Sunday, January 18, 2015

REVIEW: PK (Paul Kiler) Perfumes

If I'm going to do fragrance reviews--a very shaky, scary territory for somebody like me--then I'm going to start off with a bang. These reviews cover most of the discovery set from PK Perfumes, fragrances designed by nose Paul Kiler. When the folks at Makeup Alley began posting slews of Cyber Monday coupon codes for fragrance websites, I dove straight for Kiler's work because of his sterling reputation, his involvement in the community (you'll see him posting on YouTube and Basenotes from time to time), and the lack of reviews for his fragrances.

Yes, yes, I admit that I bought something, in part, because not a lot of people have written about it. But, um...I didn't actually buy it. More on that in the overview section. This is going to be quite a long review with lots of pictures, so I'm going to put my overview, my impressions of the individual fragrances, and my final say under a cut.

Seriously. Grab a cup of coffee and a snack. You've been warned.

NOTE: The header images for the like, dislike, and crown jewels sections come directly from Kiler's website; all credit goes where it's due. Other images are mine OR are credited to other artists. Some of these reviews are available, slightly altered, on Fragrantica

Full disclosure here: I did not pay for these 9 perfume vials, unless you include the $5 shipping cost. This was an accident: Kiler had released a "50% off" coupon for Cyber Monday, and I dove on the deal. When I applied the coupon, it removed not half of the cost, but all of it. I assumed this was a minor fluke that would fix itself as I clicked around the website; any time I pay with PayPal, I get booted to three or four different pages, and the numbers constantly change. But the fluke stuck, and I ended up checking out for free. These were not press samples.

As a quick heads-up: while the website says the discovery set includes samples of Pentecost and Zaffran, I did not receive those two fragrances. Considering I didn't pay for a single drop of these, I didn't press the issue, but please leave me a comment if you've tried those scents out! They sound right up my alley.

If you decide to buy these perfumes, you'll notice quite a few size options. All of these fragrances--excluding TNT, the tribute fragrance for the late Tama Blough (RIP)--come in 4 different sizes, all sprays: a 4-5mL purse size and bottles in 15mL, 30mL, and 60mL variations. As silly as it sounds, I'm really happy that Kiler offers his fragrances in a variety of sizes. There are perfumes that I enjoy greatly, but not enough to spend $300 for the only available size, considering how little money I make. Those $15-20 purse sprays open a world of options to people on tight budgets. If you've got more money in the bank, the $125-165 60mL bottles are an option for you. Computing price per mil using the 60mL bottles, PK Perfumes range from $2/mL to $2.75/mL. This is middle-of-the-road for a niche brand.

The discovery set samples come in 1mL dabber tubes with scent cards. It also arrives with a hand-written note from Kiler, which makes me smile. I'm a sucker for personal touches like that.

The bottles and the logo have been the debate of much discussion in the frag comm. Basically, most people think they're pretty damn ugly. I'm...not gonna disagree. Kiler has defended his logo in the past, saying it suits him and his brand. I'm not the kind of person who will forgo good juice just because the bottle is bland, but if your main goal is to show off some pretty flacons, these aren't the scents for you.

However! If you're interested in perfume as an art form (oh, yes, I went there), then these are absolutely worth a try.

Let's start out with the "likes:" fragrances I really enjoyed or appreciated, but that don't quite top several others from the line. I'll also note that two of these are fragrances I can't really wear on my own skin. That doesn't mean they're bad: I do my best to appreciate a good scent, even if it's not my personal taste.

 If you look at the Fragrantica page for Dirty Rose, you're probably going to notice that this is a "love it or hate it" sort of scent: either you adore it and think it's one of the coolest rose scents to hit the market, or you think it reeks like feces and rotting garbage. Allow me to be the odd man out: I kinda like this stuff, and I appreciate what Kiler was going for. But I could never, ever wear it.

Why, you ask? Because this stuff is skanky. There's no other word for it; it is pure, unadultered skank. When I first dab Dirty Rose on, I get the barest hint of bergamot, strangely bright in an otherwise dark and dank composition. After a few minutes, that note is completely taken over by fresh roses, wet earth, and something incredibly animalic. Spruce, tobacco, and amber float in the background, making this rose feel different from almost any other I've smelt.

As time goes on, this scent becomes even more animalic and, er, moist. (That adjective just lost me a bunch of readers...) Dry woods come forth with a hint of smoke. The rose, earth, and animalic scents are always at the forefront, being frankly skanky, while the other notes develop in the background and add new textures.

Dirty Rose is probably the most potent 'fume in Kiler's collection. It lasted well over 8 hours on me, stuck to my skin through a shower, and projected like a beast if I wasn't careful. I prefer to be a "dainty spritzer," and that's tough with Dirty Rose. It also feels slightly...unfinished. While the rose remains throughout the entire composition, the main players are those animalic notes. I would probably enjoy this stuff more if the rose truly was the star of this scent.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Bergamot, Black Spruce, Laurel, Cherrywood Smoke, Rose, Nagarmotha, Teak wood, Tobacco, Cedar, Mahogany, Earth, Amber, Costus, Leather, Vetiver Bourbon (from Bourbon Island),  Labdanum
NOTES I GET: Bergamot, Black Spruce, Cherrywood Smoke, Rose, Tobacco, Cedar, Mahogany, Earth, Amber, Costus, Leather
OVERALL RATING: 3 out of 5
FULL BOTTLE WORTHY?: Yes for lovers of animalic scents with a dash of rose; no for others.

"The Aging and Death of a Rose," from April Koehler Photography

My immediate impression from Ere is "THE WOODS," caps intended. This is definitely a green fragrance--not a bright, herbal green, but a dark, mossy forest green, absolutely at home in a Thomas Kinkade painting. I detect dry branches, sappy trees, and pine needles. I also get a note that straddles the border between green and syrupy; I'm pretty sure that's the Kit-Kit Dizzie Fern. But something else will catch your attention here, some form of spice. When I first sniffed this fragrance, I had some trouble placing it; I jotted down "cinnamon?" in my notes. After another half an hour, I realized I was smelling cloves, and quite a hefty dose of them. I felt like I was at a secluded cottage in the woods, sipping a hot toddy on the porch.

Over the next hour, more woodsy notes and herbs came forward. The vetiver, juniper, and fir notes become more prominent. Angelica and Boronia, plus a dash of tea leaf, keep it all from smelling dry. Ere maintains a resinous, sappy-but-not-sickly-sweet quality that I find incredibly appealing.

But what remains dominant on my skin is the clove. Now, I love the scent of cloves, but they're incredibly strong. And it's a bit odd to me why that one note lingers so long, and why it's so overpowering in a fragrance that's meant to elicit images of the mountains. You can smell those firs, ferns, herbs, needles...but always under that haze of clove.

In the middle of my journey with Ere, I noticed a bit of a powdery, dusty feel creeping in. This seems to be part of the Kiler DNA: powdery notes that never feel old, they simply soften everything. I think this is the rose coming forward. After about 6 hours, the fragrance dries down to a resinous, balsamic finish with none of the herbal notes remaining. The clove lingers, though it's not as overpowering at this point. There's also a tinge of something like o-zone or fresh air. I have absolutely no idea what magic creates that, but it's very impressive. It's the end of a hike through the woods, when you reach the precipice of the mountain and relish your journey.

Ere has moderate to heavy sillage on my skin, depending on how much you apply and how long it's been on your skin. The lasting power is pretty impressive: I get well over 8 hours of wear from this one.

Overall, this is a great fragrance. I just wish the clove wasn't so strong for so long. While it's an interesting note, it can drown out all of the great stuff that's going on in the rest of the composition...and it's some pretty great stuff.

PRICE: $20-165/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Galbanum, Kit-Kit-Dizzie fern, Clove Bud, Black Tea, Hay, Juniper Berry, Immortelle, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Boronia, Genet Absolute, Angelica, Haitian Vetiver, Patchouli, Cedar, Mastic, Sandarac, Cypriol, Tobacco, Fir Balsam, Oakmoss
NOTES I GET: Kit-Kit Dizzie Fern, Clove Bud, Black Tea, Hay, Juniper Berry, Immortelle, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Boronia, Angelica, Haitian Vetiver, Cedar, Tobacco, Fir Balsam, Oakmoss
OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5
FULL BOTTLE WORTHY?: Yes, but only a small bottle. Larger bottles would be worth it if the clove wasn't so domineering.

"Evening in the Forest," by Thomas Kinkade

Ginger Zest de Citron is immediately soapy, almost unpleasantly so. After a few seconds, though, you can smell sandalwood and a tinge of leather in the base, surrounded by a cloud of orange blossom, gardenia, and lime. There are hints of lemon, jasmine, and even mint at the very beginning, giving the fragrance a cool, fresh feeling.

After 2 hours, most of the sharper citrus notes have faded and the florals have softened; the fruity note that tends to linger is the orange. The citruses in this fragrance tend to be tart and only slightly sweet, so there's nothing particularly cloying about it. Also, the ginger and spices are much more prominent at this stage. By the end of Ginger Zest de Citron's lifespan--around the 6 hour mark--I get a very soft blend of ginger, sandalwood, and musk, with vague floral notes; there's no citrus at that stage.

My main impression of this fragrance? It's how people smell straight out of the shower: fresh and crisp, vaguely soapy. It's not a scent that suits me--I avoid just about anything that makes me think of soap--but it's still a really a beautiful blend.

Sillage is soft to moderate and the longevity is around 7-8 hours for me--soft and short, compared to most Kiler perfumes. I think this smell is suited to "skin scent" territory, though, because of the clean, soapy quality. Overall, Ginger Zest de Citron is not my style, but it's a beautiful blend, and I can see a lot of people really loving it.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Ginger, Kumquat, Kaffir Lime, Bergamot, Mint, Orange, Lemon, Eucalyptus, some spices/curry spices, Mimosa Absolute, Ginger Lily, Gardenia, Freesia, several Jasmines, Orange Blossom, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Spikenard, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Leather, Musks.
NOTES I GET: Ginger, Kumaquat, Kaffir Lime, Bergamot, Mint, Orange, Lemon, Curry Spices, Gardenia, Freesia, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Sandalwood, Leather, Musks.
OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5

 Image from

It's time for a dash of negativity...but really, only a small one. These three fragrances are disappointments for three very different reasons. All but one of these is, in my opinion, still worth a try, especially if your tastes run counter to mine.

When I first applied this fragrance, my brain started screeching, "SCRUBBER SCRUBBER SCRUBBER!" There was a flash of--no lies here--Welch's grape juice. Then it moved on to the rank, overpowering scent of dryer sheets, as if I was walking down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store. Just vile.

I waited a few minutes, then sniffed again. There are green notes in this fragrance--not dark, foresty green like those in Ere, but bright, sharp green, like the color of aloe vera morphed in to a fragrance--that always, always, ALWAYS shoot straight in to my sinuses like darts. But by this point, I could also smell the cassia and tuberose over the green notes, mixed with a slight base of jasmine and musk. It still wasn't my sort of scent, but at least it no longer smelled like dryer sheets. After 10 minutes, I jotted down, "Well, that's a pretty tuberose. Green/white floral."

Then I, um. Fell asleep. While I was reading. With my makeup on. (DON'T JUDGE ME.) When I woke up several hours later, I gave the perfume another sniff. The green notes still hated me, as they are wont to do, and they were still omnipresent. The middle of this fragrance is overwhelming green for me, perhaps even a smidge mentholated a la herbal cold medicine. But the creaminess of the jasmine had begun to take effect, diminishing any sharp edges. At the 7 hour mark, the fragrance had "softened up," ending slightly more floral and slightly less green.

I don't get any myrrh or sandalwood from this fragrance, or if it's there, it's so subtly woven in to the composition that I can't detect it. To me, it is the epitome of a field of white florals: soft white blossoms and crisp, green stalks. This fragrance is an impressive composition, but it's a personal disappointment for me because I cannot handle those bright green notes. They always give me headaches. However, if you like those green-and-white floral scents, this is a great one to try.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Carissa, Bright Greens, Sheer Rose, Tuberose, Jasmine, Silver, Opoponax, Myrrh, Australian Sandalwood, Orange Blossom, Ambergris, and musks
NOTES I GET: Bright Greens, Carissa, Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Musks
OVERALL RATING: 3 out of 5
FULL BOTTLE WORTHY?: Never in a million years for me, but if you like green and white florals? This is a beauty.

"Innocence," by Arthur Hacker

Violet Chocolatier opens with a beautiful violet note. This is a fresh, "real" violet, not a powdery one, which is my personal preference. I get the sense that there are some other florals at work (namely magnolia), with hints of fruit and honey. The cacao, however, is not immediately present on my skin. Instead, it takes a good 30 minutes to develop. It's worth it when it comes in, though; it adds the scent of rich, dark chocolate to the composition. By the time I hit the hour mark, Violet Chocolatier smells exactly like a box of dark chocolate truffles next to a bushel of freshly-cut violets.

But in my experience, the violet remains dominant, despite the fact that this fragrance is labeled as a gourmand. After that first hour of development, Violet Chocolatier becomes incredibly linear on my skin for another 4-5 hours, eventually fading in to something that's slightly powdery (though not cloying) and very much lacking in gourmand notes.

The relative linearity and average longevity of this fragrance already make it an anomaly for Kiler's line. Add to that that Violet Chocolatier projects less than his other works. I'd label the sillage "soft," since people had to get right up against me to smell it on my skin, though you can get more of a moderate sillage if you apply it heavily. I don't think the sillage is particularly a BAD thing for this scent, though, because I think it suits the skin well. It's the kind of smell I can imagine being made in to body creams and soaps.

Overall, Violet Chocolatier struck me as one of the most mediocre fragrances in the line. However, my experience with PK Perfumes is that Kiler's "mediocre" work is the equivalent to most house's best pieces. This is in no way a terrible perfume. But it didn't wow me like most of the PK line. Furthermore, I think that this scent is mostly violet with just a hint of gourmand: nothing offensive, but also nothing new or terribly exciting.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Chocolate-covered Apricots, Cocao Absolute, Nutmeg, Hazelnut, Violet, Magnolia, Jasmine, Rose, Honey, Gardenia, Amber, Benzoin, Pemou Root, Chocolate.
NOTES I GET: Chocolate-covered Apricots, Cocao Absolute, Hazelnut, Violet, Magnolia, Rose, Honey, Chocolate.
OVERALL RATING: 3 out of 5
FULL BOTTLE WORTHY?: Only if you love violet fragrances.

 Image from

Man, oh, man, Velvet Curacao. Let's talk about a real disappointment.

I was concerned that this fragrance would be disgustingly, cloyingly sweet because of the selected florals and the addition of curacao. For those of you who have never had Blue Curacao liquor: it's an incredibly sweet, syrupy, citrus-flavored liquor that's guaranteed to give you the worst hangover of your life. (Not that I, um, have any experience with that.) Sure enough, that booze note is here...but surprisingly, it doesn't make Velvet Curacao super-sweet. It does add some sugar, of course, but it mostly gives the fragrance a "sticky" feeling. Literally, this smells like white florals and a few wedges of citrus stuck in some drying curacao.

That sounds rather gross, but the opening of Velvet Curacao is not bad. It's actually relatively soft, feminine, and pleasant. As I began sniffing this fragrance, I realized it was very "safe," the sort of scent you can wear to work without offending people. I don't think "safe" is worth $100+, but I decided that, if Velvet Curacao continued to be pleasant on my skin, I would purchase a purse spray for work purposes.

After about 2 hours, the sweetness and citrus began to fade, leaving me with some soft white florals over musk. Again, it smelt very standard and safe, but I was still on board. I sniffed again at the 4 hour mark, annnnnnnd...

...nothing. Absolutely nothing. After a mere 4 hours, this fragrance became utterly undetectable on my skin.

I thought it might've been a fluke, considering how long-lasting most of Kiler's perfumes are, so I tried Velvet Curacao a few more times. I applied it to different parts of my body. I sprayed it not only on my skin, but also on my clothes and in my hair. I doused myself in the stuff. Even then, I got less than 4 hours of wear out of this perfume.

Maybe my vial was a fluke, or maybe this fragrance just doesn't wear well on my skin. Regardless, I wasn't the least impressed with Velvet Curacao. Compared to the rest of Kiler's work, this one is bargain bin fodder.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Bright Curacao, Orange Blossom, Neroli, Sweet Orange, Red Mandarin, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Jasmine, Gardenia, Violet, Cassia, Oakmoss, Labdanum, Amber, Ambergris, Ambrette, Velvet Wood, and Velvet Musks.
NOTES I GET: Bright Curacao, Orange Blossom, Sweet Orange, Red Mandarin, Bergamot, Jasmine, Cassia, Velvet Musks.
OVERALL RATING: 1 out of 5

 Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, summing up my feelings on Velvet Curacao.

It's time for the 'fumes we've all been waiting for: the Crown Jewels! These are the scents that I think really demonstrate Kiler's abilities as a nose and an artist. Basically, I'm obsessed with these perfumes.

To be fair, I have a very obvious bias for warm, spicy, and borderline "masculine" scents. But even disregarding those personal biases, I think these are the scents I would recommend to most perfumistas (unless they hated some of the more prominent notes). They're just so new, interesting, and artistic, and--most importantly--they evolve over time. One of the reasons why I love niche fragrances and am willing to spend my measly paychecks on a single bottle of perfume is because these types of scents tell a story.

Where, oh where, do I start with Gold Leather? It's my absolute favorite from Kiler's current line. (And of course, it's one of the most expensive 'fumes on the site. WHYYYY?!)

The list of notes for this perfume is monstrous, which seems to be a norm for Kiler. But amazingly, I can detect a good number of those notes in this perfume; those that I can't isolate seem to still be there, blended oh-so-carefully and adding new dimension. It's just so beautiful, and it morphs so often.

The opening is immediately bright and sunny. It's a beam of morning light shining through a shop window, highlighting my boyfriend as he works on a pair of new leather boots. (Why my boyfriend? First, because he worked in a shoe shop, and two, because I love this scent and I love leather and I love him, IT'S MY VISION YOU GUYS LET ME HAVE THIS.) There's leather, but not a heady, dark leather. It's warm and new and, yes, quite golden. Honeysuckle and sweet citruses create this brightness.

After about an hour, the leather has become more resinous, though it maintains a lightness. Gold Leather becomes oily-in-a-good-way, soft and supple, and slightly smokey throughout the day, constantly changing on my skin but always beautiful. I will admit that the opening is my absolute favorite part of this scent because of the sweet notes and the vibrant mental pictures it paints, but the dry down is also beautiful. It's as if those shoes are finally finished; the oils and polishes have dried down, and the light has become dim. There's a bit of dust in the air. The heater is running.


This fragrance wears for a good 8+ hours, though it will fade slightly if you shower or wash your hands (as compared to some of Kiler's more tenacious 'fumes, like Dirty Rose). The sillage is moderate, in my opinion, unless you apply it heavily. People will smell you, but only if they get close.

PRICE: $20-165/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Gardenia, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Honeysuckle, Lily, Jasmine, Cananga, Genet, Satsuma Guava, Red Mandarin, Bergamot, Smoke Tree, Amberwood, Tobacco, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Leathers, Benzoin, Tonka, Styrax, Fossilized Amber and other Ambers, Musks, and Civet.

NOTES I GET: Leathers, Lily, Benzoin, Tonka, Amber, Tobacco, Smoke Tree, Bergamot, Red Mandarin, Satsuma, Lily, Honeysuckle, Tuberose.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5

"Double Shoe Cattle Company, Ridgway, Colorado," by Roger Wade.

Talk about a crown jewel! This is definitely one of the most interesting leathers I've ever smelt, and I can understand why Kiler considers it his personal favorite work thus far.

Immediately upon applying this fragrance, I get the rhubarb: sharp, tart, and strong. It was off-putting for a few seconds, but I think that's because rhubarb isn't used often. (When it is, it tends to be drowned out by the other notes, or it has an icky synthetic smell.) The rhubarb was mixed with a sort of rubber/vinyl note and something animalic, most likely the beaver (castoreum). It's not "dirty" the way some castoreum scents can be, just very earthy and pungent. Suede and pink pepper seem to "underscore" the whole thing, though the pepper fades away quickly.

Within thirty minutes, that rubber note has morphed in to an incredibly warm leather. Warm, not hot--there are spices here, but they're not overbearing. By the time you hit the two hour mark, every note is working together to enhance that leather scent. The spices and the powdery suede give this leather a texture so real, you feel like you could reach out and touch it.  The fragrance softens up a bit and becomes more balsamic after 6-ish hours, with something musky and vaguely powdery smoothing it all over. I think these are the florals coming through, though they're so beautifully blended in to the composition that I can't pick individual notes out. It just smells like a soft cocoon.

I do not get any neroli or ylang-ylang, nor do I pick up on a hefty dose of patchouli. I thought I was going crazy, but apparently I'm not the only Fragrantica reviewer who couldn't find these notes in Red Leather. If they're really in there, they're taking a back seat to everything else.

In terms of sillage and longevity, Red Leather was another near-beast from the PK line. It lasted for about 7-8 hours on my hand through multiple washings, and for close to 12 hours when I sprayed it in my hair. The sillage is moderate to heavy, depending on how much you apply; I think more than a carefully-placed spritz or two of this fragrance would be overbearing. Besides, it strikes me as something designed to draw people closer...and how better to do that than to give those around you a "glimpse" of your fragrance?

I'm hesitant to run out and buy Red Leather because I don't think I'd have too many occasions to wear it. I live a very sedate life, and this fragrance is anything but. It's a scent for a rock star. But it's absolutely worth testing out. And as far as artistry goes? PK's Red Leather is tough to beat.

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Buchu Leaves, Rhubarb, Pink Pepper, Pink Grapefruit, Dianthine Base, Pink Carnation, Red Rose, Ylang, Neroli, Davana, Spices, Bay Rum, Rum, Patchouli, Teak, Blood Cedar Wood, Woods, Musks, Amber, Suede, Castoreum, Civet, and Leathers.

NOTES I GET: Leathers, Civet, Castoreum, Rhubarb, Pink Pepper, Pink Carnation, Red Rose, Spices, Rum, Suede, Musks, Woods, Amber.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5
FULL BOTTLE WORTHY?: Yes...if you have the occasion to wear it, or if you're super cool.

Image of Goldfrapp from Getty Images.

Have you ever absolutely loved, adored, and worshiped a fragrance, then experienced terrible heartbreak when you realized it was absolutely not a good fit for you? That's me with Cafe Diem. This is some of the best stuff I've ever smelt, but no matter how much I love it, I couldn't wear it myself. It just doesn't suit my "personality."

Before I get too engrossed, let me take a moment to say that coffee is an oft-misunderstood note. Some people expect anything with "coffee" in the notes to smell like a Starbucks latte, and anything that doesn't smell that way is "wrong." In my opinion, coffee can come in many variants. You can have the dark, bitter beans, sometimes raw, but usually roasted and freshly ground; you can have the fumes of a cup of freshly brewed espresso, rich and slightly acidic; and yes, you can have the milky, creamy, sweet and heavy scent of cappuccinos.

Cafe Diem's coffee is of the bean variety. It's not a topnote; instead, it grounds all of the other fragrances, making everything darker and richer, adding a hint of bitterness to an otherwise warm and spicy fragrance. If you're looking for frothy frappuccinos, Cafe Diem is not the fragrance for you.

ANYWAY. Immediately after application, this fragrance reeks of rubbing alcohol and powder. It's so disappointing, I almost sobbed the first time I tested this stuff. But after several minutes, the fragrance begins to develop in to something magical. The frankincense comes forward a bit, and the rubbing alcohol goes from being acrid to boozy. The spices are all quite strong at this point: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and even mace all fight for your attention. I sense something vaguely green and medicinal for a bit--perhaps the Hinoki?

After half an hour, that green note disappears and the composition smooths out. The various incenses blend with the coffee and the resinous notes to create a warm, lush base for cloves and cardamom. As the day progresses, the fragrance changes subtly, becoming more smoky and less spicy over time. It is the epitome of a bohemian coffee shop: men in ratty bowler hats smoking their pipes over half-finisihed cups of coffee while women in too-large jackets write poetry and chain smoke cigarettes. I see this in tones remniscient of sepia. But not a washed-out, greyed sepia, no! It's all warm oranges, deep ambers, and burgundy.

At the end of my first day trying Cafe Diem, I jotted down the following note: "I wish THIS was the 'standard cologne' smell! Doesn't suit me, but I want to hug a friend who smells like this."

The first time I tested this fragrance, it lasted on my wrists and in my hair for the ENTIRE DAY, from 9am to 9pm. The second time I tested this fragrance, I applied it to the back of my hand. Then I washed my hands, prepped some fish for dinner, and rinsed my hands several times while prepping said fish. I could still smell it after numerous rinsings! Maybe I just have really good skin, but in my experience, this is some tenacious stuff.

Part of me wants to buy this so I can wear it regularly, despite the fact that I'm not that cool. I teach English and write blog reviews in my pajamas and take pictures of my cat covered in perfume samples; I'm the very opposite of "bohemian free-spirit chic." But the rational part of me says, "Just cling to your sample for now...and force your boyfriend to try it on."

PRICE: $15-125/bottle.
LISTED NOTES: Brazilian Arabica Coffee, Sage, Absinthe, Cinnamon, Clove Bud, Cardamom, Mace, Hinoki Cypress, Whiskey, Mimosa Absolute, Rose, Jasmine, Olibanum, Sandalwood, Indonesian Vetiver, Bourbon Vetiver, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Cedar, Amber, Woods, Musks, & more incense.

NOTES I GET: Brazilian Arabica Coffee, Absinthe, Cinnamon, Clove Bud, Musks, Amber, Woods, Incense, Mace, Hinoki (?), Whiskey, Cardamom, Rose, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Bourbon.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5

 "Cafe Hawelka," by Jonelle Summerfield.

Paul Kiler's work deserves every snippet of press it's gotten and more. With a few notable exceptions, these little vials demonstrate fragrance at its best: artistic, creative, and brimming with possibilities.

The prices for these 'fumes are also really great. The $25 discovery set breaks down to $2.27 a vial (or $2.78, in my case), cheaper than most vials from major sample services. While I'll be sending a few of these samples off to more loving homes, I've truly enjoyed my time with them, and I cannot recommend Kiler's work enough.

Before you go, why not help me out? Let me know which of the following PK Perfumes sounds most enticing to you. :) Click here to vote!


  1. What a fun read! Gold Leather sounds like a winner.

  2. WOW, What a treat for me to hear your Thoughts! I'm amazed and blessed... :-) THANKS! - - PK