Vero Kern’s perfumes are highly anticipated and it’s certainly been a long, drawn out wait for Naja. The teasing started a while back on social media and this was the one perfume that I was insistent on smelling at Esxence, the annual niche perfume trade show in Milan. On no circumstance did I want Naja to get away.
There’s something about Kern’s perfumes under the Vero Profumo brand that inspire deep devotion bordering on obsession. I get it. These are more than special fragrances. Kern’s perfumes touch people deeply and make a strong emotional connection, forging a bond that lasts well beyond a fickle fling. This is a relationship for life. Even if you’re not a fan of the perfumes, if for some bizarre reason they don’t agree with you, they still inspire a reaction. This is a good thing. There’s nothing worse than smelling perfumes and having no reaction or a case of ennui.
Naja is the jubilee creation from Kern, arriving three years after the luminescent Rozy EDP that I adore. Kern has been creating perfumes for ten years. This is no mean feat as an independent perfumer. It’s not easy to survive in the perfume world, to create fragrances that people not only love but want to purchase. To take perfume lovers on a journey that stays relevant and real but to also attract new clientele. Perfumers do not live on love alone. Bottles are to be bought and savoured. Naja is a limited edition run of 650 bottles and I imagine these will be snapped up promptly. Why? Because her perfumes are artistic creations and the purchase of a Vero Profumo fragrance is akin to having a beautiful piece of art in your home to admire, cherish and love.
The snake and in particular the venomous cobra is the theme for Naja, a significant symbol in many cultures and religions. There are multiple meanings and imagery associated with the snake, and I’ll note just a few. Anyone with a passing acquaintance of the Bible will know that a manipulative snake lures Eve to take a bite of the apple in the Garden of Eden. There’s a link to the Ancient Egyptians as they used the snake to highlight their power and Cleopatra famously committed suicide via its venom. In some cultures the shedding of the snake’s skin, known as sloughing signifies death and rebirth, fertility and immortality. Primal, sexual energy is alluded to in contemporary photographic imagery where snakes are entwined around often naked bodies. The snake is also a popular theme for jewellery in modern culture, either encrusted with jewels or as a simple statement, curved and slinky.
“Naja is the Cobra. A symbol for healing and death, cosmos and chaos, the understanding of life and the destruction of life. Naja connects nature, culture, ancient shamanistic knowledge and spirituality.” (Kern’s words on Naja from the marketing material).
Naja : Nose : Vero Kern : Year : 2017 : Notes : Tobacco, osmanthus, lime (linden) blossom, melon and honey.
I knew this was going to be a tobacco perfume from the teasing that Kern played out for us on social media. I didn’t know what direction she would take for her interpretation but upon first sniff Naja smelt like I already knew it, there was a comforting familiarity. This isn’t because it smells like other perfumes, it’s because it smells like a Vero creation. It’s tobacco and flowers done her way. Naja feels like a mélange of parts of her other creations but brought to life in a new way. A delectable, fruity, floral mega medley. Swampy darkness from Onda, fruity hints of Kiki and honeyed deliciousness from Rozy.
Naja seems to smell slightly different each time I’ve worn it and I’ve come to think of it as a reptilian shapeshifter. Sometimes the fruity touch is strong and at others there are only light flourishes. Sometimes the perfume has a grainy linden feel and on other wearings the texture is smooth and wrinkle free. Whichever path it decides to travel on though, it smells divine and different to other tobacco perfumes I’ve tried. I enjoy boozy fuelled tobacco perfumes but this isn’t one of these. Naja takes us to new territories.
There is a dusky green aspect to Naja that projects via the linden blossom and touches of citrus that make for a light and airy opening with a sense of movement. The Naja imagery is green hued and you will definitely get a sense of this shading when you try it. The osmanthus arrives and the perfume smooths out in delicious apricot puff suede but also with a semblance of spice. The tobacco seems to move in and out and it’s dry, flecked in olive-green hues with leathery facets and a warm aroma as if it’s been left to slowly dry in the sun. Naja is also sweetened by honey but it doesn’t play as prominent a role as in Rozy (EDP), where it is to the fore, almost gushing over the rose. The drydown of Naja is floral and smells like sun-kissed skin.
Kern has created perhaps her best perfume and intriguingly also her most approachable. Naja will please her numerous devotees but will also attract new clientele. It has an aura of sexy sophistication, with an edginess that appeals. Naja is not perfectly sleek, it has curves and cuts that make it infinitely more interesting and appealing. This isn’t a perfume that’s been scrubbed clean of its rawness and natural elements. I wouldn’t call Naja an overpowering perfume or overly dark and dense. It has shards of light that pierce this fragrance to make it shine and as with most Vero Profumo fragrances it has excellent longevity and lasts five hours plus on my skin.
Kern has that rare talent of making a perfume seem vintage yet modern at the same time. Her perfumes usually conjure images of broads in hats smoking cigarettes and lurking in dim corners in black and white hues. Yet at the same time I see contemporary women going about their business in a slither of technicolour scent. Naja has echoes of Habanita (Molinard) and I know Kern has mentioned (in a Fragrantica interview) that Tabac Blond (Caron), another vintage perfume was an inspiration. There is that contradiction in her perfumes or a duality that appeals and in Naja this is key. Naja is housed in a black bottle, providing a slink of mysterious darkness and makes a salubrious accompaniment to the potion contained within. Lovely, lovely work from Vero Kern and a perfect way to celebrate ten years of perfume creation. Bravo.
The Low Down on Naja : A floral tobacco perfume that doesn’t sting or bite but make no mistake it WILL lure you in.
For where to purchase : You can pre-order on Lucky Scent
Disclosure : Sample gratefully received at Esxence from Val the Cookie Queen from Australian Perfume Junkies and another donor. Opinions my own.
Notes : Images : Veruschka by Michel Comte : Natassia Kinski by Richard Avedon : Kate Moss by Mario Sorrenti : Naja artwork at Esxence.