I half expected Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud (2012) to be like this, synthetic and minimalist with very little actual oud tones to it, and I was right. Clearly, Kurkdjian worshipped at the Church of Tom Ford with his super-medicinal take on oud, showing a clear lineage to Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002), which started it all. I wasn’t the biggest fan of M7 either, and the fact that it is a mega-hyped unicorn post-discontinuation didn’t help matter any, in spite of the retooled version YSL released post-Ford due to that same hype (although these same talking heads rejected the re-issue). Since then, a lot of designer prestige lines and Western niche houses have done “luxury oud” takes in this vein, including Tom Ford himself within his Private Collection, so seeing MFK take this direction is almost par for the course. Of such clean and completely-neutered interpretations of oud, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud is really just average, but boasts a humongous price tag that sits at a premium above even the already-high prices of his standard lines, turning what might have been passable into a hard-pass. Of course, if you are a fan of this style and see value in the way MFK handles the synthetic oud accord on display here, you may find my words harsh and crass, and I wouldn’t fault you for doing so as tastes are what they are.
The opening of MFK Oud has bergamot and this loud peppery pop, followed by the familiar “cherry cola” vibe of vintage M7. There is elemi and some aromachemical white floral sparkle to make this clean, before saffron comes in to smooth everything down a la something like MFK Baccarat Rouge 540 (2014). The synthetic saffron was used here before BR540, so perhaps Mr. Kurkdjian learned something of it from the application in MFK Oud, but it is the biggest single note of distinction in this oud compared to other Western takes. Eventually a dry Hermès-like patchouli note enters, transparent and green, blending with the “oud accord” of the base. Cedar, Iso E Super, amber, norlimbanol, and the medicinal oud note itself complete the experience, which lasts all of maybe 7 hours with middling performance. MFK Oud is a very office-safe oud and will remind you of a less-blended and less-classy Creed Royal Oud (2011) with the peppery notes, merged with vestiges of the pioneering M7. MFK Oud is even-keeled enough to be good in most weather conditions save maybe the hottest of days, and can be used for formal gatherings outside of office use, but isn’t a very easy-going smell suitable for casual gatherings with friends. Maybe it’s me, but I find MFK Oud too austere for friendliness.
As a whole, this would not be a terrible fragrance if that clean and sharp, peppery medicinal oud style is what you enjoy, but nothing about such an obviously-synthetic on-the-cheap kind of accord as this could be construed as luxury, let alone worth $300. I’ve smelled better synthetic oud takes than this at $20, which really puts misfires like these in perspective, especially because the perfumers working on those ouds probably had even lower materials or development budgets to work with than dear old Francis does. If there was some real genuine complexity here, a lot more blending as per the norm with MFK, I could arguably see how the brand could at least fetch the standard price for the stuff, but this feels cheap and somewhat thrown together, so I’m at a loss to find the value. MFK seemingly did some better stuff when the accord was built into the various “mood” flankers, and they may seem a little more worth the coin for that reason, but the bare-bones progeny of the Tom Ford-pioneered “Comet cleanser” oud note on display with MFK Oud is not. Again, your thoughts may vary, and the newer extrait de parfum variant from 2018 is a different animal not to be confused with this, but Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud is awkwardly vapid take on a usually heady subject. Thumbs Down