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This Week, I Wore Some Real Perfume

by | Feb 15, 2020

When Vero Kern died, I hadn’t yet been into fragrances long enough for her work to get on my radar. I saw the outpouring of love and interest on social media, but didn’t know anything about her or her work. Over the months following, I read more and mentions often popped up. I sought samples of her perfumes, and was able to get a few small vials from some of the decanting services.

In the past few months, I’ve gotten my hands on three full bottles: Naja EDP, Kiki Extrait, and Onda Extrait.

This week, I wore Onda Extrait in full for the first time.

Pure perfumes with no sprayer are an odd experience for me. The vast majority of my collection is in spray format, be they EDT, EDP or extrait. There’s a uniformity and familiarity in experience to a spray perfume. I can get a sense of how much liquid I’m applying to my skin and the spread of distribution by spraying.

Dabber vial samples of perfumes are mostly good for getting an idea of what the perfume smells like. It’s not reasonable to expect an accurate test of the performance of a perfume from a dabber vial. So, with a dabber sample, I tip the vial onto my skin, maybe five times, and then sit with it for an hour or so and try to pick up the evolution of the fragrance. While I’m smelling it, under the assumption that the experience of wearing the same perfume from a full size bottle with a good spray will offer better performance, I make some kind informed instinct/handicapped evaluation of how the fragrance will perform.

The Vero extraits are in small bottles. 7.5 mls. When I applied Onda Extrait earlier this week, I may have applied more than I should have. I always want to be sure to smell what I’m wearing, and, wrongly, applying perfume without a spray always makes me feel like I need to apply a lot. I tipped the bottle onto my skin as if it were a dabber vial. On both wrists, on the backs of my hands, and twice on each side of my neck. I did not see any visible reduction in the volume of the bottle after the application, which surprised me because it is a tiny bottle and I thought I put on a lot.

The perfume was soft at first. But within five minutes, my sense of smell had dialed into it. I knew how to recognize it, but it was also clear to me that this stuff had a presence. With the application, I got an enveloping scent cloud that hovered around me consistently for the whole day. Hours and hours. I smelled it strongly into the evening. I’m sure others could smell it on me in the course of the day.

I’m coming to find this experience more and more often, with pure perfumes that are not sprayed and, I believe have some synthetic or natural fixatives that provide longevity. Chanel No. 19 parfum and Kemi Tempest oil are two others that I’ve been wearing recently with similar experiences.

My resistance to non-spray pure perfumes and extraits has been diminishing over the past few months, as a direct result of my experience with them. Spraying perfume is what I know, and because I know it, it is more comfortable – a safer bet. But this whole perfume thing is supposed to be about exploration. And so I’m happy that Kiki Extrait was the only bottle of Vero Kern’s perfume left on Lucky Scent’s website by the time I got around to wanting to try her work. That’s why I ended up with it, and had I not bought and enjoyed wearing it, I wouldn’t have considered getting Onda Extrait when I had the chance.

On the smell itself: Onda wore to me like a spoiled tropical fruit. The passion fruit that is listed in the notes on the EDP version (and that I smell in my samples of the EDP version) was, to me, very prominent in the extrait, despite it not being listed as a note for the extrait. I struggled to identify vetiver.

This wore on me mostly like a honey perfume. Slightly animalic, with a vintage aura about it that I came to really enjoy. Liz did not like it, though she smelled it quite soon after application and I think the animalic qualities mellowed with time. It is unique and provocative. There is a clear point of view in it. But I need to wear it more to understand what that point of view is. I’m sorry that it isn’t still in production so that others can get this experience if they want to.

I’ve had the chance to enjoy quite a few (but only a fraction of what she offers) of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s DSH Perfumes in beautiful little vintage-style perfume bottles. Parfum de Luxe, in particular, is spectacular. She offers most of her perfumes in multiple formats.

I’ve also gotten to experience a number of attars, starting with a sample set by Sultan Pasha. Fougere Noire and Ambercuir are two of my favorites. Fougere Noire – an attar fougere – is shocking to me. I consider it one of my favorite in the genre, and am shocked at how such a perfect fougere smell can be delivered in this format. This is something to explore another time.

Some extraits and pure perfumes come in bottles with a roller ball. This offers easy application, but for some reason, I don’t like it. It’s functional, but it isn’t elegant. If you like them, great, and I wish you enjoyment with them.

I’m coming to really appreciate pure perfume format in bottles without sprayers. My experience wearing Onda Extrait has solidified this appreciation for me. Wearing pure perfume by dabbing and spreading is an experience that, as a new perfume enthusiast, wasn’t obvious to seek. It is, however, the method that delivered perfume to skin (and cloth) for most of history, and is worth trying to understand. It’s a window into the past and is likely to remain a large part of my perfumed future.

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