Strikingly handsome Kilian Hennessy, the founder of perfumer brand By Kilian and a member of the eighth generation of the Hennessy dynasty, producers of some of the most famous French cognacs, has said in regards to the release of his latest two fragrances, Roses on Ice and Angels’ Share, that he decided to pay tribute to his heritage, the family tradition of producing quality liquor. That is why Roses on Ice is about gin, while Angels’ Share interprets cognac – and that is exactly why the flacons for the bottles in their new fragrance line called The Liquors are designed to remind us of old-fashioned glasses. As the press release states, “The bottle of the perfumes of THE LIQUORS collection is styled as a speakeasy essential, like art deco glasses, to recall the most fabulous bars.”
Even though I have yet to visit a truly fabulous bar, the glasses i.e. flacons are totally recognizable. Moreover, I mistook them for such, and only later did I realize that those were not to drink from, but to spritz the contents on your skin, thus getting inside a fragrant cloud. Roses on Ice and Angels’ Share are both phenomenally diffusive. And since we have brushed upon the subject of quality – their longevity seems infinite, especially if some of the perfume gets onto your clothes.
Kilian Hennessy’s statement surprised me since he has paid homage to the family heritage more than once.
It seems as though behind his shoulder, invisible to others, there always stands the ghost of the French Hennessy dynasty’s founder – Irishman Richard Hennessy (Ristéard Ó hAonghusa), a Jacobite who served in the Irish regiment of the French Army, who, upon retirement, settled in the Cognac region of France and gradually became not only a successful producer of spirits, but also a merchant. Thus the ghost of Richard Hennessy leans towards his great-great-great-grandson, whispering; “Absinthe is done and dusted. The apple brandy is great, proud of you. Rum is certainly supposed to be enjoyed neat, but with added coffee and candied fruit it also turned out fine… Our vodka is better than that of the Russians! Well, should we tackle whisky next? Or maybe something elegant, like Limoncello?”
Thus the great-great-grandson, with the absinthe-themed A Taste of Heaven, cozy and strong Apple Brandy and spiced vodka and snow infused Vodka on the Rocks already under his belt, decides that the time has come for Lemon in Zest with the scent of Limoncello, ripe lemons and brandy; Single Malt with the scent of whisky and ripe plum and one more whisky, this time spilled over a leather jacket in Royal Leather. Mead can be found in Back to Black.
In their fragrances, By Kilian have tackled the liquor theme numerous times and always successfully. Nevertheless, it seems that the new fragrances are supposed to strike us as even more alcoholic? That particular objective was not met, I believe. Angels’ Share has no more liquor in it than Apple Brandy does. Roses on Ice has less alcohol in it than Vodka on the Rocks. However in this particular case, it does not matter in the slightest…
The Liquors By Kilian were released just a short while ago, but it’s already clear that the general favorite, by far, is Angels’ Share. That is not surprising: The fragrance is so appetizing and affectionate, warming and seductive, it evokes such comforting and joyous associations that, especially now, its appearance seems no less than a miracle, no matter how well thought-out. Exactly in the Fall of 2020, when the problem is not just the colder weather, rain or limited amount of daylight, and not just in the “traditional seasonal depression,” but in the pervasive stress, unease and internal discomfort that (in my opinion) everybody is experiencing right now, even those of us who forbid themselves to even think about stress and discomfort. In this context, Angels’ Share seems like not merely a well-made cozy fragrance, but a veritable soul medicine, while its creator, Benoist Lapouza, appears more like a pharmacist or even an alchemist than a perfumer.
Angels’ Share is the fragrance of quiet happiness, the kind of happiness that could be called casual and day-to-day, yet too many days go by without as much as a single glimpse of that. It smells like cognac and brandy-based vanilla liqueur, as well as cinnamon and hot spiced chai.
It also smells like cake with filberts and brandy-infused candied fruit, like hot apple pie, chocolate and hazelnut ganache, gingerbread, homemade butterscotch and dulce de leche. Angels’ Share smells like sandalwood and tonka bean, cane sugar and natural vanilla.
I also sense the scent of sweet Southern jasmine there: the way it only smells at night, in a garden located close to a warm sea. There is also a soft, smoky scent of whisky… Or is it a fireplace? Angels’ Share has a barely audible smoky note that provokes an anticipation of warmth and calm.
If one were to simply list the notes, it would seem that Angels’ Share is just another gourmand fragrance with liquor notes. And yet this is not the case. It is, without a doubt, gourmand, and the alcoholic notes are noticeably present, yet the overall picture is far from simple. In Angels’ Share, one is sure to find loving embraces and affectionate words that are so needed today. It also offers you comfortable silence, the warmth of a plush throw, a quiet evening near the fireplace and a cat’s purring (even if you don’t own either of the two.)
It is like a book where good wins over evil, and good people get the happiness they so deserve: The book is written so well that you start believing in the unbelievable!
As for the name, Angels’ Share is what cognac producers call the amount of the drink that evaporates from oak casks during the aging process, as if drunk by some heavenly guardians. Thus the latter, for the sake of safety, better be called angels, although angels most likely do not drink cognac, so those are arguably some of the Good Neighbors (that was how people used to call any fairies in Europe, even the not-at-all-good ones,) as well as clandestine fawns that have persevered from the ancient times or any other liquor lovers able to distract the watchful human eye…
No, the natural chemical processes are definitely too boring to even bring up here!
Especially since Angels’ Share has turned out totally fairytale-like.
Every person has her or his own favorite comfort read – a book that you turn to when cold, darkness and lack of love seem to surround you, so you immediately have to warm your soul and light your inner fire for protection.
Forced to choose between The Liquors, I would pick Angels’ Share — luckily I did not have to choose and could try and wear both perfumes, one after the other, slowly getting to know each of them.
I did fall for Roses on Ice, too. It is a great pity that so many people don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I get it: One tests the fragrance quickly using a paper blotter and is repulsed by the weird top notes, leading to one immediately fleeing the scene. When Roses on Ice is first applied to the skin, indeed, it does make a shocking impression for the first few minutes. There is this very harsh scent of fresh cucumber and vodka. Not even gin, really, but vodka. Anyhow, later Roses on Ice begins its transformation… The resulting fragrance, however, is not particularly alcoholic in general.
If you enjoy the juniper berry scent of gin – I personally truly enjoy the scent, not the flavor of gin – I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with White Plumage by Francesca dell’Oro, Irish Leather by Memo Paris and Quebracho by Fueguia 1833.
Roses on Ice is a very different kind of story. However, in order to really hear it, you need to apply the fragrance to your skin… Quite possibly, someone will be even more disappointed in it than before, but others, like myself, are likely to be charmed. Roses on Ice is a transparent, cold, green yet strong fragrance. The more I wear it, the more enchanting it seems to me. It is also quite fairytale-like, but it is a different kind of fairytale – more of an old eerie legend. It is wild, weird and suitable for a mermaid…
When the initial sharp notes passes, the scent of running water and rain appear in Roses on Ice. It is the scent of plants that grow in and near a river. It is kind of sweet, somewhat bitter – all those plants’ scents are different form each other, but there are no truly vivid smells among them…
Even the most beautiful aquatic flower that grows in our latitudes, the waterlily (aka nymphaea) has a reserved, subtle, cold scent, its fragrance has something in common with hyacinth, powdery mimosa and not-yet-opened orange blossom buds, simultaneously.
Waterlily’s aroma can hardly be recreated in perfumery, yet I do sense it in Roses on Ice, even though, according to the fragrance’s official “legend” and the notes mentioned there, it’s just a pure coincidence.
Scents of rivers and river plants dominate in Roses on Ice. However it also smells like juniper berry and roses that have just started to bloom. Juniper is often planted in rose gardens. In Roses on Ice, the juniper does not try to join the rose in an embrace, as if trying to make the latter warm – there is so much moisture in the air and the fog is so chilly! The scent of roses is so faint that people who expect roses from a fragrance called Roses on Ice will inevitably be disappointed: the roses here are either too timid or too chilled to be truly redolent.
On the other hand, Roses on Ice smells strongly of primroses, as well as the first springtime tulips and daffodils. The scent of the primrose is the subtlest you can imagine here. The daffodils are delicately bitter. The tulips, still in their buds, are lively and fresh. You also get the moist green scent of their elastic stems and the pale juice, that appears when you cut them. Roses on Ice smells like borage, that plant with blue-purple flowers that almost smells like cucumbers, yet in a greener and more vivid way, less watery and not as sweet as a real cucumber.
It also smells like meadowsweet when the latter is just starting to bloom and has not yet fully developed its honeyed, intoxicating sweetness, yet when it is already redolent of sweet pollen.
Overall, when trying to deconstruct Roses on Ice, mostly wildflowers come to mind… Many of them I do not even know the name of. I do remember their appearance and scent though, which is bitter-sweet and green-pollenlike.
Gin on the rocks garnished with a slice of lime? The preferred drink of Kilian’s wife, as they claim on the official website? Possibly, in certain climatic conditions Roses on Ice smells exactly like that, i.e. a perfect gin on the rocks cocktail, the way it was originally conceived by Kilian Hennessy and created be perfumer Frank Voelkl.
It is already cold and rainy in Moscow. I once proclaimed my love for cold fragrances in cold weather… I currently wear the cold Roses on Ice more often than the warming Angels’ Share. I do it because I suspect that now is just the time for it. Now it is able to develop in an unhurried manner, giving out one delicate mystery after another. It is possible that it is going to be just as beautiful in the winter. However, when the long-awaited warm weather returns to our latitudes, Roses on Ice will inevitably change. It is likely that it will indeed smell of gin and lime. So that is why I savor it right now, while Roses on Ice smells like fresh air, melting ice and snow, melt-water, the awakening of nature, primroses and green riverside thickets.
Meanwhile, Roses on Ice smells like the long hair and white ghostly clothing of the first mermaid who dares to swim to the surface of the still ice-cold water. She spent her winter down at the bottom, among her sisters, all of them in a state of deep dreamless slumber. Yet something has changed in the sea, the year’s wheel has turned and Spring has called, so the mermaid awoke.
Maybe when she first appeared above the water surface, it was still snowing, the last fine-milled snow falling onto her face and naked arms, without even melting. And yet she will not go back into the sludge, she will resurface every night to dance in the river fog, to sing sad songs and wait for her girlfriends to wake up, so they could all dance in a circle, luring late night passerby into the water… An entire summer lies ahead. Yet for now the mermaid is alone. The very first one. There is even not a single waterlily to weave into her hair, however its subtle disconcerting scent always accompanies the mermaid.
Unfortunately, in order to achieve that springtime, fresh, pale green beauty in Roses on Ice, you need to apply the fragrance to your skin and give it some time. The patient ones will be rewarded though: This semi-transparent aroma can be enjoyed for a very long time.
If one could compare Roses on Ice, to something, then maybe only to Parfum d’Ete by Kenzo, first edition, released in 1992, when it was redolent with morning dew, infused with the aroma of just waking flowers and not the more distinctive floral notes that appeared in the relaunched version from 2002. At least, the sensation of ephemeral tenderness and the unusual presentation of green and floral notes are similar in Parfum d’Ete by Kenzo and Roses on Ice by By Kilian.
I wonder whether The Liquors fragrance line is to be expanded? I would love to try By Kilian’s takes on Baileys, Brogans, Amarula, Jägermeister and Becherovka. I think it’s going to be really gorgeous: surely, something completely different from some perfume where Baileys had been promised to begin with. After all, Kilian has just now really surprised us with his versions of cognac and gin.