Thursday, September 7, 2017

Travels In Spain, Part Three: Los Pueblos Blancos & Ronda With MFK APOM

When I was originally planning our trip to Spain I knew nothing about Los Pueblos Blancos and the town of Ronda. During my interview with perfumer Francis Kurkdjian last spring,here, he mentioned that he liked to vacation in southern Spain. (This is the last time I will name drop in this article!). I told him I was going to the south and asked for his best recommendation and he said that he really enjoyed the Los Pueblos Blancos region, home of the white washed villages, and he specifically mentioned Ronda. Well that was good enough for me and Ronda was added to our itinerary!  I am pleased to have found this beautiful and laid back corner of Andalusia. These small villages scattered throughout the Sierra de Grazalema Park typically have houses with whitewashed walls and tile roofs lining narrow streets that are often next to impossible to maneuver with an automobile. Ronda, one of these villages perches precariously atop cliffs straddling the great gorge El Tajo and is known for its bridge spanning the gap and also as the home of Spain's oldest bullfighting ring. American writers Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles were part-time summer residents here and used the area as inspiration.

We only had one day and night in Ronda but it was a relaxing stop between the sightseeing marathons in Seville and Granada, and later my daughter mentioned it as the place she'd most like to go back and spend more time.  I decided I needed to review something from Maison Francis Kurkdjian since he was the reason I discovered the place. It's a bit of a reach to say that these scents in any way remind me of the area but I decided to go with two of Mr. Kurkdjian's early works, APOM pour Femme and APOM pour Homme.

MFK's APOM pour Femme and it partner scent, Homme, were introduced in 2009, the first year that Mr. Kurkdjian started his own atelier. APOM pour Femme, which stands for "A Part Of Me", is described in copy as "a bit of oneself to leave with others." It is a yellow floral with strong woody undertones and only three notes are revealed: orange flower from Tunisia, cedar wood from Virginia, and ylang ylang. This was inspired by a trip Mr. Kurkdjian took to Lebanon. In my interview I told the perfumer that orange blossom seemed his signature note, he has had so many perfumes in his own line and in perfumes he's created for others that feature the note. He looked surprised when I said this but to me he is masterful with its use.

When I spray APOM I am intially slightly underwhelmed. It is a bit fizzy with a very mild and muted orange blossom note, pretty but unremarkable; however, orange blossom is usually a bit of a rowdy showgirl so this refinement is in itself a bit remarkable. Slowly the perfume starts to warm up and this is when everything changes, for the better. Were you ever in scouting and tried that old chestnut of rubbing two sticks together to try to spark a fire? This is the sensation I get, a slow building of warmth. It has the feel of soft amber but as that note is not listed I'm not sure how this is created. The ylang ylang starts to become noticeable and it lends a touch of powdery sweetness and a warm glow. It's hard to believe there are just three ingredients in APOM, but if so, Kurkdjian has performed a bit of alchemy with the ylang ylang and cedar by creating the perfume's warm soft growl. This never feels like a "white perfume", as orange blossom can often translate. It feels fuzzy and soft but also elegant at the same time. Eventually the woody note becomes more prominent but is wrapped in a cashmere cloak of the mixed florals.

My greatest affirmation came later that day. I never get compliments on my perfume, and next to telling me how great my (grown) kids are, that is the most welcome compliment you could give me. I was at the library check out counter and the librarian said, "Wow, you smell really good. What perfume are you wearing?"

I had just been at T.J. Maxx and given myself a big spray of something called Macaroon Rose. "Is it this?" I asked, holding my right hand up to her nose.

"Definitely not!" she replied, wrinkling her nose.

 "How about this?" I offered my left wrist, the arm I had sprayed with Apom Femme  several hours before.

She smiled. "Now that's elegant!"

MFK's APOM pour Homme shares two notes with the Femme version, orange blossom and Virginia cedar, but drops the ylang ylang in favor of amber. It's opening is also orange blossom but in this instance it takes on the more neroli like aspect of the plant which is typically considered to be more masculine. Just like its sister, the scent begins to "heat" up as the amber comes into play. I'm not overly fond of the opening but once it starts warming up it's a nice spicy/woody mix that like the femme version seems to be on a slow boil, holding steady with subtle heat and intensity. At this point the orange is very subdued. I smell cedar wood, cinnamon, and the warmth of the amber. I am not one to shy away from male scents but in this case I definitely prefer the femme of the set. It seems more unique and ultimately I find the Homme version nice but not as distinctive.

If you've gotten this far and are still interested in hearing more about Ronda, we stayed in the most quirky, cool hotel called Hotel Enfrente Art. It has a history of being associated with recording artists who came to this beautiful town for a creative jolt, and the most famous of these is probably Madonna, who came in 1994 to record a video for her song Take A Bow. She wanted to shoot a scene in the bullfighting ring but was denied by the owner so these shots had to be shot at another ring. Today the hotel maintains a charming individuality and we were given a warm welcome. They have a help-yourself bar and a great free breakfast cooked by a cheery chef who served everything from chocolate crepes to mango/tuna cerviche. The small lobby features the front half of an old car and other quirky items are scattered throughout the hotel. The meandering garden has unusual planters and there is an area where you can sit in chairs mounted in a shallow pond, dangle your feet in the water and let the fish nibble at your feet. I think you need a sense of humor to appreciate this hotel. Don't expect marble bathrooms and chic white linens, but we loved it!

Our absolute favorite relaxation at the hotel was drinking our gratis wine and sitting on the pleasant balcony overlook with its fabulous view. Pots of herbs hung on one wall and there was a wisteria vine covering the other which would smell heavenly when in bloom. Here's my daughter enjoying the moment in the photo below.

For more on Spain travels and related perfume review see Part One, Part Two,  Part Four, Part Five and Part Six.

Top photo from Flickr. Other photos my own. Perfumes from my own collection.


richpot said...

I love the way you write. A most enjoyable travelogue and fragrance review! Thank you.❤️

Cynthia said...

Thank you, Richard! You are definitely my favorite person this week! Thanks for reading.

Undina said...

MFK isn't my brand - even though I like at least a couple of his perfumes for other brands, but with your travel part you can talk me both into trying these two scents (I don't think I have) and going to Ronda ;)

Cynthia said...

Undina, I'm not sure if you'll like the perfumes but I definitely think you would like Ronda!