OK, so I think it’s time for me to attempt to review MFK’s Baccarat Rouge 540, with a few words about the extrait version. I have been wanted to do this video for a while, but have been holding out for a couple of reasons. First, I feel this fragrance is not only a masterpiece, but also quite the ground-breaker in our modern era of perfumery, and I just haven’t felt my words would be able to do it justice. And second, there are so many reviews that have already saturated YouTube and other online spaces, and I didn’t feel my take would particularly add to the feedback already out there. But hey, because it is so beautiful, no matter how good or bad my description or how much or little I add to the commentary, I have to talk about it, right? So let’s do this.
Baccarat Rouge was first released in 2014 by master perfumer Francis Kirkdijan for the brand Baccarat, which was celebrating its 250th anniversary as a French luxury crystal goods producer. The company is famous for its red crystal, and I’m actually wearing an item from them around my neck. Like the fragrance, it’s pretty pricey, but I savvily got mine second hand, as I did the 200 ml bottle of fragrance I broke down and bought and have been racing through at high speed. A temperature of 540 degrees is required to obtain that colour of crystal, hence the name Baccarat Rouge (meaning red) 540.
The perfume was initially released as a limited edition, but it was such a big hit that Francis decided to release it in his own line, Maison Francis Kirkdijan or MFK in 2015. I love the nod to the red Baccarat chandelier on the inside of the sticker on the bottle. I’ve never laid hands on the extrait de parfum bottle itself, though I have a sample here, as well as a decant I got from a mate, but it would appear there are some nice patterns there, too. That version of the perfume, by the way, is supposed to be an intense flanker of the original, but it’s more than just intense, and we’ll get to that later. The French brand Dyptique, among others, is also known for doing this inside illustration work on their bottles. It’s a nice touch to the presentation. Baccarat Rouge 540 comes in an eau de parfum or EDP concentration, and is available in 70 ml, the bigger 200 ml, and the smaller 35 ml bottles. They make a cream as well. Here are the notes.
- saffron, jasmine,
- amberwood, ambergris,
- fir resin, cedar
Before jumping into an attempt to explain exactly what this smells like, I must tell you that BR 540 is what I have come to define as a ghost fragrance. There are two parts to this ghost quality. First, if you try to smell it directly, on skin or especially on a paper blotter, you might not get much. Perhaps just a vague whisp of something faintly sweet. This is because Baccarat Rouge 540 is a molecular scent. Molecules such as the infamous ISO Super E, ambroxan, vetiveryl acitate, javanol, and cashmeran have become ubiquitous in perfumery. These ingredients came to the forefront with the brand Escentric Molecules, which features each the 5 molecules I just mentioned as complete fragrances. I’ll review those fragrances later on my channel, I promise. I have full bottles of a couple of them, one being Molecule 04 – or javanol – which smells like fresh sandalwood. I’ve heard that different aromachemical companies use different names for these molecules, by the way. I think ambroxan is also called ambrofix oand Ambrox DL. ANyway, what these molecules all have in common is a transparency or sheerness. The ambroxan in Baccarat Rouge 540 is supposed to emulate the very pricy ambergris (which I lovingly define as whale spout vomit, by the way), but it doesn’t really do that – it only does so conceptually; it lacks the animalic quality and gives off a very airy, fluffy, intangible quality. I mean, well, all perfume is intangible, but think of it as intangible to the power of 10.
Baccarat Rouge 540 seems to enter and re-enter your personal space at will, jumping in and out from one dimension to the next. And this space-time aberration is the second part of the ghostiness I’m talking about. Baccarat Rouge is a fragrance that lives around you, not on you. Its beauty can be perceived mostly in its sillage, and not directly. What’s more, it comes and goes, and the wearer or people around the wearer might find themselves chasing after it following an initial perception of it in the air, only to be eluded as it playfully and deviously jumps out of their sensory dimension. And that, my friends, is part of this perfume’s great appeal, in my view. The extrait version of the perfume is more intense, and generally speaking, I say yes to more intensity, but in this particular case, there is a sacrifice. The extrait version does not seem to have the same degree the original’s exquisite, flirtatious sheerness, that ephemeral ghost quality. I got this small flacon decant of the intense version in my quest to chase down and capture the ghost, and I succeeded, but in the end, I feel this perfume is more beautiful when free of any shackles. Of course, the intense version does last much longer – maybe up to 30% longer? But it is also far pricier, and does not smell exactly the same. We’ll get to that later.
For now, what does the presence of BR540 smell like? Well, it is indeed a rather difficult perfume to describe, even though the note list is short, and one reason is because it’s a fragrance chock full of contradictions: it is both sweet and dry, warm and cool, young and sophisticated, light and rich, male and female, strong and gentle. I believe the ambroxan is important to having created this intentional contradiction. The notes are masterfully and immaculately balanced and blended to perfection, and this fact is a second reason why the scent is difficult to break down. While I won’t say this whole perfume creates a whole new accord, I will say that it is clever and extremely unique. Although perhaps not anymore as it has been copied so much now.
You’ll get wafts of cotton candy or candy floss, and caramelized burnt sugar, but it will never feel saccarine or cloying. There’s a rich, resinous amber-like vibe to it that magically avoids being too sticky or heavy, and a lovely dusting or lacing of saffron at the top. The woody cedar base is luxurious and classy and compliments the sweetness beautifully. It’s a linear fragrance; what you smell is what you get and it doesn’t morph over time. And I wouldn’t want it to.
This is hands-down my most complimented fragrance, and even though one could argue that it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s lost its appeal, it’s still my favourite – one of my signature scents. And again, because it’s such a ghost fragrance, when people around me smell it, it’s often the case that they have no idea it’s me. I’ll overhear people a fair pace away mumbling, oh my God what is that incredible smell and where is it coming from, and I’ll chime back, It’s me, baby. Well, I won’t say the ‘baby’ part to a stranger, but you get my drift. Haha – drift. Appropriate word.
Yes, this is a pricy fragrance, but I believe it’s full bottle worthy – obviously – I got the big one. First, it smells absolutely amazing – very sexy and intoxicating. – and second, the performance is great – it lasts a long time, projects well, and the sillage is top notch. This one lasts especially long on clothes and hair. The only caveat I would offer is to take caution in the amount you spray. Although I wouldn’t say you will annoy people with over-spraying as much as would with other fragrances, this is most definitely a fragrance that can wear you, instead of the other way around.
So, how about the extrait version of the perfume? Well, I’ve already mentioned that it is pricier, lasts longer, and isn’t as transparent, but it’s also not a sweet, I feel, and this is due to the perceptible bitter almond note in here. So, if you want to do the gender thing you could say this one is for guys and the original is for gals, but generally I feel that gender things is mostly hogwash anyway, and these scents are definitely unisex. I don’t even think either is marketed toward one or the other.
Here are the notes:
- bitter almond, saffron
- Egyptian jasmine, cedar
- ambergris, woody notes, musk
So it starts off with more almond at the top, a little sweeter in the middle with a more impactful jasmine I think, and then gets a smidge sour near the end, with the almond getting bitter. There are more dry woods at the base to create this more grounding effect.
Now just because it is a so-called intense version, does not mean it has more overall impact than the original; it’s just a different type of impact. It doesn’t have the airy woosh effect of the original. Also, where as I would wear the original absolute anytime and anywhere (well actually that’s just in theory, in practice I will not willy nilly spray it anytime because it costs a lot), for the intense version – I feel it’s perhaps not as versatile, I am more likely to spray this on at night. This one is substantially more expensive than the original. Not full-bottle worthy for me personally.
BR540 – both versions – have been hyped up a lot, and it’s no wonder – they are not at all polarizing and especially the original is insanely versatile – day or night, all genders, all seasons – expect for hot and humid, perhaps. But there are a few situations in which I would not whole heartedly recommend either of these to you.
The first is if you find yourself anosmic to the ambergris, or ambroxan I should say, meaning you can’t smell it. Don’t blind buy this one for that reason. You’ll smell something, and it will likely be pleasant. I have even heard people say it’s got a sweet toothpastey smell to it. I don’t get that, but if you’re not blown away by it, you likely just need more time with it. At least I hope just more time with it will do. I feel bad for those that can’t perceive this. A second reason not to buy is if you like to both be original and live in a place where perfume culture is thriving. I never have to worry about the latter, living in rural Japan. The smell of any high-end or niche fragrance is going to be rare in my neighbourhood, do I can be unique. Clearly BR540 is a victim of its own popularity, though, in this regard. It’s become one of those fragrances that people can easily identify it by name when they smell it passing by. Nothing about this fragrance smells particularly natural to me, and if the very idea of synthetic smells turns you off, this is a third reason why it’s not going to be for you.
On a related note, I found a negative review of this scent by someone called bazbazar on Fragrantica that cracked me up enough for me to want to share it here:
I was left so shaken by BR540. It has a nauseating iodine-like scent that lingers and even scrubbing does not help. I can concede and say that it does, indeed “smell rich”, but not a delicate, comfortable “I live in the Ritz and vacation to Europe” way, rather in a scary, “generations of my family have owned mines all over the global south”, “grandpa is on his seventh heart transplant surgery and grandma poisoned her servant” one. This fragrance scares me, i’m 100% serious.
Oh, here’s another goodie on the thread:
Smells like dentist wearing surgical gloves and wrapping the bandage on my jaw. Meanwhile someone is burning the plastic and candy together in the background.
Cotton candy and mosquito spray.
Hours of entertainment, I tell you.
A fourth situation in which I would not recommend this is if it’s outside your budget. Fragrance is a luxury, not a need. I’m not saying this is the most expensive fragrance out there – far from it (although the extrait version is pretty ridiculous). But if you are in love with this and cannot afford it, there are clones and dupes to consider, and I think I’ll share a few of those in an upcoming video. You might already know of a few. Yes, I have and do partake in the clone world. See my video here or below about that. In fact, before splurging on this bottle I did purchase from a clone house and I might even do it again when this runs out.
The first time I smelled BR540 was actually not even the real BR540. I was in Dubai – or Sharjah, technically – next to Dubai. I was visiting a clone house owned by a gentleman I’d taken a perfume course with a year earlier in Dubai, and he’d invited me to swing by. The counter assistant recommended their BR540 clone to me. I’d not heard of BR540 at the time – and it was love at first sniff. I bought the clone on the spot. I figured I might even buy the original later, which I did, eventually, after going through yet another, different clone of the fragrance beforehand. Now fortunately, in all cases, I was able to smell the scent directly. A lot of people don’t because of those strange synthetic molecules. For me, it’s the musk note substitute that I’m more anosmic to.
By the way, it’s true the ingredients in here are not the costliest and are indeed synthetic. So why the high price? Aromachemicals do not a bad or cheap perfume make. You don’t pay millions for a work by Salvador Dali or Picasso because of the quality of the paint or the cost of the paper on which it rests; you pay for the art – OK in this case the marketing, too, sure.
Well, I have absolutely no regret at having purchased the real McCoy in the end, here in Japan. It’s a stunning fragrance. OK, my lovelies. I hope you enjoyed the video. What do you think of this fragrance? Comments are most welcome. See you in my next video. xo