Bad To The Bone


–  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.