Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Liaisons Dangereuses By Kilian: fragrance review and brand presentation

"L’Oeuvre Noire" (The Black Masterpiece) by Kilian evokes a Faustian atmosphere that casts an iniquitous alluring spell, pervading the spirit and senses, while transporting the soul to nirvana. Inspired by a search for perfection, the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, as well as the lyrics of modern day poets like Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dogg. The black masterpiece "by Kilian" is revolving around ingenues, artificial paradises and Parisian orgies". With a rather pretentious manifesto as the above (surpassing even the Nasomatto one) and the coronas by Turin on perfumer Becker's work (she of J'adore, Tommy Girl and Beyond Paradise notoriety), is is any wonder it took me so long to review any of the By Killian fragrances? Even Killian Hennesy himself noted in a small interview by Mffan310: "The two perfumes that Sidonie Lancesseur created for me, Straight to Heaven and Cruel Intentions, got only two out of five stars, whereas the ones created by Calice Becker all got four stars becuase he loves Calice Becker's creations. Still, I welcome perfume critics... the industry needs more of them. Look at movies: what if there was only one or two movie critics, all giving the same films the same ratings? That's why I welcome more critics."
Having spent a good part of summer testing and re-testing some of them and spurred by a reader's recounting of how one worked on a particularly sensitive moment of his life recently and questioning my hitherto silence, here I am trying to be fair to a collection of varrying degrees of comptence. After all, like Yourcenar used to say "There's no reason to fear words when one has consented to things."

Killian Hennesy, the admittedly very handsome and privileged grandson of the LVMH Group founder (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy), grew up around the family's (excellent, btw) cognac reserves and studied Information and Communication Studies in the Sorbonne, becoming interested in the intricacies of odour semantics which brought him into work for the luxury houses under the LVMH umbrella. The progression to his own niche line was but a small leap away and luckily for us he spared no expense on raw materials which is always a good step in the right direction.
The L’Oeuvre Noire portfolio currently includes 7 fragrances, the first 6 intended to be juxtaposed in a play on a common theme: Liaisons Dangereuses, Cruel Intentions, , A taste of Heaven, Straight to Heaven, Love, Beyond Love and the newest Prelude to Love.
The presentation is in black taffeta with a black tassel and the shield of Achilles (!) to protect from harm ~coincidentally and for their information, according to the Iliad the shielf of Achilles was made from several metals and contained anthropomorphic depictions. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is that the bottles can be refilled through the barrels that contain a 1L reserve of the precious juice, once you have purchased the original bottle.

Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), tagged "Typical Me" is composed by Calice Becker like most of the line's fragrances and was inspired by the homonymous epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782. The novel was adapted into film by Roger Vadim (1959), by Miloš Forman (1989) and -the best known version- by Steven Frears (1988)as well as a rather abysmal TV adaptation featuring Catherine Deneuve and Rupert Everett (Perhaps this link might be of interest to those who want to compare). Then again the plot was twisted into a modern younger spin set in NYC in Cruel Intentions which is sardonically the name of the mirror scent By Killian, with the tagline "Tempt Me". Although both intended as a continuation of 18th-century libertine tradition to symbolize transgression, the pleasures of the flesh and defiance of prohibitions and conventions, the scents themselves do not lend themselves to orgiastic proclivities.

Liaisons Dangereuses is not a dangerous or evil creation despite its connotations. Centered around a very sweet rose aroma with the richness and incadecence of fruity liqueur in crystal tumblers, it possesses fruity chypre tonalities but without the dense, overripe feeling of the traditional peachy-plummy bases (Persicol) like in Femme, Diorama or Que sais-je by Patou. Instead the fruity aspects are interwoven into an almost gourmand jammy effect that is light, with the surprising hint of sugar-dusted Turkish Delight, and quite trasparent denoting a resolutely modern composition that sings its notes in unison. There is no obvious spiciness or animalic muskiness, nor is there the emerald background of a forest's floor; nevertheless the fragrance lingers for a long time melding with the skin pleasurably. The traditional feminine ideal of rose has always held me in check because I find it unimaginative and not particularly human-like the way indolic white florals or even anisic (lilac, cassie) and spicy ones (carnation, lily) reference the intimacy of feminine skin and its secretions. Rose as an erotic symbol stood as the triumph of optical semantics, and possibly tactile, in the very field (blossoms) that I always felt should be left to the olfactory. And yet, there is no doubt that Liaisons Dangereuses is glowing its cherubically smooth cheeks in a Watteau painting, not "redolent of an alcove inhabited by languid lovers".
The fact that conversely to the film in the novel Marquise de Merteuil ends up disfigured by pox, a fate considered much worse than having her reputation tarnished, is but an otherwordly notion in the frame of Liaisons Dangereuses By Killian: there is no way one could picture this as anything but pretty and certainly it is not "typical me".

Notes for Liaisons Dangereuses: coconut flesh, prune absolute, plum, blackcurrant buds absolute, crystallized peach, cinnamon bark oil, ambrette seed absolute, rose Damascus, geranium bourbon, sandalwood Australian oil, oakmoss extract, vetiver java oil, clear woods, vanilla extract, white musks.

By Killian Liaisons Dangereuses comes in 1.7oz/50ml (225$)refillable bottle of Eau de Parfum and a candle version. Available from Printemps Haussman, Parfumerie Victor Hugo, Bon Marche in Paris and Monaco, La Mure Favorite in Lyon, Verso at Anvers, Oswald in Zurich, Skins in Amsterdam, Bergdorf Goodman and Aedes (also online) in NYC, Apothia and Luckyscent in Los Angeles, Saks in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills and Holt Renfrew in Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary). Also from their site.

The line will be completed upon reaching the goal of 10 fragrances, whereupon there will be another By Killian collection on a different concept.

One sample will be offered to lucky reader! State your interest.

Pics of Matisse special edition bottles and candle provided By Killian. Pic from Dangerous Liaisons courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. Anonymous14:12

    Hello E, an interesting essay. As a side question - has Calice Becker composed any perfume which does not have that transparent radiance so beloved by LT? It does seem to be her signature almost. I would be interested to smell this especially since it is not to be found yet in the UK. However certain aspects of the by Killian marketing can irritate the hell out of me on a bad day! The box under lock and key for instance and the fact that you cannot buy a plain bottle of the no doubt lovely jus but have to buy the whole shebang and only then are you allowed to refill it. Thanks for the review. Nicola ps didn't Calice Becker reform Lancome's Cuir? If so I've answered myself since that's anything but transparent but is admired by LT!

  2. Well, you know my adoration for "Straight to Heaven," which I think is a masterpiece. So I'd love to try this one as well; please enter me in the drawing. Also, thank you for the info on the new scents! I can't wait. For some reason, I like this line.

  3. Wow Great post! I would definately be interested in tryng a sample!~

  4. I know many people like the By Kilian packaging, but they just don't attract me. As for the scents themselves, I need to test them more to get a proper picture.

  5. Anonymous17:38

    Interesting post--perhaps I'll give it a try! I'm never a fan of the "Dangerous Liaisons" films: I saw the 80s movie and the Deneuve TV series. (And if you count 'Cruel Intention' as a 90s spin on the theme then that's three.) I could never stand the story so I won't even go there.

    Anyhow, count me in for the sample.

    By the way, you know how I feel about the Turin ratings...I was talking to the owner of The Perfume Shoppe and she absolutely hated them. I had to explain to her that there are essentially Luca and Tania's takes on things--sometimes even offering informative facts about various things (like how Fracas is comparable to the Ferrari red). I don't think the Turin reviews are meant to be an olfactory bible and shouldn't be treated so if you ask for my humble opinions.

    (And people shouldn't treat perfume reviews like decrees's that different from the tight reigns of various fragrance PR divisions???)


  6. Anonymous17:55

    Dear Helg- Brillaint overview.

    Finally a 'critic' (but youa re so much more) that 'gets' Kilian's aesthetic.

    I am a huge fan of Dangerouses Liasions and the new sparkling hesperidic Prelude to Love.

    More importantly, I admire Mr. Hennessy for being himself, ALWAYS


  7. Anonymous17:58

    Your post made me consider a trip to Saks to sniff- but first I'll await the results of your drawing! Please include me. Thanks for the post,

  8. Dear N,

    how are you? Hope everything is going well :-))

    You know, I wouldn't necessarily call Becker's work "transparent". J'adore or Beyond Paradise are certainly "radiant" in their own way, but transparent? Hmmm, not really. At least not in the JC Ellena or Duchaufour mold.
    I do like the reconstituted Cuir which a very kind soul had sent me a little of: it's well made, very sensual, with a perceptible leather note that is not harsh nevertheless.

    I have to admit that the uber-luxe presentation does seem (still) rather pretentious to me: poseur, if you want. But the content is in certain instances very good! I have to be fair.

  9. Dear B,

    yes, I do. And you know, I believe I made a mistake when we talked and was referring to the other Heaven scent in the line... (I am completely unpardonable for not checking!)Of course I have included you: this one is gorgeous and captured even me, the rose-hater.

  10. Regina,

    thank you :-)
    You're in and best of luck!

  11. Dear L,

    I am not too swayed by packaging either, as you know. A masterpiece could be in a milk carton for all I care! (well, that's an hyperbole, but you get my drift)
    Still, the line presents some very pretty fragrances; some lack in innovation but compensate on good, vibrant, sonorous materials.

  12. Dear A,

    the story is definitely rather devious and calculating: it might turn a sensitive soul off. For some perverse reason I enjoy a story of pure cruelty. I like to say to myself it's just fiction.
    (The Deneuve series btw was utter rubbish: it was painful to watch)

    You know, Luca is entitled to his opinion. Basically I enjoyed his book for the little tidbits peripheral to the opinions: the car, airplanes and music references (OK, the latter are my field while the former are not, but still, fun), the subtle mother issues manifested in Tania's reviews, the rather interesting view on reformulations, how some companies fear an honest critique, that sort of thing...If one sees it that way, there is no reason to focus on ratings too much. Stars or no stars, it's an individual thing.

    Of course you're in the drawing! Good luck!

  13. Dear Michelyn,

    what an utter joy to see you here!! Thank you so much for your very warm compliment and your enthusiasm! :-)

    This one is beautiful, it's true. I can't bring myself to say "mouldy rose, yuck!" like I inwardly do for many: it's anything but! And although I am not one who goes for the very sweet either, it manages to be so but still very pleasurable, very alluring, truly pretty.

    I haven't had the pleasure of meeting mr.Hennesy yet. By all accounts he must be a charismatic man; if he has the conviction of his beliefs, so much the better.

  14. Dear Gretchen,

    I have included you and hope you have the best of luck!
    It's highly recommended you give it a sniff in any eventuality.

  15. Anonymous20:51

    I liked that movie, but then I love Meryl Streep and costume dramas. Please include me in the drawing.

  16. Anonymous21:37

    Hello Helg,

    I have tried several of the by Kilian perfumes. I like Straight to Heaven, even if it is a little masculine on me. Taste of Heaven had too much lavender (not my idea of a heavenly place). Love is beautiful, but a little too sweet. I have not tried Beyond Love. Cruel Intentions is interesting, but I need to test drive it some more. As to Dangerous Liaisons, I tried it at Saks last week, but I had tried so many other perfumes before, that I doubt I got an accurate sense of the perfume. I find all of them very interesting and unique, even when I would not be interested in buying some of them. I just ordered a sample of Prelude, we'll see how it feels!!
    May I be entered in the contest?


  17. Mayitrey,

    of course you're in. Good luck!
    I believe you're referring to Glenn Close though.

  18. Arwen,

    of course you're in the drawing! :-)
    Very good reasoning behind your choices and thanks for recounting your experiences. It's not that I find them unique/revolutionary, so much as I find most well-made. This one in particular is very fetching: how utterly surprising!

  19. Anonymous22:12

    Thank you for such a reasoned and thorough review of Liaisons Dangereuses. Due to the price and the admittedly fancy packaging, these scents seem to be written off so quickly as overreaching or, perhaps, a con. Of course, I have a bias in the other direction, because I find the quality and the aesthetic direction of the scents exquisite. Liaisons Dangereuses is one of my favorites in the line. I have such a difficult time with the rose note/accord, yet this sings with clarity. It's very joyful. A rococo dark pink.

    I wait with anticipation to find out what's happening in November with By Kilian.

  20. Anonymous22:36

    I would never have guessed you'd head for Liasons Dangereuses first, from the BK line. It's one I hardly ever hear about.

    I loved Straight to Heaven when I sampled it. It's the olfactory equivalent of falling into a very deep, very soft couch - drunk. It left me dizzy. Seriously.

    I have 2 other BK's to sample (can't remember which ones...I think Prelude to Love and Cruel Intentions).

    Honestly, Liasons Dangereuses does NOT sound liks something I'd like. It sounds like Black Orchid by Tom Ford with rose. Blech.

    Please enter me to win - I'd love to sample Taste of Heaven!

  21. I'd love a sample!

  22. Hello, E --
    Interesting and thought provoking review, as usual. It seems to me that this line is targeted toward bottle lovers as much as juice lovers, with the over-the-top packaging. On the perfume blogs, we hear mostly from juice-lovers, but I have this inkling that there is an entire parallel universe of perfume bottle lovers who swoon over packaging the way we swoon over a particularly well blended or creative composition, and, indeed, are snatching up bottles of perfume that will never be opened (horrors!). Indeed, the Roja Dove video you posted yesterday reminded me of this, what with the MDCI line and their bottles.

    As for Luca and Tania's book -- regardless of how you feel about their opinions (and they are just opinions), I think the presence of their book has done a lot to introduce the perfume world to a lot of budding perfumisto/as , and I do appreciate the little tidbits of information and the cross-referencing across different artistic métiers.

    Oh... and please enter me for the drawing. :-)

  23. Forgot to mention: Dangerous Liaisons, the Frears movie, is in my top 5 films of all time. I could recite it, top to bottom. And the film ending is far better than the play's (I saw Laura Linney in it recently and realized just how masterful Close is as Mertueil).

    Also forgot to ask: can you tell us any more about this expansion of the Black Masterpieces line? From where did this info come? Any indication of what the next "concept" will be?

  24. By Kilian proves that expensive packaging and raw materials often lead to mediocre/average poorly executed niche fragrances. Seriously, are any of these scents "masterpiece"? The tuberose is just this green creamy overtly sweet stuff we have already smelled with Carnal Flower and Tubereuse Couture, nothing as groundbreaking and refined as Tubereuse Criminelle.
    I 'm glad these scents don 't move me at all and honnestly I feel bad for those who shelled out so much money for such fabulous crap.

  25. Anonymous05:45

    I would love to try this - I have tried tried a Killian scent, and this is supposed to be one of his best, I hear.

  26. Lovely piece, I haven't tried any by Killian's yet which is somehing I need to rectify- so please include me in the draw.

    I like both Dangerous Liaisons and Cruel Intentions, although Cruel intentions is fairly trashy I do love that porsche.

    I am loving Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's book, it only came out in the UK this month but I have read it quite a few times already! People are never going to agree on everything but I appreciate their humour and their depth of knowledge.

    I finally tried Dans Tes Bras- on first sample it was fabulous!

  27. Dear Catherine,

    I agree that this one is great: as I pointed out I also have issues with roses, so it was very surprising that I liked it so much. And a sweet rose at that!

  28. Dear M,

    neither would I! Well, OK, being least talked about is always a good incentive, if only to see why the silence, but it's truly good and I never expected it, to be honest. The fancy packaging and the exorbitant prices have me questioning things all the time.

    LOL on the description of Straight to Heaven, very good!
    I'd love to enter you for Taste of Heaven but alas I do not have more than a large sample of it :-(
    Are you sure you're interested in a sample of this one of which I have some to share? It's really *not* like Black Orchid with rose ;-)

  29. Dear Karin,

    duly noted and entered! I will announce winner in the weekend.

  30. Dear J,

    thank you for your kind words, you flatter me.
    Of course there are bottle collector fanatics and I can very well realise the thrill: the collector's bug is something that is understandable no matter what shape or form the "sickness" takes! LOL
    And although I am interested in the juice primarily, I have to say that some presentations are more inventive/beautiful than others.

    Having said that I can't say that I like the MCDI ones and this is the reason I haven't really occupied myself with them seriously: they're so kitch to me! They remind me of fellow countrymen who impressed with our classical heritage go and buy molded copies of famous sculptures to put in their front yards beside the fountain etc. Or how clubs and restos use those pillared things to denote a tradition....ugh...
    But then again, this is a very personal association and for someone who isn't in the tradition, I am sure they look positively exotic (like grilled octupus might, although I do love eating octopus! LOL)

    I enjoyed readig the tidbits in the Guide as well.

  31. B,

    I haven't had your luck to see the play. (I like Laura Linney although indeed Glenn Close made the role hers).
    Wish I knew more on the upcoming developments, it's Basenotes and Michelyn info; if I find out I will let you know ;-)

  32. Emmanuella,

    I will have to make you wait and read what I have to say about the rest ;-)

    I agree that Tubereuse Criminelle is a masterpiece truly and undoubtedly and Carnal Flower is excellent in its 3D-reality, it's rather common knowledge for long that they're my favourites, never hid it.

    Now sometimes good materials do make a difference although of course they're not enough to produce something masterful by themselves. And packaging of course is irrelevant to the content.
    This one is good; I suggest resampling, you might surprise yourself: it's a young rose for starters (!)
    And yes, I wouldn't pay full prices either: we can always share among ourselves, we of the perfume community. ;-)

  33. Elizabeth,

    it is one of their best. You're in the drawing!

  34. Rose,

    thank you honey for saying so.
    I have included in the draw, naturally so hopefully you might get the chance to try it out. From what I recall of your tastes, I think you'd like it.

    "Cruel Intentions" the film had the most wonderful set of secondary character actresses playing key roles ;-)They brought an air of wit to what would be a very melodramatic and commonplace young angst film.

    Sooooo glad your liked Dans tes Bras! It's very interesting, isn't it? Quite unusual!

  35. perfumeshrine, I was given by the boys of Aedes samples of the whole By Kilian collection, three of each, none of them rocked my world and I think Turin only praised the tuberose because he likes Calice Becker (her tuberose is so not groundbreaking but I 'm not saying it 's bad). You know I 've been into perfumes since the mid/late '80s, it 's been great and a lot of fun to discover the niche fragrances throughout all those years but today I only wear a couple of Lutens and that 's just about it. I don 't find niche fragrances innovative enough. Right now I 'd rather spend that kind of money on well preserved Givenchy III or Patou Caline vintage eau de toilette, these really rock my world LOL. I even turned down a friend from France who proposed to send me some ultra rare Oud by Caron they only sell in the Middle East. At this point it 's as if I 've lost interest in everything that 's niche.

  36. I would welcome the chance to try By Kilian for the first time and look forward to hearing what new direction he chooses next.
    Spritz me up if you will PerfumeShrine, and hopefully I won't end up pox-beridden by Kilian's 'dangerous liaisons'(or should I say, "lesions"?) ;]

  37. Hi Helg! If you haven't already chosen someone for the sample, I'd love to be included in the draw. Thanks!

  38. Courtney L.07:14

    As a fracas girl who likes to cheat i first bough back to black, i just found eg a case fulkl of every cb i hate perfume i wanted at the time, so call me a collector - actually despite all the old lady compariosons im waiting on amouage 'gold' as it smells like oscar night and i hope ti be presenting this year, i also love Love by kilian,have a friend who works with lvhm who may be re doing 'joy' & its original jus which is what got me so obsessed anyway.

    as i happen to know and love alot about jean patous [ariian apartment and textiles etc so i started reading books on scent whole reading htois blog &others, i love 'love' because , well i have yet to se its effect on others, i havent workn it out, like i have'back to black'- very rock & roll- 'perfume oud' despite the oud controversy & it is a fungus not a resin, the controversy being that there snt enough oud on earrth to possibly be in as many perfumes as claim they have it, but i happen to know the hennessy family lightly

    love is like what i guilty refer to as my one moment of sort of kind of well really? like the number one sellignmost annoying perfume on the earth- angel, love has that marshmallow candy thing - down tastefully & sexily, back to black i boughta kiki de monterperasse because & teh honey tobacco cherry pipe accord was sort of like a post coital cigarette, rose oud least impresses me i ve hardly used it so may put it in its gorge cas & give it for xmas, amouage attar tribute im goving tonight to a man, - i live 3 blocks from aedes, went on to find a top note of saffron and recoeved some weird killer samples serge lutons & amouge, the saffron top note is in a brand i dont know about, m a little eh? like la labo- eh?

    beyond love is what turned me, although i stupidly broke it & all the 'beyond love' too. i had onbe baccarat flacn from roja dove at harrods london and decided this was to be the fragarance that replaced fracas, its not as green & obvous as carnal flower &its not as pinky pink look at me nor as popular as fracas.

    its wierd how we come to 'our' perfume, im a singer and actor & t one poiunt 30 years ago uma thruman and me had the same manager - oh weve had the same alot of things- she wore fracas, i fell in love, and this year at lunch on an entirely unrelated to uma matter - buddhism actually her mother nene was waering fracas, as was i, im quite protective of it, i once wrote a vogue piecve when it was going out of business in the 90s trying to save it, which apprebtly worked the price being everyone wore it now, as it happens nene thurman wore fracas first & ica the manager wore it because nene wore it which in turn is why i wear it - uma needless to say, cant stand it.

    i had tried malles carnal flower after my gf gave me 'lipstick red' & told me ' this rose gets me laid= lot' hmmm, well not for me, i dont seem rosey to men or myself & skin being skin, beyond love is that place right between the eyes thats subtle sexy & white place crytsal tuberose hearts w an edge of coconut i cant smell, but is there, im getting it on amazon this second but as always perfume shrine has the best reviews other than jasmine de bois whose a genius but she doesnt review everything, im going to grab lioasons dangerouese &if it isnt right i suppose ill give it for christmas, but this seems nice & sugary, wintery. oh ps i just discovered the parfum of 'noelle de nuit' a perfect winter perfume i was wondering tho where one acquires guerlains vol de nuit? im sort of obsessed with the conpcet of it & anything you know abput the quite obvious corrosion of the joy patou'jus' please let me know! some of the imgredianst are no longer enflueraged in grasse such as narcissus etc, also soinds like there is an orris momet to la liasons dangeruese that might be getting missed?


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