Vero Kern is steeped in the classic fragrances from Guerlain and Caron which she wore for many years before becoming a perfumer. This knowledge, love and appreciation of old-school French perfumery comes through in her artistic creations time and again.
It’s wonderful to have someone making perfume today that draws from that rich heritage and yet brings something so entirely new and exciting to it.
This approach is exemplified in Kiki Voile d’Extrait which is Vero’s homage to Paris.
It takes its name from Alice Prin, known as Kiki de Montparnasse. She was an artist and artist’s model who symbolised the bohemian, creative soul of the city. Kiki was visual artist Man Ray’s companion for much of the 1920s and posed for his famous surrealist photograph “Le Violon d’Ingres”.
Kiki Voile d’Extrait was launched in 2013 and is a lower concentration of the Extrait, suitable for spraying. It includes notes of bergamot, cassis, lavender essence, geranium, lavender absolute, caramel, opoponax, patchouli and musk.
I am not usually a lavender fragrance fan but Kiki soon charmed me and my pre-conceptions melted away. By the second time of wearing, I was hooked.
Vero enlivens distilled lavender in the top with fruit, while below she accentuates the burnt sugar facet of lavender absolute with caramel. In this way she creates a seamless continuum which deepens and recalibrates over time.
When you first encounter Kiki Voile d’Extrait you are met with the familiar cool breeze of lavender; green, herbaceous and very smooth. It’s matched with tart fruit (bergamot, cassis) and this gives it such a great kick.
After starting out prim and proper, our Little Miss Lavender becomes almost tantalisingly edible.
Leaving work at the library, she’s wearing conservative clothing and sensible shoes. She then stops off at her Paris apartment, emerging sometime later as a saucy gamine. On arrival at the cabaret club that evening, she is unrecognisable from the girl we all thought we knew.
The drydown of Kiki Voile is nothing short of glorious. The lavender is now liberally dusted with caramel. Not thick and syrupy the way I had envisioned, but beautifully soft and powdered.
At this point I am reminded of the vintage Jicky I experienced at The Osmotheque fragrance conservatory in France. It was so loaded with vanilla it made me smile.
I also detect a connection between Kiki Voile d’Extrait and Shalimar. In the Voile the vanillic/ambery caramel is blended expertly with patchouli, musk and opoponax, making it feel like a lighthearted, lavender-hued twist on the Guerlain classic. It’s marvellously moreish but not quite gourmand.
I now believe the legend that says Shalimar came into being as a result of Jacques Guerlain overdosing Jicky with vanillin.
Kiki de Montparnasse was an eternal optimist, even in the face of adversity. She once said –
“All I need is an onion, a bit of bread and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that.”
The Voile d’Extrait is equally carefree. For a worrier like me, it is a joy to be around.
I could learn a lot from Kiki.
How you do feel about lavender? Do you have a favourite fragrance from Vero Profumo?