Dear Scent Diary,
I’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.
Watch 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.