Burlington Arcade is London’s unofficial perfume destination. Its 196 yards host the likes of Penhaligon’s, Lalique, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, CHANEL, Doja Rove and By Kilian, making it an essential stop for any London tourist that is partial to a bit of perfume. The dainty Georgian promenade is a perfume-lovers paradise and quite organically offers a unpretentious, calm and accessible atmosphere that is seldom found in the city’s many department stores, which are so often crowded centres of anxiety, pushy sales people and too much perfume (if such a thing exists).
I was invited to Burlington Arcade to visit By Kilian’s only standalone boutique in the UK (they also have a boutique in Harrods’ Salon de Parfums) for a tour of the brand’s many scented options. Now, By Kilian is a brand that I feel that I’ve had limited exposure to. I remember being intrigued by some of the fragrances within the initial collection, which at the time of launch, seemed so different to anything else that was out there in niche. Since my initial exploration of By Kilian, the brand has exploded, offering a whopping 38 fragrances, home fragrance options and scented jewellery. Obviously I had some catching up to do so with my super-knowledgeable By Kilian rep as my guide, I got stuck right in.
It makes sense to start at the beginning and that’s exactly where By Kilian launched his brand with L’Oeuvre Noire, seven fragrances (with three further additions coming later) that brought something entirely new to the niche world. The fragrances themselves were classic styles subverted for a modern world, where bold accords were pushed to extremes with unusual, and often weird twists. Being effortlessly cool, By Kilian’s initial offerings took inspiration from the likes of drugs, booze and Amy Winehouse, and were housed in beautiful, and refillable ‘eco-luxe’ bottles that were unlike anything else. Locked away in black chests under silver keys, By Killian’s debut collection was a sight to behold.
I enjoyed getting to know these fragrances, rediscovering the ones I knew (the likes of Love, Straight to Heaven and Back to Black) and enjoying for the first time, some of the ones I’d never really paid attention to. The standout for me was Beyond Love, a beautiful, waxy tuberose that felt green and fleshy. It smells more than natural, almost as if it is a symphony of tuberose blooms in a vast field. Being a tuberose lover, nay a tuberose addict, it’s no surprise that I fell hook, line and sinker. Anyway, we moved on to the next couple of collections, of which there were many!
By Kilian strikes me as a luxury lifestyle brand as opposed to just another fragrance house. In addition to their perfumes, they also offer a range of scented jewellery in a variety of styles, ranging from super-sparkly pieces to more art deco-style items and includes cufflinks, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Each jewellery piece contains a small piece of ceramic that can be spritzed with any By Kilian fragrance to provide a gently scented experience for those that either don’t want to wear perfume or wish to intensify their traditional methods of wearing scent.
Home fragrance is also on offer, with six delectable fragranced candles scented with a variety of fragrances, including Loukhoum and Turkish Coffee. In France, I was told, it is uncommon to fragrance one’s home with a perfume that one would also wear, so Killian’s fragranced candles are inspired by his fragrance collection, rather than simply offering replicated scents in wax form. The Mother of Pearl collection, as it’s called, also includes scented tassels that work much in the same way as the scented jewellery and can be hung in wardrobes or on hooks as scented decorative items. As with all things By Kilian the aesthetic is to die for.
Upstairs in the boutique is a salon-style seating area where fragrance profiling sessions can take place, all under the watchful eye of a portrait of Kilian and his pet snake. At this point one really gets a sense of the sheer volume of fragrance on offer, as all options are laid out for sniffing. Nobody can accuse By Kilian of slacking when it comes to output and working through the collection, I think a person would be hard pressed to find something that they didn’t like, whether that be an unusual oud from the Arabian Nights collection, a sexed up fruity floral from the In the Garden of Good and Evil collection, or even a splash of Vodka on the Rocks from the Boutique Exclusives. There really is something for everyone.
The final fragrance I tried was Killian’s latest: Moonlight in Heaven. With its eye-catching indigo-shaded juice and art-deco clutch box, it was hard not to be intrigued by this latest creation, especially when one learns that it is inspired by food! That’s right, Moonlight in Heaven is a sticky Thai mango pudding of a scent, except its served with a delightful amount of transparency and very little stickiness. I found it to be juicy and delicious, but also abstract enough to work as a perfume rather than an appetite suppressant. Most definitely one for further sniffing!
Packaging, both beautiful and reusable, is an integral part of the brand and this ethos is carried through to By Killian’s new carafes. Exquisitely crafted and obviously inspired by vessels for alcoholic spirits, they come in two sizes and are a collaboration with crystal-makers Saint Louis. Paying a clear nod to Killian’s link to the Hennessy cognac empire, the carafes are true to the brand’s ecoluxe ethos, but also play into the hands of the super luxurious narrative that appears to be dominating the script of niche perfumery. Still, despite their expense, they are rather beautiful objects and I wouldn’t say know to one filled up to the brim of Moonlight in Heaven – that indigo juice would look tremendous beneath that cut crystal.
So I couldn’t leave By Kilian and Burlington Arcade without a bottle of something wonderful now, could I? There was a lot to try at By Kilian (did I mention that there are 38 fragrances in total?!) ranging from the debut scents of L’Oeuvre Noire all the way through to Moonlight in Heaven, the latest addition to the collection. Well, for me, the love of the day was Beyond Love, one of Kilian’s first fragrances – a tremendous tuberose that is waxy, tropical and utterly beguiling. It was Beyond Love at first sniff and I’m sure I’ll be back to Burlington Arcade in a jiffy for a top-up. In fact, I paid another visit a week or so ago as part of Nick and Pia of Love to Smell meet up just to sniff things again.
26 Burlington Arcade
Disclaimer: Images are my own. Sample of Beyond Love via By Kilian.