By Kilian Dark Lord “Ex Tenebris Lux”

Yes. Finally.

My decant of this arrived last week and that’s what we’ve done. No other fragrances. Just.This.

So, let’s cut to the chase and then talk all the other faff. Don’t buy this for your beloved for Valentine’s Day. Does this live up to all my huge expectations? No and a huge yes.

It continues to be (ie, post my initial smell back in the autumn and then only on a blotter) one of the best fragrances ever to pass under my nose.

On me, it smells very good – and better on the right vs left wrist. But. It does not smell as good as it does on a blotter. And on a blotter it smells … uh … astonishing.

So, where does that leave things? Well, financially all good. Because I don’t ‘need’ a bottle of Dark Lord. The decant will do me. But I expect when I’ve finished the decant … I’ll need another decant.

Musette commented succinctly on this  here  (see about two-thirds down). I agree with much of what she said.

I know we tend to always say that something can be worn by anyone because we’re not silly here on the Posse or constrained by weird stupid outdated conventions.

Having said that this is decidedly a masculine. In fact, it is among the few things I have ever smelled that I would say that about. It’s not the same as Knize 10 or Tauer Lonestar or any other leather/birch tar-ish fragrance I’ve smelled. It’s just sort of inhabits a different space.

This is, I think, meant as an archetype fragrance. That archetype is a certain type of masculinity. I read some of the reviews out there and, boy, are a lot of them rubbish, ‘I’m an alpha male and this is my fragrance’ sort of shit (I would imagine these are people who like the misogynist pig Andrew Tate).

But don’t be fooled that this means it’s simply a big-rough/smooth-guy leather. It’s not that clichéd.

Anyway, I’m trying to make the point that I’m not surprised, beyond the price point, that this isn’t at the top of all those best masculine, best perfume, you need to get this for Valentine’s Day lists.

So, finally, I get to the fragrance. I think the name is misleading, but the sub name is not. Dark Lord … feh. Not some Arthurian knight; not Voldemort in Harry Potter; not something in Star Wars; decidedly not Christian Grey’s playroom (the last one actually came up in one of the reviews I read – feh, twit). I guess they had to name it something and I don’t know what name I would give it, but it’s not this. It’s attention seeking. This fragrance doesn’t need to do that. The sub head, Ex Tenebris Lux, translates to ‘from darkness comes light’. And that makes sense to me.

Per the website, this is part of the Smokes ‘family’. The scent of ‘Bakhoor (per the amiroud blog, Bakhoor is an Arabic word that means fumes and is known for perfuming surroundings), incense and tobacco’. I guess. Maybe.

Dark Lord is from 2018 but it seems timeless. Alberto Morillas was the nose and boy, did he do something great. Notes list: pepper, Sichuan pepper, bergamot, rum, jasmine sambac, davana (nb: smells like apricot or ripe fruit), leather (not birch tar in list, leather, so whatever that means chemically), cypriol oil, cedar and patchouli (no vetiver in that list from Fragrantica – Musette notes vetiver – I wonder if that’s the pepper).

On me, this starts pepper over leather. Proper pepper – sharp, spicy, medicinal. That smooths out to spicy leather with a bit of floral and maybe incense and woods (I may just be suggestible). And then in the middle the fruit aspect pushes to the fore but still simply modifying that great leather — luscious leather with that bit of rum. Maybe the davana … Can leather be mouth-watering? It dries down to a smooth leather on me. Like the best soft high-quality leather jacket some great-smelling guy was wearing. Nothing in this shouts, but whoa nelly does it have presence. It’s gorgeously composed.

It is also incredibly long-lived. On the first day, I put it on late morning and woke up at around 3 am and smelled my wrist. Still a whisper of it there.

I can imagine a tiny bit of this on the back of someone’s neck which you only get when going in for that first kiss, hands in hair, starting to breathe each other. Oh.My.

That’s a lot to unload about a perfume but clearly this had me at hello. I don’t mind that it doesn’t sing hugely on me. It still smells really really good. It can do the heavy lifting on others.

Dark Lord is a little hard to find. The Kilian websites of course. Harrods in the UK has it; Liberty doesn’t appear to. I ended up dropping silly money to get my decant from Surrender to Chance (see the pic above).

So, what do you think? Does this all sound silly? Is this one of yours and you’d happily drop the almost £200 to get hold of it again? Are you repelled or intrigued or just meh?

Pics: Pexels and me

  • Tom says:

    Okay, now I really have to try this.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    The days of dropping $200 and over for a perfume are mostly behind me. You know that with inflation, food and shelter are top priority for me right now. Someday I will get a decant of this and do a test drive.

  • Dina C. says:

    Even my feminine leathers like Cuir de Russie, Jolie Madame, and Bottega Veneta don’t get too many outings, so I’m afraid this Dark Lord is way out of my league. But your review is top notch! Love reading your description of it, Cinnamon. Glad your decant finally arrived so you can enjoy it!

    • cinnamon says:

      I find I can wear this. I like how it smells on me. I do think Knife 10 is easier for me to wear. Cuir de Russie didn’t work on me for reasons I can’t recall. Neither did Jolie Madame. I don’t think I’ve tried BV. Maybe should remedy that.

  • March says:

    Well this sounds amazing, thanks for the thorough review. I haven’t tried it but I feel like I should; maybe it’s strong enough I could smell it. It does sound great for this time of year, I love the ones that stick around.

    • cinnamon says:

      oh, this sticks around. and it’s definitely colder weather — or I would think sings in colder weather.

  • alityke says:

    I’m such a muppet. I thought a had a sample of Dark Lord, turns out it’s Black Phantom! D’oh!
    They do share that rum note though

    • cinnamon says:

      Do you like Black Phantom? the other Kilian sample I have is Love Don’t Be Shy which I quite like but certainly don’t need in bottle form.

      • alityke says:

        It’s bitter/sweet. There’s an underlying darkness like 95% chocolate, it doesn’t smell chocolatey though. The caramel is more the top of a brûlée, butter rather than sugary. It isn’t smooth at all. There is the rum but again it has bite. Then there’s the smoke of burnt sugar. It should be gourmand looking at the notes but the reality is definitely Black.
        Chocolate is probably my least favourite note in perfumery but this chocolate is burnt. Who was the character who burnt nubs of chocolate on a pin in a Bunsen burner?

  • Portia says:

    WOW Cinnamon, you put forth a convincing case. I’m sure I tried this when it came out and liked it but the one I bought was its predecessor Gold Knight, honey/amber/patchouli.
    Now I’m lemming this as well. Will go hunting.
    Portia x

    • cinnamon says:

      Oh, it is definitely worth sampling — even if you find (like me) it is better on paper than skin. That isn’t to say I don’t like wearing it — just that my chemistry doesn’t quite do it justice.

  • Musette says:

    Fabulous review, cinnamon!! I, too, think this beautiful perfume skews masculine – but that’s mostly because whenever I wear it I cannot help but think of this amazing man I met on NYEve, with the gorgeous grace and attitude of a panther. I will likely never see him again (it was a chance meeting in a bar, whilst awaiting a table) but whenever I sniff this I …. well, he comes to mind 😉

    Were I to actually smell this on him I’d probably end up in the back of a SWAT van.


    • cinnamon says:

      strangely (maybe) I thought of my boyfriend when I was 16 when wearing this. he definitely wasn’t panther-like but does have grace and is one of the most centred humans I’ve ever encountered (even when he was 16). and something about him was honey to others — men and women. but he was always gracious and considerate about us partners but also about saying no when something didn’t work for him. a rare being — completely alpha without any of the nasty side effects.

  • Kathleen says:

    Yay for receiving your decant! Not my style of perfume; however, I love that there is a fragrance for everyone, and that this fragrance received love and dialogue. The only By Kilian I own is Love from years ago in the black bottle. I’ve not enjoyed any others sampled enough to justify the price.

    • cinnamon says:

      No, this isn’t either for everyone or a simple and easy wear. And indeed the price points of these are just wearying — and they aren’t even the priciest things out there.

  • Tara C says:

    I wouldn’t go far out of my way to test it as I’m not into blokey scents, but if I had access to a tester in a shop I’d try it. I like Black Phantom for myself, as well as Woman in Gold.

    • cinnamon says:

      What are these two like? I tried a few Kilians on paper on the same trip when I got the Dark Lord at Harrods. I don’t remember any of them — I think I was more focused on the Amouages. I did get a sample of Love Don’t Be Shy (I think I had another one that leaked) which I enjoy but infrequently.