Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mona di Orio Carnation: fragrance review

The Mona di Orio line is something like the Meet the Parents' (the Fockers that is) "inner circle of trust": You have to really give your whole before you get past the distrurbing opening to see what lies beneath. What you do past that point is up to you, but the journey there is full of apocalyptic awe and a few surprises.

Ravaged ~on an almost personal level~ by Turania, who apparently paid so little attention that they even misunderstood the very name (Carnation being the one which "blooms not in a flower bed but on a woman's cheeck"), one would have thought that the perfume's and the perfumer's fate seemed sealed to belong to the 9th circle of Dante's Inferno. Perhaps this is an eminent case of the adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity" and "say whatever you want about me as long as you spell my name right" because Mona di Orio not only sufaced victorious ~after a distribution problem~ and is referenced in a gazillion of publications, but she is also producing new perfumes and has participated to great aplomb in the recent Firenze Fragranza No.7 exhibition (Another independent perfumer, Andy Tauer was very appreciative and vocal about it, which is so graceful and so him).

Part of the initial triptych including Lux and Nuit Noire from 2006, Carnation is meant to evoke a tender embrace after a day spent in the sun and although it's a very individual scent and one that probably gets some getting used to (and no doubt some of you won't get used to it no matter what), I find myself most fascinated by its almost leathery impression, despite the description of it being a floriental. It is a par excellence musky fragrance on far drydown, both "dirty" and delicate, more than a little carnal, with mildly spicy accents on a bed of cream (provided by the floral notes). Mona dedicated it to Colette, a woman very attuned to cosmetic and fragrant preparations as well as the sensual world (Her Flower and Fruits book is a good companion).
Carnation's beauty lies in its "flaws": The initial spicy accent (resulting from the giroflée, the plant that produces cloves) is just a tad medicinal, which combined with the woodier elements and the kid's-glue-like complimentary styrax produces an arresting impression of a dentist's office nurse with the wickedly smiling face of Béatrice Dalle, her gap between front teeth an ironic exclamation mark on the artistry of said doctor.
The lasting power is very good, sillage is pleasantly there but non intruding and it should fit both sexes and most seasons (hold August).

Although Mona sat with Edmond Roudnitska, it is true that her style does not necessarily reflect the same aesthetic choices or sparseness of style. She even proclaims herself that the siren of Serge Lutens lured her into a different path of orientalia that diverted from the classic French mold, on which Roudnitska has put his final seal. Her Italian/Spanish heritage might have something to do with it. People who have met her in the flesh comment on her sparkling personality and struggling English, so it might not be so easy to translate her Damascene metamorphosis. To my mind, her imaginative Lux and of course Carnation present opposing impressions of the same coin: luminosity and crepuscular shadows, one after the other in quick succession and prove that a little exploring of her creations is highly recommended to all.

Notes for Mona di Orio Carnation:
Top: Bergamot, girofle, geranium Bourbon
Heart: ylang-ylang, violet, jasmine, precious woods
Base: musk, amber, styrax

Carnation is presented in the trademark cork-top faceted flacon of Mona di Orio's line in Eau de Parfum and is available for purchase in the US at Spafumerie: 2nd Ave. and 48th st, NYC. Tel: 212 644-9525 Email: thespa@spafumerie2.com Fax: 212 644-9529
In Europe
Les Senteurs in London carries the fragrance ~as of this minute~ both in store and online, as does Aus Liebe Zum Duft.

Pics of autographed Mona di Orio Carnation bottle ©by Elena Vosnaki
Beatrice Dalle pic via


  1. I am ashamed to say I have never really tried her line- which sounds wonderful- I have been a bit hooked on classics lately and actually also have found my sense of smell was a bit off- think it may have been the summer allergies. I went into Liberty yesterday and sprtized like made- suddenly everything smells good again- hooray!

  2. Fiordiligi10:09

    Hello dearest - I'm back from hols now and happy to be able to comment again.

    Like Rose, I've never really tried her line but I did get hold of a sample of Carnation which I will have to try after your fascinating review. I also have one of her candles which I received as a gift and we're getting into proper candle-burning season now.

    Lovely photos, by the way!

  3. Alexandra11:47

    I was really shocked when I saw how L. Turin is mocking every single fragrance from this line. It seemed like personal animosity to me as well.
    This whole line should arrive to my town in a few days and I`m very curious since I`ve heard very contradictory (love/hate) opinions.

  4. Her fragrances are not easy to get to know , but SOOO worth an effort ! Thanks for the link -
    Mona is a lovely person .
    You met her at Pitti?
    Fragrant hugs !

  5. OK- so her publicist is likely a WANKER ;0

    But the lady is a delight; we shared several intense conversations.
    She is patently NOT an ego-driven maniac.

    [ Luca is lovely, but we agree to disagree ;) ]

    For me, her Nuit Noire and Amyitis stun my senses.

    I greatly adfmire her other compositions, but they do not sing on me...only hum.

    Great review !

  6. K,

    you should give them a whirl definitely, they're quite uncommon and interesting! You're lucky in that Les Senteurs have them so it shouldn't be too hard.

  7. D,

    welcome back darling and thanks so much for the kind compliment!
    I think the scent is an acquired taste, but possibly you might like it. It has an orientalised musky feel which is not too antithetical to your taste, although it might not be too classically feminine. I am eager to see what you think!!

  8. A,

    I did feel for Mona as I did for Villoresi too. I can't for the life of me guess what anyone thinks or feels or how merited they think it is to say anything, so I won't pass judgement on the pronouncements in the book.
    Having said that, testing on paper strips (which seemed to be the preferred method IIRC) might not do this line favours and might account for some disenchantement. I am hypothesizing merely.

    At any rate, the negative buzz might have done Mona good, as it rejuvenated interest into what produced such reactions!

  9. Carol,

    hi there and thanks so much for stopping by! (And you reminded to do a long-ago-promised thing and I owe you: very soon!!)

    FWIW I had the bottle from before. :-) It strikes me as important that Mona said those things at Pitti though; especially now, when so many companies seem to be copying each other.


  10. I,

    thanks darling and boy, does it get heated when we agree to disagree with L! But he's got a day job right now so I doubt he will step in and say something. (Not that I encourage nor discourage it. It's always up to him!)

    I seriously think that there is some sort of "lost in translation" thing going on with Mona's site and possibly the "mistake" of phrasing the entire text in the first person: something that works very well in Italian but not so great in English (It looks as though it was initially thought of in Italian and then tranlsated in English). It's all got to do with the cultural perception of linguistics and it's rather subtle, but Italian is an emphatic language and the stressing of the first person isn't considered megalomaniac. Anyway, I might be rampling now...it's just a thought I had.

    To revert on topic, perhaps there were some minor issues which could be ironed out in the press kit of Mona, granted. Perhaps it could be pointed out in a private conversation rather than a public discourse, but the authors are nothing if not "open" about several things.

  11. Oh, and I forgot to say: I'm still due to smell her Amyitis. So I can't possibly comment on that :-(

  12. I really like Mona's perfumes, and was quite shocked at the review of Nuit Noire in the Turin book... then again, Caron came in for a hiding there too, and I'm really keen on Caron. There's a feeling of heat in her scents that I really appreciate. I'm glad the negative reviews haven't done too much harm to her business.

  13. Smart review--Carnation didn't do much for me, but I love Nuit Noire. I've always been a little baffled by the harsh criticism of the line, but a lot things baffle me ;-)

  14. Anonymous17:24

    Dear E,

    Firstly, I have not visited the site nor have I tried any of the perfumes but your comment on the use of the first person in Italian fascinated me and possibly provides an answer to a verbal tick I picked up whilst living among Italian descendants in a francophone city. Those of Italian origin spoke English, Italian and French with perfect fluency and ease but when speaking either one (I can't vouch for the Italian), they prefaced nearly everything with "Me, I..." of "Moi, je..." as in "Me, I like my pasta al dente" or something. It was so prevalent that it is a struggle to purge it from my own speech (not that there is anything wrong with it, it just sounds awkward in English).

    All that to say that the study of linguistics is as fascinating to me as the study of perfume.

    Lovely post as always,


  15. Dearest E-

    Re: Amyitis.
    I will have to remedy that- get off my tardy lilywhite patoot and send you some ;-)...

    Interestingly, my DH sniffed Amyitis and immediately 'fell'-
    Something he is NOT wont to do.

    [ I 'get' the whole linguistic ' thing w/ Italian...
    Nonetheless, it doesn't further her cause, alas.
    Hey, we make mistakes ;-)]

  16. Loved your wise and wonderful words about Mona di Orio herself, and your beautiful review of Carnation. Have never tried it, but hope to some day. Her Nuit Noire is a favorite of mine.

  17. Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know that Spafumerie in NYC is no longer in business. Would you know of any other US retailers/e-tailers that carry her line?

  18. Dea,
    I'm probably awfully late in this reply, but I heard there are plans to bring the line at Takashimaya soon! :-)

  19. Suzanne,

    thank you so much for your kind words, just saw this. If you do want a sample in the mail, by all means, email me!!

  20. Dea,

    late in this, sorry.... I hear that the Mona Di Orio line will be carried again in NYC, at Takashimaya. Hope this helps!


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