The Universal Appeal Of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

Bustle talks to perfumer Francis Kurkdjian about the staying power of his iconic scent.

TikTok beauty trends and viral products are many and fleeting, but one fragrance has remained a constant for the past couple of years — Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Baccarat Rouge 540.

The hold that this fragrance has on everyone’s hearts (and algorithms) is only surprising in that it’s not a new scent and it’s a pretty big investment, especially for young beauty lovers. But its popularity seems to only be getting stronger despite that. Research done by Hey Discount in 2022 shows that the Baccarat Rouge remains a highly sought-after fragrance, with just under six million Google searches and over 110 million TikTok views yearly.

“I don’t know, I don’t have an account on TikTok,” Francis Kurkdjian, perfumer and creative director at Maison Francis Kurkdjian, tells Bustle lightheartedly when asked about its current status as Gen Z’s favorite scent. “More seriously, it makes me very happy; it means my creations are connected to the younger generation.”

Baccarat Rouge 540 launched in 2016 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the French luxury and crystal manufactory brand Baccarat. Kurkdjian had partnered with Baccarat many times before and it only made sense for him to be the one to create the signature scent for this milestone.

“The [president of Baccarat] wanted me to encapsulate the spirit of Baccarat in a bottle. I asked, what is its signature, and she answered, ‘Red crystal: the exact same crystal that hangs on each Baccarat chandelier,’” he says. “I started looking into the impressive heritage of the maison and focused on the process of creation behind their signature golden red.”

Baccarat Rouge 540 strikes the perfect balance of being floral without being too overwhelmingly sweet, and has a woody aroma that is decadent in all the best ways. Its ingredient list is surprisingly short compared to other beloved fragrances; it only contains seven ingredients — such as jasmine, saffron, and woody amber — which are divided by three accords. Kurkdjian says that its specific formulation remains a secret, despite the efforts of many counterfeits and dupes to replicate it out on the market. But what he can share about the formula is that its ingredient layering is based on a technique created by famed perfumer Jean Carle, the man responsible for another iconic fragrance Miss Dior.

The technique is pretty straightforward. You start with two ingredients and balance them. Then you add another ingredient and balance. And you keep going until you’re done. With Baccarat Rouge, he says that he put in a dash of orange and Tagetes and a few natural notes at the very end. The other notes — moss oakmoss, ethyl maltol, ambroxan, and hedione — are aroma molecules put together by a very precise, modern technology.

“It is truly the balance between these four raw materials based on my emotions and vision that makes this fragrance completely new,” he says. “That specific balance delivers a clear and recognizable olfactory signature.”

What was meant to be a limited-edition release (there were only 5,000 bottles produced for one year) sold out in two months. That was when Kurkdjian decided to make Baccarat Rouge a permanent part of the collection — and the rest is history.

“When I created it, I knew the fragrance was amazing because every time I was wearing it, I had so many good comments. Numerous people [who wore the scent] told me the same thing,” he says. “Its trail is distinctive and memorable.”

“I'm an unabashed stan of this Tiktok-dubbed ‘rich girl’ scent, and I always have a travel-sized version in my carry-on,” writes BDG executive beauty director Faith Xue of the scent. “I’m guaranteed instant compliments from anyone around me.”

What makes a product go viral is the existential question beauty brands have sought to answer since the inception of social media. But if Baccarat Rouge 540 proves anything, it takes more than just a good product to win the hearts of a younger generation (and TikTok’s current obsession with “old money ” and the “night luxe” aesthetic definitely helps). It has to evoke a good feeling.

“This fragrance resonates with people in different ways; people are passionate and feel very strongly about this scent,” he says. “There’s no rational explanation for it, but it shows again how much perfume is linked to people’s state of mind and how powerful the effect of a scent can be.”

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