Missing the Magic Touch – By Kilian Playing with the Devil & Musk Oud Perfume Reviews


Playing With the Devil & Musk Oud

By Kilian – the brainchild of cognac heir Kilian Hennessy – launched as a brand in 2007. Hennessy’s first collection, wonderfully entitled ‘L’Oeuvre Noire’, was an impressive outfit, consisting of rich, decadent and expertly created fragrances. Since then, By Kilian has been relatively prolific with its output, releasing a number of fragrances under its ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Asian Tales and ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’ collections.

Comparing the fragrance within these latter collection to those found in L’Oeuvre Noire leads one to question what happened to the brand. The more recent offerings have failed to capture the hedonistic magic of those initial fragrances, with none of the newer offerings being even remotely comparable to the photorealistic tuberose of Beyond Love, the film noir honey of Back to Black or rich, pink delicacy of Love.

This year By Kilian has added two new fragrances to its collection; Musk Oud and Playing with the Devil. Both are polar opposites in style, proving that as far as creative direction goes, Hennessy definitely understands and enjoys variety. On the downside however, they also show a continuing ‘watering down’ of ideas within the brand and when looking back at what By Kilian has brought to the table before, this feels very sad indeed.

Playing with the Devil

Playing with the Devil

The Notes

Blood Orange, Blackcurrant Buds, White Peach, Lychee, Black Pepper from Madagascar, Pimento Berries, Cedar, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Rose of May, Jasmine Sambac from India, Cistus, Ambrarone, Tonka Bean, Benzoin and Vanilla

How Does it Smell?

Kilian’s latest launch is ‘Playing with the Devil‘, a brand new addition to the brand’s ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’ collection. From the name and gorgeous white and gold packaging, one could expect something truly exceptional from this series, but as it stands none within the collection have the ability to wow or even please. Playing with the Devil, created by the venerable Calice Becker (Estée Lauder’s Beyond Paradise & Dior’s J’Adore), is no exception.

In the opening, Playing With the Devil is full of promise. The top notes present a unique blend of sharp, plastic and bitter fruit (blood orange and peach predominately). It’s all a bit startling to begin with and one finds the contrast between the zesty, biting facets and the transparently exotic nuances to be intriguing, if not pleasingly unusual.

From then onwards Playing With the Devil is frankly a bit wimpy. The floral heart is a gentle hum of nondescript sweetness that quickly splutters out into a base of patchouli and woods. Things are never particularly loud or grand but it would be fair to say that after the initial wave of fruit, the general theme of the fragrance is a muted fruity floral affair with no distinct character.

Playing With the Devil is the perfect case of an opportunity missed. What could have been a grandiose and intense take on the fruity floral genre is instead an overly subtle and wan essay on style over substance. There is nothing particularly ‘playful’ about it and if there’s a devil in there, he’s certainly not hiding within the detail – in fact he’s nowhere to be found. The only devilish aspect one can think of is the extortionate price.


Playing with the Devil is part of Kilian’s ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’ collection and is available in 50ml Eau de Parfum for £160. A 50ml refill bottle is also available.

Musk Oud

Musk Oud

The Notes

Lemon, Mandarin, Cardamom, Coriander, Cypress, Bulgarian Rose, Geranium, Davana, Rum Extract, Frankincense, Oud Accord, Musk Accord and Patchouli

How Does it Smell?

Oud is now so prolific in perfumery – both mainstream and ‘niche’ – that one finds moaning about how many oud fragrances there are, just as boring as the onslaught of oud itself. That’s not to say that oud is bad, in fact there are a great many that are very enjoyable (Mona di Orio’s & Francis Kurkdjian’s spring to mind), it’s just that there is only a certain number of variations possible for such a bold material.

Musk Oud was created by perfumer Alberto Morillas (Mugler Cologne, Penhaligon’s Iris Prima and CK ONE) and is described by Killian as being “an animalic perfume with a sensual femininity” but ultimately falls into the category of; ‘been there, smelled that’. A group that contains more than it’s fair share of ouds…

The first thing to note with Musk Oud is that it isn’t particularly ‘musky’, ‘musk-esque’ or in anyway ‘musk-filled’. Instead, what is delivered by Morillas is a pretty straight-up rose and oud blend that has been nicely jazzed up by a variety of spices, where cinnamon, clove and cardamom crackle warmly to give the impression of a middle eastern spice market on a hot day.

For the most part Musk Oud is pure rose and oud. You know the type; sour, tart rose blended with patchouli to bridge the more effervescent notes of the flower with the dense medicinal tones of the oud. It’s nicely blended but albeit rather unremarkable and leads one wondering what a true musk and oud fragrance would smell like.


Musk Oud is part of Kilian’s ‘Arabian Nights’ collection and is available 50ml Eau de Parfum for £265. A 30ml travel set (£155) and a 50ml refill bottle (£115) is also available.

Playing With the Devil sample via By Kilian. Musk Oud sample sourced myself. Notes and quotes via By Kilian. Image 1 a collage via parfumistannsblogg.blogspot.com, olfactoriastravels.com and luckyscent.com. Image 2 via basenotes.net. Image 3 via ronrobinson.com.


18 thoughts on “Missing the Magic Touch – By Kilian Playing with the Devil & Musk Oud Perfume Reviews

  1. I thought Playing with the Devil was a very juicy peach scent but I wouldn’t pay £160 for it. I actually think that plastic snake clutch is pretty tacky when seen “in real life”.

  2. I totally agree that Kilian is losing it’s character by the bottle. I guess mass appeal and market expansion just seems more important than pure creative outlet. But of course I hope I am wrong and it just so happened Kilian really “felt” these creations.

  3. I’ve never been a big By Kilian fan though a few of his scents have wormed their way into my affections – Love and Tears, Sweet Redemption, Rose Oud. I think I might quite like Playing with the Devil, though peach scents don’t do it for me as a rule. But it definitely doesn’t sound devilish – just devilishly expensive as you say!

  4. Absolutely love this quote ” Oud is now so prolific in perfumery – both mainstream and ‘niche’ – that one finds moaning about how many oud fragrances there are, just as boring as the onslaught of oud itself. ”

    Brilliant and meta at the same time.

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