With all the praise currently being rained down on Vero Kern for her exceptional collection of perfumes, it would be very silly of me not to jump on the band wagon and try them for myself. I had the pleasure of sampling ‘Mito’ a few months ago, but that is a review for another day. Today it is the turn of ‘Onda’.
Vero Kern has produced some truly astonishing scents, most notable for their ‘hot skin’ qualities. Kern talks about her values on the Vero.Profumo website, saying
“I go my own way hundred percent and do not follow any trends. I’m looking for originality, opulence and eroticism in scents. They have to surprise and to touch me. I’m not interested in ‘clean’ scents; I need characterful scents both in my creations but also as wearer. Beside this, I love everything that reminds of the smell of skin.”
I have tried both the extrait and eau de parfum and I had such a contrasting experience that I feel I need to talk about both equally. Let us start with the eau de parfum….
A garden, overgrown bows drooping with blooms, sits on a clifftop, the sea far below crashing onto the rocks. Salt drifts on the breeze to this haven, tucked away from the strong wind by tall trees. The sun is warm, a myriad of insects buzz all around. In the garden there is a couple, bare skin tanned light golden and hair tangled from salt spray. They eat fresh bread dripping with honey and lick it from each other’s fingers. A thousand years could pass and these two would not notice, intertwined as they are in this paradise. A perfect moment that stretches on and on forever….
It is difficult to write about a perfume that has been very extensively reviewed without hearing other people’s descriptions in your head. The above paragraph is a mash up of lots of people’s thoughts on ‘Onda eau de parfum’, including my own. It is a fragrance that is so evocative of hot skin and honey and sea salt that it would be foolish to describe it any differently. However, I noticed a very marked different between the extrait and the eau, in both texture and depth, that the description above is really only a loose guideline. It think it must really depend on your personal skin chemistry.
‘Onda eau de parfum’ opens with a complexity that I have not before experienced on my scented journey so far. There is a wonderful, full bodied plume of floral notes and through them twists an unmistakable tang of salt. All is whirling and undefinable as the fragrance builds, sweetening in a puff of pollen and fleshy petals. Underlying are woody green bows, springy and young, but not in the least bit sappy or resinous. It reminds me of snapping a twig in two and pulling at the stringy bark. This is only one fleeting thought before ‘Onda’ floats into another form, this time more animalic and musky, dusted with ground ginger.
After about fifteen minutes ‘Onda’ starts to ooze honey all over my wrist, sweet and slightly fetid as if I had dunked a ripe fig in golden nectar and squeezed it onto my skin. I swear I can catch lilac as well now, although it is not included in the note listing, maybe the combination of Ylang Ylang and honey create something akin to this powdered bee paradise. It is a powerfully visual aspect of the perfume at this point, I am sitting under the lilac trees, eating bread and honey while the bees dust their furry little bodies with purple pollen. That green, twiggy sensation has given way to a drier pile of fresh wood shavings and there is also a kind of slick… something, that I can’t put my finger on.
I can completely understand that incredible ‘hot skin’ thing that everyone finds in this perfume. It is the juicy, over-ripe passion fruit combined with the honey that creates it I’m sure. On my skin the powdery pollen is quite prevalent, as is always the case when an iris note is involved, and I am a little sad that I don’t get more of the juice. I have turned ‘Onda’ into warm talcum, rather than the flush of lust that I was hoping for. This being said, it is still sexy. It reminds me of the moment when you are just about to leave for an evening out with a new man, you are dressed to kill and smoothed, buffed and buttered to perfection (or as close as you can get anyway!) There is a real sense of anticipation in ‘Onda’, a shiver of delight and desires not yet met.
There was only one feature of the fragrance that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed and that was the animalic sweetness of the honey and passion fruit combined with the powdery iris. I’m gutted that this is how my skin reacted to this element, I can imagine others would find it ripe and delicious and sensual. Alas, it just did not do it for me. The extrait on the other hand… but we will get to that shortly.
The eau de parfum has enormous longevity. The closing moments were a dreamy, musky drift of petals, hours and hours after I first applied it. For all it’s long lasting qualities, it is a close scent, intimate as silk underwear. I was fascinated by the experience, but I am so glad that I had the extrait to try as well…
‘Onda extrait de parfum’ is dark, smooth leather, tanned with salt marsh whiskey, saturated in honey and hung over the fire to cure. Take that leather and fashion it into a corset, lace it tight with plum velvet ribbons, pin a lustrous white bloom in your hair and smooth yourself all over with organic cocoa butter. Then stalk out into the humid night like a predator, pin your prey to the ground and love him until he dies.
This is everything that the eau suggests and more besides. If the eau is sun kissed skin and honeyed fruit, then the extrait is hot night and smouldering embers. The elements of the perfumes are similar but in extrait form they are intensified and pure. There is also sandalwood in place of passion fruit and for me this makes all the difference. There is not a hint of fetid over-ripeness in ‘Onda extrait de parfum’, only leather and wood and dark honey, ornamented with night flowering blooms. Gone too is the powdery puff of iris, or at least I don’t detect it in the same way.
I have a surprising love of leather in fragrance and I didn’t get it at all in the eau de parfum. However the extrait opens with a rich, textural leather which is infused with smokey woods and dark flowers. The development of the scent is much slower and more languid, like dragging your hand through a vat of deepest amber honey. It is completely glorious. This remains at the heart of the extrait for the many hours that it lasts. If it were your lover there would be tantra involved. Occasionally there is a lighter waft of ylang and also rose, although I don’t know if that is just my interpretation of the floral accord. The honey also lightens towards the end, becoming more reminiscent of the pollen sweetness in the eau de parfum.
The is the one that smells of sex and skin for me. Not that pungent, post coital reek, but the moment when bodies fuse together in mutual lust, hot breath and clinging hands. It is the peak of an evening spent in anticipation. It is so preditory and single minded that it makes the eau de parfum look flirty and coy in comparison.
Now, I am not an overtly sexual person, so you would think that of the two I would choose the eau de parfum over the extrait. But the eau de parfum reminds me of all the things that are uncomfortable about the closeness of bodies, the man who is standing right up behind you at the bar after a long day in the sun. Or afternoons at a festival when the salty tang of hot skin starts to pervade the air, bare feet crushing discarded flower garlands and mushy fruit into the earth. The extrait is that pure, almost primal lust for closeness when all other thoughts have disappeared. It is smooth and rich and dark as midnight. Oiled skin and moist lips, breath sweet with honeyed mead. When you lose your inhibitions and crush yourselves together with a moan you are unaware you have uttered.
I am delighted by this contradiction. I tried the eau de parfum first and had begun to chastise myself for not being able to enjoy that animalic accord that so many others had raved about. I really wanted to love it and I was feeling a bit disappointed in myself. Thank god I had the extrait to try as well. It transformed my opinion of ‘Onda’ and I shall be bowing at the scented shrine of Vero Kern for ever more.
‘Onda’ is by no means an easy perfume to wear in either form, but it is one of those scents that will hook people in without their conscious knowledge. My husband didn’t know what to make of it when I thrust my wrist under his nose. He loved it and yet he didn’t. He said it smelt sexy but he couldn’t really say why. It is such an unusual combination of notes that unless you are a seasoned perfumista, or just brave, it may be a little too challenging. In some ways this increases it’s beauty. If you choose to wear ‘Onda’ you can rest assured that you will be in a minority, unless of course you are attending a niche perfume convention or some such, then everyone will be wearing it. If you touch a little to your throat you will be irresistible to anyone who stands very close to you, if you douse yourself in it you may end up recreating the ending of ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind.
‘Onda’ is a must try, whether you think you will like it or not, because it is so educational. If it turns to pure sex on your skin then all the better.