Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to Black by By Kilian : Perfume Review

Well, I might be a little late to the party, but the little sample that has been sitting on my desk for the past couple of weeks is finally getting its day today. Pure Oud has to be ordered by phone and I’ve no idea whether it will eventually make its way to any brick-and-mortar stores, but Back to Black has been in for a while and I eagerly procured a sample recently, together with some skincare purchases. While it certainly doesn’t trump my beloved A Taste of Heaven as the absolute favorite of the line, it probably ranks in second at this point and we’ll just have to wait and see whether Pure Oud changes that.

Having taken a look at the official note listing on the By Kilian website, I fully expect Back to Black to have a fresh-herbal opening, but instead we plunge into dark sweetness from the first moment. The opening is soft and subdued - a hint of subtle leather and rising myrrh, bittersweet and perfectly discernible, despite the fact that it makes no appearance in the official note listing. The tiny herbal-floral voice of chamomile gasps and fades into nothingness as the dark, soothingly wintry scent intensifies, blossoming into an extravagance of outrageously beautiful opoponax (again, not listed, but oh-so-definitely-there) laced with gourmand notes of cherry and hints of tart raspberry bliss. Unexpectedly, the volume drops lower again as the central note of tobacco emerges through the fruity nuances. Its entrance is diffuse yet full-bodied, as though someone pried open a prize cherry wood humidor housing preciously sweet pipe tobacco within. At this point it’s all I can do to stop nuzzling my arm and to keep writing this review - I just want to keep my nose buried in the crook of my elbow, inhaling this sweet, deep scent that evokes images of grand fireplaces and sipping cognac curled up in luxurious leather armchairs. Gradually, a honey note emerges - subtle at first, forming perfect continuity with the fruity notes of the fragrance, but eventually gaining in intensity and becoming as strong as the tobacco. The two however do not antagonize, but rather complement each other. In fact their union is so perfect that even though I do not normally like honey in perfume unless it is subtle and very round (and this one is very mildly sharp) I find myself not being able to imagine Back to Black without it. It is perfect as it is - honey and all. The drydown is darker, with the honey having died down and the cherry now freely wafting in and out of the sweet tobacco veil that has settled on the skin. Milky almond and soft, powdery notes enhance the feeling of comforting calm, while a beautiful balsamic base simmers gently in the background.

If I had to describe Back to Black by way of comparison, I’d say it smells like the love child of Serge Lutens’ Rahat Loukoum, Fumerie Turque and The People of the Labyrinths’ Luctor et Emergo (wow, what a love triangle!). It almost feels like the best elements of these perfumes were combined to create a separate, brand new entity whose sole purpose is to comfort and delight. While I wouldn’t wear Back to Black outside (it doesn’t really fit my personality nor my image) it would be a dream to own a bottle just to wear this absolutely delightful concoction to bed. Because what Back to Black does, is make you want to close your eyes and keep smelling this perfume that evokes the most beautiful images, grab a book, curl up under a comforter and purr, delight in the warmth of the house even as it thunders, pours down with rain or snows outside. Or at least, that’s what it does to me. It is the ultimate complex comfort perfume. What a luxury.

Images: Antique pipe via National Museums Scotland ( Swivel cognac glasses by Bodie and Fou available for purchase via (Editor’s note: Fragrance Bouquet is not affiliated with this webshop)


Mals86 said...

A complex comfort scent... what a lovely description. I probably won't be sniffing this, as the By Kilians are just ridiculously out of my price range, even for a decant, but it does sound like my kind of fragrance. I liked Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille very much (although it too is overpriced, in my opinion), but my pick for less-simple comfort scent is Shalimar Light. I find the original difficult, but the Light is happy enough not to demand too much, and interesting enough that I don't feel like curling up in my jammies and eating marshmallows.

I will be indulging, very soon, in a bottle of Sonoma Scent Studio's gorgeous Tabac Aurea.

Unknown said...

Thanks for featuring our Cognac glasses!

Ines said...

My sample is safe and waiting the right moment for my nose and brain to give it justice (I have a cold - again!).
I have really high expectations now both you and Carol wrote such lovely things about it. And the way it sounds, I wouldn't mind wearing it anywhere. ;)

Anonymous said...

Nice review! I sampled it recently, so am glad to read it. However, if you like the scent so much, why not wear it out and about? Who cares about what others think, if you feel good wearing it?

Bettina said...

Pure Oudh changes everything!!! At least it did to me. I fell in love with A Taste of Heaven. And no other fragrance out of his line can beat that one.
I ran into Pure Oudh be coincidence when I was in Duesseldorf for some sniffing. I was introduced and it was love on the first sniff. It is georgeous, fantastic, long lasting as all the Kilian's and outstanding. My humble opinion. It has character, it is a bit animalic, it is not overpowering. Pure Oudh has personality!!!!!