Reminiscence is one of those smaller brands that I don't think about as often as I should, but when I do think about it, I remember how much I like it. It's primarily a Paris-based jewelry company dating back to the 1970s, with a line of cheerful bohemian-chic fragrances that fits its design aesthetic. Tonka is a recent release (2013), developed by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin. It belongs to Reminiscence's "Les Classiques" fragrance collection (joining Vanille, Ambre, Patchouli and Musc), and it is an oriental gourmand with notes of bergamot, anise, clove, jasmine, honey, cistus, bitter almond, tonka bean, vanilla and musk.
I'd never heard of tonka until I started reading fragrance message boards in the early 2000s; just to refresh our memory, tonka is a flowering tree with the botanical name Dipteryx odorata, and its wrinkly brown seeds ("tonka beans") yield a coumarin-heavy absolute that smells sweet and nutty and grassy and spicy all at once. (Victoria has written a very helpful post about tonka and coumarin at Bois de Jasmin.) Tonka is definitely the star of its namesake Reminiscence fragrance: it comes across as deep and multi-faceted, like an earthier vanilla with hints of spice and almonds. The tonka heart is surrounded by a natural-smelling anise and waves of musky honey. Yes, there's a gourmand feeling, but the spice and musk balance the sweeter notes nicely; Reminiscence Tonka is definitely not a cupcake scent.
Thanks to the combination of anise and bitter almond with vanilla and tonka notes, Reminiscence Tonka feels (to me) like a softer, less smoky, more wearable cousin to Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, and I mean that as a compliment — Un Bois Vanille and I have never really gotten along. Although Tonka is categorized as a feminine fragrance, it could be worn by men who appreciate a touch of spicy-woody sweetness in fragrance. As the last weeks of Winter 2014 wear on, and I'm still wrapped in layers and layers of wool clothing as protection against the "polar vortex," I'm appreciating Tonka's comforting warmth and richness. Cold weather is always a good time to wear full-on orientals and gourmands, and this one has fit perfectly into my seasonal wardrobe.
Reminiscence Tonka is available in 50 ($70) and 100 ml ($95) Eau de Toilette. For purchasing information, see the listing for Reminiscence under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is Tonka Beans [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.