This feature has been produced in partnership with Kilian
Hennessy. It’s a name synonymous with the world’s most coveted cognac which was first distilled in 1765 by Richard Hennessy.
253 years on, that very name continues to traverse the upper echelons of today’s luxury segment, and it also lives on in Kilian Hennessy – the heir to this pioneering lineage of fine cognac makers.
Kilian Hennessy wanted to do things differently though. Whilst the young Hennessy spent much of his childhood around the family’s cellars in Cognac, it wasn’t the business of cognac that piqued his interest.
The Rise Of Kilian Hennessy
Before graduating from CELSA, the French School of Higher Studies in the Information and Communication Sciences, Kilian penned a thesis on the semantics of scent to investigate the common ‘language’ between gods and mortals.
It was a study that eventually brought him back to the phenomenon of the ‘angel’s share’ – a stage of the distilling process which the House of Hennessy defines as the percentage of cognac that evaporates from the cellars – like an offering to the gods.
It was Kilian’s unique heritage and understanding of this cognac-making process that would eventually lead him down the path of perfumery.
By Kilian the luxury fragrance was eventually born, and today in every bottle there carries Kilian’s childhood memory of the sugar in the alcohol and the wood of the cognac barrels.
It was the beginning of the marriage between two fine artforms – a relationship that only Kilian Hennessy could bring to life. This is the story of how he does it.
Every bottle carries Kilian’s childhood memory of the sugar in the alcohol and the wood of the cognac barrels.
A Luxury Fragrance Like No Other
“My scents are very autobiographical,” says Kilian Hennessy.
“They are created with the utmost sincerity. I absolutely love when people really get what emotion I’m trying to express.”
The amount of fragrances out there are staggering, but to truly stand out in the game you need an ace up the sleeve. Kilian’s is both formulaic and unashamedly provocative. His scents are unique because of the money and freedom he allows his perfumers to work with.
Crack open any premium fragrance from two competing labels these days and you’re guaranteed a significant chance they’ll smell exactly the same. Why?
“Everyone’s scents are being copied over and over,” explains Kilian.
“You’ll never see scents like Straight to Heaven or Good Girl Gone Bad copied. That’s because of the quality of essential oils we choose and the overdose of them in our scents.”
Complementing this is the fact that Kilian only works with a single perfumer for every scent he produces. There’s no team to back him up in the creation process, evaluation phase or fancy endorsements. It’s a move that allows Kilian to focus solely on his greatest goal – to tell a story purely through the sense of smell.
“A great perfume is always a great story first. Like every great movie has a script first, so do perfumes.”
The perfect analogy of this is how a director would choose their actors or actresses to best perform the roles the script demands. Kilian chooses a different perfumer to work with depending on the script and emotion he’s trying to express within that single fragrance.
It’s painstaking work but it’s how Kilian has built its reputation amongst the mediocre.
“When I started my brand, I wanted to go back to the old way of writing perfume, with 50, 60 or even 70 percent of the formula in dry down notes.”
“In order to achieve that, I work with woods, resins and vanilla notes that really allow the perfume to stay longer on the skin.”
An Absolute of Jasmine or Rose will always be more expensive than their synthetic replacement. The result however is a fragrance which lingers on the skin even till the next day.
“This is exactly what I wanted to achieve,” says Kilian.
Crafting Bottles To Last A Lifetime
Finally, we come to the most visually appealing aspect of any fragrance: the bottle. Every fragrance bottle must evoke the identity of its contents. It’s the first thing a user sees alongside the first thing they smell, so bottling is just as important as the scent creation.
At Kilian, this task is perceived more as a fine art that dates back to the early 1900s. A good example is where perfumer and chemist Jacques Guerlain asked Georges Chevalier at Baccarat to design his bottle in 1912. It’s this tradition that Kilian holds highly in its sights today through the inclusion of exquisite bottles and coffrets.
“We live in a world where what isn’t visible does not exist. So making perfume visible has always been a fantasy of mine,” he explains.
“The flacon (bottle) has always been a decisive element of a perfume.”
To bring this element into the present, Kilian kept the craftsmanship to a high standard so that the bottles could be treasured and reused, an eco-luxe concept that is almost unheard of in today’s perfume industry.