Apologies for the lack of new reviews and input recently; I have been in the middle of the exhausting and hellish ‘summer seminar’ at my Japanese school, and in any case never even got to finish it due to a nasty ear infection, which has seen me deaf, listlessly bloated with antibiotics, fed up and just lying sluggishly supine, feeling sorry for myself, on the tatami mat in this roiling, sweltering heat (I have just been outside and the thermometer says 36 degrees, at 4pm….people are apparently dying across the country…) I think the penicillin might be finally starting to kick in though as I am sitting here writing this: it had better, anyway, as I have only today and tomorrow to get ready and start packing for Indonesia (and I don’t especially fancy my eardrums exploding on board my All Nippon Airways flight, what a frightful scenario that would be..) As you may know, I am going to be staying on an organic vanilla and cardamom farm in western Java, and am just WILLING these bacteria to F off in time for the holiday to begin. AND LET IT BEGIN: I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF ALL THIS ‘DUTY’ AND ‘DOING ONE’S BEST’ and being polite and well-mannered and ‘upright’ and all the rest of this bloody repressive, stiff, repressed, self-controlled society – I   N E E D   T O    GET  O  U     T    OF  J  A  P A N  for a while or I am going to  eX p L O DE or commit mass murder.     * * *     Anyway, just in case you are wondering why I have suddenly disappeared, that is where I will be, studying about vanilla for five days (yikes, I have never done anything agricultural before), and then going on a trip across the country to visit several cities including the mystical, and apparently stunningly beautiful, ancient temples of Borobudur. I will be back in September, hopefully reinvigorated and ready to dive back into writing about perfume, which is the thing I love doing the most. And luckily, during this exhausting, debilitating season of shit, some lovely people have sent me some luxuriant and generous things in the post for me to review:  there is now a growing backlog of scents for me to delve into now and describe and I can’t wait, quite frankly, to begin.   I was sent a whole load of perfumes the other day, including very large samples from the nifty, overexpensive niche line By Kilian, whose perfumes I usually quite like (Beyond Love, Back To Black, A Taste Of Heaven especially), though perhaps not quite enough to actually go and buy a full bottle (I don’t really like those overembellished, over-titled flacons anyway). Always exciting to rip open those packages and see perfumes you never even knew about, though, with names like In The City Of Sin and Good Girl Gone Bad, even if one’s inner cynic does immediately lift one of its eyebrows upon contact with such fodder. The By Kilian range has been expanding exponentially recently, what with the ‘Arabian Nights’ oud line and the so-called midnight in ‘The Garden Of Good And Evil’ range (which I have rechristened, for my own personal use, as ‘Noontide In The Salon Of Shampoos And Conditioners’ as the perfumes in the range have nothing, and I mean nothing, remotely evil, interdicted,  or even especially sensual about them, their themes of ‘forbidden fruit’ and the reinterpretation of Eden and the original sin translating, in reality, into fresh n’ fruity – and at certain moments quite lovely  – modern fragrances that evoke less an Eve that is being tempted into The Fall, into the consciousness she had hitherto been denied by the treacherous, satanic snake, than Eve at the salon, having her hair done in a fashionable wave, chatting, and drinking a cool and refreshing apple soda over ice.)   Quite a nice distraction, anyway, in this state I am in, these overpriced, ‘black magic’ fruity numbers, rivulets of sweat  pouring down my body, half woozy from the drugs, not entirely compos mentis….     IN THE CITY OF SIN Supposed notes: Head: Calabrian bergamot, pink peppercorns, cardamom Guatamala Heart : Apricots, caramelized plums, Turkish rose absolute Base : Indonesian incense, Atlas Virginia cedar, ‘rich Indonesian patchouli (seriously, there is NO patchouli or incense in this perfume whatsosever….).   In The City Of Sin (such a misnomer)  is a pleasant and peppery fruity wood vanilla that has a certain langour to it, as though a semi-louche passionfruit were lazing nonchalantly in some leather doorway, waiting for the hungry, leering johns in this unconvincing Gomorrah to come along and hook her up. Ultimately, however,  she seems to lack the energy to unzip those bazookas and really take things any further. The scent is nice enough, in an easy, office-friendly kind of way, but the generic clean musk woodiness that underlies it soon takes over and you realize that if this is sin, it would be quite easy for even the most libidinized of humans to remain holy.     FORBIDDEN GAMES Head: apple, peach, plum, cinnamon bark from Laos Heart: Bulgarian rose orpur, geranium Bourbon, ‘midnight jasmine’ Base: Madagascar vanilla, ‘Laotian honey’, opoponax ‘A nectar of fruit prohibited to mortals’, a ‘potpourri of fruits’, Forbidden Games is much more pleasingly luscious and naughty, a plethora of glinty, fruity shampoo notes over a light, fresh ‘n frisky Madagascar vanilla opoponax and a gentle, free-and-easy heart of self-bronzing sunscreen, the apple-crisp contrast between the almost bitter fruited top and more sensual, vanillic bottom being what gives this scent its appealing, sly-lipped wink. Though nothing special, sprayed on to a young girl’s freshly washed mane, a swish here and there on a springtime sunlit street would certainly attract a few head turns and come-thither blow kisses.   (I might actually take this one on holiday with me to Indonesia. I can imagine post-shower, a bit on my wrists alongside mangoey smorgasbords of Javan breakfasts and coffee, it could work out quite nicely and put me in a fine morning mood. Then again, its overly familiar drydown – that drugstore chemical fruitiness that seems to inhabit almost every contemporary product –  might start to get on my nerves… )     PLAYING WITH THE DEVIL Head: blood orange, blackcurrant, peach, lychee, pepper, Heart: rose, jasmine, pimento Base: cedar, patchouli, tonka, benzoin, vanilla     To me this is really quite a crap, confused perfume, rehashing the already dull themes of Calice Becker’s work for In The City Of Sin to sour and weirdoid, fruitmashed effect, almost as though Mugler’s Angel, hair still slathered up high in diva towel with treatment pack,  had oop oops then inadvertently de-balanced, and toppled herself over into a vat of hard boiled fruit gum mixture. Bubbling, slowly down under,  she has given up the ghost.   An ‘original’, if cacophonous, start in this perfume is redolent, only intellectually, with the mix-up-everything-and-see-what-happens vibe of Amouage’s Interlude Woman, but in the case of that perfume’s development, things only get better, and richer, after the initial kiwi-lala confusion, until you finally begin to understand and relent to its characterful goodness, whereas Playing With The Devil, like all the fragrances in this particular range, fades down, eventually, to something muted, and just….. normal.  I feel pretty sure that this characterless scent will elicit no response from anyone passing a By Kilian concession in a department store, and will not sell a single bottle, unless the prospective buyer leaves it on long enough to get to what is, in some ways, I suppose, a half decently sultry conclusion if you concentrate hard enough.   Lucifer, though I am sure, will be weeping feebly somewhere down in his crummy old hell, irritated and enraged over this bloodless, feeble misrepresentation of his popular image.  He has probably already contacted his attorney in LA.     GOOD GIRL GONE BAD Jasmine Sambac, Chinese Osmanthus, Rose De Mai, Indian tuberose, Egyptian narcissus, Virgian cedarwood, amber Rihanna, on the other hand, will probably not be running to her lawyer to start litigation over this scent (presumably named after one of her best-selling albums), as it smells rather gorgeous, at least initially, with a fresh, natural floral snap of sambac jasmine, creamy osmanthus and old school tuberose that beguiles the senses and makes you think for a moment yes, Alberto Morillas, now you’re talking.   A familiar blackberry musk, and a banal, annoyingly synthetic sandalwood then soon sets in, however, and we know at this moment that this girl isn’t really so ‘bad’ after all, that there ain’t no putresence here, be it moral, of the mind, or of the flesh (she has had no experience, she is but a cipher). The rot, the sensual rot, hasn’t even begun to set in to this nubile, watery young thing, who smells, as she knows full well and thankfully, just as sweet, and as predictable, as a flower, but who fades; regrettably (mercifully?) just as damn quickly.


Filed under Flowers


  1. A treat to read this, dear Neil! Hilarious!
    I hope you feel better and no explosions if any kind will take place. Have a great time in Indonesia! xx

  2. Neil, although I didn’t think it was possible, your writing gets better and better each time I read your reviews. Reading this one was a great way to start my Sunday! Your descriptions are amazing and written so honestly.
    Feeling badly, has not impaired your talents. However, I hope you will be feel better soon and enjoy your vanilla holiday.

    • Very nice of you to say so: perhaps I should write when sick and delirious more often!

      Actually, it’s funny. I do prefer the more ‘crafted’ reviews generally, like those of Grain De Musc, but there is something to be said sometimes in just having an impromptu type silly splurge where you don’t really care what you are writing and then pressing publish. It is appealingly cathartic, even if you worry that you have just written a load of old tosh.


      • No, illness and pain haven’t dulled your abilities in the slightest. I’m so sorry you feel ill, though, and hope you are having a quick recovery. I can only imagine how maddening it could be over time to live in a social situation where frank and direct speech is a denied outlet. Doesn’t this make passive aggression the norm? And with that much practice, I can only imagine how skillful some people become at it. Yech.

  3. Lilybelle

    “Beelzebub in a Hairnet”, that’s very funny. 😀 I’m so sorry you’ve been unwell. I hope that nasty ear infection clears up soon, and I hope you have a wonderful time in Indonesia at the vanilla and cardamom plantation. I’m sure it will be fascinating, and the rest of your trip as well. I’m looking forward to seeing some photos upon your return and reading about it. Be well! We’ll miss you!

  4. I thought was the only one of Earth who couldn’t see the fuss about By Kilian. It’s not that they are horrendously bad, it’s that they’re not nearly bad enough! 😉 Thank you, thank you, thank you! And do have fun with the vanillas in Indonesia! 😉

  5. Eva S

    In a case of serendipity I got samples of the first three of these just yesterday, By Killian sent me a package out of the blue 🙂
    It will be fun trying them out but I don’t expect to be blown away- my success with BK so far is a bit limited, my only favorites so far is Sweet Redemtion and Rose Oud. Probably just as well, if someone asked me what I was wearing I don’t think I could say Good Girl Gone Bad with a straight face…

  6. Ginza, this piece is so funny and so apt that I can’t stop smiling. These last several years surely have been rough ones for those of us who despise fruit notes. I didn’t even really hate fruit notes in the beginning, but I am now so sick of them that it is difficult not to groan out loud when they are mentioned or sniffed. I keep thinking about the old Disney Fantasia, and imagining mindless SAs coming in ever-increasing droves to dump buckets of fruity floral stuff over the hapless public, to the tune of “the Sorcerer’s Apprentice,”until we sink helplessly into the sweet peachy appley plummy berryish depths. Bad enough in the middle price ranges, but when this dreck extends up to the price of the Kilian line one is left bemused.
    Well, my hope is that even as I write, you are sniffing rich ylang ylang and full-bodied vanilla. Scents with some heft and texture and substance. Catch us up on your activities as soon as you can.

  7. Your reviews are very humorous . I take it you didn’t like these ByKillian’s too much. I received a sample pack of these new scents and my reaction mirrored yours. Fruity, floral, synthetic sandalwood and other shenanigans blah blah mess.

    • I didn’t HATE them at all, but they are most definitely an enormous rip-off at that price. If they were in the 50 dollar bracket, I think that Forbidden Games could be quite a big hit, for example. I would love to know how much the juice costs and what the mark up is. And to think, he is already massively rich, with all that Hennessy money behind him…..

      As for synthetic sandalwood, I have something verging on a serious phobia about it. I HATE LOATHE DETEST ABHOR it and can’t have it in ANY perfume I wear. To me it smells so crass, splayed open, cheap, foul, moronic. As you can probably tell, I don’t really like synthetic sandalwood…

      • I feel the same way about synthetic, ersatz “sandalwood,” to the point that I put the word in quotes and have a definite curled lip when writing about its heinous smell. I’ve been told I need to get a t-shirt proclaiming that I’m a sandalwood snob….. alas, it’s the truth. LOL.

      • I can’t even begin to explain how much I hate that ‘note’.

        I FCKN HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. My dearest Ginza, you poor, poor thing. It sounds like you’ve had an utterly miserable time of things, but I hope your Indonesian excursion into sumptuous vanilla will make you feel much better. (I am worrying a little about your eardrums on the plane, though…. 😦 )

    As for the Kilians, in general, my reaction is… Bah! I haven’t liked a single one, though the new Musk Oud was very nice, *relatively speaking.* Not nice enough for the price though, and absolutely nothing particularly original or unusual.

    I have a sample of Good Girl Gone Bad and almost took it out for testing/review last week, but it’s just so hard to get enthused for a Kilian test. I generally save his fragrances for when I know I don’t have much time and need a fragrance that I know will last the blink of an eye on my skin, and won’t require the faintest amount of work to write about since there is nothing much to it…… Ooops, sorry, I think that was a rather bitchy *meow* that just came out there. 😉

    As for Playing with the Devil, I just LOVED this line: “Lucifer, though I am sure, will be weeping feebly somewhere down in his crummy old hell, irritated and enraged over this bloodless, feeble misrepresentation of his popular image. He has probably already contacted his attorney in LA.” Hahahahahaha! You know, the Devil really WOULD live in LA. Or Texas… 😉 😛

    • I must admit I was laughing as I was typing…!

      And I also agree that Musk Oud is kind of gorgeous actually, as is Rose Oud. I almost lumped them together, but then decided it wasn’t really fair. The musk oud ( I read your review ) to me is almost like the Bois Farine of oudh, with a lovely bready, sawdusty aspect. I wouldn’t buy it, but will definitely use up my generous sample bottle.

      As for Good Girl Gone Bad, it is my new low in trickstery. You should try it. Seriously, for me the initial floral leap is really kind of gorgeous, just my kind of light, shimmery white floral, and were perfumes based on openings alone I might even start saving. I love a good jasmine tuberose. But seriously, two hours in, if you are a synthetic sandalwood loather like sweet we, it is nothing short of trauma. All flowers gone, and that ass crack whore note rising, and constantly getting stronger….

      As a perfume it is a LIE

      • Oh dear, now you have made it necessary to get a sample, and equally necessary to test it in strict privacy. Sounds like this may be the poster child for fake sandalwood, which I think may be the base note that bothers me in a lot of current perfumes (or one of the many notes that bother me.) And I will get one through a perfumista friend and not add to the obscenely swelling coffers of Kilian and company. You are so much more articulate than I am about things you don’t like. You are analytical about the experience rather than internally shrieking “OMYGOD GET IT OFF ME.”
        Speaking of obscenely swelling coffers, have you sampled any of Tom Ford’s new four? One of them, Shanghai Lily, actually has a heart of Stargazers followed by Casablanca lilies. I am never able to give up on this line because once in a while they do something that I really like. But I should add that this summer I’m obsessed with realistic white floral soliflores, and it may not appeal to others. Maybe in your travels you can sample some in a duty-free shop. Dandy, if you’re out there, would love your input on this one.

      • I am open to everything, and really fancy the sound of the Shanghai lily as I also adore white soliflores (just not when they instantly disappear!)

  9. Katherine

    Oh your trip sounds like a real adventure, have an amazing time! Hopefully you will get some rest and feel better. And this was great fun to read 🙂

  10. Dubaiscents

    A truly wonderful review! I was really laughing at the devil calling his LA lawyer! I hope your ears are better in time for your trip. I can’t wait to hear about the vanilla farms.

  11. Dearest Ginza
    Have an especially wonderful time on your field trip / holiday / summer expedition.
    Thank you for leaving us with such a gem! Or indeed a cluster of amusing jewels..
    I’ve never really ‘got’ (as I believe the parlance goes) By Killian either.
    In the main they seem well made and brilliantly sourced but rather well, dull.
    Didn’t they used to say of Jo Malone that it was ‘perfume for people who don’t like perfume’. I’ve always thought By Killian was ‘perfume for people who’d like you to think they like perfume but are actually rather indifferent’.
    Perhaps I’m growing cynical with age, but there’s also a whiff of status symbolism about the whole range.
    Obviously I’m open to change my mind and will keep trying.. such are the ardours or an addict.
    All joy to you dear traveller, take care and mid that ear!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Thanks, dear sir. I agree with all that you say, particularly the conspicuous consumption..

      Well, I write this on the train to the airport. The ear is still in a potential state of combustion, but so be it. I just hope it doesn’t splatter the face of the next passenger.

      Take me to the vanilla fields!

  12. Anyone won’t find yourself paying full-price if you want peanut butter the next occasion.

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