Her big, boisterous laugh. Her even bigger heart. Her dauntless style. The free spirit that only comes with the second spring of age... We’ve lost Vero Kern. I’ve lost a friend. In one of our last conversations, an interview for the exhibition catalogue of « Nez à Nez » at the mudac in Lausanne, she told me:
« Naja is the culmination of my work as a perfumer: it unites, in some way or another, all my previous creations. From the beginning, I had the idea to create a limited collection, and with Naja it is complete. In 2020, I will turn 80. Can you see me bringing out a new perfume every year? No, of course not. The market has become much too tough and I would like to use the time I have left for doing other things! »
That was on September 18th, three months to a day before she left us. May the healing shamanic soul, she-wolf boldness and riotous beauty of her perfumes – her spirit --remain with us. So that this yearly round-up can only be topped with Naja...
Naja, Vero Profumo
In Vero’s words: A scent of tobacco, which is considered to be one of Native American shamans’ most powerful medicines. The name comes from an Algerian cigarette brand from the thirties:Naja, from the Sanskrit nāga, which means “cobra”. A symbolof renaissance and knowledge, healing and death, of cosmos and chaos. Blending tobacco absolute with linden blossom, tenacious osmanthus absolute and succulent melon, Naja is a rough diamond, contradictory and archaic: a spiritual reflection on the future and the soul.
Princesses de Malabar, Lubin
In France, “Malabar” is more likely to evoke a childhood chewing gum than the fiery spices of Southern India… In a sly play on both, Lubin’s Princesses de Malabar sprinkles gossamer iris powder on a pink, fruit-flavored bubble of musk. There’s a giddy, girly tenderness to the scent that matches its fairy-tale name and fairy-wing iridescence, but enough sweet floral flesh underneath to suit a grown-up princess.
Princess, By Kilian
When Kilian goes mainstream, with the Sephora-exclusive “My Kind of Love” collection, he teases out the most crowd-pleasing facets of his niche offerings (Love’s marshmallow, Dark Lord’s coffee and rum) and gives them a playful twist. With its matcha mocha/marshmallow accord Princess flirts with the gourmand without veering into the fruitchouli, Angel-inspired school of olfactory pastry. Rather, Honorine Blanc’s composition has a ginger-whipped latte foam fluffiness that heralds a new style of figurative food notes. And it’s fun.
The Only One, Dolce&Gabbana
The charming oddity of Violaine Collas’ main accord makes this bestseller another example of mainstream done right. A sprinkle of violet sugar sweetening a frothy caramel macchiato shifts the classic berry-patchouli accord on the olfactory ma, while giving the scent a nice little retro-lipstick touch.
The proto-niche L’Eau composed by Desmond Knox-Leet, one of Diptyque three co-founders, has hit 50 this year. Though more of a spice-infused potion than a “skin” scent, its ginger, cinnamon and clove pomander accord never fails to warm me in the damp Paris winter.
Acqua di Scandola, Parfum d’Empire
Most “sea and skin” scents go for a blend of aquatic (calone and its ilk) and sunscreen – the most interesting recent example of the genre being Arquiste’s Sydney Rock Pool by Rodrigo Flores Roux. In this tribute to the UNESCO heritage site of Scandola in his native Corsica, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato skips the Coppertone and coats burnt-sugar skin (labdanum, immortelle) with a fine spray of sea salt.
Moroccan Leather, Memo
When I want to give my students a proper, old-school floral leather to smell, I’ve been spritzing Moroccan Leather. Despite its name, this is what I imagine Catarani de Medici’s gloves to smell like, with Grasse’s fabled “green” leather rubbed in orris butter and rinsed with orange blossom water – there’s a proper whiff of indole lurking in there.
Noir Anthracite, Tom Ford
Cheating a bit, since this retro-70s masculine actually came out last year. But it’s become one of Monsieur’s go-to scents out of my collection and I’ve been nuzzling quite a bit of this resinous, galbanum-infused offspring of Bandit by way of Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme.
Une Forêt d’or, Goutal
Don’t be fooled by the name: this “golden forest” is exactly the same formula as Isabelle Doyen’s marvelous Noël fragrance diffuser (there is also a candle), a bracing mandarin and fir balsam accord that can now scent your rooms all year round.
For more takes on the top fragrances of 2018, see Bois de Jasmin