By Kilian Back to Black – Perfume Review

Calice Becker did Back to Black for By Kilian, their newest release.  Made up of Bergamot, raspberry, blue chamomile, cardamom, coriander, saffron, cedarwood, vanilla, almond, vetiver, cistus labdanum, patchouli, and oakmoss.

I’m really most cross with Kilian.  The first few fragrances I thought were fine, but other than the nifty bottles, I just couldn’t justify the price tag and could simply ignore them.  The last two they’ve done, By Kilian Pure Oud and By Kilian Back to Black, I’m having to buy bottles of this stuff at $225 and up, and that really sucks.  Really.  Really.  Sucks.

Honeyed, spiced smoky tobacco.  This is the smell of my dad when he smoked a pipe, slightly sweet, rich, earthy, complex, comforting.  Grain de Musc reviewed this already, as did Octavian here. You know what? I don’t normally like the smell of honey in any perfume, it usually just makes me choke up, but blended so perfect with the tobacco, incense, oakmoss and spice notes, it just purrs like I put my nose right into the honey jar – not that cheap store stuff, the comb honey we used to get on the farm – and came out with some on the tip.  There’s definitely a gourmand quality to By Kilian Back to Black, but it just sorta floats out there as a component, not as the main feature.  I swear, I’d just eat this stuff if I could.

You know what’s really fun?  Put it on next to By Kilian Pure Oud.  Yeah, I know I just dripped about $20 worth of perfume on my hand to find out what that was like, but I don’t care.  It was so worth it to find out.  I have no words to express how perfect these two scents lie next to each other and intertwine..

Okay, Kilian, other than price, you’ve completely redeemed yourself in my eyes with these last two releases.   More, please.  Now, I do know the price tag is a killer, $225 for 50 mls, and these have great lasting power (okay, the Oud is more, we won’t talk about that right now), but the refills are $115. So if you buddy up with a couple of people, and only one of you wants the cute bottle and packaging, it does bring it down to a more reasonable price.  No, not cheap, but this By Kilian Back to Black Aphrodisaic is really amazing.

In my ongoing cosmetic procedures corner – I’m peeling.  I can’t remember if March did one of these, but I settled in for my VIPeel, which is supposed to be fabulous, but you peel like a snake on days 3, 4 and 5. So I’m in hiding on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week and ordering in Sushi.  They told me to expect some stinging at first. Well, my face is on fricking fire right now  – two hours after – but cooling a little. It’s bright red.  I’m hoping by morning it will be just slightly red so I can do yoga.  I’ll give you guys the results next week when it’s done peeling. They recommended that I follow the peel with a photofacial at two weeks, which I am going to do, along with some routine filler upkeep.  Anyone else done a peel of any type?  Was it worth it, would you do it again?  I mean, if my face stops burning soon and the results are great, I just won’t care.

The nice ladies at Hermes didn’t laugh too hard when I popped into pick up some perfume after the chemical peel, but I hadn’t hit the apex of redness then.  Or they’re just too polite and didn’t want to say.  Can we talk about the Hermes Mousseline scarves?  I mean, just, holy,  so wow.  I have other Hermes scarves in the normal silk and in cashmere, but those lightweight gorgeous floaty ones just made me cry.  I NEEDS one, and they’re over $600.  How in the world can I justify that?  I mean, I can justify anything, but it would be a lot easier if it were cashmere or something more substantial, but it’s all floaty and gauzy and sheer and delicate and so beautiful, it made me almost cry.  Ideas on justification?

Chanel Rouge Allure Laque Luminous Satin Lip Laquer.   Rocks.  Srsly.  I got it in Ming (pink) and Dragon (red).  Dragon is the perfect red, and the Ming is a perfect pink for your lips.  It goes on as a gloss, but smooths out to be more of a moisturizing lipstick, not really gloss at all, but sorta like gloss.  It’s a weird effect.  The lasting power is good, it doesn’t have that Chanel taste at all that their lipsticks have that I hate. Beautiful colors, but they need more of them.

I saw Julie and Julia at the movies this week.  I’m completely smitten with Julia Child, dead though she is. So much so that I bought my first real pearl necklace.

We have covered a LOT of territory, y’all, for this Thursday!

Winners of the UFO samples are:  hongongmom, Masha and Francesca.  Click on the contact us button over there on the left, send me your name and address and remind me what you won, and I’ll get you out your sample!!

Winners of the Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte samples:  Theresa, elizablue, Kim, Eva, Michelle H,  ScentRed, Aubrey, Tarleisio, Dleep and Mariekel.  Just follow the same instructions as for the UFO winners, click on the contact us and send me your name, address, remind me the sample you won, and I’ll get it sent to you.

You can get a By Kilian Back to Black sample at Surrender to Chance

  • carmencanada says:

    I approached the Kilians with a lot of misgivings (remember their ad copy at the beginning?) but I’ve ended up loving quite a few — Beyond Love is my go-to tuberose these days (but don’t tell Carnal Flower and Tubéreuse Criminelle — Fracas already hurled herself from her box and smashed to smithereens on my floor). I’m quite absurdly smitten with Love (that’s the meringue one), for a girl who doesn’t do gourmands. Pure Oud is killing me (like Tara, still not psyched to drop that much cash on a bottle), but Back to Black definitely has a spot in my collection soon.
    Overall, I think BKs are winners because of the quality of their materials — no stinginess there. And I’ll be watching much more closely from now on.

    • Billy D says:

      I get a strange shampoo-y quality from Beyond Love. I think there’s too much coconut for me, which, interestingly, is what I love about Straight to Heaven.

      You are completely right about the materials. I get nothing that smells like “perfume” (i.e. alcohol) from these. They seem pure and elemental, yet complex at the same time. I wish the packaging were a little less baroque, but they are at least attractive.

  • Tara C says:

    I order the BTB unsniffed (yes I know it was crazy, but I trust Denyse’s opinions on these things) and it is swoonworthy indeed, I am not disappointed. It totally smelled like Rahat Loukhoum on me in the middle part of the drydown, but the opening and late drydown were much more tobaccoey, which I love. Must go home and try it with the oud, that sounds like it would be wonderful. Stilly psyching myself up to spend $400+ on a 50ml bottle.. not sure I’ll make it. I am waiting to smell the Bond No. 9 oud scent as well, then I’ll make a move.

  • Disteza says:

    I’ve yet to sniff any of the By Killian’s that elicited an reaction more favorable than “Meh. Next.” but I’ve got some samps of BTB and Pure Oud coming, so I’m waiting to see if they change my mind about the line.

    On the skin peel; I have a rather unorthodox skin regime that involves chamomile lotion and a pumice stone. I hear some of you shrieking in horror already. =) I may end up needing a pro peel at some point, though, so I’m interested in your results too.

    If you can get the scarf, it’s beauty will justify itself. I just dropped a boatload of $$$ on an embroidered manton that will most definitely be passed on to some lucky girl-child in my family; in the meantime I’m looking for some flamenco gigs where I can deploy it to earn its keep.

  • Dleep says:

    That fragrance sounds gorgeous to me. I have not tried any of the Killian’s. I am weak. If I like a perfume I will obsess about it until it is mine. I wish I hadn’t read the part about the lipstick. My red lipstick buying habit is almost as bad as my perfume buying habit. I watched a Julia Child mini-marathon a few weeks ago and it brought back memories of watching her show with my grandmother and godmother


  • Daisy says:

    oh darn! I knew as I started reading that lemming was not far behind! And yet I continued to read (thus proving my self-destructive tendencies). So now I’m off to luckyscent….maybe aedes…..for a sample! Then I’m emailing Cynthia to whip her lemmings into a froth too. (evil laughter)
    Ethereal Hermes Scarves—for $600 yet! Sounds absolutely scrumptious…however, I would snag it on something almost immediately and then cry for days. $600 toward spendy perfumes…now you’re talkin!

    • Patty says:

      sorry, sorry, sorry! 🙂

      You know, I haven’t regretted any of my hermes scarves yet. I have one that’s cashmere that I spent a fortune on, but it’s so beautiful and warm, it can substitute as a coat.

    • CynthiaW says:

      Like I don’t get into enough trouble on my own. 🙂 Actually, that’s not true – on my own, I would talk myself out of buying spendy perfume, but if I’m just *splitting* a bottle – well, that’s a whole other story, isn’t it? Daisy is definitely my perfume dealer – she starts with a few samples, just so you get a taste of some good stuff and next thing you know you’re ordering all sorts of expensive stuff.

      So, Daisy, want to split some Back to Black? JK – we have to at least *sniff* it first, right?

      • Patty says:

        It’s ?good? to have an enabler, right?

      • Daisy says:

        At this price point, yeah—we better sniff it a couple times! So far none of the by Kilians have been anything to write home about (whew! perfume bullet dodged)…but Patty is killing me with this review! hmmm….Patty, maybe you should go buy that scarf! I’d hate to be broke alone….. I hope that I don’t love BtB….everything on my list is already so spendy!!

        • CynthiaW says:

          When I go back to Saks, I’m going to try to wheedle a sample (or two) out of the By Killian SA – it’s worth a try, right?

  • trinity says:

    Hi Patty – I don’t have any personal experience with peels, but I hope yours turns out great! Can’t wait to hear about your final result!

    BTW, do you get any similarity between BtB and Lutens Rahat Loukoum? I adore RL, and if the BtB is similar, I can do without it, LOL! (see how I am trying to talk myself out of it?) Whatdaya think?

    • Patty says:

      Thanks! i’m hoping it’s awesome. After Louise and I chatted in London, and her skin looks so amazing, she had the goal of getting her skin to the point where she didn’t need any foundation. That’s my goal now. My doctor says it’s definitely doable. I don’t need a lot as it is, but I’d really love to do just nothing and have my skin always look great, no little blotches, nothing.

      Oh, yeah, definitely some Rahat’ishness in there. I think in the spices/ honey? But the tobacco is much more prominent. RL is one I love in the bottle, but it turns to crap on my skin, don’t know why. This one really works.

      Maybe I should try them together? Hmmm…

  • jemimagold says:

    Ok- I’m definitely intrigued by Back to Black and will try it when I go to Paris in Nov. I was surprised to see last year in Paris that Printemps carries the By Kilian line and it is out in the open for all department store goers to try/sniff. It would be like Macy’s carrying BK over here in the USA.

    • Patty says:

      I know, weird, right? I think the French have a much more laid-back view of perfume and that it should be out front and center for people to try, which is the way I think of it. Locking it behind a case seems so ridiculous!

  • Connie says:

    I’ve never done a peel before so I will be interested in your update apres-peel. I’m sure you’ll look even more beautiful on Monday. 🙂

    I think I’ve sniffed some Kilian’s before and thought they were OK, nothing to drool over. However, I think I may need to sniff this one, it sounds delicious. And … it shares its name with my favorite album of 2007 by Ms. Winehouse.

    I haven’t been makeup shopping in a while but I’m definitely going to check out those Chanel lippies.

    I looooooved Julie and Julia, too. I even made boeuf bourguignon last night! Meryl Streep is, well, Meryl Streep … a national treasure. I thought Amy Adams was adorable! My sister lived in Cambridge years ago and would run into Ms. Child quite often at Savanor’s Market. I went to see the movie with her and it was fun listening to her reminiscing about her (single) time in Cambridge and Boston and her bumping into her. She was intimidating to her … perhaps because she was a local (and national) star but also (maybe) because my sister is 5’1″ and Julia is extremely tall.

    How cool that you got yourself some pearls. If you can afford that Hermes scarf, just do it. Life is short and you deserve it…:-)

    A lot of territory covered, indeed. Thank you, Patty!

    • Patty says:

      I am anxiously awaiting my Julia cookbook to arrive so I can make the Boeuf. It just sounds delicious and perfect.

      Meryl is just tough. I’ve gone through phases where I am so over her, but in a recent interview, I think she said the same thing, which made me love her again. She knows she’s so good that sometimes it just wears you out.

      But, man, she was so great as Julia.

  • Melissa says:

    I generally dislike honey in fragrances, so Back to Black didn’t yell “buy me” when I sampled it. But I did keep sniffing the spot where I dabbed it, so maybe I would love it on second try? I don’t really want to know! The per ml price of my purchases has been climbing into the stratosphere in the past couple of months.

    Oh and peels. I have had a couple of very light peels-the ones that don’t make you shed like a snake. Nice enough, not very long-lasting. But the whole face-burning, skin-peeling thing makes me a bit nervous. I will look forward to hearing what you think of the results though!

    • Patty says:

      i will let you know, that’s for sure!

      The honey note made me nervous in this, and I can see how it would put you off, but it’s one of the few honeys I’ve ever liked!

  • Maura says:

    Another frag to add to my FB list I presume. My sample should arrive today :-). Also, LS is expecting the travel atomizers/refills of this in Oct. Got a note from them earlier in the week!!

  • Louise says:

    Patty, I feel we need to sit down for a coffee and pastry and discuss these varied issues 🙂

    I liked the BTB a lot, but it was blending with 4 CSP ouds, Sophie, and 2 or 3 other scents. All I really remember is the very nice drydown…and that it lasted well.

    I’m thinking of doing a peel, too-just burn off that top layer of dull skin on top of the filler. I’ve done microdermabrasion to good result, with slight peeling, but whatever peel March did made her look even more beautiful. Didn’t know that was possible! But finding 3 days to look snake-y is hard when you work in a high school…not that the kids would comment 🙂

    I like the Rouge Laques a lot-I think I tried Fantasie. They are certainly a liquid lipstick, not a gloss, and wear nicely. I would hope for an expanded range soon, and will stick with my Aqualumieres for the rest of the summer, likely.

    I’ve been low-ending it with my scarves-I find loads of cute ones at the teen shops and kiosks (and many in Paris), but love to oooh and aaah at Hermes. But I “need” more Vanille Galante soon, so will have to check out the new mousselines!

    • Patty says:

      coffee and pastry would be so much better.

      I like B to B better today. It loses some of the honey/spices and more of a dry tobacco scent. That it’s still super-strong after 15 hours or so is amazing.

      I should low end scarves, but for some reason, I never seem to see pretty, bright cheerful ones when I’m out shopping here. I think there’s not that big of a demand for them, so they’re harder to find. I wish I had looking in Paris.

      The Mousselines are so perfect for a lighter weight scarf, just really perfect.

  • hongkongmom says:

    ps my favourite red is MAC russian red and a great moisturizing one is by BECCA…more like a stain!! and WHOOOOOOOOPIE/thanks on the ufo sample

  • hongkongmom says:

    ok…so lets definately talk about MOUSSElINE…if u can afford it…GO GET IT and then give some money to a charity foundation as well….and enjoy doing both!!! Haven’t done any peels…and kilian is not available in Hong Kong…Amouage on the other hand…has just arrived…..and I am having a real tough time trying to choose between jubilation 25. lyric woman and ubar as a first choice of purchase …. may we always have these kinds of poblem choices…scarves and fregrances!!!

    • Patty says:

      Well, I can, but it seems really frivolous. Not that that normally stops me. 🙂

      Go for the Lyric Woman. I seriously adore that scent, it’s just rich and so different.

  • annie says:

    ps….didn’t they give you any great drugs with the ‘peel’….yum

    • Patty says:

      Nope. Not that level of pain. It doesn’t hurt at all today, just skin feels a little stiff, I assume where the skin is now dying and will start peeling tomorrow or Saturday!

  • annie says:

    OK….GET THE SCARF….you would spend that amount on several bottles of really grand perfume,and would ‘carry on’ ‘jis a teensy,so JUST DO IT…anything that makes you feel that good,is a necessity….you(sadly)didn’t listen to me about that gorgeous purse months ago,and from reading all your blogging,you are not in danger of the lights being shut off….I will justify it for you,and when you pass on to that perfume temple in the sky,bequithe(?) it all,to those who adore you,,pearls,perfume,scarves,etc….they will cherish them….didn’t think of that,did ya’,huh???

  • Kim says:

    Peel? I’m a pain wimp so no, no, no, not for this girl!!

    I love By Kilian’s Liaisons Dangereuses and it is available in a cute little travel set – 4 x 0.25 oz – much less costly than the bigger bottle. Can’t wait try this new one – sounds great.

  • Trish says:


    You’re killing me with the pearls and the Hermes scarf (someday!) and the red Chanel lipstick. We’ll make a lady out of you yet! LOL.

    Oh, and I sniffed the Killian tuberose one while I was at Aedes…what’s the name? Anyway, it was hella good. 🙂

    • Patty says:

      Don’t be so sure about that lady part. That means I need to start wearing skirts and dresses, which I did for a while and loved, but these days I’m mostly in yoga clothes.

  • Francesca says:

    Pure Oud is heavenly. Haven’t tried BtB yet. That Iris one he did fairly recently? Didn’t like at all. Smelled like cucumber, and not in a nice summery way.

    I haven’t tried a peel, but I’d love to. I just don’t know what to ask for. Good luck with yours, Patty! I’m sure you will be more fabulous than ever.

    • Patty says:

      I didn’t like that iris one either, though I keep thinking I need to try it again.

      My doc was pretty helpful on telling me what he thought would work best for me, which was nice!

  • mharvey816 says:

    I knew you’d love the Rouge Allure Laque!

  • Musette says:

    P –


    I’mo try the Chanel red – I usually hate their lippies (along with EL) because of the smell/taste – but if these don’t smell and the red works……hmmm… and I’m on my way to Saks tomorrow (I hope) – perhaps I’ll get lucky!

    xoxoxo >-)

  • lemonprint says:

    I’ve only done the home peels from philosophy. There is no stinging, no redness, no hiding at home; you’re good to go the next day. I’m trying to do them once a week, which might be too much of a pain for you, but they take 10 minutes. Not as much angst!

    • Patty says:

      I’ve done at-home peels before, and they did seem to work. I just wanted to do an industrial strength one to see if they’re really that much better or if I can save money.

      I thought about posting pictures, but thought if children happened by this site, it could give them nightmares.

      I’m thinking the same thing about the zombie baby display I want to do for Halloween too, though.

  • carter says:

    I wish I could help you out with the peel business, but I’ve never done one. Actually, I’ve never done anything except my trusty-dusty facial exercises and a portable LED light that I keep forgetting to use, but then I also look like a bassett hound, so there’s that…

    • Patty says:

      Oh, you do NOT look like a basset hound. Well, I’ve never met you, but I’ve seen your picture, and it’s very not basset hound’ish.

  • CynthiaW says:

    They have the By Killians at Saks – I walked by the display this weekend chanting “must not try, must not try” because I don’t want to start lusting for another too expensive line. My frag expenditures are already out of control as it is. Can you just buy the refills? Or is it one of those things where you have to bring in the original bottle or have some kind of proof of purchase?

    Blerg …I’ll probably have to try them now when I go back to Saks in a few weeks. Maybe they’ll have samples and I can be satisfied with that for awhile.

  • carter says:

    Well, I was hoping that CC was wrong for once in her life. This is terrible, terrible news.

  • Sara K says:

    This sounds incredible…I’m really mad that I might have to spend $$ that I don’t have….

  • Billy D says:

    I never understood the dislike for the Kilians…Straight to Heaven is GENIUS to me, 100% amazing and the best scent for fall hands down. I’ve just tried Pure Oud, and it too is fabulous. I’m dying to try BTB…I’ve been looking for a true pipe tobacco scent for so long, and this sounds just lovely.

    • Patty says:

      You know, I never didn’t like them, I just didn’t think the first round of releases were worth all the hype or money. I would have happily owned several! They’ve changed my mind with these.

      Back to Black is tenacious. Still smells almost the same 12 hours later, just not quite as strong. It outlasted the Pure Oud. Wow.

      • Billy D says:

        You know, I find Pure Oud to not actually be that tenacious, which is a good thing because if it were as intense as it is at first dab forever, it would be a migraine inducer. After about an hour on me, it becomes a complete skin scent, which I don’t mind. I bet spraying would make a difference though.

        Straight to Heaven is very tenacious, but I find that it undergoes a lot of really interesting stages along the way. I actually have not tried A Taste of Heaven, but I really should. STH is the only one of the originals that I really felt like I had to have, although I quite like Les Liaisons Dangereuses and went through a quick fling with Beyond Love (have not tried Love). At the very least, I find all his offerings to be, ultimately, unique without screaming UNIQUE. Subtly unique, if you will.

    • Aubrey says:

      Agreed! I looooove Straight to Heaven. On me, it’s a smoky boozy comfort scent that also smells aggressive and sexy and metalic.

      And if I dab a teeny amount on before bed, I can still smell it the next morning. This is the only frag I can still smell the next morning, after months of testing.

      On the other hand, Taste of Heaven actually makes me ill, which is a shame. I want to love it, but it literally makes the room spin. It’s the only fragrance I’ve had this sort of reaction from. Still, I don’t hold it again By Kilian– they’re fantastic.

      I can’t wait to try Back to Black.