Scented Advent, December 22

Scented Advent, December 22

Only a few more days of Advent to go! Today’s Advent surprise scent is By Kilian’s Liaisons Dangereuses, named for the decidedly unholy, notorious 18th century novel that has inspired award-winning stage plays and films.

Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons movie
Dangerous Liaisons; image from Orion Pictures

Perfumer Calice Becker is the nose behind its creation, and it was launched in 2007. Fragrantica classifies it as a fruity chypre, with top notes of Peach, Plum, Black Currant and Coconut; middle notes of Rose, Geranium, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Cinnamon; and base notes of Musk, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Woodsy Notes, Vetiver and Vanilla.

As one expects from Ms. Becker, this fragrance exhibits intelligence and elegance. To my nose, it is clearly unisex, reflecting the central roles of both Merteuil and Valmont, and their wicked collaborations. It opens with a sharp bite of blackcurrant, reminiscent of their malice. And that peach note! Dangerous, indeed. As that writer notes, “The peach is both seductive and deceitful.” The blackcurrant and peach dominate the opening, not unpleasantly; there is a languorous undercurrent that I will attribute to the coconut accord. Next up are the rose, geranium, and musk mallow, which convey seduction. I don’t smell cinnamon at this stage. The warm base notes are all about sex, with an undertone of bitterness from the oakmoss. Brilliant! The structure and development of Liaisons Dangereuses align closely with the actual plot of the story, without straying into explicitness. This is a scent many of us would be happy to wear, as opposed to the infamous ELdO creation, Secretions Magnifiques.

And yet, when you get right down to it, the latter might be a more accurate portrayal of the story, which involves illicit sex, seduction, betrayal, rape, miscarriage. The genius of the novel and its later iterations lies in part in how it shows the ugliness of the aristocratic characters’ actual behavior and how it is camouflaged and masked by their extravagantly ornate clothing, their elegant interiors, their wealth and breeding. Secretions Magnifiques could be a signature scent for the Vicomte de Valmont as played by John Malkovich.

Liaisons Dangereuses is more polite. The rose does not dominate the heart phase; I would say that rose, geranium, and musk mallow play equal roles here. In fact, one could analogize them to the three main characters of the movie “Dangerous Liaisons”, the rose standing in for Michelle Pfeiffer’s lovely and virtuous Mme. de Tourvel, the rose-resembling but astringent geranium for Glenn Close as the Marquise de Merteuil, and the musk mallow for John Malkovich’s Valmont.

I find this to be a very wearable fragrance, appropriate even for the workplace if applied lightly. The opening is actually wonderful, and different from more mainstream fragrances, and it segues beautifully into the heart notes. I found the base to be appealing and well-done, but less distinctive.

Confession: I’ve never actually watched the whole movie “Dangerous Liaisons”, because it gives me the creeps. That’s probably partly because of the outstanding acting by Close and Malkovich, who both have an uncanny ability to play attractive villains. Also, I find the whole storyline about Cécile, the 15 year-old virgin whom Valmont assaults for revenge (his own and Merteuil’s, for different reasons) very disturbing, especially in the aftermath of revelations about Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Though I will continue to avoid the movie, I like the fragrance, and it is a brilliant creation. I’m not surprised that Luca Turin gave it four stars, and I’m glad to have had the chance to sample it.

I haven’t tried many of By Kilian’s fragrances, though I’ve liked the few I have tried, and one of my daughters really liked Water Calligraphy when she accompanied me on a perfume-sniffing excursion. Do you have any favorites? Or particular dislikes?

May Muguet Marathon: Kissing

May Muguet Marathon: Kissing

For the first fragrance review this May, I’ve chosen an oddball: one of the line of less expensive scents from By Kilian, made for Sephora, the “My Kind of Love” collection. Its full name is Kissing Burns 6.4 Calories A Minute. Wanna Work Out?. I’ll refer to it just as Kissing. Here’s what the brand says about it:

“When else can you experience something so sweet and burn calories all at the same time? Kissing is a luscious remix of floral and gourmand notes, it speaks to the most perfect sport for couples with incredible chemistry. Just like a great kiss, as the perfume evolves the emotions get more intense.”—Kilian Hennessy

It is indeed a remix of floral and gourmand notes, starting with a top note of bergamot and moving quickly into a combination of lily of the valley, rose, green notes, hot milk, white sugar, and vanilla. It’s a very odd mix but it has really grown on me. I feel as if I smell the hot milk right away, then the green and floral notes slowly emerge. Honestly, if I hadn’t been told that the notes include lily of the valley, I’m not sure I would have identified that, although I do smell a slightly green floral. As the scent dries down, it becomes less floral and more gourmand, with vanilla and sugar intensifying the note of hot milk.

As anyone knows who has sipped hot milk or added steamed milk to their coffee, heated or steamed milk is noticeably sweeter than regular cold milk. Milk naturally contains sugars like lactose. When it is heated, the more complex sugar, which doesn’t taste as sweet, starts to break down into its simpler components: simpler sugars that taste sweeter to us. It is that sweetness that Kissing has captured, which is why it smells specifically like hot milk to me, not cold milk.

Over time, the vanilla gets stronger, but this fragrance never overpowers. It is soft and warm. Interestingly, Kissing has been identified by some Fragrantica readers as reminding them of a fragrance unicorn: the long-discontinued Le Feu d’Issey, from Issey Miyake. They do have several notes in common: bergamot, rose, milk, and vanilla. Le Feu combines its rose note with a lily note, while Kissing combines rose with lily of the valley. I haven’t tried them side by side, but I do have a few sample vials of Le Feu, so I’ll have to see if I think they are at all similar.

I like Kissing a lot — more than I expected to. I don’t usually gravitate to gourmands, although I do love my White Queen, with its wonderful whipped cream accord. I’m so intrigued by the idea of a “floral gourmand”! Kissing lasts several hours on my skin; by the end, it is mostly a milky vanilla with flowery undertones, almost as if one had floated some fragrant blossoms on top of a frothy cup of steamed milk or a bowl of sweet, steamed milk pudding. Have you tried any of the “My Kind of Love” collection? What did you think?

Green bowl of Chinese steamed milk pudding; yumofchina.

Chinese steamed milk pudding; image from www.yumofchina.com

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

I got some great fragrance bargains this weekend! One I had ordered several days ago, but it came this weekend: Missoni Missoni, the older version by Maurice Roucel to which Luca Turin awarded five stars. It has been discontinued and was replaced in 2015 by a completely different fragrance. I had been hoping to try Roucel’s version, and had been disappointed once when an online discounter showed a photo of that one but sent the new one. When I saw that Perfumania had 1 oz. bottles of the eau de parfum for under $20, I thought, why not take a chance and try again? And yes, it’s the right one, in the orange-toned box with the short, tilted bottle. It is very intriguing, and so far I like it a lot.

I also found some little treasures at T.J. Maxx — I love that, because in return for very modest amounts of money, I get to expand my familiarity with different combinations of notes and knowledge of fragrance. The list: Clean White Woods: $16.00 for 2 oz.; Tokyomilk Dark No . 28 Excess, 1.6 oz. for $7.99; Vera Bradley Macaroon Rose, .5 oz. for $5.99.

A slightly more splurgey purchase was Guerlain’s Terracottareduced on saks.com from $79 to $49 (helpful info from another blogger!). I thought I could pick it up in person at my local SFA; was very surprised to find they had no Guerlain counter at all and only had Shalimar in stock at the store! The friendly sales associate told me that Guerlain had been pulling out of most US department stores — thank goodness, they still seem to be fully present at the Neiman Marcus in my city. Anyway, she was lovely enough to show me some new By Kilian fragrances instead and sent me home with a couple of samples: Forbidden Games and Moonlight In Heaven (I especially liked the latter). Then I went over to Nordstrom (in the same mall) and got samples of Tom Ford’s new Vert fragrances: Vert BohemeVert d’EncensVert de FleurVert des Bois.

Set of green mossy furniture, chairs, sofa, table, outside.

Moss furniture; image from Black Burge Art blog.

None of those would qualify as fragrance bargains if I had bought full bottles! I’m delighted with my free samples, though, and I appreciate that Nordstrom just put them out on the counter with a note saying: “Take One, It’s Yours!”.  I really liked Vert Boheme and Vert de Fleur. But if I’m going to spring for a pricier green fragrance this year, it will be Papillon‘s Dryad. I am so eager to try this! Several blogs I follow have detailed, enthusiastic reviews: Megan in Sainte Maxime, Kafkaesque, The Candy Perfume Boy, A Bottled Rose. I have a birthday coming up, so who knows?

Have you tried any of the fragrances mentioned here? What did you think? And what’s your next fragrance splurge?

Mosaiculture topiary of earth goddess at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Earth Goddess, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Featured image: Atlanta Botanical Garden.

 

Fragrance Friday: Perfume Tourism in London

I was lucky enough to spend a recent long weekend in London and spent one whole day visiting perfumeries! Many of them were in the charming Burlington Arcade. And yes, I came home with samples, discovery sets and a gift certificate. All the store personnel were friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. I’ll be back! My slideshow is below:

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