Black Phantom by Kilian: Not as Badass as It Seems

Black Phantom by Kilian | ScentBound

When I first heard the name of By Kilian’s new release I got goose bumps with excitement. Dark, mysterious and maybe even forbiddingly dirty - this is how a fragrance called Black Phantom should smell.

I quickly opened Chrome and googled it. Gasp! The box has a skull on it! And it’s all black! I started cross-breeding scents in my head - Black Afgano pollinated with Hard Leather; Al Khatt’s fecal oud violently tearing up Aoud Cuir D’Arabie. I convinced myself there was no other way for this fragrance to smell. The name and the box said it all.

In the following half hour I went through a tormenting process:

The Perfume Addict in me: I must have this. It’s a beast in a bottle! How could I go wrong?

Common Sense: Okay, you have to smell it first. It’s an expensive fragrance.

Perfume Addict: Oh, c’mon, it’s totally worth it. How else but amazing can a fragrance with a skull on the box.

Common Sense: Remember that fragrance you bought last Christmas without even a sniff? You’ve worn it twice.

Perfume Addict: Okay, whatever, this one is different.

Common Sense: What about that monstrosity you got at the Bay? Yeah, that bottle’s pretty dusty...and full.

Perfume Addict: Fine! I’ll smell it first.​

I’m glad I did. Black Phantom smells nothing like its name and even less like the skull adorning its box suggests. This fragrance belongs in a star-dusted sparking bottle bearing a name Tinkerbell’s Breath.​

Dig Deeper: What Does It Smell Like?​

By Kilian says Black Phantom was “inspired by the motto of the pirates: ‘Memento Mori’”. It was created as a “scentual and inspiring twist on an Irish coffee created for those who live for pleasure.”

The pirate inspiration is evident. The name Black Phantom is derived from the phantom or ghost ships that used to sail the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. These were abandoned ships, not necessarily pirate ones, which drifted from nothingness and scared the shit out of everyone.​

Black Phantom by Kilian | Ghost Ship | ScentBound

The skull ornament on the box of the perfume is evident reference to the pirates of their Caribbean variety.

While it is evident how the ornamentation achieves the idea of pirates, it takes some analysis to draw parallels with the juice itself.

Black Phantom smells very sweet. If someone asks you what a gourmand fragrance smells like, show them Black Phantom. It’s a confection made of coffee, caramel, milk and, just in case it is not sweet enough, more sugar.​

Black Phantom by Kilian | Irish Coffee | ScentBound

The idea behind the sugar overload is that sugar cane in Europe came from the Caribbean, and one can associate the Caribbean with pirates (as in Pirates of the Caribbean) and pleasure (as in all-inclusive shameless binging at Puerto Plata).

Even though the logic kind of flows, but pleasure, sugar and coffee have little to do with pirates or phantom ships. The notes of Black Phantom also include rum. It is so far back in the background that I often second guess myself whether I really smell it or I imagine it.​

A hallmark of a well-designed fragrance is its balance. The sweet notes are juxtaposed with bitter, sour or saltier accords. For example, coffee and caramel compliment well together: coffee is dark and bitter and caramel is sweet.

I suppose Sidonie Lancesseur, the nose behind Black Phantom, tried to create such balance at least in principle. The coffee and dark chocolate accords in her composition are too weak to balance off the sweetness of everything else.​

Two great examples how such balance is done right are Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis and Zoologist’s Civet. Both fragrances use coffee and spices to offset sweet notes and both of them achieve interesting results.​

Another way to tone down the sweetness is by adding a wood accord. Something dark and astringent would have added some depth and mystery to the composition. Instead, what we find in Black Phantom is synthetic sandalwood and almonds. Both of them are sweet, nutty and balmy. Not so much a juxtaposition to the sugar accords as a compliment.​

Overall, experiencing Black Phantom is like eating a dulce de leche candy with hot chocolate. It’s bearable only in small doses and only once in awhile.​

Black Phantom by Kilian | Dulce de Leche | ScentBound

How to Wear Black Phantom by Kilian

Black Phantom would make for a great scent for a donut shop owner or anyone working in the confectionery business. Own a whole bunch of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises? This is the scent for you.


All the sweetness of Black Phantom promises to be unforgiving in warm weather. If I were to wear it, the Christmas holiday season would be its prime time.


Black Phantom strikes me more as a casual fragrance than a formal one. Maybe this is just me but I expect more darkness and gravitas from my formal scents. It would be a good choice if you are going to the Waffle House or The Cheesecake Factory.


Considering that a bottle of by Kilian goes for about €260 (USD$280; CAD$387; GBP£218), the likely wearer of Black Phantom will be someone of certain economic means, usually achieved at more mature age.

By saying this, I fully realize there are many young people out there who can easily pay the price tag of Black Phantom. For those lucky ones, I pose the following question: should you?

Even though price can often serve as a prevention in making poor fragrance choices, there are many ridiculously expensive fragrances that suit any age. Black Phantom is such a fragrance. It lacks depth and complexity usually associated with more mature scents. I won’t find it odd if I smell Black Phantom on a 17-year-old. At the same time, the grandma of that same 17-year-old can pull it off too.

The Experts Say...​

Thomas Dunckley, The Candy Perfume Blog. Fragrance Critic

“The opening is a real cacophony of deliciousness. Toasted coffee beans swirl into the caramel and vanilla tones of rum, whilst a salted, nutty almond note adds a savoury contrast. What’s truly fascinating is that these elements are fairly abstract and they come together to create a new type of gourmand – one that is sweet, salty, boozy, bitter and woody all at once.”

Star Rating:​ None Given

Read Thomas's full review here.

Mark Behnke, Colognoisseur. Fragrance Critic

“Like stories where you think you know where it is going Black Phantom takes me someplace unexpected; to the coffee bar. The combination of coffee, steamed milk, chocolate, and caramel has a distinctive odor. Mme Lancesseur balances her “caramel mocha” accord brilliantly.”

Star Rating:​ None Given

Read Mark's full review here.

Vital Stats​


Longevity: 8 Hours
Projection: Moderate


Rum, Sugar, Caramel, Dark Chocolate

Almond, Sandalwood, Heliotrope


Black Phantom by Kilian | ScentBound

Bottle Size: 50ml, 250ml

Concentration: Eau de Parfum​

Price: €260; USD$280; CAD$387; GBP£218*​

Where to Buy: most luxury department stores

*Price is subject to change.​

10 Amazing Men’s Fragrances for Fall 2016

Amazing men's fragrances for fall 2016

The best way to cure the end-of-summer blues is by putting on a great fall fragrance. For me, the fall has always been a season of melancholy and reflection. It is when the days start getting shorter and the temperatures drop, that I realize the fun and sizzle of the summer is over.

The falling leaves and changing colours, however, quickly remind me that fall is not the season of gloom and doom. It is a prelude to winter - the time of peaceful snowy nights, twinkling lights and magic that wafts through the air.

Winter and the holiday season it brings are amazing but they are not here yet. For now, we have fall, which is also a time of change and magic. The best way to experience fall and the trepidation it brings is by picking a fragrance that elevates the spirit and warms the soul.

Here are ten amazing fragrances I've selected for fall 2016. I own most of them and I've worn all of them. These scents that epitomize fall for me. I keep returning to them every time the leaves turn yellow.

Some of the juices on this list are made for fall. It's as if they have pumpking and spice in their DNA (e.g. 1270, A*Man Pure Malt, Single Malt). Others have more reflective qualities. They soft jazz on the strings of your soul and quietly remind you why life is worth living (e.g. Grand Soir, Encre Noire A L'Extreme, Florentine Iris). Yet, others are winners all-around. They smell great and make you feel even greater (e.g. The One, Wazamba, Noir Extreme).​

Read on to find out which one is right for you.

The One by Dolce & Gabbana (the EDP Version)​

Amazing men's fragrances for fall 2016

When I think of The One by Dolce & Gabbana, the following quote by Ron Burgundy pops into my head:

"I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal. People know me. I'm very important."​

The One and its character has nothing in common with the self-aggrandizing lead character of Anchorman. Still, it is a big deal in the fragrance community. It's a staple in the top 10 lists of many fragrance reviewers and its virtues are extolled at length in the fragrance forums.

Originally released as an eau de toilette (EdT) in 2008, The One features notes of ginger, grapefruit, cardamom, amber and tobacco. It is commonly classified as woody-spicy fragrance but to me it has always been a light oriental amber.

The best thing about The One is that its elegant and sophisticated smell would fit almost any occasion in the fall. The worst thing about it is that it doesn't last very long.

Aware of the longevity problem, in 2015 Dolce & Gabbana released an eau de parfum (EdP) version. Some reviewers report The One EdP feels denser than the EdT and that it lasts longer (up to 8 hours vs. up to 4 hours). I haven't tested the two versions side by side but I would recommend going with The One EdP. This is the version I have and love. If you can't find it, go for the EdT (it appears it is much easier to find). There is no discernible difference in the actual scent, just the longevity.

You can find The One by Dolce & Gabbana in any major department store.

Single Malt By Kilian

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

If autumn to you is a superb amber-hued single malt whiskey, then Single Malt by Kilian is for you. The opening uncannily reminds me of the aroma of the oak barrels used to age scotch. I'm not an expert to tell whether the boozy accord is truly of a single malt. Its combination with the gourmand malt and vanilla makes for a fragrance you want to sip off your neck.​

Some fragrance reviewers describe by Kilian as Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille with a boozy opening. Indeed, the vanilla and tonka bean in both fragrances account for some of the similarities. The sweetness of Single Malt, however, is more tempered and arguably quieter.​

Kilian created Single Malt as part of a line of limited edition fragrances dedicated to different cities. Single Malt celebrates London and and the drink native to its country. After a short period of limited distribution, Single Malt is now available at all stores that carry by Kilian.​

1270 by Frapin​

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

Jean-Luc from La Secret du Marais described 1270 as a ball of fruits that have been soaked in brandy. At the time his comment made me laugh but the more I smell 1270, the more I realize how true it is.​

Beatrice Cointreau, an heir of the famed cognac maker Frapin, created 1270 to celebrate the aroma of the drink her family has been producing since 1270. As one can expect, the fragrance is a boozy one; very much reminiscent of a good bottle of cognac.

1270 opens with a strong boozy note, supported by symphony of pineapple, orange, and plum. Hazelnut, cocoa and coffee chime in to temper down the fruity accord. Woods, vanilla and tonka bean drive the character of the fragrance after the initial dizziness of the opening has dissipated.​

As I smell 1270, I realize that what makes this fragrance so perfect for fall is that it reminds me of all temptations of the season - a nice glass of cognac, a tempting piece of desert, and a sobering cup of coffee. No wonder why my bottle is half empty.​

A*Men Pure Malt by Thierry Mugler​

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

Thierry Mugler's approach to fragrances reminds me of a those artisan cupcake shops. They struck gold with making cupcakes and now their whole business is based on making varieties of them. This modularity of food creation can also be observed in Chinese restaurants too. You want sesame chicken? No problem. Make General Tao and add sesame seeds.​

If you've smelled Mugler's A*Men line of fragrances, you can reasonably conclude that it is comprised of one fragrance in different variations. Luckily, some of the permutations of the original are worthy of admiration. A*Men Pure Malt is one of them.​

Originally released as a limited time edition (circa 2008) A*Men Pure Malt captured the hearts of many gourmand lovers. With its boozy fruit accord, buttery malt note and tarty peat, the fragrance transported me in the midst of Oktoberfest. Dried fruit, pumpkin pies, and foamy beer cascade through my head as I inhale the aroma I sprayed on my left hand. I'm afraid to open my eyes and return back to reality. Not to worry. One spray of Pure Malt will keep the magic going for over 12 hours.​

Use sparingly. The projection of Pure Malt is a monster.

Note: In 2015 Thierry Mugler reintroduced Pure Malt on the market. Now, it is available in all major department stores.​

Florentine Iris by Zegna

amaazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

Smelling like you've macerated in an oak barrel is nice but some of us still have to go to work. To stay clear of violating any HR policies, save the boozy scents for the evening and put on Florentine Iris for the office. It's a soft iris-based fragrance, which leans clean and soapy rather than powdery.

Iris fragrances are not always a safe choice but Florentine Iris is as PG as it gets without being boring. Iris, violet and musk are the main players here. I also detect some Iso E Super even though it is not on the note list.

Zegna knows how to make clean and polite fragrances. Unfortunately for him, his creations often cross-over into the zone of boring. Florentine Iris tip-toes there but the quality of the materials add depth and evoke emotions that save the day.

Even though Florentine Iris works for any season, I find it is particularly appropriate for fall. Especially for times when you have the blues or need to show restraint and poise with your fragrant choices.

Wazamba by Parfum d'Empire

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2016

Wazamba is unique in many ways. It's an incense fragrance with a beautiful note of red apple. In the dry-down the scent becomes more resinous but it maintains its fresh and airy character.

Wazamba is a great choice for those days in autumn when we get unexpected warm spells. Its smoky-resinousy nature would perfectly compliment a leisurely stroll through the city under the last rays of sun.

​Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

Big oriental fragrances are best reserved for the winter. Not Grand Soir. The latest creation by Francis Kurkdjian is a beautiful oriental scent reminiscent of the 1920s. Unlike the classic from that period, however, Grand Soir is lighter and gender-neutral.

Francis Kurkdjian tells us to put our best clothes on and take a casual stroll in the "never-ending night and enjoy the daring radiance of a magnificent Parisian evening".​

As we are talking fall fragrances here, make sure you put your scarf on. While the warm ambery radiance of Grand Soir will lift your spirits, it won't do much to keep your neck warm.

The quality I enjoy the most about Grand Soir is that it creates in me a feeling of hopeful anticipation. I spray it on and the cold weather gets a bit warmer, the lights become a bit brighter and the mood in the air gets a bit happier. It makes me smile and this is what a good fragrance is supposed to do.​

​Honey Oud by Floris

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2016

Floris is a British perfume house that has been making fragrances since 1730. In my books they fall squarely in the category of traditional British scents made for Victorian gentlemen. For comparison, Penhaligon's is another British house that makes the same style of perfumery.​

Given its heritage and tradition, Honey Oud is a walk on the wild side for Floris. It's a sweet and warm oud-driven fragrance that is sufficiently complex to keep you sniffing your hand every two minutes. On their website Floris says the oud oil for Honey Oud comes from a "certified sustainable source of agarwood".​

The reason why Floris brings up the certified sustainability practices of its oud oil is because agarwood, the source of oud oil, has been over-harvested for years. Due to its extinction, getting a high quality oud oil is extremely hard and expensive.​

Not discounting Floris' claims on the source of their oud, I am a bit skeptical they are using the real thing. Considering that Honey Oud sells for USD$230 (€210) for 100 ml bottle, I doubt it contains tons of real oud. I suspect it may have traces of natural oud, which have been fortified with oud aroma-chemicals. It's a common practice among many perfume houses, which want to make an oud-based fragrance and sell it at somewhat reasonable prices.​

Notwithstanding the source of oud in the fragrance, Honey Oud is a festive fragrance. It is woody, sweet and extremely pleasant to wear. If you are debating what to put on for that November family get-together, Honey Oud would be a great choice.​

Noir Extreme by Tom Ford​

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2017

Noir Extreme is a continuation of the Noir line by Tom Ford. In this edition we get an amber-woody fragrance with an interesting note of kulfi. It is frozen dairy desert popular in India. Kulfi has a creamy, slightly nutty aroma that makes your mouth water. Combined with a soft amber accord, cardamom and woody notes, it forms a smell that is hard to resist.​

Therefore, Noir Extreme is a seduction in a bottle for those who can smell it on you. The fragrance doesn't project very far but this is just as well. The art of seduction is the art of exercising subtleties. Beautifully composed, this fragrance if perfect for a gloomy rainy day when you want to cuddle with your favourite person.​

Noir Extreme works great for any weather but I get into the mood for it in the fall. Give it a try if you are looking for a versatile compliment-getter.​

Encre Noire A L'Extreme by Lalique

amazing men's fragrances for fall 2016

You can't have a list of fall fragrances without a proper vetiver representation. Encre Noire A L'Extreme is a dark fragrance with a vetiver note. What I like the best about it is that it puts me in a pensive mood. It is almost like a meditation in a bottle.​

Vetiver, incense and cypress are perfectly blended with elemi, sandalwood and benzoin to produce a dark and yet uplifting fragrance. If you are in a brooding, pensive mood, reach out for this one. It's guaranteed to hit the spot.​

The Oud Fragrance Mania

In the last couple of years, there has been a proliferation of oud-based fragrances on the market. Everyone from mass market players like Armani and Dior to hard-to-find niche brands like by Killian and Heeley have released an oud fragrance. Oud or agarwood is a resin derived from the Acquilaria and Gyrinops trees native to Southeast Asia. When the heart of the tree becomes infected with a particular type of fungus, it starts rotting and emits a unique resinous-woody smell.

Oud Chips

Traditionally, oud has been used in middle eastern perfumery for many centuries, but it never really made it big in the Western markets until recently. The trend we are observing isn’t a renaissance of the middle eastern perfumery. It is really driven by Western perfume houses taking the traditional oud element and transforming it into fragrances that are more appealing to the Western markets. We suspect that oud craze is also driven by the discovery of a good synthetic molecule replicating the smell of natural oud, which makes the production of good quality oud fragrances cheaper.  For the record, natural oud is extremely expensive and very few perfumes on the market have the real thing.

Since the oud seems to be the hot new thing on the fragrance counter we selected some of the more popular ones you may want to try:

Joe Malone: Oud & Bergamot

Joe Malone came out with its Intense Cologne series in 2011 featuring Oud & Bergamot. It opens up with bergamot, lemon and oud notes, which do not change much in the later stages of development. The oud note is slightly sweet with a nuance of smokiness. Don’t let the smokiness part turn you off though. Oud & Bergamot is probably one of the most mainstream oud fragrances on the market. Don’t get spray-happy with this one as the projection is quite strong and you can easily overdo it.

Joe Malone Oud & Bergamot

Jo Malone – Oud & Bergamot

Creed: Royal Oud

Apparently, Royal Oud was a present Creed made to Prince William and Princess Kate during their stay at Santa Barbara Polo Club. If you believe Creed’s advertising, which you should not, Royal Oud is sensual and luxurious like the lives in the Parisian and Persian palace. We get the Parisian part, we giggled at the Persian one as Royal Oud has un-Persian as it can get. There is nothing in the composition and ingredients of Royal Oud that even remotely suggests Persian perfumery.

Royal Oud is not bad but it is a “me too” oud fragrance: it’s a one-toe-in-the-water attempt to ride the trend while keeping the core audience happy. The results are pleasant but unimpressive.

Creed - Royal Oud

Creed Royal Oud

Tom Ford: Private Blend Oud Wood

Oud Wood is an authentic interpretation of oud and therefore it takes some getting used to. It opens up with solid smoky oud that has medicinal notes to it. It melts into the skin and stays close to it. The vanilla and tonka beans notes start to emerge in the heart and base without making the fragrance too sweet. Oud Wood is a pleasant experience, especially if you want to take a walk on the strange side.

Tom Ford - Oud Wood

Tom Ford – Oud Wood

By Kilian: The Arabian Nights Series

By Kilian has a whole line of oud-inspired fragrances called Arabian Nights. By Kilian’s interpretation is closest to the original Arabian oud fragrance. To our knowledge all four fragrances in the line use the classic combination of oud and rose. Our favourite is Incense Oud, which is very smoky and dry. Pure Oud is another great creation in the line and is meant to interpret the smell of burning oud.

Arabian Nights are definitely for the more adventurous, so definitely try before you buy.

By Kilian - Arabian Nights

by Kilian – Arabian Nights

Byredo: Oud Immortel

In 2010 the Swedish niche house Byredo released their own oud fragrance – Oud Immortel. It is a mix of incense, papyrus, rosewood and tobacco. As if it was late for the party Byredo decided to go for an overkill and released another oud-centered fragrance. They creatively called it Accord Oud.

Oud Immortel is a fragrance with powdery dry characteristics. The mix of rosewood, incense and oud contributes to its dry character. Oud Immortel is fairly linear and subdues quickly. Not a bad choice if you are a fan of rosewood fragrances and would like something with an interesting touch.

Byredo Oud Immortel

Byredo – Oud Immortel

Now that you have the scoop on the good and bad stuff on the oud interpretations, you can spray away. Let us know what you favourite oud fragrance is and we’ll definitely tell you what we think about it.