Smells Like Trouble: A Bartender's Review of Kilian's New Liquor-Inspired Fragrances

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tynan
 Tynan Sinks

Welcome to Tynan Sinks' new fragrance column, Smells Like Trouble. As Byrdie's resident fragrance connoisseur, Tynan will be sharing the scents that linger on in his mind, and nose, and clothes.

Having been a bartender since before it was legal for me to do so, if there’s one thing I know better than perfume, it’s booze. My relationship with alcohol, much like fragrance, is a constant balancing act. How much do I want? How much do I need? How much is too much, and will I find out before I’ve gone too far? Also, like fragrance, my relationship with alcohol has often been a performance for others—sometimes for better, sometimes not.

I guess in a way, being a beauty and fragrance writer for all of my adult life, and bar tender for even longer than that, I’ve also played a large role in brokering both booze and fragrance in the lives of others.

Alcohol and scent are a lot alike. In their own ways, they can alter a mood, change your state of mind (one more literally than the other, I realize.) Also, the one you reach for can vary depending on your surroundings or audience.

You might be a sweet fragrance person, but you reach for a spicier scent to project an air of seriousness. Or, you might be a light beer drinker, but on a date, you order a glass of wine to set the mood, or at a happy hour with your coworkers, you get a whiskey rocks that you end up choking down. So much of our personal tastes have been formed by what we perceive others to think is socially acceptable. But so have theirs, so who is really calling the shots here? Do I really like this fragrance, or do I only like it because I think you will like it?

kilian

Perception is important, especially when you’re working behind the bar. You have to be able to read a person with one glance, before they even open their mouth. Have they had too much to drink, should I cut them off? Are they having a bad night, should I pour them a shot? Are they on a good date, should I spot them a round?

I could go on, and I might! But I'll get to the point: When fragrance house Kilian told me about their new collection, called The Liquors, I was immediately intrigued. Sure, there are boozy notes in many fragrances, but concepting an entire line around alcohol? This could go wrong in many ways.

The Liquors is a collection of two scents, one inspired by clear liquor called Roses On Ice, and one by dark liquor called Angels' Share. Let's start there.

Angels' Share By Kilian
Kilian Angels' Share Eau de Parfum $195
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Truthfully, Angels’ Share sounds good. But it smells? Even better.

The scent itself is inspired by cognac, a sweet, dark liquor that’s easy to sip. This is appropriate, since Kilian is the eighth-generation heir to the Hennessy, the premier cognac. The name comes from “la part des anges” or “angels' share,” which is when part of the liquor evaporates when aging in oak barrels and lifts into the air, like “a silent offering to the gods.”

And my god. This scent is almost too good. Opening with cognac oil and oak absolute, it’s an olfactory interpretation of cognac's aging process. The scent is expanded upon by the absolutely indulgent cinnamon essence, tonka bean absolute, and finished with sandalwood, praline, and vanilla.

It is everything I want in a fragrance, always. Warm. Sweet. Spicy. A little woody to pull it back from cloying territory, ensuring it never leans too sweet. It doesn't smell like liquor in a literal sense, and honestly, it doesn't even smell boozy. It's just takes all of the best notes in cognac and imagines them as a fantasy version of themselves.

Not to relegate it to any particular season, but I’m so happy that this is dropping ahead of the cold weather because this is the perfect scent to ride out the holidays and new year with. I can’t wait to smell it under my crewneck on the coldest days of the year. The minute I first smelled it, I knew it was going to be a mainstay. It's a scent that flat out brings me joy.

The second fragrance, Roses On Ice, is Kilian’s take on gin.

Roses On Ice By Kilian
Killian Roses on Ice Eau de Parfum $195
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Gin interpreted in fragrance can go one of a lot of ways. It can be very crisp, very green, or almost lean sterile, like gin itself. Gin is made of many of the same botanicals and aromatics that are already in your favorite scents, so translating this into a fragrance makes a lot of sense.

Roses On Ice is made to emulate a gin rocks with a twist of lime, but really, it’s so much more. It features notes of juniper berries, which are the main thing that separates gin from vodka, as well as cucumber and rose.

While gin can be very herbaceous, green, spicy, and almost a little caustic, especially when enjoyed over ice, this scent is exceptionally inviting. When gin is paired—and especially, distilled—with cucumbers, as is the case with a gin like Hendrick’s, it becomes much, much smoother, more sippable, and less reminiscent of “pine trees.” The cucumber in Roses On Ice makes the scent dewy, aquatic, a little sweet, and very, very refreshing. I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t expecting to love it. I love it.

If Angels’ Share is perfect for the winter, Roses On Ice is made for the spring and summer, sipping cucumber gin lemonades on patios on the first warm days of May—but so good you’ll want to enjoy it all year.

Listen, I love Kilian. Even if all of their scents aren’t my personal favorites, they’re always quality. The Liquors are truly stunning, and so, so much fun to wear.

Fragrances inspired by liquors may seem obvious, and when done by the heir to a cognac empire, it may seem like nepotism. But who cares! Life imitates art, or whatever. These two fragrances are the absolute best versions of themselves. I always get a little nervous when a brand drops a collection that seems to take their work in a whole new direction, but with The Liquors, Kilian knocked it out of the park and left me eager to see if they take this idea even further. Now, who wants a drink?

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