As always, the Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant one of my lengthy, exhaustive reviews. In this case, it’s because I really don’t think I have the skin chemistry for the three By Kilian fragrances I tried from his L’Oeuvre Noire collection. In fact, I have not had such a miserable perfume experience in a while.
STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN (WHITE CRISTAL):
In 2007, Kilian Hennessey — the scion of the famous LVMH luxury conglomerate — came out with a perfume collection for his By Kilian perfume line. It was called L’Oeuvre Noire and contained a number of different scents, one of which is Straight to Heaven (with “White Cristal” being a subtitle). It was created by the perfumer, Sidonie Lancesseur, and Luckyscent gives its notes as follows:
Martinican rum absolute, dried fruits accord, Javanese nutmeg oil, hedione, cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli oil, ambergris, vanilla absolute, white musk.
I think “Straight to Heaven” might be more aptly named “Straight to the Doctor’s Office.” This is a scent that replicates the pure rubbing alcohol, antiseptic, medicinal scent of a doctor’s office or a hospital. It opens with a pure blast of an incredibly metallic, medicinal scent of the stuff used to clean your arm before you get a vaccination shot. Except, here, it is combined with fake powdered vanilla and sugar. Despite that, the medicinal note doesn’t have any of the sweetness that often comes with the medicinal note in agarwood. Here, it is really like pure grained alcohol and cold antiseptics. It’s like being in a hospital room after they’ve scrubbed everything down and disinfected the counters, before trying to cover up the smell by spraying some Glade Powdered Vanilla in the air.
After a little time, there are more chilly, mentholated aspects to the medicinal scent. There are also some soapy aspects that I attribute to the cheap-smelling musk. I don’t initially smell any of the rum that everyone talks about with this scent, but that does eventually arrive. About three hours later. Then, Straight to Heaven turns into an odd combination of Vick’s Vapor Rub and some oddly “off” boozy note. There is patchouli, too, but it is completely dominated by the cedar. Everything is dominated by that cedar. There is no escape from it and it turns everything medicinal. There is also an underlying synthetic, chemical tinge to everything. Straight to Heaven simply doesn’t smell particularly natural; the ingredients don’t smell rich, luxurious, or soft.
In utter olfactory exhaustion and misery, I went to bed, wishing I could scrub this off. When I woke up, there were still faint, flickering, minute traces of the fragrance on my skin. It was now mere vanilla powder, soft but with some sort of chemical twist, and musk. It was almost 14 hours after the time that I first put on the perfume!
A lot of people talk about the boozy “rum” nature of the perfume. I disagree. Strongly. This is not a scent that is predominantly rum in note — and certainly not a pleasant one at that. I love boozy rum scents, from Teo Cabanel‘s glorious Alahine, Hermès‘ Ambre Narguilé, Guerlain‘s Spiriteuse Double Vanille or Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. Straight to Heaven is not like ANY of those. It is primarily a cedar perfume, though I would argue it is a medicinal, rubbing alcohol fragrance first and foremost. I’m not the only one who thinks so. On Makeupalley, where the perfume has a 3.3 rating out of 5, there are as many reviews noting the strength of that note as there are those who consider this a “rum” perfume. My favorite comment is that from “cerulfox” who writes:
My opinions on the By Kilian typically waver between indifference and derision, having tried all of the L’Oeuvre Noire collection and finding myself only liking three of the ten. Straight to Heaven is one of the dislikes. It starts off with a piercing cedar note that quickly disappears to be replaced with a strident booze note. I’m assuming that’s the rum, but on my skin it’s so overwhelmingly alcoholic I might as well have doused my skin in Everclear or straight grain alcohol. All of rum’s typical spice notes are muted and virtually non-existent compared to the screechy alcohol. This remains until Straight to Heaven evaporates into a puff of generic skin musk. Honestly this is more akin to Straight to AA rather than Straight to Heaven, the booze note is so strong.
On Fragrantica, more people find the “booze note” to be “rum” than hardcore alcohol disinfectant. The most amusing review comes from “gmstrack” who titles his comment with “Headline: Woody Oriental Drinks Rum in Hamster Cage” and then writes:
After reading several reviews, it seems like this fragrance is in a special purgatory: too conventional for some and too medicinal or dirty hippy for others. I definitely fall in with the too conventional camp, but at the same time, I find Strait to Heaven very comforting. Maybe childhood memories of playing in a cedar swamp have something to do with this. The patchouli could be dirtier, the cedar turned down just a tad and, oh yes, dump in something interesting (rum doesn’t count). Heh. 3/5
Well, he’s correct that it can be purgatory for some. Me, for example. I was incredibly relieved when it was all finally over. And, I was convinced that nothing could be worse. I was mistaken. Badly mistaken. You see, I hadn’t tried Love (Don’t Be Shy) yet….
LOVE (DON’T BE SHY):
Love (Don’t Be Shy) is another fragrance from Kilian’s 2007 L’Oeuvre Noire collection. It was created by Calice Becker and is categorized on Fragrantica as an “oriental.” If this is an oriental, then I’m the Queen of Sheba. It’s pure gourmand, in my opinion, if not a sugar bomb.
The most complete list of notes that I have seen for the perfume comes from Luckyscent which says that the perfume was inspired by a marshmallow:
Bergamot calabria oil, Tunisian neroli oil, pink pepper berries oil, coriander seeds oil, honeysuckle, orange flower absolute, orange water absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, Bulgarian rose concrete, Bulgarian rose oil, iris butter absolute, reconstituted civet oil, caramelized sugar, vanilla absolute, cist labdanum absolute, white musk.
Love opened on me with notes of neroli and caramelized sugar that were so strong, they just about blew my head off. Neroli always comes across to my nose as sharper and slightly more bitter and metallic than orange blossom, though they are both from the same flower and stem only from differences in production or distillation. Normally, orange blossom notes are one of my favorite ingredients in a perfume. Here, however, it is strident, screechy and damn unpleasant.
Following soon thereafter is honeysuckle, pink peppercorn, rich gooey violet notes, cloyingly synthetic, saccharine-sweet vanilla and musk. The orange and sugar notes dominate, however — by a mile. Or thousand. Though the inspiration is supposed to be marshmallow, I see more one of those bright orange taffy sweets that are pure sugar. There is absolutely nothing even remotely approaching an animalic, skanky civet note on my skin, no matter what the perfume notes may say.
As the perfume develops, it turns into a cloyingly sweet, powdered vanilla, with tooth-achingly sweet sugared roses, and sweet, candied violets. If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re not wrong. This is diabetes in a bottle. I have either developed ten cavities just from wearing it or 80 pounds. It is unbearable — not to mention synthetically cloying in the worst way possible. I am strongly reminded of those cheap $4 sweet perfumes for pre-teens, though I suppose the quality of this one is vaguely better. Except for that vanilla note. No, that one seems about as cheap as you can get.
Love eventually became less sweet — but that’s all relative. After a while, the orange notes receded and it became much more like a marshmallow with powder, sugar and more cloying vanilla. I have found I have much less patience with really unbearable scents these days and won’t torture myself for hours just for the sake of a review. So, I eventually scrubbed this one off. I simply could not bear another minute of it.
But, no, Love was not finished with me. Despite two washings of my arms with very hot water and much soap, there were faint traces of that cloying scent which remained for hours. And hours. I’ve read that synthetic, chemical ingredients are used, in part, because they increase the longevity of a scent and Love certainly proves that theory correct. The fact that Kilian perfumes cost $235, $145 or $135 (depending on the form in which you buy them) is a whole other issue. But I can tell you this, even if this were a $10,000 perfume given to me for free, I would not wear it. The mere thought of it makes me shiver.
As a side note, I also tried By Kilian’s Cruel Intentions (Tempt Me), his woody oud fragrance from the same 2007 collection. I’m not even going to bother writing about it. Something about the vanilla base in all these perfumes simply does not agree with me. I find Cruel Intentions to be equally unbearable, despite a list of notes that would normally appeal to me:
Top notes are african orange flower, bergamot, rose and violet; middle notes are guaiac wood, agarwood (oud) and papyrus; base notes are vetiver, musk, sandalwood, styrax, vanille and castoreum.
On me, that screeching, sharp, cloying and very synthetic vanilla simply overpowers everything. I suppose there are faint traces of vetiver and, eventually, some sandalwood — but they are hard to detect. I am simply bashed over the head by that same fake, powdered vanilla which made my stomach heave in Love (Don’t Be Shy). A number of people on Fragrantica say that Cruel Intentions is primarily a sandalwood fragrance. I love sandalwood, but there is no way I’m going to last long enough to find out. Plus, I have to say, I’m highly skeptical that anything will overcome this horrid, synthetic, vanilla powder (and white musk) that has been an overwhelming hallmark of two of the three L’Oeuvre Noire fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. As I said at the start, perfume hasn’t made me quite so miserable in a while. It’s hard to believe that these perfumes come from the same house which produced the oud Arabian Nights Collection — a line that is miles apart from this one.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to scrub myself clean…..