There are perfumers who I enjoy them most when they compose in transparencies and whispers. There are others where the converse is true. It usually takes a particular perfume to reach out and hit me between the eyes for me to realize it. For Francis Kurkdjian that realization came when my favorite perfume of his initial Maison Francis Kurkdjian releases in 2009 was Cologne pour Le Soir. A year later he would release Absolue pour Le Soir the more feral cousin to the original. When M. Kurkdjian decides to add more to a previous construction there is no mistaking the power behind it. The newest release Aqua Vitae Forte is another example of this.
Aqua Vitae was released in 2013 as a pleasant Hedione-focused fragrance with citrus on top and the very light woodiness of Gaiac on the bottom. It was a perfume for the hot days of summer with the Hedione giving off shimmers like a heat mirage at the center. For this new version M. Kurkdjian has again put on his loud speaking voice as a composer of Aqua Vitae Forte. The follow-ups he has done within Maison Francis Kurkdjian should not be thought of as flankers because the notes he uses transforms them completely. I can detect a few bits and pieces of Aqua Vitae but Aqua Vitae Forte really stands on its own despite the similarity in name.
Francis Kurkdjian (Photo via www.ft.com)
The place where the two perfumes come closest to being similar is in the very early moments as both open on a tart mix of lemon and mandarin. In the original the Hedione takes over from there. In Aqua Vitae Forte M. Kurkdjian throws three spice notes into the mix. Cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and cardamom intersperse themselves within the bright citrus shading the sunniness and providing contrast. A lot of times the spices overwhelm the citrus but here they stand their ground and it really makes the opening purr with energy. The Hedione remains in the heart but for Aqua Vitae Forte M. Kurkdjian uses orange blossom and ylang ylang as running mates. The florals provide the same effect as the spices did in the top notes by curtailing the expansiveness of the Hedione and keeping it more compact in its effect. This time the Hedione simmers instead of shimmers. All pretense at mimicking the original is tossed aside in the base as a rich sandalwood and a sturdy vetiver form the foundation. There is no lightness of being anymore just a two-footed stance of assuredness.
Aqua Vitae Forte has 10-12 hours longevity and above average sillage.
If Aqua Vitae was perfect for the heat of summer; Aqua Vitae Forte is going to be perfect for the upcoming chilly days of fall. This is a perfume which will go extremely well with sweaters and scarves on a crisp autumnal sojourn. When M. Kurkdjian raises his tone it usually leaves me saying Bravo Francis!
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Maison Francis Kurkdjian,