rose oxide, "hot sand accord," sandalwood, tonka bean, Ambroxan and musk was developed by Marie Schnirer. Maybe I just feel more at home in this scenario, with reading material and rose gardens, than I do in some fictional nightclub, but I'm enjoying this harder-to-define blend of warm spice and mineral notes, especially its cardamom, its crunchy vetiver note, and its milky (with a touch of cinnamon) sandalwood-musk dry down.
All four of these fragrances have moderate sillage and good staying power on my skin; Rouge Smoking and Pas Ce Soir feel more conventionally "feminine," whereas Gris Charnel and Nuit de Sable fall squarely into "gender-neutral" territory. This sampling represents less than one-third of BDK's output to date. I have no idea whether the other scents would evoke a similar "been-there-smelled-that" (as Kevin says) reaction from me. If you've tried any of them, let us know! In the meantime, I'll be sharing these samples within my circle of scent-acquaintances. That's one of the good things about these new niche brands that are so generous (and market-savvy) with their samples; there's always plenty to go around.