Vanille Tonka by Parfums de Nicolai

Hi there Posse! There was a lot of noise a few years ago about Vanille Tonka being discontinued. Maybe the outcry was so great that it never happened, or cynical me asks if it was a clever marketing ploy. Either way this 22 year old beauty is still available at LuckyScent and Surrender To Chance still has samples. I bought a bottle in the frenzy and it has been hiding in a box on top of my perfume cupboard where the perfume de Nicolai, Juliette Has A Gun, Keiko Mecheri and Montale live. While looking for my Montale Sandflowers (found and spritzed liberally) it was rediscovered and is now residing on my desk and getting some skin time.

Vanille Tonka by Parfums de Nicolai 1997

Patricia de Nicolaï



Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Basil, Mandarin, Lemon
Heart: Orange blossom, Jasmine, Carnation, Black pepper, Cinnamon
Base: Frankincense, Vanilla, Tonka bean

Here I have a fragrance that will be a perfect trans-seasonal beauty for you, and work well into winter or summer.

Unusually the opening citrus is given an exotic twist with green herbaceousness and the dry crackle of pepper. Within a minute of opening already a sweetly aromatic and resinous vanilla emerges. While it is still given added depth and interest by the green and sizzle Vanilla Tonka’s true nature now emerges. A skin type sweet fragrance that is not a skin scent, loads of fleshiness is brought through the white floral bouquet but never a hint of summer of lotions. It also remains resinous enough that the bakery analogy is pretty much off the table too.

A cool smokiness overlays everything in the deep heart of Vanille Tonka. Like walking into a dessert kitchen on Tuesday morning after Monday off. The memory of vanilla and the char of toffee sugar mixed with the cool, antiseptically clean stainless steel.

At no point does Vanille Tonka ever become very cosy, it’s not that kind of fragrance. Austere, spare and very elegant. I can so imagine this being a fabulous scent to give you a suit of armour, a non chypre backbone enhancer. Doubly effective because it takes tonic bean and vanilla, those sweet, cuddly, yummy and warm notes and makes it haughty and regal.

Perfectly unisex and so different.

How do you like you’re vanilla? Does vanilla Tonka sound like something you’d wear?

Portia xx




Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies

  • Diana says:

    Seems like I need to find a sample ASAP: I’m not a fan of sweet vanilla but I adore Shalimar. VT sounds very promising (*mutters: “One can’t have too many suits of armour”).

    • Portia says:

      Hi Diana,

      Suits of armour are always in plentiful need around here too.

      Remind me to send you some next time you win something.

      Portia xx

      • Diana says:

        Hey, Portia! Thanks for your offer, you’re the best. I’ll be sure to revisit this review after I’ve tried Vanille Tonka: we’ve got quite a few common favourites, I wonder if this one is going to become one of them.

  • Musette says:

    I am a fan of PdN scents (wish her packaging was as elegant as the juice – those LABELS! (shudder) – and this is one of the few vanillas I really enjoy!  Not being a fan of gourmand, I appreciate the near-austerity of it (love your description, btw)

  • March says:

    Such a gorgeous scent!  And so happy to see it mentioned, you’re right, it’s the perfect time of year.

  • rosarita says:

    I love this one, it’s my favorite vanilla. The smokiness is perfect:)

    • Portia says:

      Hey there Rosarita!
      So nice to see you back here at the Perfume Posse!
      Excellent, yeah, it hits the spot in so many ways.

      Portia xx

  • Jennifer S says:

    Lol! I have a sample of this on its way right now. Can’t wait to try it out!

  • Tara C says:

    I tried it a few years ago and while it was not a scrubber, I didn’t really enjoy it as I like my vanilla sweeeeeet. I want to smell like a bakery. I love tonka as well, but super sweet, as in Dior Fève Délicieuse. In fact I love frankincense, vanilla and tonka, but not in this type of combination I guess. Also, I don’t own a single Patricia de Nicolai, so apparently the style of this house just doesn’t mesh with my skin/nose.

    • Portia says:

      That is so interesting TaraC,

      I get that it might be a little too low key for you in the sweetness stakes. This is a much earthier fragrance.

      No PdN, that is a surprise. Good to know you can reliably NOT buy one house though right?

      Portia xx

  • MMKinPA says:

    I have a 30ml of this that I bought from a perfume friend, and I really enjoy it.  It’s so interesting that Tara found it to be a scrubber- I find it very easy to wear.  I have lots of vanilla fragrances, I’m not sure where I would rank it but I was glad to obtain a bottle for a nice price!

    • Portia says:

      Hi there MMKinPA,

      Another thing I love about Patricia de Nicolai! 30ml bottles at a reasonable price are fabulous for perfumistas and travel.

      Portia xx

  • Tara says:

    Hey Portia,
    I tried this many years ago and I just remember it was a scrubber. Not sure why. Guess tonka does not play well with me sometimes. Shame it’s been discontinued though if those like you love it so much. As least you got a bottle in the scramble!

    • Portia says:

      Hi Tara,

      Isn’t it funny that TaraC also found this to be scrub worthy! Maybe it’s somethging in the name.

      I thought it was DCd, seems I was wrong. It’s still available. I wonder if it had to get an IFRA reform?
      Portia xx