Mona di Orio Chamarré

First things first: an apology. It turns out that the vials I though I had in the place I had them in, are not in that place or any other place for that matter. This therefore means that sending out the samples of Eau Turquoise as promised, to the recipients who asked so politely, is going to be a little longer than expected. I’m very sorry.

However, to make amends for my postal failings, there’ll be a draw at the end of this post, ‘kay?


Poor Mona. Ragged by Turinia, and beset by distribution issues in the States and elsewhere, it seems like 2009 is not her year. That is, if you look at it through our perfume-obsessed lenses. From her vantage point, the view must be quite different – three new luxury  candles (all quite heady and slightly odd, I have to say) launched at the end of 2008, and two new scents this year, one not yet launched. So somehow, some way, in spite of the odds, she must be doing okay.

I’ve already praised her previous scents. They are opulent, classical and heavily layered beasties on the whole, and not attuned to the mainstream, nor the grotesquely expanding niche market and its herdlike trends. The Rubenesque forms of Carnation, for example, and the French orientalist make-up of Nuit Noire, are both very different from Serge Lutens’ heavier numbers – the line with which they might seem to have the biggest commonality. Lutens’ oriental infusions seem transparent compared to di Orio’s almost too voluptuous blends. They’re the opposite of quotidian.

Friends and enemies alike will note that, unlike last year’s Amyitis, which took her into greener landscapes, the recently released Chamarré continues with the dominant oriental theme of her collection. Here’s the PR puff:

Drawing inspiration from the word Chamarré, which means “an explosion of colours and richly ornamented”.

In this perfume, the warm breath of lavender in combination with aldehydes paves the path to sensual treats such as powdered iris from Florence, seductive rose absolue from Turkey and delicate violet, ending in a gentle embrace of cashmeran, opoponax and ambre gris.

Lavender normally strikes me as cooling rather than warm, but that doesn’t really matter here, as it’s not that significant in the composition. At first, the perfume is aldehydic and sweet, somehow quite diffuse, and without the scary qualities of Nuit Noire that led to ‘civet fart’ references elsewhere. Then the density begins, alongside a floral headiness that is somehow indeterminate – violet brings an element of powderiness, perhaps, but this is more a synthetic/synthesised bloom of nothing existent in nature. It references other perfumes rather than the world outside of bottled scents, and it would take someone much more knowledgeable about perfume lineage than me to trace those antecedents and references. Alongside the heady floral accord, there’s a caramelised quality that is heading to gourmand (the nature of ‘sensual treats’ in the text above?) and brings a rasping sweetness to the middle of the scent. It remains dark, heady, slumberous, for all of its life, and fills me with languor, though not this time with longing. Definitely a composition that strikes me as more obviously feminine than most of her other launches – save Oiro perhaps, whose jasmine prettiness takes a little too long to give way to immortelle, for my entire liking. For people who don’t get perfume, it’ll definitely fit the ‘old lady’ and ‘it gives me a headache’ bill to perfection. A commenter over at Now Smell This indicated that chamarré has slightly negative connotations when used by French speakers – that it can imply vulgarity, too much ornamentation, taste that is definitely not bon chic bon genre – borne out of sneering at nouveau riche types perhaps, who have the temerity to attempt a Rococo interior in their Cote d’Azur home, or at the delight in decoration that exists outside of ‘classical’ or ‘refined’ tastes. For me, it certainly strides that line between ‘decorous’ and ‘too much’, even as my own predilections swerve, depending on mood,  from the tasteful to the trashy.

If you want to old lady it up, or get your own headache in a small glass tube, leave a message below and you’ll be in with a chance to win my (small) vial of Chamarré. I like it, but I don’t need it.

  • Paula says:

    I find this to be about 1/2 way btwn Amyitis & Lux with some sage & lavender added. I appreciate the herbs because Am. was just too intense & sweet for me. The same for Lux, it needed toning down. I also like the lightening effect of the aldehyde. I think this is a winner. I’m so unhappy this is almost impossible to get now. I’m very sad……. Why make beautiful stuff & then take it away?

  • maitreyi1978 says:

    I like little old ladies. Please enter me in the draw.

  • Shelley says:

    There’s not a note there I don’t like. Since I still never know where I’ll fall in the “old lady” pot, I’d love a chance to find out with this one and continue to benchmark myself!

  • Juhyon says:

    Powder and Iris sounds awesome, and my penchant for old lady scents makes this one quite interesting. Plus, I’ve never tried Mona di Orio’s scents before. Please enter me in the drawing!

  • Lavanya says:

    I’d love to try this, Lee..When I read ‘gourmand’ and violet in the same paragaph, I thought of Attrape Couer’ (which is my current perfume crush and possibly love).

  • Dawn says:

    Lee, I love Nuit Noire. Would love for her candles to come to the states. I would be SO excited to try this new beauty.

  • Lian says:

    I’d love a sample, I’m quit fond of the old ladies scnets even if I’m 25.Or is that old nowadays?

  • tmp00 says:

    I love the idea of old ladying it up; some would state that I was already there..

  • March says:

    Hah. You had me at “old lady.” I’m not begging a sample, I’ve got plenty of other things, but thanks for the eggcellent review!

    • carter says:

      M–how did you celebrate National Cheese Day yesterday? Have you told him yet that you’re leaving him for a woman 😉

      • carter says:

        *?* Sheesh, see what I mean about the typing? Don’t laugh, it will happen to the best of you.

    • Lee says:

      I knew those were the magic words!

  • Tammy says:

    Lee, you got me at old lady and they got me with the rose absolue and delicate violet. Sounds like my cuppa…I’d appreciate a chance to win your sample. Thanks!

  • carter says:

    Give me an explosion of color, give me vulgarity. Give this old lady a headache, please. I like the opposite of quotidian.

  • Gretchen says:

    “Chamarre” as in “overdone”, “over the top”? I’m intrigued– please enter me in the drawing.

  • Karen G says:

    This sounds like entirely TOO MUCH perfume for me, but you make it sound so damn interesting, Lee. So please throw me in the draw.
    The only Mona I’ve tried is Amyitis, and while I love the iris in it, there’s soemthing else in there (a whole lot of something else) that I just can’t get past. It’s not boring, that’s for sure.

    • Lee says:

      The caraway? That strange plasticky accord? I need to revisit Amyitis – I used my sample up and remained unsure of my feelings…

      U R in.

  • DREMYBLUZ says:


  • Mrs. Honey says:

    I’m with you on the Bal, and I don’t think I’m THAT old. (Although I do remember the 80s)

  • Mrs. Honey says:

    I’m all for old lady. My (teenaged) clients described Habanita that way. I definately get a dirty diaper note out of Nuit Noire, but want to wear it anyway. That, to me, is the mark of a well done dose of skank.

    • Lee says:

      In the old lady vs sugary raspberry peony blech, I know whose arms I’ll be holding up as champ before round 1 is even over.

      Skank done right = olfactory delight.

  • sara says:

    I’ve never tried any of MdO’s scents and your review has made me curious. PLease enter me into the drawing! Thanks.

  • Musette says:

    I have to go back and work Nuit Noire a bit more. I quite like it and don’t understand the ‘civet fart’ connotation – then again, I’m the one who thinks BaV just smells like a nice perfume, that I can easily wear with a sundress or an cocktail dress. My sniffer must be broken – or else I’m older than I think!;-)


    • Melissa says:

      And what’s wrong with civet farts? I wore BaV to bed the other night as a comfort scent, so maybe my sniffer is off kilter too. Or not.

    • Lee says:

      Ha! Nah, you just are happy to live with a little hum of smut.

      You’re in.

  • Veronica says:

    I love all Mona di Orios (except Amyitis that is) and this one sounds wonderful. Thanks for reviewing it. May I please be in the draw?

  • Suzanne says:

    Please add me to the draw. I haven’t tried anything from this line before, perhaps kept at bay due to the negative cloud that seems to hover around it.

  • Mindy says:

    Powdered iris sounds like instant migraine for me! But I remain intriqued by the rest…count me in!

  • dissed says:

    Weird scent? Count me in. Sounds good to me.

  • JAntoinette says:

    Melissa, I agree that there is definitely a Mona di Orio stamp on this one. I am loving the lavender/aldehyde opening.

    Lee, I am still using up my sample, so I’ll bow out of the drawing.

    Perfume nerd note: I got my sample directly from MdO. I sent a little thank you email to customer service, to which they replied with something like “Thanks for your message, we will pass it on to Mona.” I giggled a bit; I think I have a bit of a perfumer crush on Mona!

    • Melissa says:

      I would have giggled too. I met Mona at Sniffa a year or so ago. Instant perfumer crush! She’s a delight.

    • Lee says:

      Cute story.

      You women with your girl-crushes! I get those too, once in a while.

  • Louise says:

    Morning, Luv(s)!

    I greatly admire Mono’s perfumes, and had the good fortune to meet her at a Sniffa last year-she was delightful. I am fervently wishing her good business luck and direction, and hope she’ll go the online route, such as Andy and Vero’s options.

    I admire NN, though it’s a bit much even for me; Carnation has won my heart, for several reasons, one sentimental 😉

    I am intrigued by Chamarre, but will have a chance to sniff it live soon enough, so please don’t toss me in the draw-bowl. The lavender scares me a bit, but will beleive you that it’s not a major note.

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Lee. I ordered a sample of Chamarre as soon as I saw it on Les Senteurs. I experienced it as dense, heady and languorous, but I did not find it particularly sweet. Nor did I find it old lady-ish, probably because I find Mona’s scents just a little too unique/mildly weird.

    There is something in Chamarre that clearly identifies it as a Mona di Orio scent, but the bright (harsh?) citrus opening of some of the others is replaced by aldehydes. If I recall, I also smelled violets and a bit of leather in the drydown? I do agree that the middle had an indistinct floral accord, like some other MdOs. I found it very compelling and I would like to try it again to see if my memory serves me properly. So, please enter me in the weird old lady category for the drawing.

    • Lee says:

      I don’t find it old-ladyish either, Melissa, but it will have that quality to noses that are less perfume-focused than ours. A cheap criticism for aldehydes followed by density, really.

      You’re in.

  • Catherine says:

    Dear Lee, I would certainly old-lady it up if I had the chance to sniff the newest Mona di Orio. Please put me in the drawing. I’m very disappointed that we will have trouble getting Mona’s scents State-side. I love her work completely.

    • Lee says:

      I’m sure Les Senteurs ship to the States, but that’s a bit of a hassle, isn’t it?

      You are for sure in the draw.

  • dinazad says:

    Sounds like it would go with the big black hat and veil I have…. I’m in!

    And I beg to differ – after spending most of one very hot summer holiday in a haze of lavender and garlic in a very, very hot car, I’d definitely say lavender has a warm aura! 😉

  • carmencanada says:

    I had the same idea as Mary when I heard lavender + caramelized… thought of Vero Profumo Kiki, but I’ll wager it’s quite different.
    It’s interesting that Mona di Orio worked for Edmond Roudnitska for so long and didn’t pick up anything from his style. That said, from what I’ve understood, her actual learning with him lasted less than a year and only covered raw materials, as the Master never taught anyone about composition.
    And Lee, I am remiss in sending you those samples I promised: post-office phobia strikes again! I will, though, I swear, soon!

    • Lee says:

      Very different. Her canvas is full of intense burnt umbers, dark sepias, flashes of gold and crimson.

    • Nathalie says:

      Just a quick little reference to carmencanada regarding Mona and her time with Edmund.
      I actually work with Mona dna have done for a while and have also had the luck to meet several of Edmund’s contemeporaries and wanted to just point out that Mona did actually spend the best part of 10 years. At the beginning she was as an observer then quickly went on to be a student of his until she finally started working for him until he died.
      I think they have different styles anyway but her personal homage to him was Lux and I suppose if you were to revisit Le Parfum de Therese or indeed Diorella you can see the links between Lux, Oiro and indeed carnation in some of the seeter rounder and richer accords.
      Just wanted to clear that up and won’t comment on anything else as I always try to stay inbiased!
      Happy sniffing all and I’ll keep on enjoying reading 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Lee, is this anything like Vero Kiki? Sounds from your description that it might be.

    • Lee says:

      Nothing at all like it, actually. Kiki keeps rocking its herbaceous core all the way through its lifetime, with gourmandy accents. This has very limited herbaceous elements.

      Both are full blown perfumes though!

  • HollyGolightly says:

    I’m in, too! Sounds like something i actually regret passing on the other day. wishful thinking…

  • Musette says:

    Here’s one Old Lady, in for the draw. Sounds very cool, IMO!


    • Lee says:

      I think I’m an honorary old lady, even if my ladylike skills are sadly lacking. Though I do bake a mean cake.

      You’re in, of course.

  • Fernando says:

    Sure, I’d like to try this. Sounds like an interesting scent.