By Kilian in the Garden of Good and Evil Reviews

In the City of Sin – the work of Calice Becker, with notes of Bergamote, pink peppercorn, cardamom, apricot, plum, rose absolute, incense, cedar wood, patchouli, white musk accord.  Um, someone forgot a note.

Cumin. 

 

Big, lovely cumin. It could be some combination of cedar, musk, pepper, apricot and incense that’s making me imagine it, but dammit, I smell something like cumin, and I LOVE it!  This is great cumin, not overly body odor’ish, it’s that cedary cumin. Maybe I’m so used to cumin showing up in the Serge Lutens cedar fragrances that I just associate it.  Or not.  Cumin haters, nothing to fear here!  The cumin-like smell vanishes’ish.  I mean, mostly – you won’t hate it. This is really about the woods and pepper and incense, so don’t let the plum and apricot scare you. They’re not jammy, they’re deeper, like the lush parts of those fruits, and my nose just wants to dive through the incense and woods, chasing the pepper down to smell those little bits of fruit and rose I keep getting.  This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s better.

kilian garden of good and evil

Good Girl Gone Bad is just that.  Notes of Jasmin Sambac, osmanthus, rose, tuberose, narcissus, violet accord, plum accord, cedar wood, amber, patchouli, vetiver, musk, created by Alberto Morillas.  This isn’t a girl “going bad.”  She’s so far down that sin-filled gopher hole, you couldn’t pull her out with an offshore oil rig.  This is absolutely the scent of a woman who is holding nothing back on her sensual side.  Narcotic white flowers pull you in where you get a very light but plush violet-plum over that velvety wood/amber/vetiver/musk base.  She’s a slut in a lovely Dior gown. No, don’t pay attention to that serpent peeping around the hem.  

Forbidden Games is another Calice Becker creation with notes of Apple, peach, plum, cinnamon, Bulgarian rose, geranium bourbon, jasmine, vanilla, honey, opoponax.  This one gives you the fruit – not in some shy way, but slithering out with an apple clenched between its fangs dripping cinnamon, vanilla, honey, and incense.  I am still really undecided on how I feel about this one. There’s something about it that is malevolent and makes me uncomfortable.  I slept on it overnight, it’s still here on my arm this morning going strong, and I still have no better take on it.  

I spent a summer when I was about 10 having what I term a psychotic break after watching Bella Lugosi’s “Dracula” and reading a few vampire books.  My head got wrapped around the idea that Dracula was after me, he and his “wives” were hiding in the washhouse and under the culvert waiting for me in the early mornings when I had to walk  to bring the cows in to the barn or go to the barn to milk them.  With more than a cup of foolishness and a deeply trusting nature – one does have to wonder how the youngest of six children six years apart in age from top to bottom manages to trust anyone? –  I told my brother, Harry. You know what? I don’t think I did. I think my rat-fink sister, Shirley, told him!  At that point, it was still just a joking thing – I was a little afraid, but my mind was working through it.  

Being a big brother fully armed with something to torture me with, of course he played it.  He’d come in the house early in the morning and tell me he saw Dracula, he was waiting for me inside the culvert.  My mom would spend a lot of the evening down in her garden, picking and eating strawberries and weeding.  He’d tell me she was down there conspiring with Dracula to get me the next time I left the house.  

Of course I believed him.  Sorta kinda, but not really maybe?  How could I know? I was running from the house to the barn  and everywhere else so I’d have a head start on the vampires.  Yes, even during the daylight.   Of course I thought he had gotten to my own sainted mother.  

I don’t know how long that little psychotic break lasted, probably until the end of the summer and my mom kept her butt in the house and stopped conspiring with him in the garden at night.  

 

Patty White and family on horse

From left – Dad, Tom, Dick, Harry, Shirley, Patty, Mom. Yes, my dad named his three boys Tom, Dick and Harry.

When I told my mom about it, she laughed in disbelief, but for just a second she looked at me with a trace of fear, wondering if I was really crazy – not just a little kid with too much imagination crazy.  I got a choice in that moment – believe the best about people or give the gremlins in my mind access to the dark places where they can sink a long decayed talon into doubt, twining around my fears and selfishness and become the lens through which I would see the world.  

I chose.  From that day to this I deliberately chose to believe the best in others, I chose to trust, I grabbed the rose-colored spectacles with sheer joy, slapped them in front of my eyes and without one second of regret. I will never dig into that place in my brain and risk turning that Crazy Bitch loose. 

I can live with trusting and being wrong.

Forbidden Games has that feel.  The doubt you cannot believe is true, but “something is wrong” scratches for attention at the wall of your gut.  What’s unclear is if the wrong is out there or what is broken inside of you.  

Do I believe these fragrances on their own, without the ad copy, the packaging, the theme, have the power to lead me down those paths of thought?  Heck no, I ain’t stoopid!  But art is the entire experience – the packaging, the words and the intent of the artist.  I think  they are all three great fragrances, and you’ll probably find a favorite to love without the ad copy and the gorgeous white boxes with a gold serpent on it and the picture of Kilian Hennessey, snake lolling around his neck. .

If you’re annoyed by the whole Kilian art thing and the prices and the white boxes, you probably won’t because you are predisposed to not like them and you’ve set the bar HERE because they are ridiculously expensive and they damn sure better bring it.   Hey, no judgment if that’s the way you feel, just pointing out that the way we look at things shapes how we feel about it.  On both sides.  

But the point of art is to make you think.  Think about scent in the context of human drama and myth, contrasted against the choices you have made in your life and continue to make.  How does that make you feel?  Other than a lot poorer should you love one or more?  

Then we get into – is it art or marketing?  Does it matter?  Every person selling something in the world better figure out how to get maximum reaction on release – either loathing or loving – from the public.  Make people feel something about it, react, think, talk.  You know, as a business person, I’ve got nothing but mad props to Kilian for In the Garden of Good and Evil. He has thrown raw meat out there for us all to chew on, and we will chew away, writing thousands of words, voicing opinions here, in comments, on the other lovely perfume blogs, on Basenotes, on Fragrantica, and on Makeup Alley.  As a writer, I’m happy as hell because he gave us the story, framed this release and went completely over the top, which is like acres of writing yet to be harvested.  

Because everyone will have an opinion or want one, even if they borrow it from someone else.

And we have a lot of room for opinion.  Kilian left space in all of these fragrances for thought and reaction. These aren’t perfumes that you put on and immediately decide – yes, love!  No, hate! Some fragrances are immediately aimed for a pleasure center – Prada Candy, Houbigant Orangeurs en Fleurs. Nothing wrong with that, I love both of those and still take much pleasure in wearing them, I just don’t spend more than 3 seconds thinking about them beyond – yum, love!  These take time to unpack, and I probably won’t come to a firm conclusion about my favorite and why until a couple of wearings or more of each one individually – not throwing all three on in unfettered joy last night.

Right now?   I’ll happily wear Good Girl Gone Bad and In the City of Sin without the story and marketing and cunning little white boxes because they fit my taste and I very much love/like the fragrance (I don’t commit to love that easily!  See story above).  

Forbidden Games still makes me deeply uncomfortable, which means I am going  to be locked onto that with a laser, exploring whatever memories and emotion lurk under my cheerfully cheap and ridiculously shallow surface provoking that reaction.  

 

Perfume is fun and magic, don’t let anyone tell you different.       

Okay, your turn now!  What do you think? Brilliant marketing?  Sham?  Step down from Carnival Barker?  Don’t care if they are good or bad or mediocre, you are going to [love/hate] them.  Reserving judgment?  Wondering if I really am crazy and people are overlooking it out of politeness?

By Kilian in the Garden of Good and Evil perfume samples for the giveaway were donated by Surrender to Chance and can be purchased there.

 

67 Comments
TaffyJ October 12, 2012

I am looking forward to trying these. Admittedly, sometimes I don't have the patience for a challenging fragrance, but these sound so appealing. Calice Becker is a genuis. BTW, Dracula scared me quite a bit as a kid. I don't find any of the current vampire stores attractive. Vampires want to kill you, not date you.

Susan October 10, 2012

Gosh. These sound like these could be my favorite Kilians yet. Yes, I love fruit... Really, really excited to try these.

Imelda October 8, 2012

Thanks so much for the lovely review! I love the juxtaposition you pose of doubt and assured-ness in Gorbidden Games. I hope to try it soon!

LupeX October 8, 2012

I'm a manly man, and I love Forbidden Games the vanilla + honey + plum really come off as golden and tart on my skin. It does skew to the femme side of the aisle, but I love it so much. In The City of Sin is masculine to start off, then unisex in the drydown/latter life stages. I live the Cedar/Pepper/Rose top, the drydown is quite soapy & I think it has similarities to TOM FORD's CAFE ROSE, just much better executed. Pepper & Soapy Rose. I am excited about the release & Ive already saved up enough coins to get my case on Nov 1! Im surprised you find GGB sexual, it struck me as quite light hearted & having aquatic tendencies. Afterall Alberto Morillas created Aqua Di Gio/Gioa.

Julie October 8, 2012

I think Kilian knows what he's doing, business-wise. I can't complain at all about the pricing because: 1) I got free samples of just about the entire line of his perfumes just for signing up on facebook and new ones as they came out (we'll see if these come along), 2) there is an option to buy the refills if you want to save a little money or don't like the packaging, and 3) the packaging is really nice (obviously, this is subjective, but there are lots of plain or downright ugly bottles that cost the same). Personally, I don't care about the packaging much as none of my perfume is out, so I would feel the fanciness was getting wasted in a cabinet, not being able to look at it or display it.

Style Spy October 8, 2012

I had a similar experience one summer when I was about 11 after for some unfathomable reason my grandmother gave me a copy of "Salem's Lot." to read. I can remember lying in bed and realizing for the first time in my young life that such a thing as real evil existed in the world and being terrified that it was coming for me. I got over it, but it was an INTENSE few weeks. I wear Beyond Love and I adore it, but I bought the refill. If they want to soak folks for all that packaging folderol, that's fine, as long as they give me the option to do without it.

Magdalena October 8, 2012

I can't wait to try Good Girl Gone Bad! The notes are just my cup of tea. I love osmanthus, most of all the listed ones. I'm always at two minds about tuberose, but my intuition tells me that I'm gonna love it in such beautiful company. If it indeed manages to be sensual without being vulgar, it's gonna land on my wishlist. :)

Cybele October 8, 2012

I am very curious, tough they sound a bit messy, or confused? My favorites are Love and Back to Black so far.

Lily October 8, 2012

Wow, Forbidden Games and malevolent fruit. I haven't run into disturbing fruit since ... Friday? I think that's when some Luckyscent samples found they're way into my mailbox. Yeah, I ordered a sample of Emotionnelle. Now I'm afraid of cantaloupe. But you make the Killians sound good, I like perfumes that aren't loved too easily. Hope I win the second chance draw.

mals86 October 7, 2012

I spent a lot of time whining about the BK's, until I tried Beyond Love, which is really lovely but not moving to me. Since then I've tried eight or nine of them and really adored Sweet Redemption (one of the rare OB scents that do not go soapy on me). Rose Oud is gorgeous, and so is Amber Oud. I don't find the BKs very original (except STraight to Heaven, which I absolutely hated), but they do seem well-done and made out of decent materials, and there is something to be said for that. Most of the notes for these three sound appealing to me, but the packaging does NOT. Eep. Snakes ook me out. Still... if I get the chance to sniff them, I will.

Lala October 7, 2012

I'm still snickering over Tom, Dick and Harry. Sorry Patty!

Angelique October 7, 2012

*HOT Damned!* I'm so very happy to have won! I can hardly wait to try some of the samples above too ... I'm thinking "Good Girl Gone Bad" (a long time ago) sounds like the most enticing, tempting fragrance I've heard of in a long time. *Market it to *ME*, baby!* <3

nozknoz October 7, 2012

Also noticing that Kilian is looking mighty relaxed, as if his only care was having his cuffs fluffed just right. I really think that python has been photoshopped in!

nozknoz October 7, 2012

I think this white and gold version of the original black bottle is cool. I hope this series is wonderful. Several of the original Calice Becker BKs are among my all-time top ten: Beyond Love (tuberose), Liaisons Dangereuses (plum rose), Pure Oud and Rose Oud. (Obviously, my top "ten" is a bit elastic.) A Taste of Heaven is my favorite lavender. I've never agreed with the idea that BK is outrageously expensive. There are so many perfumes that are equally or more expensive, less beautiful and less well-packaged that get unqualified love. It must have been a question of timing or perhaps the awkward PR copy. In any case, and I don't find the cost of BK so frightening: the travel sets are beautiful and a more affordable option, and one can often find the individual refill vials on ebay.

Simone October 7, 2012

Reserving judgement here... I am very curious to try this new BK fragrances. I know that I'll probably think they are overpriced, but if I fall in love, I won't care, and splurge anyway. And I think you are right, the context (packaging, backstory, price point, ...) does count when one is experiencing a perfume. Not as much as the perfume itself, but it counts...

Irina October 7, 2012

You have such a gift of telling stories and making your point, I very much enjoyed this post. I think perfume is art and I like when the PR and stories about and packaging struck together- it all becomes a ceremony to celebrate the art

Janice October 7, 2012

I’m anxious to try these, especially In the City of Sin with the “friendly” cumin note. I well remember that feeling of “something is wrong,” and although I wouldn’t exactly want to re-experience that childhood memory, perversely I would love to get that feeling from a perfume.

Eldarwen 22 October 7, 2012

Besides yesterday's wearing of Habanita and Jicky the day before, I have been wearing either Mitsouko or Dia. I am slowly using up my little dabber samplers Kikian's scents. For some reason, I am not liking them at all. My credit card is sighing in relief though

EasilyEnabled October 7, 2012

Grats to the winners!

LCT October 7, 2012

As a business owner, I do admire the following and buzz he's been able to create for his brand in such a short time. I also envy the DEEP pockets he had to start his little venture. Ask any indie perfumer out there, not every start-up has the capital (or the risk tolerance) to come out of the gates with that kind of packaging and those prices. It all paid off though because here I am hoping to win some damn samples of his latest offering!

Poodle October 7, 2012

I love the packaging on these. As much as I hate the price I would love to fall in love with one and spurge on it just to have that box. I was more afraid of clowns than vampires when I was little. I still don't like clowns.

Joaquim October 7, 2012

I'm a cumin lover so a new cumin-based scent is always a great notice, can't wait to try the new stuff of By Kilian!.

Masha October 6, 2012

Well, I'll wear anything by Calice Becker, even if it's highly disturbing! I loved your story on vampires, it reminds me of when my eldest, around age 6, discovered he had a morbid fear of mummies. And of course, they were everywhere, waiting to attack him! So I made him a bottle of Anti-Mummy Spray, and he took it everywhere in the house, zapping sprays of frankincense-scented mist around corners, down staircases, and into closets. Fortunately, his morbid fear deserted him after a few months, but he still loves frankincense....

Tama October 6, 2012

OMG I loved this post. For me, it was the hobby shop models of not only Dracula, but Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, and probably The Mummy, in the window, that I knew were going to come to life as I went by and chase me down the street. I managed to exorcise that by eventually assembling a "Wolfie" of my own, but until then, it was touch and go. I'm a sucker for Kilian. I love the fat, sated snake on the white box, and really hope I like one of these enough to go for it.

Tatiana October 6, 2012

Brilliant marketing? I don't know. Very creative marketing, yes. But all art that sells is some new twist, idea or visual presentation. All through grad school you constantly heard, "We've seen that before. This piece reminds me of so and so. Or it's derivative of this artist, go back and rethink that, a little harder or more unique this time." I don't fault them for putting so much energy into the whole package of marketing, packaging, story line. I do know that your descriptions of In the City of Sin and Good Girl Gone Bad are more appealing that what I imagine from the list of notes. I cannot wait to try those two. With the packaging that Kilian creates, I know that if one of these is even very good, (it doesn't have to be mind blowing) I will probably break down and buy at least one bottle. I happily wear my Incense Oud and am I'm still trying to figure out which scent from the L'oeuvre Noire series I'm going to break down and buy.

Janet in California October 6, 2012

When I was 10 I slept with a holy medal around my neck and garlic on my window sills. Another friend of mine slept with her hand protecting her neck for years. What is it about Dracula that is so deeply frightening? Especially for little girls, I can't remember any boys that reacted so strongly. I am a big fan of By Kilian and can't wait to try them. The cumin note has me a little worried though!

rosarita October 6, 2012

Well, I have mixed feelings about the handsome Mr Hennessey's perfumes. I have smelled a few of them and the earth didn't move. The presentation is beautiful, absolutely, but just not something I lust after.

Kandice October 6, 2012

Patty, I loved your story of childhood and how that time prompted you to choose optimism and trust over negativity. Any perfume that can prompt such vivid memories and cause you to review your life choices is powerful indeed. I would love to try all three. My favorite scent of By Kilian so far is Sweet Redemtion which starts with orange blossom and quickly dries to a beautiful incense note on me. However, I haven't tried many of this company's scents and look forward to exploring more in the future. Thank you for a wonderful post and for making us remember our childhoods as well.

GvilleCreative October 6, 2012

Best statement ever: "Perfume is fun and magic, don’t let anyone tell you different." Oh, By Kilian and I go way back. Way, way back to when I first started this crazy perfume addiction. I bought a mixed lot of perfumes and decants on ebay, and there was a sample of Straight to Heaven which I looooooved. I thought: NOW THIS IS PERFUME ART! It is sexy, tells a story, has a mood. Also in that package was a decant of Taste of Heaven, unlabeled. I recoiled from that epic green juice. And that is sort of how BK is for me in general: I love some of them with passion, and run screaming from the others. I crave Back to Black regularly. I thought that the rosey-jam one was brilliant. Like Furriner, I really, really disliked Redemption. I love the packaging. I like the stories. But the names are a bit confusing for me; I wish they'd vary them more, so I could remember better which was which.

Furriner October 6, 2012

I like By Kilian, and own two (Back to Black and A Taste of Heaven). Not all of them really work on me (I was very disappointed with Sweet Redemption recently, which smelled like an indolic baby aspirin on my skin), but I am still interested in trying them all. After all these years, people are still getting all bent out of shape about the pricing, but it doesn't bother me none. There are plenty of other fragrances which are comparable or more, and don't have the packaging. I'd be interested in trying the In the Garden of Good and Evil offerings. Are they as girly as Lucky Scent makes most of them out to be? Also: is it just me, or do the new boxes look like (okay okay, somewhat flat) coffins to anyone else? Kinda goes with your Dracula imagery!

Judith October 6, 2012

I am sitting here smothered in By Kilian Oud (or oud by kilian) and I would love to try these. I don't think you had a psychotic break. I remember vividly those times in childhood when it was very hard to tell what was real and what was not. . .