I recently read in terror that Kouros could be reformulated (I am sure it will not be the first time) and I realized that I have never owned a bottle of this and it would be a pity to miss. I know how it smells so no surprises there. But actually owning a bottle of this lets you really appreciate what a masterpiece this is. And I use the word masterpiece in the most totalitarian way possible: I can understand if you do not like this but if you have actually smelled it and followed its progression I cannot accept that you do not appreciate the sheer complexity and multiplicity of it.
I am sure nobody needs another Kouros review but I felt compelled to write about this after re-discovering its wonderful and developing qualities. It opens with a strong neroli cloud bursting in the air. It is not the shy, reserved neroli of Fleur du Mâle, it is bold, sharp and filthy. To me neroli is the smell of spring because Athens is full of bitter orange trees, growing in small squares of earth trapped under pavement and asphalt, wedged between blocks of flats and still thriving. Throughout winter they are loaded with bitter oranges and when spring comes they start shooting little yellowish pearls that eventually bloom and slowly cover the green ball of leaves with white fragrant stars. I still cannot believe how this tree can bloom under such adverse conditions: polution, not a lot of rain, most certainly not a lot of earth and stretching for some sun through high buildings. But it does. And just because bitter orange trees have always been there in the streets of Athens there always comes a time where you stop noticing them. But with the first sunny days of spring they claim my attention. They bloom and the intensely sweet, dirty, pissy smell of neroli fills the streets and grabs me by the nose. This is not a happy, beautiful smell for me. It is a note I absolutely detest in fragrances. It sort of sucks up the air and replaces it with a carnal, fleshy, honeyed liquid. But in Kouros it works! Probably because it arrives coupled with a herbal sage note. And of course civet, which to my nose announces itself with what can only be described as a crispy roast lamb note. I know it is strange but this is the closest I can get to describing this. Coriander plays a big part too, adding a candied dimension. At this stage Kouros smells like Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Pour le Jeune Homme with a big dollop of civet on top.
As Kouros develops the fresher notes of neroli and coriander stand in the background as civet shows its claws. This is probably the most difficult stage of the development. It is so far from anything else out there that one has to marvel at the imagination and sheer boldness of the people who were responsible for taking decisions chez Yves saint Laurent back in 1981. I cannot help but compare this with CK One Shock for Him which was one of the most positively reviewed mainstream releases of last year. Thirty years after Kouros the mainstream masculine perfume market is shockingly boring. Kouros is still in the market thirty years after its release. I do not think that anyone would dare claim that CK One Shock for Him will be around in 2041. It wasn’t designed to survive.
Well into the basenotes the third transformation of Kouros materializes. The trademark note of masculine YSL fragrances of yesteryears, shaving cream, becomes apparent. The same note that characterizes Rive Gauche and flirts with orientalism in Opium pour Homme EdT. A mature, masculine, reserved scent morphs in front of my nose, on my skin. The exact right amount of musk and civet add a perfectly balanced dose of earthiness and dirtiness to the pristine preppiness of barbershop shaving cream. In this phase Kouros is the most comfortable and warm of all three classic YSL fragrances. Perfectly balanced, compact and masculine.
Kouros is not just a fragrance. It is a metaphor. It represents the phases of a man’s life. The floral, sparkling sweetness of the opening bring to mind adolescence. The fierce assertiveness of the middle notes mark the aggressiveness of the prime years. The balance of the introverted basenotes reach the aim of every man, every person, every fragrance. Confidence.
Notes from Fragrantica: aldehydes, artemisia, coriander, clary sage, bergamot, carnation, patchouli, cinnamon, orris root, jasmine, vetiver and geranium, honey, leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss and vanilla.
Notes from my nose: neroli, sage, coriander, roast lamb, civet, shaving cream, musk