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.