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.
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.
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.
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?