Once in a while, when you have sampled enough fragrances, there comes along a scent that attracts your interest upon first spray. As the juice hits the skin, the opening is promising, and you inhale with eyes closed before letting out a contended sigh. Then, contrary to your expectations, you go about your day, ignoring the fragrance entirely because the fragrance turned out to be boring and forgettable. This was my experience with By Kilian’s Moonlight in Heaven.
My my, that is one magnificent bottle! Like all By Kilian fragrances, Moonlight in Heaven doesn’t skimp on the presentation. Everything from the packaging to the label and presentation clutch screams luxury and yet does not come across as gauche. The label is tinted blue, which along with the the scent, gives the impression of a humid Asian beach resort in the evening, moonlight glancing off of the tanned shoulders of seaside revelers, delectable fruits and sweet delights adorning silver trays. Moonlight in Heaven gets my highest marks for art direction, which is one area where the By Kilian line excels.
The opening is lovely and immediately captured my attention. A creamy coconut-laced and syrupy mango ensnares the senses while citrus notes contribute to the fragrance coming across as fresh. Moonlight in Heaven isn’t as airy as the In the Garden of Good and Evil collection, which, incidentally, is nice but far too reminiscent of scented hair products. Nor is it extremely thick like some of the other mango-based fragrances on the market. The balance at the opening is one of its strengths, as Moonlight in Heaven stops just shy of coming across as unbearably sweet or too airy or dense. Upon first spray, for the first 30 minutes or so, Moonlight in Heaven is indeed heavenly.
Then I got to the dry down. Instead of maintaining its integrity or shifting into a different phase, the mango note seems to fall apart on my skin. Wisps of floral notes (most notably something that smells like tuberose, which is only listed as a note on a few websites) seem to emerge alongside a heavy and “I know I’ve smelled that before!” medley of tonka bean and vetiver. Moonlight in Heaven remains semi-gourmand, and retains its evening feel due to the darkness provided by the tonka/vetiver. Oddly, to my nose the base of this fragrance is more masculine, while the opening leans feminine (and overall I’d still classify this as a feminine fragrance). After the first hour or so, the jarring mix becomes altogether forgettable. Sadly, despite its inoffensive nature, every single time that I spritz on a sample of Moonlight in Heaven, instead of my nose being attached to my wrist (which is a marker of an interesting fragrance), I promptly forget that I am wearing it. ‘Unremarkable’ is the operative word here, as this fragrance does not even do us the courtesy of being bad.
Put rather bluntly, the retail price of Moonlight in Heaven ($285/€225) is highway robbery. Not only is the fragrance too unbearably boring to justify the price, but to my nose, the quality of the ingredients smell sub-par for the price bracket. As someone who enjoys fragrances from brands such as Roja Parfums, I am loath to complain about price, however in some cases a rant is warranted: That I can get a 60 ml bottle of Bombay Bling, the infinitely higher quality, better composed, and more compelling mango scent by Neela Vermeire for $235/€205 should demonstrate how obscenely and hilariously overpriced Moonlight in Heaven is compared to its alternatives.
To make matters worse, Moonlight in Heaven strikes me as unoriginal, probably because the tonka/vetiver base follows trends rather than sets them and ultimately comes across as generic. Around four years ago, Jo Malone of the brand Jo Loves created mango scents that are not only far more affordable than Moonlight in Heaven (50 ml can be obtained for £65), but are far more meritorious. For instance, the invigorating Mango Thai Lime has a similarly exotic feel while remaining fresh and wearable by both sexes. And her unfortunately named A Shot of Oud over Mango, while a strange and slightly off-putting combination, at least has the virtue of being interesting.
In short, with apologies to the brilliant Calice Becker whose work I admire greatly, Moonlight in Heaven is a great example of a project where art direction and marketing has triumphed over the art itself. The presentation is magnificent, the creative idea is even better, but in the end, these are the only reasons why one must pay a premium for a scent that I have already forgotten.