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Naja – another Vero Kern masterpiece

Naja brochure - perfumeniche.com

I was very sad to learn that Vero Kern, the brilliant Swiss perfumer who became a perfumer later in her life, passed away suddenly on December 18, 2018.

I sniffed Vero Kern’s first three fragrances, Onda, Kiki, and Rubj when they first appeared in 2013. I’d never heard of Vero Kern, but I was stunned by the three fragrances. Especially Onda, which took my breath away. A brooding fantasy of vetiver and leather, it’s one of the very best modern chypre fragrances that perfumery offers to this day.

Gwen was captivated by Vero’s Rubj, a perfumed garden of sensual delight which lifted the doors to her perfume perception right off their hinges, and a few years later I was rendered speechless again by .rozy. Voile d’Extrait. This is a bold, fiery and passionate rose-based scent, inspired by the Italian actress Silvana Magnani, and has a magnetic opening which is so spectacular it could be a fragrance all on its own. 

Vero Kern created perfumes that are far beyond the norm in complexity and artistry. With every one of her scents, she takes you on a journey into a transforming and emotional sense experience. If the love of perfume were a religion I would worship daily at the altar of this Perfume Goddess. On her website, she described herself as a  “perfume composer junkie”. For her, creating fragrances is like a drug, a complete passion. “Perfumes are a love story. There is nothing more intimate in all of life than the connection between perfume and skin.”

Naja, her most recent scent, is a limited-edition of 650 bottles which was released in celebration of the tenth anniversary of her niche company, Vero Profumo. “Naja stands for my fascination, and my conviction of the healing power of scents and reminds me of my earlier activities as an aromatherapist and as a pharmacy assistant.” (Fragrantica interview).

This fragrance is her vision of tobacco – tobacco and flowers and fruit, per the note list. The packaging is acid green and dense black, the simple graphic is a coiled hooded cobra snake, and the first sniff is a shock. Naja smells exactly how I don’t expect it to smell, bitter, salty, rank and damp, a sensation of rotting flowers and fruit. Yep, this is a Vero Kern perfume!

Vero Kern - cafleurebon.com

My shock recedes as the tobacco accord takes shape, creamy, honeyed, and smoky, and I think Habanita, but Vero Kern delivers another sensory  jolt and takes me deeper into HER tobacco vision. Her tobacco accord is about the life-cycle of the plant, yanked from damp soil, clots of black earth on the roots, the acrid vegetal rush of crushed green leaves, the perfume of new blooms, the sweet hay smell as the leaves hang drying, the spicy complexity of dried leaves, the thick smoke of pipe tobacco -  it’s all there in a few deep inhales.

And then Naja becomes deep and dense, thick with leather notes from osmanthus absolue with its sueded apricot overtones, and then opulent from a honeyed sweet nectar, subdued but delicious, from linden flower. And through it all there’s the slight dissonance of a damp saltiness, the aquatic melon note, green rind and all. The combination of notes is unusual, but Vero Kern uses the power of the tobacco note with all its nuanced facets to expand their presence, especially the florals, which are achingly beautiful.

The long drydown is as hypnotic as a cobra, swaying and weaving among creamy tobacco notes, damp earth, bitter green, and wafts of medicinal leather reminiscent of Onda, airy powdery linden blossom, faint doughy sweetness of apricot from osmanthus, hints of melon juice, and dried  tobacco leaves, spicy, peppery and smoky. The various notes and accords float up haphazardly in different combinations, Naja can smell different according to your mood, it’s dense, decadent and delicious but then becomes airy, it’s intoxicating and sensuous and then as light on skin as cashmere, it’s female, it’s male, it’s Everyone. Naja absolutely defies expectations.

Naja is impossible to resist. Vero Kern created another stunningly original fragrance, a masterpiece vision of the tobacco note that can take its place next to vintage classics like Tabac Blond or Habanita.  Naja is original art we can readily own, wear on our skin, and enjoy endlessly. It is pure pleasure with every breath.

"It’s magic. It’s joy. It’s poison. It’s cure. It’s chaos. It’s cosmos. Naja: A perfume to be worn with love and reverence."- from the Naja packaging brochure

Vero Kern’s contribution to modern perfumery should be treasured.  She will be greatly missed.

Naja is listed in our Decant Store. Decants for this Limited Edition are $15.00 for 1 ml.

Read about our other Vero Profumo fragrances: OndaRubj, and .rozy. Voile d’Extrait.