There is a trend in niche perfumery I find very irritating; the city exclusive. It is even more troublesome when I see a note list from a brand I like in a city I have no way of getting access to. Which was how I learned of By Kilian Lemon in Zest.
In 2014 creative director owner Kilian Hennessy began to open stand alone boutiques all over the world. For each opening there was a corresponding city exclusive to be sold only at that store. All of them were based on alcoholic beverages indigenous to the city the store was in. New York. Moscow, Paris, Doha, and London I had ways of getting a sample of those. As I managed to try all of them Lemon in Zest remained the stubborn outlier I couldn’t source. It was at the boutique in Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano is on the Swiss-Italian border and is not a large metropolis. I just couldn’t manage to pull the strings I needed to get a sample. Now it seems as if all the city exclusives have become available more widely. I got my sample of Lemon in Zest a little over a month ago.
What had me interested from afar was that it was based on the Italian liqueur limoncello. It also had perfumer Alberto Morillas as the perfumer. I had liked the previous city exclusives for their booziness. I was thinking that M. Morillas could make a limoncello perfume with the bite it would need. I wasn’t wrong.
Limoncello is made from the rind of the lemon and not the pulpy fruit itself. Those rinds are marinated in alcohol for days before being combined with simple syrup. It is served ice cold from the freezer carrying the bite of cold matched to the alcohol and the tart lemon. Limoncello is best drunk as the sun sets on a summer day. M. Morillas makes his own limoncello.
It begins with that tartness of the rind of lemon. Besides the lemon there is a subtle green underneath which is very appealing. These early stages are photorealistic lemon perfume at its best. Then he takes it and adds it to the sweet alcohol. The note list calls it “orange liqueur”. There is a hint of orange, but it is there as a surrogate for the simple syrup adding in some sweet. The alcohol here has that kind of bite I was hoping for. This isn’t a warm comfy cognac or whisky accord. This is a bracing shock to the system full of lemon energy. The same experience a shot of cold limoncello makes in my mouth. It ends as it does for me in real life as I look out over my back yard in summer twilight. Vetiver gives an earthy feel through a judicious use of patchouli. It is an ideal base accord for this.
Lemon in Zest has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I admit that once I got my sample, I was motivated to make some limoncello. I also put my sample in the refrigerator. About a week ago I took both out to enjoy the fireflies and the comet visible overhead from my deck. It felt like I was living my best limoncello life inside and out.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.