In the Summertime: “Forbidden Games” by Kilian

By Kilian is a weird perfume house, as far as I’m concerned. Not weird in the way Serge Lutens is weird, but weird in terms of conception and execution. It belongs to Estée Lauder now, but it was established in 2007 by Kilian Hennessy, whose grandfather founded the Hennessy cognac company (and which is now part of luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). Kilian did his own thing, though, and unlike a lot of vanity projects by billionaire types, appeared to take it very seriously. He trained as a perfumer himself, working with big brands like Christian Dior for twelve years. Then he struck out on his own, and decided to produce top quality perfumes that, in the manner of Amouage and John Hammond, spared no expense. After all, he himself was used to the very best.


I repeat: weird.

Not to worry–the cost for all that goodness would come out of the buyer’s wallet. By Kilian perfumes are some of the most expensive on the market. Like Ormonde Woman (the subject of my last review), they smell like it, too. My two sisters and I visited Saks in New Orleans a couple of years ago, and had a lovely time chatting with the generous By Kilian sales representative who doled out samples left and right (it paid off–one of my sisters bought a travel bottle of something-or-other). When we left the store, we talked about how sometimes, in perfume, you can just smell the money. Maybe that’s a crass thing to say, but then again, we’d just spent way too long in Saks.

But for all that, Kilian perfumes tend to leave me a little…I don’t want to say cold. Unmoved, maybe, is more accurate. For me, this is the weird part. I’ll sniff them, and say, “Yes, wow, that’s really nice,” and then forget all about them immediately afterward. I just can’t figure out how they’re worth that kind of price tag when there are so many perfumes with so much more personality.

Plus, they try hard. They try really hard. It’s kind of embarrassing. Most perfume marketing is pretentious nonsense, but honestly, if you’re going to produce a perfume called “Good Girl Gone Bad,” at least don’t make it a sweet little floral. Did the good girl go bad by knocking over her Barbie Dream House? Come on, guys.

And yet, a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across one of the sample spray vials I’d been given in New Orleans, and I spritzed it on. I’ve been wearing it more or less constantly since. I’m wearing it right now, and I figured I had no choice but to suck it up and write about it.

It’s called Forbidden Games, and it was composed by Calice Becker. Becker is responsible for most of the By Kilian line, and she also gave us the fantastic Tommy Girl, Beyond Paradise, and the original J’Adore (1999). She might also have created some of your favorites–look and see.

I spritzed on Forbidden Games less than an hour ago, and it’s already fading, but when I put it on–well, that’s really something. The top note is big and super fruity. The listed notes are apple, peach, and plum, which seems pretty accurate to me.

It’s kind of mouthwatering. I’d even say it’s downright juicy. It makes me think of strawberry daiquiris and wearing a floppy hat by the pool. By Kilian perfumes often take themselves so seriously, and they’re so carefully orchestrated not to offend anybody, that it’s really nice to stumble over one that just wants to have a little fun.

I don’t know what’s so forbidden about this particular game, though. Maybe it’s the rule where you’re not supposed to run around the pool.

After the explosive fruity opening, the perfume settles down a little and stops laughing, but it never loses its smile. It stays very sweet the whole time, never striking a spicy or sour note. Apparently, it’s supposed to “advance into a lush, exuberant floral heart” (according to its own copy); I can’t speak to that, since it fades so quickly on my skin. But while it lasts, it’s just so pretty and lighthearted that I haven’t bothered turning to anything else in my perfume drawer for days. It’s summer in a little spray vial. I can’t imagine paying out the nose (ha ha, get it?) for a whole bottle of this, but when I run out, I will make a sad face.

Then maybe I’ll make a fruit salad. Who knows? It’s summertime.


Now that’s classy.

If you don’t feel like traveling to Saks and asking for a freebie, you can purchase a sample vial of Forbidden Games here.