Friday, 17 May 2019

Persolaise Review: Sunday Brunch, Santal Sky, Nitro Noir and 10 a.m. Flirt from Kierin (Mathieu Nardin; 2018)

I continue to subscribe to the view that slotting perfumes into gender categories is mindless. But I am also aware that The Real World doesn’t share this conviction and insists on presenting some scents as appropriate only for women and others only for men. Of course, somewhere in the middle of that great divide we have unisex fragrances - a category which we’re often told is growing, but which still seems to be viewed with fear and suspicion by many. It was this tricky notion of unisex composition that was uppermost on my mind when I was wearing the debut quartet from Kierin, an independent brand founded by Mona and Didier Maine De Biran, all of whose scents have - so far, anyway - been made by Mathieu Nardin.

More often than not, ‘unisex’ has actually meant ‘mostly masculine’, at least in the mainstream sector. I realise that, technically, the likes of Chanel’s Misia and Hermès’ Brin De Reglisse are sold as unisex, but they come under the banner of collections that aspire to niche codes and so don’t feel the need to pin themselves down. But no, in ordinary shops frequented by mere mortals, most wares marketed as unisex have tended towards ‘masculine’ territories, because, generally speaking, women feel more comfortable appropriating a wide range of aesthetics than men do, and they don’t have any issues with smelling like their boyfriends, husbands etc. CK One is the perfect example of this. Yes, it was a tremendous ‘unisex’ hit (and deservedly so, as it’s a triumph of perfumery) but with its citrusy, cologne-inspired structure, it couldn’t have been more traditionally masculine.

If there was anything that pushed it towards the realms of the ‘feminine’, it was its diffusiveness: truly explosive projection that radiated further than the scowl of a Nirvana-loving teen. And funnily enough, it’s the volume knob that Kierin have evidently decided to focus on when attempting to fit their scents into the ‘unisex’ mould. But instead of trying to make their wares bombastic takes on relatively safe materials - a la CK One - they’ve gone for rather unexpected ingredients and presented them in more muted fashion.

Take 10 a.m. Flirt for instance. Its combo of fig and floral notes (gardenia, according to the press release) over a musky-woody base isn’t standard unisex territory, but the fact that it’s never allowed to shout somehow makes it a comfortable fit with the gender-fluid leanings of millennials. Santal Sky (strong shades of Santal 33 and Santal Blush here) tones down its eponymous material with a cool, cardamom-centred, almost cucumber-like, faintly ozonic cleanliness. And Nitro Noir (not a million miles away from Chambre Noire) retreads the familiar mix of pepper and patchouli, but filters it through restraint and decorum.

The highlight of the four is Sunday Brunch, one of the most convincing tea scents I’ve had the pleasure of wearing for a long time and a reminder that not many compositions do justice to the material. Green, herbal, citrusy, slightly sweet (thanks to a violet note) and tinged with the metallic glint of petitgrain, it is an endearing olfactory expression of the ease that settles on you when you meet up with a close friend you haven’t seen for a long time and you while away the time with drinks, laughter, memories… and not the slightest bit of concern about whether you’re talking to a man or a woman. Delightful stuff. 

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Kierin in 2019.]


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