By Kilian Back to Black

...a stealth bomber disguised as a creampuff.

I admit it -- I’m a glutton. Sure, that one Vanilla-Vanilla cupcake from the Red Velvet Cupcakery is divinity incarnate, and I’ll eat three more just to prove it. But don’t leave that plate of freshly baked peanut butter cookies near me unless you want it “disappeared”. And my childhood memories of Easter Sunday are a crackie blur of downing the entire contents of my Easter basket at dawn in a tweaker frenzy, followed by sitting blearily through the church service in a candy-coated coma.

To me, the perfect amount of anything is “too much”. That goes for raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, mayo on fries. And perfume. Perfume perfume perfume. Like a toddler who needs to put each and every random object in his mouth, I am compelled to try every perfume I encounter. What some may decry as poor impulse control, I prefer to view as a charming “lust for life”.

A couple of days ago, I was lust for life-ing at my favorite perfume boutique, spraying and sniffing, sniffing and spraying. In the space of only 29 minutes, I found myself wearing the following:

LesNez Manoumalia (sweaty tropical flowers)
Tauer Perfumes L'air du Desert Marocain (dusty incense and cedar-Coca-Cola)
Indult Manakara (lychee flambée)
Indult Tihota (marshmallow Fluff)
Indult Isvaraya (smoked jasmine and patchouli)
Solange Azagury-Partridge Stoned (peppery amber powder)
Vero Profumo Onda (vetiver-leather)
By Kilian Back to Black (vanilla honey and tobacco)
Amouage Epic Man (oud-y incense-leather)
10 Corso Como (oud and sandalwood)

I think I may have overdone it a smidge, because at the grocery story afterwards, strangers were commenting on my fragrance. From 50 feet away. And no sooner had I walked through my front door than my husband swore loudly from three rooms away, the printable part being, “WHAT is that SMELL?” Apparently Mr. Whinypants had a problem with his eyes watering, or an ice pick sensation in his sinuses, or blindness, or some such.

Something about the anguished urgency of his query made me give myself another snorf. By gum, he had a point -- what WAS that delicious smell? Out of my self-induced scent swamp emerged one supreme Venus. It was By Killian Back to Black.

Back to Black had asserted itself over the others not by screaming above the din, or by being extra weird and niche-freaky. Instead, this irresistible Calice Becker confection insinuates itself into the animal brain with its lethal blend of yummy, cozy, and horny.

At first, B2B is a “merely” a very feminine gourmand: a powdery blend of vanilla, honey and almonds reminiscent of Turkish Delight. Then a wisp of faintly cherry pipe tobacco lazes through the proceedings, and powdered sweetness morphs into smoke. Here’s where I fall into a dream, lulled by the eau de parfum’s fuzzy softness. Num num num, snuggled in my Back to Black blankie.

Then it happens - B2B pops an unmistakable woody. Woody accord, that is: cedarwood and patchouli spiced up with saffron and cardamom. I had to crib this info off the official ingredients list, because all my animal brain can register is that my playful companion has turned out to be a seducer all along.

Freshly aroused, my nose locks in on B2B’s ambery labdanum, which does wicked “exalted personal smell” things with the honey. I don’t mean “unwashed orifices”, exactly, but there is something verging on TMI with this animalic combo. The honey and smoke say a long, sensual goodbye on the skin, lasting all through the night and into the next day.

There’s a reason why the subtitle of this perfume is “Aphrodisiac”. Back to Black is a stealth bomber disguised as a creampuff -- and just the perfect amount of “too much”.

For more Back to Black findings, click here.

Back to Black is available at and, starting at $135 for 30ml

Madonna by Steven Meisel


  1. Thanks for the review - you helped to verbalize for me what I like about it. I think I'll be careful about wearing it to work though. 12 year old boys are already horny enough.

  2. Can a perfume be sued for being a sexual predator?

  3. You have lighten my mind - I love tabacco and woody and musk - tabacco was the one missing. I always have this smell in my head of my chemistry teacher, I didn't recognize till now it must have been tabacco scent.
    I should have figured it out early, though, because I love it when other people smoke

  4. Linda, I love it when the answer I've been searching for pops into my head. Yes, tobacco is such a transfixing scent. Have you smelled Tom Ford For Men Extreme? I like the woody/leather/tobacco depth in that one.

  5. Hey Katie
    Sure I mentioned elsewhere how much I loved Back to Black, how it was the only scent for me, yadda yadda yadda then last week when I was in Liberty I tried Miller Harris' Feuilles de Tabac...

    Oh dear, I am a perfume ho-bag. Because Feuilles de Tabac had all my Back to Black squee but x10!!! It smelt like clove cigarettes (or how I imagine clove cigarettes to smell) and was just entrancing. It also lasted nearly 24 hours on my skin. I still love Back to Black, don't get me wrong, but my wallet is as happy as I am about this new discovery :D

  6. Sarah, I love that Feuilles de Tabac, too! But it's all about the earthy, spicy vegetation side of tobacco, and none of B2B's honey-sweet powderyness. (Did you talk to the marvelous SA in Liberty's, Stuart? I heart him!)

    Not to disturb your wallet's sanguine state, but have you experienced Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba? That's kind of a halfway house between B2B and FdT, in terms of having the vegetal aspect of tobacco with the sensual honey side.

  7. I don't get much sweetness from B2B anyway, nor any of the fruits. (My skin eats those notes up and they disappear!)

    I was a bit intimidated in Liberty's actually... didn't speak to any of the staff (but no Stuart).
    I haven't tried ANY Santa Maria Novella and now I'm going to have to visit them next month when I'm in London with my Evil Twin. While I'm there suppose I could hit Parfums de Nicolai... but we're supposed to be buying cute lingerie!!! Also, poor wallet.

  8. That's interesting, Sarah - no sweetness from B2B? Your skin certainly has a big appetite for sweeties. I end up dabbing a bit of my By Kilian Pure Oud samp on with the B2B to butch it up a bit.

    The reason why I loved talking to Stuart at Liberty's is that he's a big fume-nerd and loves the stuff. He told me he's been there for 10 years! In no time at all he had me skipping around the department smelling this, that, and the other.