By Kilian Asian Tales Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy (Ari)

Kilian, Kilian, Kilian. I try so hard to love you. I should love you. After all, I adore your fine-ass founder, Kilian Hennessy, and his insistence that “perfume is an art”. Yet you push me away with your perilous prices and your baffling naming scheme. (Literally four By Kilian perfumes contain the word “love” in their names. That is super confusing, y’all.) And your new “Asian Tales” line is making it even harder for me to support my imaginary boyfriend, Mr. Hennessy. It’s like you’re not even trying to save this relationship, Kilian. 

First, let’s talk about the name. “Asian Tales”. I’m not offended, exactly, but I’m pretty exasperated. Asia has kind of a lot of countries, Kilian. Each of these countries have their own extremely distinct cultures, their own tales. Tea ceremonies and calligraphy don’t have any particular significance in Mongolia or the Koreas. Why say “Asian Tales” when what you really mean is “Chinese and Japanese Tales”? It’s intellectually lazy and fairly obnoxious. 

That being said, the two new Asian Tales perfumes themselves are far more offensive than their concept. The first is Bamboo Harmony, which is allegedly “the olfactive impression of a subtle sip of white tea taken in the heart of a bamboo”. First of all: a bamboo what? A bamboo tree? A bamboo bathtub? A painstaking bamboo sculpture of Ryan Gosling? Don’t leave me hanging here, Kilian. For the record, I like Bamboo Harmony. It’s a perfectly nice white tea perfume with pale green notes, although I do find it a bit synthetic-smelling (in other words, it smells more like a White Tea Perfume than an actual cup of white tea). However, I liked it even better when it was called “Bath & Body Works White Tea & Ginger”. This is not hyperbole. The two fragrances really do smell freakishly similar. If any of y’all buy Bamboo Harmony instead of a $10.50 bottle of White Tea & Ginger, I will be forced to make a Very Disappointed Face.

Water Calligraphy is even less impressive. It’s an aquatic lily fragrance that seems better suited to an air freshener or a laundry detergent than a $225 perfume. I spent about 20 minutes trying to expand that description into a legitimate paragraph, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything more to say about Water Calligraphy. 

Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy are not bad perfumes. They certainly smell nice enough. But they are completely unoriginal, and neither perfume is enough of an improvement on their many smell-a-likes to justify the significantly higher price. No one should pay this much to smell this boring.

  • Kathleen says:

    1) I WOULD pay Kilian prices for “a painstaking bamboo sculpture of Ryan Gosling”

    2) White Tea and Ginger is my favorite Bath and Body Fragrance of ALL TIME! I may or may not have 5 bottles of it stashed in a drawer. I always wear it for all day outdoors events and feels SO GOOD when stashed in a cooler.

  • Sam says:

    What a hilarious and insightful post! Both of those fragrances sounded dreadful to me for vague reasons that I hadn’t mentally articulated but you’ve expressed perfectly here. (By the way, I love your description of that “White Tea Perfume” smell I keep running across: synthetic, dull.) Thanks for the chuckles–and the confirmation that no lemmings be here, at least for me.

  • unseencenser says:

    You know what I think of the Asian Tales. The Arabian Tales (just as Sweeping a name, of course) underwhelmed me, and of the original line, only Back to Black and Prelude to Love did not smell seriously horrible to me at first sniff. However, I came to like Prelude to Love slowly, so will probably re-try the rest of them at some point. (For various reasons there was a period when I was SWIMMING in Kilian samples, and I still have a ton somewhere.)

    The Arquiste guy is totally hot. I’m not sure he’s single. But I’m not sure it matters.

    One thing I got to try in Barcelona was a line called Rituals, of simple spa type scents that were really gorgeous (I love those types of things – like the Toccas.) Their Ginger Essence and White Tea is GORGEOUS, and I enjoyed it much more than either of the latest Kilians. I brought some home, and some minis of other scents; they appear to be SUPER NOT AVAILABLE in this country yet but I am looking out for them, because they really are very pretty, and great values. The No. 1, Ginger and White Tea, comes in a great travel atomizer that you can buy a metal or wood outer casing for, and it turns and the spritzer end pops up – just like a much more expensive Chanel travel bottle. 🙂

  • DinaC says:

    This was hilarious and so right-on-the-money! I haven’t smelled any of the Killian’s because I dread falling in love with such an expensive commodity, but I still love reading reviews of them. I really enjoy tea drinking and tea scents, so I had a a huge smile over this post. I’m totally with you on people *cough, Killian, cough* who get a bit too precious and high falutin’ with their marketing copy. Let’s at least write in complete sentences with good grammar, am I right? 🙂 Thanks for your contribution, Arielle. I’ll look forward to your next post! 🙂

  • Fernando says:

    Right on, Ari! Excellent post.

  • Aparatchick says:

    Thank you, Ari! I just opened my tube of BBW White Tea and Ginger lotion, took a whiff, and saved myself over $200.00. Win!

    • Ari says:

      Your level of winning puts Charlie Sheen to shame! I freaking love the White Tea and Ginger line, by the way. One of my top 10 life regrets is not having stockpiled the WT&G bubble bath. It was glorious!

  • Patty White says:

    I wound up adoring Pure Oud and that last one before the other ouds. Beyond love? Think that was it.

    These two I haven’t smelled, but I’m not yearning to either! Still, those darn boxes he puts them in are really lovely, as is he. I would like to put him in that little box and take him home with me.

    • Ari says:

      He could probably fit in one, too, wee sprite that he is! I haven’t tried any of the Oud line, unfortunately. I know that everyone loved Amber Oud, but I just can’t risk falling for a FOUR HUNDRED DOLLAR perfume. 🙁

  • Eva S says:

    Great post as always Ari!!
    What By Killian need is a better translator-or proof reader. The french version says “au prise au coeur d’un jardin de bambou”.
    I like the the idea of a bamboo garden, it reminds me of a visit to the bambo groves outside Kyoto I made a couple of years back, so admit I’m tempted to try these, also since they sound a bit like the airy, aquatic style of JC Ellena. Whether I’d spend money on a FB is another question…
    A fragrance-line called “European Dreams” would perhaps make me roll my eyes a bit but I don’t think I would feel offended. Hm, maybe that would be a big success in China-I should sell the idea to By Killian or maybe Chanel… 🙂

    • Ari says:

      Oh! Thank you for the translation, Eva- there was no French on my little carded sample, and even if there had been I wouldn’t have been able to read it!

      Good luck selling your very funny idea! “European Dreams” is the perfect comparison, actually. European dreams would really just mean French, Italian, or British dreams. Somehow I doubt we’d ever see a Polish Dreams perfume… 🙁

  • nozknoz says:

    Ari, I love several of the Calice Becker Kilians – Beyond Love (the tuberose – for summer), Liaisons Dangereuses (the rose plum – for fall), Pure Oud and Rose Oud (any time it’s not too hot). For me they hit that Venn diagram sweet spot where interesting and wearable intersect. I did wait for the travel sets of two of them and found discounted bottles of the others, but, honestly, the price of the black series is starting to seem reasonable given the continued climb in perfume prices. The travel atomizers are so beautiful, and I like being able to keep the opaque sprayer on my dresser, in easy reach, and the refills fresh and cool in my fridge.

    I do like Back to Black, too, and have a couple of the travel refills that show up from time to time on ebay. The absinthe lavender one is great, too – I think that’s Straight to Heaven – and I have a travel vial of that from my original foray, the wonderful black series exploration set.

    Haven’t really liked any since the original series and the first two CB ouds. I’ll try these two new ones, anyway, but I guess if he never does anything else I like, I still own more BKs than I do of most lines. It can’t be only because he’s so adorable, can it? 😉

    • Ari says:

      nozknoz, I’ll have to try to find that Liaisons Dangereuses. I love plums, and I’m sure that Calice Becker would do a plum perfume beautifully. Laaawd help us if the By Kilian prices are starting to seem reasonable! I like what you said about By Kilian hitting the interesting/wearable Venn Diagram sweet spot. The Etat Libre d’Orange line does that very well too, I think.

      It takes a lot more than “adorable” to get me to shell out $190 for 50 ml of perfume. So I suspect that Mr. Hennessey’s good looks are far from your only reason! 😉

  • Poodle says:

    I’ve only tried one of his scents to see what all the fuss was about and maybe I just picked the wrong one but whatever it was it smelled like a deodorant panty liner. Not high on my list of must have fragrances. I’m glad I didn’t like it though because the prices hurt.
    I’m not offended by the name Asian Tales. I’m only offended by things that are essentially a direct insult to me, other than that I don’t bother getting my feathers ruffled. Life’s too short. Does anyone know if maybe there are more scents to come in this line and maybe that’s why he chose the name? I already own some white tea and ginger from Bath & Body Works so as interesting as this one sounds I will happily stick with my bargain version. Water Calligraphy is a nice sounding name but not something I’d be interested in. He does have nice ads and packaging though. Your review was hysterical by the way. Great way to start the day with a laugh. Thank you.

    • Ari says:

      Eeeeek! You definitely picked the wrong one, Poodle! The first By Kilian line has some really nice dark florals. But with the hurtful prices and all, you may not even want to seek out the non-pantyliner ones!

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed the review, thank you so much for reading!

      • Poodle says:

        I’m one of those girls who will save her pennies and gladly pay the price for a full bottle or a decant of something I really love and that lasts on me. Maybe I’ll try a few more samples and see if I do better this time.

  • reglisse says:

    I loved this post. Keep writing! It was funny and to the point.

    I’ve never even tried the By Killian’s because 1) I’ll be annoyed if I think they suck. Anything costing that much should smelll lovely and 2) if I fall madly in love with them, I’ll be annoyed at having to shell out that kind of money.

    • Ari says:

      Thank you so much, reglisse! I will keep writing for as long as the lovely Patty is willing to keep publishing 🙂

      That’s exactly how I feel about lines like Amouage and Xerjoff. I just can’t afford to actually like them, dammit!

  • So nice to read a new Posse Post on a Saturday.
    Ari, this was fantastic. I, too, find the naming conventions (love, heaven) in the Killian line confusing. From the first bunch, I really like the Tuberose one. See, even now I can’t remember its name). And of the newer ones, I like the Ouds. Unfortunately, I also can’t remember the names of the fragrances in the first batch that whiplashed my neck in all their horribleness.

    • Ari says:

      I’m so glad that you liked the post, Francesca! I think that Saturday might be my permanent spot (fingers crossed!) The lack of weekend posts on all of my favorite websites and blogs always makes me a little sad too.

      I wasn’t even kidding about Kilian’s confusing names- it’s a serious problem! But I think that your tuberose perfume is Beyond Love. I remember reading Luca Turin praise it a few times.

  • rosarita says:

    Love it! Great post Ari, looking forward to more 🙂

  • Lala says:

    Hey Ari,

    I dumped Kilian Hennessy for Carlos Huber, the Arquiste hottie.

  • Lindaloo says:

    Woo hoo — Ari’s back on Perfume Posse! But please, Ari, stop pussy-footing (Zelda-footing?) around and tell us what you reeaallly think of these Tales. 🙂

    Though I’m quite content to admire the beautiful packaging of the by Kilian lines and the beauty of Kilian himself, I’ve never felt any urgency to sample the scents. Still not feeling any rush.

    But, I’d sure like to see in person any of the evening bags available on his website.

    • Ari says:

      The evening bags do look terribly glamorous, don’t they?? I feel very lucky that I don’t go to enough fancy parties to justify the price 😉

      “Zelda-footing” is definitely being incorporated into my vocabulary. Now to figure out how to work it into a conversation…

  • Musette says:

    Ouch!!! 😀 My tooth still hurts – well, the space where my tooth was, I mean. Laughing makes it hurt worse. Cut it out.

    “Heart of a bamboo what’, indeed!

    xo :Devil:

    • Oh, honeeee, hope your bouche is feeling better today.

    • reglisse says:

      🙁 Sobs in solidarity with you and your missing tooth, being in the midst of the extraction/implantation process herself.

    • Ari says:

      Oh nooooo! I’m sorry, Musette! You are a very brave woman in my eyes. I am positively terrified of the dentist and am too wimpy to even get my wisdom teeth out.

  • There are a few Kilians I really like. Cruel Intentions and Liaisons Dangereuses are great and if they weren’t so freaking expensive I would consider getting full bottles. As it were, I might consider getting a travel size on those too.

    I like, but don’t love, the tuberose one. Love and… oh fuck, I can’t remember the difference between any of the “love” ones.

    The rest of the ones I’ve tried are dull/middle of the road/don’t justify their luxury price point. And a few are gag-worthy to me (Taste of Heaven = horrible burnt lavender (I can’t stand lavender generally)).

    As far as Asian Tales, I too find the name of the collection orientalist and a bit offensive. And it DOES smell like BBW White Tea and Ginger. And also something about it reminds me of the tea note in Escale a Pondichery….

    • Ari says:

      That’s exactly how I feel about my favorite By Kilian, Back to Black; I’d definitely get a bottle if it wasn’t for the insane prices. And truthfully, although I think that the Kilian bottles are very elegant-looking, I don’t think that they’re worth as much as they’re charging for it.

      Now I’ll have to try Escale a Pondichery! I really love White Tea and Ginger, so I’m always happy to smell perfumes that remind me of it.

      • Pondichery is one of my very fave scents for summer, but it doesn’t get a lot of love. I love the citrus cologne + black tea + jasmine combination.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I don’t think that I’ve really tried any of Killian’s work. I have two or three dabber vials from luckyscent, I do remember trying them and remember being unimpressed. I think that I might try them again. But I’m waiting on an e-mail from Chanel. Their no. 19 in EDP form is out of stock and even though I have almost a full bottle, I want more of it because after trying the EDT form, the EDT is gone in about 2 hours. This time of year, I’m craving galbaunum.

    • Ari says:

      Poor thing, I think that you must have tried the wrong three! The first By Kilian line has some really good scents, my favorite of which is Back to Black. That’s why it’s so confusing to see them go down this more mediocre road! P.S. I hope that you can get your No. 19 EDP soon!

  • Ann says:

    Hi, Ari! What a fun post. Sounds to me like the darling Mr. Hennessy has made a few missteps with these (names and the juices). Give them a few props for branching out, but perhaps they should stick to the tried-and-true from here on out. “Aquatic” and “bamboo” are not what I come to BK for.

    • Ari says:

      Thank you, Ann! And I totally agree- By Kilian already does dark, sweet florals so nicely that I really don’t understand why they would feel the need to venture into the already-overcrowded aquatic genre.

  • M.j. Rose says:

    Great post!!!