Perfume Review: By Kilian Flower of Immortality

The daintiest of Chinese watercolours with sheer, minimalistic and translucent brush strokes. That is what comes to mind when I wear Flower of Immortality, the new fragrance from the luxury perfume house, By Kilian.

Chinese watercolour. Source: Xiami.com

Chinese watercolour. Source: Xiami.com

Flower of Immortality is an eau de parfum which will be released next week, in early April 2013, as the third in Kilian’s Asian Tales series of perfumes which first launched in 2012. It is a simple, uncomplicated, fruity-floral scent which is pretty but alarmingly evanescent — and not just for my skin.

Source: Tumblr.

Source: Tumblr.

Flower of Immortality celebrates white peaches, the flower of which represents immortality in ancient Chinese folklore. The perfume was inspired by “A Tale of the Fountain of the Peach Blossom Spring” where a fisherman follows the scent of peach blossoms and ends up in Utopia. Luckyscent has the full details on the scent which it describes as follows:

For Kilian, Flower of Immortality is, above all, an olfactory homage to the peach blossom and its very strong symbolism in China. This blossom, whose pink petals are unveiled only in the middle of the winter, is believed to have the power to bewitch the human soul and to make it immortal. It is the set of symbols and myths that surround the flower that Kilian wanted to recreate in this new fragrance.

peach blossomFlower of Immortality was composed as the memory of the utopian paradise, where the fragrance of peach blossoms brings a promise of hospitality and immortality. The smooth and juicy scent of White Peach, interweaved by the sweet and powdery notes of Carrot and Iris. A dazzling breeze of Blackcurrant Bud absolute refreshes while the exquisite Rose Crystal is softened by the Tonka Bean and the scent of Vanilla beans drying in the sun.

By Kilian FOI 50 ml Bottle.JPGThe perfume was created by Calice Becker and the full list of its notes, as compiled from both Fragrantica and LuckyScent, is as follows:

White peach, carrot seeds, blackcurrant bud, freesia, iris, rose, vanilla, tonka bean, and white musk.

Flower of Immortality opens on my skin with the very sweetest of white peaches. There is nothing heavy or ripe in the note which blossoms like an airy cloud on the skin. Seconds later, there is a fleeting touch of black currant (or cassis) with a touch of tart juiciness — but it doesn’t last very long. Soon, it is replaced by notes of fresh carrots and light roses on a white musk base. I happen to like the sweet touch that carrots can bring and think it adds a little depth to the very predominant fruity aspects of the perfume. There are also some very quiet, subtle floral hints from the freesia; like the black currant, that doesn’t last long, either. I don’t detect any iris at all in the perfume.

Source: TheCleverCarrot.com

Source: TheCleverCarrot.com

A few minutes in, Flower of Immortality turns predominantly into a white peach scent. It’s almost like a watery nectar in its airy, shimmery, gauzy feel. There is the muted hint of white musk and, like a ghost popping up every now and then, some extremely subtle touches of carrot. None of these notes change the simpleness of the basic scent: it feels as though I have the lightest veil of actual white peach juice on my skin, and not much else. It’s very pleasant for what it is, but this is a not a complex fragrance by any stretch of the imagination.

The perfume continues as a white peach and musk scent for another hour. And then it dies. Completely. One doesn’t aim for “immortality” in perfumes, but this is too bloody short! If I sniff my arm with intense determination to find it — somewhere, anywhere — I tell myself that I can detect some lingering traces in tiny, random patches for another twenty minutes. Honestly, I think it’s the mere power of suggestion.

The frightening thing is that I — with my perfume-consuming skin — was actually luckier than one poor woman (“raw umber“) on Fragrantica whose entire experience lasted just 20 minutes. Her frustration is quite telling:

Flower of Immortality opens with sugar-covered yellow & pink Haribo peach gummy candies in a cut crystal dish with zingy black currants and a powdery floral note. Mmhm… not bad at all.

[¶] … Only 15 minutes after application, I am holding my nose to my skin in disbelief. Did I spray perfume here once? I swear it smells like peaches, but it must be my imagination. Or maybe… It was a ghost!!!

Perhaps there is an intentional inverse relationship between the Immortal in the name, and the life-span of this scent? 20 minutes in, I’m smelling basenotes as if the perfume had been applied three days ago and this is all that remains. 

I want to put the paddles on this fragrance and shock it back to life. Alas, before I can reach for my cell phone charger, my flame thrower, or my sample vial for a refresher, ANYTHING that might in some way help… Flower of Immortality is already going… going… 

gone.

By Kilian fragrances are not cheap, though thankfully there are a few more affordable options in terms of travel-sizes and refill bottles. Flower of Immortality costs $235 (or €175) for 1.7 oz/50 ml in the traditional lock-box version, but $135 if you want to purchase the refill bottle instead. Either way, that’s expensive for a linear, uncomplicated peach scent which disappears after 20 minutes or, if you’re lucky, an hour. And this is an eau de parfum, so it’s not as if you can try to buy it in a more concentrated, lasting form!

Chinese Peach blossom paintings from FengSuej com

To be frank, I thought the Chinese watercolours I found while writing up my post were a lot prettier and more interesting than the perfume. Don’t get me wrong, Flower of Immortality is perfectly pleasant, even if it’s a little boring. If you like airy, sheer, minimalistic, peach nectars, you may truly enjoy the scent. But I would highly recommend testing it out on your skin before buying it blindly. For those who aren’t a fan of the peach note, you may want to stay away entirely.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Flower of Immortality is an eau de parfum that costs $135, $145 or $235 (depending on the form in which you buy it). It is available on By Kilian’s international website where it costs €175 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle. The site also has the more affordable options. In the U.S., Flower of Immortality is available for pre-order now on Luckyscent with the perfume to be shipped out on April 4, 2013. The site also offers samples for $4 for a 0.7 ounce vial. Samples are also available at Surrender to Chance and cost $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. I obtained my sample from Saks Fifth Avenue, thanks to the generosity of a sales assistant. Saks also carries the scent, though it won’t be available for purchase in the actual stores until April 4th. I was going to give you the link to the Saks website but, somehow, between the time that I got the sample and saw it online, and the time of writing this post, the perfume is no longer shown online. 

Reviews en Bref: By Kilian Love (Don’t Be Shy) & Straight To Heaven (White Cristal)

As always, the Reviews en Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant one of my lengthy, exhaustive reviews. In this case, it’s because I really don’t think I have the skin chemistry for the three By Kilian fragrances I tried from his L’Oeuvre Noire collection. In fact, I have not had such a miserable perfume experience in a while.

STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN (WHITE CRISTAL):

In 2007, Kilian Hennessey — the scion of the famous LVMH luxury conglomerate — came out with a perfume collection for his By Kilian perfume line. It was called L’Oeuvre Noire and contained a number of different scents, one of which is Straight to Heaven (with “White Cristal” being a subtitle). It was created by the perfumer, Sidonie Lancesseur, and Luckyscent gives its notes as follows:

Martinican rum absolute, dried fruits accord, Javanese nutmeg oil, hedione, cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli oil, ambergris, vanilla absolute, white musk.

I think “Straight to Heaven” might be more aptly named “Straight to the Doctor’s Office.”  This is a scent that replicates the pure rubbing alcohol, antiseptic, medicinal scent of a  doctor’s office or a hospital. It opens with a pure blast of an incredibly metallic, medicinal scent of the stuff used to clean your arm before you get a vaccination shot. Except, here, it is combined with fake powdered vanilla and sugar. Despite that, the medicinal note doesn’t have any of the sweetness that often comes with the medicinal note in agarwood. Here, it is really like pure grained alcohol and cold antiseptics. It’s like being in a hospital room after they’ve scrubbed everything down and disinfected the counters, before trying to cover up the smell by spraying some Glade Powdered Vanilla in the air.

After a little time, there are more chilly, mentholated aspects to the medicinal scent. There are also some soapy aspects that I attribute to the cheap-smelling musk. I don’t initially smell any of the rum that everyone talks about with this scent, but that does eventually arrive. About three hours later. Then, Straight to Heaven turns into an odd combination of Vick’s Vapor Rub and some oddly “off” boozy note. There is patchouli, too, but it is completely dominated by the cedar. Everything is dominated by that cedar. There is no escape from it and it turns everything medicinal. There is also an underlying synthetic, chemical tinge to everything. Straight to Heaven simply doesn’t smell particularly natural; the ingredients don’t smell rich, luxurious, or soft.

In utter olfactory exhaustion and misery, I went to bed, wishing I could scrub this off. When I woke up, there were still faint, flickering, minute traces of the fragrance on my skin. It was now mere vanilla powder, soft but with some sort of chemical twist, and musk. It was almost 14 hours after the time that I first put on the perfume!

A lot of people talk about the boozy “rum” nature of the perfume. I disagree. Strongly. This is not a scent that is predominantly rum in note — and certainly not a pleasant one at that. I love boozy rum scents, from Teo Cabanel‘s glorious Alahine, HermèsAmbre Narguilé, Guerlain‘s Spiriteuse Double Vanille or Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. Straight to Heaven is not like ANY of those. It is primarily a cedar perfume, though I would argue it is a medicinal, rubbing alcohol fragrance first and foremost. I’m not the only one who thinks so. On Makeupalley, where the perfume has a 3.3 rating out of 5, there are as many reviews noting the strength of that note as there are those who consider this a “rum” perfume. My favorite comment is that from “cerulfox” who writes:

My opinions on the By Kilian typically waver between indifference and derision, having tried all of the L’Oeuvre Noire collection and finding myself only liking three of the ten. Straight to Heaven is one of the dislikes. It starts off with a piercing cedar note that quickly disappears to be replaced with a strident booze note. I’m assuming that’s the rum, but on my skin it’s so overwhelmingly alcoholic I might as well have doused my skin in Everclear or straight grain alcohol. All of rum’s typical spice notes are muted and virtually non-existent compared to the screechy alcohol. This remains until Straight to Heaven evaporates into a puff of generic skin musk. Honestly this is more akin to Straight to AA rather than Straight to Heaven, the booze note is so strong.

On Fragrantica, more people find the “booze note” to be “rum” than hardcore alcohol disinfectant. The most amusing review comes from “gmstrack” who titles his comment with “Headline: Woody Oriental Drinks Rum in Hamster Cage” and then writes:

After reading several reviews, it seems like this fragrance is in a special purgatory: too conventional for some and too medicinal or dirty hippy for others. I definitely fall in with the too conventional camp, but at the same time, I find Strait to Heaven very comforting. Maybe childhood memories of playing in a cedar swamp have something to do with this. The patchouli could be dirtier, the cedar turned down just a tad and, oh yes, dump in something interesting (rum doesn’t count). Heh.  3/5

Well, he’s correct that it can be purgatory for some. Me, for example. I was incredibly relieved when it was all finally over. And, I was convinced that nothing could be worse. I was mistaken. Badly mistaken. You see, I hadn’t tried Love (Don’t Be Shy) yet….

LOVE (DON’T BE SHY):

Love (Don’t Be Shy) is another fragrance from Kilian’s 2007 L’Oeuvre Noire Love by Kilian By Kilian for women collection. It was created by Calice Becker and is categorized on Fragrantica as an “oriental.” If this is an oriental, then I’m the Queen of Sheba. It’s pure gourmand, in my opinion, if not a sugar bomb.

The most complete list of notes that I have seen for the perfume comes from Luckyscent which says that the perfume was inspired by a marshmallow:

Bergamot calabria oil, Tunisian neroli oil, pink pepper berries oil, coriander seeds oil, honeysuckle, orange flower absolute, orange water absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, Bulgarian rose concrete, Bulgarian rose oil, iris butter absolute, reconstituted civet oil, caramelized sugar, vanilla absolute, cist labdanum absolute, white musk.

Love opened on me with notes of neroli and caramelized sugar that were so strong, they just about blew my head off. Neroli always comes across to my nose as sharper and slightly more bitter and metallic than orange blossom, though they are both from the same flower and stem only from differences in production or distillation. Normally, orange blossom notes are one of my favorite ingredients in a perfume. Here, however, it is strident, screechy and damn unpleasant.

Following soon thereafter is honeysuckle, pink peppercorn, rich gooey violet notes, cloyingly synthetic, saccharine-sweet vanilla and musk. The orange and sugar notes dominate, however — by a mile. Or thousand. Though the inspiration is supposed to be marshmallow, I see more one of those bright orange taffy sweets that are pure sugar. There is absolutely nothing even remotely approaching an animalic, skanky civet note on my skin, no matter what the perfume notes may say.

As the perfume develops, it turns into a cloyingly sweet, powdered vanilla, with tooth-achingly sweet sugared roses, and sweet, candied violets. If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re not wrong. This is diabetes in a bottle. I have either developed ten cavities just from wearing it or 80 pounds. It is unbearable — not to mention synthetically cloying in the worst way possible. I am strongly reminded of those cheap $4 sweet perfumes for pre-teens, though I suppose the quality of this one is vaguely better. Except for that vanilla note. No, that one seems about as cheap as you can get.

Love eventually became less sweet — but that’s all relative. After a while, the orange notes receded and it became much more like a marshmallow with powder, sugar and more cloying vanilla. I have found I have much less patience with really unbearable scents these days and won’t torture myself for hours just for the sake of a review. So, I eventually scrubbed this one off. I simply could not bear another minute of it.

But, no, Love was not finished with me. Despite two washings of my arms with very hot water and much soap, there were faint traces of that cloying scent which remained for hours. And hours. I’ve read that synthetic, chemical ingredients are used, in part, because they increase the longevity of a scent and Love certainly proves that theory correct. The fact that Kilian perfumes cost $235, $145 or $135 (depending on the form in which you buy them) is a whole other issue. But I can tell you this, even if this were a $10,000 perfume given to me for free, I would not wear it. The mere thought of it makes me shiver.

As a side note, I also tried By Kilian’s Cruel Intentions (Tempt Me), his woody oud Cruel Intentions By Kilian for women and menfragrance from the same 2007 collection. I’m not even going to bother writing about it. Something about the vanilla base in all these perfumes simply does not agree with me. I find Cruel Intentions to be equally unbearable, despite a list of notes that would normally appeal to me:

Top notes are african orange flower, bergamot, rose and violet; middle notes are guaiac wood, agarwood (oud) and papyrus; base notes are vetiver, musk, sandalwood, styrax, vanille and castoreum.

On me, that screeching, sharp, cloying and very synthetic vanilla simply overpowers everything. I suppose there are faint traces of vetiver and, eventually, some sandalwood — but they are hard to detect. I am simply bashed over the head by that same fake, powdered vanilla which made my stomach heave in Love (Don’t Be Shy). A number of people on Fragrantica say that Cruel Intentions is primarily a sandalwood fragrance. I love sandalwood, but there is no way I’m going to last long enough to find out. Plus, I have to say, I’m highly skeptical that anything will overcome this horrid, synthetic, vanilla powder (and white musk) that has been an overwhelming hallmark of two of the three L’Oeuvre Noire fragrances that I’ve tried thus far. As I said at the start, perfume hasn’t made me quite so miserable in a while. It’s hard to believe that these perfumes come from the same house which produced the oud Arabian Nights Collection — a line that is miles apart from this one.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to scrub myself clean…..