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Forever fragrances

FOREVER FRAGRANCES

KILIAN HENNESSY’S PLEDGE TO PERFUMERY

When it comes to life’s greatest pleasures, Kilian Hennessy’s passion is palpable.

“True luxury should never be thrown away,” he says. “It should be passed on from one generation to another.”

Although his name would lead you to believe otherwise, the luxury that Hennessy, 47, refers to isn’t cognac. Yes, he is a fifth-generation lineal descendant of Richard Hennessy, the prominent cognac producer whose empire dates to 1765. But Kilian Hennessy’s childhood in France—enveloped by extravagance—would usher him on a distinct yet glamorous path: perfumery.

“I grew up in a world of traditional, French luxury,” he says. “I honor—and twist—this history into my own contemporary vision of French perfume.”

The top seller, Good Girl Gone Bad—apricot-tinged osmanthus, absolute orange blossom, rose of May, tuberose absolute, jasmine, and narcissus—is a head-twisting mix of naughty and nice.
The top seller, Good Girl Gone Bad—apricot-tinged osmanthus, absolute orange blossom, rose of May, tuberose absolute, jasmine, and narcissus—is a “head-twisting mix of naughty and nice.”

Credits: By Kilian

As a child, Hennessy didn’t lie awake at night dreaming about fragrances. His infatuation with aromatics began in college. About two decades ago, while finishing his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, he wrote his thesis on the “Semantics of Scents,” a choice that spurred his curiosity about perfume. But it was his interview with budding scent maker Jacques Cavallier (now the in-house perfumer at Louis Vuitton) that would help cultivate his passion for fragrances.

“Cavallier taught me everything I know today,” he says. After graduation, Hennessy went on to work for legends such as Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen, and Giorgio Armani before launching his own brand in 2007. By Kilian­—an eco-luxury fragrance company—was born when Hennessy eyed a collection of antique perfume bottles at the Baccarat Museum in Paris. Appreciating the craftsmanship that went into creating these exquisite flagons, Hennessy was inspired to introduce fragrances in a traditional light, but with a modern sensibility.

“I wanted to put perfumery back on its pedestal by going back to the truth about perfume,” he explains. “Back to the way it was made in the late 19th and early 20th century, while adding a contemporary twist at the same time.”

His fragrances take catchy names that reflect the notes and intention of the scents. The top seller, Good Girl Gone Bad—apricot-tinged osmanthus, absolute orange blossom, rose of May, tuberose absolute, jasmine, and narcissus—is a “head-twisting mix of naughty and nice.” Also popular is Straight to Heaven, a fusion of rich, dark rum, creamy vanilla, dried fruit, patchouli, and cedarwood, fashioning “a scent that leads straight to paradise,” and reflects his family’s rich history in cognac. That heritage ultimately helped steer Hennessy’s aspirations in the world of fragrance.

He believes crafting cognac and crafting perfume have plenty in common. “They are both complex creations, with many layers, each of which develops over time, be it in a barrel or on the skin,” he says. He recalls “rich and vivid scents” wafting from the cognac cellars when he was a child. He explains that oak barrels steeped in sugar, alcohol, and wood have played a key role in his olfactory signature. “Very often I have the feeling that the smell of these cellars lives in almost all my scents.”

According to Hennessy, all By Kilian bottles are refillable, and the packaging is reusable as jewelry boxes or evening clutch bags—a sustainable aspect of the brand—forging a true statement of eco-luxury. Customers purchase a By Kilian perfume in its elegant bottle and box, wear the fragrance, and use the case for a lifetime. “I like the idea that a woman comes to me for beautiful, luxury-scented products that she knows she will keep forever,” he says.

The businessman, has turned his attention to perfume.
The businessman, has turned his attention to perfume.

Credits: By Kilian

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