Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Parfums de Nicolai- Vanille Tonka

Vanille Tonka, the 1997 creation of perfumer Patricia de Nicolai, a grand-daughter of Pierre Guerlain, is quite different than the many vanilla-centered perfumes in my wardrobe. Most of the time I like my vanilla to be sweet, rich, sometimes foody. Vanille Tonka is dry, crisp and has no gourmand vibe whatsoever. The combination of a Guerlain descendant and the words vanilla and tonka bean should not mislead you: the classic patisserie note is not here. Instead, Patricia de Nicolai created a very modern, unisex and sophisticated spicy incense perfume that has the depth and mystery of tonka bean.

Vanille Tonka opens with a cold blast of cinnamon and something pine-like. It warms up slowly with a light smoky note, but it still keeps a certain poise and distance- this is not a cuddly scent. The incense becomes more and more pronounced, there's a whiff of the outdoors but also of dark, plush rooms furnished with expensive antiques and kept immaculate. There is an ambery vanilla aspect, but the frankincense lends a sharp and clean. On very cold days last winter the perfume smelled somewhat soapy on my skin, but now that the weather is warmer I get a lot more spice and depth.

Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka ($60, 1 oz) is available from Luckyscent and BeautyHabit. In NYC, the line is available at New London Pharmacy, though Vanille Tonka is not listed there right now (their shipping fee is outrageous, by the way). If you live in Europe, you might be lucky to have a Nicolai boutique somewhere nearby and can experience the entire range, including their home products.

Photo from The Late Romantics series by Helmut Newton, US Vogue April 15, 1967


  1. I agree with you and I do think Patricia de Nicoalai is a wonderful "créatrice de parfums" her family were wonderful teachers. Even though she is French, you cannot find her creations very easily, but she has several shops in the center of Paris and one in London. She has a web site too

  2. I really enjoyed your description of this fragrance. You're right, there's no patisserie note whatsoever. I am a fan, and hope to buy myself a full bottle soon

  3. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe carries Parfums De Nicolai:
    (The Shoppe also ships to the US and internationally.)

    This is one Nicolai I haven't tried yet. I just added it to my sample wishlist though; I love vanilla when it isn't cloying and over-sweet.

  4. I absolutely love Vanille Tonka. Loveloveloveit - it never fails to make me giddy and giggly. For me, it's stumbling around tipsy in a forest of carnations and vanilla beans, caroming off the enormous limes and laughing myself silly. "Why yes, I'd adore another Dr. Pepper and Captain Morgan's!"

    Which is why I can't wear it to work. It's strictly a for-fun scent, in my book.


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