Tuesday Roundup Reviews on Friday (plus some random stuff)

Okay, so it’s Friday and I haven’t posted anything of substance this week. I have been horribly busy: the prom dress is done, save for some hand-sewing (look for pictures next week), and we’re having another international visitor this weekend so I’m cleaning the house. Eisenhower Fellowships is sending us a French financial guy named Pascal, and he’s a big Thomas Jefferson fan, so The CEO will be taking him around the University of Virginia and Monticello on Saturday. Don’t know what we’ll do on Sunday – I have a community chorus concert presenting Haydn’s “The Creation” Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, and I have a solo recitative (it’s the one that leads into The Heavens Are Telling, if you’re familiar), and The CEO has apparently given me his sniffles, so pray I don’t get any sicker between now and Sunday.

I’d love to write a review of The Hunger Games, both the book series and the movie (oooh, that Josh Hutcherson, such a cutie) but it will have to wait until I have time.

Taz spent his Christmas money on a new Nerf gun the other day – an N-Strike Longshot – and then Gaze spent his on a fully-automatic one called the N-Strike Stampede, which takes six D cells… I foresee that their cousin Curiosity may be in for an ambush the next time he visits. (Check out the Nerf website pictures here – these guys take their toy guns very, very seriously!

On to the mini-reviews:

Bond #9 Fire Island – this is the scent that was meant to smell of the classic French suntan lotion Ambre Solaire, and it does smell appropriately beachy. Jasmine, tuberose, that “solar musk,” and perhaps a bit of coconut. It doesn’t smell particularly perfumey, and I can see a certain type of customer really falling hard for this concoction. Really, what this reminds me of is Jennifer Aniston’s (in)famously not-perfumey perfume, except with a better grade of raw materials, and if you remember, I thought that was overpriced, so you better bet I think the Bond #9 is completely ridiculous on the price scale. I might like it better if I were more of a beach person, but I’m just not.

By Kilian Asian Tales collection: The other day, I received a lovely package from France with somebody else’s name above my address, and it seems that those lovely people at By Kilian have sent out preview samples of the latest releases (yay!) but somebody screwed up the mailing list (boo). Anyway, I was glad to see this nice little sample presentation explaining the idea behind each of these new scents.

By Kilian Bamboo Harmony – the description of this scent is “the olfactive impression of a subtle sip of white tea taken in the heart of a bamboo… a moment of spirituality.” I’m a little nonplussed at the idea of tea being spiritual, but hey, I’m not Japanese. One look at the notes list (bergamot, bigarade, neroli, white tea leaf, mimosa, spices, maté essence, fig leaf and oakmoss) and I knew that this one would just not suit me. I don’t really care for these pale green atmospheric unisex woody things, and I tend to hate fig leaf anyway. As far as these pale green atmospheric unisex woody things go, Bamboo Harmony isn’t bad. It smells nice. But like Hermes Jardin sur le Nil and Maison Martin Margiela Untitled, it bores me silly, and I suspect that I just don’t have the patience to smell Zen-like.

By Kilian Water Calligraphy – the packaging states, “Water Calligraphy is an olfactive impression of an aquatic flower sitting next to a pond of water lilies… a moment of delicacy.” I expected this one would be slightly more to my liking given its more floral character (grapefruit zest, reseda blossom, water lily, jasmine sambac, magnolia, cardamom, vetiver). I do like it. It smells nice. It is aquatic, but not in that heavily Calone-y way that we all seem to be sick of (and, really, what does that mean, an aquatic blossom next to water lilies?? water lilies are aquatic blossoms). But I also feel that I’ve smelled this, or something like it, many times before. Again, the raw materials smell somewhat natural, so it’s like the high-end version of something else.

Members of a Facebook perfume group were commenting the other day about these two that they are quite pleasant and also quite derivative. One person said they were “Kilian does Hermessences,” and someone else said they were “Kilian does Aqua Allegorias,” and my personal feeling is that they’re “Kilian does Jo Malones.” These are both very light, very spare and delicate, which is in keeping with the Asian Tales sensibility. But I find them uncompelling, and I’d like a little more character in my fragrances.

Photos from Fragrantica, except photo of the adorable Josh as Peeta Mellark from Yahoo Movies.


By Kilian sample giveaway

I have a lovely velveteen pouch, courtesy of the lovely people at By Kilian, with five generous 2ml sample sprays in it, to give away to one lucky commenter.  This pouch contains five of the fragrances from the L’Oeuvre Noire series: Love, Love and Tears, A Taste of Heaven, Straight to Heaven, and Back to Black.  (I reviewed these here, if you’d like a refresher on the notes lists.)

 To enter the drawing, you must be a real live human being living somewhere on the planet Earth, and leave a comment below mentioning either your favorite By Kilian fragrance, or the one you would most like to try.  I will face the inquisitorial crocodilian Visigoths at my local US Post Office to get this package to the winner, so non-Americans are welcome to give it a shot.  The drawing will be open until midnight Eastern Standard Time, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. Good luck to you!

Draw is now closed.


By Kilian – Worth it, or not?

I whined about these scents being “soooo expennnnnsiiiiive” for a long, long time. The ad copy was annoyingly pretentious, the packaging even more so. I eschewed trying them. I rolled my eyes every time somebody praised one of them. I said to myself, “There is no reason for you to go off the deep end over something so ridiculously overpriced, whether they’re good or not.”

But, see, the thing is, the By Kilians are good. Really good. I still don’t feel that I need one of them fancy-pants black bottles in a locking box, not for $225 a pop, and I probably don’t need a refill bottle for $175, either. (Probably not.) But the travel bottles (7.5ml) are slightly less ridiculously-priced.

Thanks to a generous giveaway from Musette at Perfume Posse in November, and to a promotion involving By Kilian’s Facebook page, I have recently had the opportunity to try several others from this brand. Like most houses, it’s a mixed bag for me – some of them are terrific, some merely competent. There were two that I didn’t like at all and wouldn’t wear. All of them are clearly composed of some good stuff, which at least justifies, to some degree, the crazy price point.

Continue reading By Kilian – Worth it, or not?


Perfume Review: By Kilian Sweet Redemption

Orange blossom image from theflowerexpert.com


Okay, okay, okay. Okay, all right?

I surrender. There. I said it. Are you happy that I have turned into a cheese-eating surrender monkey*?

No? That’s not good enough?

(heavy sigh) Okay, but I’m only going to say this once.


(* No, no, I like the French.  And I love cheese, too.  Everything is fine.)

See, I used to hate orange blossom. Well, not so much hate it as be horribly bored by it. Orange blossom still has a tendency to go all soapy on me, and I really intensely hate the idea of buying perfume, only to smell like hygiene products. NO. THANKS.

There are tons of perfectly lovely orange blossom fragrances out there that people love and that are adorably orange blossomy and smell very nice. Except on me. The following are just examples of Orange Blossom scents that went straight to Nice Floral French-Milled Soap on me:   AG Eau du Ciel (it smells like sheets freshly dried in the sun in the backyard, which is a wonderful smell but I prefer it as a linen spray), Bvlgari pour Femme, Jo Malone Orange Blossom, John Varvatos Artisan, L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, SSS Femme Jolie, Caron Narcisse Noir (reformulated), Hermes 24, Faubourg. Continue reading Perfume Review: By Kilian Sweet Redemption


Tuberose Series 10: Beyond Love

All right, already. I am chewing diligently on my earlier words about By Kilian being unworthy of my attention due to their exclusive attitude and fancy-pants packaging, with ridiculous pricing to match. I Wuz Wrong, at least about this one. On the other hand, it would never have touched my skin if I hadn’t found a slightly-used travel refill at a deep, deep discount.

Perfume Review: By Kilian Beyond Love (prohibited)
Date released: 2008
Perfumer: Calice Becker
Sample provenance: 7.5 ml bottle, bought second hand in 2009.

Subcategory: Tuberose soliflore – but both buttery AND green.

Once again, here’s the review from PTG, by Luca Turin (and boy, is he ever the Calice Becker fanboy, isn’t he?):

**** Tuberose tuberose… Not only is the smell of tuberose flowers wonderful, it isn’t even, properly speaking, floral in the clean, vegetal sense of floral fragrances. Tuberoses smell of butter, rubber, leather, blood, and heaven knows what else. Using fresh flowers as a reference, much as Roudnitska did with muguet for Diorissimo, Calice Becker has composed a straight-up tuberose using the best absolute from India, with touches of other notes (magnolia, iris) to narrow the gap between the extract and the fresh flower. The result is the best tuberose soliflore on earth.

Oh-kay, if he says so. I’m sad to say that I have never smelled fresh tuberoses. They’re a little upmarket for the rural area I live in, and I’m unwilling to spend big bucks at the florist. I did check around. The clerks at four of the five shops within fifteen miles of my house didn’t even know what tuberose was. The woman at the fifth shop – my favorite, naturally, a little hole-in-the-wall place on a side street, with a parking lot barely big enough for three cars – knew what they were, knew where to get them, said they were gorgeous, but warned me that there would be a minimum of $75 for special order flowers they didn’t normally carry, and did I want the shop to get them? Were these for a wedding or special occasion? I explained that I was just checking around, and thanked them. (Sometimes you have to love living in a small town. Sometimes it’s a pain – and sometimes it’s both at the same time.)

In any case, I do have a small bottle of tuberose essential oil on hand. I diluted it in grapeseed oil to the proper concentration (the shop said 2-4% in carrier oil was safe for skin, so I made it a 4% solution) and tried it on one wrist. You know what? It smells great. Seriously. Of course, you have all the oil issues – low sillage, sticky skin – but it truly smells lovely, if a bit simple. I liked it better than I liked Kai, as a matter of fact, which was another fragrance I called simple. Then, too, you have to love tuberose, which I do. The little 1-dram (4ml) bottle I bought cost something like $3, which probably means that you can buy it cheaper in larger quantities, and that it isn’t terribly expensive even in small bottles, and that even the cheap version is nice. How cheap must synthetic tuberose be, if perfume houses use that instead of the essential oil? Cheapskates.

The By Kilian website lists these notes for Beyond Love (prohibited), under the label “To discover the perfumer’s formula” – and what that “prohibited” thing is all about, I don’t know, although I assume it’s more marketing hoopla about forbidden flowers and carnal love and whatnot:

Fruity Note
     Coconut accord                 10g
Floral Notes
     Egyptian jasmine absolute   20g
     Tuberose concrete            250g
     Tuberose absolute            300g
     Green tuberose accord       50g
     Tuberose petals accord    480g
Amber Notes:
     Amber gris accord            10g
     Tonkin musk reconstituted 80g

Oh-kay again. I notice they don’t bother to say what’s actually in the stuff, although they make a big deal of listing the grams of each accord. (I do understand that there’s a difference between concrete and absolute, because they’re obtained by different methods of extraction. But puh-lease. Coconut accord contains something other than coconut? Green tuberose accord and tuberose petals accord are somehow different? This is supposed to make me want to buy the stuff?)

I’ll stop ragging on the By Kilian website now, I promise. Because, really, Beyond Love is very beautiful. I admit that it is miles more gorgeous than the simple tuberose essential oil (thank goodness, or I’d start wringing my hands over the State of Perfumery). I’m going to make assumptions that Beyond Love contains at least some coconut, some jasmine, some musk and synthetic ambergris, plus a honkin’ ton of real tuberose essence – and because LT says so, maybe some magnolia and iris too.

The first five minutes of Beyond Love are like a speeded-up, seen-at-a distance film of Tubereuse Criminelle: you get a hit of camphor-menthol, and a smaller one of rubber, and about half a second of undercooked chicken, and then it’s all gone and it’s tuberose, tuberose, tuberose. Less green and florist-fresh than Carnal Flower, less buttery-creamy than Fracas*, it smells both tropical-jungle green and seductively, headily floral. The coconut is very faint, adding a dreamy, milky quality without being too sweet or reminding me of suntan lotion. And I don’t smell any basenotes at all – just tuberose. Which shouldn’t surprise me, since tuberose does tend to take everything else hostage in composition. My guess is that the ambergris-musk base simply extends the length of time I continue to smell the tuberose, without adding much to the perceptible scent.

It has been several months since I wore *Fracas (review pending), so I’m going to get it out and test it in a Celebrity Death Match, but based on my memory of it, I’d say that I prefer Beyond Love as being a tad more wearable on any occasions not requiring full-length bias-cut satin gowns, opera gloves, and diamante. Not that I’d wear Beyond Love to work – it’s too dressy-feminine for that – but I would definitely wear a discreet dab of it on social occasions. Yes, even to the theater, but just a tiny dab on one wrist. So far, Carnal Flower is half a mile in front of everything else, with Beyond Love and Fracas close together in second and third position. But the race for My Favorite Tuberose Scent isn’t over.

Side note: I’ve worn BL solo three times, and twice now have had it on next to something vanilla and been impressed with the results. First time, it was the far drydown (14 hours after application) of Havana Vanille, when it’s all deep, rich vanilla liqueur. Second time, it was the drydown of BL (7 hours after application, with just a hint of tuberose left) with a spritz of Shalimar Light Blue Juice (which is more strongly simple vanilla than the original version, IMO). Both times I couldn’t keep my nose away from my wrist: Tuberose+Vanilla = Awesome.

The Bottom Line :
Quality       Definitely A. Beautiful, fresh-smelling, natural, and seamless.
Grab-scale score    8, maybe 8.5. (Still trailing Carnal Flower.)
Short description    Jungle tuberose.
Cost      $$$$   I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t found it used-n-cheap (my favorite!) I’d have been seriously annoyed by the pricing, and I doubt whether I’d like it as much. Unfair? Probably, but I gotta live with myself, you know.
Earns compliments:   Yes. Bookworm liked it, The CEO liked it, my girlfriends liked it. Gaze said “meh,” although usually he likes the same things I like, so that was the one demurral.
Scent presence   Moderately strong. Moderate to big sillage (be careful with the dosage, lest you asphyxiate people on the elevator). Lasts 6-8 hours. Like I said, I wouldn’t wear it to work.
Review Report: NST, PST, Perfume Posse

Top image is from the By Kilian website.  Lower image is Tuberose by dbfarrell2003 at flickr.