Archive for the ‘By Kilian’ Category

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.

Even Robert Piguet Fracas and Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, with all their tuberose and va-va-voom, luxurious, sexy qualities, seem nearly dominated by as much about orange blossom as tuberose to my nose, and they veer somewhat soapy on my skin. (AHA! The answer to the question of why on earth my mother, who deemed most white florals “too mature” for a teenager, let me go out of the house wearing Chloe: on me, it smells like floral soap. Mystery solved.)

Then this past fall, I tried Elie Saab Le Parfum, and I really enjoyed the tender, smiling orange blossom in the topnotes. Huh, I said to myself. Maybe it just didn’t have time to go soapy since the OB lifted off so fast. And in the middle of my Serge Lutens self-challenge (oh, yeah, that’s ongoing and I have more Lutens reactions to post at some point), I found that I enjoyed the unabashedly-floral Fleurs d’Oranger. Pretty, I said to myself. Of course, there is a bunch of tuberose in that one, too.

And Donna, who reviews at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and who is the one perfume blogger who might have the greatest amount of preferences in common with mine**, loved Sweet Redemption. (For the record, Donna loves green chypres, and I don’t. But we’re both suckers for Big Diva Roses, violets, lilies, muguet, Big White Florals, gentle floral chypres, and bosomy florientals as well as a number of truly-vintage fragrances, so we’ve got a lot of overlap.

** Other bloggers with whom I share some preferences are Musette at Perfume Posse and Abigail at I Smell Therefore I am.)

Aaaaand there was a drawing at Perfume Posse for a handful of By Kilian samples, which Musette kindly sent to me… they arrived just before Christmas. I sniffed Rose Oud and thought it pleasant, but I was busy with Christmas stuff and vainly attempting to write reviews of Prada Candy and Bottega Veneta (which I have yet to actually write!). So I set them aside until I could get some time, and promptly forgot about them. Oops. So when I mentioned on my “Year 2011 in Fragrance Review” post that I didn’t get to try Sweet Redemption, she reminded me that she’d sent me a packet and that one should have been in there. It was.

Not to mention that way back in October, I “liked” By Kilian on Facebook, and the company had promised to send a set of samples to anyone doing so before a certain date. I hadn’t received them, had almost forgotten about them and had concluded that I had missed the deadline after all… and then they showed up on the very last day of the year.

Sweet Redemption was the one I seized out of that envelope from France and sprayed on immediately. My eyes rolled back in my head with WOW.

When I was first married and had leisure time, I spent a goodly amount of it with Ruth Levy Beranbaum’s wonderful book The Cake Bible, making cakes and frostings and custards and jams and confections I’d never even heard of before, including sugared blossoms such as violets and rose petals and lilacs. I suspect that orange blossoms are too thick-petaled and waxy to respond well to the sugaring treatment, but I know that orange blossom water is commonly used in delicacies across the world, and it’s not a stretch to imagine an orange blossom I’d like to eat. Sweet Redemption opens up with an accord that is as close to a delicate, tender, sugared orange blossom as I could possibly imagine. It’s romantic and sweet and gorgeous and I just want to wipe happy tears from my eyes with my white lace-trimmed handkerchief as I smell it.

It’s also fairly fruity. My youngest child sniffed me and, confused, asked if I was wearing Jell-O. I was confused myself, wondering where this grapey smell was coming from since By Kilian seems to pride itself on high-quality raw materials. The grape effect seems to be engendered by methyl anthranilate, mentioned by Luca Turin in his P:TG review of Giorgio and explained further by Denyse at Grain de Musc in her review of Sweet Redemption as being an aromachemical that is naturally produced by orange blossoms and tuberose. This aromachemical is frequently added to grape-flavored items such as Kool-Aid and Jell-O to enhance the grapiness, thus leading Americans to perceive it as being a synthetic smell (see my review of I Profumo di Firenze Tuberosa d’Autonno).

After this stage, there enters a hint of floral bitterness that reminds me just a bit of marigolds, and perhaps of the bitter inner pith of orange peel. It’s something of a surprise in a fragrance that up to this point has been sweet as little baby kittens; I like it. It makes me think of the Mediterranean tradition of giving sugared almonds at a wedding reception – although there’s no almond at all in the smell, its combination of bitter and sweet, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” makes me emotional.  I’m guessing that it’s the bitter orange leaf and myrrh that give this bitter effect to the sweet orange blossom.

As the scent develops, I pick up a spicy note underneath the orange blossom. Eventually, there is a lovely accord of orange blossom and resiny, vanillic benzoin, with that kind of sweet myrrh that I like. There is not a single trace of soap anywhere. Instead, it’s almost a gourmand floral. It makes me think of Honore des Pres Vamp a NY, that tuberose-spice-vanilla delight that, despite being made of all-natural ingredients, caused a fair number of people to exclaim, “Bubble gum! Root beer!” I’d hesitate to say that the two are built on the same structure. Vamp a NY is a lot more radiant and outspoken than Sweet Redemption, and Vamp is a good bit more weighted toward the vanilla-tolu balsam end, while Sweet Redemption stays floral longer and heads for benzoin instead of tolu. All the same, it’s perhaps not surprising that I love both of them.

The By Kilian website does not actually list Sweet Redemption on its L’Oeuvre Noire section, much less give its detailed notes formula (that I made fun of in my review of Beyond Love), but you can find it in the “shop online” section. From what I read at LuckyScent, the PR release for Sweet Redemption is fully as florid as those for the rest of the house’s scents and just as confusing, so I’ll provide you with a list of fragrance notes and completely ignore the mentions of Baudelaire and Jim Morrison. (No, this is good: I have nothing to say about Baudelaire, and my thoughts on Jim Morrison are unhelpful. Be thankful I’m not writing about them.) Notes for Sweet Redemption, from Bois de Jasmin blog: bergamot, broom flower, orange blossom, bitter orange leaf, cinnamon, vanilla, myrrh, opoponax, benzoin. 

This scent was composed by Calice Becker, who also did Beyond Love and a number of the other By Kilians.  I’m getting quite fond of Ms. Becker’s compositions; they seem clear and full of light and air, never heavy, not overdone, but not evanescent or stark.  Favorite Becker-authored scents include the first Ines de la Fressange and Cuir de Lancome.

I documented my feelings on the pricey-packaging By Kilians in my review of Beyond Love, but in a nutshell: I’m not a packaging gal. I don’t buy anything for the pretty bottle, much less a fancy-pants bottle in a satin-lined box with a key, for heaven’s sake! However, the quality of Beyond Love is stellar, and I have no qualms about buying a decant of something expensive that I really love. Can I really complain about a 50 ml refill bottle of, say, Beyond Love, at $150, when I think Guerlain Vega is glorious, and it retails at 100 ml for $325? Not that I own a bottle of either, but I do have a small decant of Vega, and I’m starting to think I need a bit of Sweet Redemption. Hmmmm. I do have a birthday coming up… 10mls of Sweet Redemption would be a lovely present.

Other reviews of Sweet Redemption: Donna at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Jessica at Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Mark at CaFleureBon, Olfactoria’s Travels, The Non-Blonde, Scent of the Day, Daly Beauty, ScentSate.  I had read Donna’s, Jessica’s, and Victoria’s (BdJ) reviews before testing and discovered the others later; reviews are generally good, although not everyone loved it. 

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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.

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