Our resident tea expert Andy explores Kilian’s Imperial Tea, as he is searching for a jasmine tea in a perfume bottle.
The unending lure of creating new tea-inspired perfumes never ceases to amaze me. I’m always convinced the tea fragrance trend is on the brink of disappearing, that perfume houses have labeled it entirely passé, until yet another tea scent is launched, much to my delight. In the past, I’ve found myself sometimes disappointed by tea perfumes, so when I found out about By Kilian’s new addition to the Asian Tales Collection, Imperial Tea, I sat up in attention.
Calice Becker, the nose behind the radiant, green tea-inflected Tommy Girl, clearly authored Imperial Tea with a different point of reference. Imperial Tea takes a decidedly photorealistic approach to conjuring tea, in comparison to the airy abstraction of Tommy Girl and its relatives. However, with my overall feelings on Imperial Tea split, I’ve come to question whether or not this realistic approach is any more effective at capturing the spirit of twisted leaves and steaming cups.
My qualms aside, the opening of Imperial Tea is remarkable, conjuring a believable smelling impression of jasmine tea. By point of comparison, I’ve smelled some of the jasmine teas in my collection, and while none of them are quite the same as Imperial Tea, the perfume seems to bring in the most elements of a jasmine green tea.
Immediately after application, I smell transparent jasmine cut through with a muted earthen quality that well approximates the tannic astringency of a Chinese gunpowder green tea. Far from weighing the fragrance down, these somewhat bitter, ashy notes actually smell very refreshing and crisp.
As the fragrance moves along, though, it loses the intrigue of the opening and begins to smell simple and thin, with the floral notes becoming more prominent, and joining with some clean musk. This drydown is decent enough, but it lacks uniqueness, and as Imperial Tea wears on I find the jasmine gains jammy sweetness and metallic qualities that make the perfume more reminiscent to me of hairspray than of fine fragrance.
The problem I have with Imperial Tea is that my interest in it wanes the further it progresses. What starts with a fascinating opening soon fades into a disinteresting, and for me, mostly unappealing perfume. At the end of the day, even though I love the opening of Imperial Tea, the perfume as a whole leaves me mostly cold.
Unlike when I brew a cup of jasmine tea, and I am transported away from my cares for a moment, Imperial Tea elicits no emotional rush. I’m glad to have a sample of Imperial Tea, because I’ll want to smell it on a blotter from time to time. However, at the end of the day, if presented with Becker’s two tea creations, I’d probably rather wear Tommy Girl.
My perfect jasmine tea perfume search continues…
By Kilian Imperial Tea includes notes of jasmine sambac, bergamot, guaiacwood, yerbamaté, violet. 50ml/$245, $145/50ml, $155/4x .25oz (Travel Spray). Available at Luckyscent, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus and other retailers.
Extra: more tea themed perfume reviews.