Perfume Review: Black Phantom ‘Memento Mori’ by Killian

Black Phantom By Kilian
Black Phantom By Kilian

There are many things I appreciate about the By Killian brand but above all I very much enjoy their sense of humour. In a world where fragrance is taken so seriously, to the point of it being almost painful, Killian Hennessy comes along with his cheeky smile to save the day. Kilian’s opulent fragrances are housed within dramatic packaging that verges on over the top (NEVER a bad thing in my book), often boast cheeky names such as Voulez-vous coucher avec Moi, and have also been known to smell like forbidden/addictive substances such as marijuana. Kilian’s world is one of fun where decadence and debauchery are embraced wholeheartedly. So yes, I’m here for By Kilian and their domain is my kind of place to be.

The latest scent to be added to the By Kilian lineup is Black Phantom (created by Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur) and as far as cheekiness goes, well, Mr Hennessy has gone all out. Where to start? Well, the slogan for the scent is ‘a little party never killed nobody’ and the box, well, the box is quite something! Atop Kilian’s signature black lacquered box sits a skull, rising out of the the lid with a somewhat sarcastic smile. Not to mention the fact that Mr Hennessy has forgone the standard Perfumer/Creative Director mugshot of posing pensively with a series of smelling strips and has instead donned some rather impressive shirt sleeves and has posed rather foppishly with a jet black skull as if it were a crystal ball. It’s a bit Mystic Meg and it’s wonderful.

But what about the fragrance? Well Black Phantom the fragrance has some rather intriguing inspirations, taking its name from “the dusky shade of a pirate galleon” whilst speaking of scent-soaked sails, ghostly spectres, rum-spiked Irish coffee, cyanide and “the eerie clash of spectral cutlasses”. It’s all so ridiculous, entirely fun and really effing cool. As Kilian says “if it’s dirty, kinky, naughty, messy, or just plain wrong, I want it” and we want it too, so bring it on Mr Hennessy!

Memento Mori
Memento Mori

The Notes

‘Shin Shin’ (Coffee & Rum) Accord, Cyanide Accord, Vetiver from Java, Sugar Cane and Sandalwood

How Does it Smell?

Once one has got over the initial shock of the Voldemort-esque skull rising ominously from Black Phantom’s box (it is literally my favourite thing in the world right now, BTW) there is plenty of fascination to be found within the fragrance itself. The opening is a real cacophony of deliciousness. Toasted coffee beans swirl into the caramel and vanilla tones of rum, whilst a salted, nutty almond note adds a savoury contrast. What’s truly fascinating is that these elements are fairly abstract and they come together to create a new type of gourmand – one that is sweet, salty, boozy, bitter and woody all at once. Black Phantom is a unique gourmand that literally does not smell like any other out there and whilst it may be a deadly cocktail once consumed, it’s hard to deny that it tastes and smells heavenly when it’s going down.

A Delectable Pirate Ship? Sure, why not!
A Delectable Pirate Ship? Sure, why not!

To me, Black Phantom feels like a fragrance of two parts. You’ve got a party in the front, in the form of all that edible/drinkable/membrane-absorbable deliciousness, whilst it’s all business in the back. Underneath the sugar and excess comes the darkness, the death and the deep sea-covered hulls of ancient pirate ships. So when one is repenting for all of the rum-soaked decadence, Black Phantom offers up a woody base that is dense, but almost crumbling. The saltiness carries through in the form of a dark, oily vetiver, which adds a bitter edge to the attractive sugariness that lures unsuspecting hedonists in at the beginning. It ends on a soft hum of woods, sugar and salt – a gentle death that comes almost as a relief from the hard partying that Black Phantom insists in coercing one to partake in right from the outset. Not that much persuasion is required, if I’m being entirely honest.

Black Phantom ticks all of the boxes for me. First and foremost, it really is unique and whilst it has a number of familiar elements – the booziness, the gourmand vibe etc. – the way it brings them all together is striking and unusual. Black Phantom may seem novel, with its black lacquered skull and talk of pirate ships, cyanide and grog-fests, but there is also some serious perfumery going on here with bold accords that come together to create an odour that is entirely new. Most of all, Black Phantom is fun. I seriously could not  stop smiling whenever I wore it and when one takes so much enjoyment from a fragrance then it is nothing but a hit. Let’s hope that the ‘memento mori’ Black Phantom represents is the death of taking things too seriously!


Black Phantom is available in 50ml (£245) & 250ml (£460) Eau de Parfum.


Sample, notes and quotes via By Kilian. Images are my own.