Yves Saint Laurent Kouros : Fragrance Review

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Kouros

As I have learned, Yves Saint Laurent Kouros, created by Pierre Bourdon in 1981, is a controversial fragrance, with opinions ranging from absolute devotion to utter repulsion. A few encounters revealed why it might be the case. The opening notes tingle with camphorous eucalyptus and tart bergamot, spreading out in cool waves on the skin. The rich fougère composition is ornamented by mace, bay leaf and sage, which lend a spicy edge. Soapy quality becomes more pronounced the longer the fragrance remains on the skin, calling to mind Blue Irish Spring soap. Between the top and the base, the composition is sustained as fresh and almost marine, layered with soapy notes.

When you are completely lulled into thinking that it is a gentle, unoffensive fragrance that might work on both men and women, then curious and disconcerting transformations begin to take place. First, it is just a whiff of something sweet and plastic redolent. Sweet and soapy note later, the composition evolves slowly, but after about an hour, the smell of civet starts to emerge. Have you ever smelled civet full strength? Without using more colorful terminology, I would describe it as extremely fecal. The same note comprises the base of Kouros, and while it is not exactly dominant, its animalic breath suffuses the composition fully. Combined with the fact that it is extremely sweet on me, the drydown is not exactly appealing.

The end result is odd, which is why I wore Kouros in the privacy of my home on more than one occasion trying to decide whether I am repulsive or amused by it. Even though I cross olfactory gender boundaries often, I decided to sample Kouros on a man to determine whether it might register differently. This little experiment led to the fact that my thus far compliant test subject rebelled and protested against any further fragrance tests on him. In other words, despite its unique and brazen structure, I would rather admire Kouros’ unconventionality from a distance. However, I would love to hear opinions of those who wear and love this fragrance, because as I understand it has quite a following.

Notes: Aldehydes, Artemesia, Bergamot oil, Clary Sage oil, Coriander, Laurel, Carnation, Cinnamon, Geranium, Jasmin, Orris, Patchouli, Vetiver, Amber, Civet, Honey, Leather, Moss, Musk, Tonka, Vanilla.

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21 Comments

  • Octavian: You captured the exact image of Kouros and its trick. It’s true, the civet note is in my opinion the key element of this fragrance. This almost fecal note is more pronounced in time. I used Kouros for a couple of years and after 2 years I noticed (the same bottle) that the dusty-animal almost repulsive note became more pronounced. Artemisia and aldehydes are the other key element – more volatile – giving its lift and power. in fact i would say that Kouros is the “transposition” (like in music) of the classical feminine aldehydic-jasmin note (indole !) in the masculine fougere class.
    I tryed again Kouros 1 month ago. It seems that the smell is cleaner, lighter and less animal. Did it change? or my perception changed through time? August 19, 2005 at 1:21am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I was just fascinated by the transformations of this fragrance. The initial lift is quite pleasant, and in a sense, a perfect foil for the subsequent transformations. I have only tried Kouros recently, therefore I am not sure if it was changed. I would have loved to sniff 1981 version, since I am sure almost everything undergoes a change of one type or of another. August 19, 2005 at 9:38am Reply

  • carole: Have to ask-are you still on speaking terms with your test subject?! August 19, 2005 at 10:05am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, I am. 🙂 He is a patient and wonderful person to put up with all of this. August 19, 2005 at 10:29am Reply

  • Campaspe: I think you should test more fragrances on him. His reactions are invariably hilarious. (Don’t tell him I suggested that, however. He may come after me, LOL!) August 21, 2005 at 10:05am Reply

  • Suzy: Your review of Kouros has left me with an unbearable desire to sample it for myself, even though I can easily imagine disliking it! August 21, 2005 at 6:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, it is a very unusual fragrance, very well-composed, but quite difficult to wear. I would love to hear your thoughts once you try it. August 21, 2005 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Bode: I have used and loved Kouros on since 1983. True, it is a fragrance that isnt for sitters-on-the-fence. You either love it or hate it! Here in Africa where the air is filled with earthy aromas, where woodsmoke permeates everyday life, the ‘fecal’ aspect of Kouros is subdued. The variant, Kouros Body, while good in its own right, seems to be a clever way of getting the Kouros brand accepted more widely. Kouros willa lways be one of my classics. April 3, 2006 at 12:05pm Reply

  • twix: I had an ex bf who wore Kourous and you know what…I loved it on him lol. It’s funny how I never really noticed the overpowering “fecalness” (sic) of the drydown…….it must have really worked well with his body chemistry! Now I wish I had a sample so I could see how it smells on myself 😉 August 22, 2007 at 9:33am Reply

  • Christian: For me it is a great fantastic fragrance. It enhances the masculine principle, in a man or a woman. As a regular customer, I don’t care about all these names of ingredients, I try to focus on what it is evoking me on my skin. I agree on the animal aspect, but it is fascinating, not repulsing. This fragrance evokes me tanned skin drying in the sun on the beach. While the salt water dries away on you, your skin begin to sweat in the heat. Salty sweating wet hair drying in the sea breeze and heat. It also reminds me of the smell of old yellow newspaper paper when you pour water on it – also about those chemical pencils made of wood sucked in the mouth until your tongue becomes dark violet. And that smell of sex on the beach, sweating under the sun… It has something very ancient, but atemporal, transcedental in the same time. The story goes like this. Kouros is the ancient Grek name of the young naked athlete. Before the race, they were bathing and oiling their bodies with perfumed oils. Then, while competing, the smell of their skin and their sweat was mixing with the scents of perfumed oils… September 29, 2007 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Isabella Beck: I love it on men but can somebody tell me please if there is a female version – I mean – which perfume comes close to Kouros but is made for women? April 29, 2012 at 6:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Hmm, this style is usually marketed as masculine, but if you like the combination of herbs and animalic notes, then you might want to explore some niche and classical fragrances. Maybe you can try Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande or Guerlain Jicky. April 29, 2012 at 11:42am Reply

  • Isabelle: Honestly I feel like reading about the civet note is what “ruins” this fragrance for a lot of people. Yes, it has an animalic quality but if people aren’t told beforehand that it smells like urinal cakes/fecal matter/cat piss – they really don’t react badly to it.

    Most people I’ve convinced to try it have liked it. Also, you CANNOT apply more than one spray of this fragrance. Just no. No no no. Overapplying will make anyone hate it. October 9, 2012 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Robert: One of my favourite walk-by samples during the eighties lunchtimes. Never committed enough to go for a bottle, it certainly was a fascinating flirt. Very distinctive, for better or worse. May 20, 2013 at 1:52am Reply

  • Joshua Wroblewski: I have always been aware of Kouros, and smelled it once or twice in the past, but just aquired a sample, and SOON to buy a bottle because I am in love with this fragrance! I think the Civet note is mlre of a subliminal note, in the sense where it’s there, but your brain enjoys the reaction, so it wants to smell more! I believe that the manpower, brainpower, time, and sheer chemical skill that has been poured into this fragrance is mind boggling due to the transformations that Kouros undergoes during it’s drydown… The end result is not `poopy` in anyway what-so-ever. It’s more of a `background`, or `suggestive sell` that the Civet is bringing across with the Oakmoss. I’m a male, 33, and the end result of this fragrance leaves me smelling my arm for more and more! The Civet acts almost as a drug, a hormonal drug, as if your smelling a dirty armpit, as repusive as it is albeit, you still secretly like it!! November 18, 2013 at 2:11am Reply

  • marios: Hi Victoria,
    What other Civet fragrances you suggest me beyond from Kouros and Guerlain Mouchoir/Jicky? is hard to find some of them so i appreciate your suggestion to try some others as well….Male fragrances, niche or mainstream.
    Thanks January 20, 2014 at 4:08am Reply

    • Joshua Wroblewski: Try Bandit (EDP version) from Robert Piguet… It’s marketed for Women but is definitely unisex. I wear it and I absolutely love it! It has a lot of Civet, along with Leather and florals and is really quite astonishing smelling along with excellent longevity and high quality. It gets better and better as it dries down and it was released in 1944 so it has a long history. It is very similiar to Kouros but even better I think. January 20, 2014 at 4:33am Reply

      • marios: Bandit is more leather, dark leather for me…i dont see civet in the way i was expecting…MKK on the other side, is fabulous….one of the best civet fragrances..it has this wild animalic smell with civet’s sweet strange attractiveness… March 30, 2014 at 3:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Bandit is a great recommendation.

      Also, Serge Lutens’s Muscs Koublai Khan is worth trying. January 20, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

  • marios: Hi Joshua, yes i had it in mind to try it…i heard a lot about it….thanks January 20, 2014 at 4:38am Reply

  • marios: as i remember, Shalimar EDT had civet…dont know on my skin if this is ok with the sweetness of Vanilla…I bought recently Tom ford noir as well but is not so animalic although magnificent perfume. January 21, 2014 at 3:47am Reply

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