When Mona di Orio died in December 2011, she left behind formulae for a few more fragrances, among them Eau Absolue. I had to wonder, how does that work? I’m always suspicious of novels published after authors have died. The writers aren’t around to nix an editor’s suggestions or revise scenes that might have not have yet met their standards. How about with a perfumer?
I asked Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, Mona di Orio’s business partner, who continues to manage the perfume line. Of their business relationship, they referred to Mona as the business’s “nose” and Jeroen Oude Sogtoen as the “eye” since he’s responsible for the line’s simple-but-luxurious visual appeal.
He said the concentrates for the Mona di Orio line continue to be made at Accords et Parfums on Edmond Roudnitska’s property, and he doesn’t have another perfumer fine-tune her compositions before they’re produced. “Mona worked for so many years with them [Accords et Parfums] that they are my guidance with Mona's fragrances. Especially Olivier [Olivier Maure, Accord et Parfums’ director] is the one I fully trust with our formulas. There is no need to share it with others, Olivier can play this role for us with full respect and knowledge of Mona's legacy.”1
Eau Absolue’s notes include Sicilian bergamot, clementine, petitgrain, litsea cubeba from China, Egyptian geranium, vetiver from Java and Haiti, Jamaican St. Thomas bay leaf, pink peppercorn from Peru, cedar from Virginia, musk, and cistus labdanum. The press materials say Eau Absolue was composed in di Orio’s “signature chiaroscuro construction,” and describe it as a “memoir steeped in Mona di Orio’s love for the Mediterranean.”
Eau Absolue is citrusy, but because of the perfume’s weight and other notes it smells to me more like a green fragrance with bergamot, lemon, and orange rather than like a classic Eau de Cologne. On first sniff, Eau Absolue is thick with a mélange of tart citrus rind and smashed green stems. Bay leaf smoothes away any sharp edges, and an underpinning of cedar casts an almost horsey-animalic note deep in the perfume's heart.
All in all, Eau Absolue feels clean and green-fresh, reminding me of an expensive bar of artisanal soap. Over time the citrus ebbs, and the fragrance becomes a tiny bit sweeter but remains green. Eventually it gracefully fades, growing quieter, but still true to the perfume's overall story. Like the other Mona di Orio fragrances I’ve tried, it’s dense and warm, not an airy tingle of citrus like, say, Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale.
Eau Absolue doesn’t have that overly “bracing” smell of a traditional men’s cologne, and any gender would feel comfortable wearing it. From my rollerball sample the fragrance has moderate sillage, but I bet it reaches further when sprayed on skin. It lasts about six hours on me.
So, besides Eau Absolue and a few others that have been released, did Mona di Orio leave anything else in the vault? Jeroen Oude Sogtoen writes, “This year we will launch the fragrance Mona created for me, filled with my passions, likings, music, colors, films, history of fashion, etc. She made this some years ago. And now I will share it because it’s too precious to keep just for myself.” Next year, he plans to re-release Lux, Carnation, and Nuit Noire.
Mona di Orio Eau Absolue Eau de Parfum costs $230 for 100 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Mona di Orio under Perfume Houses.
1For clarity, I standardized Mr. Oude Sogtoen's grammar, but the words are all his own.