“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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.