By Kilian Single Malt

“Unnecessary” is the politest summation I can come up for to describe Single Malt, the new fragrance from By Kilian. “Derivative, regurgitated tripe” is a little closer to my true feelings. You can toss “monolithically singular,” “boring,” “unbalanced,” and over-priced” in there, too.

Single Malt via

Single Malt via

Single Malt is an eau de parfum that was created by Sidonie Lancesseur, ostensibly and officially as an exclusive for Harrod’s of London. Be that as it may, Kilian has it on all his websites for purchase, just as Apple Brandy is now widely available despite initially being exclusive to his New York boutique. (It’s the same story with Vodka on the Rocks which was once limited solely to Moscow.) Like its siblings, Single Malt seeks to pay homage to its chosen city via the liquor that Kilian thinks is most closely associated with it. I personally would choose port for London for historical reasons, and single malt for Edinburgh, but Kilian says on his website:

This exclusive scent, created for the Harrods Boutique, is an homage to London and its most emblematic liquor: WHISKY.

The heart balances between the golden reflection of wheat absolute and the sweet yet sophisticated character of plum. The woodsy dry down of SINGLE MALT composed of cedarwood essence from texas enriched by the vanilla absolute from Magadascar and tolu balm from Colombia gives to this fragrance an unconventional identity.

The succinct list of notes therefore seems to be:

Wheat absolute, Plum, Cedarwood essence, Vanilla absolute, and Tolu Balsam.

Plum Brandy. Photo:  Landon Nordeman for

Plum Brandy. Photo: Landon Nordeman for

Single Malt opens on my skin with dense plum syrup that, for a brief moment, strongly brought to mind cough syrup. That soon passes, and is followed by wheat and vanilla that combine into a scotch accord. Dark, fruit-laden pipe tobacco emerges right on its heels, so noticeable and strong that I’m astonished tobacco is not listed amongst the perfume’s notes. Slivers of woodiness poke out here and there, but they’re infinitesimal in the face of the syrupy plum, tobacco and vanilla which are so intertwined that they create the vision of a triple helix. Somehow, those central accords combine to smell alcoholic and, yes, even possibly like whisky at times in the early minutes, but the strongest impression I have is of plum barley wine infused with thick, solid chunks of pipe tobacco and vanilla syrup.

Photo  Source:

Photo Source:

I’ve drunk a lot of scotch in my life from the blended variety to single malt. I had eagerly hoped that the Kilian fragrance would resemble the Islay creations that are my favorite with their plethora of peat, smoke, salt, and earthiness, but I would have been equally happy with something milder and gentler. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be wearing plum syrup with pipe tobacco and vanilla. It reminds me more of French Prucia liqueur mixed with Calvados than any whisky that I’ve ever tried, blended or otherwise.

Source: Pinterest.

Tobacco Vanille. Source: Pinterest.

You know what it does resemble strongly and intensely? Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. In essence, Single Malt starts out as being Tobacco Vanille with a thin, alcoholic wheat facade instead of a brandy or rum one. Then, in less than 15 minutes, the fragrance grows boozier, sweeter, and thicker, and the minor veneer of wheat is replaced by a strong, heavy blanket of apple plum brandy instead. In a nutshell, it’s Tobacco Vanille doused with Sidonie Lancesseur’s other creation, Apple Brandy. I have samples or decants of both those fragrances, so I layered them on my other arm. Voila, Single Malt.



It’s sweet. Oh so very sweet. Sweeter, I think, than Tobacco Vanille by itself. So sweet and syrupy, so thickened with plums that grow stronger and more alcoholic with every passing moment that visions of cough syrup returned, even if there was nothing technically medicinal about the aroma. Even worse, there is almost nothing else to the scent at all but Tobacco Vanille+Apple Brandy. Nothing for hours on end except for a growing raspiness in the base. Apple Brandy contained hefty doses of Ambroxan, a very powerful aromachemical, and Single Malt’s strong dose of a profoundly similar brandy cocooned in amber leads me to think that it contains Ambroxan, too. Whatever the precise cause, there is something scratchy and raspy that develops (and remains) underneath all that alcoholic plum-tobacco-vanilla syrup.

Calvados apple brandy. Source: NYTimes.

Calvados apple brandy. Source: NYTimes.

The whole thing pulsates out in waves of great strength, flowing from my arms like some sort of force field on Star Trek, expanding from its initially moderate projection and taking on a billowing sillage that left me pinned down without escape. Using 3 smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, Single Malt opened with 3 inches of projection that soon grew to about 5 inches, with a scent trail that was double that, perhaps more.

There is little escape from Single Malt, which I wouldn’t mind so much if it were not so painfully boring. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if you like the scent in question — and, quite obviously, that is not the case here — but there is linearity and then there is being bludgeoned over the head repeatedly and with force. Single Malt has the unrelenting singularity of vision and monolithic character of a Panzer unit intent on a target. The blasted thing simply does not deviate from course from start almost to finish.

Pipe tobacco. Source: the Hookah report.

Pipe tobacco. Source: the Hookah report.

At best, there is the smallest shift in its balance of notes about 4.5 hours into its development. It might be a figment of my imagination or solely wishful thinking in my desperation for some sort of change — any change at all, no matter how minor — but I think Single Malt may be darker, smokier, woodier, less vanillic, less heavily boozy, and more centered on tobacco than plum. That said, the fragrance still smells exactly like Tobacco Vanille with Apple Brandy. It’s merely a smaller splash of Apple Brandy now, a short-lived increase in the tobacco, and a reduction of the vanilla. The plum at this point reminds me of fruitchouli with almost a rose-like bent, but that is a temporary impression. The more lasting and noticeable changes are an increase in Single Malt’s woodiness, and a parallel surge in the scratchy raspiness of the aromachemical in the base.



It’s not a true, pure, authentic whisky aroma, in my opinion. Profumum‘s Fumidus had an utterly glorious Laphroaig opening that was truly authentic, even if it didn’t last. Nobile‘s complex, gorgeous Rudis is filled with single-malt scotch for hours on end, though it also has other elements like red wine, saffron-covered roses, smoky woods, leather, and immortelle cream. Those fragrances actually smell like whisky. I have no idea how plum barley wine with plum-apple brandy and tobacco-vanille are meant to come close. Just because something smells alcoholic — and believe me, Single Malt is profoundly so — doesn’t mean that it’s accurate to a particular liquor.

Single Malt’s unrelenting singularity continues unabated until its final hours when it turns into simple caramel, ambered sweetness, much like the final moments of Apple Brandy. All in all, the fragrance lasted just shy of 12 hours. It turned into a skin scent at the end of 7 hours, though it was still easy to detect up close for a while to come. And I have to repeat that the sillage is simply huge on me, though my skin does tend to amplify both aromachemicals and booziness.



Single Malt has received mixed reviews thus far. Patty at The Perfume Posse liked the scent a lot because she found it to be a “boozier Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille,” with an opening that combined Kilian’s tobacco-centric Back to Black. There are no comments on Single Malt’s Fragrantica or Basenotes entry pages, but there are two Basenotes threads on the scent — and reactions there range from shrugging neutrality to outright dislike. In one thread, a single wearing of Single Malt made “Stache” regret his blind purchase (“This stuff sucks”) and, “within an hour of putting in the order, [he] sent an email to cancel it.” Single Malt made him feel as though he’d spilled malt whisky on himself, but the real problem was that the aroma was “sickly” to his nose, and the fragrance lacked complexity as a whole: “i smell malt, and I smell a gooey prune syrupy odor. That’s it. No complexity, no evolution in the drydown.” Another commentator, “NeoXerxes,” was more neutral, writing that Single Malt was more of an apple brandy fragrance than a whisky one: “It has a very distinctive apple and brandy note, so what you see is what you get, basically. I prefer other boozy scents, but this one is nice.”

In the second Basenotes thread, “ChocolateGuy” thought Single Malt resembled rum more than whisky, and also found it very linear. He writes:

To tell the truth, I quite like it, but don’t love it. The perfume itself has a very good staying power, but the sillage is weak. It doesn’t smell like perfume, but really like ( of course ) an alcohol drink. At first, I thought that Single Malt didn’t smell like whisky. It was very boozy, but the scent on my skin is warm and a little sweet. It gave me the feeling of rum more than whisky. Single Malt is a linear scent. It doesn’t change much on my skin.

Single Malt costs $295 or €235 for a 50 ml bottle. I think it’s over-priced for the scent in question. It’s derivative, not only of the cheaper Tom Ford (currently $215 for the same sized bottle), but also of Sidonie Lancesseur’s earlier Apple Brandy. It’s also incredibly boring, in my opinion. Tobacco Vanille with more booze. Big whoopsidoo. If you want a boozier, richer Tobacco Vanille but with a plethora of other notes, as well as opulent luxuriousness and a lot of development, try Roja Dove‘s Enigma (Creation-E). If you want actual single malt scotch but, again, with a plethora of other notes and complex development, then try the superb Rudis. If you want a heavily alcoholic but good apple brandy scent with linearity and no complexity, then go with Kilian’s earlier fragrance which is now widely available at both sample places and on his various websites.

If you absolutely can’t resist the thought of a single malt fragrance, please sample this one first and don’t buy blindly. On that note, I’ll end this review before I succumb to a blunter, more unfiltered commentary.

Cost & Availability: Single Malt is an eau de parfum that costs $295 or €235 for a refillable 50 ml bottle. I don’t see the cheaper, refill option listed. In the U.S.: Single Malt is available at Kilian’s U.S. website and perhaps his NYC store. Outside the U.S.: In London, you can find it at Harrod’s Salon de Parfums. You can also buy it directly from Kilian’s International and French websites. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Single Malt starting at $6.99 for a 1/2 ml vial, and ships worldwide.

29 thoughts on “By Kilian Single Malt

  1. Bludgeon. I’d say that isn’t a compliment about a scent but that word is among the nicer ones you used describing this one. $295? Hm…how does that happen?
    Not that I want to smell like single malt scotch personally, but even if I did then seemingly this scent wouldn’t help. Now plum brandy does remind me of my grandmother, who had one (only one) every Christmas!

    • This was the more toned-down version of my thoughts, as the first three drafts were much more… er… irritated, shall we say. As for plum brandy, there is a time and place for it and I think Christmas is definitely one of them. 🙂 An homage to whisky, not so much.

  2. oh dear. On the up side, that $295 will buy you rather more than 50ml of absolutely superb whisky.

    Rather than dwelling on the gooey confusion of this–and I’m so sorry you put up with these hours of stickiness to save us–here’s a small story. Once upon a time I took myself off to a small island in the Western Isles to finish writing a book. It was a while ago (and a very boring technical book). There was, then, no bridge. To reach where I was staying, instead, you had to take reach the port on Harris, take a ferry, and then walk. As you walked, you’d hope someone would drive past, perhaps the postman. They would, of course, give you a lift past the village, up and over the island, to the end of the road. You’d then walk–or rather, leap from tussock to tussock across the rather boggy peaty ground, past the loch, and down over the sheep-nibbled swards of salty grass, across a thin ribbon of land, to the isthmus and the lighthouse cottages at the end.

    It was only after I arrived that I found that the island was dry. No booze on the island at all. Not a drop. So, one day I reversed the journey, with a ferry back to the hotel across the road from the dock where I bought a bottle of single malt, waited two hours for the ferry’s return, schlepped back up the hill, and finally leaped and hopped across soggy peat, unpacked my backpack and poured a glass. And I sat on the cliffs and watched the seals playing, and the rainclouds swirling away, with the best glass of whisky I had ever drunk in my life. Or, more accurately, tea cup of whisky. It was only Talisker, but with a spot of water that came through that peat, direct from the lighthouse loch, the epic adventure to fetch it, and the evening shadows falling, nothing could touch it.

    (Also, as an Edinburger, I am appalled by the london/whisky link. London is gin. No question. The name “Scotch” should have given the man a wee bit of a clue to its geographical origins, you’d think…)

    • Your story brought a smile to my face. All that effort to arrive, only to face a dry island with nary a drop of alcohol. Then your Talisker on the cliffs with a drop of peaty water from the loch…. my word, it sounds like a memory to cherish forever. (BTW, I love Talisker!!!!)

      As for the London/whisky link, it surprised me too. You’re right about gin being the logical choice, and I read a few others saying something similar. For me, steeped in all my historical fiction (and Regencies), it would be port but gin is definitely the factually appropriate choice. Perhaps Kilian was unwilling to make another watery, clear alcohol fragrance after his Vodka on the Rocks. (Not that the Russians I know EVER drink their vodka “on the rocks.”) Bah, don’t get me started. I will re-read your lovely story and imagine myself with a teacup of Talisker on the cliffs.

      • Oh I am so glad you enjoyed it! I was so very fortunate to be there–three whole weeks in such a beautiful place.

        My old local pub had a fantastic collection of whiskies, which was quite an education. Boringly, I can’t drink at all any more–meds that don’t mix–so I really rather miss that. Instead I just enjoy the layers of scent oiling around the glass when my beloved has a nip. It’s not the same…

        The port connection makes sense, in that context, but, ugh, the *headaches* port delivers. I was never a gin drinker, but some of the new craft/small gin distilleries popping up in recent years look like they are doing very interesting things indeed.

        • I’m not a gin drinker, either. It’s the sole alcohol I avoid as the smell alone makes me queasy, and I’m not a fan of gin fragrances for that same reason. lol You know, after your comment, I was thinking that Sherry would have been another good fit for historical reasons, probably far more so than port even (and especially if we look beyond the narrow confines of the late 18th/early 19th century) but then I kept coming back to the gin. For my own sake, I’m rather relieved Kilian didn’t go a gin scent as testing would have been very difficult for me. 😀

  3. This was one of your bad reviews that was a lot of fun. You didn’t suffer too much – there’s much worse than boring – and we get to hear you unabashedly say how you feel. You weren’t holding back, were you? Love it!!

    I am not much of a drinker, but I love boozy scents, and you’ve reminded me I need to try Rudis!

  4. Yeah true that. I could buy 5 bottles of Glenmorangie for the price of one BK Single Malt. Now Rudis. THAT is one I want to get my hands on a sample of. The single malt/red wine combo sounds yummy.

  5. I’ll have to pass on this one, thanks, but I must say Rudis is wonderful stuff. 😉

  6. Oh, wait, you did hold back! LOL! Y’know, I have to read things three times before I get the whole thang ’cause I am an unabashed skimmer, being a voracious reader of too much every day. . .as I re-read and while I’m writing this, basking in the scent of the glorious slumberhouse Kiste, it pains me to think how much hype and nonsense goes into Kilian’s stuff. I do love a few of the line, but those prices, the packaging, the intense marketing machine. . .well, I don’t get the luxury market, really. I care about quality above all else and don’t give a hoot about the status of what I like. Sure, I love me a pretty bottle now and again, but really. . .I suppose it’s rather an odd place to be to love perfume so very much and care so very little for conspicuous consumption? Hope you don’t mind my tangential rant here, though I’m not sure it’s all that tangential. :-p

    • Heh, no, it’s not wholly tangential, particularly given how the Kilian city/drinks homages are definitely wrapped up in some serious marketing, just like the Le Labo City Exclusives are. In all candour, part of what I had held back was about the hype and marketing surrounding all the Kilian fragrances. Let’s just say it’s not my thing. 😉

      • Oh how I’d like to read what you think about the hype and marketing! So, leave it to readers like me to complain. . .though, really, I was holding back, too.

  7. It’s ridiculous, but also somewhat annoying that Kilian Hennessy (of all people) thinks that Single Malt Whisky is the most emblematic liquor of London… He must be kidding ! I adore a glass of fine single malt, but I’m not sure I want to smell like one. But as of now I go for a compromise : will put a spritz or two of Enigma on my wrist and drink a glass (or two…) of Talisker – cheers, dear Franz, thank you for saving me again.

    • A glass of Talisker combined with Roja Dove’s Enigma = SUPER combination!!! Your style supercedes all, Mi’Lady, and I bow down to both you and it.

  8. Wow, you’ve seriously toned down this review! Single Malt appeals to me as you can probably guess. I personally don’t care about back stories – so if there’s a perfume called Appletini made with apples grown in Dubai by a transplanted New Yorker with some story about how that came about, I’ll just be entertained and move on :-).

    Regarding how Single Malt = TF Tobacco Vanille + BK Apple Brandy, which one did you layer on first? Also, what are your thoughts on combining both in an atomizer?

    • Tobacco Vanille on the bottom, Apple Brandy sprayed on top. As for combining them both in an atomizer, I have no idea what will happen but think it’s definitely worth a test try if you go for a very small bottle at first.

      As for backstories, if we are to use your analogy, would you care if a fragrance were called and marketed as Appletini, intended to be purely a tribute to that particular drink, but smelled practically nothing like it and you actually ended up with an oud or vetiver fragrance instead? Because the issue here is not backstories but how the fragrance does not resemble what it is marketed and alleged to be. I’ve never come across a single malt that smells SWEET, syrupy, and like plums, vanilla, apples and pipe tobacco. So, with my apologies, dearest one, I don’t think your backstory or Appletini example is the perfect analogy here.

      • Point taken, my dear. Bottom line, I read the notes and reviews and comments and mentally decide which side of the ledger it goes. I probably end up missing some of the good ones or getting sucked in to the bad ones but overall, this hobby is a fun ride 🙂

  9. I was saddened to read your review of Single Malt. I own several Killian fragrances, mostly his Oud variations, and like them very much. Since he is a descendent of the Hennessy cognac family, I woud expect him to capture the essence of any genre of booze. Therefore I was expecting to read about its similarity to my personal favorite, Lagavulin 16. I haven’t been able to get a sample of Kilian’s single malt, but I received a sample of Rudis from Luckyscent, and a sample of Fumidus from Osswald, which I’m looking forward to trying. I wonder if Calice Becker would have captured the Lagavulin/Laphroig experience.

    • Laguvulin 16…. mmmm, good stuff. Are you in the U.S., Guy? If so, Surrender to Chance sells samples of Single Malt. I hope you will let me know how you fare with Rudis and Fumidus. The Kilian, too, if you get to test it.

      • I am indeed in the US. New York City in fact. I started this journey of scent at the Kilian counter at Saks a few years ago and have been exploring ever since. Josie at Osswald introduced me to your blog, and has hit the mark with many samples based on my tastes. By the way, I tried Bogue’s MAAI. All I can say is Oh Maai God!

        • Josie is a sweetheart in addition to being very knowledgeable about fragrances *AND* having a truly rare ability to sum up customers’ tastes quickly and to accurately guide them towards scents that would work perfectly for them. She’s a gem on a number of levels. I’m glad she introduced you to the blog, and I look forward to getting to know both you and your perfume tastes better, Guy. So far, we’re off to a good start: Laguvulin 16 and Maai! BTW, your “Oh Maai God” made me snort out loud. 🙂 It is that indeed, most definitely.

          On a totally tangential note, one fragrance that recently made me go “Oh My God” was Slumberhouse’s Kiste. If you love tobacco, spices, some sweetness, and great warmth, then I’d highly recommend that you try that one.

          • I have a sample of Kiste which came in a monthly sample bag from either Luckyscent or Twisted lily. I haven’t gotten to that one yet. I guess you could say, “your Kiste is on my liste”

          • You’re terrible!!!! Hall & Oates would be so proud! 😉 lol I guessing you’re not too shy, shy, hush, hush (for us to see) eye to eye. Hopefully, Kiste will spin you right round, like a record, baby. I’ll save a prayer that you end up hungry like the wolf for more, and that it makes you feel both forever young and big in Japan….

            Oh God, I miss the 80s so much!

  10. I’m officially sad 🙁 Without any good reason I hoped this perfume would smell like one of my favorite whiskeys, e.g. Talisker. I like them smoky. On the positive side, I can buy a couple of Distillers Edition bottles with the money saved.

    • Talisker is lovely. You know what I think you might enjoy quite a bit, Undina? Rudis from Nobile 1942. You love good red wine, as well as single malt scotch, and roses, and I think you enjoy leather and immortelle creaminess/suede as well. So, Rudis might really work well for you. I hope you get to try it. It was one of my favorite releases last year.

Comments are closed.