Kirsten 1996 – Byredo 1996 Perfume Review

Kirsten 1996
Kirsten 1996 by Inez van Lamsweerde an Vinoodh Matadin

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin – more widely known simply as ‘Inez and Vinoodh’ – are world-famous fashion and art photographer, renowned for snapping pictures for the likes of Björk, Lady Gaga, Vivienne Westwood and Vogue, just to name a very small few. They are highly respected for their versatile approach to photography and are, in their own way, quasi-celebrities within the art world.

Not content simply as a twosome, Inez and Vinoodh collaborated with popular niche brand Byredo to create a “private edition” fragrance to serve as a Christmas gift for beloved friends and clients. Rumour has it that the fragrance was so well received that they simply had no choice to release it for the hoi polloi to enjoy – thus the wide release of Byredo’s latest fragrance, ‘1996’.

Inspired by the photo ‘Kirsten 1996’ (see above), 1996 is described by Byredo founder Ben Gorham as “an olfactory snapshot not only of the image but of our emotional response to it” and it stands as a unique offering where an image is used to be evocative of a perfume rather than the other way round. The scent intends to create “a visual language, for perfume and, like all great collaborations, shared sentience” (make of that what you will).

1996 by Byredo
1996 by Byredo

The Notes

Top: Juniper Berries and Black Pepper
Heart: Violet, Leather Accord and Orris
Base: Patchouli, Black Amber and Vanilla

How Does it Smell?

Kirsten 1996 the photograph, plays with the idea of the Lolita. A seemingly young girl is sexed-up with a splash of makeup, her porcelain face sexed-up by a striking burst of pink lipgloss, applied in a geisha style. 1996 the perfume doesn’t play with the themes of innocence and sexual maturity however, instead it displays a comforting sensitivity touched by a hard edge and it is most definitely the better for it.

In the opening 1996 is sharp and piquant with a vivid stripe of violet leaf. This pointed vibrancy is contrasted by a wealth of warm and powdery notes which make their way in to the foray early on, creating an encapsulating warmth that has just the right level of darkness to keep it interesting.

Iris is a main player in 1996 and is responsible for the healthy serving of powder that is nicely accented by a suitably pleasing dose of earthy, carroty goodness. It meets the leather halfway in making a slightly sepia toned version of perfumery’s most gothic flower. As well as the leather, vanilla plays a big supporting act to the iris, and rather than adding sweetness, it brings a gorgeous dose of spicy smoke to the party.

1996 dries down to robust amber that retains bitter hints of the leather and violet leaf. The vanilla really comes into its own in the base, creating a creamy, velvety texture to temper the harsher, smokier notes. At times 1996 teeters on the edge of becoming ‘delicious’, but there is just the right proportion of the rough versus the smooth to ensure that it stays uncomfortably (the discomfort is what makes it intriguing) on the boundary.

Sometimes when one isn’t really expecting it a true perfumed gem comes along and this is certainly the case with 1996. On paper it’s not a perfume that sounds particularly unique or unusual and in the flesh this is somewhat true, but it really does succeed at being perfectly executed with excellent balance and when smelled on the skin it’s difficult to think of another perfume that smells similar.

It’s not often the case that only after a few sniffs this blogger finds himself slapping a perfume right at the very top of his wish list but one really isn’t sure if this winter would be at all survivable without a bottle of 1996….


1996 is available in 50ml Eau de Parfum for £105.

Samples, notes and quotes via Byrdeo. Image 1 via Image 2 via