By Kilian Sweet Redemption (The End) ~ fragrance review

BaudelaireBy Kilian Sweet RedemptionJim Morrison

Perfumes cling closely to your flesh 
As incense to a censer; bright 
And dusky nymph, you are all Night, 
Secret and passionate and fresh! 

— Charles Baudelaire (trans. Jacques LeClercq)

This is the end / beautiful friend  

— Jim Morrison

I'm sorry, but I couldn't stop myself from using those images and quotations. What else can one do, when faced with promotional copy stating that a fragrance is "inspired on one hand by Baudelaire's homage to sweet and deep fragrances, yet on the other hand by the dark and mysterious poetry of Jim Morrison as he seemingly forebode his own demise"? The fragrance in question is Sweet Redemption (The End), the tenth and final release in By Kilian's L'Oeuvre Noire series. It was developed by perfumer Calice Becker and the notes for this sweet powdery woods fragrance include orange blossom, vanilla, myrrh, opopanax, benzoin and incense.

Overwrought prose aside, what do we have here? Sweet Redemption opens with a top note of orange blossom cocooned in spun sugar. It's feminine and quite pretty, and I thought for a moment that this would turn out to be one of the simpler By Kilian compositions. (Many of them are just too much for my taste, although I am fond of Liaisons Dangereuses.) However, after about twenty minutes on my skin, that sweet floral note is swallowed up by something sharp and sour in the fragrance's heart. This could be the "bitter orange leaf absolute" mentioned in the official description. It has a menthol edge, and it bothers me to a surprising degree. After an hour or so, this phase of Sweet Redemption fades away and is replaced by a base of orange blossom, neroli and benzoin, like handmade orange sorbet topped with freshly whipped vanilla cream. I'm also reminded of the marshmallowy note that I enjoyed in the earlier Kilian release Love (Don't Be Shy), also from Calice Becker.

Sweet Redemption is sweet in the end, and almost comforting, in a high-end way. The incense and woods notes are very faint, really just a whisper behind the floral and edible notes. It's the heart of the composition that puzzles me, though. Is the fragrance designed to take this jarring turn? Is that bitterness meant to be a moment of suspense or crisis just before the final resolution, the redemption, of L'Oeuvre Noire's symbolic love affair? Or is something not quite right, with the fragrance or with my own perception of it? I tested Sweet Redemption four days in a row, and experienced the same results every time. (If you've tried it and had a similar or different experience, don't be afraid to comment.)

As much as I enjoyed the opening and close of this "story" in the Kilian oeuvre, I'm not sure that it's the fragrance I'd choose if I could only choose one (or two) orange blossom fragrances. Overall, I prefer Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli for bright simplicity, Hermès 24, Faubourg for elegance, and Maison Francis Kurkdjian APOM Pour Femme for contemporary chic. And one thing I do know for certain: I'm going to spend some time with Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal this month. (The opening quotation comes from his poem Chanson d'Après-midi [Afternoon Song].) The Doors? Not so much.

By Kilian Sweet Redemption (The End) Eau de Parfum is available in 30 ml travel spray ($135; case with 4 vials), 30 ml refill ($70), 50 ml refillable spray ($225), 50 ml refill ($125). For purchasing information, see the listing for By Kilian under Perfume Houses.

Note: images are Charles Baudelaire by Nadar (1855) and Jim Morrison Briefmarke Deutsche Bundespost (1988) [both cropped and altered], via Wikimedia Commons.

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22 Comments

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  1. Jill says:

    Oooh, I love that Baudelaire quote! Thanks for the terrific review, Jessica. Orange blossom always seems to present a challenge for me. I’m still interested in trying this one, though, even with the puzzling “middle”!

  2. springpansy says:

    Thanks, Jessica, I’ve been watching for your review on this one. Sounds worth a try, but I, too, already know that I love Atelier’s Grand Neroli (and BKs are so expensive, anyway!). I’d missed your review from last year on the Atelier so I enjoyed reading that, too. My take is similar to yours – a bright, pretty and feminine o.b. scent.

    • Jessica says:

      Springpansy, I’m glad you enjoyed it! You know, I just remembered another pretty orange blossom: D.S. & Durga’s Poppy Rouge.

  3. nozknoz says:

    I’m curious to try this since I love most of the CB BKs, especially Liaisons Dangereuses, Beyond Love, Pure Oud and Rose Oud – they are among my all time favs. This doesn’t sound too promising, though, and I already have the wonderful L’AP LE Fleurs d’Oranger for my OB fix.

    • Jessica says:

      Oh… the L’Artisan Fleurs d’Oranger LE *was* very nice! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Daisy says:

    Finally….someone who agrees with me! whew….I was beginning to think I was all alone in the world!

    The orange blossom and spun sugar opening is exactly as you say…it’s pretty. For a good 5 to 10 minutes I was plotting how to secure a bottle….but these pretty floral notes were swallowed up by an unpleasant mothball note more quickly for me than they were for you….I’m pretty sure this is your menthol note…to me it was 100% moth ball city. ….and it lasted a looooooooooooong time…..the far drydown regained its pleasantness but my brief love affair with SR was forever crushed. The middle couple of hours is not something I would pay to smell….especially not these prices!

    • Jessica says:

      Daisy, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who had this reaction. That “middle” really is odd, isn’t it?!

    • miss kitty v. says:

      Hey, Daisy, I agreed with you a long time ago! Remember? Your fellow mothball-sufferer here?

  5. Tama says:

    I liked this when I tried it but have not given it my full attention yet. I am just puzzled by everyone’s big love affair with the Ateliers. Every single one just boils down to nondescriptness, if not unpleasantness, in about a half hour. To each their own!

  6. Jonette says:

    Jessica, thanks for all the mentions of orange blossom fragrances.
    I’ll have to sample some. Back in the late fifties/early sixties, I was deeply in love with a bath oil called Bain d’or, which was supposed to mainly be orange blossom. I’ve googled, and come up with one from Helene Curtis and one from Lentheric. I suspect mine was the one from Lentheric. Does anyone remember it and can you tell me something about it, or refer me to something similar in a perfume?
    Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      Jonette, that sounds lovely. Lentheric was a bit before my time, and I’m not familiar with any products from H Curtis…but perhaps someone else can help out!

  7. Timbit says:

    Add me to the list of “troublesome middle” sufferers. For me, the sour note starts after only about 5 mins and increases in intensity. It never quite swallows up the pillowy orange blossom, but it hangs around with an unpleasant edge for hours. The far drydown is very pleasant, but it’s too little, too late. I was so sure that I was going to buy this in the travel set that I almost skipped the sample stage … lucky I didn’t!

    • Jessica says:

      “Unpleasant edge” is a good way to put it… unfortunately. Then again, some people on other blogs and boards weren’t bothered by that part. Interesting, right?

  8. APassionateJourney says:

    Thank you for this review! I got a sample and the first time I tried it I COULDN’T STAND IT! After the third testing I fell in love but something weird happens. When I sprayed the tester on me at Saks it was this rubbery note or something. I love it from my sample. Why is that??? I don’t like it from the bottle for some reason or maybe it was that tester or that spray. I hope so because I want the bottle! I’m gonna buy a full bottle of a Kilian and I’ve been testing them to see which one since that much money is a commitment

    • Jessica says:

      APJ, I hope you’ll find one that you really love! Some people do notice a difference between spraying vs. dabbing a fragrance, but I’ve only sprayed Sweet Redemption.

  9. kjanicki says:

    I did smell that sour/bitter/menthol note in the middle, but I guessed it to be the myrrh. The sweet benzoin vanilla base notes get rid of it for me, but I woudn’t recommend it to anyone unless they like that strange myrrh.

  10. PinoiPerfumista says:

    Hello Jessica,

    I know this question might be super-late, but just the same would appreciate if you can accommodate my question. How is this (Sweet Redemption) compared to Fendi’s Theorema? I have Theorema and I cannot help but associate this perfume with Theorema especially when you used the term “orange blossom cocooned in spun sugar.” Am I right to assume these perfumes are similar, in one way or another?

    • Jessica says:

      Hello, PP! Well, I’ve only tried Theorema once, but I don’t remember it being much like this Kilian. I think Theorema had more burnt/candied orange with cinnamon and sandalwood, rather than orange flowers — is that right?

  11. PinoiPerfumista says:

    Hello again Jessica. Thanks for your reply. To my nose (and I agree with you) Theorema is candied orange. I think this orange part made me think initially this is similar with by Kilian. Apparently, they are not. I cannot compare at this time since I do not have access to by Kilian products. Hopefully, I will soon! ;-)

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