New Perfume Review By Kilian Lemon in Zest- Limoncello Life

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.

Kilian Hennessy

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.

Alberto Morillas

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche- The Good Place

There are perfumes I don’t care for where I walk away wondering how it would have been if one ingredient was added or removed. I’ve learned over the years that a perfume I am not crazy about is only one change away from being one I do like. There are rare occasions when it happens on the perfume shelf but By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche shows it off.

Kilian Hennessy

The original Good Girl Gone Bad was released in 2012 as a collaboration between creative director Kilian Hennessy and perfumer Alberto Morillas. The idea was to create a sultry white floral with the added opulence of osmanthus. Regular readers know that should have been right in my wheelhouse. It was but the more I wore it the more crowded all the “bad girl” florals seemed. There were too many of them. I found myself craving a lighter version with the same aesthetic using less. Mssrs. Hennessy and Morillas provide me what I wanted with Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche. The biggest alteration is the removal of osmanthus and narcissus. What is left behind, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, and rose still manage to be “bad” while also being good.

Alberto Morillas

For the Eau Fraiche version orange blossom has a more pronounced presence. It is the lightest of the white florals, but it still has enough indoles to remind you it belongs. M. Morillas adds Rose de Mai, another lighter version of a flower which retains the sultry core. This is that “bad girl” on holiday walking in a sundress with a pop in her step. Jasmine and tuberose call back to the original without being quite as loud. It seems as if they are on holiday too. As the florals come together this is a summery white floral which exudes energy. It all glides along on a base of white musks providing a warm breeze to ruffle our “bad girls’” hair.

Good Girl Gone Bad Eau Fraiche has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you were not a fan of the original because you share my feel of it being overcrowded this version should be better. I know there are some who told me the original smelled like pickle juice on their skin. I think that was probably from the osmanthus. This version should also be more enjoyable if the other florals are to your taste. I like it very much especially on the spring days I tested it. It seems like the creative team found the good place for the “bad girls” to be Eau Fraiche.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Rolling in Love- Powdered Skin

One of the recurrent themes within perfumery are pairs of ingredients which seem tailor-made for each other. One of the pairs which has always evolved from the earliest days is iris and musk. The reason is the evolution of musks over the years.As the chemists have produced more and more of them perfumers are given the ability to take a different perspective on a classic pair. By Kilian Rolling in Love does this with iris and musk.

Kilian Hennessy

Creative director Kilian Hennessy’s vision was as a “skin musk” with textures of “white”. In the case of Rolling in Love that translates to a perfume of florals and musks by perfumer Pascal Gaurin.

Pascal Gaurin

That concept is where it opens. M. Gaurin uses a mixture of almond milk and ambrette seeds to nod to both. The almond milk has a creamy nuttiness which the botanical musk of ambrette is added like a flavor swirl. The heart is the powdery iris which M. Gaurin enhances with supporting florals; rose, orange blossom, and tuberose. Those three are kept at low doses such that they add a richness to the iris without the heart becoming a more varied bouquet. The skin musk returns with the synthetic musks that represent the scent of warm skin all together. In a reverse of the top accord M. Gaurin adds a sweet flavor swirl of tonka and vanilla. This all comes together as rapidly as it takes you to read this paragraph. What it means is there is a predominant duet of iris and musk given some depth and texture by the other ingredients.

Rolling in Love has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Iris and musk are not an original pairing. What is different in Rolling in Love is turning it into a deep powdered skin scent. It is a well-executed version of that.

Disclosure: this review is basedo n a sample provided by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Love: Don’t Be Shy Rose & Oud- Kilian Mash-Up

I am a fan of the musical form known as the mash-up. It is where they take two disparate songs and combine them into something entirely new. It turns pop songs I think banal into something I play over and over. When it comes to perfume those who layer their fragrances are essentially doing the same thing. I don’t think a brand has consciously done it until I received my sample of By Kilian Love: Don’t Be Shy Rose & Oud.

Kilian Hennessy

When Kilian Hennessy made his entrance on the fragrance shelves in 2007 he was selling a unique luxurious version of perfume. Especially his first set of releases which were all memorable. One of those was Love: Don’t Be Shy which was a wonderful floral gourmand based around a fantastic accord of marshmallow water. I think of it as one of the forerunners of this style becoming the current trend. Three years later M. Hennessy would branch out with the first of his oud focused fragrances, Rose Oud. This is still one of my very favorite uses of oud in perfume. Both perfumes were composed by perfumer Calice Becker.

Calice Becker

Working with Mme Becker, M. Hennessy seemingly wanted the marshmallow water accord of the original Love and the titular notes of Rose Oud to come together in a perfume mash-up. It does give me new thoughts on these accords.

This perfume opens with the fabulous marshmallow accord Mme Becker thrilled me with twelve years ago. It has a sugary floral quality underpinned by a watery orange blossom. All that returns. In the original Love that became sweeter over time. In this case Mme Becker slowly brings the rose and oud into play. She has a careful balancing act here because the marshmallow accord is way opaquer than either rose or oud.  In the early moments of detecting the rose and oud is where this fragrance is at its most intriguing. Over time the rose and oud do take over but there is a decent amount of time where the three components are beautifully singing in harmony.

Love: Don’t be Shy Rose & Oud has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

One thing I thought, and proved to myself, you can’t get the same effect by layering the two scents which are brought together here. This is a purer attempt to find the places where these three things can co-exist. Especially in the middle as the marshmallow accord holds its own with the rose and oud, I find this to be a decadent floral gourmand. I would’ve like that to hold on for longer. But just as in musical mash-ups they have to give both songs the time to shine. Love: Don’t Be Shy Rose & Oud does this very well.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Dark Lord- Darth Kilian?

Names of things can be double edged swords. It can set your expectations higher than they maybe should be. They can also be an elegant intro to something surprising. As an avid Star Wars fan and reader of epic fantasy a perfume called Dark Lord conjures up Stygian depths swirling with portent from which Darth Vader strides with lightsaber glowing. Not sure any perfume can live up to that, but I found By Kilian Dark Lord to have some of that villain we love to hate lurking in it.

Kilian Hennessy

Kilian Hennessy has enjoyed making perfumes which tend to the darker side of the fragrance spectrum. It is one reason the brand is successful because he has created a brand identity around embracing those styles. There have been so many of those it becomes a bit difficult to not be self-reverential to a previous release when working on a new one. Working with perfumer Alberto Morillas common themes of the past like rum, leather, and vetiver are re-combined into Dark Lord.

Alberto Morillas

M. Morillas has had some of his most successful collaborations in the niche world working with M. Hennessy. He produced Musk Oud and Eternal Oud in the Arabian Nights collection along with one of the best perfumes in the line in Good Girl Gone Bad. They know how to make perfume in the darkness.

I think regular readers must be tired of my pointing out the versatility of Szechuan pepper in perfumery. I am going to do it again because M. Morillas marries it to bergamot which brings out the fruity grace note in the pepper while also providing a shimmering warm effect, too. A fantastic leather accord comes next. This is not biker jacket leather. This is the leather jacket of a James Bond villain; smelling of wealth and refinement. A background of jasmine adds a bit of Luciferian contrast. Next comes a rich burnt sugar-like rum accord. The Kilian line of perfume has had a number of rum accords this one is scorched with a bit of brimstone to differentiate it. It all ends in a field of vetiver and patchouli as you strike a deal at the crossroads.

Dark Lord has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

As I said at the beginning Dark Lord has a name to live up to. It might not actually make me think of Darth Kilian but it does smell of dubious deeds agreed to in the darkness.

Disclosure; This review is based on a sample supplied by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Kilian My Kind of Love Collection- Sympathy for The Kilian

Independent perfumery is made up of memorable characters. The more memorable the character the more likely you are to try their perfume. In 2008 I was introduced to one of the best at employing this principle; Kilian Hennessy. M. Hennessy was debuting a deluxe luxury brand called By Kilian. He was a spectacular spokesman for his fragrance brand. He would use that to go from the original six fragrance collection to becoming one of the largest niche brands in the world. Two years ago, this kind of success was noticed by the large cosmetics companies and Estee Lauder acquired Kilian.

This kind of acquisition is met within fragrance circles with suspicion. We worry that the big company will perform all kind of depredations upon the beloved brand. The funny thing is what it has really brought to the brand is more visibility. When I get e-mails from readers who don’t live near big cities it is difficult to tell them where to go see if they appreciate the difference in fragrance between niche and mass-market. Estee Lauder has been taking different approaches at broadening the availability of their recent niche brand acquisitions. A new initiative is exemplified by the four fragrance Kilian My Kind of Love collection.

The concept is simple broaden the distribution by releasing a Sephora collection. Have M. Hennessy add his trademark double entendre names. Then instead of creating a full-on mutli-faceted Kilian style of perfume; create a single multi-layered accord. The collection is clever enough at doing that if someone was to tell me they liked one of these four I could easily point them to one in the main collection.

The names are where the flirtatious puns exist and each perfume in the collection is a sentence unto itself. For example, Bad Boys Are No Good But Good Boys Are No Fun which is shortened to Boys. I am going to use the shortened names, but you can see the longer names in the header picture if you’re interested. Also, despite my best efforts I was unable to track down the perfumers but most of the perfumes in the Kilian collection have been composed by Calice Becker or Sidonie Lancesseur I am betting one or both were involved. A reason I think that, is each of these perfumes feel like the heart accord of a larger Kilian perfume.

Kilian Hennessy

Boys is meant to provide a cola accord and it does; a Diet Coke with a lime. Boys opens as you squeeze the lime into your drink and then the scent of the cola mixes with it. The accord is made up of cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel. It spends more time on the spicy citrus side than the gourmand sweet soda side.

Adults is a luxurious fig scent which starts with a ripe creamy version of that ingredient. Vanilla enhances the creaminess while cedar provides a clean woody contrast. All together it is a rich fig perfume.

Princess takes one of the most memorable pieces of one of the first By Kilian releases, Love, and weaves a simpler perfume around it. It starts with a springy duet of green tea and ginger before marshmallow rounds it out. The marshmallow is an example of bringing a niche style to a simpler construct which works well here.

Kissing is my favorite of these four because it is the most obviously gourmand. It starts with a green lily of the valley which is dropped upon a pool of sweet milk. The green floral threads of the lily of the valley cut through the vanilla and warm milk accord in a very pleasant way. This will find its way into my fall rotation when I want a nice milky gourmand.

All four perfumes have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Those of us who have enjoyed Kilian perfumes for the past ten years know M. Hennessy’s persona very well. I am thinking when there are big pictures of his come-hither gaze and unbuttoned shirt you can almost hear him singing, “Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and taste” We can call this Sympathy for The Kilian as it spreads out to every mall. I think the My Kind of Love collection is a good way to introduce the Kilian style to a wider audience.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Love the Way You Feel- Polynesian Dreams

Sometimes delays work to a new perfume’s advantage. I have commented that it is difficult to judge a perfume which is meant for the opposite season from which I receive it. There are times when I try it in its proper season which causes me to see it as it should be. Unfortunately, the calendar and PR firms do not subscribe to my desire. As the first rush of this fall’s new releases have begun to arrive in the middle of a 100-plus degree heat wave. Then there are those who just take more time to arrive. Because of ongoing postal delivery issues my samples of the new By Kilian Miami Vice Collection were significantly delayed. I think it was better that I got them just as summer was heating up.

Kilian Hennessy

The Miami Vice Collection is a two-fragrance release; Love the Way You Feel and Love the Way You Taste. Creative Director Kilian Hennessy chose to work with two of the perfumers who have been there from the beginning. Sidonie Lancesseur composed Love the Way You Taste. It is a Kilian take on a mojito fragrance. The evocation of boozy accords has been a staple of By Kilian. Love the Way You Taste captures it, but it felt like a higher quality version of other mojito perfumes I’ve tried.

Calice Becker

For Love the Way You Feel M. Kilian and perfumer Calice Becker returned to something they’ve done so well in the past creating a near-perfect accord of something which exists. In this case it was to be a re-creation of Monoi Oil as perfume. Monoi Oil is the skin softener and hair spray of choice in Polynesia. It is made by soaking tiare flowers in coconut oil. Those will be the tentpoles that Mme Becker will build upon. She effectively chooses some complementary notes to complete the effect.

The perfume opens on the sun-glistened accord of bergamot and neroli. The neroli allows for the tiare to echo the floral quality as it appears. Tiare in this form has a kind of sparkly quality, too. To begin to give it the depth of Monoi Oil Mme Becker uses the oily nature of ylang ylang to provide a slippery floral nature. This becomes more prevalent as coconut starts to complete the accord. The final ingredient is vanilla, as modulator, providing the right amount of sweetness to the overall effect.

Love the Way You Feel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When Mme Becker does these kind of perfumes I almost hear an audible click as it all assembles into a single beautifully realistic accord. Once the vanilla arrives it is like I am in the middle of a Polynesian dream. Which is exactly where I want to be in the middle of summer.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Woman in Gold- Glittering Klimt

Of the many things I learned working with Michelyn Camen, the EIC of CaFleureBon, was an appreciation of how visual art intersected with olfactory art. Her addition of just the perfect choices of visual cues to match the words of the writers who worked for her has made that one of the signatures of CaFleureBon. One of the things I enjoyed most was when she would give me some deep cuts in artists I thought I knew well. One of those was Gustav Klimt. I knew of the famous “The Kiss” but there were others from his “Golden Phase” which I would learn of. One was a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which has been called the Austrian Mona Lisa. They are paintings which feel like naturals to be paired with fragrance. Kilian Hennessy also must believe that too as they become the latest inspiration for the newest collection from By Kilian; From Dusk to Dawn. The one called Woman in Gold is the one attached to the painting  of Adele Bloch-Bauer below.

Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1907)

M. Hennessy collaborates again with his most frequent perfumed muse Calice Becker. They were looking for “the contrasts between shadow and light”. I would also remark they were looking for the golden glow of Hr. Klimt’s paintings, too.

Kilian Hennessy

Mme Becker opens with a rich bergamot oil to give off a golden sunburst. This is not the typical opening as the bergamot has a shimmery quality which reveals a multi-faceted rose underneath. This is where the shadows reside in Woman in Gold. Geranium pairs with the rose to provide a translucent green lens to observe it through. The whole construct turns warm with vanilla as it infuses the floral heart. Then Mme Becker takes the patchouli bio-isolate Akigalawood to provide a slightly spicy version of patchouli which bridges the rose while contrasting the vanilla. It settles in to a powerful accord of all three in perfect harmony.

Woman in Gold has 12-14 hour longevity and above average siilage. This is one to be cautious in spraying, a little goes a long way.

Calice Becker

This is a cold weather rosy vanilla it reminds me a lot of another rose creation in the brand Rose Oud. In both cases the keynotes are given the room to shine. In the case of Woman in Gold I guess I should say it glitters.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review By Kilian Black Phantom- Coffee With Your Rum?

1

Another point of interest for me is how brands evolve to attempt to appeal to the new younger fragrance enthusiast. If there is a concern, the brands which have previously thrived with stronger structures might find difficulty trying to lighten up. One brand which seems to have a good understanding on how to navigate this is By Kilian. Creative director and owner Kilian Hennessy seemingly got ahead of the trend of lighter gourmands; whether through prescience or serendipity he has staked out some space around his brand. It started with the 2014 Addictive State of Mind collection as Intoxicated created a memorable coffee entry in the collection. There have also been a number of liquor themed releases as city exclusives; again all kept to the lighter side than the earlier L’Oeuvre Noire releases which introduced By Kilian to the world. The most recent release is called Black Phantom and it takes all of these previous influences and splices them in to something different, but similar.

Kilian Hennessy

Mr. Hennessy has always seemed a bit like the Jack Sparrow of perfumery. The picture above does little to dispel that comparison. I have admired the confidence he has displayed over the nearly ten years since he first introduced his fragrant perspective. It is that confidence which makes me think he can have the necessary flexibility to find his way. Part of the reason for the success is he has mostly worked with two perfumers. One of them Sidonie Lancesseur, is who composed Black Phantom.

Sidonie Lancesseur

Mme Lancesseur began her By Kilian career with a rum-soaked Straight to Heaven. For Black Phantom she returns to rum as a focal point. In Straight to Heaven it is a deep dive into rum. Black Phantom provides a less immersive experience mostly by adding in a “caramel mocha” accord that would do any barista proud. It makes Black Phantom more compelling than I expected.

Mme Lancesseur opens on the rum. It is a richer rum than she used in Straight to Heaven. This rum is aged in charred wood barrels which provide a halo of smoky woodiness around the boozy nature. Like stories where you think you know where it is going Black Phantom takes me someplace unexpected; to the coffee bar. The combination of coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, and caramel has a distinctive odor. Mme Lancesseur balances her “caramel mocha” accord brilliantly. This could be heavy but instead this is as vivid as the moment the actual coffee drink is handed to you in the morning. Sandalwood provides the right amount of sweetly tinted woodiness for this all to rest upon.

Black Phantom has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

If we are entering a phase of perfumery where these kind of opaque gourmands are going to be ascendant; Black Phantom shows they can soar as easily as any other genre. I think Black Phantom is that first one which gets it completely right.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by By Kilian.

Mark Behnke

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