LM Parfums Patchouly Bohème

Photo: "Fiery Mesquite Sunset" by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Fiery-Mesquite-Sunset-13859523

Photo: “Fiery Mesquite Sunset” by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Fiery-Mesquite-Sunset-13859523

The smoky sweetness of singed woods and a mesquite barbecue are the beginning of a woody perfume that later transforms into an absolutely lovely, cozy cloud of caramel amber, darkened resins, balsams, and dry vanilla. It is the most unusual “patchouli” fragrance that I’ve ever encountered: Patchouly Boheme from LM Parfums.

Patchouly Boheme is an eau de parfum released in 2011. It is frequently spelled as “Patchouli Boheme” on various sites, including Fragrantica and many retailers, but I will go with the company’s own spelling of the fragrance. The perfume was created by the late Mona di Orio, a very close, personal friend of Laurent Mazzone, LM Parfums’ founder. Her touch definitely shows, especially in the strong vein of cozy caramel flan that appears at one point in Patchouly Boheme and which is the centerpiece of her other creation for LM Parfums, Ambre Muscadin.  

Source: emporium.az

Source: emporium.az

LM Parfums describes Patchouly Boheme and its notes as follows:

The Pathouly Bohème, sensual and insolent dressed in precious woods, spices intoxicating …
It sows confusion, mystery, we hugged its wake profound and haunting, like a play of shadows and light with hints of leather, tobacco, resin tolu and tonka bean …

Top notes: geranium leaves Egypt, precious wood
Heart Notes: patchouli indonesia, virginia tobacco, leather
Base notes: musk, tolu balm, tonka bean.

Patchouly Boheme opens on my skin with smoky woods that are exactly like mesquite and a mesquite barbecue on my skin. It is immediately followed by an amber-vanilla accord that is the precise same one that lies at the heart (and drydown) of Ambre Muscadin and which I found to smell like a delicious caramel flan. Just as in Ambre Muscadin, the smell here in Patchouly Boheme is also infused with cedar, but it is not nearly as dominant. It also lacks the musk aspects of Ambre Muscadin.

Mesquite wood chips on coal. Source:  My Story in Recipes blogspot. http://mystoryinrecipes.blogspot.com/2012/08/grill-smoked-chicken.html

Mesquite wood chips on coal. Source: My Story in Recipes blogspot. http://mystoryinrecipes.blogspot.com/2012/08/grill-smoked-chicken.html

The main chord in Patchouly Boheme’s opening, however, is that mesquite wood. As Wikipedia explains, Mesquite is a type of wood common to the American Southwest, northern Mexico, Texas, and parts of South America. I live in an area where mesquite barbecues are extremely common, if not the characteristic type of barbecue for the region. Mesquite is such a big deal here that even deli foods like ham, turkey, cheese, and potato salads come with smoky mesquite flavouring. I highly doubt the same is true in London, Paris, or New York, so you have to put my issues into that context to understand why the note in Patchouly Boheme is difficult for me. I absolutely adore patchouli in all its true, original, brown facets, but nothing in the perfume’s first few hours translates as that sort of patchouli to me. No, it’s primarily mesquite wood that is singed and sweetened.

If I’m to be honest, I actually recoiled the first time I smelled Patchouli Boheme’s opening. And the second time, too. In both instances, I clung on primarily because of how much I love the caramel flan note that lies behind it, as if coyly veiled by a thin curtain of smoking woods. Plus, I was fascinated (and completely bewildered) by smelling Texas mesquite in a French perfume so clearly done by Mona di Orio. Had she been to the American Southwest? How did she decide that the unnamed “precious woods” in her perfume should be mesquite of all crazy things??!

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

The third time I tried Patchouly Boheme, I still didn’t like it very much, but I’d become rather addicted to the cozy comfort of the caramel amber flan, not to mention the stellar drydown. (It really is stellar!) So, I basically decided to ignore the difficult 40 minutes or first hour in order to get to the delicious rest. In truth, it’s taken me a good 7 wearings to smoothly move past that beginning and to almost like it. I’m not sure I will ever actually love the smoked mesquite, but then I’m strongly impacted by the fact that I live in an area where that precise smell is associated with barbecue and food. I think those who are new to mesquite will be free of my mental associations, and will probably find it to be quite a fascinating woody note. Mesquite really is extremely different, bordering on the unusual. 

The other thing I puzzle over each and every time that I wear Patchouly Boheme is the eponymous “patchouli” note. This is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, and I’m a “patch head,” as they say. There is a subtle earthiness to the fragrance, yes, and the merest suggestion of something leathered, but none of it translates as “patchouli” to my nose. The core of Patchouly Boheme lies fully in the smoky woods sweetened with a dry, caramel-vanilla, amber note.

Photo: "Mesquite Tree Sunset" by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Mesquite-Tree-Sunset-13878618

Photo: “Mesquite Tree Sunset” by Delusionist on Deviant Art. http://delusionist.deviantart.com/art/Mesquite-Tree-Sunset-13878618

Patchouly Boheme remains that way for the entire first hour, with the “caramel flan” note growing stronger behind the wooden veil with every passing quarter-hour. The perfume is very rich and deep, billowing about in an airy, light cloud that belies the forcefulness of some of its notes. At first, Patchouly Boheme wafts about 3 inches above the skin with 2 good sprays, but the projection starts to drop after 40 minutes.

Each and every time I smell Patchouly Boheme’s opening stage, I spend the whole time trying to dissect the puzzling aroma that I am smelling. There are things in that unspecified “precious woods” accord that go beyond the powerful mesquite element. Cedar, most definitely, in my opinion, but perhaps some vetiver as well? A lot of the times, I think, yes. I also drive myself a little crazy wondering why I detect something vaguely similar to a bitter expresso note underlying all the woods, but no chocolate, spices, greenness, or real earthiness the way patchouli usually manifests.

Photo:  Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Photo: Patricia Bieszk. Source: theadventourist.com

Instead, on occasion, Patchouly Boheme will manifest a slightly medicinal aspect in its opening hour. It’s not the full-on, camphorated muscle-rub or peppermint aroma of true patchouli, but there is definitely something green or herbal lurking deep, deep in the base. Once in a blue moon, if I really spray on a lot of Patchouly Boheme and focus, it almost seems like a dry, smoked peppermint, but, yet, not quite. Actually, I’m pretty certain that I’m grasping at straws in the desperate attempt to smell a more usual, traditional form of patchouli, but that never appears for a good portion of Patchouly Boheme’s lifespan on my skin. It most definitely is not there at the start.

In my opinion, the real cause of that subtle green undertone is Haitian vetiver. I would bet money on it. For one thing, vetiver (along with cedar) is a very traditional complement to patchouli fragrances. That seems especially true in Europe, judging by all the patchouli fragrances that I grew up with, as well as the ones I smelled on my recent trip back. For another, the earth, woody, and green sides to vetiver are a good way to underscore those same facets in patchouli. And, lastly, something about the nuances to the base notes in Patchouly Boheme calls to mind La Via del Profumo‘s Milano Caffé. That is a fragrance where the patchouli is also dominated by and supplemented with Haitian vetiver (and cedar). It’s a very different scent than Patchouly Boheme all in all, but there is a very distant, very faint resemblance in both fragrances’ foundation. I suspect the “bitter expresso” nuance that I detect deep in Patchouly Boheme’s base is the result of some similar combination of woody tonalities, including vetiver.

Source: foodgawker.com

Source: foodgawker.com

My favorite part of Patchouly Boheme’s opening is always that tantalizing, dry, rich, incredibly smooth “caramel flan” accord. It finally emerges in full at the end of the first hour, as though the dry, smoked veil of wood has parted to welcome the ambered vanilla onto center stage. Both accords now stand side-by-side, each infusing the other in a seamless blend. For all that I use the term “caramel flan,” the note is never cloying, overly sweet, or dessert-like; it’s far too airy and dry to be gourmand in nature. Instead, it’s a cozy, dry richness that feels soothing and comforting, which is one of the reasons why I like wearing Patchouly Boheme to bed. And that cozy feel merely grows stronger with time, as the notes in the base start to stir.

About 1.75 hours into its development, Patchouly Boheme turns into a lovely, golden-brown woody scent infused with a rich sweetness. The mesquite wood resemblance has faded away by 65%, leaving an earthier scent with more abstract wood tonalities. I still don’t smell patchouli in the way that I’m used to, however. Instead, there are other notes. There continues to be quite a bit of cedar lurking in the background, adding dryness and a touch of smoke. There is also the tiniest suggestion of dry tobacco leaves, but it’s extremely muffled and nebulous. Much more noticeable, though, is the tonka in the base which is taking on the first whisper of a lightly powdered sweetness. The whole thing is a visual tableau of soft browns, caramels, camel brown, amber, mahogany, and cream in a soft, cozy cloud.

Patchouly Boheme continues to shift in small degrees. At the start of the 3rd hour, the perfume has turned into a smooth tonka-and-vanilla scent that is thoroughly immersed in that odd, unconventional “patchouli” note, dry woods, and a touch of sweetened powder. The fragrance lies just above the skin, perhaps an inch at best. As the dry vanilla and tonka grow more prominent, so too does the tolu balsam. It is my second favorite resin, and it’s incredibly smooth here. Fragrantica and other sites describe Tolu balsam as having a deeply velvety richness with a vanilla aroma that is much darker than that of benzoins. To my nose, however, it is always a very spiced, slightly smoky, rather treacly, dark note with a subtle leathered nuance; it doesn’t feel like a truly vanillic element. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are a some of the perfumes listed by Fragrantica as scents that feature Tolu balsam (or its close sibling, Peru balsam, in some cases): Bal à Versailles, Mona di Orio‘s Ambre, Opium, Ormonde Jayne’s ToluEstée Lauder‘s Youth Dew and Cinnabar, MPG’s Ambre Precieux, Guerlain‘s Chamade, Reminiscence‘s Patchouli Elixir, and many others.

Source: freehdw.com

Source: freehdw.com

In Patchouly Boheme, the Tolu is too smooth to be sticky, very smoky, or hugely dark, but it’s definitely like a balsamic, golden richness with carefully calibrated levels of sweetness, and smokiness. It has a much stronger cinnamon nuance than I’ve encountered before, almost as if the more intense, leathered, and dark elements were refined out of it. It’s a note that works perfectly with the tonka, caramel vanilla, and that strange “patchouli.” I keep thinking about a camel-coloured suede jacket that I once owned; Patchouli Boheme’s drydown has the same sort of soft smoothness and visual colour in my mind.

The perfume continues to realign itself, changing the order and prominence of its notes. The tonka and vanilla slowly make way for the deeply resinous tolu as the dominant note. All traces of mesquite wood have finally vanished, and Patchouly Boheme is now a balsamic amber that is sweet, dry, vanillic, slightly smoky, and lightly dusted with a bit of cinnamon. The scent continues to hover just above the skin, but finally turns into a skin scent around the 5.5 hour mark. To my surprise, an hour later, the patchouli that I’m used to finally emerges. It is still fully swathed in tolu amber resin and tonka, but its red-gold spicy nature is much more apparent. A lingering touch of cedar seems to remain at the perfume’s edges, but it soon fades away entirely.

Source: colourbox.com

Source: colourbox.com

Patchouly Boheme’s drydown is a seamless blend of soft patchouli, amber, and vanillic tonka, and it remains that way largely until its end. In its final moments, the perfume is an abstract blur of soft sweetness. On average, Patchouly Boheme lasts between 9.75 and 10.75 hours on me, depending on whether I use 2 sprays or 3. The sillage is always soft after the start of the 3rd hour, but the dry, golden woodiness is easy to detect until the start of the 6th hour which is when the resinous, amber, and tonka phase kicks in. At no time does Patchouly Boheme ever seem like a patchouli soliflore to me, but one centered either on smoke woods or golden, sweet accords.

On the surface, I think it would be easy to consider Patchouly Boheme as linear, but it definitely has at least 3 distinct phases. The perfume — like all the LM Parfums that I’ve tried — is marked by a smoothness and seamlessness to its notes that masks the slow transition from one stage to another. Patchouly Boheme realigns itself by fractions, so unless you’re sniffing constantly and with focus, you will only see the larger brush strokes. One minute, you’re wafting mesquite barbecue woods, and the next, it seems that the perfume has turned into a cuddly, cozy, tolu resin, amber, and tonka fragrance. However, there are two bridges in-between them: first, that “caramel flan” accord from Ambre Muscadin, and, then, later, the transitional woody-tonka phase.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

Dried Indonesian patchouli leaves via Dior.com.

All the reviews for Patchouly Boheme on Fragrantica are highly complementary. Two people call it a “masterpiece,” one of whom says flat-out that the perfume’s beginning was very difficult for him (or her). In fact, “Cereza” doesn’t seem fond of patchouli fragrances as a whole, but the LM Parfums creation appears to be an exception:

A very high quality patchouli that should be tried by each and every lover of patchouli dominated fragrances. Fantastic silage and stays strong all trough the day.

It opened harsh and medical, almost too much for me as I am not a huge fan of patchouli, but as it settled and calmed down a bit it turned to a fantastic patchouli. It’s earthy, it’s dirty, it’s wild, yet sugary sweet and even mouthwatering (yes patchouli can be that sometimes). It changes all the time, sometimes leather which also is very noticeable in this plays a lead role, so it gets a bit rough, when tobacco and tolu shows themselves it gets sweeter and more feminine.

Really a masterpiece even I who does not wear patchouli frags can appreciate. Give this a go, you won’t be dissapointed.

Another commentator writes:

To me, this is a MASTERPIECE.
Very original, complex and well blended patchouli frag. with notes of tobacco, tonka, leather (light leather) and too sweet in the dry down. Mixed with very good quality in the ingredients.

The best from this house.

Longevity is more than 12 hours and sillage is strong.

scent: 9/10
longevity: 10/10
sillage: 9/10.

Photo by Jianwei Yang, I think. Source: http://www.bhwords.com/2014-02-27/rainy-day/###

Photo by Jianwei Yang, I think. Source: http://www.bhwords.com/2014-02-27/rainy-day/###

The only blog review I could find for Patchouly Boheme came from BL’eauOG who raves about the fragrance. It actually seems to be his favorite from the line. His long review is primarily about LM Parfums and Laurent Mazzone in general, but the portions pertaining to Patchouly Boheme read, in part, as follows:

Patchouly Boheme is very special perfume with great story. For me, it is temptation from the first moment. I consider it as masterpiece of perfume making because it is one of the most opulent perfumes I’ve ever tried. It is so strong and special that you can almost feel the emotions inside. Laurent practically uses perfumers as an instrument because he already has idea, emotion or picture in his head, and through the perfume, he expresses what’s inside of him. Laurent is playing with materials, alpacas are more elegant, silk gets more voluptuous, mohair gets more caressing, gabardines gets more hot. […] That’s why I am captured by Patchouly Boheme. You should try Mona di Orio Musc and compare it with PB and then you’ll see what I am talking about. […][¶]

Patchouly Boheme is very special perfume[….] I like it a lot because you can feel the passion from it, that’s the reason why it is my favorite. […] It is so opulent and “heavy” that the one is instantly drunk of intoxicating notes. Opening is very herbal with the distinctive geranium note but only few minutes later, opulent balsamic notes are most dominant. On my skin it’s like the most reputable resin bathed in precious patchouli, tobacco and tolu balm. Strangely, I don’t get lots of leather. It is herbal patchouli in general with lots of balms. Dry down is soft and delicate. Creamy notes of balms and resins will stay on your skin for hours and hours giving the same boemic feeling. Beautiful and magnificient, that’s the story of LM Parfums you shouldn’t miss because each perfume has significance and it’s little masterpiece!

I obviously experienced a very different scent at the start, but we both seem to have had the same balsamic, resinous, cozy drydown. It’s as beautiful as he says it is, though the “caramel flan” aspect of the middle is just as nice.

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

I realise that not everyone shares my passion for the glories of patchouli, at least the real kind, as opposed to the revolting, purple, fruit-chouli modern variety in so many rose fragrances today. True, spicy, smoky, brown-red patchouli is magnificent and wholly addictive, in my highly biased, personal opinion. LM Parfums’ Patchouly Boheme is a very different creature, however, with a completely original focus that centers on smoked, singed, sweetened woods and balsam resins. I can’t decide if that unique twist on “patchouli” will make the fragrance easier or harder for those who are phobic about the note.

If it’s of any use, I’ve heard that Le Labo‘s Patchouli 24 also has a strong barbecue note. I’ve never tried it, but a brief Google search seems to indicate that people have experienced elements ranging from rubber and cooked meat, to smoked birch notes and fecal tonalities as well. Patchouly Boheme is nothing like that. Not even remotely. However, those of you who are familiar with the smell or taste of smoked mesquite wood should be aware that it is a definite part of the fragrance’s first hour.

As noted above, I found it difficult at first, but I think the rest of Patchouly Boheme makes it a scent that definitely merits some patience. I’ve said quite bluntly that one of my absolute favorite scents, Alahine by Téo Cabanel, requires a bit of Stockholm Syndrome and at least 4 repeated tries, and Patchouly Boheme is in the same category for me. Yet, even in my early tests when I was struggling with the oddness of the mesquite puzzle, the lure of that absolutely delicious caramel-vanilla flan and the subsequent cozy, resinous drydown was hard to resist. In short, you may want to persevere with Patchouly Boheme, and keep in mind that the difficult part only lasts an hour or so.

Of course, if you’re a die-hard patch head, you definitely need to try Patchouly Boheme. It feels really unique to me out of the other options out there in the same genre. Plus, it bears the Mona di Orio signature merged with Laurent Mazzone/LM Parfums’ refined smoothness. I suspect you won’t have encountered anything quite like it.

In all cases, though, I think Patchouly Boheme will take a few tries, and will be one of those “love it or hate it” fragrances.

Disclosure: Perfume provided courtesy of LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers. 

Cost & Availability: Patchouly Boheme is an eau de parfum that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $175, €135, or £135. In the U.S.: LM Parfums is exclusive to Osswald NYC. They currently have Patchouly Boheme in stock but, if, at some point in the future, the link doesn’t work, it’s because Osswald takes down a perfume’s page when they’re temporarily out, then puts it back up later. Outside the U.S.: you can buy Patchouly Boheme directly from LM Parfums. In addition, they offer large decant samples of all LM Parfums eau de parfums which are priced at €14 for 5 ml size. LM Parfums also owns Premiere Avenue which sells both Patchouly Boheme and the 5 ml decant. It ships worldwide. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. They sell Patchouly Boheme for £135. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find Patchouly Boheme at ParfuMaria, while in Italy, it is sold at Vittoria Profumi. The LM Parfums line is also available at the NL’s Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance has Patchouly Boheme along with the full LM Parfums line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, and Italy’s Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. Samples: A number of the sites listed above offer vials for sale. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites carry LM Parfums, but Surrender to Chance has a European Exclusives section that is tucked away. There, they list two (and ONLY two) vials of Patchouli Boheme. Each is 1 ml for $3.99. Other than that, you can call Osswald NYC at (212) 625-3111 to order samples. They have a special phone deal for U.S. customers where 10 samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials is $10 with free shipping. However, they are currently out of vials until mid-March.

LM Parfums Ambre Muscadin

Ambre MuscadinAmbre Muscadin is an unusual fragrance for an amber. It starts off as the dryest, smoked woody fragrance with sharp animalic notes, before ending up as something quite different. Its progression actually reminds me of a horse race where the three dark, woody, smoky, animalic sprinters burst right out of the gate to lead the pack before, suddenly, everything changes. A small, golden, amber gelding and a powerful, creamy, vanilla stallion both surge ahead to tie, neck and neck, with the front-runners, before gradually overtaking them in a long haul. Midway during the race, like Secretariat or Barbaro in days gone by, the mighty vanilla stallion sweeps them all with a flourish.

Ambre Muscadin is a fragrance from LM Parfums, a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone. I’ve met Mr. Mazzone and he is a rather adorable man, with a passion for very classic, but bold, perfumery done with a modern twist. That philosophy is certainly visible in Ambre Muscadin, an eau de parfum (with 15% perfume oil concentration) that was released in 2011. It is unclear who was the nose who collaborated with Mr. Mazzone on the fragrance. Rumour has it that it was the late Mona di Orio, with whom I know Mr. Mazzone was quite close.

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

Atlas cedar. Source: sodahead.com

LM Parfums describes Ambre Muscadin as follows:

The opulence of the atlas cedar adorned with mystery.
A bold violet, a charmer vetyver rise up its natural elegance.
White honey, lascivious vanilla, highlights its facets flesh and velvety. Then Amber reveals its heart of a sensuous mosaic cryptic, balsamic radiates the charms of the Orient …

Top Notes: Mount Atlas cedar, vetiver java, Violet
Heart Notes: Madagascar vanilla absolute, white honey
Base Notes: Siam benzoin, amber, musk

Ambre Muscadin opens on my skin with a ferocious blast of cedar, then vetiver. The notes are all coated with the faintest sliver of vanilla, white honey, amber and a very sharp musk that veers between feeling wholly animalic and, initially, a wee bit synthetic. I must confess, I’m not a particular fan of how Ambre Muscadin begins on me, because it consistently reminds me of some murky cedar swamp, infused with mossy, peaty, smoked vetiver. Once in a while, I think of the cedar chips underlying a hamster’s cage, only this cage is also filled with vetiver, and the whole thing lies under a dome of sharp smokiness, intense dryness, and the feral, urinous whiff of a musky animal. Ambre Muscadin is a very masculine amber on my skin in these opening moments, very much a woody fragrance first and foremost, then animalic, with amber and honeyed vanilla coming in absolutely last on the list.

"Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp" by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

“Young Atlantic White Cedar Swamp” by Jason Howell. http://www.motivepicture.com/?attachment_id=138

Five minutes in, Ambre Muscadin slowly begins to shift. The vetiver becomes as prominent as the cedar, and it smells just like the note in really expensive, single-malt Scotch. The mossy, peaty aroma has a slightly burnt nuance, however, and both woody elements merge together to create something definitely quite leathery in feel on my skin. For some odd reason, the overall bouquet sometime reminds me of a significantly less sweet, drier version of Profumum Roma‘s Arso, only with a slightly honeyed tone, sharp animalism, and very little amber. Ambre Muscadin is hardly as thick, dense, sweet or sticky, but there is something about the profoundly dominant cedar focus of both fragrances, along with their smoked sharpness, that feels distantly related. 

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

The impression is fleeting. The amber in Ambre Muscadin starts to rise to the surface ten minutes into the fragrance’s development. Trailing behind it is the honey which most definitely feels like the white, creamy kind. It is a light touch, never very strongly sweetened, and delicately coated with the sheerest breath of vanilla. Like horses in a race, the notes stalk the front-runners, trying to catch up and tame Ambre Muscadin’s sharpness. They don’t succeed for the next 15 minutes, as that pungently feral, almost civet-like, urinous edge fights with the cedar and vetiver for the lead. It’s not my favorite combination in the world, so it’s quite a relief when the fragrance finally starts to mellow about 20 minutes in. The cedar pipes down to a medium hum, the vetiver feels more woody than burnt, and that animalic pungency is lightly diffused by a sweet, golden warmth.

I frequently feel as though I should write the beginning of this review from the perspective of someone other than myself. I’ve sprayed Ambre Muscadin on a lot of people; at no time has it smelled quite so intensely masculine, dry, woody, or sharp on their skin from the opening burst. In fact, on almost everyone, the aroma bouquet which wafts from the first spray is of a dry, but slightly sweet, caramel flan. Women, men…. it’s always caramel flan. Actually, to be precise, it’s rather more like “sexy flan,” to quote my friend and fellow blogger, Caro of Te de Violetas. She deserves full credit for the term, since she was the first to label it as such. And, yes, lest you are curious, there is a difference between regular flan and “sexy” flan, which all comes down to the degree of sweetness or having a subtle heart of dry darkness amidst the golden hues.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef's cloche. Photo: my own.

Adding a dry, smoked touch to food using a chef’s cloche. Photo: my own.

I end up with “sexy flan” too, but it always takes me a whole hour to even begin to reach that same point. The first step occurs around the 20-minute mark, when the flan slowly merges into the drier, woody top notes, resulting in a cedar fragrance that is still smoked, but now also softly tinged with caramel amber. It’s not a fluffy, gooey, or dessert-y amber by any means. It is light, filled with a musky, animalic edge, and flecked with creamed honey.

Then, at the end of the second hour, Ambre Muscadin finally metamorphoses into pure caramel flan that sits on a plate with a tiny sauce of dry vanilla and atop a thin layer of white honey. There are the merest lingering, smoky traces of dark cedar and vetiver at the edges. Much more noticeable, but temperamental, however, is the animalic musk which hovers around like a ghost. It rears its head from time to time behind the sweetened amber, then traipses off, before popping back in unexpectedly. The musk continues to linger as a slightly urinous, Jack-in-the-Box undercurrent before it finally gives up near the end of the fourth hour, and vanishes.

Source: taste.com.au

Source: taste.com.au

By the start of the fourth hour, I smell rather delicious, even if I do say so myself. Delicate, sheer caramel-vanilla amber coats my skin, with a subtle whisper of honey. the bouquet is still too dry and woody to be really “foodie” in nature, though. In fact, the unusual nature of the vanilla element leads me to think that the rumour may, in fact, be true, and that Mona di Orio might have created this fragrance. For one thing, she loved Bourbon Vanilla extract, but often tried to make it rather dry in nature. Something about the amber-vanilla here reminds me of her Ambre, though Ambre Muscadin thankfully never manifests that fragrance’s heavily powdered nature on my skin.

Instead, Ambre Muscadin is a sheer organza of dry, caramel-vanilla, amber flan that continues to feel smoked and somewhat woody in an abstract way. As time passes, the vanilla starts to overtake even the amber, eventually turning Ambre Muscadin into a fragrance that is primarily a dry, abstractly woody vanilla with only the mildest dusting of sweet benzoin powder. It dies away in much the same way, a full 12.75 hours from the time of the first spray.

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Ambre Muscadin is very pretty in its secondary manifestation, and lasts a prodigiously long amount of time for such a sheer, airy fragrance. On my skin, it was never unctuous, heavy, thick, or very sweet. The sillage was initially moderate, despite the fragrance’s sharpness, and hovered 2-3 inches above the skin. Ambre Muscadin started to soften after the first hour, in both forcefulness, weight, and sillage. It took about four hours to turn into a skin scent on me, but the perfume clung on tenaciously despite its sheerness.

My favorite review for Ambre Muscadin comes from Caro of Te de Violetas, though I notice her detailed description sadly never mentions the utterly wonderful “sexy flan” phrase. (I absolutely love that summation, and can never think of Ambre Muscadin as anything else since the moment I heard it!) According to Caro, it is indeed Mona di Orio who is behind the fragrance. Her review also finds some thematic similarities to the late perfumer’s Ambre, and it reads, in part, as follows:

Ambre Muscadin brings instantly to mind two other fragrances that I love: Mona di Orio Ambre and Editions de Parfums Musc Ravageur. Deeper, sweeter and more intense than any of those two, it also smells less abstract.

The opening is all about cedarwood at its most opulent and resinous. For a moment, I wonder whether this should be renamed Cèdre Muscadin. A dark, velvety violet briefly peeks from underneath the coniferous greenness. Before I can even realise it, I am carried away by a whirlwind of honey, amber and vanillaAmbre Muscadin is thick and sweet but the omnipresent cedarwood note cuts through the sweetness keeping it at bay; consequently the composition never becomes cloying. The drydown is powdery and musky, slightly animalic but not excessively dirty.

There is an aura of nostalgia about Ambre Muscadin, but the result is not passé. Nothing in it smells synthetic and I find it wondefully comforting. Its tenacious vanillic embrace holds me for hours on end.

I’m not in love with Ambre Muscadin the way she is, no doubt due to the fact that I had, quite obviously, a very different experience. From the nature of the musk to our perceptions of Ambre Muscadin’s density, to the peaty vetiver in lieu of violet, my version was substantially drier, woodier, smokier, dirtier, and more pungently animalic. There was more of a modern twist on me, with little sweetness, powder, or aura of nostalgia. Yet, I very much agree with the core of her review, and I think she summed it up well. I most definitely share her feeling that the fragrance seems, at times, to be more aptly described as Cèdre Muscadin. In fact, I wrote the exact same thing in my notes. Verbatim. (That should tell you how much the cedar dominates Ambre Muscadin’s opening phase!)

Caro’s experience seems similar to that of Juraj from BL’eauOG who writes:

Ambre Muscadin … is very powdery and woody oriental. Ambre Muscadin is very soft, thick and sweet perfume with generous amber dry down. It feels like the liquid gold on the skin. Opening of Ambre Muscadin is very woody with vetiver, cedar wood and later on, the softness takes over – vanilla, violet, honey notes. Dry down is made of gold because it has beautiful, soft amber and benzoin. For the grand finale, everything is wrapped with musk.

For Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle, things were a little different. For one thing, the musk was as dominant on his skin for the opening stage as it was on mine. It was also somewhat dirty, though it doesn’t seem to have been half as animalic as my experience. His review reads, in part:

Musk plays a significant role in this perfume. It’s sensual and erotic. Not exactly clean as it has some dirtier facets bringing to mind a view of sweaty, sporty body. Amber is luminous here. Not plastic at all but more mineral, slightly marine-salty with a noticeable tones from cedar wood. Later on vanilla and benzoin amplify the amber accord adding it more depth and weight. They add a creamy and slightly gourmand feeling to the composition of Ambre Muscadin. The notes of amber, musk, honey, entwine with each other creating a harmony of aromas.

Most of the people upon whom I sprayed Ambre Muscadin had slightly different experiences from all the above-mentioned bloggers, and even myself. To my surprise, on two of the four people’s skins, the opening had very little cedar and no animalic pungency at all. On one person, Ambre Muscadin was almost entirely a dry, slightly smoky caramel-vanilla flan from the very start. On all of them, I never detected any thickness or strong sweetness. And the sillage was incredibly discrete on two of them after a mere hour, though the longevity was excellent as it usually is for all LM Parfums. 

I generally like Ambre Muscadin, but only after its sharp opening has passed. In fairness, however, the perfume seems to be a little bit of a chameleon, with the nature of that starting phase depending largely on individual skin chemistry. While I may not be swooning over the fragrance as a whole, or tempted to reach for it frequently, I do think Ambre Muscadin is well done. If you’re a huge fan of cedar perfumes, Mona di Orio’s fragrance style, and/or dry, woody, amber-vanillas, I think it’s definitely worth a test sniff.

Disclosure: My sample of Ambre Muscadin was provided by Laurent Mazzone of LM Parfums. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

Cost & Availability: Ambre Muscadin is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. It costs $175, €125 or £125. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. Unfortunately, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently offer samples of this fragrance. However, Osswald offers a special sample offer for its US customers where any 10 fragrances are available in 1 ml vials for $10, with free domestic shipping. You have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Ambre Muscadin directly from LM Parfums for €195. Samples are also available for €14, and come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols which sells the Eau de Parfums for £125. In France, you can find all the LM Parfums, along with the 5 ml samples of each, at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, it’s sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells Ambre Muscadin for €125, in addition to samples. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find the line at ParfuMaria. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. 

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Eau Absolue (Les Nombres d’Or)

A lazy day in the sun. The summer’s heat brings out the spiciness of the sugar cane and Jamaican bay trees in the distance. Oranges and lemons hang heavy from the trees in a grove nearby. As the heat warms your body even further, you stretch out on your chaise lounge by the pool and reach for a refreshing glass of lemonade. And then you slather sweet, citrus-infused honey on yourself as if it were suntan lotion.



Images of sun, heat, honey and citrus are what come to mind when I wear Eau Absolue, the latest release from Mona di Orio and part of her Nombres d’Or Collection. Mona di Orio was an extremely talented perfumer who died tragically at the age of 41 in 2011 from post-surgical complications. Yet, the new Eau Absolue is her creation, based on a formula made by Ms. Orio before her death as an ode to the Mediterranean. According to an article on Now Smell This, Mona di Orio’s business partner and the company’s co-founder,Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, was determined to remain faithful to her formula, her vision, her style and her legacy, so her formula has not been altered in any way.

Mona di Orio Eau AbsoluePart of that Mona di Orio signature style is something called “Chiaroscuro.” It is a term which refers to the interplay between dark and light, and a way of creating depth or three-dimensionality by using sharp, bold contrasts. The chiaroscuro construction is very much at play in Eau Absolue which is described on the Mona di Orio website as a “Hesperide Woody Balsamic” with the following character:

Eau Absolue is a memoir steeped in Mona di Orio’s love for the Mediterranean. Composed in her signature olfactory chiaroscuro construction, the scent envelopes in joyous warmth.

Eau Absolue effervesces like a summer breeze carrying a zestful bouquet of bergamot, mandarin, clementine and Petitgrain. These bright, convivial citruses splash against the epicurean spice of pink peppercorn.

The scent becomes earthy and softly floral, with whispers of geranium, dry vetiver and balsamic St Thomas Bay Leaf. The nocturnal shade intensifies, arching ever deeper, until plunging directly into a caress of cistus labdanum, the ambry smell of the Mediterranean, and sensual musk, an elegant and intoxicating denouement.

Eau Absolue Notes:
Sicilian bergamot, clementine and Petitgrain Citronnier, Litsea Cubeba from China, Egyptian geranium, vetiver from Java & Haiti, Jamaican St. Thomas Bay Leaf, pink peppercorn from Peru, cedar wood from Virginia, musk, cistus labdanum.

A brief explanation of some of these notes may be useful. According to my research, Litsea Cubeba (or “May Chang”) oil comes from an evergreen tree or shrub native to China. It possesses a lemon-like odor that has sometimes been compared to lemongrass or lemon verbena, thought it is supposedly sweeter than lemongrass. As for Jamaican St. Thomas Bay Leaf (Pimenta racemosa), its aroma isn’t like that of the dried leaves used in cooking. Instead, it is said to have a spicy, balsam-like odor that is like a resin, though some say it’s also a little like cloves due to all the eugenol in the plant.

Orange and lemon via Herbal Teas InternationalFrom the very first sniff, Eau Absolue is a rich lemon-honey fragrance. The honey is not dark but sweet, imbued with delicate floral notes and strong dashes of that litsea cubeba. It really smells as described: like lemongrass but sweeter; like verbena but richer and without any soapiness. It’s heady and beautiful. There is also a subtle, sweet muskiness underlying the notes. Slowly, slowly, as if on tiptoes, there is: a hint of juicy, fresh mandarin orange; the spicy resin of the St. Thomas Bay leaf; a ghostly bit of petitgrain with its bitter, woody nuance; and the merest pinches of cedar.

Source: Mobiwalt.com

Source: Mobiwalt.com

And that generally is the sum-total of the entire fragrance for most of its lifespan on my skin. Eau Absolue fluctuates in the depth, degree or intensity of some of its notes, but the primary bouquet remains the same with absolutely no change or additions. Even out of those original notes, the main, dominant scent on my skin is a lovely lemon-infused honey with spicy resin, orange and a whisper of musk — the remaining notes merely circle around the back like shadows in the sunlight. Around the 40 minute mark, the honey turns richer, deeper, and darker, while also taking on a slightly sulfurous nuance, similar to that in Vero Profumo‘s Onda. I don’t mind it, but it can be a little sharp for a while.

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Two hours into the perfume’s development, Eau Absolute softens, losing a bit of that edge, while simultaneously becoming even more resinous, spicy and balsamic as the St. Thomas bay leaf becomes much more prominent. Interestingly, there is also a sudden, but subtle, flicker of smokiness to the base which intensifies as times goes on. If Eau Absolue were a recipe, it would now be something like this: 2 cups of honey with 3 teaspoons of sun-sweetened lemon; 2 teaspoons of spicy resin; a teaspoon of warm, juicy orange; a teaspoon of dark smoke; and a dash of light, soft, sweet musk.

Source: 123rf.com

Caramelized sugar cane cubes. Source: 123rf.com

The perfume remains that way until the drydown starts at the top of the sixth hour when Eau Absolue turns into sweetened, spicy woodiness infused by smoky, caramelized honey and the merest hint of orange. The smoky nuance is fascinating because it’s almost like singed sugar cane, both the leaf and the sugar cubes itself. It’s beautifully warm, woody, dry, spicy, and molten — all at once. There is also an occasional note of melted wax, as if the honey had deepened to the point that it had turned into solid beeswax and then been melted. It’s not prominent and is just a subtext to the overall honey note, but it’s there. Another note that has deepened is the musk which has now taken on an ambery quality. It’s not animalic, raunchy or intimate at all on me, but feels more like the light muskiness from heated, sweetened skin. The whole combination is incredibly light and airy, though it is also a skin scent at this point.

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

The drydown begins at the sixth hour, but Eau Absolue is by no means finished. On my voracious, perfume-consuming skin, Eau Absolute lasted almost another 8 hours! Granted, I frequently thought it had vanished, only to be surprised by its tenaciousness as it chugged away subtly and silently as the most infinitesimal veil. In its final three hours, Eau Absolue turned into general, abstract, nebulous, sweet muskiness and nothing more. All in all, it lasted just short of 14 hours on me, even if was an amorphous, sheer skin scent for eight of those hours. The longevity was astounding, especially as I did not apply any more than my usual quantity. In terms of sillage, it was quite powerful at the start, radiating out a good 5-6 inches for the first hour before becoming a little bit softer. Even when the perfume was wafting only an inch or so above my arm, the notes were still potent and very strong within that small cloud.

I am a sucker for honey fragrances, so I absolutely adored Eau Absolue, but I must advise caution when it comes to this perfume. Honey is one of those notes which can turn rancid, intimately animalic, funky, or sour on one’s skin, depending on skin chemistry. And the same applies to labdanum which can often manifest itself with a honey characteristic. I’ve noticed that my skin not only amplifies labdanum, but also minimizes the barnyard aspect, one of its many possible nuances. While I’m lucky that both honey and labdanum bloom on me, that’s not the case with everyone. Take, for example, a friend of mine who is an experienced perfumista and whose skin chemistry normally works well even with a rich, musky, labdanum, slightly animalic perfume like Maison Francis Kurkdjian‘s stunning Absolue Pour Le Soir. She had an atrocious experience with Mona di Orio’s Eau Absolue. She gave me permission to quote her private description to me: Eau Absolue “was instant nose wrinkling, gasping, rotten, fermented body odor and stinky shoes.” Oh dear.

I think my skin chemistry’s interaction with labdanum explains why I found “honey” to be the primary essence of Eau Absolue on me, while other reviewers had quite a different experience. For example, it was all green, citric, soapy, animalic notes for Now Smell This whose review reads, in part:

Eau Absolue is citrusy, but because of the perfume’s weight and other notes it smells to me more like a green fragrance with bergamot, lemon, and orange rather than like a classic Eau de Cologne. On first sniff, Eau Absolue is thick with a mélange of tart citrus rind and smashed green stems. Bay leaf smoothes away any sharp edges, and an underpinning of cedar casts an almost horsey-animalic note deep in the perfume’s heart.

All in all, Eau Absolue feels clean and green-fresh, reminding me of an expensive bar of artisanal soap. Over time the citrus ebbs, and the fragrance becomes a tiny bit sweeter but remains green. Eventually it gracefully fades, growing quieter, but still true to the perfume’s overall story. Like the other Mona di Orio fragrances I’ve tried, it’s dense and warm, not an airy tingle of citrus like, say, Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale.

Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle also got lots of green notes, along with a very pulpy citrus opening (that he briefly found to be reminiscent of household cleaners), then petitgrain, big doses of geranium, light cedar, a slightly burnt and mineralized amber and, in the final drydown, a “sweaty feel” to the base. He was not a fan.

As always, my experience was closest to that of The Non-Blonde (we really must have extremely similar skin), though she doesn’t seem to have experienced heaps of honey:

Eau Absolue opens with a rather misleading burst of citrus. It’s bracing and lemony, dry and slightly bitter like a very grownup drink. This early summer morning is followed closely by unfolding layers of crisp aromatics, woods and spices that surround and protect a resinous-incense core. Cistus labdanum can turn quite dirty and musky. In Eau Absolue Mona di Orio kept the barnyard at a safe distance, though there is an animalic presence in the late dry-down. Somehow the fragrance manages not to get its white shirt soiled even though it steps dangerously close at times.

The juxtaposition of clean and dirty notes makes the dry-down of Eau Absolue very enchanting. It’s warm and slightly ambery, you can almost feel and smell crumbling soil that has soaked sunshine and clean air all day. Eau Absolue is almost bursting with life– it’s zesty, peppery, and just animalic enough to feel the heartbeat under the surface.

Sunshine and warmth, after the start of a cool citrus drink. It’s very much what Eau Absolue evoked in me, too. And that impression extended as well to a reviewer on Fragrantica who called Eau Absolue “breathtakingly beautiful” with a “warm and summery… Mediterranean vibe[.]” (The only other review currently up on Fragrantica simply says: “it is a cologne, yet rather animalic.”) 

My suggestion to you is to try Eau Absolue if you know your skin chemistry works well with animalic notes, honey and/or labdanum. I didn’t think the perfume was animalic at all (beyond general, light muskiness), and The Non-Blonde thought Eau Absolue kept “the barnyard at a safe distance,” but if your skin tends to amplify those notes and, more importantly, if you hate the result, then you may feel the distance is not far enough. As for me, I adored Eau Absolue’s beautiful honey-citrus essence and plan on getting a decant for myself — something I’m not frequently inspired to do. I don’t think I’ll want to smell of honey every day and I don’t know how versatile it is, but I find something incredibly soothing, comforting, cozy and relaxing about Eau Absolue. I swear, I think my blood pressure and stress level went down two notches while wearing it. I give it two thumbs up.

Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Eau Absolue is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230, €160 or £135.00. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website which also sells a 5 ml roll-on version for €12 or a Travel Set of 3 x 10ml bottles for €85. There is also a Nombres d’Or Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml bottles which is sold for €90 and, for the company’s website version at least, Eau Absolue is included. (Boxes from other vendors don’t seem to have been updated yet to include this brand new fragrance.) In the U.S.: you can find Eau Absolue at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). All three places sell samples of the perfume. LuckyscentParfum1 sell the Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or for $145, while MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Luckyscent’s version of the box doesn’t currently include Eau Absolue since it is so new, so you may want to buy the set offered directly from Mona di Orio’s website if you’re interested in trying Eau Absolue as well. You can also purchase a bottle of Eau Absolue in the 100 ml size from Olfactif which has a perfume subscription service. Outside the U.S: In the UK, you can find Eau Absolue at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. In the Netherlands, Eau Absolue is carried at Skin Cosmetics. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a sample for purchase. In the United Arab Emirates, the Mona di Orio line is sold at Harvey Nichols. In Australia, Eau Absolue is available at Melbourne’s Peony Haute Perfumerie for AUD $230. For all other countries from Russia to Spain, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: Samples are available at Surrender to Chance or The Perfumed Court (both of whom sells vials starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml), at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Ambre (Les Nombres d`Or Collection)

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans.

The chef’s kitchen was airy and sparkling white, almost dainty at times. So too was his mise en place: small crystal bowls filled with ylang-ylang, a silver tray covered with the finest Madagascar vanilla bean pods, and a large pile of cedar. He began with the vanilla pods, slicing them horizontally, scooping out the tender flesh inside and grinding it to a thick paste. He added some butter, a few yolks and gallons of cream, then whipped the whole thing into the airiest custard possible. Nay, actually, by the time he finished, it was more like a vanilla custard mousse, flecked with bits of the black bean pod.

Chef Tre Ghoshal via Flickr.

Chef Tre Ghoshal via Flickr.

The chef was a talented man who believed in invention and originality in his food, so he turned his attention to the ylang-ylang. It was a rich, buttery, heady flower that felt very yellow to him. So he ground it down into an emulsion filled with a few pinches of butter. He thought it would bring out the flower’s intrinsic nature. He took the emulsion, folded it into the vanilla mousse and then set about for the twist: he whipped in the lightest pinch of black pepper, and covered the whole thing with a veil of white, confectioner’s powder. With great care, he placed the bowl of powdered vanilla-ylang-ylang mousse over a smoker filled with cedar chips. As he set fire to the wood, its delicate smoke wafted up into the air. The chef added a glass dome over the contraption, trapping the smoke and letting its delicate tendrils seep into the powdered, floral, vanilla custard mousse. Phase One was complete.

Chef Michael Gillet of The Bazaar by José Andrés. Photo: Antoinette Bruno. Source: Starchefs.com

Chef Michael Gillet of The Bazaar by José Andrés. Photo: Antoinette Bruno. Source: Starchefs.com

Phase Two was almost a completely separate affair. About three hours after the frothy, airy smoked-infused mousse was finished, when all the powder had vanished, and only woody elements really remained, he waved his culinary magician’s hand over the creation and turned it to amber. He would never reveal his secret of how he made his dessert suddenly turn into something very different — far from the almost Guerlainade-like opening with its dainty vanillic powder and the unexpected cedar smoke atop that airy, custard mousse — but it was different.

Golden Champagne via PicStopinSuddenly, it was ambered, golden-bronze, dryer, smokier, spicier, and with a surprisingly unexpected undertone of nutty hazelnut. Or was it actually a light dusting of marron glacé? Whether it was glazed chestnuts or toasted hazelnuts, he would never tell, but everyone who tasted his ambered vanilla wondered. Their greatest surprise, however, was the complete disappearance of the powder, to be replaced by something that would have been boozy had it not been so gauzy and lightweight. It didn’t matter — they liked it. Even the critic who normally despised anything with a gourmand character liked it. Not enough perhaps to go out and actually buy it, but the critic would absolutely eat it again if it ever fell into his lap.

The chef’s tale is really the tale of Mona di Orio‘s Ambre, a surprising perfume that perhaps doesn’t warrant the name “Amber” for the full first half of its development but which I liked quite a bit. It is an extraordinarily easily, wearable perfume that traverses from being a slightly modern twist on Guerlainade — Guerlain’s signature of vanillic powder that is at the base of all their classic perfumes — to a completely different end of the spectrum. In a way, it’s almost as if Mona di Orio has upended the usual Guerlain pyramid that traditionally starts with one thing and ends with vanilla powder. This is the complete reverse. And, at all times, it’s light, airy, almost frothy and cheerful, with unexpected twists of cedary smoke, bits of pepper, and then, later, boozy amber whipped into gauzy air.

Mona di Orio AmbreAmbre was released in 2010 as part of Mona di Orio‘s Les Nombres d`Or Collection. It is an is an eau de parfum, though Luckyscent and Fragrantica both erroneously list it as an eau de toilette. The company categorizes it otherwise and, naturally, we’ll go with their designation. Mona di Orio’s website describes Ambre as follows:

As delightfully sensual as bias-cut silk, Ambre draws you in to its world with curls of smoky amber. Cedar draws you further into the mystery while vanilla adds a slightly sweet resinous kick that can’t help but delight. Ylang ylang adds a glaze of innocent soapiness to the Film-Noir aspects, but never completely obscures them; who would want to? Easily as at home, at a ball or an intimate evening out, Ambre manages to be both reminiscent of something from long ago yet as fresh as tomorrow, and always very, very French.

Its notes include:

Cedarwood from Atlas, Ylang Ylang from Comores, Benzoin, Tolu [amber resin], Absolu Vanilla from Madagascar.

Source: Soapgoods.com

Source: Soapgoods.com

The very first blast of Ambre on my skin is vanilla. Rich, concentrated, almost buttered, and very much like the paste that you scrape out of a black Madagascar vanilla pod. Immediately on its heels come the bucketfuls of the ylang-ylang. The flower’s similarly buttered, rich, almost banana-like nature feels almost velvety. When combined with the vanilla, result is the overwhelming impression of a thick vanilla custard — except this one feels so light, it might as well have been whipped into a mousse! The pairing of the two rich notes is prevented from being cloying or overly sweet by a heavy dose of cedar, adding a lovely, dry counterbalance to the perfume’s richness. It’s not peppery but, rather, more akin to tendrils of woody smoke. Amber is the last one on the scene, smelling like vanillic benzoin instead of anything thick, balsamic and molten like Tolu.

For my tastes, this is much more my sort of “vanilla” than Mona di Orio’s super-popular Vanille (also from Les Nombres d’Or collection) which I thought was painfully excessive in its buttered undertones and sweetness. Then again, I cannot abide gourmand perfumes as a general rule, and I rarely succumb to any vanilla fragrances to begin with. Perhaps the appeal of Ambre is that the vanilla is not meant to be the primary focus but, rather, second or third to the floral and woody notes; it falls much more in the oriental category than in any gourmand one. I know that when I think of Ambre, months from now, I will always think of it first and foremost as a vanilla perfume infused with florals and smoke, before having to remind myself about the amber.

Source: Wisegeek.com

Source: Wisegeek.com

I was musing on the issue of Ambre’s surprising appeal when, suddenly, less than three minutes in, I was hit by a huge wave of powder. It isn’t like makeup powder or talc but, instead, evokes a white veil of confectioner’s sugared powder suddenly blanketing my vanilla-ylang-ylang-smoke mousse. It takes over Ambre completely, dominating the top notes and leaving the ylang-ylang to peek up from underneath.

When the powder combines with the vanilla, the result calls to mind a riff on Guerlainade, the signature base for classic Guerlain perfumes. Here, it’s much tamer than in the old French classics, mostly due to the impact of the cedar. Though it seems completely non-existent in any individually distinctive way, the note’s effects are present in a certain dry, smoky woodiness at the base that alleviates that Guerlainade a little. Mona di Orio’s airiness is another difference which impacts the nature of the powder. In Guerlain perfumes, especially in its vintage beauties, the famous signature base can sometimes feel very heavy and plush. It’s also often marked by orris root which creates a makeup or lipstick impression. Here, however, the absence of the orris root — and the presence of the smoky wood in a perfume that is quite airy overall — shifts the Guerlainade-like note away from the full-on, traditional, makeup powder and to something much more modern. To me, it feels closer to confectioner’s powder with its sweetened nature, but I know others smelled only lipstick.

Less than fifteen minutes into Ambre’s development, it starts to shift a little, like a mousse that is starting to settle. Its sillage drops and the perfume softens. It feels incredibly floaty (to invent a word), hovering like gauze just an inch above the skin. The notes have blended into a perfect whole: powder-and-vanilla-custardy-mousse-with-florals-and-light-smoke. And it remains that way for quite a while, with only minor changes. Slowly, the vanilla feels less custardy and much lighter, while the powder element slowly starts to drop in prominence. The cedar with its light tinges of smoke begins to rise much more to the surface until, suddenly, three hours in, Ambre has completely changed. Now, it is smokier, dryer and with an unexpected booziness that definitely feels like the super-rich amber resin, Tolu Balsam. The powder has finally become less predominant, though it continues to mix and meld with the vanilla. In the background, subtle tinges of ylang-ylang adds some subtle, creamy, velvety richness.

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

For the most part, however, the impact of the powder and floral notes is minimal because Ambre has finally begun to match its name. Tolu Balsam is one of my favorite ambers because of its spicy nuance and its slightly smoky feel that, here, is further accentuated by the cedar. The wood, in turn, has shifted a little to reveal a tone that just almost, just barely, verges on peppered. And the whole thing sits atop a base of warm, cozy, rich vanilla infused by smoke. There are flickers of something interesting in that combination of Tolu and concentrated vanilla: nuttiness. There is definitely an undertone that calls to mind roasted hazelnuts with the smallest, faintest suggestion of marron glacé. The whole thing is extremely subtle, almost ghostly, especially given the strong vanilla note, but I found myself sniffing my arm in appreciation for its occasional flickers here and there. As a whole though, the perfume is primarily a vanillic-amber in nature.

I wish Ambre had remained that way for a while, but it didn’t. The lovely, spicy Tolu Balsam phase lasted just over two hours — and almost as a skin scent at that. Finally, about 5.5 hours in the perfume’s development, the drydown begins. It begins as a simple, vanillic, benzoin amber that has the smallest suggestion of woodiness and powder. It’s so sheer and light, you have to forcefully inhale at your arm to detect it. Finally, just short of the eighth hour, Ambre fades even more to become nothing more than a general, amorphous, woody-vanilla flicker.

Most people seem to classify Ambre as … well, an amber perfume. To me, and on my skin, it was primarily a vanilla. Not a gourmand vanilla, thank God, but definitely a vanilla. And I liked this “vanilla” significantly more than the perfumista favorite from Mona di Orio: Vanille. I truly couldn’t handle it, though I still recommend Vanille for those who enjoy sweet perfumes and want a non-traditional vanilla fragrance with a twist. My problem is that I cannot abide excessive sweetness. As a result, Vanille was too, too much, but — like Goldilock’s porridge — Ambre was the perfect balance with its floral, dry wood, and smoke notes. Taking the issue of relativity even further, as someone who worships potent, massively opaque, moltenly resinous Orientals, I find it well-nigh impossible to think of the perfume as an “Amber.” The strength of that vanilla absolute, even in the drydown phase, makes it the dominant note in my mind.

On that same scale, I have to rate Ambre as a very airy, gauzy fragrance. Others seem to agree, though the term a number of people use on Fragrantica and elsewhere is “silky” instead of “airy.” They also find the sillage to be, on average, very “moderate.” In terms of longevity, the largest amount of votes is for “moderate,” followed then by “long-lasting.”

The consensus seems to end there, however, as reviews for the perfume itself on Fragrantica are sharply split. One commentator, “Hélio Sérgio Rocha,” picked up on the two separate phases of the perfume, writing:

The opening is sweet, powdery and light. [¶] The Ylang Ylang gives a sweet floral aspect to this scent and i can feel some honey too.

Then this perfume gets smoky and silky itself. [¶] I do not see on it distinct phases on the ofactory pyramid, but I feel a combination of two different phases: a sweeter one; and darker another. […] 

Funny how this scent starts with a luminous amber and ends with an resinous aspect, so dark, mysterious and smoky. [¶]  

I felt i was wearing a silk made cloth as a second skin of mine …  [Paragraph and format alterations are my own, due to length.]

Many share his feelings, writing about how Ambre is an incredibly “cozy,” warm, “spiced,” amber fragrance that was “refined and elegant,” or “heaven in a bottle.” (The word “cozy” comes up repeatedly.)

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, however, are those who shudder at Ambre’s powder, finding it to be far too excessive and, as a result, a complete deal-breaker. One woman thought the opening smelled just like baby powder, though she really liked the spicy amber phase (where she, too, smelled a nut-like undertone). And a good portion of men found the perfume to be too feminine, with one writing that it was “not unisex at all in my mind.”

As noted above, I really didn’t find the powder note to be akin to makeup or lipstick, and on my skin, it was far from overwhelming. I don’t like a lot of powder, especially if it smells like makeup or, even worse, like baby powder, so I would tell you if I detected that on my skin. I didn’t. In fact, I actually liked the powder stage a little — perhaps because of the rich ylang-ylang-custard-vanilla-smoke combination underneath it. Plus, I truly believe that the dry, smoky cedar note (and the absence of orris root) prevents the perfume from being very much like lipstick. Nonetheless, I completely agree with much of the other comments about how the amber stage was more enjoyable in its cozy spiciness, and how Ambre leans quite feminine. I don’t think this is a perfume that anyone should purchase blindly.

While I myself would never buy Ambre, I would absolutely wear it if a bottle somehow fell into my lap. I’d wear it frequently, in fact, and for one simple reason: it’s an incredibly easy perfume. I can see this as fitting a wide variety of circumstances, but especially when you’re in a rush and want to spray something simple while you’re on your way out the door. Ambre is the furthest thing from revolutionary, complicated, or novel. It’s hardly a masterpiece, and isn’t even particularly interesting on some levels. But it’s one of those very practical, daily staple-like perfumes that could be a good workhorse scent for someone who would like a little cozy comfort, a little sweetness, and a good amount of vanilla (with light amber) and no gourmand tendencies. Unfortunately, I think a full bottle costs a damn sight too much at $230 for such a simple, staple scent. On the other hand, that price is for a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle, and there are much cheaper alternatives available in terms of travel sets and minis. Plus, as I always say, price is a very subjective, personal matter.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that Ambre is not a perfume that will drive people wild with enthusiasm and excitement. But we all need perfumes that are easy, breezy, simple basics; perfumes that you can just spray and go. If you can handle some powder (or, perhaps, a lot of powder?), then Ambre fits the bill nicely.

Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Les Nombres d`Or Ambre is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website. In the U.S., you can find it at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). There is also a Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or collection which Mona di Orio sells for €90, and Luckyscent/ Parfum1 for $145. MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Mona di Orio also offers a Travel Set of just the Ambre perfume in 3 bottles of 10 ml each, with the whole set priced at €85 (or about $110 with today’s currency conversion rate). That set is not offered at Luckyscent or Parfum1. In the UK, you can find Ambre at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. The perfume is also carried on Roullier White in the UK. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. In the Netherlands, it is carried at Skin Cosmetics, but they say that they are out of stock at the moment. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a Travel Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles for €85, and a smaller sample for purchase. In the United Arab Emirates, it’s sold at Harvey Nichols. In Australia, it’s sold at Melbourne’s Peony Haute Perfumerie for AUD $230. For all other countries from Russia to Spain, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: I obtained mine from Surrender to Chance which sells them starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. Of course, you can also find samples at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Vanille (Les Nombres d`Or Collection)

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Source: The Guggenheim Museum.

There is something strangely captivating about Vanille from the highly admired perfume house of Mona di Orio. Vanille is part of Les Nombres d`Or Collection, and it is not your standard vanilla at all. Actually, the best way to sum up the perfume Vanille might be through analogy to the work of the famous painter, Mark Rothko, with his “Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red) 1949.” Like that painting, the perfume starts out as blood-red orange — and I mean that quite literally. Then, it turns into orange with the merest hints of yellow, before slowly transforming into creamy custardy yellow, custardy yellow on a darker, smoky, woody base, and, finally, into the palest of cream.

I wasn’t a fan of the blood-orange phase, and found Vanille’s opening to be almost a little nauseating, but the middle to end phases captured my interest. Almost against my will, I might add. Those of you who have read me for any amount of time know that I like neither very sweet perfumes nor gourmand ones. But, again, this is not your standard vanilla perfume. You might even argue that it is an Oriental-Gourmand hybrid at times, and one which merely happens to be heavily based on raw, concentrated vanilla. In the end, and taken as a whole, Mona di Orio Vanille was not my personal cup of tea, but I would definitely recommend it to those who adore non-traditional vanilla fragrances.

Mona di OrioThe company’s website explains the inspiration and character of the perfume, with a key point about how their key note differs from that used in some other vanilla perfumes:

When composing Vanille, Mona di Orio imagined a romantic back story involving an old ship from long ago, on its way to Madagascar or the Comoros Islands, carrying precious cargo: rum barrels, oranges, vanilla beans, ylang-ylang, cloves and sandalwood …
Gourmand, smoky, and boozy with a subtle aromatic orange note lingering in the background, Vanille is one Bateau Ivre of perfectly blended notes that will derange your senses with its sensuality.Vanille opens with a shot of rum flavoured with orange rind and spiced with cloves. Amber and tonka further warm up this brew as ylang-ylang’s sharp sweetness joins with rich vanilla. Gaiac wood adds incensey smoke as woody notes from vetyver and sandalwood help to create an elegant finish.

But the real star of the show, not surprisingly, is vanilla. Instead of using ethyl vanillin, one of vanilla’s main components that can come across as powdery and sugary, di Orio used pure vanilla in this elixir. For a moment — amid this elegant orchestral arrangement of notes in the key of Vanilla — the pulpy, sensual creaminess of a split vanilla bean is right there in front of your nose. Delicious!

The exact notes are as follows:

Bitter Orange from Brazil, Rhum Absolute, Petitgrain, Clove, Vanilla from Madagascar, Tolu [Balsam, a resin], Gaiac Wood, Vetyver, Sandalwood, Ylang-Ylang, Tonka Bean, Leather, Musk, Amber.

"The Orange Album - Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery" by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

“The Orange Album – Abstract Art, Custom Painting, Imagery” by Bob Shelley at CustomMade.com

Vanille opens on my skin with a veritable explosion of orange in every form and variation possible. There is what feels like the most concentrated form of floral orange blossom, along with loads of highly sweetened blood orange, browned and very bitter petitgrain, and rummy Bourbon. This is orange to the Nth degree — sometimes blood-red in nature; heavily dark twig-brown; sometimes rum-like orange-brown, and always sweet. So, so sweet. Frankly, I’m a little overwhelmed.

Orange blossom is not listed in the notes but it is one of the most prominent notes to my nose during those opening minutes. Mona di Orio Vanille doesn’t feel like pulpy, orange or citrus fruits, but more like a combination of neroli and petitgrain. It has an oddly buttery feel to it — and I’m talking about actual melted butter. There are also touches of gaiac wood, the merest suggestion of cloves, and strong vetiver, all over a dry, smoky, vanilla base with cups of bitter petitgrain, and galloping gallons of Bourbon.

Bourbon is an American type of whiskey that is extremely sweet, and tinged with the wood from the charred-oak caskets in which it is aged. The alcohol note in Vanille has been compared to rum but, to me, it’s more akin to the woody, smoked aspect of sweet Bourbon. And it is such a huge part of the opening that the only way to really describe it all is to coin a new word: Bourbon-ized. Every note in the perfume is coated with Bourbon, but the main thrust is bourbonized orange blossom.

Vanilla BeansAfter about 5 minutes, the perfume starts to shift a little. Vanilla starts to rise to the surface. It is just like a freshly sliced vanilla pod; rich, raw, custardy, and potent. It immediately impacts the other notes, softening the orange blossom and taming the bitter petitgrain to something a little less sharp. It serves to alleviate some of the heavier aspects of the perfume that were, to me, unbearably cloying. And, with every passing moment, the sweetness drops — matched by a converse rise in the fragrance’s dry notes.

Less than fifteen minutes into the perfume’s development, Mona di Orio Vanille begins to turn into something much more nuanced and balanced. The pepper, smoke and woody notes appear (much to my relief) in a more individually distinct form. The gaiac wood is backed by the merest suggestion of cloves and earthy vetiver, but it is the slow, quiet, almost muted suggestion of smokiness in the background that I prefer. The perfume is still incredibly potent, rich and heavy, but it is not a cupcake sugariness or something that is purely gourmand. However, it is still far, far too rich for those who like airy, gauzy, sheer perfumes.

Clarified butter.

Clarified butter. Source: Sodahead.com

The note which perplexes me is something that definitely evokes the aroma of melted, clarified butter. I cannot explain it, but it is inescapable. I’ll tell you a brief story of my experience the other day. I planned to test the perfume, opened the vial to give it a sniff, but, then, suddenly, realised the time and that I had to go to my book club meeting. Unbeknownst to me, I must have gotten faint traces of Vanille on my fingers. Well, for the next two hours, I kept asking my hostess, “What is that smell of melted butter and vanilla?” She looked at me blankly, especially as I kept sniffing the air, my shirt, and parts of her kitchen like some sort of crazy person. I thought it may have been one of her hot, very buttered rolls that she had out, but it didn’t smell anything like the aroma that was haunting me. Finally, I realised that the scent came from two of my fingers. It was Mona di Orio’s Vanille. And, I’m telling you, it was just like the most concentrated form of highly sweetened, pure vanilla extract in a saucepan of bright yellow, sweet cream, Bourbon butter, with a touch of orange petitgrain. The note was there during both of my two, full tests of the perfume — and I really didn’t like it. Something about it called to mind the large canisters of cloying, heavy, butter oil that American movie cinemas use on popcorn.

Forty minutes into the development of the perfume, Mona di Orio Vanille is a strong vanilla custard with buttered Bourbon, followed by orange blossom, and muted hints of smoke and wood. On me, both the clove note and the dry, wood, smoke combination are significantly less than what others on Fragrantica and elsewhere have reported. Then, things start to get interesting. There is the merest whiff of ylang-ylang which just grows stronger as the time passes.

Less than 90 minutes in, the perfume becomes a wonderfully balanced, mellow, smooth, floral vanilla custard. The vanilla is still the dominant note, but it is tinged with airy ylang-ylang. The creaminess of the vanilla is perfectly complemented by the custardy, banana-like aspects of the flower which is, itself, balanced by its sheerness and lightness. Underneath it all, there are whispers of orange blossom, woods and vetiver. The buttery note is much more muted now (thank God), and the perfume feels significantly less opaque, gooey and unctuously sweet. In fact, even the sillage has dropped to a perfect amount, projecting in such a small cloud around you.

I started to smile and sniff my arm with some enthusiasm exactly two and a half hours in, when the sandalwood appeared. Creamy, soft, luxurious, rich sandalwood was intertwined sinuously with the vanilla, creating a silky, smooth, wonderfully blended scent. There were some mysteriously tantalizing hints of smoke and woodiness in the background that made Vanille seem a little more like an Oriental/Gourmand hybrid than a purely gourmand one. It’s almost as if there is some incense note but, like the clove one before it, it’s far from prominent on my skin. I still wouldn’t go so far as to call Vanille an incense-vanilla fragrance the way so many others do, but it is a lovely, subtle touch at this stage.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, Mona di Orio Vanille makes me think of Serge LutensUn Bois Vanillé which I like quite a bit. It’s a peculiar thought as they actually aren’t very alike. Mona di Orio’s perfume is monumentally richer, stronger, deeper, thicker, and more Oriental with its floral and smoky touches. The Lutens is milkier, creamier, with almond, licorice, light coconut, and honey. No flowers or buttered Bourbon at all. And the vanilla never feels raw, like concentrated pod paste as it does here with the Mona di Orio. However, Un Bois Vanillé does share the guaiac wood and sandalwood notes which combine with the vanilla to create a definitely smoky, woody, vanilla feel at certain stages — even if it is substantially lighter and milder. Perhaps the similarity in my mind stems from the fact that I haven’t encountered a lot of woody vanilla-sandalwood fragrances, as opposed to purely dessert and cupcake ones (which I despise).

Mark Rothko. "No. 14-10 Yellow Greens."

Mark Rothko. “No. 14-10 Yellow Greens.”

As the perfume starts the dry-down phase, a little over six hours later, Mona di Orio Vanille turns into a tonka vanilla perfume with sandalwood, quiet amber, a touch of wood, and subtle orange notes lurking in the background. It’s sheer, soft, and pleasant. In its final moments, about 9.5 hours, it’s really just simple tonka with some amorphous, lightly musked, woody note. All in all, Vanille lasted just short of 10 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It was a strong perfume throughout much of its early development, but the sillage went from heavy to moderate by the second hour, then dropped further as the perfume progressed. It became a skin scent around the fifth hour.

The comments on Fragrantica are all over the place for Mona di Orio Vanille. The majority absolutely love it, calling it a well-balanced, smoky vanilla with lots of wood. A number find the opening to be unpleasant; a large number call the fragrance a dirty, complex vanilla that is their favorite; some compare the vanilla note to that in Dior‘s Addict; and a handful comment on how it is essentially “Rum, rum, rum. I hope you like rum, because…rum.” There are scattered statements here or there on how parts of the perfume are stomach-churning or “nearly nauseating.” I would bet you anything that it’s the Bourbonized butter and orange combination that the commentators are finding to be excessively cloying. I certainly felt queasy myself.

Yet, one of the bloggers whom I respect — The Non-Blonde — really adored this fragrance and you may find parts of her review to be instructive:

Vanille is reasonably sweet and somewhat ambery, but the main thing that’s amplified on my skin and tales me on some serious ride is sandalwood. Sandalwood like I haven’t smelled in ages: deep exotic and spicy as well as creamy. It’s a very posh cousin of the chai-sandalwood blend from Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant.

Vanille progresses from slightly boozy and intoxicating to smooth and mysterious. There’s no question about sex-appeal: this would get you sniffed and followed around. The vanilla is woven into every stage of the development and belongs there, be it as part of hot toddy, a treasured spice in a craved wooden box or a rare incense that sends you off on a fantasy journey. 

If I had experienced as much sandalwood and incense on my skin as she seems to have done, I may have been a little more bowled over by the fragrance. I am certain, however, that I would still have enormous difficulty with the opening two hours. I’ve got some more of the Vanille (yet again) on my arm as we speak, and I simply cannot handle the Bourbon butter.

How you feel about Mona di Orio Vanille will really depend on how you feel about the main note, and gourmand fragrances as a whole. Those who love truly sweet, fully dessert-like fragrances may find it not to be sweet enough. This is no simple, uncomplicated Bath & Body Works vanilla. Those who enjoy the note in conjunction with other things may really appreciate this non-traditional, smoky woods and orange version of things. And those who are like me — who love spiced Orientals or super-charged florals, who wouldn’t go out of their way to experience a vanilla scent, and who eschew sweetness in any significant degree — may enjoy parts of the Mona di Orio, but not the whole. I definitely can’t see them being wow’ed enough by the overall experience to want a full bottle of it, especially as it costs $230. There are, however, different sizes and pricing options that may make Mona di Orio Vanille more accessible for those who adore their vanilla.

As a side note, this fragrance is absolutely nothing like Guerlain‘s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Two very different kettles of fish. It’s been a long time since I smelled Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise, but, going on my memory of it, I don’t think the Goutal is similar, either. Despite deploying an incense twist on vanilla, it’s not as rich as the Mona di Orio, has much less concentrated vanilla, and includes quite a bit of bitter angelica. I believe Montale has a woody, boozy vanilla fragrance amongst its vast line, but I haven’t tried it. Lastly, Mona di Orio Vanille has absolutely nothing in common with Tom Ford‘s Private Blend Tobacco Vanille. The latter has dried tobacco leaves that occasionally create an impression of Christmas plum pudding. No part of Mona di Orio’s notes replicate the predominantly tobacco-woods or the spices in the Tom Ford. Furthermore, the type of vanilla and the fundamental nature of the fragrances are very different, too.

All in all, if you adore rich, sophisticated, boozy, vanilla fragrances with a non-traditional twist, you may want to give Mona di Orio’s Vanille a sniff.

Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Les Nombres d`Or Vanille is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website. In the U.S., you can find it at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). There is also a Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or collection which Mona di Orio sells for €90, and Luckyscent/ Parfum1 for $145. MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Mona di Orio also offers a Travel Set of just the Vanille perfume in 3 bottles of 10 ml each, with the whole set priced at €85 (or about $110 with today’s currency conversion rate). That set is not offered at Luckyscent or Parfum1. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe carries its own sort of “Discovery Set” of 4 perfumes in the Nombres d’Or collection, one of which is Vanille. It retails for CAD$100. Oddly, I don’t see the full bottle on their website when searching by brand name, but I found it via a Google search listed here and marked as “available.” It’s also marked as selling for $170, which I don’t understand at all. So, you may want to drop them an email. In the UK, you can find Vanille at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. The perfume is also carried on Roullier White in the UK. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a Travel Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles for €85, and a smaller sample for purchase. For all other countries from Russia to Netherlands to the UAE/Dubai, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: I obtained mine from Surrender to Chance which sells them starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. Of course, you can also find samples at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.