As always, my Reviews en Bref are for a fragrance that, for whatever reason, didn’t warrant one of my long, exhaustive, detailed assessments. In this case, it’s Vero Profumo‘s Kiki Eau de Parfum.
Kiki takes me back to my childhood. It returns me to the sun-drenched hills and promenades of Cannes, to the Croisette where we’d sit at Le Festival to have a sandwich, and to the hills where our villa’s long driveway was lined with enormous lavender bushes and mimosa trees. Sun, blue skies, the glitter of turquoise waters, the relaxing heat of a city made fragrant by the flowers that surrounded you everywhere — those are all parts of my childhood summers in Cannes, a city that is just a 15-minute car ride from Grasse whose famous floral fields have made it the perfume-making center of the world.
Unfortunately, not all aspects of that trip down memory lane are pleasant. My time in Cannes created a strong backlash against lavender that, at times, seemed to besiege me from every nook, cranny, drawer, cupboard, kitchen, restaurant, boutique, promenade, street, house, garden, market, and every other possible, conceivable location imaginable. It was well-nigh unbearable to someone with a sensitive nose, and it left a definite mark. Since that time, I cannot stand lavender unless it’s done really well and is not abrasive. That’s not the case for Kiki, a fragrance whose opening I briefly struggled with before it turned into a plain, pretty, banal blur.
Vero Profumo (sometimes written with odd punctuation as “.vero.profumo.“) is a Swiss niche perfume line that was established in 2007 with three pure parfums called Onda, Kiki, and Rubj. Kiki in Eau de Parfum form came along three years later, in 2010, and the new concentration had a new formula and notes to go along with it. This time, there was passion fruit — which is probably why Fragrantica puts Kiki in the “aromatic fruity” category. Luckyscent provides the full list of notes:
Lavender essential oil, bergamot, citron, passion fruit, lavender absolute, geranium, caramel, patchouli, musk.
Kiki Eau de Parfum opens on my skin with a sonic boom of sharp, pungent, herbal, almost medicinal, dried lavender. In less than a minute, however, it is infused by a strange, intense sweetness that just barely hints at being caramel. The bitter, harsh dried lavender of the sachets that plagued my childhood summers — the exact type of lavender I despise the most — is on full show here. It continues unabated for a few minutes until suddenly, drastically and quite dramatically, it starts to soften. It’s now slightly gentler, warmer, sweeter, rounder, and subtly flecked by a tart, tangy fruitness and by the merest floral whisper from the geranium.
The fruit notes are interesting. Fresh citruses are mixed into the tart, tangy, sweet, and slightly musky character of the passion fruit. Quickly, they start to infuse the lavender, creating a potent bouquet of bracing, sharp, pungently dry, forceful, but sweetly fragrant lavender with tart, sensuously musky passion fruit and general sweetness. The caramel, patchouli, and subtle, slightly spicy, floral tones of the geranium work in the background, having an indirect effect but never being forcefully noticeable in their own right. It underscores how well-blended Vero Profumo fragrances always are, but it also marks the beginning of something that becomes problematic later on: blurriness. We’ll get to that later.
Ten minutes into Kiki’s development, the only distinctive, individual notes are passion fruit and lavender ensconced in an amorphous, airy sweetness. It never feels as though there is full-on caramel in Kiki; there is nothing at all like the rich, heavy, unctuous gooeyiness of the caramel you find in desserts. Actually, it rather feels as though the caramel is infused with vanilla, whipped into a frothy, bubbly, foam-like airiness. It’s extremely pretty, but very subtle. So subtle that it fails to ever fully tame the forceful pungency of that lavender. Even with the sweet notes that infuse it, the lavender is still too much like those Grasse dried sachets of my nightmares with their sharp, abrasive, aggressive, herbal blasts that assault everything they touch. (Maybe I need therapy for my feelings of hostility towards the poor plant?)
Kiki continues its bilateral focus for a while longer. At the twenty-minute mark, the perfume is bracing lavender, soft lavender, sweetened lavender, and fruity lavender, lightly infused with sweet musk and sweetness. If my words sound repetitive and redundant, it’s because they’re meant to be. Kiki is primarily and predominantly one singular theme with only minor, subtle variations. In the background, hints of citruses twinkle like dainty, tiny lights one sees in distant hills. Soft patchouli darts around like a firefly. A very pretty, plush, warn, snuggly softness stirs at the base, feeling as cozy as a cashmere throw. The whole thing is subsumed into a very powerful, potent, forceful combination that is, simultaneously, very airy and very lightweight in feel. Objectively, it’s very pretty; intellectually, I can’t find any of it to be very complex or interesting.
Less than an hour into Kiki’s development, it all starts to turn a little hazy. The perfume’s texture feels creamy, soft, and smooth, but the notes are increasingly blurry. There are a lot of very well-blended perfumes where the elements don’t feel quite so nebulous, intangible, abstract and amorphous. At least, not quite so soon. Kiki has turned into an almost hazy blur of soft, sweet, musky floralness that just barely hints at lavender. Once in a blue moon, the vanillic caramel pops up like a ghost to feel a little more concrete, but it is incredibly fleeting. There is a sweet musk, presumably from the passion fruit, but it has no concrete basis. Even the hint of lavender feels like a flittering, darting thing that you’re trying to grab onto, but it keeps slipping away. It’s an exercise in frustration to pin anything down beyond the general, abstract, creamy, floral sweetness. Even Casper the Friendly Ghost has more structure to his shape and form.
That’s all there is to Kiki on my skin. For the next few hours, its mellow, creamy, floral sweetness darts about like a will o’ the wisp, becoming closer and closer to the skin. It’s a pretty smell, but it’s nothing more than that. The word “boring” actually comes to mind. Exactly 3.75 minutes into the perfume’s development, Kiki is nothing more than sweet, musky vanilla on my skin. It lingers on, soft as a gauzy whisper, for another few hours, then dies completely just over the 6.75 hour mark.
Some of you may think that I can’t objectively and fairly judge a perfume that is centered around a note I dislike so much. You may have a point. However, if reviewers only focused on things they knew they would like, then every magazine, newspaper or website would have to hire thousands of sub-specialists. That’s simply not reality. Perfume reviewing is, by its very nature, even more subjective than most fields, but that doesn’t mean my issues with a particular note automatically doom a fragrance. I loathe ISO E Super, but I’ve given good reviews for a number of fragrances with the dreaded note. I am not a passionate iris fan, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving a few perfumes built around it, either. And, regular readers will know that I have very much appreciated a couple of fragrances which showcased lavender. I gave enormous praise to Histoires de Parfums‘ 1725 Casanova, a lavender aromatic fougère which just barely straddles the gourmand category with its vanilla. It’s lovely enough that I’ve actually considered wearing it. I also greatly admired and liked Santa Maria Novella‘s Ambra which has lavender with neroli and birch tar. And I’ve adored a number of fragrances that have clary sage, a lavender-like plant, or which have featured lavender in conjunction with other notes. So, I don’t hate all perfumes with lavender, but they have to be really good ones to get over my lack of enthusiasm for the note.
At the end of the day, Kiki simply isn’t all that special in my opinion. What manifested itself on my skin was pretty, yes, but it’s neither interesting nor complex. I think the whole thing actually verges on the plain and banal. And that is a far greater problem to me than a brief twenty-minute struggle with the lavender at the beginning. So, Kiki is a complete pass. I’ll stick to Vero Profumo’s honey-vetiver chypre, Onda, whose complexities, nuances, range, and beauty made my jaw drop. It’s a brilliant fragrance that has my heartiest admiration, intellectually and emotionally. Kiki does not.
Dear Kafka, finally, a break from the Uncle Serge series which I enjoyed tremendously!
As to Kiki, none of the notes were wow-inspiring and the description just sounds meh…so I am skipping this altogether. I quite liked Mito, but not enough to shell out $215 for 50 mLs although I wouldn’t mind a decant 🙂
“Meh” fits, though “boring” definitely does too. Yet, there is such enormous gushing over this fragrance, as there is for the whole line. I simply don’t get it, even *apart* from my lavender issues. Kiki is seriously over-hyped, imo, especially in light of the cost.
I’ve got to test Kiki only once (at a store in Paris) and I liked it though I thought it didn’t last long enough on my skin. They were very stingy with samples at Jovoy – even though I was buying a bottle of perfume – so I had to choose what to ask for and I went with Mito. I still plan to get Kiki and test it more but I’m not sure if any lavender-centered perfume, no matter how great it smells, would be worth that price for me.
Bah, being stingy with samples when you’re buying a bottle…. not cool at all. Just out of curiosity, how long did Kiki last on you? I was surprised it wasn’t longer on me, even with my perfume-consuming skin, given the lengths I got out of Rubj and Onda.
Provided it was a relatively warm day and a lot of walking, it was almost completely gone in, I think, 3 hours.
Ouch! That’s very low, especially as you rarely have skin issues with fragrances.
Yep! But, of course, those three that were absolutely awful on me – Rubj EdP and both Onda concentrations – just didn’t want to let it go 😉 Luckily, I was testing those at home.
How about we BOTH block out the memory of Rubj….. *an actual shudder just wracked my body*
Wha?.. What were we just talking about?.. 😉
Vero Kerns’s fragrances are at the very top of my to try list and sadly I haven’t. I think of lavender primarily as a home scent. As a personal fragrance, me and lavender don’t get along. I try to avoid any product with the oil because it tends to make my sensitive skin crack and flake (so hot, I know).
Not sure if Kiki would be for me, but I still want to try them all.
If I had enough left of Kiki, I would send it to you. Actually, I’ll send you what I have because a mere sniff is better than nothing. I’ll have to check how much Rubj is left in the vial as I gave that one a number of tests. But I own Onda, so I can give you a good sized sample of that one. My samples are only of the EDP versions, however, not the extrait, but it will be a definite start! 🙂
Oh darling! You are too kind! No worries if you don’t. I should really get off my tushie and make a proper sample order! Thank you though!
Well I must just say that my world would be empty without Vero´s fragances. Although not a lavender fan, Kiki is quite different and the only one that my 20 year old son says smells good!! Rubj was made for me, and I have worn Mito pretty much nonstop for two weeks. 🙂 Anyway, in the UK they can all be purchased online from Bloom Perfumery. xxx
I’m glad you’ve found a line that works so well for you, across the board. 🙂
I’m so very sorry you don’t like Kiki at all.
When I reviewed it couple of months ago I didn’t find it groundbreaking and lavender of this one on me was more floral rather than extremely dry and herbal that you smell. And that dry, herbal, almost medicinal is my favorite smell of lavender.
I know you adored Kiki, Lucas. 🙂 And, you can be quite a big lavender fiend. Kiki seems very well suited for your tastes. 🙂
It’s not that I adored it, it definitely isn’t my perfect lavender.
I have a bunch of lavender plants in my yard and I love them. Of course, I was not smothered by lavender at every turn when I was a child so that may have something to do with it. I would bet that if there was a scent that I could not escape from it would traumatize me as well. Maybe someday you and lavender will be friends again. I used to hate tea. Everything about it. Now I’m a tea fanatic. My mom used to make tea for me when I was sick. Throwing up sick. So every time I smelled the stuff that’s all I thought of. It took years but I finally got past that association. Now I love it to drink and to smell.
That being said, Kiki has only tempted me slightly. I have wanted to try it but I try to avoid trying the expensive scents because if I love them then my wallet takes a beating. I already have enough pricy things on my wish list.
I should probably try to do lavender de-sensitization the way you did it with tea. You know, I actually don’t mind lavender at all when it is an accompanying, supporting player in things — so long as it is not pungently dry and abrasively medicinal. Here, even once the lavender got past that stage, the overall fragrance was just… okay. I know you love Rubj (or, at least, have grown to love it) and that your husband adores it on you, so I see that as being a far better expenditure for you than Kiki. Perhaps once you finish all your big home improvement projects, you can make your husband happy and get Rubj. 🙂
This is my favorite of the line, but … not at all compelled to buy it. I’m sure VP will eventually make a “me” perfume, but not yet.
I’m sure she will make one that sings to you unconditionally. She’s a very talented perfumer. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on Kiki, Natalie. 🙂
My dear K – you know I LOVE the parfum, but I had not yet tried the EdP until just now as I just received a sample. I like it, but it really loses some of the luster of the parfum. There is still some caramel there, but the lavender is much more dull. I like it, but don’t love it. And really, I am going to chastise you for dislike of lavender that you were surrounded by when you were younger. I would think that it would be so pretty… the only flowers that I grew up around were dandelions! xoxoxoxox
By “duller,” do you mean that it is more nebulous and less distinct after a while? I.E., what I experienced? You know, I would gladly try and test the extraits, as everyone says they are much better. All the greatest raves seem to come from people talking about the Extrait versions, and I’m sure Rubj would work better on my skin without the passion fruit. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to ordering them, but the cost puts me off, to be honest. And Kiki… well, I’m not sure I want even more potent lavender. As for my childhood, I hope one day you can get to go to Grasse, Vallauris and Cannes — and then maybe you’ll understand better my reaction. 🙂 It’s just too, too much. I couldn’t step out my front door without being assaulted by lavender from the driveway, and that aroma just continued everywhere with those powerful dried sachets on sale in every nook and cranny. Still, I’ll take lavender over ISO E Super *any* day! 😛 BTW, LOL at the dandelions.
My dear K – yes, nebulous in the fact that it just flattens out and becomes a bit duller without any edge. Yes, the price is prohibitive and I probably wouldn’t have this if it wasn’t a lovely present from my hubby 🙂
Your hubby is a sweetheart! Tell him that from me.
I know the smell of lavender all too well, because some time ago I used a body cream that had a very cloying, sweet lavender smell that would linger for hours after being applied. Needless to say I stopped using that cream not because of the smell, but because it gave me a severe allergic reaction, however I don´t know if the reaction was to lavender or to another component since it did have other ingredients in it, maybe some of them were harmful, or it might had been the lavender. It was interesting to read that lavender reminds you of Cannes Kafka, since I have been to Paris many times, and to other parts of France (Honfleur, Bordeaux, Rocamadour, Lyon, mont Saint Michel, Rouen etc.) and I have never smelled lavender, not that I can remember anyway. But then again I have never been to Cannes 😛 it´s so amazing that you lived there 🙂 you must have known many famous people. From France, I remember Honfleur in particular as smelly (but it was worth the stench, it gave it charm) given my experience with lavender I don´t think I would love this, simply because that allergic reaction left me a bit bitter.
That’s very unfortunate about your skin’s reaction to lavender, Vicky. I wonder if it was just some combination in that particular cream, or if your body has issues with lavender in general? Obviously, you aren’t inspired to find out. LOL. Lavender does have coumarin which some people can occasionally have a reaction to, but it’s not very common. Perhaps the cream used some sort of very concentrated essential oil? Hm. I’m sorry, that can’t have been fun at all. 😦
I’m really lemming the entire Vero Profumo line these days! I should bite the bullet and buy some samples. I almost did a blind buy of a bottle of Onda (for a great price), but someone outbid me at the last second!
I think you should definitely try to get some samples, and see if you can get any of the Extrait versions too, since that may make a difference. A lot of people seem to prefer the Extrait versions over the EDP. At the very least, I’d be curious to see how Rubj appears on you…… 😉
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