Black Phantom (“Memento Mori”), the latest fragrance from By Kilian, is a fragrance that is a far cry from the terms and imagery surrounding it. The phrase “Memento Mori” means “remember you must die” in Latin, and was given to objects which were meant to make you ponder or remember your mortality, like skulls. And, indeed, a glittering black skull is placed right on top of Black Phantom’s perfume box.
“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.
In France’s wine country, in a parallel universe, there is a cognac estate covered by acres of fruit trees whose heavy, sun-ripened treasures drip their sweet juices straight into oak barrels filled with rum and brandy. There, the rich stew of rum raisin, orange, and plums is infused with vanilla, the light powder of tonka, and cocoa. There is a suggestion of grape flowers that swirls in the air, vying with caramel and dry woods that are streaked with the tiniest vein of smokiness. As night falls, the golden booziness fades away, leaving a cozy sheath of creamy vanilla woods. The date is 1270, the golden blend is called 1270, and the estate is the ancient one of the House of Frapin.
Frapin is relatively new to the perfume scene, having started just six years ago in 2008, but the line has been making luxury cognac for centuries. In fact, the family behind it goes back almost 800 years. To quote a Vanity Fair article,
The Frapin’s rich family heritage is the stuff of a whimsical, old-world romance novel—and, according to creative director David Frossard, the key inspiration for all seven fragrances in the line. One of the oldest and most established families in France, the Frapins have been distilling cognac from their original Fontpinot Castle, situated on 300 hectares in the Grand Champagne region of France, since 1270 and through 20 generations; they expanded into fragrance in 2008. And if a castle isn’t enough of a fairy tale for you, Louis XIV himself granted official nobility to the Frapin family in 1697.
Frapin, as a perfume house, is perhaps best known for its 1270 fragrance which is an eau de parfum created by Sidonie Lancesseur and released in 2010. In the press copy quoted by many sites, Frapin explains the meaning behind the 1270 name, as well as what the scent is meant to evoke:
Named for the year the Frapin family established itself in the Cognac region of France (and continues to make cognac to this day), 1270 was created by Beatrice Cointreau, great granddaughter of Pierre Frapin.
Together with Frapin’s Cellar Master, she sought to create a noble fragrance full of the scents surrounding the creation of cognac. 1270 is dry, rich, velvety and smooth.
The flowers of the once-proud Folle Blanche (a grape nearly extinct from the region), the vineyard grass, the wine warehouse, the rich smell of damp earth in the cellars, the wood of new casks, the loamy smell of humus where the ancestral cognacs are stored- all these notes can be detected in 1270. Gorgeous is putting it mildly… this scent defies flowery prose.
Top: Candied Orange, Nut, Raisin, Plum, Cocoa, Tonka Bean, Coffee
Heart: Vine Flower, Everlasting Flower [Immortelle], Linden Blossom (Tilia), Pepper, Spices
Base: Woods, Guaiac Wood, White Honey, Vanilla
1270 opens on my skin with Bourbon vanilla and light brandy booziness, followed by juicy oranges, dark plums, caramelized cooked raisins, and a tiny sprinkling of cocoa powder. There is also the faintest suggestion of sweetened powder from the tonka vanilla. As a whole, 1270 feels quite concentrated, but also very light at the same time.
My immediate, first impression is of a deliciously cozy, warm fragrance that feels comforting and soothing. I particularly like how well-balanced the notes are, from the boozy cognac (which sometimes veers into rum territory), the fruited juiciness, and 1270’s overall sweetness. Neither element feels out of whack with the others. Even better, the perfume isn’t painfully sweet or cloying on my skin at all. For someone like myself who isn’t particularly enthused by gourmand fragrances and who shies away from extreme sweetness, 1270 feels just right.
A vague woodiness lurks in 1270’s background, evoking the image of old cognac barrels made out of oak. At first, it is merely a light touch, but it starts almost immediately to seep towards the core bouquet of notes. On my skin, that bouquet is primarily of a boozy, fruited sweetness dominated by rum-raisin and caramelized Bourbon vanilla. The orange notes are muted at this point, as is the light dusting of cocoa powder. One of my favorite parts is the odd sensation of grape flowers (does such a thing even exist?) that pops up every now and then. It’s a subtle floralacy with a nuance of dark, damask grapes, and much more interesting than the more typical rum-raisin molasses.
1270 slowly begins to shift. The muted touch of cocoa suddenly becomes quite prominent after 40 minutes, as does the orange. The perfume feels like a dance of swirling elements, from the cocoa-dusted oranges, to the brandy-rum, and the tonka vanilla. The woody accord looks on from the sidelines, biding its time and letting the main fruited elements shine in the spotlight. The wood note still feels primarily like oak, but the guaiac is slowly becoming more noticeable as well. As for the vanilla, its Bourbon-like nuances slowly fade, replaced by the delicate, very cozy, soothing touches of pure tonka. I keep thinking of caramelized vanilla, even though tonka really has nothing to do with that, but something in 1270 underscores that impression.
At first, 1270 is simultaneously both a very potent scent, and a really sheer one. It almost feels thin in its gauziness. The notes themselves are strong, but not the weight of the perfume. Even the sillage is soft. Though 1270 initially wafts 2-3 inches above the skin, the projection drops quickly after 20 minutes. By the end of the first hour, 1270 hovers a mere inch above the skin. It turns into a skin scent shortly before the 2.25 hour mark, lingering on for many more hours as a discrete cozy cocoon of warmth that feels quite suitable as an office scent.
1270’s first major change occurs at the end of 90 minutes. At that point, the woody element leaps onto center stage, pushing the cognac fruits back, and dancing with the tonka vanilla. 1270 has suddenly transformed into a tonka vanilla scent thoroughly infused with dry woods and a light nuance of smoky darkness lurking deep in its base. The guaiac is now more evident than the oak, but there feels as though a touch of cedar is flitting about, too.
About 2.5 hours into the perfume’s development, the woods grow smoother, but also a touch smokier as well. Guaiac can sometimes have the aroma of autumnal leaves burning in a bonfire, and there is the lightest suggestion of that here in 1270 as well. The leaves are lightly dusted by an amorphous blend of spices, but the main bouquet is of soft vanilla woods. Something about the overall combination reminds me of a more refined, more elegant version of Imaginary Author‘s Memoirs of a Trespasser, but without the latter’s synthetics, guaiac sourness, or stale nuances. 1270 continues to manifest a lingering trace of cognac fruitiness at its edges, but I don’t detect any immortelle with its maple syrup characteristics. There is no linden blossom either on my skin, and absolutely zero coffee.
A lovely creaminess arrives at the start of the 4th hour, transforming the vanilla woods into something richer and warmer. It muffles the touch of smokiness, turning 1270’s main focus back to tonka coziness with dry woods and vanilla. The latter is a lovely note that feels as silky as ice-cream, but never too sweet. An abstract floral element pops up every now and then; it feels like a white flower, but still nothing like lemony linden blossoms. The cognac fruits continue to linger on at the edges, but they are the tiniest, muted touch now. The same thing applies to the sprinkles of spice that, occasionally, seem like cinnamon.
As a whole, 1270 is primarily a swirl of rich, creamy tonka vanilla with oaked woods. And it remains that way for hours to come. A few secondary notes wax and wane in the distance, but the core essence of the perfume is quite linear. 1270 simply turns more sheer and translucent, a mere trace of golden silkiness on the skin. In its final moments, 1270 is a smear of something vaguely vanillic that is alternatively sweet and a little dry.
Every time I wore 1270, I kept thinking about how it would be a great office fragrance for someone who wanted a very personal, subtle touch of warm sweetness. 1270’s longevity adds to this impression, as 3 small spritzes from my atomizer resulted in a fragrance that remained an incredibly long time on my skin. The two times that I tried 1270, it consistently lasted over 10 hours: roughly 10.75 hours with a small quantity, and 12.5 with double the amount. In all cases, however, I had to put my nose right on the skin, and sniff hard to detect it after 6 hours. This is a very intimate, discreet fragrance. As a side note, I happen to think that 1270 skews a tiny bit feminine, primarily because of the lightly powdered tonka, but there are quite a few men who adore the scent, so it’s going to come down to your personal tastes.
Reading the reactions to 1270 on Luckyscent was interesting because they range all over the place. Some people rave about 1270 as the most delicious thing ever, while a few simply shrug. One woman finds the perfume to be too masculine, while a man thought it was too feminine. A few people talk about how 1270 smells like pineapples, while others talk about either vanilla butterscotch, rum raisins, or honeyed flowers. One person complains that it actually was not boozy at all. For some, it is too sweet, while others say think it is just perfect. A number of people aren’t enthused by the opening, but love the “spicy,” “warm” drydown. Others fall in love immediately from the start. There is also absolutely no agreement on how long the fragrance lasts, its potency, or its sillage. One person wrote about how 1270 was heartbreakingly fleeting, others say it lasts forever. As you can see, there is no consensus — on anything at all.
On Fragrantica, it’s almost the same story. However, judging by the votes given in the longevity and sillage categories, there does seem to be more of an agreement. For duration, there were 29 votes for Moderate (3-6 hours) and 25 for Long-Lasting (7-12 hours). In terms of sillage, the vast majority (53 people) found 1270 to have the lowest amount of projection possible, voting for the “soft” category, followed by 32 people choosing “moderate.”
I was interested to see that, once again, the issue of pineapple came up in terms of what people detected in 1270. For quite a few people actually, though most seemed to love it. One chap writes, in part:
The pineapple note is the first thing that hits you and it’s sweet and realistic then there’s a coffee, patchouli, cacao, vanilla wonderfully Nutty gourmand thing.
1270 is a class act from start to finish it makes you smell edible…positively edible. I don’t mean this in a ridiculous sense but in a deeply sensual way. The pineapple is persistent and you do get a jammy, plummy little bit figgy thing too it’s an immense fragrance.
If you couldn’t tell I adore this scent my first impressions have been very good however it didn’t last very long on my skin. Once again a second wear should yield answers regarding longevity.
Update: Upon wearing a second time I’m just as captivated as when I first caught a whiff of this lovely juice. To me the prominent notes are pineapple, cacao and wood. It’s almost like a pineapple upside-down cake covered in nutella, it has a kind of caramelized quality without being too sweet. I think that’s because of the honey element and the fact that it doesn’t feel ‘blended’ particularly, more like the pineapple sits right on the top and feels juicy and clear compared to the warm,sweet base. I adore this fragrance and really want it but the performance is a bit of a let down and it doesn’t project. Despite this it smells really really good[.]
Other posters had a vastly different experience. I was surprised to see that, for a few people, 1270 actually did have a coffee aroma, mixed in with all the rest. For a handful, plum was much more noticeable. Below are some other impressions of 1270, from women and men alike, including a review from someone who doesn’t like cognac but loves this fragrance:
- It would be a strange choice for someone who doesn’t even like/drink cognac, but…love at first sniff! Warm and cozy, this scent envelops you and carries away. A co-worker told me that a woman wearing this scent does not belong in the mundane office environment, more like a gent’s club where expensive cigars are being smoked, expensive leathers are everywhere you look, expensive drinks are being poured. [¶] No great projection or longevity. It is a very intimate scent. However, and maybe for this exact reason, I want to hold on to it and never let it go.
- The opening made me fall in love with this perfume. best opening ever! I couldn’t believe how good this smelled. it’s a delicious raisin/plummy/sweet honey/coffee/vanilla combo. Incredibly blended. I’ve heard a couple people say this reminds them of butterscotch, and I can see that too I guess. 1270 has two distinct phases on my skin. 1st- the awesome opening which lasts an hour or two. 2nd- a subtle vanilla drydown that goes away way too quickly. This perfume lasts a total of about 2 to 3 hours on me. This would be my signature if not for the poor longevity. Still and all, I will always always own a bottle of this, no matter how quick it disappears on me. love it love it love it.
- Legitimate liquor in the form of perfume. [¶] 1270 is somewhat spicy, also boozy, however, the fruity notes are outstanding, most notably plum, who joins perfectly to honey, a mix warm and sweet, and later comforted by creamy vanilla. [¶] It creates the appearance gourmand, but feel a background resin, coffee or chocolate, something like that, delightfully well done, a scent so perfect that I do not care about the projection, i walk with a decant.
- This perfume gyrates all sweetness and spice without tip-toeing over the line into cloying. Far too simple for my tastes at this price tag, however, but a lovely, comforting fragrance nonetheless. I wish Frapin had walked the line a little tighter, risked a little more for a truly unforgettable fragrance instead of this very lovely, but very safe bet.
- Initially I loved it, a rich gourmand scent with my favorite vanilla tonka accord. Yum. Sniffing it was so satisfying with the pineapple, plum and coffee smells and it was sweet and somehow chewy like Panforte. My only hesitation was that it was maybe too masculine for me. Well I got over the masculine problem but what finally kept this from being a “love” is the longevity. On me it doesn’t last more than six hours and if I’m going to spend this kind of money I’d like it to last all day. Also, as the weather has gotten warmer, I’ve found it somehow smells more musky and manly. I’ll try it again in when the weather cools down[.]
A few men find 1270 to be similar to Thierry Mugler‘s A*men line, with one saying “[t]his is a beautiful fragrance….a niche version of Pure Malt with more natural ingredients.” However, a number of other people think that 1270 is merely pleasant, but without sufficient complexity or uniqueness. I don’t think they’re wrong on that score. 1270 is extremely nice, but it’s not the most original, edgy, complicated or nuanced fragrance around.
However, in all fairness, that is not Frapin’s goal. They seek to make boozy fragrances with refined, top-notch ingredients for a scent that is comforting, cozy, luxurious and sweet. The price tag for that is, currently, $145 or €105 for a large 100 ml bottle, a decent figure which is quite moderate by the admittedly skewed standards of the niche world. Even better, you can still find 1270 in a few places for much less. (See the Details section at the end.) So, is this a scent that is worth $145? That will depend strongly on your personal tastes, and on how long 1270 lasts on your skin. It certainly smells expensive to me, and feels high-quality in nature.
Two minor, unrelated issues are worth mentioning. First, a handful of people on Luckyscent have stated that they think 1270 has been reformulated, as their recent purchases reflected a scent that is markedly different from what they had once owned. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, as all perfumes seem to get watered down or reformulated into something weaker after a while. Second, there seems to be a weird situation on a number of retail sites, including Frapin’s own e-boutique itself, where 1270 is the one perfume in the range which is unavailable or unlisted. 1270 has not been discontinued, as it is Frapin’s flagship fragrance, so I can only assume that it has sold out.
As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed 1270, but I wasn’t moved by passionate love. It’s nice, very nice, but it’s a little hard to get excited about 1270 and I can’t figure out why. Perhaps it is because, at its core, 1270 is both uncomplicated and very discreet, two things that aren’t my personal cup of tea. Perhaps, I simply find it hard to lose my crackers over very sweet vanillic scents. I don’t know. That said, I definitely think that 1270 is worth trying if you’re looking for a very intimate, cozy fragrance that is an easy, “wearable,” “grown-up gourmand.”
Given the very sharp divergence in opinions, however, I don’t think 1270 is suitable for a blind buy. Maybe, it will turn to caramelized “pineapple upside-down cake covered in nutella” on you, or will feel too much like something suitable for someone of the opposite gender. 1270 might be a “fleeting heartbreaker,” or perhaps it lasts but turns out to be too sweet for your personal tastes. Try before you buy!