Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Not long ago, a friend and I were chatting via email about my Paris trip and the fragrances I brought back from it when she said to me: “By the way, I was a bit surprised at your choice of the Mona vanilla; I remember you writing about her Noire and Oud scents. What was it about the vanilla that hooked you?”

It was an honest and valid question, one that I had been turning over in my mind even before she had posed it to me in an email. As much as I enjoy the vanillic aspect of a complex oriental perfume, vanilla as a star note is not something I generally go for. And within the oriental genre, I prefer perfumes that have a certain carnality to them—or if not that, then something dark or dramatic about them—and Mona di Orio Vanille has none of these things. Perhaps that’s why I felt more than a twinge of embarrassment when I wrote her back with my answer: I bought Vanille because my husband thought it smelled good on me—and because it was far more affordable than Mona di Orio’s Oud perfume. Although my friend’s question was borne of natural curiosity and my answer had been arrived at long before I received (let alone replied to) her email, there was something about seeing the truth in writing that left me feeling put-out about Vanille—and thereafter I ignored it in favor of the other perfume bottles and samples I’d brought back from my trip.

Or I did until yesterday, when upon seeing the pretty bottle I was moved to put it on. As I walked by my husband and his wow-what-are-you-wearing? antenna sprouted from his head, that’s all it took for me to feel happy about my purchase. To say I wear perfume mainly for me is true, but only half true, because I also love getting perfume compliments. As such, I have mental notes attached to certain perfumes; I know that if I’m going to be visiting a certain copy shop where I regularly do business, I’ll wear Hermes 24, Faubourg that day because the gentleman who works the desk there has given me a very direct “I love your perfume!” compliment on that one a couple of times. But whereas a big floral-oriental perfume like 24, Faubourg is very much a “me” kind of fragrance, it has little appeal for my husband, whose tastes run to the woody, tobacco-like and vanillic. Mona di Orio’s Vanille has everything he finds sexy—reason enough for me to want to wear it. Though not nearly as sultry and animalic as the fragrances I love best, it is a svelte and untraditional vanilla that is in keeping with the overall aesthetic of my perfume wardrobe. Come to think of it, my only grudge against it is that it’s not Mona di Orio Oud—and I suppose that’s not something I ought to hold against it.

Per the Mona di Orio website, Vanille’s fragrance notes include: bitter orange from Brazil, rum absolute, petitgrain, clove, vanilla from Madagascar, tolu, gaiac wood, vetiver, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, tonka bean, leather, musk and amber.

The first half hour of wear-time is when I enjoy Vanille the most because the orange, rum and clove notes that the vanilla arrives cloaked in impart a warm glow to the perfume. It smells golden in its initial stages, as if it has tones that are both bright and burnished, and it flickers between them and feels rich in that old-world sense of the world. Vanille almost seems to have an olfactory patina in this stage that would lead one to think it is something rare and antique-like, an object of great beauty; nonetheless, don’t mistake my words to think that Vanille smells like a vintage perfume or that it has weightiness. It has a lit-from-within, glowing warmth, but for a vanilla-based fragrance, it is not in the least bit creamy or thick— or even all that vanilla-like. Though in many ways it seems easiest to describe Vanille by saying all the things that it isn’t—it’s not sweet, fluffy or cozy; it’s not ornate or attached to a heavy amber base—what one can most definitely say, as it begins its drydown, is that it’s a dry, woody vanilla perfume with facets that are touch powdery, a bit herbal and tobacco-like, and sometimes almondy. It’s a svelte vanilla that reminds one of the wild tropical world from which it came, and yet there is enough refinement about it that one could not call it swarthy or animalic or feline or anything but beautiful. The natural beauty of vanilla that has been taken from the wild but not yet isolated from it—not yet fermented and exploited to the very hilt of its pulchritude—that’s what Vanille is and isn’t.

Now that I’ve taken the time to study it, I like it even more than I did yesterday, or this morning, when my husband let it be known for the second day in a row that it had his full seal of approval. :-)

Mona di Orio Les Nombres d’Or Vanille can be purchased from, where a 100-ml bottle is $170—as well as from the Mona di Orio website, which also offers a discovery scent of the latest MdO fragrances, a collection of eight 5-ml roll-ons, currently priced at 90 euros.

My bottle of Vanille was purchased at the Sens Unique boutique in Paris.

Photo of model Christy Turlington is one I copied from a fan's myspace page, and therefore I'm not certain who to credit the photo to, but I'm thinking it's a Steven Meisel photograph, and I believe it appeared in a spread in Vogue Italia.

Bottle image of Mona di Orio Vanille is from, where the fragrance can be purchased.

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Mona di Orio Vanille: Vanilla with an Au Naturel Beauty

July 15, 2012: