Alexander McQueen Kingdom : Perfume Review


Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Whenever I hear that there are no creative fragrances in the mainstream market, I want to point to Kingdom (2003), a fascinating fragrance created by perfumer Jacques Cavallier for the enfant terrible of fashion, Alexander McQueen. The blatant sensuality of Kingdom mirrored the controversial and innovative approach to fashion developed by McQueen. Developed as a classical woody oriental composition—its luxurious dark woods cradled in the velvety foil of smoky resins a la Chanel Bois des Îles, Caron Nuit de Noël and Guerlain Samsara, Kingdom hides a raw and aggressive streak. The effect of this juxtaposition is exactly what makes grand French classics compelling—that reminder of human traces, of decay, of things that we try to hide. It is subtle enough to tease the senses without becoming repulsive, and yet, its presence is obvious. …

Although Kingdom does not play the subtle games of courtship, it opens up on an angelically sunny note. Its citrusy freshness and delicate radiance of orange blossom are an ingenious way to lead one into its burning heart. The classical duo of rose and jasmine takes center stage after the brightness of the top notes vanishes. The roses are dark and opulent, while the jasmine permeates the heart with its intense jammy sweetness that lies between a white flower and a tropical fruit. The most unexpected element of Kingdom is that this classical duo is infused with the animalic potency of cumin. It is the salty scent of warm skin, shocking and yet strangely alluring. As the composition dries down, the raw sensuality gives way to more subtle temptation. The warm milkiness of sandalwood is ornamented with melting resins, which blend vanillic and incensey undertones.

Of course, the animalic potency of Kingdom is the reason for its dismal failure in the United States, where the aesthetic in fragrance gravitates towards clean, soapy and floral. Alexander McQueen himself decided to tone down in terms of fragrance, and his subsequent big launch, MyQueen, turned out to be as innocent as a posy of sweet peas picked from an English garden. Nevertheless, Kingdom retains a special place in my affections, both for its technically interesting composition and its boldness. After all, what else but daring spirit paves new avenues?

Alexander McQueen Kingdom possesses a beautiful sillage, which suits both men and women (feel free to disregard its marketing designation as a feminine fragrance). Kingdom is available in the Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and parfum concentrations. The EDT includes notes of bergamot, lemon, orange blossom, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, cumin, ginger, pink pepper, copahu balsam, myrrh, sandalwood, vanilla. The EDP features bergamot, mandarin, neroli, jasmine, rose, cumin, ginger, copahu balsam, myrrh, sandalwood, vanilla.

Kingdom is now discontinued.



  • chayaruchama: So beautifully put, Vika…
    Often, perfumes which comment on the human condition fail to have commercial success in the U.S…
    I think that the subliminal message may be frightening.
    In our complex world, we often need solace and comfort.
    [I love this one, btw- but that wouldn’t surprise you!]

    Bundle up , dear lady… February 8, 2007 at 7:19am Reply

  • March: V, I am embarrassed to admit I’d forgotten about this, having made a note to try it. I am learning to love cumin (as in the reorchestrated Femme); I think I might love this as well. Do you think the EDP is “good enough”? How much cumin does it project compared to, say, Femme? February 8, 2007 at 7:36am Reply

  • Elle: I don’t think I’ve tried the edp – will have to go look for some. I bought the edt when it first came out and loved it. It is indeed innovative and gutsy and I *adore* that. I also have deep admiration for McQueen for daring to go this route w/ a mainstream scent. I rarely wear it any more, but I think that’s more because in general I’ve moved away from edts and, frankly, there’s just such a crowd of new scents that have come out since then demanding attention. Thanks for this wonderful review of it! February 8, 2007 at 7:48am Reply

  • Judith: Great review! I remember being very impressed when I first smelled this, and though, like Elle, I haven’t worn it much recently, I still think it’s great! I was very surprised when I came to MUA and found out that, not only was it not a favorite, it seemed to be almost universally despised (and, since I was a newbie, I figured my taste was not up to snuff). Your review does a lot to explain this. Thanks! February 8, 2007 at 7:59am Reply

  • newproducts: This is a scent I heard a lot about and have never got around to trying. Reading your review makes me want to purchase it unsniffed. Yay for boldness and innovation! February 8, 2007 at 8:58am Reply

  • Flor: I remember being very unimpressed with this when it first launched, so I ‘m going to have to revisit it after reading your amazing review. I don’t remember there being any of the top notes you refer to, or the subtlety you mention. My tastes have matured a lot since then, so I may look at it in a completely different light. February 8, 2007 at 9:03am Reply

  • amandampc: Victoria, you’ve outdone yourself with a brilliant essay on this fascinating fragrance. Thank you so much for writing this and particularly for your amazing insight into the creative process – “what else but daring spirit paves new avenues?” So very, very right you are. This thought makes my whole day today (a day when I really happen to need way more special inspiration than usual!) You are the best. February 8, 2007 at 12:17pm Reply

  • robin: V, so did Kingdom sell much better in France?

    And I’m sure you’ve heard that they’re coming out with a lighter version of MyQueen 😉 February 8, 2007 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Linda: Every day a more beautiful review! I sniffed this when it first appeared and found it strangely haunting: I am learning slowly that it is the tiny hint of something pungent and even unpleasant in the base note of a perfume that makes it memorable. Some of the Guerlain classics have this too, I think? Thank you for explaining “indolic” yesterday – I am beginning to understand the passage in the novel “Pefume” when Grenouille makes himself a “human” smell and includes some truly disgusting ingredients… But back to “Kingdom”: widely available in the shops here, and a gift set from Escentual for a good price which I shall almost certainly buy! With best wishes and great admiration, February 8, 2007 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Marina: Coming after the absolutely unique Kingdom, My Queen really seemed so blah and uninteresting. Your review makes me wish I had a bottle of Kingdom to spray right now 🙂 February 8, 2007 at 8:30am Reply

  • anon.: i just got a sample of this, and none of the top or middle notes – the orange blossom, rose, or jasmine – express themselves on me. it goes straight into a fascinating peppery cumin scent. (even though according to your description there’s no pepper in it… perhaps it’s the balsam/mrryh). completely different from anything i’ve ever smelled. i think i want to layer this with other more conventional flowery fragrances… i wonder if it could give them a more interesting “edge”. July 27, 2007 at 9:01pm Reply

  • Rain Adkins: Sounds like one I want to experience. As to the cumin, that always conveys a warm, lightly and pleasantly sweaty note to me. Not dirty, just like a clean person smells after mowing the lawn on a hottish day. June 12, 2013 at 5:02pm Reply

  • Lana: I’m a dedicated Kingdom lover, it’s been my signature scent for many years and I find your post to be totally on point, unlike many others. You described the feelings Kingdom awakens extremely well and it only saddens me more that I haven’t found not even a close substitute now that it so hard to obtain. Have you ever smelled anything similar to it that I could try? Thank you. May 9, 2014 at 6:01pm Reply

    • Melissa: If I may, I’d suggest Ambre & Santal by L’Occitane. Comparatively less complex, but it does have that sandalwood/vanilla accord framed by balsamic resins, without the peppery drydown that tickles my throat. January 27, 2017 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Amy: I love the top and middle notes of Kingdom so much! They are haunting, strange, compelling. But by the drydown I smell like a freshly shampooed pug. More specifically, a freshly flea-shampooed pug. So I go from feeling like this alluring elemental creature to, well, smelling like a pug. Must be the animalic note people keep mentioning? January 24, 2015 at 7:17am Reply

    • Victoria: It might be the combination of that sweaty cumin note and musk. That’s my guess. January 24, 2015 at 9:54am Reply

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