Monthly Archives: March 2017

NAJA by Vero Profumo

Hypnotised by the cosmic serpent…

Notes:  Osmanthus Absolute, Melon, Linden Blossom and Tobacco

 

The release of NAJA has been long anticipated by the many fans – including myself – of rebel perfumer Vero Kern.  It was finally launched at Esxence in Milan last week and I was lucky enough to receive a sample thanks to my dear friends at Australian Perfume Junkies.

NAJA is Vero Profumo’s Jubilee Scent, celebrating 10 years of this unique independent perfume house, with a limited distribution of 650 50ml bottles.

It is a mystical creation, rich in symbolism, which holds the promise of redemption and rebirth.

NAJA is a fragrance of magic and mystery, as exemplified by its stunning black bottle.

 

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The snake is NAJA’s familiar and it is one of the oldest and most widespread symbols in mythology. Snakes (or serpents) features in Greek, Ancient Egyptian, African, Aboriginal, Native American, Indochina, Norse, Christian, Hindu and Jewish mythologies.  Primarily it stands for the creative life force, with the shedding of the snake’s skin representing transformation, immortality and healing.

Historically, snakes have been used in shamanic rituals to bridge the gap between our world and that of the spirits. The snake’s venom is also associated with the chemicals in plants which have the power to heal (or poison) as well as expand consciousness. This mirrors the tobacco plant which again has been used by shamans for its medicinal and psychotropic properties.

In NAJA, tobacco takes the form of the serpent which spirals throughout the length of the fragrance’s development.  The first hit however is a drop-dead gorgeous combination of fruit (mostly lime) and flowers over a fine layer of seductive powder.  The slice of melon combined with the apricot of osmanthus and the luscious lime of linden blossom, gives the fragrance spectacular radiance. Vero always uses fruit accords so beautifully in her perfumes, elevating them to the level of sensual.

I’ve never found a tobacco fragrance that works for me because they are often loaded with cherry and immortelle or they’re too dry and traditionally manly for my taste. Here the tobacco is golden in tone and incredibly smooth. In the base, it becomes suede-like in both texture and scent. At this stage, the olfactory hallmark of Vero Profumo’s orientals (see reviews of Onda and Rozy) is most apparent. It’s a somewhat animalic, tarry smokiness that gives them the classic feel of iconic perfumes from yesteryear, such as Caron’s Tabac Blond.

You might look at the symbolism and the packaging and expect a fragrance of intimidating darkness, but you’d be wrong. Just as the snake embodies the duality of good and evil, poison and cure, so NAJA is imbued with the duality of light and shade, masculine and feminine, spirituality and humanity. It is my ideal, multi-faceted tobacco fragrance and my favourite work by Vero to date.

Unlike previous releases, there is only one formulation of NAJA.  It has above average projection and amazing day-into-night longevity.

Prepare to embrace the serpent.

 

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Do you think you will fall under NAJA’s spell?

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Parallel by 4160 Tuesdays and Get Lippie

Notes: Rose Absolute, Frankincense, Black Pepper and White Woods, Caraway and Mandarin Petitgrain.

As you may know, a few years ago beauty and perfume blogger Louise Woollam of Get Lippie experienced the nightmarish olfactory dysfunction, parosmia. She lost her sense of smell after a cold but when it came it back, nothing smelled as it should and most things smelt absolutely awful. You can see her talking about this traumatic time in her life tonight in Episode 5 of Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook on BBC Two at 9pm.

The fragrance Paradox was created with perfumer Sarah McCartney in a successful attempt to make a scent Louise could actually enjoy at this very dark time. It was a lovely, chilled, green violet perfume with a touch of lavender and spine of orris.

Now, to celebrate her sense of smell returning to normal, they have reunited to make the spicy oriental Louise has always wanted. The result is Parallel which again is available from 4160 Tuesdays. I love how, like most of the perfumes, you can get it in a 30ml bottle.

 

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The mood boosting, citrus green-ness of mandarin petitgrain characterises the opening of Parallel and it feels like a fitting start to the optimistic story this perfume is telling. Louise must have felt such excitement as well as relief when things started to smell as they should once again.

The core of Parallel is a combination of peppery resin and almost creamy orange. It starts out punchy and invigorating and smooths out to create a constant, orange-tinted resinous buzz.  It’s backed up by soft cashmere  woods and just a splash of rose. This isn’t an all-natural perfume but there’s something about its simplicity and oil-like quality on the skin that reminds me of one.

Those wary of big orientals need not fear as Parallel stays close to the body. Far from being overwhelming, I find it extremely easy to wear and I’m not drawn to this genre usually.

It’s lovely that Sarah and Louise came together once more under much happier circumstances to create a perfume which completes this scented story. I’m looking forward to seeing the tale being told on tonight’s programme which is all about those with rare conditions. It also features a man whose bones are stronger than granite and a woman with two wombs.

It will serve as an important reminder that even if you can’t triumph over a medical condition you can always find ways around obstacles in order to live a life truly worth living. This is something I try to tell myself every day.

 

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Guest Posting on APJ

I’m slipping into Portia’s skyscraper heels today on Australian Perfume Junkies as she continues to whirl her way across Europe, landing in London at the end of this month. Can’t wait!

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Portia and I in Venice around this time last year.

 

So if you’d like to read my thought on Sensual Orchid by LM Parfums you can hop across to my review on APJ by clicking here.

Do check out Portia’s brilliant Scent Diary posts while you’re there.

 

 

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Mon Guerlain by Guerlain

 

“My invisible tattoo, my fragrance, Mon Guerlain.”

Notes:  Bergamot, Carla Lavender, Paradisone (radiant floral), Coumarin, Iris, Vanilla Tahitensis, Sambac Jasmine and Album Sandalwood.

 

Guerlain has long been the perfume house I’ve most admired. They are not a designer brand that does fragrance on the side to bring in the big bucks – they have only ever been about the scent.

However, a while ago I gave up on their new releases because for me, they never lived up to the promise of the past. I tried to switch-off and content myself with the classics, such as my holy grail, Vol de Nuit. However, it’s hard to ignore this recent big launch, especially as they have Angelina Jolie fronting the ad campaign.

 

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Mon Guerlain may have some nicely musty lavender in its top notes along with some citrus sparkle but this is no 21st century Jicky.  Guerlain categorise it as a “fresh oriental” although I’d describe it as a gourmand with a feather-light fougère accord (which comes from the combination of lavender and hay-like coumarin).

I wasn’t surprised that Mon Guerlain is another sugary confection, especially given the pink juice, but you might have expected otherwise if you knew the inspiration was Angelina’s “strong, free and sensual femininity”.

Perhaps it’s naive to think it would – or should – reflect anything other that what is popular right now. The last time I looked, the number one selling perfume in France was still the iris-drowning-in-caramel that is La Vie Est Belle.

Mon Guerlain is nowhere near as invasive as the Lancome, or even Chanel’s Allure which features a similarly frothy cloud of candy floss, albeit it at fifty times the volume. Unlike most other modern gourmands, Mon Guerlain is surprisingly soft spoken. There’s not much throw, which is an asset in my view. At least that closeness to the skin echoes a kind of tattoo-like intimacy.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for sweetness in perfume and am not generally a fan of this style but I still think it’s a shame that we no longer have to wait for the trademark Guerlain vanilla base. It used to be that you had time to anticipate your dessert – now it arrives with the starter. It also makes the fragrance less sophisticated because it’s missing that air of mystique. Mon Guerlain isn’t bad, it’s just not very compelling.

Without contrast there is no tension and without tension there is no excitement, no drama, no addiction. For that, see the coquettish caramelised lavender of Kiki by Vero Profumo who incidentally, had the fragrance as tattoo concept with Rozy back in 2014.

It’s funny, I commented on Bonkers About Perfume the other week about how I wasn’t pro negative reviews, but hopefully it’s clear I’m coming from the perspective of a long-time Guerlain fan and heavens knows they won’t be affected by what I write.

 

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It’s not my Guerlain but it may still be yours.

 

How have you fared with Guerlain’s releases of the last decade or so?

 

 

 

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February: A Month of Roses

At the start of February I joined Undina’s giveaway challenge (inspired by Chemist in the Bottle) to wear nothing but rose perfumes for the whole month. Being her usual fastidious self, Undina compiled a calendar with a different rose fragrance scheduled for each day. Me being me, I took a more scatter-bomb approach, grabbing whatever appealed on the day.

One of the positive side effects of the project, was that it made me go through my samples and decants to dig up the roses. I love rose perfumes anyway (obviously) but it was good to have the motivation to try – and use up – the samples and decants languishing around my house.

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Here’s what I wore over the course of the month –

Tobacco Rose by Papillon Perfumes (Full Bottle)

This is a  rose bush in a bottle with leaves, earth and hay. A rose found in early autumn to hold on to as nature reclaims summer’s florid show. You can take comfort from it in the same way you might from a walk in the woods. It’s a womanly, over-blown rose with depth and throw to spare. One spray will last all day and it’s one of the few perfumes I’ve been complimented on.

Rose Oud, By Kilian (Decant)

This was the first western oud fragrance I came across and it’s still my favourite. The quality of the velvety rose is outstanding and the combination of saffron and oud complement it beautifully. It really is a deep red rose in the middle of an arid desert.

Wild Roses by Aftelier Perfumes (Sample)

Mandy Aftel’s intention was to capture the rose in situ within the garden. It’s easy to forget that these flowers have such varied scents. At its heart we have a balsamic, honeyed rose but there are also subtle fruity and animalic facets. Taragon absolute represents the herb garden and the leaves of the rose bush, while patchouli roots it in the earth. It’s incredibly complex and potent, especially for an all-natural fragrance.

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Le Fille de Berlin by Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

I love the vintage pin-up look but while the clothes and make-up don’t suit me, I can wear a beautiful retro rose/violet scent like this one. The softly musky amber base makes for a perfect finish. Unlike a lot of fragrance by Serge Lutens, La Fille de Berlin has a transparency that makes it extremely wearable. I wear this from spring through autumn.

Rozy Voile d’Extrait, Vero Profumo (Sample)

Rose may be the most recognisable facet of this oriental tour de force but there is so much more going on here. Smoked honey, amber and fruit swirl and buzz on the skin with a vital intensity. When I first encountered it, Rozy represented to me the complexity and power of untamed feminine energy – and it still does. Perfumer Vero Kern is someone l hugely admire and I can’t imagine anyone else making a rose-centred perfume remotely like this one.

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Rose de Nuit, Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

It was nice to give my bell jar an airing. Rose de Nuit is a rosy musk more than it is a pure rose fragrance. It’s not skanky or headache-y but oily and unctuous. It’s a nocturnal harlot in perfume form who doesn’t believe in any such thing as the walk of shame. She’s brazen but sophisticated and oh-so-enticing.

Mille et Une Rose, Lancome (Decant)

Appropriately enough I won this decant on Undina’s Looking Glass. Mille et Une Rose is a soft yet deep, somewhat sweet rose with an amber base and a trail of musk. It makes me think of one of those pretty peach coloured roses with a multitude of petals, circling around and around, layer after layer. It’s velvety, easy to wear and rather romantic.

Velvet Rose, Senoma Scent Studio (Sample)

Again from Undina’s prize package, Velvet Rose is a sparkling, dewy rose. It’s a frothy cascade of pale pink tea roses with a touch of greenery. Delicate but long-lasting, it has that vintage cosmetic association that I really love. The more I inhale it, the more I enjoy it. It’s incredibly pretty and joyful.

The Coveted Duchess Rose by Penhaligon’s (Sample)

This recent release is part of the Portraits collection.  At first I’m thrown by a metallic green note but this does fade in the heart which is a fresh and fruity rose soliflore with a swirl of powdery sweetness. The base is a rosy woody musk. Green and/or fruity roses aren’t really my style but it’s nicely done and will no doubt be popular.

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Vaara, Penhaligon’s (Full Bottle)

Vaara has such an original and vivid start that the first time I tried it I was a tad disappointed that it ended up being a light and linear rose perfume. Now I just enjoy it for what it is – a refreshing rose perfume to wear in the summer with its striking opening of tart quince, creamy saffron and a splash of rosewater.

 

Did you take part in the Month of Roses? How did you get on? Could you wear roses day after day?

 

 

 

 

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