By Kilian recently launched its Asian Tales perfume collection; the debut fragrances, Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy, were developed by perfumer Calice Becker, who used iconic symbols of Asian art and culture as inspiration — bamboo/tea and calligraphy/water lily (why not lotus, Ms Becker?) I was looking forward to this new collection and hoping it was truly an ‘Asian-infused’ line and not a line geared toward Asian consumers (who, we are told by marketers, prefer modern, super-light, non-perfume perfumes).
(grapefruit, reseda blossom, water lily, jasmine, magnolia, cardamom, vetiver)
Water Calligraphy begins with sweet citrus and mignonette (fleeting, alas); within seconds of application, a water lily-jasmine-magnolia accord appears (accent on sheer, sugary jasmine). In the quickly arriving heart of the fragrance, Water Calligraphy piles on the aquatics and it reminds me of Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey (all those fresh, watery floral notes). Water Calligraphy is all about clear, clean aquatic notes mixing with white florals (to me, this scent could have used a few drops of pungent black ink aroma to offset the unrelenting “fresh” and “sweet” elements). Water Calligraphy smells very “mainstream” (but with higher-quality ingredients); it would not be out of place on any department store perfume counter.
(bergamot, bigarade, neroli, white tea, mimosa, spices, maté essence, fig, oak moss)
Bamboo Harmony starts with a bigarade-neroli accord (a “warm” not “cool” take on these notes). Quickly, the scent of white tea appears and the perfume softens to a powdery sheen. I detect maté too (slightly smoky and rich), but here, it’s in the background (though in mid-development Bamboo Harmony smells like a quieter, more natural Tea by Comme des Garçons). As the maté begins to disappear, Bamboo Harmony fades (I don’t detect fig or oak moss on my skin); it wears down to a vague ‘spicy-floral’ scent.
Bamboo Harmony is a pleasant, rather casual-smelling tea fragrance, and doesn’t possess even a hint of bamboo’s vegetal/raw wood aromas. There is one interesting element in Bamboo Harmony: a chalky floral note (talc-y, dry, even a bit “severe”) that conjures chrysanthemums; unfortunately this note is not diffusive…you must put your nose to skin to smell it (if it were the dominant element of Bamboo Harmony I’d like the fragrance more). Chrysanthemums are a potent symbol in East Asia, so I’m hoping this note will appear in a future Asian Tales perfume.
I love the aromas of Chinese and Japanese teas; Asian incense; vegetal bamboo; water lily; lotus; chrysanthemum; simmering rice; yuzu; Buddha’s hand citrus, but, so far, By Kilian’s Asian Tales perfumes don’t smell “Asian” at all (marketing trumps content). As with many By Kilian perfumes, Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy are sweet, smooth and clean concoctions; the word that comes to mind to describe them is “nice” (neither Bamboo Harmony nor Water Calligraphy can be accused of being ‘interesting’).
Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy have good lasting power and so-so sillage. Though they are marketed as unisex, they smell feminine to me. Bamboo Harmony and Water Calligraphy Eaux de Parfum are 50 ml/$225; for buying information see the listing for By Kilian under Perfume Houses.
Note: top left image via Wikimedia Commons.