Light My Fire is one of a trio of new fragrances from Kilian Hennessy in the Addictive State of Mind Collection which debuted last month. The common theme which links all three perfumes is a dark smokiness, but each fragrance seems to have a particular focus. In Light My Fire, it is ostensibly tobacco. According to the press copy quoted by Bergdorf Goodman, “Light My Fire dissects the finest cigar tobacco, the olfactory pinnacle of a Monte Cristo.”
Well, not on my skin. I think I had quite an anomalous experience with the scent, while my time with the other two fragrances in the collection — Smoke for the Soul and Intoxicated — was very similar to that of others. I’ll briefly cover Smoke for the Soul and Intoxicated at the end of this post and in lieu of a proper review, primarily because I thought one of them was simply terrible and verging on the unbearable. First, though, a look at Light My Fire.
Light My Fire is an eau de parfum created by Sidonie Lancesseur and described on the Kilian website as follows:
Defying tradition, Kilian and Sidonie Lancesseur reject the sparkle of top notes to plunge with the recklessness of desire into the dark spiciness of tobacco leaf evoked by dry fragrant cumin, tedded hay, earthy patchouli and vetiver. The sweetness of fulfilment blossoms in wild honey melting into a warm base of vanilla, the almond tang of white heliotrope, creamy tonka and smoky birchwood.
The description provides more notes than what is listed on Luckyscent or Fragrantica, both of whom omit the heliotrope, vanilla, and either the vetiver or the honey. The full, complete list seems to be:
Tobacco, cumin, patchouli, vetiver, honey, vanilla, heliotrope, tonka, and birch.
Light My Fire essentially has three main stages on my skin after the initial opening moment when the fragrance rapidly cycles through all its notes except for the vetiver. That opening lasts about only a minute or two, and presents all the notes (other than the vetiver) in a spicy, sweet, smoky mix that sits atop a base of tarry birch.
Light My Fire quickly transitions into its first, main stage, though that doesn’t last long, either. In a nutshell, it consists of competing foodie strains of a Middle Eastern, savory, cumin dish next to a dessert made from almond heliotrope with thick vanilla custard, all lightly drizzled with honey. The tobacco, birch, and patchouli act as side dishes. The restaurant course begins with a strong cumin focus.
Unfortunately, its foodie spiciness is slightly sweaty at first with a noticeable bodily quality, though it doesn’t smell of truly horrible body odor or rank, fetid staleness. I find it to be an extremely odd contrast next to the heavily dessert-centered sweetness of the almond heliotrope and vanilla custard, and I won’t deny that I was rather relieved when the cumin’s sweatiness disappears after ten minutes. What’s left is a regular, Middle Eastern, cumin-centric main course which is equally strange next to the thick vanilla custard and the heliotrope almond drizzled with honey. It’s almost… intriguing. I’m simultaneously put off by it and, somehow, drawn in for more sniffs. Perhaps it’s simply nothing more than confusion.
All of this ends 15 minutes into Light My Fire’s development, as the perfume segues into a brief transitional phase. This short, second part is dominated by lovely tobacco leaves that are dry and sweet, then covered with spicy, brown, sweet patchouli. The whole thing is then dusted with honey, as sweet hay swirls around. The cumin peeks its head out from behind their skirts, but is not longer a major player.
What makes this stage a transitional one is the arrival of the vetiver which adds an earthy greenness to the tobacco, as well as a touch of smoke. At the same time, the birch suddenly rises from the base to smear its smoky tar all over the leaves, thereby amplifying that occasional facet of the vetiver even further. The almond-y heliotrope and vanilla custard flee before their powerful onslaught, and recede to the background to join the cumin.
Light My Fire is now centered primarily on a mix of tobacco, birch tar, vetiver, patchouli, abstract spiciness, and a slightly honeyed sweetness. My skin tends to amplify vetiver to a huge degree, as well as turn it quite minty on occasion. That happens here, too, but the vetiver is primarily a very smoky one laden with equally smoky, heavy tar from the birch. Increasingly, the two things start to overshadow the tobacco, never mind the other notes. While the heliotrope peeks from the sidelines and occasionally flirts with the vetiver, the vanilla, patchouli, and cumin are becoming fully submerged into the new darkness.
The third and final phase begins 45 minutes into Light My Fire’s development, and essentially lasts for the next 11 hours. Quite simply, it is all about the smoky vetiver and the equally smoky, tarry, black tar. The heliotrope suddenly returns to dance about, but it is the only other visible note. Everything else is a shapeless mass of spicy, sweet darkness. There is absolutely no perceptible “tobacco” on my skin — not the dry leaves and most certainly not a Montecristo cigar. The hay? Forget about it. Vanilla custard? Non plus. Patchouli? Alas, not.
Only the heliotrope is apparent, and it starts to demonstrate its sweet, powdery facets instead of just its almond ones. In fact, Light My Fire takes on an interesting polarity after 30 minutes where the heliotrope’s feminine softness attempts to tame the Alpha Male, macho brutishness of the tarred vetiver. It doesn’t succeed. As a side note, I’m not normally one to think of notes as having a gender, but the tar and vetiver are so intense, single-minded, and unrelieved on my skin that it is quite aggressive. Too much so for my liking. It doesn’t help that I have issues with vetiver in large doses to begin with, due largely to the fact that my skin amplifies the note to foghorn levels on occasion. Like now.
Still, the heliotrope does try to soften the mix with its powdery sweetness. The extent to which it will succeed for you will depend on your personal skin chemistry. I suspect that for some men, namely those whose skin chemistry does not amplify birch or vetiver to the same degree, the balance of notes might skew to the feminine side, and that was borne out to me by the one comment left on Luckyscent‘s Light My Fire page.
Regardless of gender, I hope Light My Fire demonstrates more complexity on your skin than on mine because, damn, it’s such a total bore for the next 11 or so hours. Birch tar and vetiver — ad infinitum. Everything else is lumped into a general state of darkness, and even the heliotrope gives up 3.75 hours into the mix, and slinks off to the sidelines. At that point, the smoky tarriness takes on a woody undertone that feels like a mix of birch with cypriol. The whole thing feels harsh, bordering on the abrasive, and it just drones on until the final two hours when Light My Fire turns into a simple smear of vetiver.
All in all, Light My Fire lasted just a hair under 12 hours on my skin, and 11 of those hours were centered primarily on two simple, smoky notes. It was almost enough for me to miss the sweaty cumin or the Middle Eastern banquet buffet. At least those brief moments were interesting, which is more than I can say for the rest of the perfume. In terms of sillage, it was generally moderate. Using 3 squirts from my little atomizer, equal to 2 small sprays from an actual bottle, Light My Fire opened with 2.5 inches of projection at first. It was a strong scent, but a little sheer in body. The perfume turned softer after 45 minutes, and the projection dropped to 1 inch. Light My Fire became a skin scent on me at the 3.75 hour mark, though it wasn’t hard to detect up close.
Kilian is a brand that doesn’t wow me as a general rule. For the most part, my responses veer between apathy, boredom, eye-rolls at the prices, or occasional irritation. (Sacred Wood with its supposed “Mysore sandalwood” recreation being a prime example of the latter.) Light My Fire is a bit of an odd case. I actually think the scent showed great promise at the beginning, a promise that may have come to fruition with a different sort of skin chemistry than my own. It certainly had early indicators of complexity, which is more than I can say for many of the Kilians, particularly some of the really popular ones like Amber Oud. (A misnamed scent if I ever saw one because oud? Really?) For the most part, I think Kilian’s signature seems to be highly simplified or simplistic smoothness. Some people interpret that as “refined.” I’m not one of them, but the point here is that Light My Fire feels harsher than the traditional, usual Kilian style. At the same time, it has greater boldness than several of the fragrances that I’ve tried, and the potential for demonstrating far more character, too.
I really think skin chemistry will be key, as well as your personal tolerance for some of the individual notes. Judging by the responses on Fragrantica, most people had a very tobacco-centric fragrance and quite a different experience than my own. The one similarity: the cumin. It was a big problem for a lot of people, but there were other issues, too. One chap found Light My Fire to smell like “urinal cakes,” while the heliotrope clearly was the reason for a few posters’ unhappy reference to “baby wipes.” On the positive side, many people enjoyed a substantial amount of hay which, in conjunction with the tobacco focus on their skin, resulted in comparisons to the amazing Chergui. On the negative side, most of them found the Lutens to be superior. (Colour me shocked.)
The responses on Fragrantica seem to be heavily split, but there are some positive blog reviews for Light My Fire amongst the blogs. You can read Colognoisseur and The Scented Hound for different takes on the scent. Neither of them underwent the vetiver-tar focus that I, alas, experienced. (Their reviews also cover the other two fragrances in the line.)
Kilian seems to have raised his prices, at least for this collection. The 50 ml bottle costs $270, when recent releases like Sacred Wood were $245. What was interesting to me is that the perfume bottle is described on the company’s website as a “refillable spray.” That would seem to imply that the traditional, more affordable “refill” options might not be offered for the Addictive State of Mind Collection. I’ve also heard that Kilian might have phased out his travel decants. I certainly don’t see any on his website. So, in a nutshell, the price seems to be $270, or nothing. I’ll endeavor to resist….
SMOKE FOR THE SOUL & INTOXICATED:
The other two Addictive State of Mind scents didn’t impress me, either. Luckyscent was kind enough to send me samples of the collection a long time ago, and it’s taken me this long to bother with a review for any one of the lot because I was so underwhelmed. Actually, that’s a very polite interpretation of things. My reaction to the first one I tried was to scrub it off. The second one as well. In fact, I couldn’t decide which one was worse. The third fragrance (Light My Fire) didn’t exactly improve my mood. After proper testing of the lot, I concluded that I should skip reviews entirely, or perhaps simply cover the trio in one post and summarize them via their varying interpretations of tarriness.
Much of this stemmed from my dread of reliving the experience with Smoke for the Soul. That one was simply revolting on my skin. Synthetic, strange, harsh, and bordering on the abrasive. Sour, bitter, thin, acidic grapefruit mixed with a mentholated, eucalyptus medicinal salve like Vick’s, before being blanketed by heaps of smoky black tar, an abrasive, viciously synthetic, almost cypriol-like woody aromachemical, pungently green cardamom, and stale cannabis weed. Absolutely ghastly.
The only good thing about Smoke for the Soul is reading the many negative reviews of it on Fragrantica, some of which are pointed or hilariously disgusted. One of my favorite ones ends with this:
If you are looking to attract the attention of the DEA or your local policing establishment, look no further! The rest of us should avoid this like the plague. [¶] Why would anyone pay money to smell like a habitual drug user?
Personally, I don’t mind a cannabis note in perfumery, but pot is really the least of my problems with Smoke for the Soul. The sharpness was unbearable, the synthetics harsh, the smoke and tar abrasive, and the overall result wholly unwearable on my skin.
Intoxicated was an ordeal for a different set of reasons. First, though, we have to talk about Thierry Mugler‘s A*Men. Everyone claims that the two fragrances are identical or extremely close. On Fragrantica, practically every review for Intoxicated brings up A*Men. And it’s true, the two fragrances have a huge overlap. That said, there are differences, most noticeably in the Kilian’s smoothness which does, in fact, some “refine” the famous Mugler elements and which eschews some of the Mugler’s synthetic quality. Intoxicated is also a deeper scent than A*Men, or at least as the Mugler is now. A*Men has been reformulated, and that reformulation has also resulted in much of its tarry opening being minimized. Perhaps that is why I actually enjoy parts of it on occasion, mainly in the drydown phase.
The Kilian, however, has a strong streak of blackness that is like a mix of tar and licorice, along with a “double” infusion of cardamom that I found to be unbearably pungent, green, sharp, and medicinal. On occasion, it also reflected a sour lemony nuance; other times, it wafted something verging on pine mixed with tar. On my skin, there was hardly any of the coffee which is ostensibly the fragrance’s focus and main selling point. Instead, it was primarily pungent green cardamom, bitter nutmeg, and that mysterious, unlisted, tarry black note, atop a thin sliver of creaminess that does, eventually, hours later, become less muted.
What I simply cannot get past is the tsunami of pungent, green cardamom which lasts from start to finish on my skin. Something about it makes me feel utterly queasy and nauseated — and it happens each and every time I’ve worn Intoxicated. In fact, I sprayed on the perfume again while writing this summary, just to be sure, and I feel as though I’m going to be ill. The reformulated, current version of A*Men doesn’t have that effect, though I still find parts of the opening to be difficult for the first hour.
The fragrances’ overlap is a problem given their price. You can find a 50 ml bottle A*Men for $34-$40. Intoxicated comes in the exact same size but costs $270. I don’t think the olfactory differences — or even the Kilian’s minor improvement in quality and depth — are significant enough to get around a whopping $230 gap.
All in all, my bottom-line assessment is that there are far better uses for your money than any of these three fragrances but, if you simply have to throw away $270 on one of them, Light My Fire has the greatest potential and likelihood of appeal.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.