We review Baccarat Rouge 540, a genderless amber floral Eau de Parfum (EDP) from Paris-based niche perfumery Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
One of the most celebrated niche perfumeries in France, Maison Francis Kurkdjian was started by renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and corporate highflier Marc Chaya—at a time when both were riding cometary careers.
On one side stood Kurkdjian, an applauded perfumer who, at the age of only 24, had created one of the best-selling men’s fragrances in the world, Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier. On the other side was Chaya, a high-ranking executive who had made it to partner at Ernst & Young, one of the largest professional services firms in the world, after only ten years; a corporate record.
In 2009, Kurkdjian and Chaya felt it was the right time to start their own perfumery, one fascinated by the creative side and the other passionate about running the business. From that moment on, the duo has reformulated the rules of perfumery as we know it today and consistently created some of the best fragrances of our lifetime.
Much can be said about Maison Francis Kurkdjian and its fine fragrances. It is a house whose work is rooted in France’s rich olfactory traditions, but also liberated by the relentless entrepreneurism and artistic creativity of its co-founders.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s perfumes are sophisticated, timeless, delicate. A wardrobe of scents, if you will, meant to be worn as an expression of one’s self and feelings. Acts of craftsmanship and innovative tributes meant to reveal parts of one’s personality and offer a glimpse into the spirit and soul.
Baccarat Rouge 540
|House||Maison Francis Kurkdjian|
|Fragrance||Baccarat Rouge 540|
|Concentration||Eau de Parfum (EDP)|
|Description||A perfume born from the encounter between Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Baccarat to celebrate the crystal manufacturer’s 250th birthday that caresses the skin like an amber-woody floral whisper.|
|Sizes||0.37 fl oz (11 ml), 1.2 fl oz (35 ml), 2.4 fl oz (70 ml), 6.8 fl oz (200 ml)|
Denatured Alcohol, Fragrance, Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, BHT, Limonene, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool, CI 19140, CI 14700
Source: Maison Francis Kurkdjian, last retrieved February 2, 2022
To celebrate its 250th anniversary, French luxury brand and fine crystal manufacturer Baccarat worked with none other than Francis Kurkdjian on a limited edition perfume called Rouge 540. The 3.4 fl oz (100 ml) bottle, based on a George Chevalier design from the 1940s, was not for the faint-hearted; it sold for $4,800 a piece.
Commemorating a glassworks company with a quarter of a millennium of history whose founder, a French cardinal, had to seek permission from Louis XV, is no easy feat. And yet, Kurkdjian, the celebrated perfumer that he is, concocted a scent so brilliant, it almost shone.
Rouge 540 achieved cult status among connoisseurs and provided the inspiration for Baccarat Rouge 540, one of the most opulent amber floral perfumes in the history of perfumery—and the subject of today’s review.
The top notes are saffron and jasmine. The heart note is ambergris. The base note is cedar.
Trust me when I say that Baccarat Rouge 540 is a polarizing perfume. At first sniff, you will either love it or hate it, but you will not be left without an opinion.
Its character is so eccentric, it’s in a league of its own. Many dupe houses have tried to replicate it to the best of their abilities, but still fail to capture the magic of the original creation.
The reason for that is quite simple: BR540 is an experience. It has such an enveloping, airy presence. It comes and goes, plays pick-a-boo with you the moment you spray it, and lingers on your hair, skin, and clothes for DAYS.
To my nose, Baccarat Rouge 540 smells like caramelized cotton candy, but one that’s airy and light. It has a slight medicinal undertone, particularly in the opening stages, which reminded me of my dentist’s office. Fortunately, this quickly dissipated and what was left behind was a beautiful, airy scent.
The educated nose will tell you that it’s the ingredients: Sweet, strawberry-resemblant veltol; hay-like, lightly leathery saffronal; jasmine-opulent hedoine; ambergris-laden ambroxan; and the scent of dry, woody cedar from Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains have been melded masterfully to yield a scent as luxurious as Baccarat’s chandeliers, champagne glasses, and decanters.
The aficionado will tell you it’s the art: A fragrance of this magnitude can only come once in a generation from a house and a nose so bold, their olfactory alchemy bends the written rules of perfumery as we know it.
Whatever it is, and it is something, I love it.
Baccarat Rouge 540 is an iconic scent that anyone who is into fragrances should sniff and wear at least once in their life. Some will grow so fond of it, they will make it a permanent part of their collection as I did. Others will dislike it passionately, but will nevertheless appreciate its qualities.
As hard as you try, which end of the spectrum you will occupy cannot be predicted. At the end of the day, it comes down to your experience with and interpretation of this scent, and how you perceive the sensation of wearing it on your skin. The only way to find out is to get a sample, the travel spray, or a decant, spritz it on, and deem if it’s full-bottle-worthy for you or not.
Some need time to warm up to Baccarat Rouge 540. I was one of them. Personally, it took me a few wearings to understand what the hype was all about. At a certain moment in time, I could not help but sniff it on myself. I wanted to wear it over, and over, and over again. With Baccarat Rouge 540, perfumer Francis Kurkdjian has outdone himself and made a scent so intriguing, it’s addictive.
The sheer amount of compliments that I get when wearing it speaks for themselves; I’ve gotten my friends, my manicurist, my hairdresser hooked on it. Although it’s so versatile, it can be worn all year round, I like to save this one for special occasions. It’s so luxurious that, whenever I wear it, I feel like I’m about to walk into a gala ballroom for a ritzy charity ball.
Sadly, like every other fragrance that trends, Baccarat Rouge 540 is also overdone. If you wear it and enter the ballroom, you’d probably smell like 15%, maybe 20%, of the other guests. I hope one day I can enjoy its rarity again, though that does not stop me from wearing it in the moments when I feel like it.
In terms of longevity, Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian exceeds all expectations: the scent stays on the skin for upward of 24 hours. Spray it on your hair and clothes, and it lasts for days, if not weeks.
Seriously, this is a beast of perfume. I can smell it even after I shower—and I have been known to take long, hydrating showers. I can still smell it in my hair and on my pillow days later. As for my clothes… it stayed on my leather jacket for well over a month.
You asked, we answered: Why some perfumes last longer than others
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian has such projection and sillage that it announces your presence the moment you enter the room. It’s one of those fragrances that leave such an intoxicating scent trail, it causes people to follow you down the street and ask you what you’re wearing.
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a fantastic scent for layering. It can be layered with almost anything (provided, of course, that anything has been selected well), and it will elevate its partner-in-crime to previously unattainable heights.
Layer Baccarat Rouge 540 with Oud Satin Mood, both by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, for a dark, opulent, and mysterious fragrance like no other.
Layer Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian with Lost Cherry by Tom Ford for an airy, boozy, amber/cherry scent with a head-turning projection and mind-blowing longevity.
Layer Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian with Aventus by Creed for a jaw-dropping masculine scent that’s meant for making memories.
Layer Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian with Delina Exclusif by Parfums de Marly for an intoxicatingly feminine date night scent. Men will find it layers just as unforgettably with Parfums de Marly’s Layton.
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is available in four sizes: a 0.37 fl oz (11 ml) travel spray; a tall, 1.2 fl oz (35 ml) bottle; a standard-size, 2.4 fl oz (70 ml) bottle; and an enormous, 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) bottle for those who always want to have more than enough in their closet.
Read our guide: Which size perfume to buy?
On the day this review was published, the 3×0.37 fl oz (11 ml) travel spray kit and 1.2 fl oz (35 ml) bottle both sold for Є125 ($141); the 2.4 fl oz (70 ml) bottle for Є215 ($243); and the 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) bottle for Є425 ($480).
Consider Greenwich Village, a unisex floral amber fragrance by Bond No. 9; Tribeca, a unisex amber vanilla fragrance by Bond No. 9; Oud for Greatness, a unisex fragrance with similar DNA to BR540 by Initio, but woodier.
Some of the best BR540 dupes are Cloud, a sweet gourmand by Ariana Grande; Red Temptation, a very close recreation by Zara; and Instant Crush, a rose-jasmine-amber trio by Mancera.
The Extrait de Parfum of Baccarat Rouge 540 is warmer and smells more ambery; it has less of a medicinal opening. The Eau de Parfum (EDP) has better longevity and stronger sillage. If you dislike the medicinal notes in BR540 EDP, try the Extrait.
Baccarat Rouge 540 is equally good for summer and winter wear. Sultry summer days bring out an airy, sparkly quality to the perfume. In winter, it’s festive and celebratory, and layers exceptionally well with heavy gourmands by making them brighter.
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a beast. Most of the time, three to four sprays on the pulse points are enough to last the whole day. Spray it on your hair and clothes, and it will linger on them for days.
This is a perfume that’s most suitable for black-tie occasions. Wear it when you’re dressed up for an anniversary; a cocktail, bachelor, or bachelorette party; gala nights, and New Year’s Eve. It’s not necessarily suitable for weddings as it can overshadow the bride or groom.
Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian contains ambroxan, a synthetic ingredient discovered in the 1950s as a substitute for ambergris. Ambroxan is obtained from sclareol, a naturally occurring ingredient in clary sage.
Baccarat Rouge 540’s ambergris and jasmine notes come from two aroma-chemicals called Ambroxan and Hedione. Many perfume wearers say that they are partially anosmic to them, meaning they’re unable to smell them.
Baccarat Rouge 540 is an iconic, one-of-a-kind perfume. Whether you will love it or never want to wear it again cannot be predicted. Still, one thing’s for sure—you will not forget the first time you give it a whiff.