Back To Black Reloaded – Review: By Kilian Back To Black, Aphrodisiac

Regular readers know by now that I went from hating Back To Black to loving it, both without prior warning.

Since my feelings for Back to Black have changed dramatically, I feel another review is in order. I do not want the mention of a hyperglycemic disaster to be my only opinion of it on my blog. I do not want to delete and edit that old post either, since it represented my feelings at the time and demonstrates how we often perceive perfume differently over time, as our moods change, our horizons expand or something unknown subtly shifts to allow us a new way of experiencing a perfume.

By Kilian is a luxury niche brand created by Kilian Hennessy, the design of the line is amazingly beautiful and elegant, the perfumes of high quality, most of them created by perfumer Calice Becker. The prices reflect the high end status of the brand. What I love about it, is the fact that there are travel sets (and refills as well) available of all scents in the L’Oeuvre Noire and the Arabian Nights Collections. The L’Oeuvre Noire Collection, of which Back To Black is part, has ten perfumes, the last just having been released this month. The Arabian Nights Collection has three perfumes out (Pure Oud, Rose Oud and Incense Oud), two more to be released in the future (musk and amber – i.e. must-try’s).

I want to try and review all of the Kilians in the coming months.

But now onto the review of the perfume, I first took issue and subsequently fell in love with:

Back To Black was created in 2009 by Calice Becker and includes notes of bergamot, raspberry, blue chamomile, cardamom, coriander, saffron, cedarwood, vanilla, almond, vetiver, cistus labdanum, patchouli and oakmoss, according to Luckyscent.

Back to Black is a honeyed tobacco oriental perfume that seems to be very linear. After an initial slight sprightliness provided by bergamot it settles quickly into a comfort zone of sweet honey on tobacco leaves, there is a little cool spiciness of cardamom and coriander, a little smokiness from the benzoin, quite a bit of warmth from the almond-tinged tonka and vanilla and a solid backbone of labdanum and patchouli.

Back To Black is sweet, it is still sweet to me, but when I spoke of an exploded honey pot before, now I see more of a soft bed of dried leaves glistening with drops of golden honey. The proportions have shifted for me, the honey is no longer dominant and overwhelming but a delightful addition.

I have bought a travel set of Back To Black and have worn it every night since. I cannot seem to get enough and maybe I am trying to make up for lost time. 🙂

But By Kilian is already tempting me again with the release of the tenth and last fragrance in the L’Oeuvre Noire series – Sweet Redemption. I have tried it recently and am looking forward to adding that one to my collection eventually.

By request, here are photos of Kilian Hennessy himself for your viewing pleasure. (Before I get accused of neglecting the visual needs of my readers again!)

He should smile more often, he has good reason to. By Kilian seems to be a success in every way.

Image source:,,,,

About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in By Kilian, Fragrance Reviews, Oriental and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Back To Black Reloaded – Review: By Kilian Back To Black, Aphrodisiac

  1. lady jane grey says:

    Oh, I like him rather not-smiling, but looking slightly misterious and cruel (1st picture)…
    Anyway, I sooo wanted to like his “Liesons Dangereuses” – since I adore de Laclos’ book (and the films based on it), unfortunately was a no go. Or I should try it once again and hope to get a complete change of mind myself? Pourquoi pas !?
    I think I’d be rather a buyer for his Arabian Nights collection (although I was slightly surprised by the text to Rose Oud on the Kilian homepage “This unique combination…” – really, Rose + Oud, seriously ? )
    Hm, I know, it’s not easy with me…

    • Olfactoria says:

      I always thought Beyond Love and Liaisons Dangereuses have the wrong names, the juice of Beyond Love would fit LD perfectly and vice versa. *shrug*
      The Arabian Nights Collection is great as well, but those prices are truly prohibitive, worse than Xerjoff! The” unique “Rose Oud, lol! 😀

  2. Georgy says:

    Thx B for not neglecting the visual needs of your fans anylonger KG is very sweet but does not live up to PGs gorgeous looks…..

  3. Georgy says:

    But nevertheless he’s cute and in honor of this I’m gonna try his scents….

  4. Tara says:

    I don’t know about aphrodisiac but Back to Black is definitely highly addictive. Luckily a little goes a long way so I am still eeking out my old sample. So looking forward to your By Kilian reviews as I too am very enamoured with the line at the moment – perfumeland synchronicity stikes again! I love that they are so generous with their samples, I was given TWO each of Rose Oud, Love and Tears and Sweet Redemption on Sunday. I want to own all three but that will certainly never happen with Rose Oud at least because of the price – maybe a split one day. Love the look of the travel set. Thanks for all the gorgeous pics!

  5. Sandra says:

    I am so pleased that Kilian is getting the attention he deserves here. His line is one of the few where I love most of the perfumes. I keep on saving my coins and then I go out and buy the next perfume on my list. I am looking at you Sweet Redemption!

  6. deeHowe says:

    That first minute of B2B is super sweet, but it is so long lasting, and for the whole rest of the day I enjoy that wonderfully honeyed tobacco… This is one of those scents that I loved on my first testing, and have grown to love even more each time I wear it again (gotta love those ones, right?). At the moment, I’m trying to resist wearing it again today! I can’t be trusted to resist making a purchase… Lol.

    I’m glad that you decided to review it again Bee, it’s worthy of the attention! 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      Go on, wear it, Dee! You know you want to! 😀 (the evil influence at work here!) I’m so glad I came around, it is indeed worth the attention, so are many others of the line. That spells doom for sure, here is not even an ugly bottle to put me off, quite to the contrary…

  7. jedennard says:

    I don’t always like a honey note in fragrances. Burberry for men is an example of one I don’t like, while I like it in Givenchy Gentleman. As much as I love A Taste Of Heaven, I won’t automatically dismiss this one.

  8. Sugandaraja says:

    I must laugh as, reading your two reviews, my progression is the opposite of yours!

    I absolutely loved Back to Black at first. Magical clover-honey tobacco! So, I raced online and got some. Then, with each wearing, it became more and more tiresome, like a big honey-slathered cherry pie in the face. Can’t stand it now, I’m sorry to say! I wish I could recapture that magical first wear.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, the other way round is always disappointing, especially if you bought the perfume. 😦
      I have several of those as well.
      Thank you for commenting, Sugandaraja, I hope to see you here often! 🙂

  9. Undina says:

    B2B is one of three perfumes in this collection that I haven’t got to try on my skin yet. So I do not know if I like it or not. Mr.Hennessy is extremely charming, thank you for the pictures.

  10. JoanElaine says:

    Thank you for this review, B. Back to Black sounds gorgeous. I was never interested in it before until I read your review. All this talk of honeyed tobacco and resins!

    I must admit, cardamom and I do not get along – it just sits on my skin, smelling gritty and oily at the same time. If it’s not dominant in B2B, I might just be able to wear it.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Cardamom is not dominant in B2B, Joanne, in fact it took me awhile to sniff it out. If you like a sweet, but interesting tobacco scent, it is certainly worth a try. I’m very glad I gave it another chance… 🙂

  11. Pingback: Last Week In Perfume Land – Weekend Link Love | Olfactoria's Travels

  12. Pingback: Natural Grace – Review: By Kilian Prelude To Love, Invitation | Olfactoria's Travels

  13. Pingback: Monday Question – What Perfume Did Turn Out To Be Your Favorite Summer Scent? | Olfactoria's Travels

  14. Pingback: In My Grandfather’s Den – Review: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea | Olfactoria's Travels

  15. Pingback: Beauty Lies In Simple Things – Review: By Kilian Rose Oud | Olfactoria's Travels

  16. Pingback: The Best Of 2011 – My Favorite Perfumes Of The Year | Olfactoria's Travels

  17. Pingback: The Hills Are Alive… – Review: By Kilian A Taste Of Heaven, Absinthe Verte | Olfactoria's Travels

  18. Pingback: A Little Something For The Eye – A Sneak Peek Into My Perfume Closet Part III | Olfactoria's Travels

  19. GeM says:

    Ok, let’s face it: like some certain contemporary ‘Art’, I consider this: the Art of “Teasing”…
    I really can’t believe this has provoked such a deluge of (love) letters.

    I’ve been sampling BtB for two days now -more than five times in total-, and I have got enough.
    NO, thanks.

    The curious is that first I ‘LIKED’ it, and later on, I DIDN’T, which I think is exactly the opposite thing that happened to you, Birgit… 😦

    Interesting? Sure, certainly it’s a very ‘interesting’ smell.
    Challenging? Absolutely, no doubt!
    I think you can first like it, even you can wear it (oh, you poor candid, damned fool …ingenuous!!) but….. Aphrodisiac? (they present it as aphrodisiac!)? ….. ehmmm …
    Am I missing something?

    Well… probably if you are secretly sexually attracted by poor hygienized people on third age living in bad reputed geriatrics or similar centers, probably you’ll get that ‘aphrodisiac’ effect. This is the most SOUR RANCID BODY ODOR I ever have smelled – like the old unwashed person’s one, that smell different from an unwashed middle-aged or a young person -, and the most acridity thing that is intensified in the awful dry down…. (that’s the question: the dry down!)
    In the end it smells like a honey, a lot of honey, but in the bad way: I mean that smell when the honey is in the pot for approximately more than 2 years or so and it turns RANCID …

    But not everything was so bad in the process:

    1st phase: ooh… mmmmh! I LIKE IT! I really like that gourmand, honeyed tobacco for a while (then it’s gone). My MOST FAVORITE PART is when I get the (so prominent to me) *****CHAMOMILE note*****, blended with the HONEY and the STALE TOBACCO… Oh, yes… That smelled really balmy and relaxing, and I guess this is the very and only part one’s can see as somehow ‘Aphrodisiac’. But wait a little more and you’ll see!

    2nd phase: Something about it starts to remind me of how an old man smells wearing…. Old Spice! which I don’t dislike at all, it’s clean and pleasant, but… wtf?? ok, let’s see what this scent it’s intending to say me, I’m really intrigued…! Wait a little more and you’ll see!

    3rd phase: after having slept more than 7 hours, I smell my wrist and —> suddenly I can see myself 30 years older, sitting next to a poor hygienized or unwashed old man who probably was a Punk in the past and smelling his rancid sweat! and it’s depressing…………………….!!!

    So BtB has turned into a ‘dirty leathery geriatric’ on me!!! (on me only?… No No, I believe it’s the scent fault this time…!! Too honeyed for being JUST ME)

    Ok, so everyone might want to wear it, but I think it’s one that will offend others (ME, at least) even used in the appropriate quantity. It has an urine fecal animalic smell, and I don’t want any people around me wearing Back to Black.

    Old cigarette smoke, old piss, long-unwashed skin, long-unwashed laundry, stale body odour/sweat, nasty smelling stuff… Aphrodisiac?? I really can’t believe it.

    Instead, hey people please, let’s face it: It’s a turner off!!!
    … AVOID IT…!

    • GeM says:

      PS: anyway Birgit, from an olfactory perspective I’m really appreciating this interesting experience. 😉

    • GeM says:

      PS2: I forgot to mention that I’ve been slept with Douce Amère on the other wrist too, and the awakening effect was absolutely nice!!!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Even if you say it isn’t you, I’ll have to answer: But it is! Just as my reaction to B2B or any other perfume is me! Perfume and how we as amateurs perceive it is highly personal. This one is not for you, no matter. There are so many more out there that are a better fit. And in Douce Amere for example, you found something to love!

  20. GeM says:

    You are absolutely right! 🙂
    I didn’t meant that is not a personal perception, of course it’s all about one’s nose…
    but I just wanted to say that is not much because of ‘own skin’ reaction this time, but PRIMARILY because of the scent itself (and because of my nose).

    I’m so excited last night I asked my partner to put a bit of BtB on his wrist, and today (the morning after) it has been quite the same effect to me. I also asked his opinion about it: he said ‘Bar de yayos’!!!! HAHAHA!, which is a common expression here. Literally means ‘old-man’s old fashioned-pub’, and those places usually have totally run out of fashion, untidy, often neglected connotations, smelling pretty bad sometimes, but they’re full of old men because they have cheap (and valuable) food and drink. So they are dirt cheap but good, you know.

    I’m planning to experiment with people around me about this scent.
    I think I’ll have a lot of fun. 😉 Who knows… maybe it’s due to some shared cultural olfactory perception and that’s why my partner and me associated to ‘old people’…?

    However, I must say that probably if I don’t wear it for more than 2/3 hours, I’d only get the pleasant phases. So that’s probably a good option to me.

  21. kassinator says:

    I had a very similar experience with this scent! I thought I loved it at first sniff, so I bought a bottle on impulse. About a week later I regretted the decision as I felt like I was drowning in honey whenever I wore it. And then out of the blue I picked it up again… And it’s love. I have no idea what happened, but now I view it just like you described! Maybe it is that it’s a darker honey that takes some warming up to?


    • Olfactoria says:

      Ha, thank you for that comment! It is very good to know I am not alone in my rather weird perception of this perfume.
      Maybe it is simply familiarity that breeds love… I don’t know.

  22. Pingback: Monday Question – You Must Choose: By Kilian Or Parfumerie Générale? | Olfactoria's Travels

  23. arline says:

    My experience with this is unfolding. I tried it recently, because my friend who is way in to perfume, went to Sax in San Francisco, (I have mentioned, that we have no acceptable perfume to choose from here in Memphis TN!!!), and bought the travel set.

    I eagerly sprayed some on my wrist and quickly became obsessed!!!! I knew I must own some ASAP!

    A few weeks later, (three days ago in fact) I ran to my mail box, because BtoB was there, waiting for me!!!! I ordered the refill, as the black bottle is unfortunately not in the budget, and in fact, this order, was pushing my personal financial comfort zone.

    Here in lies the situation!!! The refill is not a spray bottle, as you know. It definitely does not smell the same when it is dabbed on. I thought “Oh NO!!!” I was not as in love as I thought I was, and I (at the momet) don’t have the means to be profligate with my spending.

    But then I remembered a couple of things that I have read here recently, on other blogs. Both had to do with spray vs dab.

    The CPB asked his readers, which was preferred, dabbing or spraying. And the other was trying to figure out why the same perfume she was testing, smelled different when dabbed vs being sprayed.

    From what I gather, to spray the perfume brings it into a fuller development, and brings out the fullness of the juice. I don’t know the chemistry here, but I needed a solution fast.

    So I went to whole foods, and got a cobalt blue glass bottle with a sprayer. I often use these bottles when I concoct things, or spray rose water on my face. I got an ounce size, which does not hold all of the perfume, but thats ok, because it was a good idea. I sprayed, and VOILA, it is what I loved initially!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!

    I wish those BEAUTIFUL Killian bottles weren’t so bloody expensive!!!!! But I do love the perfume. I don’t know that it is an all the time scent though, but I am glad to have it in my burgeoning collection.

    I also think it is very interesting about the spray vs dab, because something similar happened when (thanks to you) I was trying Amber Fetiche. It definitely smells better to me via spray.

    I am learning so much, how exciting!!!!

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’m glad you found a spray bottle, since I always decant into small sprayers as well, dabbing is good for some but not most perfumes.
      So glad you are in love with Back to Black!

  24. Pingback: A Trip To Spain – Ramon Monegal Mini-Reviews Part II | Olfactoria's Travels

  25. Pingback: An Evening With Kilian Hennessy At Les Senteurs, London, 17th June 2013 | Olfactoria's Travels

  26. Pingback: Swirling – Review: Diptyque Volutes | Olfactoria's Travels

  27. Pingback: By Kilian Back to Black EDP Perfume Review | EauMG

  28. Pingback: Sandra’s Perfume Sale – Happy Shopping! | Olfactoria's Travels

  29. Pingback: Cistus ladanifer | Find Me A Cure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s