Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent)

Every rule has an exception, and Kouros is it.

To be more specific, Kouros is the exception to the rule: gender barriers are made to be broken. Yes ladies, you should wear men's fragrances, you might find the effect delightful, and see a vast improvement in your quality of life, particularly your sex life. By all means, wear Cool Water, Aramis, Old Spice. I can think of nothing better than meeting a girl who wears Cuba, or Obsession for Men, or Himalaya. Even Allure Homme, my signature for 10 years, is not tied down.

Kouros, however, is a different story. Hearkening from 1981 (my birth year), this Pierre Bourdon fougère was the brainchild of Monsieur Saint-Laurent while visiting Greece. It's said that he wanted to bottle the pure essence of sun-baked Mediterranean life, and the result was a fragrance named after the male statues that guard Apollo's shores. The smells of ancient dust, fresh lemons, wildflowers, and salted stone inspired a perfume of epic proportions, something that was both classical and unrestrained, pristine, but of the earth. It was the first, and possibly the last, truly masculine fougère. Anything before or since is either a variation of something unisex, or just another bottle with a label.

Unlike anything else, Kouros isn't something I could see a woman wearing. Try as I might, I just can't find a way to make it fit. Sure, the honey accord that wells from the clove and incense offers a misleading sweetness, but it darts and weaves past, of all things, civet. This anal excretion of the civet cat is also found in plenty of feminine perfumes, but its handling here is such that you're hit with all the note's sharpest edges, and all at once. The fact that French perfumers actually taste civet when selecting it for their formulas is somewhat-palatable when considering fruity feminines like K de Krizia and Chanel N°5. Not so with Kouros. Here, the very thought of such spoon-sipping could make you double over the toilet. It's not that there's too much civet, but that it's framed in a way as to exclaim to the world, I AM UNWASHED, UNASHAMED, UNADORNED MAN - HEAR ME ROAR! You can practically see the naked Hellenic soldiers running through the fields when this stuff hits your skin, and if that sort of homoerotic imagery isn't enough for you, you can also envision the bathhouses once the lemon, bergamot, and coriander of the top notes brace your senses. It's hard to even describe Kouros without describing a world where man-love is de rigueur because the gods haven't gotten around to creating Woman yet. I could go on, but I think you get the picture here. This is man juice, through and through.

For me, Kouros is a much different thing. Skin chemistry plays a part, and the coriander really leaps out with mine, bridging the honeyed gap between bergamot and incense. Civet-laced incense wafts from my shirt after an hour's wear, with the occasional whiff of herbal flowers. I find it equally useful at work and at play, and something I almost never have to reapply. You get a solid 7 hours out of it, and if you're blessed with just the right kind of oily skin, 12 hours is entirely possible. Over-application can give a cat-piss effect, but overall this perfume develops consistently regardless of amount. If you're light enough on the trigger finger, the tension between clean and dirty is broken, and clean wins.

This fragrance is the only thing I wear in September. I'm not sure why. September is one of those months that just hangs there in the middle of the year; I can never figure out what to do with myself when summer is over and autumn hasn't yet begun. Likewise, it's hard to know what to do with Kouros, unless you accept that it's too aggressive and too timeless for any occasion, anywhere, and just roll with it.

To quote the nostalgic musings of an old French fan of the scent, "Kouros . . . C'ette un grand parfum."


  1. Hi Brian!

    Did you see this article about Kouros' debut:


    also: Pierre Bourdon's interview:


    1. Very interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing! I'm surprised that Bourdon thinks his "worst compositions" are the ones that sold, and his "best" are the ones that remained unsold.

  2. Bryan, am I losing my mind, or is there a connection between Kouros and Tabac? I tried a newer bottle of the EDC recently and was pretty impressed... The freshness was intense, but there were also some waxy aldehydes that made the whole thing feel more worldly in a friendly way. The combination reminded me, of all things, of the public toilets in the metro in Paris... a mix of urinal puck freshness and warm, waxy, stale comfort. Odd but true.

    Kouros kind of does the same thing for me, but much more dynamically... It smells urinous but deeply, humanly warm; fresh but with that worldly undertow, and very much alive.

    Anyway, do you get this connection at all? I've never heard anyone mention it, though Tabac is classic barbershop and Kouros is barbershop en passant...

    1. Kouros is a special fragrance, full of incredible notes, including a very Creed-like ambergris effect, which unfortunately is barely there in the current formula. But no John, you're not wrong. There is definitely a connection between Kouros and Tabac: they're both musky aromatic fougeres. The muskiness of Kouros was presaged by the dandified musks of Tabac, and whenever I wear Tabac I get an incredible array of musks, at least three of which are immediately detectable, and probably another two or three which are supporting players.

      That said, personally I much prefer Kouros over Tabac. Bear in mind, while I do like Tabac, I love love love Kouros. Tabac smells great, and is surprisingly smooth for an old-school barbershop scent, but it lacks the floral richness and animalic nuances of Kouros. What it does share is an almost identical lavender accord, and oddly enough you rarely read about the lavender in Kouros. You rarely read about it in Tabac, either. That's not an odd coincidence.


Thank you for your comment. It will be visible after approval by the moderator.