Ten minutes with maverick perfumer KILIAN HENNESSY …
Niche perfumes are stepping out of the shadows. Specialist brands, including Frédéric Malle, Le Labo and By Kilian, are becoming more widely available (these three have been taken under the wing of Estée Lauder Companies), transferring attention onto the perfumers and creators rather than celeb-fronted campaigns. So are we experiencing a new golden age of perfume? “What we are witnessing now in the world of perfume should have happened a long time ago. It happened in beauty with make-up artist brands, then in skincare with dermatology brands. Perfume is finally in the hands of perfume designers,” declares Kilian Hennessy, who set up his own-name brand ten years ago.
If you like your perfumes feisty and fabulous, By Kilian should definitely be on your radar. Kilian Hennessy – a member of the famous cognac family – has created a collection that is considered, unconventional and daring. There are now 38 in the collection, from Good Girl Gone Bad to Intoxicated, with plenty of “overdoses” of rich ingredients, from sandalwood to tuberose. There’s nothing tentative or forgettable here. “Everything inspires me, from Rihanna to Klimt,” says Hennessy. “My collections are always inspired by a mix of sculpture, music, movies, poems … they are all pieces of the emotion I am trying to convey, the story I am trying to tell.”
Kilian travel spray, from €105
And presentation, as with any luxury brand, is key: some, like Intoxicated, come in a black lacquered boxes, complete with lock and key, others in giant carafes. The black-fronted bottles make the scent itself look like black ink. “The niche perfume industry was developed with the idea that only the juice matters,” notes Hennessy. “I don’t agree, because that has never been the origin of perfume. For instance look at L’Heure Bleue (1912) or Shalimar (1925) … the bottle name and perfume were key to express the emotion Jacques Guerlain was trying to convey. That’s why, for me, luxury in perfume goes beyond the juice itself. For me, true luxury should last forever.” In order to counter the “throwaway” nature of perfume, every bottle is refillable and every case reusable. “When you buy a Kilian bottle, you never need to buy another one, just the refill. This is our vision of luxury.”
By Kilian’s newest scent, Black Phantom – Memento Mori, launches on April 15, and features an attention-grabbing coffee note. It’s intriguing that coffee rarely features in perfume, especially considering we’re all addicted to drinking it. “Yes, coffee in perfume is very unusual, simply because it is very difficult to tame. In my scent Intoxicated, I used an absolute and an essence of coffee, in combination with an absolute of cardamom, in order to recreate a ‘Turkish coffee’ accord. In Black Phantom – Memento Mori, I used two qualities of absolute coffee, from Ethiopia and from the Ivory Coast. I worked with perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur to create an Irish coffee with a twist by replacing the traditional whiskey with the liquor of the pirates: rum. The coffee is such a strong note that it is very difficult to balance, and so I balanced it with rum (for the liquor effect), sandalwood (for the milky effect) and, most importantly, with vetiver to hold in respect the entire composition.”
Black Phantom – Memento Mori
Next, Kilian is planning a new collection “built on my all-time favourite painter”, and is also working on a bath and body line, “which my customers have been asking me for years. But it had to fit with my philosophy where all the bottles would be refillable.”
By Kilian scents are available at Brown Thomas.
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