The perfume community is very protective. All you need to do is search the subjects of European regulations, IFRA and reformulations on any fragrance forum to get an idea of just how protective perfume lovers are, and I’m right there with them. Heritage should be looked after, but at the same time, I think we all have to appreciate the fact that the world, and the industry for that matter, are ever-evolving. Things change, whether that’s because certain materials stop being available, regulations restrict their use, or because brands change hands. Change is inevitable but does that mean we have to accept it?
One of the topics that receives constant criticism is the fact that independent niche houses are being snapped up at rapid pace by big houses. So far we’ve seen Estée Lauder acquire By Kilian, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, whilst Puig have acquired Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur. Most recently LVMH bought Maison Francis Kurkdjian and this certainly set the tongues of the perfume community wagging, and rightly so, because it’s a big deal (although MFK has always been positioned as more ‘luxe’ than niche). More often that not, people view these acquisitions as brands selling out or a pre-cursor to their spirit, and beloved fragrances being crushed by corporate greed. But are they really a bad thing? Or are they just a reminder that, first and foremost, perfume is a business?
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!
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.
Looking Good and Smelling Fine [Image of Me at My Father’s Wedding via Peter Buncombe]
Awards Season is set to end this Sunday with the 86th Academy Awards (a.k.a. ‘The Oscars’) and the stars will be out in full force, donning their finest garb having spent hours preening their faces and coiffing their hair. Of course, us mere mortals will simply be watching the ceremony at home in our pyjamas, possibly scoffing on some popcorn in a nod to the wonders of the silver screen. Still, we can live vicariously through the glamour of the winners and losers, can’t we?
Thinking about the Oscars and the upcoming Jasmine Awards (for which I need to pick myself an outfit) led me to ponder over which perfumes are best suited to formal occasions. Most of the time I’m of the belief that one should wear whatever they heck they want when they want, but in situations where dress codes are enforced and one has to be smart, it can be beneficial to pick out a scent that is suitably dapper to match.
For this post I’ve put together some of my favourite ‘smart’ perfumes for black tie or formal occasions. They range from the smart casual to the well-tailored and the dramatic, and between them they serve as a mini-guide to picking that perfect scent for a special occasion. Most are unisex so are suitable regardless of whether you’re a guy or a girl and can be paired with a suit, tux or fancy dress to ensure that you’re looking good and smelling fine.
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.
I have weddings on the brain at the moment, mainly for two reasons: firstly, this week’s Escentual post (click on the image above to view) takes a look at some fragrances suitable for rocking on the ‘big day’ for both brides and grooms; and secondly, because after what seems like a million years being engaged, Nigel and I have finally set a date for our big gay wedding.
We are both incredibly excited about exchanging our vows next May and are finding ourselves to be surprisingly organised in terms of planning everything – we’ve picked our outfits (matching, obviously), the theme, the best man and woman, the cake, the venue and pretty much everything else. There is however, one small detail that we have not been able to agree on as yet – the wedding scents.
We have just under 11 months until the big day and I think we’re going to need most of that to make a decision. Do we go for something old? Something new? Something blue? OK, maybe we won’t go for anything blue (there will be no Bleu de Chanel at my wedding thank you very much) but there is an interesting decision to be made in terms of whether the perfumes should be new – in order to create a scented association with the day – or whether they should be old and already hold a significant amount of sentimental value.
Perfume fate seemed to happen last week. As I was planning The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud, the postman bought me two oud-ie goodies – the first being my new bottle of Tom Ford’s Oud Wood and the second being a sample of By Kilian’s latest perfume ‘Amber Oud’. So it seems like last week was fated to be the week of the oud, and in keeping with that theme it only seems fitting to give Amber Oud a whirl.
Firstly, By Kilian has to be commended for their PR practices. Last year they offered members of The Kilian Club on their Facebook Page a complete set of samples from the L’Oeuvre Noire collection and now they have been kind enough to send everyone a sample of their latest fragrance ‘Amber Oud’, with the sole intent of introducing it to Kilian fans. Now, that’s good PR!
Amber Oud is inspired by greek mythology and is the latest addition to By Kilian’s Arabian Nights collection. It was created by Calice Becker and joins Incense Oud, Pure Oud and Rose Oud to become the fourth pillar within Kilian’s oud-quartet. Kilian says that Amber Oud “is borned in Heliades tears”  and with this new fragrance his objective “was to deconstruct/reconstruct the traditional “Amber” by taking the animalistic qualities of a dark “Oud” and adding richness through an overdose of “Vanilla” from Madagascar and “Benzoin” from Laos.”