Perfume Review: By Kilian L'oeuvre Noire Collection
By Kilian press kit, available for all to read on ByKilian.com, stirred in me two simultaneous and contradictory instincts. First one is an instinct to respect anyone who is capable of mentioning Rimbaud and 50 Cent in the same paragraph…because, heaven knows, my tastes are nothing if not eclectic…and the other – to snicker when faced with phrases like “nudity of another kind”, “quasi-Faustian ambience” and “the sound of ‘Hennessy & Buddha’ by Snoop Dogg seems to attain Nirvana.” The modestly named L’oeuvre Noire, The Black Masterpiece, is apparently built around three themes: Ingénues, Artificial Paradises and Parisian Orgies, and is no less than the “new take on La Comédie Humaine, Balzac's consummate masterpiece”. I would say that my tolerance threshold for conceptual pretentiousness is fairly high, higher than normal even (witness my love for Tom Ford’s Private Blend or for early Lutens), all I ask is that, when the posturing copy and the over-the-top packaging are stripped off, they reveal complex, imaginatively-constructed, striking fragrances. And so, I wasn’t necessarily turned off by the blah-de-la-blah descriptions. But I was largely unimpressed by the actual perfumes.
“The woman wearing these fragrances epitomizes tenderness. She tastes like youth but already knows how to deploy feminine wiles. Sin is just a kiss away.”
Love, which takes inspiration “from the Marshmallow”, certainly “tastes like youth”. Or, to be more precise, like the very pink and very hard to get in USSR bubblegum of my childhood. Not too sweet, unexpectedly delicate, the blend is whimsical, childish and, in a strange and frankly disturbing sort of way, rather sensual. I am at once attracted and almost repulsed by this Lolita of a scent, which, I suppose, might have been the effect the creators were intending to achieve, and, in that case, I applaud them. Those who loved Framboise Tralala or D’Humeur a Rire, might finally find their bubblegummy fix in the floral candiedness of Love.
Beyond Love. Whereas Love was the epitome of Ingénue, Beyond Love would have been better off placed in the Parisian Orgies category. Since when was tuberose (seemingly) innocent? As every self-respecting tuberose fragrance, Beyond Love is all about “feminine wiles”. Slightly mentholated in the beginning, the scent warms up and sweetens considerably, transforming from frigid to fairly uninhibited in a matter of minutes. In its heart, I smell a gardenia note, which, of course, strengthens the sensual white-floral impact of the composition. The luscious, expansive bouquet is, not surprisingly, my favorite scent in the By Kilian collection. Gorgeous as it is, however, it is not earth-shatteringly original. In fact, it strongly reminds me of Lauder’s radiant Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. To be purchase-worthy for me at $250 for 50ml, the perfume would have to add something new to the time-honored tuberose genre, a quirky note a la Tubereuse Criminelle perhaps, an overdose of the star ingredient a la Carnal Flower…just being beautiful is not quite enough, in this case.
The Artificial Paradises
“To taste paradise, a man must defy holiness and magic. These fragrances hail from a new paradise, one that man has chosen for himself.”
A Taste of Heaven. I would have been shocked if this apparently Baudelaire-worshipping line did not have an absinthe-inspired scent. Although it doesn’t actually smell like absinthe, the sharply aromatic and smoky-sweet blend does in fact evoke the experience of drinking absinth…sugar cubes on a spoon, the pungently smelling “Green Fairy liquid” poured over them…unfortunately, something went wrong in the preparation of the drink, and instead of finishing the ritual by pouring water over the sugar cubes, someone dumped into the glass a whole tube of shaving cream. As the fragrance progresses the very soapy lavender starts to dominate A Taste of Heaven turning what could have been an original, quirkily gourmand blend into a cliché masculine composition.
Straight to Heaven. One absinthe scent doth not a decadent image create, and thus By Kilian also offers a rum-inspired fragrance. I like the dry spiciness and the earthiness of Straight to Heaven more than the green, soapy sweetness of A Taste to Heaven, but every time I wear it I can’t shake of the feeling of having smelled its boozy smokiness before…perhaps in Idole, Egoiste or Basala. Like Beyond Love, it is very attractive but I suppose not intoxicating enough to lead me into the temptation of purchasing it for $250.00.
The Parisian orgies
“In fragrances for both men and women, the Parisian orgy is a source of pleasure…. Bodies slick with sweat, hot with the odours of sexual favours bestowed and received during the night. In line with 18th-century libertine tradition, these two fragrances symbolize transgression, the pleasures of the flesh and defiance of prohibitions and conventions.”
Liaisons Dangereuses. The silky fruity-rose blend should have taken place of Beyond Love in the Ingénue category. Delicate and very feminine, it keeps its eyes shyly downcast making one believe that butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, whereas its décolleté would suggest otherwise (OK, these scents have a really bad effect on my prose!) I think those who like their roses dewy, juicy and not too complicated, would be delighted with Liaisons Dangereuses. To me, slyly coquettish as it is, the blend lacks either an animalic note to underscore its seductiveness or a generous amount of, say, aoud to make it truly dangereuse.
Cruel Intentions. One has to give credit where credit is due, the blend is certainly complex: the iodine undertones of oud are apparent here as is the sharp woodiness of gaiac and the green earthiness of vetiver…there is even a frankincense-like note in the composition. But somehow the scent feels flat, lackluster. All the ingredients are there to make magic happen, and…nothing! The wonderful notes should perhaps been stronger to achieve the forceful, brooding, “cruel” effect the creators must have been striving for. As it is, Cruel Intentions is just not daring enough to actually ever participate in an “orgy”.
Overall, it seems to me that the perfumes, nicely crafted as they are, just can’t live up to the big, complicated, decadent promise of the concept or to the exorbitant price. As for the latter, it is undoubtedly in large part due to the very fancy packaging. So when you think that By Kilians are overpriced, remember this: “The Greek motif places this fragrance under further divine protection: Achilles' shield protects its wearer.” In immortal words of Snoop Dogg, Fo' shizzle!
Image source, bykilian.com.