Saturday, 3 February 2018

Stepping into niche scent Narnia: a tale of two friends and a beauteous be-tassled bottle of By Kilian Beyond Love

Source: Best Wallpapers
When I have been at a loose end lately due to the general lack of work, I have taken the opportunity to do a bit of 'enabling', as we perfumistas call the process of helping friends to discover new scents. In my case, I have specifically been helping local friends who are 'regular' perfume wearers but who were curious to widen their repertoire by exploring some of the niche brands they knew I had in my collection. I wouldn't call it perfume consultancy exactly, as that sounds rather too grand / pompous, but in each case it was certainly a guided sampling session, whereby the friend would say what style of fragrance or individual perfumes they were drawn to, and I would fetch out things that were in that vein or something related. We didn't always end up in the place we expected, mind: for example, one friend requested 'rose perfumes with amber', and her favourites turned out to be a mixture of 'markedly spicy rose with amber', 'rose, vanilla and patchouli', and one featuring dominant notes of iris and tobacco and no rose or amber whatsoever.

But it is the upshot of the latest sampling session that is the subject of this post - with two friends at once! That took some fancy toggling footwork, to ensure that they each had a constant pipeline of things to try. Also, I had a much clearer idea of the taste of one friend (whom I shall call 'B') than the other, 'J'. B is a lifelong perfume wearer, whose earliest - and rather atypical - fragrance purchase was of Arpege by Lanvin, and who later gravitated towards floral / floriental scents such as Dior J'Adore and D & G The One. In recent years B has been troubled by the fact that The One in particular seemed a pale shadow of its former self due to (presumed) covert reformulation, and she was keen to see what else was out there. J, meanwhile, was a diehard Mitsouko wearer, who had recently smelt and liked Byredo Gypsy Water on her son's girlfriend, and decided to track down a sample for herself, as well as hunting further afield for a new scent she could call her own. J had also recently come across Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon, with which she was also very taken. I couldn't really detect much of a pattern emerging here!

So one evening in January, B and J came over to my house - they also know each other, as luck would have it - and over a few glasses of Chardonnay we explored 'sultry white/tropical florals' for B, and 'orientals and chypres of every stripe, plus a few leather perfumes for good measure' for J. I told you J's taste was more diffuse and hard to pin down...;)

After a couple of hours the dining room looked like a bomb site, and we had emptied several bowls of rather eclectic nibbles (beetroot and goat's cheese crisps and strange extruded, 'penne'-shaped pea snacks in a Thai curry flavour). And done the bottle of Chardonnay, obviously.

Both B and J put a cluster of bottles / decants in the middle of the carpet, representing their top picks from the night's testing. It took me a few days to make up samples for them - partly for them to keep, partly to return afterwards where I either had very little left of the scent in question or where there were practical issues making decanting tricky (eg rollerballs). Finally I duly presented them both with little organza bags containing the following:

B's selection

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur
Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale
Van Cleef & Arpels Lys Carmin
En Voyages Perfumes Zelda
By Kilian Beyond Love
By Kilian Love and Tears
Belinda Brown Blessings
Dior Grand Bal
Byredo Flowerhead
Hiram Green Moonbloom
Illuminum White Gardenia Petals
The Party in Manhattan (surprise hit wild card)

J's selection

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
Chanel Cuir de Russie
Dior Ambre Nuit
L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant
Serge Lutens Boxeuses
Sarah Jessica Parker Stash
Guerlain Apres L'Ondee
Biehl Parfumkunstwerke Mb 03
Bright Earth Parfums Eau de Earth

J's favourite on the night was Ta'if, a big love of mine, and I have yet to hear how the others went down after her systematic testing. For her part, B was extremely quick off the mark, having instantly and heavily fallen for Beyond Love, which Luca Turin famously called 'the greatest tuberose soliflore on earth'. Link to my own review of it here. B is working abroad at the moment and has already had compliments from colleagues about it (of either gender!). So smitten is B with her new fragrant squeeze that she wanted to move quickly on a full bottle purchase, so I said I would check out relative prices on the Net and suggest the best stockist.

Now I have never bought a By Kilian myself, though I was aware that the perfumes come in a very luxurious presentation bottle with the option of a plain refill at half the price for future topping up. B really liked the look of the presentation bottle @ £205, and I was able to reassure her that future purchases would be a fraction of her initial investment.

Source: Olfactoria's Travels ;)

Harvey Nichols and Les Senteurs had Beyond Love at similar prices once you factored in the shipping costs, but I figured Les Senteurs would include a couple of samples with that. And I do feel more drawn to Les Senteurs, because of Nick Gilbert having worked there, plus I know Claire the owner slightly, and their Seymour Place store (which sadly closed in December!) has been the setting for many a happy meet up of perfumistas - and its baroque sofa the backdrop for my avatar. ;) So I rang the Belgravia branch and the chap there confirmed that they do indeed offer samples. He organised for B to receive one of Carnal Flower (which she also wanted to test, but of which I had too little left to be able to share with her), together with a couple of others I steered B towards from the Parfum d'Empire line. So far, so satisfactory.

Not long afterwards, B texted me from Belgium to inquire whether the bottle she had bought was dab/splash only, which floored me rather. I knew it had to act like that in order to be refillable, but had assumed that there would be the option of a spray mechanism as well, especially at that price. My bottle of Un Lys from Serge Lutens came with a detachable spray mechanism, so I knew of at least one precedent for that type of dual system.

By Kilian tassles in the Naegele store, Augsburg!

To make sure, I rang one of the By Kilian boutiques in London, and spent the next ten minutes at complete cross purposes with the foreign lady in the store, possibly because I fatally used the word 'atomiser' to describe the nozzle-y bit at the top that does the actual spraying. So when I inquired: 'Does the bottle come with an atomiser?' I was told it didn't, and that the only way to get one was with the travel set, the cheapest version of which came in at £55. Which all seemed a bit steep and a bit mysterious. You spend £205, then you have to spend another £55 minimum to be able to squirt your new perfume directly on skin in the conventional way?? I kept reframing my question, but to no avail, so I rang Les Senteurs again and the lady I spoke to there - who was also foreign, but got what I meant immediately - assured me that there is a spray mechanism in the bottle already, but that it is unscrewable to permit refilling.

Phew! I was worried there for a moment...

Have you ever owned a By Kilian bottle - the full monty one, with tassle? (Undina...?)

If so, can you also confirm the presence of an integral spray mechanism? Just in case I misunderstood the lady in Les Senteurs...!

Editor's note: Not knowing at the time where it was all going to lead, namely to a significant purchase!, I completely failed to photograph any of our in-home sampling session, so am mostly improvising with a selection of photos from 'stock' of By Kilian and the esoteric pea snacks.


Anonymous said...

I have incense oud and yes the spray mechanism unscrews to enable refilling. In theory, I feel the box/bottle shouldn't matter but it is so lovely and the ability to pointlessly lock it, with the key working in a satisfying solid way, is charming. Hope everything goes well for you and Truffle in 2018, best regards, Helen

Vanessa said...

Hi Helen,

Thanks very much for confirming the presence of a spray mechanism! And I absolutely loved your phrase 'the ability to pointlessly lock it', which is making me smile all over again as I type. There is much pleasure to be had in such small things. All the best in 2018 to you too.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet friend you are! By the way, those snacks look yummy.

Undina said...

The only bottle of By Kilian that I have is a refill bottle that comes with a simple glass atomizer to decant into (the size that goes into the travel case that you’ve discovered). But I was sure the real bottle was a spray one: I don’t think I’ve ever seen those bottles without a spray mechanism - and I’ve seen a lot of them. If your friend uses limited number of perfumes and tend to re-purchase, it makes sense for her to buy a “full presentation”: even refill is expensive enough and looks extremely nice but you don’t get the same feeling of OWNING something special. And, as you correctly pointed out, she’ll be able to buy refills and reuse her beautiful bottle and the “coffin” (but maybe you shouldn’t mention that perfumista slang to your friend ;) ).

I had live sniffing sessions with “civilians” only a couple of times, one resulting in my friend starting wearing perfumes in general (Jo Malone), and the second - moving from some random mainstream perfumes to JHAG. So, we both are doing good, one “civilian” at a time :)

Sarah Waite said...

Hi Vanessa,
I'm going to further confuse the matter now. As a result of you sending me a sample of Liaisons Dangereuses (un-spellchecked) several years ago, I now own a travel set which includes a rather decadent spray black lacquered sexy thing and some refill bottles. The whole thing is refillable with a pipette if you had a refill bottle and thus, I think (?) cheaper than buying the usual bottle presentation first. Does that make sense?
They are bloomin expensive though and I do think that most Kilian scents tend to fit into the category of 'Emperor's New Clothes'. Or indeed 'all fur coat and no knickers'!

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Kind of you to say so...I see myself as more driven by a kind of proselytising zeal that is always on the look out for its next receptive candidate. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

You have Amber Oud, right? It would be rather a swiz if there were no spray mechanism with the main presentation package, so I am heartened to have this confirmed. B is very likely to use and run out of her 50ml of Beyond Love, given how much she is smitten with it, so I fully expect her to benefit from the reduced cost of the refill.

I had forgotten about my 'coffin' expression - first used of a Puredistance box if my memory serves me - this is even more in that vein on account of the black livery, haha.

The friend who was looking for 'rose and amber' fell for JHAG too, interestingly. Oh, and I had to smile at your last sentence...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

Aha, you are in possession of what the lady in the London By Kilian store thought I meant by 'atomiser'...the one that doesn't come with the main box and costs extra! It does look extremely attractive - I like the black lacquered effect very much. Reminiscent of the Habanita bottle.

Tara said...

Hi V,
You did a great match-making job here! I'm sure if you offered this service to the super wealthy, you could get a little business going out of it.
Sandra bought 2 full By Kilian bottles when we were shopping in London so I can ask her about the sprayer if you'd like.

Vanessa said...

Hi T,

Thanks for saying so. B was quite easy, but J really had me scratching my head as to what to run past her next. I think there might well be a market for such 'guided sampling' sessions if I lived somewhere else than here! And of course I couldn't possibly charge my friends. Sandra bought TWO By Kilian bottles? ;) That is getting on for super wealthy in my book.

I think the other commenters have reassured me about the existence of a sprayer, but thanks for offering to ask S.

crikey said...

That sounds like a really fun evening! I had a blast when I took my niece on a guided sampling session a couple of months ago (she ended up with a bottle of Rose Ispahan, a good bag of samples to explore in more depth, and, I fear an incipient drain on her wallet as that girl has expensively good taste.)

Interesting: I have no overlaps of likes with B's list, but 6/9 with J (and I've not sniffed the other 3) and I'm a die hard Mitsouko lover too.

Vanessa said...

Hi Crikey,

What a lovely if expensive sniffing exercise! Sounds very similar in terms of your niece having expensive taste.

I know your taste is much darker than B's, hehe. I have crossover with both on a loose winter / summer basis.

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey Vanessa,
The good thing about introducing your friend to a new glam scent is the expense is only for one bottle. Not like us desperate frag addicts that must have dozens, or hundreds.
Portia xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

That is indeed a great plus point of the By Kilian approach. At least I am over the acquisition mania phase, hehe.