Mona di Orio Violette Fumee ~ fragrance review

Mona di Orio Violette FuméeMona di Orio Violette Fumée

It’s easy to mistakenly pigeonhole violet. When I think of violet, my thoughts first go to retro rose-violet concoctions like Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose or violet as sweet as the candied flowers on Viennese pastries. Really, though, violet can be dark and moody, especially when paired with its leaves (think of the knowing earthiness of Jean Patou 1000) or even elegantly futuristic (like Comme des Garçons + Stephen Jones's waft of a flying saucer crashed into a bed of violets).

Then, of course, there’s the classic gentleman’s violet as found in British shaving creams and old-fashioned colognes. Mona di Orio Violette Fumée Eau de Parfum Intense is a gentleman’s violet, but for the modern gentleman (or lady) whose desk is topped not by fountain pens but a MacBook Pro, and whose evening tipple is more likely to be small batch bourbon from Brooklyn than a Scotch whisky and soda.

Violette Fumée’s notes include lavender, bergamot, oakmoss, violet flowers, violet leaves, Turkish rose, vetiver, clary sage, opoponax and cashmeran. Its press release also mentions tobacco, bois de gaiac and saffron in the text accompanying the list of notes. (In less than half a page, the fragrance’s press copy has Violette Fumée revving, twisting, unfolding, developing, ramping up, communicating, igniting, smoldering, and diving. Whew! I needed a nap simply reading it.)

Mona di Orio created Violette Fumée for her business partner, Jeroen Oude Songtoen, who continues to run Mona di Orio Parfums since di Orio’s death. In an email exchange in April when I was preparing to review Eau Absolue, he wrote, “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.”

Fans of Mona di Orio will recognize Violette Fumée as hers from the first dense, earthy sniff. At first, an herbaceous kick of almost mentholated lavender floats up. The perfume’s dank, mossy violets with their characteristic metallic edge are right behind it, cushioned by loam-scented violet leaves. A green, herbal core runs through the whole fragrance, but it isn’t the assertive lavender of a fougère that, for me at least, can make a perfume too masculine to feel comfortable in. Instead, it’s a slightly medicinal edge that sucks the preciousness right out of the violets.

I wouldn’t have smelled pipe tobacco in Violette Fumée if I hadn’t read it in the press release, and whether it’s the actual scent of tobacco or the mood of fragrant smoke drifting from a cherry wood pipe that I sense, it complements the violet well. As the fragrance wears, it warms and softens but still remains dense and almost telescoped, as many of Mona di Orio’s fragrances do. A few times when I wore it, a buzz of something like jasmine floated above the fragrance’s body, but not always. Violette Fumée lasts at least six hours on me and stays within my personal space. 

Jeroen Oude Songtoen said the fragrance echoed some of his favorite things. What do you think they are? Judging from Violette Fumée, I’d guess his favorite color is grey-purple. I’d place his favorite fashion era as the 1930s, and his favorite film as Brideshead Revisited. But I’d put him in a perfectly modern condo with a well-used Jean Prouvé armchair, jazz on the stereo, and a stack of novels.

Mona di Orio Violette Fumée Eau de Parfum Intense comes as 100 ml for $330. For information on where to buy it, see Mona di Orio under Perfume Houses.

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  1. lucasai says:

    Great review Angela. I quite agree with your take on Violette Fumee. It’s for a modern gentlemen, classy and sophisticated perfume. I really like the sample I have

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review, and thanks for weighing in!

  2. ladymurasaki says:

    Thanks for the review, Angela. I tried this the other day, and from the list of notes, I so wanted to like it if not love it. Alas, it is not for me. Something in the top notes brothers me. It’s almost acrid, and the dry down was not good on me either. A similar thing happens when I wear Tubereuse.

    • Angela says:

      I wonder if it smells too menthol for you–maybe from the lavender? If the top and the dry down flunks your skin, you have just saved yourself some money!

      • ladymurasaki says:

        Angela, I was thinking the same. Lavender.

        • Angela says:

          I generally have a low tolerance for lavender, too. I think Jicky, Moment Supreme, Dune, and Kiki are the only fragrances where it works for me.

  3. Dilana says:

    I was so waiting for this to be released, until I saw the price. Now I am unsure whether I want to sample it. Can you comment on how it compares to Bois de Violette by Lutens?
    Also, L. is this fragrance classy and sophisticated on a lady as well as gentlemen?

    • Angela says:

      To me, Violette Fumee is worlds away from Bois de Violette. Bois de Violette is airier and more ladylike to me, while Violette Fumee is more dense and green-murky.

  4. ringthing says:

    Ok, this is obviously not a purist’s question but I’m going to ask it anyway, because violets are troublesome for me. How does this compare with Grey Flannel? Bois de Jasmin reviewed the latter recently and I recall from waaaaay back in my memory that I kind of liked it and didn’t consider it especially masculine. I know the Mona is made with vastly superior ingredients but I’m still curious.

    • Angela says:

      I don’t know that I’ve ever smelled Grey Flannel. I can’t believe it! I’m going to have to remedy that ASAP.

      Maybe someone else here will be more helpful than I’ve been in responding to your comment…

  5. Filomena Anna says:

    I love both Bois de Violette and CdG Stephan Jones–although each is nothing like the other. And Violette Fume is not like either of them. I know it is supposed to be masculine, but I when I tried it, I fell instantly in love with it. The only thing I don’t like about it is the price!

    • Angela says:

      Agreed–the price is brutal!

  6. JolieFleurs says:

    Oh, perfect timing….. I just got my sample today!

    I get no violet whatsoever in this, or lavender, or clary sage or much else, for that matter …. on me, it’s all gorgeous tobacco and leather, of all things, which isn’t even listed as a note. Maybe more suede than leather. The dry-down is incense like on my skin. I have no idea why my nose interprets the notes like this…. I love violet, have plenty of them ( including the Stephen Jones), so it’s not like I’m anosmic to it as a note!

    Absolutely gorgeous, and strangely comforting, given the strong leather/suede note.

    I got a 3ml sample, so I have plenty to play with, and if I like it as much on subsequent wearings as I do today, it’ll probably be what I ask for as my 50th birthday present. ( I”m also considering her rose scent)

    • Angela says:

      How funny! It guess it just goes to show what different skin can do. I definitely get plenty of dusky violet from it, and the tobacco is subtle–almost more of a mood than a smell to me. I’m glad you like it, though. (And Happy Almost Birthday!)

      • JolieFleurs says:

        Thank you!

        And I suspect it’s my nose more than my skin. I have a very keen sense of smell ( in that I can smell things long before anyone else ) but not a sophisticated one! I am seldom able to pick out more than one or two notes in any perfume.

        • Angela says:

          It takes me a long time, too, to pick out notes. I’ll be interested to see what you pick up over time as you wear your sample a few times.

  7. mitsouko says:

    Oh a lovely review- I have been waiting for the blogs to review Violet Fumee and read Lucasai’s and Perfume Posse’s plus a couple of others.
    How violet-y is this really ?
    I love violets. Like Lady Murasaki – Tubereuse was very sour on my skin. I thought it was the bergamot .

    • Angela says:

      I find it very violet-y, but it’s not a candied violet at all. It’s more of a woody, earthy, metallic violet. Also, the violet takes a few minutes to come out from under the herbaceous top and start to shine.

      Too bad about Tubereuse! I hope Violette Fumee doesn’t do the same thing on your skin.

      • mitsouko says:

        Thanks Angela ! Sounds lovely- I wish they would hurry up and re issue her original collection. Nuit Noire etc !

        • Angela says:

          I know! Lots of people are waiting on those…

          • mitsouko says:

            Looking at the Mona di Orio website – the original collection is due out next year.
            Also …I went ahead and bought Violette Fumee. I must say that I do love it very much . Thank goodness it is not sour on my skin like Tubereuse is.
            Also ,I get no smoke at all. On me, it is all violet and wood . I do also get that slight animalistic tinge with the citrus in the opening ( very Mona di Orio ) and it’s just a flash before settling into violets and woods and remains like that on me for the duration of its life on my skin.
            I adore it !
            I am truly lemming her Oud as well . *sigh* .

          • Angela says:

            I’m so glad you love it! You were incredibly brave to buy it unsniffed.

            I haven’t tried the Oud yet, but I want to. The Mona I’m lemming is the leather. There’s something deliciously dive bar about it.

  8. Oakland Fresca says:

    Aha! Perfect timing. I’ve been wearing Tuca Tuca (Lush) at night trying to get comfortable with it. I enjoy it as a sniff experience, but I am not sure we (Tuca Tuca and me) are ready for prime time. It might be the vanilla notes. Violette Fume might be smoother, and I like the idea of violets turning green and herbaceous. . . .but at $330 that is quite a turn!

    • Angela says:

      If you like Mona di Orio’s style, it’s definitely worth a sniff. But you’re so right–it’s a heck of a financial commitment!

  9. mitsouko says:

    They need 50 or 30 ml bottles . Probably would sell more in smaller bottles.

    • Angela says:

      I completely agree. Plus, the fragrances themselves are so rich that you only really need a small amount. Really, 100 ml of Nuit Noire could serve the entire city of New Orleans.

      • mitsouko says:

        Bwahahaha ! I agree !

  10. Nile Goddess says:

    Lovely review Angela, as always. I read it just because it’s yours, otherwise I run a mile even from the most shrinking violet.

    Jeroen is a darling – at least on the phone, we haven’t met yet – and his efforts to keep Mona’s creations alive are admirable. The fragrance is not for me though – too cloying. Nor would I love it on my SO – I mean, he wears my Voleur de Roses and it’s devastatingly attractive on him the cheeky bugger! Enougy is enough eh :-D

    • Angela says:

      Well! It sounds like you just might find a way to enjoy Violette Fumee after all…

  11. irisfreak says:

    Such a brilliant and funny review. I wish I could spray it on – forget the overpriced juice.

    • Angela says:

      You’re very kind! Speaking of spraying, though, my sample came in a rollerball, and I do kind of wonder what it would be like sprayed….

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