I think it was about time that someone created a big, bold and beautiful oriental fragrance. Just like the ones Jacques Guerlain used to make: grand and unapologetic; never too shy to hit you in your face, dizzy your head and bring you on your knees.
This time the culprit is Francis Kurkdjian and the weapon of mass seduction is Grand Soir. It's a beautiful oriental scent reminiscent of the 1920's when the big and bold perfumes used to reign. Shalimar, Mitsouko and Chanel No 5 used to waft through the halls of Palais Garnier and a sense of excitement used to flood the brightly lit Pont Alexandre III.
Grand Soir vividly reinterprets the grandeur of the early 20th century Paris. While this is commendable, it is not impressive. Staying modern and relevant at the same time, however, is worth an applause.
A stroll in your best attire on a "magnificent Parisian evening" is what inspired Francis Kurkdjian to create Grand Soir. On his website, he explains:
"Dress in your finest attire and polish your look. Wander in a never-ending night and enjoy the daring radiance of a magnificent Parisian evening, over and over again. Bridges and monuments shine like a thousand stars, standing majestic in a twilit sky carried away by the soft vanilla warmth of benzoin from Siam and a tonka bean from Brazil that has been jostled by the deep darkness of cistus labdanum from Spain."
As Kurkdjian says, however, it's not important what this fragrance means to him but what it means to you. To everyone of us, Grand Soir will appear different; we all will interpret it in our own way. What remains, undeniable, however, that it is a beautiful composition that pays homage to "the daring radiance of a magnificent Parisian evening".
What Does Grand Soir Smell Like?
The classic oriental fragrances were known for their complexity. Layer upon layer of various masterly blended ingredients made for rich and multi-faceted scent. Take Shalimar as an example. According to Fragrantica, its composition features 18 different accords. Each accord, in turn, could be composed of even more fragrance notes.
Follow logic and you could easily conclude that to create a grand oriental, you need a complex composition. With Grand Soir, Kurkdjian shows us this is not the case.
Grand Soir features only five notes: labdanum, benzoin, tonka bean, vanilla and amber. Yet, the depth and density of the fragrance is evident from the first sniff.
After the first twenty minutes, the notes of vanilla and tonka bean intensify. The character of Grand Soir is primarily resinous but the vanilla and tonka bean give it some depth. The vanilla and resins are blended so well together that they recreate the illusion of an omnipresent amber accord.
The official note list includes amber as part of the composition. In fact, in perfumery amber doesn't exist as a stand-alone note. Perfumers create it by combining various resins (e.g. labdanum and styrax) with vanilla.
The composition of Grand Soir doesn't evolve drastically after the first half hour. The resins quiet down and the sweet and soft composition remains with me to the end.
Grand Soir has a enviable projection. I could easily detect the three sprays on my chest for most of the day.
Grand Soir easily lasted over fourteen hours on me. If I hadn't showered, I have no doubt, I could have easily gotten another three hours of quiet humming.
Where to Rock It
Grand Soir works best for autumn/winter. Just like any oriental fragrance, it is a warm-resinous scent, which character will shine in a cold weather.
As far as orientals go, Grand Soir doesn't appear to be as heavy or cloying. Its airy aspect could allow you an occasional wear on a cool summer night but I wouldn't make it a rule.
Grand Soir is unique in a way that Francis Kurkdjian tells you when to wear it. Going for a late night stroll in Paris? Grand Soir is for you. Of course, Paris is not the only place to wear Grand Soir. I can see myself wearing it on an evening cruise along Vltava (the main river going through Prague) or a string quartet concert at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto.
Fragrance is rarely city-specific, even when the perfumer says it is. Grand Soir is a versatile scent that would keep you smelling great anywhere. To get the full magic of it, however, I'd stick to evening wear.
In general, orientals are a genre favoured by people with certain gravitas. No, you don't have to be a septuagenarian burdened by the weight of the world. In fact, if you were, you'd probably choose something spicier and heavier. You can't be a teenage boy either.
Grand Soir would be most suitable for anyone in their late twenties and above. Despite this recommendation, I think Grand Soir is not an age-bound fragrance. What dictates its appropriateness is your attire. A white dress shirt and dark chinos would be as casual as you'd want to go with it. A chic red dress accompanied by an elegant necklace would be a good choice for the ladies.
What the Other Frag Heads Say about Grand Soir
Sebastian Jara from Looking Feeling Smelling Great finds Grand Soir to have "a very traditional, masculine cologne of the 80's vibe". To him the fragrance has a decidedly more masculine character. To me, it falls squarely into the unisex category.
Sebastian prefers Grand Soir to Petit Matin, as it is bolder, more powdery and overall more interesting.
"It is powerful, posh, deep and joyous." This is how Jessica from Bonjour Perfume describes Grand Soir. She continues that with Grand Soir in the air "then is the moon and stars, sparkling Paris street lights, and bunch of friends, chatting and laughing away into the night…till dawn…"
Jessica writes that for her Grand Soir represents freedom and joy. Indeed, there is something very French about Kurkdjian's creation; something that defines the joy of living.
The Bottom Line
Grand Soir is impeccable. A perfect blend of resins, tonka bean and vanilla, Grand Soir is the ideal companion for an evening stroll in your favourite city.
Would you buy Grand Soir?
It is definitely worth a purchase. Even if you are not a fan of oriental fragrances, Grand Soir is worht trying.
Would I get compliments wearing Grand Soir?
Grand Soir comes with a solid projection and longevity. Yet, it is the kind of fragrance that doesn't demand attention. With it, you are more likely to get compliments like "you smell great", rather than "your perfume smells great".
What rating would you give Grand Soir?
There is nothing that stops me from giving Grand Soir five stars. It is a perfectly blended fragrance that fully deserves a masterpiece status.
Tonka Bean, Vanilla