Light My Fire is one of a trio of new fragrances from Kilian Hennessy in the Addictive State of Mind Collection which debuted last month. The common theme which links all three perfumes is a dark smokiness, but each fragrance seems to have a particular focus. In Light My Fire, it is ostensibly tobacco. According to the press copy quoted by Bergdorf Goodman, “Light My Fire dissects the finest cigar tobacco, the olfactory pinnacle of a Monte Cristo.”
Well, not on my skin. I think I had quite an anomalous experience with the scent, while my time with the other two fragrances in the collection — Smoke for the Soul and Intoxicated — was very similar to that of others. I’ll briefly cover Smoke for the Soul and Intoxicated at the end of this post and in lieu of a proper review, primarily because I thought one of them was simply terrible and verging on the unbearable. First, though, a look at Light My Fire.
Light My Fire is an eau de parfum created by Sidonie Lancesseur and described on the Kilian website as follows:
Defying tradition, Kilian and Sidonie Lancesseur reject the sparkle of top notes to plunge with the recklessness of desire into the dark spiciness of tobacco leaf evoked by dry fragrant cumin, tedded hay, earthy patchouli and vetiver. The sweetness of fulfilment blossoms in wild honey melting into a warm base of vanilla, the almond tang of white heliotrope, creamy tonka and smoky birchwood.
The description provides more notes than what is listed on Luckyscent or Fragrantica, both of whom omit the heliotrope, vanilla, and either the vetiver or the honey. The full, complete list seems to be:
Tobacco, cumin, patchouli, vetiver, honey, vanilla, heliotrope, tonka, and birch.
Light My Fire essentially has three main stages on my skin after the initial opening moment when the fragrance rapidly cycles through all its notes except for the vetiver. That opening lasts about only a minute or two, and presents all the notes (other than the vetiver) in a spicy, sweet, smoky mix that sits atop a base of tarry birch.
Light My Fire quickly transitions into its first, main stage, though that doesn’t last long, either. In a nutshell, it consists of competing foodie strains of a Middle Eastern, savory, cumin dish next to a dessert made from almond heliotrope with thick vanilla custard, all lightly drizzled with honey. The tobacco, birch, and patchouli act as side dishes. The restaurant course begins with a strong cumin focus.
Unfortunately, its foodie spiciness is slightly sweaty at first with a noticeable bodily quality, though it doesn’t smell of truly horrible body odor or rank, fetid staleness. I find it to be an extremely odd contrast next to the heavily dessert-centered sweetness of the almond heliotrope and vanilla custard, and I won’t deny that I was rather relieved when the cumin’s sweatiness disappears after ten minutes. What’s left is a regular, Middle Eastern, cumin-centric main course which is equally strange next to the thick vanilla custard and the heliotrope almond drizzled with honey. It’s almost… intriguing. I’m simultaneously put off by it and, somehow, drawn in for more sniffs. Perhaps it’s simply nothing more than confusion.
All of this ends 15 minutes into Light My Fire’s development, as the perfume segues into a brief transitional phase. This short, second part is dominated by lovely tobacco leaves that are dry and sweet, then covered with spicy, brown, sweet patchouli. The whole thing is then dusted with honey, as sweet hay swirls around. The cumin peeks its head out from behind their skirts, but is not longer a major player.
What makes this stage a transitional one is the arrival of the vetiver which adds an earthy greenness to the tobacco, as well as a touch of smoke. At the same time, the birch suddenly rises from the base to smear its smoky tar all over the leaves, thereby amplifying that occasional facet of the vetiver even further. The almond-y heliotrope and vanilla custard flee before their powerful onslaught, and recede to the background to join the cumin.
Light My Fire is now centered primarily on a mix of tobacco, birch tar, vetiver, patchouli, abstract spiciness, and a slightly honeyed sweetness. My skin tends to amplify vetiver to a huge degree, as well as turn it quite minty on occasion. That happens here, too, but the vetiver is primarily a very smoky one laden with equally smoky, heavy tar from the birch. Increasingly, the two things start to overshadow the tobacco, never mind the other notes. While the heliotrope peeks from the sidelines and occasionally flirts with the vetiver, the vanilla, patchouli, and cumin are becoming fully submerged into the new darkness.
The third and final phase begins 45 minutes into Light My Fire’s development, and essentially lasts for the next 11 hours. Quite simply, it is all about the smoky vetiver and the equally smoky, tarry, black tar. The heliotrope suddenly returns to dance about, but it is the only other visible note. Everything else is a shapeless mass of spicy, sweet darkness. There is absolutely no perceptible “tobacco” on my skin — not the dry leaves and most certainly not a Montecristo cigar. The hay? Forget about it. Vanilla custard? Non plus. Patchouli? Alas, not.
Only the heliotrope is apparent, and it starts to demonstrate its sweet, powdery facets instead of just its almond ones. In fact, Light My Fire takes on an interesting polarity after 30 minutes where the heliotrope’s feminine softness attempts to tame the Alpha Male, macho brutishness of the tarred vetiver. It doesn’t succeed. As a side note, I’m not normally one to think of notes as having a gender, but the tar and vetiver are so intense, single-minded, and unrelieved on my skin that it is quite aggressive. Too much so for my liking. It doesn’t help that I have issues with vetiver in large doses to begin with, due largely to the fact that my skin amplifies the note to foghorn levels on occasion. Like now.
Still, the heliotrope does try to soften the mix with its powdery sweetness. The extent to which it will succeed for you will depend on your personal skin chemistry. I suspect that for some men, namely those whose skin chemistry does not amplify birch or vetiver to the same degree, the balance of notes might skew to the feminine side, and that was borne out to me by the one comment left on Luckyscent‘s Light My Fire page.
Regardless of gender, I hope Light My Fire demonstrates more complexity on your skin than on mine because, damn, it’s such a total bore for the next 11 or so hours. Birch tar and vetiver — ad infinitum. Everything else is lumped into a general state of darkness, and even the heliotrope gives up 3.75 hours into the mix, and slinks off to the sidelines. At that point, the smoky tarriness takes on a woody undertone that feels like a mix of birch with cypriol. The whole thing feels harsh, bordering on the abrasive, and it just drones on until the final two hours when Light My Fire turns into a simple smear of vetiver.
All in all, Light My Fire lasted just a hair under 12 hours on my skin, and 11 of those hours were centered primarily on two simple, smoky notes. It was almost enough for me to miss the sweaty cumin or the Middle Eastern banquet buffet. At least those brief moments were interesting, which is more than I can say for the rest of the perfume. In terms of sillage, it was generally moderate. Using 3 squirts from my little atomizer, equal to 2 small sprays from an actual bottle, Light My Fire opened with 2.5 inches of projection at first. It was a strong scent, but a little sheer in body. The perfume turned softer after 45 minutes, and the projection dropped to 1 inch. Light My Fire became a skin scent on me at the 3.75 hour mark, though it wasn’t hard to detect up close.
Kilian is a brand that doesn’t wow me as a general rule. For the most part, my responses veer between apathy, boredom, eye-rolls at the prices, or occasional irritation. (Sacred Wood with its supposed “Mysore sandalwood” recreation being a prime example of the latter.) Light My Fire is a bit of an odd case. I actually think the scent showed great promise at the beginning, a promise that may have come to fruition with a different sort of skin chemistry than my own. It certainly had early indicators of complexity, which is more than I can say for many of the Kilians, particularly some of the really popular ones like Amber Oud. (A misnamed scent if I ever saw one because oud? Really?) For the most part, I think Kilian’s signature seems to be highly simplified or simplistic smoothness. Some people interpret that as “refined.” I’m not one of them, but the point here is that Light My Fire feels harsher than the traditional, usual Kilian style. At the same time, it has greater boldness than several of the fragrances that I’ve tried, and the potential for demonstrating far more character, too.
I really think skin chemistry will be key, as well as your personal tolerance for some of the individual notes. Judging by the responses on Fragrantica, most people had a very tobacco-centric fragrance and quite a different experience than my own. The one similarity: the cumin. It was a big problem for a lot of people, but there were other issues, too. One chap found Light My Fire to smell like “urinal cakes,” while the heliotrope clearly was the reason for a few posters’ unhappy reference to “baby wipes.” On the positive side, many people enjoyed a substantial amount of hay which, in conjunction with the tobacco focus on their skin, resulted in comparisons to the amazing Chergui. On the negative side, most of them found the Lutens to be superior. (Colour me shocked.)
The responses on Fragrantica seem to be heavily split, but there are some positive blog reviews for Light My Fire amongst the blogs. You can read Colognoisseur and The Scented Hound for different takes on the scent. Neither of them underwent the vetiver-tar focus that I, alas, experienced. (Their reviews also cover the other two fragrances in the line.)
Kilian seems to have raised his prices, at least for this collection. The 50 ml bottle costs $270, when recent releases like Sacred Wood were $245. What was interesting to me is that the perfume bottle is described on the company’s website as a “refillable spray.” That would seem to imply that the traditional, more affordable “refill” options might not be offered for the Addictive State of Mind Collection. I’ve also heard that Kilian might have phased out his travel decants. I certainly don’t see any on his website. So, in a nutshell, the price seems to be $270, or nothing. I’ll endeavor to resist….
SMOKE FOR THE SOUL & INTOXICATED:
The other two Addictive State of Mind scents didn’t impress me, either. Luckyscent was kind enough to send me samples of the collection a long time ago, and it’s taken me this long to bother with a review for any one of the lot because I was so underwhelmed. Actually, that’s a very polite interpretation of things. My reaction to the first one I tried was to scrub it off. The second one as well. In fact, I couldn’t decide which one was worse. The third fragrance (Light My Fire) didn’t exactly improve my mood. After proper testing of the lot, I concluded that I should skip reviews entirely, or perhaps simply cover the trio in one post and summarize them via their varying interpretations of tarriness.
Much of this stemmed from my dread of reliving the experience with Smoke for the Soul. That one was simply revolting on my skin. Synthetic, strange, harsh, and bordering on the abrasive. Sour, bitter, thin, acidic grapefruit mixed with a mentholated, eucalyptus medicinal salve like Vick’s, before being blanketed by heaps of smoky black tar, an abrasive, viciously synthetic, almost cypriol-like woody aromachemical, pungently green cardamom, and stale cannabis weed. Absolutely ghastly.
The only good thing about Smoke for the Soul is reading the many negative reviews of it on Fragrantica, some of which are pointed or hilariously disgusted. One of my favorite ones ends with this:
If you are looking to attract the attention of the DEA or your local policing establishment, look no further! The rest of us should avoid this like the plague. [¶] Why would anyone pay money to smell like a habitual drug user?
Personally, I don’t mind a cannabis note in perfumery, but pot is really the least of my problems with Smoke for the Soul. The sharpness was unbearable, the synthetics harsh, the smoke and tar abrasive, and the overall result wholly unwearable on my skin.
Intoxicated was an ordeal for a different set of reasons. First, though, we have to talk about Thierry Mugler‘s A*Men. Everyone claims that the two fragrances are identical or extremely close. On Fragrantica, practically every review for Intoxicated brings up A*Men. And it’s true, the two fragrances have a huge overlap. That said, there are differences, most noticeably in the Kilian’s smoothness which does, in fact, some “refine” the famous Mugler elements and which eschews some of the Mugler’s synthetic quality. Intoxicated is also a deeper scent than A*Men, or at least as the Mugler is now. A*Men has been reformulated, and that reformulation has also resulted in much of its tarry opening being minimized. Perhaps that is why I actually enjoy parts of it on occasion, mainly in the drydown phase.
The Kilian, however, has a strong streak of blackness that is like a mix of tar and licorice, along with a “double” infusion of cardamom that I found to be unbearably pungent, green, sharp, and medicinal. On occasion, it also reflected a sour lemony nuance; other times, it wafted something verging on pine mixed with tar. On my skin, there was hardly any of the coffee which is ostensibly the fragrance’s focus and main selling point. Instead, it was primarily pungent green cardamom, bitter nutmeg, and that mysterious, unlisted, tarry black note, atop a thin sliver of creaminess that does, eventually, hours later, become less muted.
What I simply cannot get past is the tsunami of pungent, green cardamom which lasts from start to finish on my skin. Something about it makes me feel utterly queasy and nauseated — and it happens each and every time I’ve worn Intoxicated. In fact, I sprayed on the perfume again while writing this summary, just to be sure, and I feel as though I’m going to be ill. The reformulated, current version of A*Men doesn’t have that effect, though I still find parts of the opening to be difficult for the first hour.
The fragrances’ overlap is a problem given their price. You can find a 50 ml bottle A*Men for $34-$40. Intoxicated comes in the exact same size but costs $270. I don’t think the olfactory differences — or even the Kilian’s minor improvement in quality and depth — are significant enough to get around a whopping $230 gap.
All in all, my bottom-line assessment is that there are far better uses for your money than any of these three fragrances but, if you simply have to throw away $270 on one of them, Light My Fire has the greatest potential and likelihood of appeal.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
I scored samples of all three of these by essentially asking the Jo Malone SA at Saks to sweet-talk the By Kilian SA to give me the samples. For crying out loud, the By Kilian SA claimed to not have any sample atomizers left so I whipped out my own and he had no choice but to spritz some into each.
Of the three, the only one I tried “on skin” was Intoxicated and it was meh. As for the other two, since I was passing along my samples to a perfumista friend, I decided to revisit them at Bergdorf. I was totally underwhelmed and in fact, recoiled from the Smoke for the Soul tester strip and got the hairy eyeball from the SA.
Apple Brandy is still my favorite By Kilian. I don’t recall if I mentioned that my sister liked it too until I told her the price.
I laughed at the fact that you physically recoiled from Smoke for the Soul, but the best part of your comment was learning that you do, in fact, go to shops carrying your own empty sample vials or atomizers!! I had thought you did from prior comments, but wasn’t sure. Now, it’s confirmed and, oh my GOD, that’s hardcore! Wonderful. So, do you carry a few, only when you know you’re going to a shop, or do you always carry them just in case you may stumble across some perfume?! 😀
As for Apple Brandy, it is definitely one of the better ones in the range, I think. For me personally, it’s a bit too much like having fallen into a cognac vat and I could never wear it outside of the house, but it’s appealing. 🙂 The one I like best is probably Musk Oud, but I still don’t think it’s worth the price. I would have loved to see your sister’s face when you told her how much Apple Brandy costs!! lol (Does she think all your perfumes are over-priced? Have you managed to make her a perfume addict yet?)
Iintoxicated is the closest to smelling like coffee than any coffee fragrance that i have smelled. I have been complimented every time i have worn it!!!
Kafka, you are amazing for wearing this for so long when it did not wow you in the least. Thank you as always. I sniffed this on a paper strip at NM, but didn’t like it. At this price point, I would have to like it alot to risk having it on my skin just in case I might think I love it enough to buy. Sigh. And thank you for making me snicker on a Sunday night (more than once).
You’re very welcome, my dear. Was it the cumin that got to you when you sniffed it on the mouillette? I bet it was the cumin. LOL. Did you get to try any of the others?
I don’t know if it was the cumin as my nose is not always good at picking individual notes out. There was a group of us passing around the paper strips for the three new Killians and I didn’t see anyone ask for a sample or a spritz. There was one that most of us liked better than the others, but I am sorry that I can’t remember which one that was. Maybe our noses were on overload by then!
I have purchased hundreds of perfumes but never a Killian…not intentionally or with any animosity…it is just that a few of the Killian’s I have found to be lovely or at least very pleasant but none have ever given me the reaction that “I have to have a bottle of that” kind of feeling. I thought that perhaps I was the oddity as Killian is a very big name in niche’ perfume. The few that I have tried have just left me cold even if they were seemingly “wearable”. None had that addictive effect on me as have had some Andy Tauers and Serge Lutens to name a “two” or even a couple of Tom Ford’s. And although most niche perfumes carry a fairly high price tag, I think that Kilian’s are extremely high. But if won had actually captured my heard, I would have figured out a way to obtain my own full bottle. I just have never had that feeling with Killian as yet.
In all candour, you *are* an oddity when it comes to Kilian appreciation 😉 but so I am! There are a few others who share our feelings as well, and they seem to be amongst my readers most noticeably enough (LOL!), but we’re definitely in a tiny minority, I think. When I read other sites, perfume groups, or blogs, the overwhelming sense is that people really seem to love Kilian fragrances.
I’ve felt like a freak about this for ages and ages, so I’m always relieved to hear that I’m not completely alone in my feelings. Some brands just don’t sweep me off my feet or impress me much, and Kilian is one of those that leaves me feeling quite apathetic, bored, or “cold,” as you put it. For me, it’s because “refinement” is their ultimate characteristic, more than an actual character that is bold, interesting, or distinctive. But, as you saw with my MPG Ambre Precieux post, I can fall hard for some simple fragrances. Kilian’s somehow doesn’t manage it.
What interests me is the way that Kilian himself, the fragrances, and everything about them are considered to be practically swoon-worthy or the epitome of …. something. (I don’t know what. Sophistication? Hipness? The “In Crowd”? It’s something along those lines.) I think the luxury price tag helps but, more than anything, Kilian’s physical appearance and his marketing savvy. If he were an unattractive man or an 80-year who didn’t have Vogue poses and if his perfumes didn’t also have uber-sleek, expensive packaging at the same time which is marketed as the height of luxurious coolness, then I think it would be a very different story. I truly don’t believe that the fragrances would stand up on their own merits. Then again, perhaps it’s just me and I simply don’t “get it.”
won was supposed to be “one”…not just my “Smart Phone, but even my computer is changing my words!
I’m glad you wrote this review. It keeps me from wasting time and money. I have tried several Kilian fragrances and I simply do not like them. They are at best uninteresting and at worst unpleasant. I do however very much like the other family business, Hennessy cognac! 😉
Hennessy cognac is lovely! The perfumes… are a matter of personal taste. 🙂
I thought I liked Intoxicated while at Sniffa but it turns out I liked it in combination with the 100 other perfumes in the air. Thank god I didn’t buy it. The other two were…not for me. I’m shocked you found so much to say about Light my Fire. On me it was pretty one dimensional. I smelled like I’d been around cigar smoke. I can’t stand cigars so it won’t be on my wish list.
Nothing but cigar smoke? What a shame. (At least you didn’t get the sweaty cumin, even for a short while!) But the fragrance did have some complexity on me at first. It simply went downhill and turned one-dimensional with surprising rapidity.
As for your turn-around on Intoxicated, at least you saved $270! Thank God for samples so that one can test things first.
I enjoy Taste of Heaven, but even that is an overpriced knock off of a great fragrance costing much less (Un Homme de Caron). Rest of the line has been forgettable for me.
Even the names of these 3 fragrances fail. Light My Fire? C’mon. Mediocre 50 year old rock tune by a shady dude. Makes you wonder who the marketing dept is aiming at.
I happen to like the song, “Light My Fire,” but I snorted out loud over “shady dude.” HAHAHA!! “Shady” is certainly one way of describing Jim Morrison. 😀
As for the Kilian perfumes, it’s always nice to hear from someone else who doesn’t think they are the most glorious, wonderful, lust-worthy perfumes around. There aren’t a lot of us, you know, and we’re quite the tiny minority.
Not to pig pile, the photo looks like Jon Lovitz.
Well, this is SO interesting, because I like Intoxicated and LOVE Smoke for the Soul!! Our experiences of the two might as well be different fragrances; they are that divergent. And even though we haven’t the same taste, our experiences of “harshness” and perceptions of aromachemicals do seem to be similar, if not the same
First, let me say that I loathe the smell of pot. When I got a trio of the series, I only sprayed SFTS on me for a laugh. I figured I’d hate it and scrub asap. Not!! I had to admit it was incredibly realistic and had someone who knows the stuff better smell it. Joking, he said, “Good bud, man.” However, another person I know who’s gone through some serious pothead phases said he absolutely did not see the similarity. Hmm. I think perhaps his sense of smell is broken. But why on earth did I like it? I had to concede that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the smell, and that it was all my associations that were negative (and some incredibly so).
I found it smooth and beautiful. To me, it smells strongly of fresh thyme, a smell I adore. I got no harsh chemical smell, no stale anything. There is strong medicinal top note, but it faded fast on me. On my skin, it is smooth and herbal for hours, and quite soothing. It has the smell that many strains of fresh thyme have, or any strongly resinous herbs do, on a hot day, or when you’ve freshly harvested them and/or rub the leaves on one’s fingers until they’re sticky.
I did a bottle split, but if I had money to spare I’d have bought the full bottle. Yes, it’s amusing and a little bit ridiculous that it’s such a realistic fresh marijuana scent. I would be afraid to wear this out of the house because I suspect anyone would think I was a pot smoker (or grower, given the fresh herbal smell).
As for Intoxicated, I won’t get into it much here, because I did not analyze it and only had th tester spray. Believe it or not, I’ve never tried Amen. I asked about it and what the difference was to other people who like Intoxicated because the price difference is so huge. I love the smoothness of Intoxicated. Coffee? Not much, but it’s really another soothing scent. On me, it approaches the realm of too subtle to notice after about 45 minutes but that subtle skin scent was really quite nice (not much of a description, I know). I did want more!
Go figure. I wish I had the knowledge to name the notes for you (and others). I don’t.
There’s been times when you’ve written a terrible review and I wrote, “Thanks for saving me the trouble of trying this,” but in this case, I have to say, “Phew! I’m glad I had already tried these.”
I hope you can still respect me! I am fascinated and even a bit delighted by this gross disparity in perception.
Vive la différence!
Of course I still respect you! I’m happy you felt free to write about all the ways that our experiences or perceptions differed, and I think it’s great that there *is* another side to things presented for other readers. I provided links to 2 blog reviews that were positive, but I think it’s a good thing to have a different perspective here as well. 🙂
In terms of Smoke for the Soul, it’s interesting to me how the realistic “good bud” marijuana scent overcame some longstanding, negative associations that you’d had. It sounds to me like the fresh, herbal “thyme” note played a large role in that, particularly as it is an aroma that you already love. The overall effect was thereby predominantly herbal on your skin, and in a way that you felt was soothing.
It sounds to me as though your skin chemistry didn’t bring out much of the sour citrus or bitter acidic grapefruit, none of the cardamom’s pungency, kept the Vicks Vapor rub eucalyptus limited to only a brief period of time, and created absolutely zero element of tarriness at all. So, it’s not a question of two people experiencing the exact same scent and then having different perceptions about it. Perceptions aren’t the issue at all but, as usual, skin chemistry. Plus, there is some issue of personal taste here as well. I didn’t experience any “thyme” but, if I had, I would not have found it enjoyable as it is not a herbal aroma that I’m particularly fond of. (I’m not crazy about it when fresh or dry, and limit its use in my cooking.) So, I don’t know about a perfume that was primarily hardcore marijuana and thyme on my skin. I doubt I would have been happier than I was with the version that I did experience.
As for Intoxicated, I was rather glad to hear that someone else didn’t experience much coffee. Frankly, I don’t get a lot of “coffee” from the reformulated A*Men, but I do more so than for Intoxicated. Interesting how you didn’t get any green cardamom from it at all. Just the mere memory of its extreme pungency on my skin is making my stomach roil all over again.
Yes, I adore thyme. I’ve grown many varieties of it, use it in cooking, and never tire of it. So there’s that.
Skin chemistry certainly plays a part, no doubt. My skin chemistry is wonky for sure.
It’s an interesting problem – to pull perception out and apart from associations and skin chemistry. These are all bound together most of the time.
And should hope anyone feels free enough to write about their difference in opinion. Maybe it isn’t “opinion,” in the true sense of the word. It seems we’ve agreed that we may have actually been smelling different scents to some degree & that is fascinating!
Don’t think about the unmentionable scent!!
Please excuse the sloppy comment. I’m having a very rough morning!!
No problem, my dear. Never a need to apologise, and you know that I understand without you saying so. 🙂
… “But if you simply have to throw $270 away on one of them…”
Don’t ask me why, but I felt compelled to watch “Dumb and Dumber” on Netflix this past weekend (which I’d seen before, so I knew what I was in for), and there is a scene where Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have come into an unexpected windfall of cash ( a briefcase full of ransom money), so they’re living it up at an exclusive hotel in Aspen, Colorado, where, in one scene, they’re watching TV together. The viewer sees them crying and blowing their noses on their wad of $100 bills – and then the camera pans to the TV to reveal that they were crying over, not some scene from a movie, but a commercial for Pacific Bell. 😀 I guess because I just watched that, I got a kick out of your advice in the last paragraph of your review!
I like three By Kilian fragrances out of the many that I’ve tried, but there’s only one I’d be willing to throw that kind of money away on. And that would be “In the City of Sin.”
LOL at the Dumb & Dumber flashback. 😀 As for the Kilians, at least you’ve found one that you’d consider spending money on! I don’t think I’ve tried “City of Sin,” but I do tend to mix up some of the name for the Garden of Good and Evil fragrances as they all sound alike. (I find the names so confusing.) I will have to look up City of Sin and its notes to see what finally hooked you on a Kilian fragrance. 🙂
I want to add that I didn’t get the green cardamon smell in Intoxicated. I have enough for one more wearing and will see if I do. I am crazy about the smell of cardamon and the fresher and greener the better.. It is one of my favorite smells. So, hmmm, why didn’t I notice it at all? Smell is a curious thing indeed. I know I have an excellent sense of smell, but sometimes I do miss realistic notes out of context.
I do hope there’s other dissenters who leave comments! Quite the By Kilian pile-on her! I do not like his prices (for the presentation alone) nor the luxe hype and all that, but after I got over my “so what? meh” reaction to Back to Black I gave much of the line a good try and I like and even love some of it. I thought is was just a more expensive version of Montale (which I do uniformly dislike) but I’ve changed my mind completely.
Well, Kilian fragrances are gushed over and Kilian himself adulated on virtually every other corner of the web, so the tiny minority group here is a small counterbalance. Still a very small minority, though. I’m glad you’ve found the line to be enjoyable and love some of the fragrances. You’re definitely not alone.
I will say, I find a comparison between Montale and Kilian to be quite… odd. For me, there is really no comparison when you take the lines as a whole and, as you’ve gathered, I’m hardly a Kilian worshipper. But Montale… my God, Montale…. No. Just, “No.”
I am relieved that you do not equate them. I shudder at the very thought of a Montale scent.
I, too, have mixed feelings about the By Kilian worship. The pricey “presentation” boxes, his face on the promo materials, the pushing of a certain type of luxury; it has a truly superficial feel to it. It’s odd given that he’s a Hennessy; it smacks of what was called “nouveau riche” when I was young. Not a nice term, but it described the vibe I get from the line. It’s designed to appeal to people who want others to know they can both afford and know about it. That’s the opposite of true class, imho.
I fully agree with all of that, Julie. There is another issue, too, that I mentioned to Filomena up above. If Kilian Hennessy was unattractive, a fat 80-year old man, didn’t pose as he did, or didn’t bear that last name, then I think things would be quite different. Obviously, the sleekness of the packaging and the marketing overdrive that presents them as the epitome of luxury or coolness all helps, too. But I truly believe that if Kilian Hennessy did not look as he did and market his actual self as he does, then it would be a very different story. I genuinely don’t think the perfumes could stand on their own merits, not at their prices.
Ultimately, though, everything about perfumery is a business (not “Art,” even if we do like to see some of the results as “Art”) and marketing is key, so I can only respect his serious savvy. He’s brilliant at marketing and selling himself, completely brilliant. And why not use all the tools at your disposal, all your advantages? From a business perspective, it would be utterly foolish not to do so. It is, after all, about succeeding and the measure of that is money. He’s a phenomenal businessman, and he knows EXACTLY what he is doing — right down to the shirts that are unbuttoned so low that one always sees his chest…. All of it makes my lip curl, particularly the manipulative aspects of it as well as the nouveau riche aspirations that he’s subtly peddling, but one can’t deny he’s damn good at what he does.
Your analysis is spot on.
The only thing I disagree with is saying the line would not be able to stand on its own merits. Frankly, I’m surprised that there *are* any quality scents in the line, given the level of marketing. He could put the equivalent of AXE in those locked boxes and people would drool all over them. So, for that and for hiring some good noses and having some modicum of integrity about ingredients, I can’t say it’s 100% hype. An immense marketing masterpiece, sure, but some of the product is quite good. Surprising for a peddler of “subtle nouveau riche aspirations.” That’s usually pretty fleeting and empty, imho. Sounds like we’re talking about the emperor’s new clothes, eh? There is a degree of that here, for sure.
Thanks for the review. I have yet to sample any of Mr. Hennessey’s fragrances, but I’m not sure where to begin.
I’m new to this, so please bear with me. 🙂
I had to laugh because someone suggested I give Montale a try being that it is less expensive.
Since you like boozy things, Don, perhaps Apple Brandy? I don’t have a good handle on your tastes yet, particularly on the issue of animalics or oud, but Musk Oud is the Kilian that I’ve liked best from the line thus far. Best to read the review first, though, as the musk wasn’t to everyone’s taste. If you like rose fragrances, a lot of people really love (adore!!) Kilian’s Rose Oud, and think it has an extremely smooth, “refined” oud note.
As for Montale, I am… er… not the best person to ask about the line because I find them almost all of them to be ridiculously aromachemical and synthetic. In fact, Lime Aoud continues to be one of the very worst things I have ever smelt. Ever. I call it a perfume Chernobyl. While I tend to have issues with aromachemicals, others who *don’t* share my difficulties have found that Lime Aoud to be unbearable, too. But Montale does seem to make very popular gourmands, and the Chocolate Greedy wasn’t too bad. (That said, there is reportedly a much cheaper substitute from an Arabic line, for about $6. LOL) Still, my general reaction to hearing the Montale name is not… a positive one. 😉
But to compare them to Kilian!!! Good God, that’s going too far. I’m not a Kilian worshiper, but at least his stuff has quality and some smoothness. Price is not the only thing that separates the two brands, imo, so I’m glad you’re eschewing the advice you were given.
THello Kafka and you had me laughing out loud with your Montale Aoud Lime Chernobyl allusion 😀 spot on I surmise. Hearing oud paired with lime makes me ill. I can’t imagine.
For the sake of brevity (LOL), I’m combining my replies into one so you aren’t confused. At least I hope not. Thank you for kind condolences. I will also let you know about the law questions you asked and whether I have a furry and/or GSD.
Since July I have sampled the gamut i.e. ouds,animalics, musks,roses,ambers, and natural perfumes. You know Maai was my find so far, but not a bottle yet. This is tempting 🙂 I had to leave a comment on Antonio Gardoni’s FB page to which he thanked me. I know Cologne Reloaded is limited, so another possibility. Speaking of limited,MPG’s Ambre Precieux Ultime was something I was looking forward to sampling, but with mostly dismal reviews, original Ambre Precieux will be good enough for me. I did sample Amber Sultan and Amber Russe. Both are close, but AS comes in at 1st place.
Thanks for introducing me to Kalemat(haven’t smelled it yet). I found it on Ebay and another site, Universal Perfumes and Cosmetics I believe. Reasonably priced. Also, saw La Yuqawam. I’ve read mostly positive reviews
on Ebay… That Tom Ford Tobacco Vanilla but less expensive. Rudis does sound perfect for me. You are right Kafka when you said the Arabian Oud site is a bit chaotic. Of course, alot of other sites I found
aren’t even in English. Oh yes, Woody sounds like something I’d wear.
I’m working on my niche price snobbery lol.
Perhaps you could fit me in your luggage should you visit Jovoy again, because I think I could really do damage in there. 🙂
” I dream of a red rose tree and which of its roses three is the dearest rose to me?” Applied to rose fragrances I would say Rose Anonyme, Rose 31, and Rose Homme by Parfums Rosine…plus one more Voleur de Roses. I liked Rose 31, especially what I think is cumin. I am not bothered by cumin as I don’t smell the sweat factor. I love MKK since I mentioned sweat smell. No barnyard, no ummm…er…fecal note. Lol. I don’t understand the complaints I see other reviewers describe. Montecristo by Masque Milano or Mazzolari are, IMO, pretty sexy scents. I need something with projection and longevity, because my skin also seems to gobble up the juice. I spray twice, wait 5 minutes, repeat until I’ve evacuated the room. Ok, maybe its a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. I stay away from blue bottles, anything labled acqua or fraiche.
Yikes, speaking of an awful Montale, I smelled Cuir d’ Arabie (?) and, to me, was repulsive. It had a rancid smell. On the other hand, LM Parfums Hard Leather is another one I need to sample. I loved Puredistance M.
Pure rose would be Oriental first, followed by Chypre. I read about Tauer’s Rose Kandahar and the amazing flower. And now is the time to sample. You’re right. I wonder about SL Fille de Berlin? I smelled Anubis and consider that a contender for a bottle.
I’m very interested in natural perfumes, but hear they sometimes be shortlived. I didn’t realize how many existed until I searched for that particular genre. My head is spinning.
I’ll try to wrap this up for you:) Basically, I love an exotic, lush, spicy, heady and intoxicating elixir. Oh, I can’t leave out the wonderful world of oud! I’m late on that wagon, but it’s still rolling along. I am partial to T. Terenzi, The Different Company Oud Shamash, Nicolai Amber Oud, 10 Corso Como, Jubilation XXV, L’Artisan Al Oudh, 33 Ex Idolo and Comme des Garcons Wonderoud.
I hope this has given you somewhat of a feel for what I like. Once again, my brain moved faster than my fingers, so please excuse grammatical errors….:) Cheers and thanks again Kafka
This was a great way to learn more about your perfume tastes, Don, so thank you for taking the time. I had to laugh at “I stay away from blue bottles, anything labled acqua or fraiche.” ROFL! (So do I, so do I!) You also love a bit of skank in your fragrances, though perhaps not to the level of Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie. Interesting that you put Nicolai’s Amber Oud on your list, since the perfume doesn’t actually contain any agarwood (Nicolai’s representative confirmed it to me in an email), but the others certainly have some. It seems you’re not opposed to some ISO E or aromachemicals either, judging by Jubilation XXV (ISO E Super), Rose 31 (ISO E Super) and Comme des Garcons. But that’s good for you, as it means there are more things that you can enjoy.
For ambers, you simply must try Profumum Roma’s Ambre Aurea. I will send you an email about the best way to try that and some of the other fragrances that you have mentioned, and respond to your non-perfume stuff there. I have to get through a number of blog responses first, and it’s Thanksgiving, but I’ll try to do it by tonight. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂
K – Out of the three, Light My Fire was probably my favorite as Intoxicated was nice (and I’m sure the most marketable) but ultimately wearing and Smoke for the Soul was too gimmicky. I’ll have to pull out my sample of this again to see if I can note the vetiver like you did. Thanks for the link love and Happy Thanksgiving!
Light My Fire sounded wonderful on you, my sweets. Really nice. The problem with me is that my skin can really take base notes and run with them. Aromachemicals and vetiver are two common culprits, but I really didn’t expect Light My Fire to turn into such a vetiver-centric fragrance for hours on end. One day, if we ever meet, I’ll have to sniff all of these fragrances on you, as I’m sure you smell sexy as hell in them. (Particularly your vintage fragrances!)
As for Smoke for the Soul, gimmicky… heh. Well, no-one can say that Kilian isn’t timely in his approach or can’t see a new trend when it’s happening. With so many states making marijuana legal in one way or another, cannabis is becoming quite a hot, mainstream thing. He’s one smart cookie, Kilian!
Happy Thanksgiving, my sweet. Tell your husband to give you a kiss from me. 🙂
Happy belated Thanksgiving to you to my dear. I hope you have a fantastic day… I know I ate my share of deliciousness and have succumbed to wearing sweatpants today! xoxoxoox
Alpha male macho brutishness is hilarious. I like heliotrope so that intrigues me. Smoke for the soul sounds disturbing. I am scared! I love cardamom but Intoxicated’s tsunami of it may be a bit too much for my mind’s nose right now. I’ll stick to some of my new loves for now. all inspired by your articles.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving my darling K. What will be your TG day scent?
I hope you’re having a great Thanksgiving, too. As for the perfumes, they may be worth a sniff for you, if you happen to come across them in a store, since you do like dark, smoky fragrances but keep your expectations low. As for my Thanksgiving Scent, nothing from my own collection, alas, as I’m testing a fragrance. My testing schedule hasn’t let up much, I’m afraid. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, my sweet! 🙂
Interestingly enough, on my skin I rather enjoyed Smoke for the Soul. It was green and tarry but after the strong cannabis notes the effect was like a warm vetiver with milk chocolate accents. I put Fou D’Absinthe on my other hand and its chocolatey anise felt similar to Smoke for the Soul (openings are very different). A scent sensitive friend of mine said she actually saw the similarity and liked both on me. All 3 Addictives work on my skin, Light My Fire the least–it’s opening feels flat, dark, and unpleasant.
At the Scent Bar event featuring Kilian himself, he recommended Light My Fire to several people. It’s what he wears.
All in all I agree about the by Kilian line.
Welcome to the blog, Danica. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Smoke for the Soul and Light My Fire. The former’s “milk chocolate accents” on your skin sound very nice. 🙂 Unfortunately, my skin seemed to amplify the tarry aspect more than anything else. How was Light My Fire “dark and unpleasant” on you? Too much tar?
Thanks! I read you all the time and enjoy the reviews and the thoughtfulness you put into all of them and the blog itself.
I need to try Light My Fire again–I was at Scent Bar when I tried it, twice, and after smelling the top notes Carlos said, ‘whew, that’s a lot to get through for the dry down:’ It was tar, but flat and heavy like wet mulch with wet burnt accents. There was nothing radiant about it. Then it was an indistinct food spice note over an emerging appealing honeyed tobacco and about fifteen minutes later it was better, an hour later quite delicious and appealing. There’s a way that the air at Scent Bar changes the fragrances so I have to test it again in more day-to-day conditions. It may smell better out in the open air.
You’re very good with descriptions and really conveyed well how Light My Fire was on your skin. 🙂 Unfortunately for you, the opening sounds unpleasant indeed. And, alas, you got the foodie aspect, too, even if it was indistinct and short-lived. Still, it sounds like the difficult parts only lasted for 75 minutes on you and if you really found the rest to be “delicious and appealing,” then I think you’re right to re-test the fragrance in other conditions. I hope it turns out well for you and that you enjoy it as much as you did the other two fragrances in the Addictive line.
I am dropping by late as usual.
Some days ago I ordered two sample pouches from the bykilian European website because I wanted to smell Apple Brandy at last as well as three of the extra expensive oud scents.
What I received was one pouch, and the oud samples had numbers on them: 28, 29, 30.
Well then, as usual the order has already been paid in full so I am now waiting for an answer from their customer service.
This has not so much to do with the latest scents but with the fact of high class appearance.
By the way, one of the samples I did not receive was Smoke for the Soul. I own a small decant and would have liked a spray bottle because I like the Cannabis note, even though in my opinion there’s a better one in the overall more accomplished “L’Eau Guerrière” by Parfumérie Générale.
Nice to see you, Petra. I hope you’ve been doing well. With regard to the Kilian samples that you received, I’m a little confused. They had a “high class appearance” despite not having the actual perfume names on the vials, only numbers?
BTW, is Apple Brandy now available on Kilian’s European website? If so, that’s great new. I always thought it a shame that one of his better fragrances was a New York/US exclusive, and not widely distributed.
I’m very glad that you found my Fragrantica review of Smoke for the Soul entertaining! I’m new to the reviewing thing (and can hardly even consider myself a reviewer), but your blog is a wonderful and inspiring model of how it should be done. In fact, your blog is responsible for helping me to think more deeply about fragrances, and for that I will be forever grateful.
On Smoke for the Soul, I don’t get the chemical harshness that you describe, however I don’t have the same nose for identifying synthetics (although I am starting to become more sensitive to them). To my nose it is a very realistic marijuana scent, which is perhaps what bothers me the most.
If I were to psychoanalyze myself, I would find that my immediate disgust and displeasure for the scent is drawn from an association to catching whiffs of people who have just been smoking marijuana. It’s fascinating how much of an olfactory impression is drawn from one’s life experiences.
I can completely understand how mental associations can influence your feelings about a scent, and I completely agree with you about one’s life experiences. A perfumer once told me that “we smell through our mind,” and I think that is very true. Our brain filters the aroma molecules it detects through the prism of our past experiences, our perceptions of those experiences, and our subjective valuations of things (for good or bad). It’s very hard to detach an aroma from that background and to analyze it with clinical objectivity. Some would probably argue that it’s not possible at all. The simple truth is that smell isn’t like Plato’s Cave where something has an innate character, because we’re human and ascribe a value to that thing. For example, we see a rose’s sweetness as either velvety rich or gooey sweet.
So, ultimately, everything is subjective, and the fact that skin chemistry can make such profound alterations from one person to another doesn’t help matters much. I think the trick is to try to be as factual as possible within the confines of that subjectivity. Or, perhaps, “Specific” is a better term than “factual.” And the more one smells, the more specific or “factual” one can be.
I don’t know if any of that helps you in terms of how you think and analyze scent, but I hope you won’t interpret it as condescension because that is not my goal. I do think that there is a huge value in terms of dissecting how a fragrance appears on one’s skin, because it helps you not only understand a certain fragrance more but also, in many cases, to appreciate it more. Smelling things from afar in terms of the overall bouquet and how it appears merely on the surface is only part of the picture, imo. It doesn’t teach one much, so if you really want to develop your nose, it helps to dig deeper. It sounds like you have the interest, curiosity, and intellect for that, which I think is GREAT! 🙂
Apologies for the late reply.
Yes, I can see how smell is incredibly subjective. A great article on this subject is the new(ish) GQ piece featuring Roja Dove, wherein Roja explains how scent associations from childhood can linger long into one’s adult years. The examples he used were eye-opening. (Incidentally, I love Roja’s near psychoanalytical approach to perfume)
Thanks for the tips on how to analyze scent – I don’t find it condescending at all! Your style is magnificent and the finished product inspirational, and I certainly appreciate any “behind the scenes” guidance I can get.
Just posted my first ever review on Fragrance Daily (http://fragrancedaily.com/themasculinerose/). Amateurish, definitely, but one must begin somewhere!
Again, I appreciate your information and inspiration :).
Intoxicated may not smell like the coffee you’d get from Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts etc, but on first spray, it smells exactly like a hot pot of Arabic/Turkish coffee would. When I put it on, I cant but help to imagine/remember sitting down in the mornings with my grandfather to have some coffee. The smell is spot on. I think people may be expecting western coffee, when in reality this is the smell of middle eastern/Arabic coffee which contains a lot of cardamom. I think if their intention was for it to be an Arabic coffee/Turkish coffee smell then they definitely hit it out of the park. It has a nostalgic element for me. I love that first spray when I put it on in the morning.
Totally agree this smells like coffee don’t get the comments that are being said about this fragrance!!!