Without further ado, Val inducted me in the pronunciation of the name. For it is not to be confused with the German compound word 'Naja', which means many subtle variations on 'Well' and 'Okay', and where the 'j' is spoken like a 'y'. Rather it is an amalgam of the deep 'ah' in 'Nah' and the 'dg' in 'badger'. No, wait, it may be the soft 'je' of 'je t'aime'? I may need further tuition...!
One thing I did learn though was that Naja is a 'genus of venomous elapid snakes known as cobras'. As you can well imagine, I had to look up 'elapid' as well while I was about it, and it elapidly became clear that they are a family of snakes characterised by short fangs fixed in the front of the upper jaw. I commend readers to check out this Wikipedia entry on the many different kinds of fang...who knew there was so much to snake dentition?
Such was my excitement to try Naja that I managed to squeeze it into my hand luggage, while the rest of my scented swag went back to Gatwick in the checked bag containing the band merchandise - which is not as handy as it might look, as I flew back to Manchester. I figured I could defer my eagerness to try/use those perfumes for a couple of months till I see the gang again, while my curiosity to try Naja could be contained no longer.
In a (token) reciprocal gesture, I lobbed Val some Cadbury's Mini Eggs and Galaxy chocolate in a few of its surprisingly multifarious guises (focusing in particular on 'no-melt' varieties like Minstrels, in view of the balmy weather that was forecast). And even though I have form for giving Val a purse for this very purpose, I am of the view that the seasoned perfumista can never have too many receptacles for keeping perfume in, so I also gave her a 'snakeskin wallet', a twin nod to the new release and a lyric in one of Val's favourite songs by The Monochrome Set, 'Jet Set Junta', whose gig in Augsburg was the trigger for our meet up:
'Hiss, hiss goes the snakeskin wallet stuffed with Cruziero bills'
I did get as far as googling images of Cruziero banknotes, with a view to printing some off and popping them in the purse, but my desire for verisimilitude fell at the first hurdle when I remembered that I only have a black and white printer. Plus I had already gift wrapped the purse. The nod to Naja wasn't exactly spot on either, as the purse is described as 'anaconda'. They were clean out of Najas unfortunately, or I would have got Val a more on-message serpentine material. Then in a curious turn of events, the bass player in the band mentioned that he happens to own a whole python skin - though crucially not why - which he would happily have donated to Vero for promotional purposes at the Milan show, had the new scent been about non-venomous snakes with aglyphous teeth rather than our proteroglyphous fanged friends.
|Source: Now Smell This|
Before slithering and meandering my way finally to my impressions of the scent itself - I know, I know, I am the oxbow lake of bloggers! - I must firstly say that there very nearly wasn't a post about Naja at all. Oh yes. For the morning after I got home, I could not find my sample, presumed knocked off the chest of drawers by Truffle and batted into oblivion. The most I might have been able to say would have been: "It rolls well." But then to my huge relief I found it nestling in a relatively cat proof tea light holder on my desk.
|Snaky lakes ~ Source: Wikipedia|
And in the spirit of full disclosure I feel I have to mention that I do not care for snakes. I am not quite as frightened of them as spiders, but not far off. Let's just say that I didn't linger in Liz Moores' snake room longer than it took to clock that they were safely tucked away in drawers - and liked a drop of beer. My uneasiness around snakes pales into comparison, however, besides my father's outright phobia, of which I may have inherited a diluted version. He couldn't bear to see any representation of a snake, never mind the real thing. Even the sight of my brother's knitted toy snake - adventurously known as 'Snakey' - would instil 'horror and terror of the first water' (in himself this time). My mother knitted Snakey (who must be knocking on for 55 now?) for my brother, possibly before she knew of Father's phobia - or maybe out of sheer mischief - we may never know...
|Photo by my SIL, Hazel|
And I mention Snakey specifically because he is a quintessentiial toy from my childhood, even though he was owned by my brother. Asp a toy - ooh, a Freudian typo, I might leave that in! - Snakey is a woolly oxymoron of 'cuddly reptile', and it is very much this vibe which Naja embodies. It is warm and enveloping, thick and faintly fuzzy, like a blanket made of khaki serge. Take the splayed flat head of a cobra and stretch it out further and further till it wraps completely around you, like those automatic toilet doors on the trains that are also a big part of my gig related travels. Coincidentally, in view of the tie in with Val, the teddy on the right in the picture below is actually called 'Austrian' - purchased by my parents in Innsbruck. Of the two, I'd say Snakey has worn better.
|Photo by my SIL, Hazel|
Texturally Naja reminds me of the drydown of Puredistance White, though not its smell. And also of Rozy Voile d'Extrait, to pick a scent analogy closer to home. Or - on account of the peachy/apricot facet - a harmonious SL Daim Blond, say - for Daim Blond sadly leant towards raspy on me until the far drydown, prompting me to liken it to 'suede-scented white noise'.
Notes: osmanthus absolute, tobacco, linden blossom and melon
On first application, Naja goes straight to the tobacco-forward basenotes on my skin. At this point it has a lot of heft, and I even wondered if it might be one of those 'contemplative heavy hitters' like Papillon Perfumes' Anubis. I get an intense and pleasantly powdery cloud of tobacco for a while - which brings back a whoosh of memories of defiantly smoky music venues in Germany - boasting every kind of smoke indeed, including the more underground / wacky baccy ilk....;)
Then gradually Naja begins its stately backward trajectory, and shafts of fruit poke through the mist, tantalisingly unidentifiable to my nose, but reminiscent of faintly sherbety and sweet confectionery from my youth. Yes, just add newspapers and Naja neatly covers the full spectrum of the CTN on the corner of Belmont Church Road. We could perhaps call it: 'Confectionery Tobacco Naja'. I am thinking Pez sweets maybe, or fruit salad chews*, and I do get a hint of lime - and maybe of melon - at one point, but the wafts come and go like shooting stars, and I never trust my nose at the best of times. Melonphobics have nothing to fear from Naja, I will say that. The inclusion of that note helps to lift the tobacco and create a feeling of airy expansiveness within the composition.
|Heart over our heads courtesy of Val|
Gradually the balance between the heavier tobacco and the lighter, more radiant fruit swings more towards the latter and the drydown is sunny and winsome, while never losing its gravitas and smoky mystique - which is a pretty nifty conjuring trick, to be fair. That said, the tobacco remains the dominant note on my skin all the way through. It is of course also possible that I have tobacco amplifying skin!
Now Mito Voile d'Extrait was my favourite up to now from Vero's line, but I can see Naja giving it a run for its money. I like it so much that I even succumbed to the insidious obsidian appeal of its opaque bottle. ;)
So there you have it - Naja: a cobra to cosy up with in beguiling black livery; a disarming charmer; and most impressively - considering that at this point I had not even sniffed it - the beating scented heart of an 'epic' weekend (as Val might say) with dear friends.
In a word - atramendous...
|Last drink at the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis|
* Editor's note: See also my exchange with Lady Jane Grey in the comments below
**Editor's note: Val has just explained that the beer mat is in fact a scent strip for spraying Naja on - so there's another shape to add to my blog post on perfume blotters if I could ever find it again!