Action packed: Mona di Orio Vanille

Dear Scent Diary,

MonaDiOrioVanilleI’ve tried few perfumes that move as quickly as Mona di Orio Vanille. Without exaggeration, you must smell your wrist every couple of minutes or you’ll miss a twist or turn in the development of the fragrance. I kid you not, you must put aside an hour or so if you’d like to catch everything. Half an hour at minimum.

Here’s a recap of the action I witnessed:

The opening is surprisingly fresh with an orange note that second by second gets surrounded by others: vetiver, rum, leather, clove, amber. Within five minutes, it smells almost completely different. Gone is the bright freshness, replaced wholly by darker, thicker notes whose texture you’d visualize as a paste. Tonka bean and amber begin to dominate as well as something, well, burnt.

Within another five minutes that ‘something burnt’ starts to demand more of your attention. Something smouldering, or perhaps smouldering only a few moments ago but now stamped out. Give it a few more minutes and yes, the smell is fully formed: it’s a butted out cigarette – but in a lovely way! I admit to stupidly feeling invincible enough at one time in my life to have smoked and I remember this smell very well. It’s the densely bitter smell of tar combined with the aroma of fresh dried tobacco leaves (the remainder of the cigarette) and a whiff of smoke. Blended seamlessly with the vanillic amber that’s sweetening by the moment, and you have Md’O Vanille at the 15 minute mark.

Within another five minutes the plush vanilla finally begins to take centre stage (a balsamic, leathery bean, not a cupcake). The warm, dry sweetness makes me wonder if it might be twinning L’Artisan’s Vanille Absolutement, another vanilla with a dry, bittersweet tonka note. A spritz of that one denies the resemblance – the remnants of the cigarette butt (in a good way!) makes Md’O Vanille its own perfume. This stage lasts the longest of all the stages so far. A whole half an hour!

The change that happens next creeps up rather slowly. But before you know it, the heavy, burnt darkness of the last stage lifts and reveals a balmy, uplifting vanilla scent that’s rich, feels slightly floral and is grounded with amber, tonka, vetiver and resins.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 7.11.51 PMWatch Mona herself describe the story she had in mind when developing the fragrance in this video. The entire thing is  fascinating and heartbreaking to watch but she talks about Vanille from 6:25 to 11:12.

As you may know, Mona di Orio died on December 9th, 2011 at the age of 42 due to tragic complications after back surgery. This is the announcement on her facebook page on the day of her passing.

I continue to be shocked by her death to this day.

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6 responses to “Action packed: Mona di Orio Vanille

  1. I also just tried this and I like it enough to get in on a decant. I’m curious to know if you have ever tried Neela Vermeire’s Trayee? Both have that heat as the common thread…the vanilla in Vanille is definitely plusher (more plush?) than Trayee; Trayee’s sandalwood is more dominant.

    Great review!

    • Thank you hajusuuri 🙂
      You know, Trayee has been on my list to try forEVer, but I haven’t yet somehow. I’ve never heard it compared to Md’O Vanille before so now you’ve added dimension to my desire to sample it. I’m a fairly devoted sandalwood fan.

  2. One of my favorite vanillas precisely because it is such an unusual vanilla! Love the fragrance and that review!

  3. I think it may be an acquired taste or one for experienced noses, but I agree – the fact that it’s unusual is what makes it special. I love perfumes with note juxtapositions that take two ends of the spectrum and bring them together to make something beautiful.

    Thanks Daisy!

  4. I’m usually not a vanilla-centric perfumes fan but a dear friend sent me a decant of this one from her bottle – and I really like it. And when I say “like it” I do not mean the polite “tried, liked and forgot about” but I wear it from time to time and remember once even craving it.

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