When you’re the heir to a sizeable fortune (in this case, the H in LVMH, as in Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), it’s understandable if you decide to join the ranks of the idle rich.
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If you’re Kilian Hennessy, however, you put the rarefied world at your disposal to good use by founding your own luxury brand, the Paris-based niche fragrance house Kilian, in 2007.
Say what you like about the prices of Kilian perfumes, but the best Kilian fragrances have hedonistic opulence in abundance. And kudos to the man for leading the way in the eco credentials by pioneering refillable bottles. No wonder The Estée Lauder Companies snapped up his company in 2016.
With the brand’s emphasis on all things pleasurable (see the Party With Kilian section on the website), it’s not surprising gourmands and boozy scents feature prominently. But as you’ll see from our selection here, there are fabulous freshies to consider too.
When the brand celebrated its 15th year in the biz in 2022, what struck us most was the cohesiveness of the various collections: The Liquors, The Fresh, The Narcotics, The Cellars, and The Smokes. And that it’s very much about a lifestyle – glam to some, flashy to others.
Best Kilian Fragrances
Kilian Love Don’t Be Shy Edp (Calice Becker)
The brand’s launch fragrance Kilian Love Don’t Be Shy Edp (2007), part of The Narcotics Collection, announced the Kilian template loud and clear.
Citrus notes of neroli and bergamot are followed by a bouquet of lush floral notes: honeysuckle rose and, in particular, orange blossom absolute (with an animalic emphasis). But it’s the seemingly innocent marshmallow accord that makes this one irresistible.
It was already popular but received a major boost when word got out that it was apparently Rihanna’s favorite perfume.
Kilian Hennessy wanted his debut fragrance to be a gourmand but not in the vein of the ethyl maltol-patchouli Mugler Angel. There’s no doubt that perfumer Calice Becker, who also created many other Kilian standouts, more than delivered on the brief.
Kilian Straight to Heaven Edp (Sidonie Lancesseur)
The dark booziness in the opening of this 2007 release from The Cellars Collection, Straight to Heaven Edp, is unmistakable thanks to a shot of rum.
It’s quite intense, so give it time to settle with the creaminess of vanilla, the sensual stickiness of dried fruit, and the earthiness of nutmeg.
The drydown seems the warm spiciness of patchouli contrasted with the freshness of cedar.
It’s not as animalic as the brand makes it out to be, but that doesn’t stop it from being a wonderfully rich treat.
Kilian Back to Black, Aphrodisiac Edp (Calice Becker)
The style we most associate Kilian with is decadent luxury, and Back to Black reflects that ethos perfectly. From The Smokes Collection, this 2009 release is a fan favourite for good reason.
From the get-go, delectable honey is infused with cardamom, nutmeg and saffron. Touches of herbal chamomile and soft cedar make an appearance too, but it’s the combo of tobacco, vanilla and incense that sets this EDP apart. So sensual and smoky.
We approach overly sweet fragrances with caution, but when they are done this well and in such a sophisticated manner, we make an exception.
Kilian Bamboo Harmony Edp (Calice Becker)
We tend to associate Kilian fragrances with hedonism, in the best sense of the word. So Kilian Bamboo Harmony EDP is something of a surprising change in tone.
From The Fresh Collection, this 2012 release is every bit as peaceful as it sounds and lives up to its inspiration, “a sip of pure white tea in a bamboo forest”, in style.
The opening is all about citrus freshness, with bergamot and bigarade at the fore.
Perfumer Calice Becker infuses the composition with relaxing white tea leaves, while mimosa enhances the green mood. The moss note in the drydown maintains the tranquillity.
A great bedtime choice when you need a calming mist.
Kilian Intoxicated Edp (Calice Becker)
Can a spicy blend be intoxicating, almost in a boozy way? Normally, we would say no. But Kilian’s 2014 release from The Cellars Collection, Intoxicated EDP, accomplishes just that with impressive results.
Inspired by a cup of the finest Turkish coffee, it’s enticing from the start. Definitely a dark roast with an overdose of green cardamom (oil and absolute, no diluting our pleasure here please). Its heady, aromatic richness is complemented by powdery cinnamon and earthy nutmeg.
The vanilla, thick and creamy, adds to the beauty of the brew without it becoming overly sweet.
We’ll have another shot, oops, cup of the dark stuff please.
Kilian Vodka on the Rocks Edp (Sidonie Lancesseur)
While several Kilian fragrances have a boozy vibe and an entire collection, The Liquors, is devoted to their thrills, Kilian’s 2014 release from The Fresh Collection, Vodka on the Rocks EDP, takes a more abstract approach.
Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur uses olfactory tricks to create the effect of this spirit on ice. She maximises the cool spiciness of coriander and cardamom with assistance from aldehydes.
A rhubarb accord and lily-of-the-valley give it crisp greenery, while Ambroxan and oakmoss ensure the refreshment lingers into the drydown.
Kilian Smoke for the Soul Edp (Fabrice Pellegrin)
Kilian Smoke for the Soul Edp is a 2014 release from The Smokes Collection opens with an intriguing smoky rendition of cannabis. It’s noticeable and lingers for some time.
The sharpness of camphorous eucalyptus and bitter grapefruit mellows with the warmth of tobacco and cardamom.
Birch brings its leathery properties to the drydown, with the synthetic Cashmeran laying on the cosy muskiness.
It’s a textbook example of a divisive scent. We salute brand founder Kilian Hennessy for not going the easy route with this one. Whatever you think of it, there’s no denying its originality.
Kilian Moonlight in Heaven Edp (Calice Becker)
Mango scents have been increasing in popularity in recent years, often with sticky-icky results. Calice Becker, a skillful perfumer, doesn’t go all out on fruity sugar with Kilian’s 2016 release from The Fresh Collection, Moonlight in Heaven EDP.
Notes of grapefruit and lemon enhance the freshness of the tropical fruit, while coconut adds a lactonic-vanilla dimension. If you’re wondering where the nuttiness comes from, that’s the notes of white rice and tonka bean at work.
The vetiver drydown wraps it up with earthiness.
One of the more subtle Kilian scents, you might find yourself smelling yourself more than usual to enjoy its nuances.
Kilian Black Phantom Edp (Sidonie Lancesseur)
An unashamed gourmand from The Cellars Collection, Kilian’s 2017 release, Black Phantom EDP, may be too sweet for some (even we occasionally find it overly sugary).
But in the right context (snuggled up in bed or in front of a roaring fire on a chilly night, for example), it’s an indulgent treat.
Rum meets coffee in the intro. Their dark richness is accentuated with the milkiness of creamy caramel.
And what of the dangerous-sounding cyanide accord listed in the official notes on the brand website? FYI: the poisonous chemical is known for its almond-like smell, so more than likely the powdery nuttiness is the result of the use of the synthetic heliotropin.
It’s finished with the creaminess of sandalwood.
Kilian Gold Knight Edp (Pascal Gaurin)
A 2017 release from The Cellars Collection, Kilian Gold Knight EDP works its charms from the opening notes of faintly licorice-ish anise and crisply citrus bergamot.
Honey and vanilla mingle to produce warm and smooth powderiness. The classy sweetness is maintained in the dark earthiness of the patchouli drydown.
One of the house’s less-hyped releases, it’s one of our favourite honey fragrances. If you want something more obviously opulent on the honey theme, get your nose on the 2009 release Kilian Back to Black EDP.
Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Extreme Edp (Alberto Morillas)
We love the original from 2012 but love, love (there’s a difference) the 2017 version Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad Extreme Edp created by Alberto Morillas (the master perfumer also produced Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi, Dark Lord and Can’t Stop Loving You, among others, for the brand).
The deceptive purity of orange blossom beckons in the opening, with fruitiness from rose de Mai and Egyptian jasmine sambac.
The heady intensity of tuberose and narcissus, both with green aspects and slightly animalic, signal being led astray and lost virtue. And when it’s this enjoyable, who cares about any regrets?
But what makes this EDP from The Narcotics Collection different from its predecessor is the musky warmth of the milk accord, which gives it a scrumptiously creamy texture.
Kilian Rolling in Love Edp (Pascal Gaurin)
So you want to know why the Paris-based niche brand founded by Kilian Hennessy has a reputation for luxurious, exclusive (ahem, pricey) fragrances? Rolling in Love EDP, a 2019 release from The Narcotics Collection, will tell you everything you need to know.
It commences with a seductive combo of the nutty creaminess of an almond milk note and the floral muskiness of ambrette seeds.
Iris and freesia lay a powdery trail, leading to the drydown where there’s more creaminess in store, courtesy of notes of vanilla, tuberose (not too dominant), tonka bean and musk.
It isn’t a complex scent but is thoroughly delectable.
Kilian L’Heure Verte Edp (Mathieu Nardin)
The fragrance community had a collective fra-gasm in 2020 when the cognac-inspired Kilian Angels’ Share EDP was launched. While we think it’s rather good, we’d like to direct your attention to Kilian L’Heure Verte EDP, a 2021 release from The Cellars Collection.
Although not as crowd-pleasing as the afore-mentioned perfume, it will appeal to those with more adventurous tastes.
Taking its cue from the French equivalent of happy hour and the ritual of preparing absinthe in a spoon, it presents the spirit in bitter herbal-aromatic style accentuated with the anise tones of licorice root and earthiness of patchouli and vetiver.
It won’t make you hallucinate (FYI: the spirit’s reputation has been thoroughly debunked in recent years), but there’s a very good chance you’ll get a harmless buzz from this scent.
Kilian Apple Brandy on the Rocks Edp (Sidonie Lancesseur)
If anyone knows his booze (and we mean that in a good way), it’s the heir to the Hennessy fortune.
Originally released in 2013 and now part of The Liquors Collection, Kilian Apple Brandy On The Rocks lays on the luxe vibe.
The EDP’s fresh and spicy opening (bergamot, cardamom) gives way to an apple brandy accord, with lots of fruity-liciousness and vanilla woodiness.
An earthy oakmoss note keeps this 2021 release on the right side of sweetness, while Ambroxan gives the cool and chic composition musky sensuality.
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Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.