Guerlain Tonka Imperiale

There’s that really great friend that you crawl in bed with one night because it’s late, you’re tired and a little drunk, not to mention it’s just really comfortable being a little snuggly with someone that doesn’t get the blood pounding, and then in the middle of the night, um, heat shows up.  It surprises you, and it makes you a little uneasy, but you aren’t saying no.

That’s Guerlain Tonka Imperiale for me.   This sample has been sitting and staring at me for over a week now. I spritz it, meander around a while, go back and forth between loving it and thinking, “Ew, maybe not,” only to give up and try again another day.  Rinse, repeat, until we got stuck together for a few hours alone.

Reason for it?  Not sure exactly, but there’s enough L’Heuere Bleue (in my serious hate pile) in here to give me discomfort, as it starts pegging over to the FULL POWDER setting, but never quite gets there.  It’s gourmand, verging on sweet, pulling back before my teeth ache and my thighs expand.  There’s a sumptuous dessert vibe surrounding it that’s a little roasted.  Tonka is my crack, so how could this possibly miss?  Well, I finally decided it didn’t miss, I just had to move the target a squidge.  Though it has edges that make me uncomfortable – hey, didn’t I do a whole post about edges? – they are edges I can live with, it lets me breathe into the parts that I’m not sure I like, while savoring that rich, mesmerizing almost roasted dessert.  Maybe it’s the rosemary that throws me?    Just as I’m sinking into this sinful, tasteful gourmand, it buzzes my nose a little, and gives a discordance that isn’t jarring, but makes me think about what I’m smelling again.  Enough that I can never get quite easy with it.

Top notes: Rosemary, Bergamot, Bitter Almond; Middle notes: Tonka Bean, Light Tobacco, Jasmine; and Bottom notes: Incense, Cedar Wood, Pine.  It’s beautifully made.  Guerlain continues to impress me with creating another scent that fits in with the other Matieres seamlessly, but sparkles all on its own.

I’m not sure where it’s going to sit in the pantheon of Guerlain La Matieres that I love, which would be all of them – below Armenie and Beluga, next to Angelique, above Iris Ganache, unless I’m feeling very sweet (this is rare, but it does happen).  Oh, why do I bother trying to rank the Matieres. What’s your ranking, if you’ve smelled them all?  Anyone have a bottle they want to split?  Or you would you want in on a split with me?

Sample source is a teeny squidge from TPC.

  • Sherri M. says:

    :)Okay, I’m back answering my own question again, but my Sophie arrived today (what a great seller; I only won the auction Friday!) Thankfully it is a very nice white floral. Not one I’d pay $400 for, but at least it isn’t a big expensive stinker. It’s lots of white flowers on a white musky base. I don’t get any violet (thankfully) though it’s listed with the notes. I smell the jasmine and orange blossom and also something akin to Anais Anais. Does that make sense? Is that ylang ylang? Honestly, what does Ylang smell like anyway? None here in Tennessee fo’ sure! The bottle is nice but in NO WAY worthy of a $400 scent. The little bow is plastic, not enamel, and not fully molded front and back, but rather glued on a tiny goldtone dot, and the miniature lock does not actually work, either. The nameplate is a paper label, not a metal plate. I do like the black and gold colors, however though others thought the black version harsh. I have a little bottle of St. John I got at Marshalls for $19.99, and I can tell you the St. John’s bottle jewelry is as good as if not better. This scent is nice but I still like Cuir Beluga, Angelique Noire and Iris Ganache better (and they are half the retail price; I knew I’d find a way to make them affordable! 🙂 )

  • Sherri M. says:

    🙂 L’art et la Matiere are back on N-M’s website! Yay!! And Saks is now carrying them also! Now, if one of those two will just offer a promotion, we’ll be set. Yesterday I scored half a bottle of Secrets de Sophie on ebay. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never sniffed that one. I didn’t think win and never even bothered to order a sample because even I couldn’t rationalize $400 for a bottle of perfume! What do you think of Sophie? Throwing in my two cents on the orange/grapefruit, I can only say after Pampelune’s lovely cat pee note, I avoid grapefruit with a passion.

  • Lawman says:

    Howdy! Just here to ask you what do you like more, grapefruit or oranges. Just me and my friend having an argument :))))

  • Sherri M. says:

    I myself was not overly thrilled with Tonka Imperiale. It’s a fine fragrance, but a tad too close to CK’s Obsession and all the baggage that goes with that for me to shell out $235.

    My favorites of L’Art et la Matiere: (1) Angelique Noire (immeasurably better on skin than fabric); (2) Iris Ganache (I adore L’Heure Bleue and Insolence as well); (3) SDV (after about the first boozy hour wears off; draws beaucoup compliments); (4)
    Cuir Beluga; (5) Bois d’Armenie (better on fabric than on me); (6) Tonka Imperiale; (7) Rose Barbare (even Guerlain could not convince this rose-hater). I have not even tried Cruel Gardenia as I am totally in love with VC&A Gardenia Petale and see no need for another.

    The only upper end Guerlains I own full bottles are Moscou (which I purchased on ebay) and Gourmand Coquin (love them both!) but I much prefer any of these to most of Chanel’s exclusives, given the choice.

    I was wondering if anyone knew if Neiman’s and B-G’s are still going to be carrying the exclusives. I see they have removed them from their websites. Also, does anyone know if Neiman Marcus, Saks, B-G or other is running a Spring fragrance promotion this year? Thanks! Sherri

  • Ann N. says:

    Patty, loved your “bedfellows” opener regarding Tonka Imperiale. (Are you sure you weren’t a writer in another life?)
    My Guerlain faves are Angelique Noire, followed by a tie between TI and SDV. Then Bois d’Armenie and Cruel Gardenia, both of which I adore and would have ranked higher but they last like 15 minutes on me and then, whoosh, they vamoose! Iris Ganache is just so-so on me. I can’t do rose or leather so the Rose Barbare and Cuir Beluga are out. It’s so unfair — seeing as I can’t get along with any of the Guerlain classics, I should be able to play nicely with all of these! :((

    • CynthiaW says:

      The bedfellows analogy was fabulous – although it also meant that I actually didn’t read the review for a few minutes while I got lost in memory …..

  • Tara C says:

    Hey, I’m interested in a split! I can’t afford a whole bottle right now but I really like it – it reminds me of Louve/Rahat Loukhoum. I get a lot of marzipan out of it.

    My other favorites in order are Oriental Brulant, SDV, Bois d’Armenie, Cuir Beluga, Cruel Gardenia, Angelique Noire and Rose Barbare. The only ones I really reach for are the first 4, the others are mostly just sitting there ignored. Didn’t care for Iris Ganache too much.

  • AnnieA says:

    My reaction to TI was what I’d hoped for in Spiriteuse Double Vanille: a pleasant gourmand. And wow, does it ever last, which I really like in a perfume even if I’m lukewarm about it, as I seem to have scent-blotting skin.

    Oriental Brulant was what I was hoping for in Bois d’Armanie. I’d get this if I were a rich, fur-wearing lady. Does anybody else use “Rich Lady” as a perfume category?

    What a fun afternoon at the Montreal Guerlain Institut, which is where I stumped up for the Vetiver pour Elle. Vastly more pleasant than the usual treatment at, say, Holt Renfrew…

    • Patty says:

      I can’t pry TI off with anything but a lot of soap and water.

      I use Rich Lady as a perfume category. I have tons of Rich lady scents that I only trot out when I just want to feel that indulged and pampered.

  • eldora says:

    uh, that would be “fourth”

  • eldora says:

    I’m game to go in on a split!
    Bois d’Armenie curls my toes. (in a good way)
    Cuir Beluga comes in second for it’s elegant comforting softness
    SDV is third (great for wearing out to play in the snow)
    Angelique Noire is forth. Just never seem to be in the right mood for it.

    The others I haven’t tried, but I’m not really into iris, rose or gardenia….

  • Disteza says:

    Having tried them all:
    Angelique Noire, hands down winner (*)
    Rose Barbare, ’cause it’s a beatiful jammy rose @};-
    Cuir Beluga, pretty, but not leathery, so no FB [-(
    Iris Ganache, pretty again, but I’m not sure I like my pastries with orris in them (:|
    Tonka Imperiale, odd grape-y, berry-like note pops up and won’t go away–maybe it’s me, or a bad batch, or ??? :-
    Cruel Gardenia, uh huh, cruel of me to wear it around others :-&
    Bois d’Armenie, undeniably sour and rank on me. 8-x

    • Patty says:

      Wow, I wonder what it is in Armenie that goes sour on some people. I had no idea it did that to anyone! Good to know.

      • Joe says:

        Yeah, seriously, I need to give Armenie another, more lavish go, but it did not perform nicely on my skin at all. 8-x

  • dleep says:

    I received a large decant of Tonka Imperiale for my birthday and I love it! I was in Saks NYC this weekend and purchased Oriental Brulant and received a decant of Angelique Noire — I wish I could have afforded to purchase both. I had a decant of Iris Ganache and I loved that also but it fell and broke on my bathroom floor :((. I did some sniffing of Bois d’Armenie (it was okay) and Cuir Beluga which I could not smell all all!

  • CynthiaW says:

    Hmmm… I guess that I’ve only tried this and Iris Ganache, so I probably need to remedy that at some point.

    Iris Ganache is okay – it goes through phases and I finally like the dry down, but I have to be in the mood for it.

    Tonka Imperiale on the other hand, I straight up love and will be splitting a bottle when it hits the States. Sadly, that will be April, which means that my new bottle will probably sit unused for months until it gets cold again, but I don’t want to risk not being able to get it next winter.

    • Patty says:

      IG tends to not be the top pick for most people, though I love it.

      I thought BG had Tonka Imperiale already? I think they do.

      • CynthiaW says:

        Hmm… maybe they do and I’m waiting for the Friends and Family event at the end of April. I just know that I’m waiting for some reason that made sense at the time. 😕

  • Melissa says:

    Tonka Imperiale starts off very rough on my skin-probably the rosemary-but after an hour, it settles down to something warm and wearable. It’s not my favorite of the bunch, but I’ve found that it’s great for layering with Cuir Beluga, to dampen some of the sweetness in that one. Not that I don’t love CB. I do. But I have to be in the mood for vanilla.

    My favorites (at the moment):
    Bois d’Armenie
    Cuir Beluga and Iris Ganache (tied)
    Angelique Noire
    Tonka Imperiale
    Rose Barbare
    Cruel Gardenia

    As we move into warm weather, the bottom two will probably move up though!

    • Patty says:

      Are the bottom two easier in warm weather? I pretty much avoid them all, thinking none of them work, but that would be cool if two did. I need to try that out if we ever get some semblance of spring to stay for a few days.

  • donanicola says:

    Patty I love your comparison with the friend/bedfellow! First time I sniffed this I thought it was waaaay too almondy for me but then the rosemary kicked in and I’m a sucker for the way Guerlain does herbs so this has ended up on my to buy list when Silvia and I hit Paris in one month’s time (can’t wait). I was thinking I would try and defray the cost (ouch) by selling decants on that wiki site but I guess you’re going to want to get your mitts on it earlier? Let me know if otherwise or I can help in any way.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, Paris, yeah!!! I can wait!

      BTW, will be in London (said this above) pretty sure in mid-July. If you and Silvia are around, we need to plan something. Tea/champagne and ridiculous desserts are always a great idea.

      • Silviafunkly says:

        Yes please !!! I’ll be in Italy for my father’s birthday until 11th July, but any time after that is good for me.

  • Erin T says:

    None of them have inspired full bottle purchases, or probably ever would, (I’d take the Elixir Charnel Oriental Brulant first please), but here is my ranking:

    Rose Barbare, waaaay out in front
    Bois D’Armenie and Tonka Imperiale, graciously splitting 2nd
    Iris Ganache, 3rd for the 1st minute alone
    Cuir Beluga
    Angelique Noire
    Cruel Gardenia

    • Patty says:

      Wow, nobody ever has the Rose first. Maybe I need to smell that one again. I get so taken with the others, I don’t know that I’ve ever spent any time with it.

      • Robin R. says:

        Patty, it is THE creamiest, freshest, most luxurious chypre — if you like that sort of thing. :-j

  • Daseined says:

    I wish I got the complexity in this that others do, but unfortunately (like Cuir Beluga and Iris Ganache) my sweet-amplifying skin just makes this unwearable. I imagine it would be rather delectable on the males of the species, though. The only LAeM I can wear so far is Bois d’Armenie and the first hour of that is sort of rough, but the drydown! The drydown makes it all worth it. Patchouli 24 is surprisingly linear on me by contrast.

    I am in the Big Love camp for L’Heure Bleue though; it teeters on the precipice of edibility but never falls. It is truly beautiful on me and I treasure it more every year. Meanwhile my decant of Tonka Imperiale sits in my Things To Go To Good Homes pile.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, I could imagine, if this was sweep amping, I couldn’t wear it at all.

      LHB, ohno. 🙂 I wish I could love that one, but it despises me with a passion, along with Shalimar.

  • Silviafunkly says:

    Bois d’Armenie wins hand down for me, followed by Spiriteuse Double vanille (although I an not 100% sure that is part of L’Art et la Matiere line). I didn’t dislike any of the others but no immediate lemmings were induced, making it hard to rank them.

    On Tonka Imperiale I reserve my judgement as I didn’t pay too much attention to it when I tried it, and only have a vague recollection of some marzipany sweetness on the opening that was not me.

    • Patty says:

      It’s a little marzipany on the open, but it settles out from there. It may not settle out quite enough for you though!

      • Silviafunkly says:

        Nicola kindly gave me some to try last night and I was smitten. The marzipany bit is definitely there on the opening, but it doesn’t last too long. It then morphs into something utterly gorgeous that reminded me of both SVD and a richer Vanille44.

  • Francesca says:

    I got a large sample of this last week (Thanks, N!) and I have to admit I didn’t study it through all its permutations, but I certainly liked it when I put it on. Will have to pay attention for the rosemary, a scent I love but I don’t think I’ve met in perfumery.

    Only other one in this line that I’ve tried is Bois d’Arménie, and I *love* that

  • dea says:

    I am really enjoying the the small decant of tonka imperiale that I have. I would say it’s up there with bois d’armenie. . .maybe even better, because sometimes armenie does this strange thing and turns into a musc ravageur clone. To the extent where i think i sprayed the wrong scent– has anyone else had armenie turn into musc ravageur on skin? (I’ve just assumed it’s a quirk with my own chemistry/nose)

    I really love rose barbare…it has similarities with paestum rose, which I also love.

    i tried amarinthine and carla fracci’s giselle, both for the first time, a few weeks before trying tonka imperiale. . .and though they are all very different, there was a similarity that tied the three of them together, that i couldn’t put my finger on. maybe the slightly gourmand sweetness?

    • Patty says:

      I’ve had Armenie go wrong a time or two, along with SDV. Heat, weather, retaining water, who knows?

      Agree on those three being similar to each other in feel, with the Amaranthine being kind of a horndog at its base. But the gourmandish qualities are in all three.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    I think I was the first retail customer to get a bottle of this in Paris in January, as it was my birthday and before the “release date.” I pressed them on it and they discovered the cartons had been delivered but not opened, so they opened one especially for me! As Denyse has said, it’s a gourmand for people who don’t necessarily like gourmands, and I think it is a delightful scent which sits nicely as a modern Guerlain which is true to its antecedents.

    Iris Ganache is beautiful and, like Joe, I don’t find it at all too sweet on me. I have Cuir Beluga which is pleasant but not earth-shattering and also Rose Barbare which I think I bought in a fit of madness as I’m not wild about it, although it is a lovely scent viewed in the abstract. Don’t like Cruel Gardenia – it is really a non-Guerlain and does nothing for me.

    Joe do you want me to send you some Cuir? I’d be happy to do so.

    • Patty says:

      Of course you were. 🙂

      BTW, I think I’ll be in London for like two days in July, we all need to plan something, if you’re going to be around. I’ll get ahold of Sylvia and Donanicola and Lee too.

    • Joe says:

      Fiordiligi: That’s a really nice offer. I’d love to try Cuir. If you’re on MUA, I’m there as joe805. Otherwise, my hotmail address is ‘kusala68’. Thanks. Maybe we can do some kind of swap.

  • Joe says:

    I straight up love this thing — no edges and no morning after awkwardness. It’s really more of a masterpiece than the sum of its notes on paper. I keep meaning to search for the rosemary, but then I put a dab on and forget what I’m supposed to be looking for. This one will NOT wear well in warm weather though. Everyone should have at least a decant, so get yours while the weather is cooperating.

    I know Iris Ganache inspired a lot of gagging, but I love that too, and it doesn’t register particularly sweet on me. Armenie is the sour, pissy one in my book (and I’m normally an incense slut). I like Rose Barbare quite a bit, and Gardenia is a simple pleasure, but I don’t need to own more than a vial of either. I’m still itching to try Cuir Beluga, since this has been my Winter of Leather.

    • Patty says:

      No walk of shame?!?!?

      I have a feeling this one will just keep growing on me.

      I’m a big fan of the Ganache too, so no gagging from me. Cuir Beluga took me a while to appreciate, not because it’s not beautiful, but I was looking for more trussed-up leather, and you’re not going to get that. I need to wear that before winter is over!

    • Robin R. says:

      Iris Gagnache!!! :”>

  • The L’Art et la Matière are all pretty good but none of them has rocked my world enough to justify a full bottle: I find them all a little tame, the Cuir not leather enough (the heliotropin is a deal-breaker), the Angélique not angelica enough (it just settles into vanilla on me), the Bois d’Arménie less fierce than Patchouli 24, etc.
    But I must admit I really enjoy wearing my Tonka decant: probably because it’s tonka, a gourmand enough note for the current Guerlain aesthetics, it doesn’t shy away from its character. The rosemary is what makes it stop short of the cloying. It’ll probably be too heavy come Spring but as Paris is still freezing cold, it’s doing just fine.

    • Patty says:

      They are tame in an elegant way. I like that sometimes, just easy to wear and so damn pretty. 🙂

      Most of the Guerlains in the Matieres get too heavy for me in summer, but most everything does except a handful of maybe four scents.

  • violetnoir says:

    Yep, I think it’s the rosemary that throws things off, Patty.

    But as I have eased into this one, I have to say that I love it! And, I think I love it at least as much as my beloved Angelique Noire, which is saying quite a bit, because none of the other ones in this particular Guerlain line, not even Cuir Beluga or Iris Ganache, come anywhere close to the AN on my skin.

    I am on the verge, the very precipice, of caving and buying a bottle…But I am holding out… At least until I finish my sample. 😉


    • Patty says:

      It has to be, I kept getting that slightly herbaceous whiff that just made me stop and whirl my head around four times.

      I’m trying to hold out here, I’ll never go through a bottle of it. And i Have to make room for that ridiculously priced one coming out in July or so, on the order of Mon Precieux. Sheesh.

  • Elizabeth says:

    mmm, must try this TI juice. Here are my rankings (excuse me if I mistakenly add one that’s in the other line- they all get mixed up in my head)

    Bois d’Arménie
    Cruel Gardenia
    Rose Barbare
    Angélique Noire
    Cuir Beluga
    Iris Ganache

    Did I miss any?

    • Robin R. says:

      E, I think that Spiriteuse Double Vanille fits in there somewhere. :)>-

      I don’t know if I could stick to this ranking — many go up or down the scale, depending — but for the moment I’d say –

      Bois d’Armenie
      Spiriteuse Double Vanille
      Angelique Noire
      Cuir Beluga
      Rose Barbare
      Iris Ganache
      Cruel Gardenia

      Already, I know my goose is cooked. I love Cruel Gardenia! So, let’s just scrap that list altogether. I must say that l’Arte et la Matiere is probably my favourite exclusive sub-line of anyone’s . . .hmm, except there are the Chanel Les Exclusifs . . . Eeeek! :-ss

      • Patty says:

        I never know where to put SDV. Yours is close to mine, if we include the DV, but I’d move Rose down and the Iris and Gardenia up. You know, it’s a mood thing. I love them all for different reasons.

        • Robin R. says:

          I hear ya on the Rose and the Iris and Gardenia. And sometimes the Angeliques drops a notch if I’ve just had a great big hamburger or something – something in it makes me a bit queasy on a full stomach. :-&

          I’m grateful to you for the review, Patty. It changes Tonka Imperiale from an unsniffed HG (such are the persuasive powers of carmencanada) to something I merely need very much to try. That’s a difference of a couple hundred bucks, which is quite significant to a girl with a sadly slim wallet these days. :-<

      • Elizabeth says:

        Oops, forgot SDV. I dunno, let’s just stick it in at 6th place. It’s just not that exciting to me.

    • Patty says:

      I lose track of which ones are in or not, I compltely forgot about Gardenia and Rose Barbare! So you are far ahead of me in the memory game. 🙂