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

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

I have a collector’s brain; I have always enjoyed building a collection of things that interest me and learning about them. Over the years, that has mostly manifested itself in my gardening (sometimes to the detriment of orderly design); I have to discipline myself to plant groupings of plants, not just plant one of everything. Sometimes it all comes together really well, as when my husband cleared two areas of underbrush so we could plant two small groves of almost two dozen Japanese maples I had been growing in pots.

Since I started studying, not just wearing, fragrance three years ago, I’ve built up quite a collection, but it doesn’t have a lot of coherence to it yet; I’m still in the “let me try everything” learning stage, lol. But one way I have tried to inject some structure into my collection is to try as many as possible of the fragrances given five stars in Turin and Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” One of those is Issey Miyake’s Le Feu d’Issey, created by Jacques Cavallier in 1998, which was discontinued several years ago. Here is their summary:

The surprise effect of Le Feu d’Issey is total. Smelling it is like pressing the play button on a frantic video clip of unconnected objects that fly past one’s nose at warp speed: fresh baguette, lime peel, clean wet linen, shower soap, hot stone, salty skin, even a fleeting touch of vitamin B pills, and no doubt a few other UFOs that this reviewer failed to catch the first few times. Whoever did this has that rarest of qualities in perfumery, a sense of humor. Bravo to those who did not recoil in horror at something so original and agreed to bottle it and sell it, but shame, also, since they lost their nerve and discontinued it before it caught on. Whether you wear it or not, if you can find it, it should be in your collection as a reminder that perfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.

Le Feu d’Issey has been reviewed on several well-known fragrance blogs: The Sounds of ScentThe Candy Perfume BoyColognoisseurPerfume-Smellin’ Things, and others. Almost all agree that it is an oddity with a strangely compelling appeal. My experience parallels theirs, though I am happy to say that I won’t feel a desperate need to track down a full bottle. Happy, because they go for $200 or more on auction sites! I found a set of reasonably priced manufacturer’s samples online, so I was able to indulge my curiosity.

Manufacturer's carded samples of Issey Miyake's fragrance Le Feu d'Issey

Carded samples of Le Feu d’Issey

The opening is very sharp and weird. Obviously the carded manufacturer’s samples I have are over ten years old, and one of the top notes has gone off. I think it must be the bergamot, because I don’t smell that at all — the very first thing I do smell is a harsh note of alcohol. That’s age, not design. It goes away within seconds, and I do smell the other notes listed on Fragrantica: coconut, rosewood, anise. The visual pyramid also lists as top notes coriander leaf and rose. I don’t smell rose at the start, but I do get an herbal note in addition to the anise, which could be coriander. Within minutes, the rosewood emerges as the winner among the top notes, and I like it very much.

As the heart notes emerge, Le Feu becomes sweeter. I definitely smell the milkiness coming to join the rosewood. At this stage, it reminds me of Carner Barcelona‘s Palo Santo. whose middle notes are warm milk and guiac wood. Le Feu’s heart notes are listed as: jasmine, rose, milk and caramel but the pyramid also shows pepper and golden lily. As it gets sweeter, I do smell something like caramel, but I wonder if that is due to perfumer’s sleight of hand. Here is a comment written by London’s Bloom Perfumery about Palo Santo: “Some people smell caramel, but it’s a trick played by the combination of gaiac, tonka, davana and milk accord.” On my skin, the sweetness is mostly gone within the first hour of wearing.

As to the flowers, here is where I experienced the famously shape-shifting nature of Le Feu that has intrigued so many. The first time I wore it, I definitely smelled the emergence of a smooth, classical blend of rose, lily, and jasmine. Today, as I sit with Le Feu on my hand so I can write down my impressions — no flowers. And I sprayed from the same sample!

The base notes of Le Feu are: cedar, sandalwood, Guaiac wood, vanilla and musk. At this stage, it is a very appealing, warm, woody scent with a lingering trace of something sweet. Yesterday when I tried it for the first time, that stage lasted on my skin for several hours.

Bottom line: I like Le Feu very much, but I don’t feel desperately compelled to seek out a bottle of it. However, I’m glad to realize that, while not a dupe, Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santo shares some of Le Feu’s appeal. It’s not cheap, but it is still available!