By Kilian Imperial Tea

A celebration of tea lies at the heart of Kilian Hennessy’s latest fragrance, Imperial Tea. To be specific, jasmine tea, right down to its delicate greenness and its “moment of purity.”

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Imperial Tea is an eau de parfum created by Calice Becker, which the Kilian website describes quite simply:

A Moment of Purity

IMPERIAL TEA is the most accurate possible reproduction of the note that you can inhale from a freshly brewed cup of tea. The unique scent of Jasmin tea is so well-known that it is difficult to distinguish between the green tea notes and the delicate Jasmin bud notes. Kilian wanted to fully translate the exquisite and delicate sensation of refreshment that one experiences with this timeless beverage.

As with Sacred Wood, its new sibling in the Asian Tales collection, there is a story behind the scent. Luckyscent offers the details:

Calice Becker, who authored most of the By Kilian line-up, is a self-confessed tea fanatic. Unconvinced by tea notes in fine fragrance, she set out to compose her own. The result is an Oh-my-God-this-is-it!, jaw-droppingly realistic rendition of the steam rising from a fresh cup of the finest jasmine tea. Kilian Hennessy found it so perfect for his Asian Tales collection that he included the blend as is, an unusual step since he is usually the one who provides perfumers with a storyline.

[Notes:] Jasmine sambac, bergamot, guaiac, maté, violet note.



Imperial Tea opens on my skin as a potent jasmine bomb infused with green tea, Lapsang Souchong black tea, and a strong dash of very crisp, fresh bergamot. It smells as though a ton of jasmine sambac was poured into two kinds of tea and then brewed. The black tea is the nicest part, but it’s far from being a dominant element on my skin. Not even a secondary one, in fact. A few seconds later, a very clean, white musk appears which is quite strong and sharp. It adds a certain crispness to the jasmine, along with a very definite cleanness. Unfortunately, it’s also strong enough to give me a headache whenever I smell Imperial Tea up close for too long. A tiny note of violet temporarily lurks in the background, fully bulldozed over by the jasmine.

Jasmine tea balls in bloom. Source:

Jasmine tea balls in bloom. Source:

Imperial Tea is very intense in its opening moments but also extremely airy, thin in feel, and gauzy. 2 small spritzes from my decant gave me 3 inches in projection, though the numbers began to drop after 30 minutes and the perfume lay just an inch above my skin by the end of the first hour.

It takes roughly the same amount of time (90 minutes) for Imperial Tea to devolve. The bergamot retreats to the edges, the jasmine loses its distinct shape and form, and Imperial Tea turns into a nebulous blur of clean, sweet jasmine with tea tonalities and sharp white musk. It’s totally characterless, bland, and indeterminate, except for the white musk which has the most oomph out of the whole thing. The whole thing is very well-blended, but also so hazy on my skin that it’s hard to pick out even the most dominant elements. Sometimes, the jasmine seems in command, occasionally it is the tea. The latter now smells primarily of green leaves, thanks to the maté, and has lost a good portion of its Lapsang Souchong black tonalities.



At end of the second hour, Imperial Tea is nothing more than simple jasmine tea on my skin with clean musk. The jasmine’s potency and sweetness have vanished, and that, in turn, makes Imperial Tea feel positively translucent in its lightness. The white musk continues to be a nuisance, but the bergamot has completely vanished. The black tea sits weakly on the sidelines, largely gagged and muted in the face of the general jasmine greenness. And that’s really about it in terms of substantial development for the next few hours. The perfume turns into a skin scent 2.25 hours into its evolution. An hour later, Imperial Tea becomes increasingly hard to detect.



By the middle of the 5th hour, the jasmine starts to fade away, as does the white musk, and I’m left with green tea. The maté doesn’t even have its usual herbal aromas or strong character. All that’s left is green tea infused with some vague, amorphous floralacy and an occasional touch of dryness. I suppose the latter stems indirectly from the guaiac wood, but no real woodiness ever shows up on my skin. We’ve gone from a clean jasmine bomb with varied tea notes, sharp musk, and bergamot; to hazy jasmine with green tea and musk, to simple green tea blandness. That is the sum total of Imperial Tea’s excitement on my skin. To my relief, the perfume packs up its bags entirely after 7 hours, and vanishes.

Imperial Tea is a simple, relatively pleasant, wearable fragrance. And I would certainly reach for it gratefully if I were ever on a deserted island with only salt water as an alternative. That’s about all I have to say about the perfume which inspires no emotion in me at all. Not even disdain. Imperial Tea has so little personality after the jasmine bomb of its opening moments that, to all effects and purposes, it felt invisible to me. I can’t even summon up the energy or interest to dislike it. It was simply… there.



At best, I’ll say that the jasmine intensity of the opening hour was pleasant, and the muted black tea was very nice. That’s about as complimentary as I can be, especially as the white musk feels wholly unnecessary. I had quite a bit of tea in China — including some lovely jasmine ones where flower balls bloomed in hot water — but not a single one was ever accompanied with sharp, white, clean musk. So, I can’t agree with Mr. Hennessy’s claim that Imperial Tea is “the most accurate possible reproduction of the note that you can inhale from a freshly brewed cup of tea.” Not unless the Chinese have suddenly started injecting their brews with clean synthetics.

Jasmine Tea. Source:

Jasmine Tea. Source:

I’m not a tea drinker, so perhaps my complete boredom stems from that fact. Maybe one has to adore both tea and jasmine tea, in specific, to get the appeal. Robin at Now Smell This certainly loves it, seems to be a bit of an expert on the subject, and drinks the beverage every day. She generally liked Kilian’s Imperial Tea, though she found it too clean when taken as a whole. For her, the perfume’s opening was “close to perfection,” ruined only by the eventual dominance of the white musk which almost verged on dryer fabric sheets. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

The Imperial Tea fragrance …[is] darned close to perfection. Bright and intensely fresh at first, it settles into a beautiful blend of green tea and jasmine. The jasmine is close to that in Kilian’s Love and Tears, rendered here just a tad cleaner, so that it has a satisfying depth but is neither rich nor indolic, and again as in Love and Tears, it’s clearly blended with other floral notes. The tea note verges on photorealistic — it’s not quite as tangy or aromatic2 as real jasmine tea leaves, but it’s reasonably close to what was promised, especially in the early stages: “the note that you inhale from a freshly brewed cup of tea”.3 The base is a clean, clean, clean blend of pale white musk + light wood notes. Imperial Tea feels summery, and slightly less feminine than Love and Tears.

Verdict: Imperial Tea is tantalizingly close, but in the end, no cigar. To my (admittedly finicky) nose, it is too synthetically fresh in the top notes (the opening blast is uncomfortably close to an air freshening product) and too clean in the dry down (not quite dryer sheet, but close). It’s pretty and I enjoyed wearing it, but the more I wore it, the more the clean ‘n fresh aura at both ends of the scent’s development bothered me, especially in the far dry down, when the jasmine and tea begin to fade. If they’d toned down the clean a notch, though, it would be a must buy, and it’s a shame Kilian never does flankers — I’d buy the unclean version of Imperial Tea in a heartbeat.

For another tea drinker, Neil of The Black Narcissus, Imperial Tea was a stunning, spectacular, and very sensual creation. In fact, his review is entitled “Sex Bomb in China.” He found the boldness of the opening to be positively “carnal” and the jasmine to be “hypnotically sexual.” He thought it was “paired beautifully with an equally no-nonsense fresh tea leaf accord, well tempered, the tea calming down those fierce jasmine blooms, the jasmine bolstering the tea[.]”

Jasmine Sambac. Source:

Jasmine Sambac. Source:

For similar reasons, The Smelly Vagabond took one sniff of Imperial Tea and practically “swooned,” right there and then on the floor of Harvey Nichols. He did so despite disliking prior scents from the Asian Tales Collection, and having some issues as an Asian when faced with “reductionistic views” of the region by Westerners making “Asian-inspired perfumes.” Yet, for all that, Imperial Tea blew him away:



The moment I sprayed it on, I was greeted with a bitter, smoky oolong tea infused with sweet, fragrant jasmine flowers and rounded off with a smooth and creamy milk. YES! I dare say I swooned and went into convulsions of pleasure there on the marbled floors of Harvey Nichols. Paying homage to historical and cultural heritage? Check. Creating the perfect blend of tea and flower? Check. Not Lipton tea? Check. Originality? Check check check check check. It’s been such a long time since any fragrance has tickled my cerebral fancy whilst moving me emotionally AND satisfying my ‘wearability-on-a-long-term-basis’ criterion. Imperial Tea does all that and then more, and thankfully never veers in the direction of the sticky, syrupy, sickly sweet jasmine marshmallow concoction that is also known as Love by the very same brand.

There isn’t much development in Imperial Tea, aside from a fading of the initial bitterness of the tea and sweetness of the jasmine, a dialing down of the volume. You’ve inhaled the glorious aroma of your tea and you’ve reveled in the complex sensations as you tasted it and drank it. And now you’re left with the aftertaste of those beautiful moments, and you are still, quiet and meditative. Perfect.

It must be a tea drinker’s thing. I suppose that big bang opening in the first hour justifies all the rest, even the sharp white musk and the speedy descent into blandness. More likely, I’m simply missing something from start to finish.

So, I suppose if you really love tea, and if you love jasmine tea in specific, you should go give Imperial Tea a sniff. I’ll be sitting in a café having a double expresso, and wearing a jasmine fragrance with a very different personality.

Cost & Availability: Imperial Tea is an eau de parfum that costs $245, £177, or €185 for a 1.7oz/50 ml bottle that comes in a black, wooden box. A cheaper “refill” option is available for $145, along with a travel set of 4 x 0.25 minis for $155. In the U.S.: you can purchase Imperial Tea in any of the 3 options from Luckyscent, the Kilian website, and department stores like Bergdorf Goodman or Saks. Outside the U.S.: you can purchase Sacred Wood from the International Kilian website for €185 for the proper bottle, €80 for the refill, €105 for the 4 travel sprays, or €65 for a single travel decant in a silver container. In the U.K., you can find it at Harvey Nichols in the regular bottle and the refill option for £177 or £70, respectively. In Paris, the Kilian line is carried at Printemps. In the UAE, you can find Sacred Wood at the Paris Gallery. Elsewhere, you can find the Kilian line at Harvey Nichols stores around the world, from Dubai to Hong Kong. As for other locations, By Kilian’s Facebook page lists the following retailers and/or locations: “HARVEY NICHOLS (UK, Honk Kong, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Koweit, Turkey), Le BON MARCHE (France), TSUM (Russia), ARTICOLI (Russia) and HOLT RENFREW (Canada).” Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Imperial Tea starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

28 thoughts on “By Kilian Imperial Tea

  1. I like tea well enough, but I don’t seek it out in perfume because I don’t really want to smell like it. I simply can’t conjure up the willingness to spend a large sum of money to smell like tea. Not to mention this one seems to have the “classic” Kilian sheerness and lightness — pass! (But thanks for taking one for the team and reviewing it! :D)

    • I love smoky black tea aromas, but green tea? No. Even so, I had thought this one would be better than it was. I’m so glad the two Kilian reviews are over, because they were putting me off both perfume and writing entirely.

  2. I haven’t tried many By Kilian’s and the ones I have were just “meh,” but I LOVED Imperial Tea. Yes I wish it lasted longer. But as someone who typically avoids gourmands (I don’t want to smell like food unless it’s spices or vanilla – that kind of thing), I love tea fragrances, and am a huge tea lover. For me, they are great comfort and skin scents (they usually aren’t huge projectors). I also didn’t really get any sharp white musk on me that stood out. I was fairly blown away by how realistically, almost identical this perfume was to a great cup of jasmine green. I don’t know about a whole bottle but I’ve got a decant coming to me after I sniffed the sample I received. I’m anxious to try it out in the heat.

    • It definitely seems to be a hit with tea lovers. I’m glad you are enjoying it so much, Devon. Have fun with your decant. 🙂

  3. Oh, Kafkaesque, I am sorry to hear that this didn’t tickle your fancy! It certainly tickled mine, and more! I could sing its praises for a thousand years more. You are absolutely right in saying that it’s not a photorealistic capturing of proper jasmine tea because of the white musk. In this case I’m just glad that it isn’t the usual scratchy white musk that is often used to fix perfumes; this one adds a nice creaminess to the jasmine and tea portions of the scent for me. Part of my very enthusiastic reaction probably stems from the fact that I haven’t come across any scents that properly capture the essence of tea, and the opening of Imperial Tea does that for me. I do wonder, though, how this would have turned out if they had chosen to ‘dirty’ up the drydown. Mmm.

    • I think this fragrance may be best suited to those who absolutely love tea, and green jasmine tea in specific. I thought your enthusiasm was lovely, by the way. A joy to read. We should all have a fragrance that does that to us. 🙂

  4. “I would certainly reach for it gratefully if I were ever on a deserted island with only salt water as an alternative” now this is all I need to know and that was hilarious 😉
    I am a reversed bird and will be traveling south to avoid the heat of the summer so I am still surrounded by darkness and coziness. This sounds too fresh for my liking but I will buy a big decant for my sister who has every single bottle of tea perfume under the sky.
    Fantastic review as usual darling K.

    • My God, I wish my summer didn’t involve heat. I shudder to think what is awaiting me in just a few weeks, as it is already in the 80s on many days now, and is supposed to hit 91 in a few days. It’s just going to go downhill from there.

      As for Imperial Tea, if your sister is a tea nut, she’ll undoubtedly love it! 🙂

  5. Fantastic review. Now I’ve got to get my hands on a sample!! You are sooo bored by it, but I am indeed a tea lover and I tend to really like the same scents as The Smelly Vagabond. So. . .I’m dying of curiosity!!!

    I generally have found By Kilian to be “just okay”, nothing more and nothing less (yes, boring is the word), btw, but I am crazy over their Rose Oud, which I’m guessing you don’t care for (or wouldn’t) what with both the lack of oud, and well, the roses, lol!

    • As a tea lover, you may enjoy it enormously. 🙂 As for Rose Oud, well, you guessed correctly. lol. I much prefer Musk Oud (which is rather mis-named, imo) as that is a much darker, deeper rose with saffron, woodiness and some musk (though not particularly animalic or intense). It doesn’t have much oud in it (again), but it’s one of the better Kilians, imo. I actually think you may like that one as well, Jules. Try to find a sample.

    • I loved Rose Oud as well, enough that I went out of my way to find several samples. I’m not a big oud fan, which is probably why I liked it.

  6. Right then. I’m probably about to bring the wrath of tea loving perfumistas down upon my contrary head. I too read both Neil and the Smelly Vagabond’s excellent reviews of Imperial Tea. As a tea merchant who has been in the business for nearly 20 years and a perfume collector for twice that, Ive been on a mission to find a perfume that faithfully represents the heavenly aroma of Jasmine Silver Needle tea , that most exquisite brew , positively manna in a cup. In my world, JSN is to tea what vintage Opium is to perfume – quite simply the Holy Grail. So it was with great anticipation – to the point of virtual hyperventilation – that I went to Saks in Portland as I couldn’t wait to order a sample from an online source.

    Much to the SAs consternation, I was literally quivering with excitement as I put sprayer to wrist and spritzed. This could be The One! Here’s my credit card, my first born, whatever it takes to get me the biggest bottle of this elixir that promises the “Oh-my-God-this-is-it!, jaw-droppingly realistic rendition of the steam rising from a fresh cup of the finest jasmine tea.” Well, it wasn’t my jaw that dropped, it was my whole body that nearly flung itself on the floor (and not in a swoon like The SV) but kicking and screaming in a temper tantrum that would have put any 3 year old to shame.

    Ironically, I’m not going to say I didn’t like it and will even admit – now I can do so without blubbering – that overall it is a good jasmine perfume. The jasmine was pretty relentless through the drydown, starting strong as you described and then just weakening – in fact, in that aspect it reminded me of tea leaves that had been used several times. The short burst of green mate and hint of smoky wood – maybe from the guaiac, as it certainly didnt smell as pungent or tarry as Lapsang- in the opening were nice, the bergamot came through somewhere along the way. After a while – I had removed myself from Saks much to the SAs relief – the green tea put in an appearance – fresh and bright at first but then devolved into a clean syntheticky mess that if I had been drinking it, I would have spat it out. Much too clean – in reality, although Jasmine tea has a sweet, fresh aroma, there is an underlying dirtiness and dryness, albeit very faint, but its there, lurking at the back of the taste buds.

    Yes there is jasmine, there is green and there is tea. But there is not Jasmine Green Tea as brewed in the cup. The difference to me is that when you brew the tea, the aromas are all in the steam together – the whole package all at once, wafting from the cup in equal measures throughout the entire journey until the cup is empty. It’s not first this, then that, then the other thats not even supposed to be there. So unlike Calice Becker, I remain unconvinced by tea notes in fine fragrance …

      • I have to leave a note to SallyM saying that she now has A Fan. One of the most entertaining comments I’ve ever read about sampling a scent!! Thank you, SallyM!

        • Heh – I’m so glad I didn’t offend the entire community an any rate. I’ve written lots of book reviews for Amazon and several people have suggested I write a blog. I have always had a bit of a yearning to be a critic of some sort – trouble is, I’m only really “good” at being – well – sarcastic (even scathing if truth be told). I’d be one of those critics that people refuse to send samples to, or bar their restaurant doors to 😉 Not quite sure what that says about me!!

    • SallyM, I really enjoyed reading your comment! Actually I do agree with you on some accounts, and I’m sorry if my review ‘hyped’ it up for you. I think I was most moved by the opening, as I found the tea part then to be the most realistic. That part doesn’t last long, unfortunately, perhaps half and hour to an hour on me? Subsequently, the ‘clean syntheticky mess’ part that you allude to is definitely clean – for me, it resembled bottled jasmine green tea, the kind that doesn’t really do real green tea justice, but is nice and sweet nevertheless (whoops, heathen tea drinker here!).

      And yes, it definitely doesn’t have the dirtiness and dryness of jasmine tea (I presume from the tannins), which really varies depending on how long you’ve brewed the tea for. At the end of the day, I don’t think any perfume ever beats Mother Nature, but I’m glad that someone tried to pay homage to jasmine tea.

  7. Ripe jasmine skeers me, and green jasmine bores me. Green tea bores me.


    Haven’t really been interested in any BKs since that Orient series came out… I fell for the flowers-and-candy confection of Sweet Redemption, and I like Rose Oud, as I mentioned up a few comments. Beyond Love, too, that was nice. At the same time, they don’t seem to be particularly intellectual fragrances, and they don’t tell me stories. They Just Smell Nice*. Which is fine, but not at BK prices.

    * Or they DON’T smell nice… at least on me. While testing Cruel Intentions, I wound up staggering around muttering imprecations and hoping my kids didn’t hear the words coming out of my mouth.

    • I very much agree that they’re not intellectual fragrances. I would say that the primary characteristic of a Kilian scent is smoothness, and that’s about it. They lack complexity or depth. Just simple, basic, refined smoothness. Meh. So, I agree, they don’t tell me stories either and they either smell pleasant or far from it, but I am never emotionally moved. Well, not positively and enthusiastically, in any case. 🙂

    • Heh, this one is actually almost… better (?) than its companion new release, Sacred Wood. Don’t even get me started on that supposed “sandalwood” scent. Bah.

  8. Well, Kilian parfumes just don’t speak my language (any of my languages…). There are some pleasant ones – but that’s not enough (and definitely not for scents with those price tags…). As an avid tea lover (I’m sipping a lovely Yunnan right now) I’ve been on a constant search for the HG tea scents – and haven’t found it yet. And Imperial Tea won’t be the one either. The bottles (and generally their packaging) are lovely though…

    • Heh. I’m so glad you found me and the blog, Mi’Lady. “Kilian parfumes just don’t speak my language (any of my languages…).” ROFL. I feel I could have written that, word for word. You know, I often feel like a freak for not sharing the huge Kilian love that I see wherever I go (groups, Facebook, perfume sites, etc.), so it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

      • You cannot imagine how glad I am that I found you ! Just to let you know : I’m flying to Spain for holiday tomorrow, I rented a somewhat remote house in the South and will be off the www for 10 days. Will miss your blog though ! A bientot…

        • Lucky devil. Spanish sheep cheese, hmm….. (I have a massive cheese obsession. lol) And remote houses are the best for a true holiday. I will miss you, my dear. And you will miss my Soleil de Jeddah review! (I’ve been thinking of you, needless to say.) It was scheduled to be for today, but I’m wiped out, mentally and physically, so it will be tomorrow.

          Have a blast, and I look forward to hearing all about your holiday when you return. Have loads of sangria (and cheese) for me!

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