Kilian Hennessy has luxury in his DNA. A descendant of the famous cognac empire, the debonair Frenchman has forged his own path in the world of fragrance with his top shelf brand, KILIAN PARIS. Into each alluring bottle, he pours his unique vision and rule-breaking approach to scent for a truly intoxicating result. The Daily caught up with the globetrotter to hear all about his debut Cologne—titled Kologne, Shield of Protection—and to learn what makes him tick.
How has your summer been so far, what have you been up to?
Busy, to be honest. I am heading to Morocco to shoot the campaign of the relaunch of my Sacred Wood and Rose Oud fragrances, with a special focus on the exceptional ingredient that composes them: cedar wood from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Then, off to my house in Andalusia, Spain, to rest with friends and family.
During summer, do you like to relax or are you always busy at work on your next project?
Oh I like to be busy! Even if it’s just reading, as I love to discover new places and new cultures, I always take a few days to go visit beautiful places like the Alhambra in Grenada or Seville. We are rich only by the diversity of the experiences we have and the cultures we discover.
Where have you been traveling to for ideas and inspiration recently?
I went to Venice for the Biennale. The Anish Kapoor exhibit was mind blowing. I am both an enthusiast and a collector of contemporary art, and Venice during the Biennale is always a big source of inspiration. I also went to Riyadh and Dubaï. Both cities could not be more different but both are an incredible source of inspiration.
You recently launched Kologne, Shield of Protection. Tell us the backstory to the fragrance. Sounds fitting for this time in the world!
Yes, I’m finally releasing my first Cologne. I always thought that since every brand has a Cologne, I needed to create my own, but to be honest, I was working on it a bit as a dilettante. Not knowing exactly what emotion I was trying to convey and more importantly not finding a way to make it unique. And then COVID happened! and I got stuck in New York for several months. When I was finally allowed to travel back to Paris, I jumped on a plane to go see my kids. In the bathroom of the plane, there was a big bottle of Eau Dynamisante from Clarins. I literally poured half of the bottle on myself behaving like a man from the 18th century using Cologne as a shield of protection against viruses. As soon as I landed, I wrote to Calice Becker, the perfumer and friend I’ve been working with forever, and said, ‘Let’s pick up the project where we left off.’ I finished it in three months. As for the name, my Kologne is written with a K as a wink to my name. The subtitle is “shield of protection” as, for me, perfume has always been a shield, a protective envelope that we wear every day. But even more so today!
What or who makes you feel protected and powerful?
I believe that fragrances can be both a weapon of seduction and something that makes you feel powerful, and also a great shield of protection, like an olfactive armor to feel protected. I have a wardrobe of scents, from which I can pick and choose, depending on my outfit, my day, or my mood. So many factors come into consideration when I choose which perfume to wear at a certain time. At KILIAN PARIS we have five olfactive families to choose from: The Fresh, The Narcotics, The Cellars, The Smokes, and The Liquors, so possibilities are endless. Kologne, shield of protection is the ultimate olfactive expression of this desire for protection. I created a scent for feeling protected anywhere, anytime, as an aura of purity and vitality in an instant spritz.
Vodka on the Rocks sounds like our kind of fragrance. What do we need to know about it?
Initially, I wanted to create a fresh scent, I wanted to achieve the sensation of a drink cooled by ice. It was difficult, as vodka has no taste of its own. I therefore asked perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur, known for her very unique way of composing fragrances through short formulas with a strong character, to create the smell of vodka cooled by ice. In order to recreate the icy sensation of a vodka on the rocks, she combined cold spices (coriander and cardamom), with aldehydes. The heart is a bitter accord of rhubarb mixed with clear floral notes of rose and lily of the valley to translate the feeling of white alcohol. Oakmoss, ambroxan, and sandalwood bring an iodized effect, yet comfortable and lightly leathery. The scent quickly became a cult classic.
Any recipe ideas for us, inspired by the fragrance?
All our fragrances have inspired cocktails! The one for Vodka on the Rocks starts with Hendrick’s gin infused on the cardamom seeds—yes, gin for a cocktail named Vodka on the Rocks, I know it’s surprising! Add Vermouth infused with green and rose cardamom, Xeres Los Arcos Blanc, a few dashes of Cardamom bitter, and soda water to finish off the drink. And for the subtle woody twist of the fragrance, some burnt oak wood to capture the smoke in the glass. Et voilà! Bonne dégustation, as we say in France!
What’s on your summer playlist?
Eclectic and fun classics such as Kiss by Prince, Let’s Dance by David Bowie, The Girl From Ipanema by Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, iconic French songs like La Javanaise by Serge Gainsbourg, Bad Guy by Billie Eilish, or Blinding Lights by The Weeknd; one of my favorite artists.
Your campaigns are always high voltage and fun. Where do you get the ideas from?
“Don’t be shy!” is both the motto of KILIAN PARIS and a personal mantra. I create perfumes that express the emotion carried by the name. Each scent is the beginning of a real story, one that is yet to be told. To wear our perfume is to take on the evening, embracing the sweet seduction of electric possibility. Nightlife has always been a part of our brand DNA, and expressed in all my creations and campaigns. To me, everything is possible at night. There is no more gender or social class; there is an infinite possibility in a way that feels playful and inclusive.
What’s coming up for the brand?
I’m also focusing more and more on makeup. And especially lips and eyes because they are a woman’s ultimate weapons of seduction! The big celebration, of course, is KILIAN PARIS’ 15 year anniversary next October! Celebrations will be coming and lasting several months, so stay tuned for exciting news.
Lastly, what smell always reminds you of good summer times?
Years ago, I was traveling during summertime to Thailand to launch KILIAN PARIS there. One night I had the traditional Thai dessert, sticky rice coconut with mango. The flavors of this delicacy gave birth to one of my most iconic scents, Moonlight in Heaven, so this fragrance is definitely one that reminds me of a perfect summertime.