Though I grew up on a dairy farm and still live in the country, and though I once fantasized about having a backwoods home with a tiny herd of Jersey cows, cute as buttons, producing just enough high-fat milk for me to make boutique cheeses, in recent years I’ve distanced myself from my rural roots—for many reasons. Most of them stemming from a been there, done that mindset and desire to see more of the world, and some of it due to the wearying spectacle of redneck men in pickup trucks who rev their engines past my house, throw empty Skoal cans out the window, and spit their way across parking lots. Yet even as I speak of putting space between myself and my rural past, it’s not entirely true, especially not at this time of year—late summer, early autumn—when I find myself instinctually drawn back to the homestead, at least in my head. Over the past month I have re-read Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, listened to Emmy Lou Harris’s Pieces of the Sky album, and dreamed again of the doe-like Jersey cows that I truly wouldn’t mind owning, as much for their beauty and docile nature as for their milk.

What is it about this time of year that tugs on my rural heartstrings so? I sometimes wonder if it’s coded in my DNA, this irrepressible pull that comes from slant of sun, change of air, the palpable movement of birds and animals as they prepare to migrate or hibernate, and the weightiness of the harvest—the almost sexual smell of plants and trees that are weighted down with their fruits. On my daily runs through the fields near my house, the corn is ripening and now exudes an odor that smells milky, almost musky, like ambergris. Windfall apples lying in the dew-drenched, late-summer grass have a vinegary sweetness that attracts bees as they ferment, and the tomatoes, peppers and cantaloupes heaped up in bins at the farm-stand waft their respective odors—piquant, sharp and honeyed—into the mix. From a culinary standpoint, this is the highpoint of the year. With such an array of fresh produce, cooking and eating become acts that are decidedly more easy, direct and sensual, and underscoring this immediacy and sensuality is the arrival of peaches.

In central Pennsylvania, the best peaches are harvested in August from ridge-top acreage that speaks of the romantic nature of the fruit. (In the same way that one of my favorite movie characters—Miles from Sideways—once spoke in tender terms of the fragile and delicate nature of pinot grapes, I hold peaches in similar esteem.) Peaches are high-altitude beauties, requiring the chill and brisk ventilation of mountain air, as well as a kissing closeness to the sun and summer heat. They are juicy, fleshy, in-the-moment fruits that don’t store well. Sure, they can be canned and frozen, but they lose some of their identity in the process; whereas an apple in cold storage continues to taste, in every aspect, like an apple, whether you eat it in September or February, the ripeness of peaches is an acute matter: To my mind, they are the fruit most tied to a sense of place, because while they can be shipped cold to the supermarkets and left to ripen later, they never taste the way they do when you buy them locally. When peaches ripen in my part of Pennsylvania, it is the end of summer and you’d better be paying attention, as their season is short. Of course, their incredibly soft and succulent beauty will ensure that you do.

Given my reverence for peaches, I’m a sucker for perfumes that feature this fruit in an upfront way. This includes two perfumes which didn’t get much love from the perfumista community, and this review isn’t likely to change that, because there’s no way to describe the first perfume with a straight face. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful (I think it is) so here we go.

First up is By Kilian Forbidden Games, a perfume that is the olfactory equivalent of saying, “We shouldn’t like peach this much, or admit that we do, but how can we stop? Let’s engage in as much peach as we can and hope we get over ourselves tomorrow.” It’s the Leann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From anthem to sinful fruit: an indulgent, straight-up capitulation to peach born out of familiarity, on one hand, and a sense of on-the-sly foreignness on the other. Forbidden Games smells like a fresh peach at the height of it sweet-and-juicy ripeness, only multiplied—as if you heaped sliced peaches in a bowl, stirred sugar and cinnamon into them, and let the magic of these simple ingredients do their work. In the same way that sugar draws the juice from peaches and creates a syrup, making them seem even peachier, there are plum and floral notes that add the kind of depth and sweetness that make Forbidden Games smell like a hyperreal peach. (There is also a honey note, which I can’t say I detected on its own, but its inclusion no doubt contributes to the luscious syrup around this peach.)

A fine dusting of spice in this perfume lends Forbidden Games a push-pull vibration: the under-the-covers warmth of cinnamon is joined by what smells like the piquant uplift of cardamom. However, as cardamom isn’t listed in the notes, this piquancy might be attributable to the perfume’s listed note of apple. (Apple, peach, plum, cinnamon, Bulgarian rose, geranium bourbon, jasmine, vanilla, honey and opoponax are the official notes.) All I can say for certain is that there is an accent of something fizzy and slightly tart that adds a mouthwatering bit of acidic bite, and it’s what imbues this perfume with a sense of aliveness. Forbidden Games might be a simple perfume, but it’s a simple perfume with ingenious accents: its deft amount of cinnamon doesn't allow the perfume to cross over to peach pie territory but instead maintains a hush-hush glow about it. And that little bite of apple is so teasing, while the plum adds depth. My only disappointment in Forbidden Games is a slight one: in its far-drydown stage, some four or five hours into wear, it develops a faint laundry-musk smell that is a bit lackluster, but also understandable and forgivable. A richer base would subsume the peach, whereas this lighter one acts like a springboard that keeps the peach so fresh, lusty and alive.

By Kilian In the City of Sin is the other perfume I love from this line, and what I perceive as its peach note is actually an apricot note, according to the perfumer. This peachy apricot takes time to develop on the skin and is surrounded by layers of beautiful trappings. In the City of Sin smells far more complex and, at the same time, far more svelte than Forbidden Games, simply because there is no punch of juicy-fun sweetness here. Despite its risqué name, this isn’t the joy of peach, laid up and waiting for you in the hotel room, but the drier, quieter, more cosmetic beauty we’ll call by her true name—apricot—who is wandering the mysterious, twilit city streets. In the top notes stage, a lightly minty and woody bit of vinery wraps around the fruit, which in the first ten minutes after application is more plum than apricot. (And the lightly mentholated vinery that I smell isn’t accounted for in the perfume’s notes of bergamot, pink peppercorn, cardamom, apricot, plum, rose absolute, incense, cedar wood, patchouli and white musk accord.) A brisk and fizzy combo of bergamot, pink pepper and cardamom imparts a feeling of shimmer and excitement to this olfactory canvas, and as this opening accord is met by the red wine-like notes of plum and rose, the beautiful yet more sérieuse nature of these deeper notes has me envisioning a femme fatale who has made her way into the scent. This latter effect is enhanced by the slow developing apricot note, which has a peach-like fleshiness that is more delicate than an outright peach note, but still conjures up notions of sensuality. Rather interestingly, there is nothing in this perfume that smells animalic, overly fleshy, or blowsy and about to lose all control. Quite the opposite, in fact; it smells like ripe fruits given a champagne treatment that has rendered them shimmery, elegant and more suave than sweet. A light incense note keeps this fruited champagne on the dry side while imparting lift, and there is enough cedarwood and patchouli in the base accord that the perfume comes off as lean and sultry. In the City of Sin is not so much about sin as it is about temptation and the lure of beauty. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but when I picture it, I think of long-legged showgirls, twinkling lights and champagne bottles delivered on silver trays to a cushy hotel rooms. And in that regard, this perfume is right on the money.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

September 12, 2014:

By Kilian Forbidden Games eau de parfum and In the City of Sin eau de parfum can be purchased at Luckyscent.com, either in the beautiful white perfume flacons (that come with an equally gorgeous white case) for $245 for 50 ml, or in the plain 50-ml refill bottle for $145. My reviews are based on samples I received from the lovely Undina (who is also a fan of In the City of Sin) and from Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco.

Photo credits: "Peaches and Window" (used here by permission) was photographed by Renee Kohlman and first appeared in her exquisite food blog, Sweetsugarbean.com, in her September 2013 post on baked peaches. All rights to this image are hers. (Thank you, Renee.)

Photo of the By Kilian In the City of Sin perfume bottle is from Luckyscent.com.


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From the Farm to Sin City: A Hankering for Peaches
(With reviews of By Kilian "Forbidden Games" & "In the City of Sin" perfumes)

(photo courtesy & copyright of Renée Kohlman, Sweetsugarbean.com)