Tuesday, May 1, 2012
A Short Visit with Kilian Hennessy of By Kilian and the Asian Tales Collection, Water Calligraphy and Bamboo Harmony
If you don't know who Kilian Hennessy is, you should. Heir to a long line of cognac makers and grandson of the founder of LVMH (a luxury conglomerate that owns too many brands and labels to list here), Kilian Hennessy has continued his family's luxurious traditions with his own line of fragrances, By Kilian.
Can you imagine a childhood running around in world-famous cognac cellars? Clearly Kilian had a privileged upbringing. He studied at The School of Higher Studies in Information and Communication Sciences at the Sorbonne. He wrote his thesis on "the semantics of odors, in search of a language common to gods and mortals. In search of the angels' share, he encountered the world of perfumery." The "angels' share" is what the House of Hennessy calls the percentage of cognac that inexplicably evaporates from the cellars, like an offering to the gods. After he graduated, he trained with some of the finest noses in the fragrance industry and most prestigious perfume houses.
Kilian's Web site says that his fragrances are redolent of the sugar in alcohol and the wood in cognac barrels. We all draw from our histories, but his was surely rich in the experiences of taste and smell.
Kilian confirmed for me that both fragrances were developed to appeal to an Asian aesthetic that includes a preference for light fragrances. Those who want their fragrances to announce their presence in a room and leave a trail behind them probably won't like the new By Kilian scents. I love them! I appreciate a light, perfectly crafted harmony of notes that's personal. I don't want others to smell me from four feet away. I'm looking for a more intimate connection with fragrance. I want to enjoy it, and I'm happy if anyone within a few feet of me can enjoy it. I may overuse the term "office-friendly," but Water Calligraphy and Bamboo Harmony are office-friendly.
As a member of the Kilian Club on Facebook, I had received samples of both fragrances in the mail. Kilian's sampling program is a first, I think. He sends out samples of his new introductions to thousands of customers - from France! It's an exciting day at my house when a By Kilian envelope arrives.
All By Kilian fragrances are presented in beautiful black lacquer box. The box is nestled in a velvet sleeve with the K logo. The box with a lock (to its secret?) comes with a key attached by a ribbon and the story - in this case Asian Tales - printed elegantly as a loose-leaf memento. The black bottle is nestled into a silk bed, redolent of luxurious silk sheets. They would make an elegant gift - for yourself or someone you love.
The Asian Tales Collection will ultimately be composed of five fragrances, four inspired by four Asian Tales and one as a homage to the great art that gave birth to these tales, calligraphy. I'm afraid we'll have to wait a year for the third to be released. In the meantime, Kilian will launch a collection inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost and the knowledge of good and evil. Both Kilian and his lovely CEO and partner, Elisabeth Noel Jones, described the next collection as being fruit-based. We talked about the forbidden apple and how hard it is to create an elegant apple scent. That one may be the last to be launched in the upcoming collection.
We covered a lot of ground during our short chat. Having already read much of his background, I asked him some zany questions. Is there an angels' share with fragrance. No, we take care that it does not evaporate. It's stored in temperature-controlled warehouses between the time it is made and the time it ships to retailers. Does he think fragrance can improve with time as some vintage fragrance lovers believe? No, it spoils. Keep your treasures in the refrigerator or wine cooler. His favorite cognac? No comment, but he does like XO on ice. Kilian is beyond charming. He answered my crazy questions with a smile - always speaking with his eyes.
For now, if you are interested in giving Water Calligraphy or Bamboo Harmony a whiff, you can order samples at MiN New York (call (212) 206-6366) or Luckyscent (although I don't see samples listed at the latter). Saks Fifth Avenue By Kilian counters should have them too. You can purchase these wonderful new fragrances at the same sources. I'd recommend MiN.
Plus, the wonderful folks at MiN New York just offered us a giveaway. Check back on Sunday!
Photo at top by Best Things in Beauty; fragrance photo courtesy of MiN New York; bamboo grove photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org; calligraphy courtesy of chinapage.com