Bad To The Bone

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–  a review of Kinski by Kinski

In the normal state of affairs, I tend to shun celebrity scents like the plagues upon humanity they are. I find most of them poorly composed according to the ten-second sale philosophy (usually by Coty, who once upon a storied time never catered to the lowest common denominator), or created to exploit Hot Celebrity X, Y or Z’s personal brand of ‘style’.

But every once in a blue moon, a perfume comes along that seems to wrap that idiosyncratic ‘style’ and tie it all up with a beautiful bow to add another layer of definition to an iconic figurehead. I could mention Etat Libre d’Orange’s Eau de Protection and Like This, for Spanish firebrand Rossy de Palma and Tilda Swinton, patron saint of Perpetual Cool, or even the few perfumes I’ve tried by Dita Von Teese, all of which were made with a far greater deal of care and dedication.

And then came this one. Only this time, it was not at all market hype or perfumista buzz that caught my attention.

This time, it was personal.

You see, two 21st-century sisters of definite literary bent and inclination independently of each other decided that Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë shouldn’t have all the fun for themselves.

One was a graphic artist, the other a journalist, but both were writers on the sly in between family cares and career woes, sneaking off to commit either unspeakable acts of depravity or unspeakably depraved prose to the virtual page, one writing within the framework of a crime novel, the other from a Gothic horror perspective, one in her native Danish and the other in English.

No matter how life tried to get in the way – as it certainly did – they would finish these two books, they would scrawl their names on the walls of literature in bloody ink and seal the deal with a bloody handprint, they would both of them do what it took to get themselves out there… and any detractors could think whatever they pleased.

So between late September and December of last year, they both did just that and were published – by a big-name Danish publisher and by an indie Austin ditto. One to (mostly) rave reviews, the other to… four, all told.

To commemorate her epic feat of imagination and determination in the face of distraction, one of them bought a perfume.

This perfume. This perfume which promptly blew the other sister’s mind.

The perfume buyer – and crime writer – was my sister Stephanie, and the other sister – and Gothic novelist – was yours truly.

The biggest surprise of all was this one: My dearly beloved sister and I have completely opposite tastes in perfume. She is a petite brunette, and has favored what I’ve come to call skank bombs for either gender for as long as I can remember her wearing perfume. I am a slightly less petite blonde who has vastly preferred epic, steely green chypres for nearly as long as I can remember.

Yet one sniff of this masculine wonder did me in.

Kinski by Kinski was made by perfumer Geza Schoen to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of actor Klaus Kinski’s death in 2011, and apart from it being one of the most unusual perfumes I’ve ever sniffed, it is also one of the most evocative, conjuring up Klaus Kinski’s ghost as effectively as any Werner Herzog masterpiece marathon at your favorite arthouse cinema.

The remarkable thing about Klaus Kinski the actor was that more than his personality, his physiognomy or the roles he chose, was his ability to literally eat the scenery – and sometimes, his fellow actors – in everything he played. Watch any of the movies he made with Werner Herzog, and I dare you to look away, because you can’t. His intensity was so ferocious, it’s a wonder we have any film stock left with him that didn’t self-combust in the can. I double-dare you to forget those roles in those movies, because you can’t do that, either.

Yet great artists are rarely paragons of virtue, and Klaus Kinski the man was no exception. Whether or not he fell prey to his own self-concocted outrageous, eccentric public persona or simply had to constantly live up to his own disrepute, the fact remains he was at least as complex a man as he was as an actor.

So how on Earth do you manage to bottle all that masculine eccentricity and iconoclasm?

Geza Schoen chose to add in many of the things Klaus Kinski loved in life. White wine accord (according to the Kinski website), a viridian vetiver, flowers, juniper, a pounding lecherous animal heartbeat that pulses from beginning to distant end and the most genius subversive ganja accord this side of Maui Wowie.

If you’re thinking Kinski the perfume will get you arrested in public spaces and get you sidelong smirks and full-body searches from TSA officials, think again. That ganja is less the aroma of inhaling with a fury and more the texture and feel of green, crystalline buds. But it’s rolled so tight into a glossy green spliff of castoreum and vetiver, you wonder why no one has ever done this before.

All of it so wrong, so impossible and so improbably, off-the-charts sexy I’m profoundly grateful I’ve never encountered this on a man. I’d devour him, and to Hell with the fava beans and a good Chianti.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it does.

Because that animal pulse never strays, that scrumptious vetiver never departs – and neither does the Maui Wowie – but suddenly, a salty marine tang splashes in on a high tide, and it’s neither the dreaded ‘aquatic’ or (almost worse) ‘ozonic’, but simply sunshine, sand, salt and sea. And animal, vetiver and spliff.

So give yourself over to this summer’s afternoon of dolce far niente to find flowers blooming, too, not in any obvious, easily demarcated way, but simply as a sweetly scented posy to seduce you past caring.

No worries – this jungle cat is still purring along beneath it all, still lazily flexing his claws well into the mossy, salty, spicy-musky drydown many, many hours later, until you suddenly realize with a start…

You’ve been had – and by a perfume.

I pay no attention to the gender divides in perfumery – I wear what I like. So when I want to walk on the wild side, when I want to air out my inner rock chick, when I want to define myself in the spaces of my contradictions and defy convention and propriety, I’ll wear Kinski.

You see, if Klaus Kinski with his outsize personality had been born twenty or thirty years later, the only thing he could have possibly become was a rock star.

A rock star who would be, as indeed he always, always was…

Bad to the bone.

Notes (from Fragrantica): Cassis, juniper berry, pink pepper, castoreum, marihuana accord, nutmeg, plum, orchid, magnolia, orange flower, rose, benzoin, vetiver, cedar, patchouli, styrax, cistus, ginger, musk, moss, ambergris.

Kinski by Kinski is available as a 100 ml eau de toilette (with outstanding 12+ hour longevity) at Luckyscent.

With a kiss, a hug and bathetic gratitude to my sister and fellow author, Stephanie Caruana.

Thanks to Du Dumme Sau for invaluable research. 

An Unexpected Majesty

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– a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tsarina’

Opulence, luxury, complexity. What do you think about when you read these words as they relate to perfume? Do you think of perfumes or houses that come to mind with all their own associations and aspirations, or are you anything like this slightly jaded post-punk catastrophe and begin to wonder whether there’s a particular thesaurus for perfume copywriters that pulls out these words at the drop of a new perfume launch and think jaded, cynical and more than a little sarcastic thoughts:

Right. Of course it is. It couldn’t possibly be anything at all else!

Then again – such are the tribulations of a perfume writer’s life – there are moments when those words light their own fragrant bonfires underneath a combustible imagination with all that entails.

In perfumista terms, such moments are when lemmings are born. Your curiosity is aroused, your fragrant imagination awakens, and all cynicism instantly thrown right out the window.

Maybe this one. Maybe this time. Maybe…

That jaded cynic was yours truly reading of the launch of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Four Corners of the Earth’ collection of perfumes, but my own experience with Linda Pilkington’s line told me that this wasn’t so much a product of florid PR copy but instead more firewood for that superheated imagination I call my own.

I can count on one hand the Ormonde Jayne perfumes that weren’t instant – and consistent loves, as well as the ones I’ll keep close by always – Tolu, Frangipani and Orris Noir, and the ones I’ll covet with a fury until I can call them mine. All with their own unique stories to unfold, all of them perfect for my own chemistry, all of them their own redolent bywords for, well, opulence, luxury, complexity.

Not only do I admire Linda Pilkington’s dedication and meticulous attention to detail, I also emphatically admire the imprint of her personal and highly refined aesthetic in her line.

So there I was those months ago, reading up on ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ collection and the extravagant launch at the Orient Express, no less – Nawab al Oud, Montabaco, Qi and finally, Tsarina, and I knew I was in trouble. So much so, when a fellow Ormonde Jayne fan and perfumista friend offered a little Tsarina for sale, I swept in with no qualms at all and bought a decant – blind.

‘Baroque, complex, silks in sweeping dresses and fabulous jewels…’

Bring it on!

Now that I have it and have spent time with it, now that I know something of this Tsarina’s moods and caprices, I’m thrilled to say that this time, this one delivers on all my aspirations and wraps them up in sables and silks, but that’s no way to pay homage to such imperial – and imperious – majesty.

She enters the room and begins her story with a bright, sharp, diamond flash of mandarin and bergamot, but it takes no time at all before an elegant and supremely restrained hint of coriander and cassis usher in that opulence with fragrant, silken intimations of the florals at the heart, and such a bouquet of marvels they are, too.

Hedione – with its airy jasmine facets sparkling in the candlelight, freesia and jasmine sambac wafting all their flowery allure, yet these are no blushing ingénues but ladies in bloom, announcing an arrival in their clarion tones…

Iris. A magnificent, regal, velvety-suede iris that doesn’t require your adulation so much as demand it, just this once, so you don’t forget your proper place. This is an iris neither cold nor intimidating, but make no mistake – it knows to display its majesty well, and it waltzes so flawless, so perfectly beneath those crystal flower chandeliers, as you admire and adore her, you glimpse something of those warm, sweet secrets underneath. Vanilla and sandalwood, cedar, labdanum, the musky intimations that for all her majesty, she is still very much all woman underneath the silks, jewels and brocades of jasmine, iris and suede that declare and define her.

There are many surprising twists and turns in Tsarina, ostensibly a floral oriental but in fact, much, much more than that. It is nothing like the notes list originally led me to expect but very much more – a statement, unforgettable entrance and indelible memory both, undeniably feminine yet with strength and steel underpinning it. Not for the unassuming, the diffident or the eminently discreet – it makes a declaration and makes no apologies,demands no excuses, unless it were an excuse to wrap yourself in a sable-lined brocade mood, to sparkle spectacular in a baroque heartbeat beneath a crystal chandelier as only you can.

I could say this another way. No matter what quotidian, mundane life you lead and decisions you make, some days and some moments, you want to feel invincible, imperious, regal.

Wear Tsarina. Remember – for a moment, for an evening, for yourself, for posterity, for celebrating your own unique and unexpected majesty:

You own your world and everything in it.

It’s time to go and claim it for your own.

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Tsarina was made by Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne in collaboration with perfumer Geza Shoen. It is available at Harrods Black Hall Perfumery, London and at Ormonde Jayne boutiques.

Notes: Mandarin, bergamot, coriander, cassis, hedione, freesia, jasmine sambac, iris, suede, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, labdanum and musk.

With thanks to Andrea, who made it possible.

Illustration: Her Imperial Majesty Maria Feodorovna at her coronation, 1881.