Vero Profumo Onda ~ fragrance review

Vero Profumo Onda Eau de ParfumIt’s rare to smell a fragrance that seems completely new, like nothing else on the market. It’s even more rare to find something that smells not only new, but at the same time ancient, as if unearthed from an Egyptian sarcophagus. Astonishingly, Vero Profumo Onda manages this last trick. There’s nothing of the focus group about it. If someone told me Onda was Mata Hari’s secret weapon, I’d believe it. If she told me Onda was Comme des Garçons’ latest fragrance, “Bilge Water Supreme,” I’d believe that, too. It’s a marvel.

Vero Kern, the nose behind Vero Profumo, released three fragrances in extrait — Onda, Rubj, and Kiki — in 2008. In 2010, she released Eau de Parfum versions of each fragrance. These three perfumes are Vero Profumo’s only offerings. Vero Profumo is one of the few perfume houses that doesn’t hustle one or two new perfumes out the door each year. While it’s a relief not to have to field a regular raft of new perfumes, Onda, Rubj, and Kiki are so interesting that I’m eager for her next release.

I first smelled Onda extrait when a Now Smell This reader passing through town slid a spray sample across the table of a Thai restaurant. It was surprising — sexy, fetid, and earthy. I didn’t know what to make of it. With fond memories of the reader, who became a friend (it turned out we had a common friend in Portland), I put it in the etched crystal glass I save for special and rare samples. Every few months I took Onda out and sprayed it on a wrist. And each time I was wracked with a keen attraction and repulsion. I didn’t know what to make of Onda.

Onda in extrait is a fusty, leathery vetiver, sort of like a cross between Molinard Habanita and Caron Narcisse Noir. It smells of old powder, vetiver, marjoram, dirty vase water, cardboard, pencil lead, and loamy earth. Initially, menthol shafts its way through the perfume until it is subsumed by rot — a beautiful, almost biblical, incense-tinged rot. As the fragrance settles, the smell of burned logs arises. Not the woody, boozy hot smell of Serge Lutens Chêne, but the scent of charcoal-black wood. (Onda extrait notes include vetiver, ginger, mace, coriander.)

Does this description sound like I don’t like Onda? Because that’s not true. I adore Onda the same way I adore poached foie gras on brioche points or George Saunders short stories. I crave them both but dread them for their gorgeous-painful intensity. It takes courage to dive into this kind of unfriendly art, but it’s rewarding. At least, I think it is.

Onda in Eau de Parfum is, if anything, more difficult than Onda extrait. It has less powder than the extrait and less animalic depth, but it is more herbal-bright and more “rotted” smelling. Onda Eau de Parfum’s notes include bergamot, citron, mandarin, ginger, coriander, basil, passion fruit, iris, ylang ylang, honey, Bourbon vetiver, patchouli, musk, and cedar wood.

Unlike for Rubj, where the Eau de Parfum sings on my skin, I prefer Onda in extrait. I find it richer and deeper, and, in some delicious way, scarier. Both forms of Onda last all day on skin. If you are fascinated by Onda, you'll rejoice in its persistence. Otherwise, you'll find it a scrubber extraordinaire. Either way, I don't think you'll leave Onda unmoved.

Vero Profumo Onda Eau de Parfum (shown) comes in a 50 ml bottle for $165. It’s available in Extrait de Parfum for $185 for 7.5 ml. For information on where to buy Onda, see Vero Profumo under Perfume Houses.

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  1. Emily says:

    I wish more perfumes were as scary as this one sounds. Definitely adding samples of the EDP and extrait to my next Luckyscent order.

    • Angela says:

      I love the sentiment–yes, bring on the scary perfumes! Onda is one of a kind.

  2. Onda, is nothing like I’ve ever tried. I have the edp, and have not worn it in public. Thanks for the review, and Happy New Year, Angela.

    • Angela says:

      Happy New Year to you, too! I can understand why you might not want to take Onda out of the house. It would be like wearing Alexander McQueen couture–beautiful and fascinating, but it takes courage to take it public.

  3. ggperfume says:

    Now I want to sniff this, Angela – on you, so I won’t have to fear a scrubbing episode!

    • Angela says:

      Scaredy cat! But of course it would be great to see you, anyway, Onda or not.

  4. Abyss says:

    Onda has been on my To Try list for the longest time! Leather and vetiver are easily my two favourite notes, add to that descriptions like “scary” and “like nothing else” and my curiosity levels go through the roof. Hopefully one day a sample will finally find its way to me.

    • Angela says:

      When you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think. It’s scary, but good scary!

  5. Erin says:

    Don’t know how I feel about Onda – it’s been a while since I tried it, since I love Kiki and Rubj so much I figure it’s enough expense for any one wallet.

    I love George Saunders, though! Just wanted to get that on the record. ;) Those first two books, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia, are two of my favorite short story collections ever.

    • Angela says:

      Isn’t he marvelous? I’m always terrified before starting one of his stories, because I know he’s going to take me to some painful, emotional places. At the same time, he’s so danged funny. He reads a story for the New Yorker’s fiction podcasts, too, and I love his voice.

  6. nozknoz says:

    Interesting – I’m retesting an old sample of the extrait – very interesting!
    This post is a classic, Angela – 2012 is off to a good start! Now, if only I had some brioche toast points and foie gras as the fitting accompaniment. ;-)

    • Angela says:

      That’s perfect! (Kind of a nice way to kick off the year, too!)

  7. hollyc says:

    Scary scent twins we are Angela. I too adored Rubj in EdP, so much so that I had to get a bottle and did. I won’t say what my husband calls it, but he loves it too. The extrait seemed more fruity, less wicked. I have the exact same reaction to Onda, except it is the extrait I adore. Post coital leather pants from some time ago is my impression. The EdP, again is more passion fruit and less erotic and challenging. I carried about a tiny sample for some time and would share it with those I thought might be able to appreciate its splendour. I still remember meeting out one of my last precious drops to a twenty something sales associate who I like very much and she practically recoiled and hid behind the counter while she spluttered something about liking fruity florals. I look sadly now at my empty vial and bitterly (I mean BITTERLY) regret sharing any of it. Too late to be mean now, the only fix is to get me a bottle of that extrait, but I noticed last night that Luckyscent is currently out of it. Sigh . . . just as well until the Christmas excesses are taken care of. I do however have a 6.8 oz of Chanel Gardenia that my beloved, patient husband undertook to get for me this Christmas. That will definitely make the wait for Onda a little easier. Happy New Year! Love as always the fragrances you choose to review. P.S. Diorama has won me over now that it’s cold out.

    • Angela says:

      I’m jealous of your bottle of Rubj! (And the Gardenia, come to think of it–what a wonderful gift.) I’ll have a bottle of Rubj eventually–it has to be.

      Have you tried Jubilation 25 and Femme? If you like Rubj EdP and Diorama, you might like these others, too. Femme, at least, is affordable.

      • hollyc says:

        You simply must have Rubj in the EdP Angela, it deserves you! I have a small decant of Jub 25 and almost sprang for the 100 ml but got Ubar instead, not sure why because I love J25, hmmmm. I have Femme in EdT, but after reading what it used to be like, it makes me a little sad and wistful. I still take it out now and then for a little sniff though. BTW, Rubj lasts about 18 hours on skin and goes through many changes, all of them lovely. If you get Rubj I’ll get Onda in extrait, guilt shared in guilt halved!

        • Angela says:

          You temptress! I’m saving up for a big trip this spring, but as soon as that’s under control, I’ll shell out for some Rubj right away.

          • hollyc says:

            A big trip? Yes, Rubj can definitely wait . . . or maybe you’ll pass a shop that has some while you’re away . . . .Bon Voyage!

          • Angela says:

            Now that’s an idea! Thanks for the good wishes.

    • ockeghem says:

      “Post coital leather pants from some time ago” reminds me a bit of S-Perfume’s S-ex. Have you smelled it? Does Onda smell anything like it?

      • Angela says:

        I haven’t smelled S-ex, so I can’t comment, but maybe someone else here can.

  8. Rappleyea says:

    I must be the lone NST chicken because any review that includes the words “rot”, “bilge water” and “repulsion” does not create a lemming in me! But a very interesting review none the less.

    OT, I just had lunch with a non-perfumista friend who gave me a bottle of Rue Faubourg edp that she bought in Paris (wait for it) in 1997! It is gorgeous! No rot or bilge water here! ;-)

    • Angela says:

      You mean Hermes 24, Faubourg? That sounds amazing! A good friend, indeed, and nothing “bilge-y” about it.

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      I’m mostly with you, Rappleyea. I may be curious about a scent described as “rot” and “bilge-water,” but I have no illusions about wanting to wear it! Anyone want to volunteer so I can smell it on someone else, just to say I have?

      • Angela says:

        I hope you get to smell it eventually–it’s worth seeking out a drop (or someone who has one).

    • OperaFan says:

      Have you tried 24 Faubourg before? For years I’ve only known the edt which was gorgeous, but then I kept on reading about the perfume so I lucked out early last year and picked up a used spray bottle and it’s amazing indeed. Never tried the edp. Maybe time for a swap….

      • OperaFan says:

        Oh and btw – I’m with Rapple and Marjorie Rose. I’d sniff just out of curiosity but I seriously doubt I’d be attracted – the girly-girl that I am. :)

        • Angela says:

          I understand that. Maybe Rubj or Kiki are better for you. But do sniff Onda if you get the chance!

      • Rappleyea says:

        Hey! Good morning and Happy New Year! I have a mini of the edt that I bought at one of those kiosks (sp?) in the mall some time ago. I’m now convinced that it is a fake as it smells very different from this edp.

        • Angela says:

          Too bad!

        • OperaFan says:

          Happy New Year to you, too! My edts are sample vials received at SFA and NM when the fragrance was new. Don’t know how different they are from the edp. I may have purchased an edp sample recently so will have to see if I can find it to compare.

      • Angela says:

        I’ve never tried the parfum, but I bet it’s wonderful.

        • OperaFan says:

          I blame the Posse for setting me off on a hunt for the perfume. In the end, it was well-worth it!

          • Angela says:

            I’m glad!

  9. Alyssa says:

    Oh, adore Onda! And have never splurged on a bottle, though I am almost, almost at the point where I will, all my other sample and random purchasing having slowed enough to justify it. I love what you say about it’s being both very modern and ancient. My first reaction to it was, “Damn! Where’d she get her time machine?” Germaine Cellier’s ghost lives on in that one.

    • Angela says:

      I hope you get your hands on a bottle soon! There’s really nothing out there quite like it.

  10. I’ve loved Onda ever since I got my first sample of it, but I agree it’s quite a commitment to wear it. I can’t really imagine dabbing it on in the morning… So in the end, the extrait lives in the refrigerator and gets pulled out now and then for a sniff.
    Oddly, it was when I was wearing the much less challenging Kiki that a client looked around in dismay, saying “I think there’s a dead mouse here”. But then, she’s got next to no “smell culture” and anything unusual makes her freak…

    • Angela says:

      That’s how I feel about Onda, too. I love having the few drops I have, but I’ve never done a complete, full body application. A dab on my wrist is perfect when the mood strikes.

      That’s so funny about Kiki! Dead mouse? What kind of mice does she hang out with?

      • Posh ones, clearly. We were in the offices of a Swiss bank…

        • Musette says:

          Too funny about the ‘dead mouse’! We are having an influx of those right now (not so posh house/20F/bait/youdothemath)…anyway, it’s a very distinctive smell – I don’t get that in Kiki at all but now I will have to revisit!


          • Angela says:

            Yikes! Stay warm (and as pest free as you can).

        • Angela says:

          Posh mice and possibly Swiss. O.K., now I get it.

  11. nozknoz says:

    Believe it or not, First in Fragrance has the 15-ml extrait for only about a third more than the price of the sold out 7.5 ml bottles on LuckyScent – including the international shipping. Just sayin’ ;-)

    • Angela says:

      Hey, nice tip. Thanks!

  12. Tama says:

    I can’t type Onda without it becoming Ondaaaaaa!!!!

    I had an Onda accident with one of my paltry samples from the Perfumed Court – I SPILLED IT ON MYSELF! The weensey dab I was going for became a rivulet running down my arm that I had to hastily sponge up with my other wrist and dab onto my neck. I was instantly transported to the interior of the humidor at the cigar store with my Dad. It has none of those notes, but that is where it took me. Maybe it’s those smoky smells combined with that singular kind of humidity. I was so smitten it almost scared me.

    Recently a lovely perfumista gave me the deal of a lifetime on a nearly-full 15 ml bottle of extrait. If I have any perfume that qualifies as My Preciousssss it is this. Now I just have to stop staring at it and start wearing it..

    • Angela says:

      Wow, Onda spillage would be heartbreaking and frightening, all at once! Congratulations on the half-ounce bottle. You should definitely wear it. Who knows what magic powers it will give you?

      • Tama says:

        I decided to put some on tonight! It’s amazing.

        • Angela says:

          It would be perfect for a full moon, too.

    • hollyc says:

      f-i-r-s-t i-n f-r-ag-r-a-n-c-e typing furiously . . . !!!!!

  13. rickbr says:

    Amazing Review Angela, i agree with every word that you said. Vero Profumo line is compact and so beautifully crafted that it makes you ansious for new additions. Onda is my favorite from the line, also in the extrait version. I don’t like so much the edp on me, the passionfruit bothers me a lot. The Extrait is complex, intense, dark, difficult, but amazing on colder days. Intriguing that you commented about Egypt, cause it shares something with Guerlain Djedi, which is an Egypt inspired frag. I prefer Onda over Djedi, for me Onda is much darker and complex.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve never smelled Djedi, but Onda is so much easier to find, that’s for sure. Thanks for the comparison. And you’re so right about how it suits cold days. Even cold, rainy days.

      • When Vero Kern came over to Jovoy in Paris, which now carries her line, she’d brought some Djedi along so that people could compare. She says she hadn’t smelled it before composing Onda and only did after some people had drawn a parallel. Side by side they’re clearly different scents, but you could see how they’d appeal to the same noses.

        • Angela says:

          That’s fascinating, and it says a lot about Kern’s generosity and openness to have made it possible for people to smell them side by side.

  14. RusticDove says:

    Great review Angela and Onda sounds like one fascinating perfume! I hope to check it out one day.

    I absolutely love the notion of an etched crystal glass for special samples! I may have to copy that idea! ;-)

    • Angela says:

      You know what else I like to use a footed, crystal cocktail glass for? Earrings. I put vintage clip-ons and stud earrings in the bowl of the glass, and then dangle earrings that have wires from the rim. I figured this out when I was trying to find a use for a beautiful old glass that had a chip on its rim.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Dove – I agree and am seconding the love of the etched bowl idea. Now I’ve found a great use for my Waterford water pitcher that’s too small (and heavy) to really use for serving water!

      • Angela says:

        That sounds really nice, and a fitting vessel for especially nice samples and decants.

        • Rappleyea says:

          The sad part is that if I do this, I’ll have to put the pitcher away – say under my bathroom sink. Because ask me what happened to *my* etched crystal bowl?? Knocked off the buffet by a cat being chased by his cat-brother and shattered! :-(

          • Angela says:

            Cats can be machines of destruction. I gave up altogether on fully upholstered furniture a long time ago and have a wood-framed day bed for a couch. (But it’s worth it!)

          • Marjorie Rose says:

            Angela, the wood-frame sounds like a good alternative for kitty furniture. As I contemplate buying new furnishings (some day. . .), I will keep that idea in mind. I love beautiful things, but I was starting to think that I’d have to settle for ugly hand-me-downs so that I wouldn’t feel too upset when they became scratching posts.

  15. Suzy Q says:

    Angela, I have to chime in with everyone else: great review, brilliant descriptions. I have samples of both the extrait and edp, but no clear preference for either one yet. I got the edp first and it was love at first sniff. I can’t imagine ever spraying the stuff on myself though! Tonight I’ll dab some off to ward off the cold weather.

    • Angela says:

      Thank you, and enjoy your Onda tonight!

  16. 50_Roses says:

    This review motivated me to dig out my Vero Profumo samples for testing. I have to say that I am in partial agreement with you with regard to Onda. It does not smell like anything else, and it does smell old–as in it smells like an old building, perhaps one of the antique stores in Galveston which has reopened since Ike, but still has a musty smell from the eight feet of water which inundated the Strand during the height of the hurricane. I think that in the rush to reopen (and generate some cash flow), the renovators missed some of the damaged areas, which are still spreading the smell of mildew and rot to mingle with the musty smell of the aged merchandise. Quite an olfactory experience, but not one I can imagine wearing all day!

    Of the three Vero Profumos, the one I can most easily imagine wearing is Kiki, which smells astonishingly “normal” next to Onda. Rubj is no doubt very beautiful, but I am trouble with very sweet florals, as they tend to induce headaches.

    As a bonus, in searching for my VP samples, I discovered a sample of Mona di Orio Oud which I had quite forgotten that I even had. So far, this is the only oud-centric scent I have tried that appealed to me at all. Most ouds I find to be too strong and musty, but this one sweeter and gentler.. I certainly don’t feel any need for it at the price (and Lucky Scent is sold out anyway), but I am glad to have sniffed it.

    • Angela says:

      Oh, that’s too bad about the water-damaged buildings breeding mold and mildew. What a nightmare for the business owners.

      I hear so many people say they love the Mona di Orio Oud! I haven’t tried it yet, but, as you say, there’s no shortage of oud fragrances out there.

      • 50_Roses says:

        Oh dear, I may have been misleading. I wasn’t referring to any particular building, I was just trying to evoke what this perfume made me think of. When I closed my eyes and took a whiff, I found myself thinking that it smelled like something familiar, and then I realized that it was the smell of an antique store. I find that antique stores tend to have a distinctive odor to them, and I sometimes suspect that is is not always just the merchandise, although certainly old clothing, books, and magazines can smell musty, especially if they have not been kept quite dry. Antique stores usually are in older buildings, and often seem to have a musty aroma. I sometimes wonder if there isn’t some mold or mildew in some of them. I was just fantasizing that perhaps if one of them had some mold or mildew from the water damage, and if it had not been quite completely mitigated, it would smell like Onda.

        • Angela says:

          Oh! That’s better! Your poetic license led to some very effective and convincing–and evocative–descriptions. A great description.

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          50, I kind of like that smell. There’s something cozy about it. . .maybe since I used to hover around antique stores when I was a kid? It is always mixed with the smell of old cedar furniture and lemon oil, in my mind (in my mind’s nose?).

          • Angela says:

            Love “in my mind’s nose.”

  17. gisela says:

    I love Onda and wear it quite often, its ability to cover my back is very much appreciated and I often combine the EDP and the extrait. Still, I was surprised when I did my perfume priority list for 2011 the other day to see that Onda came in second, after Une Fleur de Cassie – talk about bilge water… ;-)

    • Angela says:

      You have daring but fabulous taste! I’m curious about your “perfume priority list.” Do you do one every year? Is it to find out what perfume you like best, or to figure out which ones you need to stock up on?

      • gisela says:

        It’ s my first list, it will be long before my perfumista card reaches platin status. ;-) I just wanted to find out what I like best, no need to stock up so far (except for that full bottle of UFdC).

  18. dolcesarah says:

    I don’t want to smell or smell like what you described. It’s just not proper and I’m the biggest perfume lover I know. I blind buy all the time and always end up loving every bottle. That is except for CdG EDP. That was horrible. To each her own. I love Daphne, reminds me of Guerlain’s Chamade or Patou’s JOY. SIMILAR BUT IOVE THEM ALL.

    • Angela says:

      With that kind of open attitude, it sounds like you’re finding lots of fragrances to love! You’ve had better luck with blind buys than I have, too, lucky you.

  19. Well, I was going to buy a bottle of Tubereuse Criminelle since it’s coming available on Aedes & Lucky Scent, but … but you sold me at ‘a beautiful, almost biblical, incense-tinged rot’. I must have this!

    • Angela says:

      Make sure you try it first! It’s a polarizing scent.

  20. dolcesarah says:

    To Angela, I want you to check out Byredo!! They have all different sorts, some common, some very interesting like SEVEN VEILS, it’s a romp on Salome’s dance in the Bible where she was beguiling. She asked for a man’s head,
    That’s as far as I got. But apparently she could shake it and wore a
    Veil. I want to send you a sample so bad but don’t have any viles for making samples. They have it at Barney’s. I think you will adore it. I read every comment but rarely speak up. You MUST SMELL THIS along with Bal d Afrique. Promise me….

    • Angela says:

      I haven’t smelled many of the Byredos, mostly because they’re not easy for me to find. But I’ll make a point to hunt these down. Thanks!

  21. dolcesarah says:

    I am looking at the house of Guerlain and want something that doesn’t smell like Mitsouko, like L’Huere and Chamade do. Should I get apree l’ondee or Voile du Nuit. I love strong scents but I’ll settle for a good one, thoughts?

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like investing in some samples would be a good idea so you can take you time and smell them on your own skin before springing for a bottle. Guerlain has lots of good ones–both Apres L’Ondee and Vol de Nuit are wonderful. Have fun!

  22. cazaubon says:

    Onda is fabulously sexy and yes it is a commitment… Hard to put on at 8am but great for an evening scent. I have both the edp and the parfum and adore them both. Need to get the edp of Rubj too… The parfum is intoxicating.

    • Angela says:

      I’ve been wearing it more often since the review and getting more and more out of each wearing. Rubj EdP is on my list of must-have, too!

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