Instant Expert: How To Make A Bespoke Fragrance

19 December 2019
Grooming, Bespoke Fragrance, Francis Kurkdjian, Burberry, Perfume
Legendary perfumer Francis Kurkdjian talks inspiration, when perfume isn’t perfume, and Burberry Bespoke… just in time to add it to your festive wish list

Inspiration doesn’t strike – you have to work at it...

So, I go to exhibitions, I read, I take art lessons, I take drawing lessons. I’m old enough to learn things again, now. I know how to make perfume, but the key is inspiration. If you don’t open your mind and nurture it, it dries up.

No two days are the same for me…

That’s the beauty of it. Plus, I don’t always work on scent, I have lots of other things to do besides creating perfume. I have my own business, I work with other companies, too.

I’m very rigorous in how I work...

I send myself emails. I have five different accounts for my clients and I just email myself the ideas as they come. Everything has to go to a specific mailbox. Organisation is the key.

But sometimes, it’s tricky...

To find ideas, I put my mind in open mode. Then when I know what I need to do, I shut it down and focus to create it. It’s open and closed. But, sometimes you’re on for one project and off for another, and that can make you blind to new ideas.

I wanted to become a perfumer because I thought it was fun...

I was interested by everything around the product. Perfume is not just the scent. I love talking about names, the environment of the product. It’s not just about filling bottles. I think of the name first.

With Burberry Bespoke, it’s about the full experience...

You not only choose the scent, but the concentration. Then you get your name and initials on the bottle and decide on the colour of the ribbon that goes around the cap.

The concentration means everything...

It goes from 10 percent at its lowest, which is like, eau de toilette. Then 30 percent, which is pure perfume, finally it goes a little further, up to 49.5 percent. This is the ultimate concentration at which we can still call it perfume. After that, legally, it’s now oil – because at that stage there’s more oil than perfume.

It’s impossible to get the essence of a country in a perfume. If anybody says that, it’s b*******...

Although this is a collections that harks to the British outdoors, it’s more a feeling. More trying to catch a moment. We wanted to steer clear of the obvious options, so we haven’t used lavender – I think that feels a little common – and we haven’t used tea. But really, we want to be British in a less obvious way... more through attitude than ingredients.

In the beginning, it was tough working across brands...

Things would be a little confused in my head, but now it’s ok. I work in blocks and each project has its own environment, its own DNA. This is just something that you learn. It’s really just a question of training.

I work far ahead on projects...

Creatively, 2021 is already done... 2022 is almost there, and I’m working on 2023, too.

You need 18 months to create a project...

It gives you the chance to kill the idea if you’re not happy with it.

What are my fragrance memories?

I remember the scent of the flowers at my grandmothers... I remember the perfume of my father... the perfume of my mother – she had many. I remember the first scent my sister ever wore – it was Anais Anais. My thoughts go from flowers in the garden, to scent, to cooking. I love the smell of ripe bananas and milk and sugar and cinnamon.

Burberry Bespoke is priced Dhs1370-2500