By Kilian 101- Five to Get You Started

There was a real inflection point for niche perfume in the years 2005-2008. There were several fully realized brands which sprang up during that time. The successful formula consisted of a consistent vision, beautiful packaging; in some cases, luxury pricing and if you could get it a personable spokesperson. One of the brands which checked off all of these boxes was By Kilian. Fronted by the scion of a famous cognac family, Kilian Hennessy, By Kilian led with a luxurious vibe. M. Hennessy also had a vision of deeper fragrant experiences which has played out throughout most of the collection. One reason for that coherence is he has worked with a small roster of perfumers and one, Calice Becker, has been a de facto in-house perfumer for the brand. Many of her best perfumes reside within the By Kilian collection. She has done such excellent work that all five of the perfumes I am recommending as starting points below are composed by Mme Becker.

Kilian Hennessy

From the initial collection of six perfumes the one which exemplifies the brand best is Love: Don’t Be Shy. One of the hallmarks of the brand is unique gourmand fragrances. Love set that in motion right from the start. Mme Becker recreated an accord of rose water infused marshmallow. Redolent of orange blossom in the heart before tailing off into a sensual caramel and musk finish.

Another hallmark is the use of oud resulting in a series of multiple oud fragrances. The second one released, Rose Oud, is the easiest to start with. Mme Becker takes the classic rose and oud pairing breathing new life into it by using an oud accord of cedar, cypriol, and saffron. By using an accord, it allows for a more approachable oud experience. Spicing it up with cardamom and cinnamon before allowing a Bulgarian rose to capture the oud accord makes this one of the most easygoing oud perfumes out there.

Calice Becker

The perfume which I think is the modern masterpiece within the collection is Back to Black. As with the oud in Rose Oud in Back to Black Mme Becker constructs an exquisite tobacco accord. In the early going you can detect the individual blocks as things like chamomile, cardamom, and coriander begin to be enveloped by other notes until like a magic trick a rich honeyed tobacco appears and stays for hours. Then over the last few hours it deconstructs on the skin leaving an amber and vanilla base as the final memory.

A return to the gourmand comes in Intoxicated. The off-beat gourmand is on display as Mme Becker takes a Tuurkish coffee accord of cinnamon, nutmeg, and spun sugar over coffee and adds in a sticky green cardamom. It makes this an exotic coffee perfume.

There is also a collection which was meant to appeal to Eastern tastes. It was more austere and simply constructed than the rest of the line. Most of the time it concentrates on a single raw material. Sacred Wood is the best of these as Mme Becker again uses a Mysore sandalwood which she surrounds with carrot, cumin, elemi, and a hot milk accord. That latter piece truly makes the sandalwood creamy in every sense of the word.

By Kilian is a brand which has broken out of the niche pack by staying true to its vision, The five fragrances above are a good introduction to that.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Tobacco

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I’m not sure what it is about the dead of winter, dead trees, and snowstorms that makes me want to wear a tobacco perfume. Like clockwork I start wanting to wear them from January to February. I have a lot of them in my collection and the five I’ve chosen could easily be joined by another five or more. If you, like me, are craving a tobacco perfume on these midwinter days here are my favorite five.

Aramis Havana was composed in 1994 by a team of perfumers consisting of Nathalie Feisthauer, Edouard Flechier, and Xavier Renard. Havana was the last of a dying breed as in a sea of fresh perfumes it was a hairy-chested powerhouse. It is a powerhouse with a ridiculously complex tobacco-laden heart that should fall apart under its own weight. The perfumers throw in twelve ingredients to capture a night of rum and cigars in the final days of Old Havana. This was discontinued for a time before returning four years ago essentially untouched. It was one of the great perfumes of the 1990’s and it stands the test of time today.

habanita_de_molinard

While many turn to tobacco and rum when they think of Havana, in 1921’s Habanita de Molinard there is a reminder Cuba is a tropical island. This comes courtesy of a floral heart of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. From out of the florals a tobacco accord rises and curls among the bouquet in the heart. When I also want some flowers with my tobacco I reach for Habanita.

If there is a flagship perfume for the Tom Ford Private Blend collection it very well may be 2007’s Tobacco Vanille. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin takes not only the tobacco leaves but also the tobacco flower. All of that is spiced up with ginger, clove, anise, and coriander. The promised vanilla comes along and completes this ultimate comfort scent. On a frigid night Tobacco Vanille acts as a snuggly cashmere sweater in fragrant form.

By Kilian Back to Black is one of the greatest modern perfumes. Perfumer Calice Becker, in 2009, pulled off the ultimate olfactory illusion. She created a tobacco perfume without using any tobacco. As a result this artificially constructed tobacco accord has more depth and nuance than any tobacco perfume I own. As the early notes begin to assemble on your skin until after a few minutes you are enveloped by the smell of narcotic tobacco, it is all a trick. I think this is one of the modern masterpieces of perfumery.

2012’s Diptyque Volutes by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has broken its way into my top tier tobacco rotation by adding in a number of my other favorite perfume notes. M. Pellegrin adds immortelle, myrrh, and hay to add different sweet components to pick apart the sweet facets of tobacco. Throughout piquant notes of pink pepper and black pepper add a roughness to all of the smooth sweet tobacco. If you think you have enough tobacco fragrances try Volutes you might want to find space for one more.

There are my five favorite tobacco perfumes, no Surgeon General warnings necessary.

Disclosure: I purchased all of the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke