By Kilian Imperial Tea : Perfume Review

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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.

imperialtea

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.

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45 Comments

  • Awfulknitter: I have a very small sample of Imperial Tea, and I too found the jasmine tea opening quite strikingly like the drink – rather lovely. I was hoping that the lack of interest later on was due to the small amount I put on, but it sounds like that’s not the case. Oh well! November 11, 2014 at 7:42am Reply

    • Andy: I tested from a sample too, but after repeated wearings I found that it didn’t matter how much I put on. I don’t necessarily mind a fragrance that behaves like an eau du cologne, with all the attention on top notes and a short life on skin, but Imperial Tea’s rather boring drydown seems to last and last. November 11, 2014 at 8:04am Reply

  • Aurora: Poor Andy, how disappointing! Thank you very much for this in-depth review, I hope you will find your holy grail of jasmine tea perfume one day.

    PS There is a lovely chai tea note in Bulgari Omnia (the original one) but it doesn’t last very long before merging into a soft wood drydown. Still it’s a nice scent of its kind. November 11, 2014 at 7:48am Reply

    • Andy: Even if I never find my perfect tea perfume, at least I’ll always have real tea to sniff–the best perfume of all. I love the original Omnia, to me it really is like the bottled equivalent of ordering a chai latte. I am also a fan of another discontinued Bulgari, Thé Rouge, with its delightful combination of citrus, fig, and nutty woods. November 11, 2014 at 8:12am Reply

      • Aurora: Yes, that’s the right attitude, nothing beats the real thing.

        Thank you, The Rouge goes on my to-try list. November 11, 2014 at 8:59am Reply

        • Andy: I just brewed myself a cup of jasmine tea, an act inspired by all this talk of the beverage. And I just couldn’t agree more, nothing will ever beat the real thing! 🙂 November 11, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

      • Ariadne: I LOVE Bulgari The Rouge and it is still widely available on discount sites and eBay. It is my weekend hunker down reading on a rainy day scent go to. It is also the perfume I choose when I need to smell understated in close quarters. November 11, 2014 at 4:33pm Reply

        • Patricia: I saw a very good price for The Rouge on fragrance.net and was tempted! November 11, 2014 at 5:34pm Reply

        • Andy: This afternoon, I knew I was going to be in a crowded setting around many people, so I wore Thé Rouge (I had been craving it ever since I had seen it mentioned in the thread earlier). You’re right, it was perfect in this sort of setting! November 11, 2014 at 8:05pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: I’d love to have another tea scent in my collection – beside my beloved Osmanthe Yunnan – but Imperial Tea doesn’t seem an option 🙁
    Unfortunately that’s my impression of most Kilian scents: much too overpriced for what they are…
    I’ve put Russian Tea by Masque Milano on my to-try list, though. Have you tried it yet?
    And my Holy Grail in terms of chai notes is Dzongkha 🙂 November 11, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

    • Andy: Osmanthe Yunnan is so exquisite, I’m not sure anything quite bests it anyway. But you may find another tea favorite yet–it has become such a wide category.

      I was actually looking into Russian Tea recently, it has gone to the very top of my to-try list. I like wearing Dzongkha, but haven’t quite noticed the chai facet in the heart, I will look for it the next time I sample it. November 11, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

    • limegreen: Thanks for a great read, Andy! Good luck with your jasmine tea perfume search, but sometimes the fun is in the quest. 🙂
      Rainboweyes– I have a sample of Russian Tea and it’s gorgeous. The opening is just like that burst of fragrance that you get when you first snap open a tin of aged black tea leaves. And the smoky leathery tea leaf “sweetness” lasts for a while before the bit of raspberry wafts in. November 11, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

      • Andy: You’re right! I think I almost enjoy not finding the jasmine tea perfume I’m really looking for, it keeps the fun of the search going. November 11, 2014 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Alicia: Thank you, Andy, for this fine review. I have just returned from the Iguazú Falls and its subtropical jungle. While there for several weeks I wore several citrus fragrances, but mostly used up a bottle of my favorite green tea: Bulgari, Eau Perfumée au Thé Vert. I am sure you know it well. In its floral core, don’t you find some jasmine? November 11, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

    • Andy: How enviable I am of your trip! Sounds like the perfect time to use Thé Vert. I do find a lot of jasmine in its heart, but to me it is not the heady, rich jasmine that one smells in a jasmine green tea. Rather, I smell a gauzy, radiant sort of jasmine, an effect I associate with the molecule hedione. The effect the synthetic gives is no less beautiful, just different to me than fresh jasmine flowers. November 11, 2014 at 11:19am Reply

      • Alicia: Of course you are right, Andy. Perhaps some day we’ll get a true jasmine tea in a fragrance. Meanwhile, after your review, I’ll stick to Bulgari’s Thé Vert, with its several florals, and utter delight. November 11, 2014 at 7:40pm Reply

        • Andy: I’m glad you so enjoy Thé Vert, it’s still one of my favorite green tea perfumes too! November 11, 2014 at 7:50pm Reply

    • Michaela: Lucky you! 🙂
      My absolute green tea favorite is also Bulgari’s The Vert. It fits so well any situation, any mood, any temperature, any place, anyone 🙂 November 12, 2014 at 4:10am Reply

  • Sandra: I actually loved Imperial Tea-but I do love a lot of by Killian fragrances. I actually like the dry down more then you do-but different scents for different folks.
    When I was in my “oud” phase I loved Cruel Intentions.
    One thing I can appreciate about the Killian fragrances is that a little goes a long way. You literally have to scrub it off if you want to apply something else.
    I also love good girl gone bad and dangerous liasions. I own bottles of both and find them in my daily rotation. November 11, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

    • Andy: For sure, the By Killian line has some real standouts. It’s not really something I’d wear on a regular basis, but I love the sensual feel of Back to Black. And you’re right, a little does go a long way with Killians! Even with just a little dab, the drydown of Imperial Tea seems to last for ages! November 11, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

  • Hannah: I’m no longer interested in tea or coffee perfumes. I’m not really a fan of perfumes that are evocative of real things in general.
    But anyway, Jasmin Rouge smells like jasmine tea to me. For other kinds of tea, I think Nomad Tea by CDG is one of their best but no one talks about it. By Kilian Rose Oud smells like a tea beverage sold at a cafe in Hamburg, I forget the name, with tea from a samovar, milk, saffron, cardamom and rose water. When I put Rose Oud on, I had to travel across town for it. But the actual tea was better than the perfume. November 11, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

    • Nikki: How wonderful your description of the Samovar and milk and saffron…I remember those times, too, but we used blackcurrant jam to sweeten the tea.

      The only tea fragrance I really like is Eau du The Vert Extreme by Ellena. I will have to try The Rouge though as it is often sold at a discount store here.

      Jasmine tea is amazing, but I have never found any jasmine perfume I like, even tough I tried many. The only Jasmine that smells good to my nose is Jasmine pure essential oil which is amazing and so expensive. Noting better than fresh jasmine I guess… November 11, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

      • Hannah: Tea with blackcurrant jam would be eastern European, right? I’ve only had samovar tea from Arab and Turkish restaurants. Sometimes I go to a nice cafe, and I’m in the mood for tea, but then I pay 2.50euro for a teabag of basic tea and I’m like “what did I do that for?”. Then I go to a falafel restaurant and I get a glass of tea for 1euro (or in one of those lovely little glasses for free sometimes) and it is so much better. I hope to get a samovar, or at least one of those Turkish double kettles, someday.
        I would like to try blackcurrant jam in tea. November 11, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

        • Nikki: Yes, there is a German company that sells samovars, electric ones, for 50 Euro or so…

          Yes, you are right, Hannah, it was a friend from St Petersburg who introduced me to the blackcurrant jam, and it is fun, but best without little kernels, so jam is better than marmalade. It is like being in a Tolstoy novel…I love Russian tea, especially Tsar Nicholas 2 which is sold here in the States, it has some very subtle flavoring to it, truly delicious.

          Persians/Iranians make great tea if you can find some of their shops. Turkish tea isn’t bad either, you can put some rosewater in it to flavor it…or buy chai teabags and make really fun, Christmas tea, yourself. November 11, 2014 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Andy: In some regards, I feel the same way, because in my search for a perfume that smells like jasmine tea, what I’m really doing is searching for an abstraction that evokes tea, more than anything. Photo-realism is a quality I like in a perfume, but even the most accurate copies of the smells around us are merely smoke and mirrors, lies that tell the truth, so to speak. As I believe it’s discontinued, I haven’t tried CdG Nomad Tea yet. I really like their Series 1: Leaves take on tea, though. November 11, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

      • Nikki: Nice, smoke and mirrors, very well said, Andy! November 11, 2014 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Jehanne Dubrow: For years, I’ve been searching for a perfume that smelled like a cup of jasmine tea. I had high hopes for Killian’s Imperial Tea but, as Andy did, I found this scent to be increasingly disappointing the longer it stayed on my skin. After two hours, it smelled really synthetic and screechy on me. Guess I’ll just keep looking and hoping for the perfect jasmine tea perfume. November 11, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

    • Andy: Yes, it would seem that now, the search continues! 🙂 November 11, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Mary K: I’m another fan or Bulgari The Rouge and I also like Dzongkha. Haven’t tried Russian Tea by Masque Milano, but I definitely want to try that one. November 11, 2014 at 11:43am Reply

    • Andy: I will have to retry Dzongkha–I don’t remember getting any tea in the many times I’ve sampled before, though it sounds like such a fitting note for this meditative perfume. November 11, 2014 at 12:25pm Reply

  • spe: Thank you for the review! My only tea scent is Guerlain Tokyo. There is green tea and jasmine in that one and it seems to get stronger as the day goes on, ultimately becoming quite floral – green. November 11, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Andy: I have not tried Tokyo, but I’ve wanted to. Though this Guerlain is somewhat hard to find, so is a really good jasmine tea perfume. So, perhaps it might be closer to what I’m looking for. November 11, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love your ongoing quest for a jasmine tea perfume. Nothing beats the real deal, apparently. I like a few of By Kilian’s offerings but will not be in any rush to try this one. Instead I will just take a sniff of one of my jasmine teas 🙂 November 11, 2014 at 1:13pm Reply

    • Andy: While reading the comments, I just had to brew myself a cup of the real deal, and I was almost surprised how fragrant it is–I haven’t had any jasmine tea in a while.

      I forgot to mention in my review, but the dry tea leaf and jasmine pairing in Imperial Tea smells, to me, strikingly similar to the tobacco and jasmine combination of Jasmin et Cigarette. However, I prefer the latter, for it develops more interestingly. If you’ve sampled Jasmin et Cigarette, you may notice the similarity when you test Imperial Tea. November 11, 2014 at 1:56pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Jasmin et Cigarette is a very interesting fragrance. I get too much smoked cigarette from it to really want it, but I take a good sniff from my sample every once in a while. November 11, 2014 at 4:24pm Reply

        • Andy: I’m quite the same; I probably wouldn’t wear Jasmin et Cigarette much if I owned a bottle, but I do like to smell it from time to time. November 11, 2014 at 7:53pm Reply

      • Patricia: Andy, I like Jasmin et Cigarette too, but like Austenfan find it more ashy cigarette than tobacco. Interesting fragrance, though! November 11, 2014 at 5:40pm Reply

        • Andy: I agree–though interestingly, I find a bit of that same odd, ashy quality in Imperial Tea too! It’s unexpected, but somehow makes sense. November 11, 2014 at 7:52pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Someone was kind enough to give me a sample of Caron’s Yatagan and I found it smelled like a great, smoky pu-erh tea with a hint of pine. The longevity was very good too. After an hour it still had the pu-erh tea smell but had softened to have a hint of incense. By the end of the day I found a lovely patchouli note poking through. It’s not a jasmine tea smell (I’m still hunting for that, and a good Moroccan mint tea) but it is a GREAT pu-erh for those that love a variety of teas. November 11, 2014 at 6:41pm Reply

    • Hannah: Nomad Tea by CDG is tea, a lot of mint, and a lot of sugar. But it is discontinued and I don’t think decants are easy to come by.
      Yatagan has been on my to-try list for 5 years yet somehow I have never tried it? November 11, 2014 at 7:52pm Reply

    • Andy: I’ve been meaning to try Yatagan, your impression makes me want to test it sooner! It sounds so lovely. For a mint tea fragrance, I like Heeley Menthe Fraiche. Even though it smells more like a green tea perfume with a prominent mint note than mint tea itself, to me. November 11, 2014 at 7:58pm Reply

      • Nikki: I was fascinated by yatagan for a long time and when I finally bought it, it was a huge disappointment. However, I changed it into a blessing by giving it to a very masculine friend of mine who used to fence in the female fencing Olympic championships and she adores it, especially as yatagan is a kind of sword and it means a lot to her… November 11, 2014 at 10:04pm Reply

        • Andy: Yatagan for a fencing enthusiast–how fitting! Glad you found a better home for your bottle. November 12, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Andy, what is your view on L’Artisan Parfumeur’s “The Pour un Ete” by Olivia Giacometti? November 11, 2014 at 6:43pm Reply

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