a journey of the senses by FLACONNEUR

Just Who Is Kilian Hennessy?

Kilian Hennessy

Kilian Hennessy

Before Kilian Hennessy’s career evolved in the perfume industry, he spent his formative years in the shadows of a renowned 18th-century family business . If the name Hennessy sounds familiar to you, it should. The name is synonymous with the world-famous cognac makers, Jas Hennessy & Company or more commonly known as Hennessy. Headquartered in Cognac, France, Hennessy is the producer of about 50 million bottles each year, constituting 40 percent of the world’s cognac. Kilian is a descendant of the famous French cognac empire started by Irishman Richard Hennessy in 1765. More recently, Kilian’s grandfather was the person responsible for the company’s merger with Louis Vuitton in 1987. As a result, one of the world’s largest luxury brand conglomerates was created, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy or LVMH.

Kilian chose a slightly different career path that didn’t involve the production of cognac. He graduated from CELSA (School of Higher Studies in the Information and Communication Sciences at the Sorbonne, Paris) in communications and language studies. He wrote his thesis on semantics of odors, in the search for a common language between gods and mortals. It was during his thesis work that Kilian discovered the world of perfumery. Kilian admits openly that he didn’t choose a career in perfume but feels perfume chose him instead. Kilian studied, leaning the craft from some of the greatest noses of the time. He also worked for some of the most prestigious perfume houses such as Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani. Kilian’s philosophy regarding perfume creation is simple, “to place perfumery back on its pedestal by going back to the truth about perfume; back to the way perfume was made in the early 20th century but adding a contemporary twist at the same time.” Kilian approaches perfumery like a film director approaches a film. First there’s the script, acting as a template for the evolution of the perfume. All Kilian’s perfumes have a script or storyline, giving the experience that follows a basis for reference, and more importantly, bringing his perfumes to life.

In September 2007, after 12 years of working for others, Kilian broke out on his own. He launched a perfume house that presented a collection of luxury goods, reflective of his personality. The debut collection was entitled l’Oeuvre Noire. This collection is broken into three groups: feminine (Love and Love Beyond); masculine (A Taste of Heaven and Straight to Heaven) and unisex (Liaisons Dangéreuses and Cruel Intentions). Kilian worked predominantly with the creator of Dior’s J’adore and Marc Jacobs’ Lola, Calice Becker, and on fewer occasions with Sidonie Lancesseur. Kilian’s first line of perfumes did not contain a single cognac fragrance; some were expecting this. Instead, his perfumes are reflective of the family cognac business, containing elements of his younger days among the wine cellars of France. You’ll find cognac influences carried on through sugary, alcoholic, vanilla and woody notes in his perfumes. Each year, new perfumes were added to this collection, now totaling ten. The newer additions are: Prelude to Love, Love and Tears, Back to Black and Sweet Redemption.

Rose Oud_By Kilian

Rose Oud from the Arabian Nights collection.

Kilian’s next collection was called Arabian Nights, launching in 2009. This collection highlights five olfactive harmonies, oud, rose, incense, amber and musk. At center stage in this collection is oud, believed to be worth its weight in gold, and a staple in middle eastern perfumery. Kilian made sure that the packaging celebrated this fact with a gold plaque engraved with the perfume’s name, and the box decorated with a similar gold plate. This collection includes: Pure Oud, Rose Oud, Incense Oud, Amber Oud, and Musk Oud.

2010 brought an adventure inspired by an occasion when his companion chose to wear the By Kilian black lacquer perfume box as a clutch. Kilian adapted this idea into a line of evening bags produced in black lacquer, decorated with shagreen, silver and gold marquetry and Swarovski crystals. Each one had a name of course: Invitation, Aphrodisiac and Don’t Be Shy. Like most of Kilian’s creations, each of the Invitation clutch_By Kilianthree clutches tells a story of it own. The clutches are composed of two collections, Night Fetishes and Prohibited In Colors. Invitation, Aphrodisiac and Don’t Be Shy are part of the Night Fetishes collection.There are seventeen clutches between the two collections, all showing Kilian’s innovative and modern approach and his strides to present items that are truly elegant with uncompromising luxury.

The Asian Tales collection arrived in 2012, where Kilian takes us on an olfactory journey of intimate Asian folklore. Accords such as water-lily, bamboo, peach flower, tea and sandalwood were inspiration for the perfumes that followed. Each perfume was meant to be meditative and spiritual, celebrating Asian traditions. Imperial Tea is the closest you’ll get to a freshly steeped cup of jasmine tea without a kettle. Sacred Wood focuses on a rare commodity in the perfume industry, Mysore sandalwood. Flower of Immortality pays homage to the Chinese tale “A Tale of the Fountain of the Sacred Wood_By KilianPeach Blossom Spring.”Water Calligraphy captures the impression of an aquatic flower sitting next to a pond of water lilies. And finally, Bamboo Harmony gives accolades to bamboo and is described as “a subtle sip of white tea taken in the heart of a bamboo.” This collection is similarly decorated with black lacquer boxes, black bottles and gold labels, but with striking red lettering, a classic Asian color palette.

Kilian launched In the Garden of Good and Evil to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the brand in 2012. The collection comprises the idea of forbidden pleasures and secret desires. The collection includes: In The City of Sin, Good Girl Gone Bad, Forbidden Games and Playing with the Devil added in 2013. The concept here is the result of a journey through unconfessed and shameful desires. Afterwards, we are brought back in time to the entrance of the Garden of Eden.


By Kilian boutique Manhattan

In 2013, Kilian went stateside with the opening of his first boutique in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. To celebrate the grand opening, Kilian’s latest perfume, Apple Brandy New York, was introduced. He admitted that he wanted to make a cognac scent and had worked on this rendition for three years. The perfume has a smoky wood accord, evoking cognac’s oak casks and blended with apple liquor. A nice little nod by Kilian to the Big Apple, New York City and his cognac roots.

Addictive State of Mind collection debuted in 2014 presented in newly-designed presentation boxes, again conforming to Kilian’s luxury ethos. This collection is based on dreams and fantasy. “Perfume to light a fire in your blood and ignite fantasies in your mind.” The collection includes: Intoxicated, Light My Fire and Smoke for the Soul.

The Art Of Love_By Kilian

The Art of Love flacon

February 2014 brought The Art of Love collection, created specifically for the Russian market and a tribute to the heritage of Russian culture. This collection was launched on Valentine’s Day in two small boutiques at the Hotel Ukraine in Moscow and Kazanskaya 5 in St. Petersburg. The concept for the four perfumes is built on passion, lust, desire and romance. The collection will consist of Killing Me Slowly, Kisses Don’t Lie, Dangerously In Love and Criminal of Love. The flacon design is reminiscent of the Fabergé egg, a great Russian tradition.

Another introduction for 2014 is a perfume created by Kilian and perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur. The two have named this perfume playfully after one of the world’s oldest cocktails, Vodka on the Rocks. The perfume is an elegantly simple base of woods and mosses, layered with the spices of cardamom and coriander, lily of the valley, tart rhubarb and rose.

By this time the brand By Kilian is fairly well know in the marketplace. The unconventional idea of perfumed jewelry seems in line with Kilian’s aesthetic. The Jewels of l’Oeuvre Noire collection was Kilian’s idea for something new, beautiful and unique. While the designs are definitely looking toward the past, with Greek and Etruscan influences, the technology is modern. The collection includes perfumed necklaces for women and bracelets for men. These pieces are of high quality, with 18-carat gold plating on the necklaces and 24-carat on the bracelets. There is also an option for maintenance-free silver-hued rhodium. The technology behind the fragrance portion of the jewelry starts with the use of ceramic discsthat are porous in nature, allowing perfume to be applied, and then reapplied to keep the aroma active as needed. This aroma technology also applies to the leather and silk cords of the jewelry. These parts are composed of micro-capsules that gradually break, releasing their scent. Both formats will provide up to one year of fragrance. The leather bracelets offer two different exclusive fragrances created especially for this collection: Santal Noir and Tabac Blond. The Jewels of l’Oeuvre Noire necklace collections (and also the Studio 54 collection) offers a wider selection of By Kilian fragrances to choose from, making each piece’s fragrance unique to the wearer. This is a new and interesting way to wear perfume, and perfect for someone who objects to applying alcohol directly to the skin.

Onyx Tassel Necklace_By Kilian

Onyx Tassel Necklace

How about your own bespoke perfume? Kilian will work with a client, tailoring a perfume to best fit the client’s needs. What you receive for this service is two 500ml flacons which are housed in the signature black lacquered wood box, complete with a working lock and key. The box includes 6 iconic Kilian 50mlbottles and 3 travel sprays of the client’s choice. To further personalize the purchase, a plaque on the bottle will be engraved with the name or wording of your choice. What does all this luxury cost? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

When it comes to Kilian’s personal preference in perfume, he admits typically wearing his own creations. Taste of Heaven seems to be his signature scent. He’s said that it reminds him of Obsession, a long-time personal favorite. For the evening, he wears Back to Black. Kilian’s jeans and t-shirt weekend favorites are Prelude to Love, Sweet Redemption or By Harmony, all excellent choices if I say so myself.

“By Kilian” products are beautifully designed, again paying the closest attention to his ideal of luxury. His imaginative collections were made in collaboration with well-known perfumers Calice Becker, Sidonie Lancesseur, Fabrice Pellegrin, Alberto Morillas and Dorothée Piot. The perfume bottles are one-time purchases, amazingly and artistically designed with modern art deco-inspired subtleties. The perfumes are housed in beautiful black lacquer boxes, including a lock and key to keep your perfume from prying hands. Each bottle is completely refillable and reusable. This forward-thinking idea of sustainability is a breath of fresh air in perfume packaging design. After your initial purchase of any of By Kilian perfumes, you simply purchase the 1.7 oz. fragrance refill, which includes a funnel and empty travel size vial with pump. For a more in-depth look at products available from Kilian Hennessy, please be sure to explore his official website at


Photo by Oleg Covian

If there is one thing to take aware from Kilian Hennessy’s personal philosophy, besides his wondrous stories, is the thoughtfulness and design behind his luxury products. His idea is that true luxury products are not a disposable entity but rather something that should be treasured, lasting a lifetime and then some.

All images from By Killian, Inc. or otherwise noted.


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This entry was posted on January 31, 2015 by in Perfumers and tagged , .

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