Gardens of melancholy : Amyitis by Mona Di Orio (2008)
































Mona Di Orio, whose untimely passing robbed perfumery of a true pioneer of the mysterious,  was to perfume what some avant-garde musicians are to music :  so far beyond mainstream tastes as to be almost indigestible. Though clearly made of rich, natural materials, many people have found her creations to be quite simply bizarre. From the shocking orange-blossomed animalia of Nuit Noire, to the soiled,  tainted bloomers of Carnation and Lux, I was convinced I would never be able to wear a single perfume by this house.  However, Amyitis, one of Di Orio’s less celebrated creations,  managed to continue the perfumer’s reputation for stubborn, curious originality while veering off into cooler, more poetic tangents with an iris and sage creation that is austere, otherworldly.


The perfume was inspired by the hanging gardens of Babylon,  and a sense of breathing, living greens across the spectrum of the plant world is captured with a freshly cut top note of verdurous new leaves plus an unusual botanical herbarium of savoury, sage, cumin and caraway. The fresh, soil-grounded iris/violet flowers at the heart also contribute to the composition an intellectual, writerly quality, while touches of saffron and opoponax add flesh.  On smelling Amyitis I was immediately reminded of the character played by Geraldine Page in Woody Allen’s ‘Interiors’ (1978),  a depressive, sensitive artist with a similarly waxen complexion and pallid melancholia. An aesthete, hair scraped into a bun, staring mournfully out onto a trailing, moss-covered courtyard.






















Filed under Green, Iris

31 responses to “Gardens of melancholy : Amyitis by Mona Di Orio (2008)

  1. brie

    “hair scraped into a bun”..God I love that!
    I have had several offers of samples of Mona Di Orio but then some perfume friends have steered me away saying I would not like her creations (and then in checking out the prices of a full size bottle saying to myself “I would hope not to like it as I could not afford it!” Have you tried her Vanilla? would be curious about that one…

    • ginzaintherain

      I find all her perfumes very strange, but everyone is telling me that I would adore the vanilla so I definitely have to seek it out.

      Amyitis did strike me as kind of lovely and strange, though, and I really did feel exactly as I described it here.

      I often worry that my ‘poetic’ descriptions are excessive, but your comments are really encouraging for me. You seem to know exactly what I am getting at and I really appreciate it!

  2. Nancysg

    I just read this review of Amytis and totally agree with you. I have smelled several of her original line and found them difficult. But when I had the chance to buy the discontinued Amytis I had to jump for it. The strange green, that is mossy woods, not grassy meadows is a mystery to me but lovely.

    • ginzaintherain

      How do you feel when wearing it? Removed? It is certainly very poetic/ arcadian, not something to bung on and go down the supermarket….I found it quite otherworldly.

  3. Katherine

    God I love that character, she is somewhat original and she is played so well, it’s quite a force! This sounds so interesting..

  4. janeykate

    Loving the perfume descriptions, finding the ones I have tried spot on accurate! Brilliant blog, love it!
    Jane x

  5. Mona was a fascinating perfumer, wasn’t she? Like you, I can’t actually wear most of her creations, except for her Vanille, which does get a lot of skin time in cool weather. But I am fascinated with some of the others, and keep little vials for use at home, when I have time to think about them. Have you smelled her Oud? It is strangely entrancing, and the most interesting use of osmanthus that I have come across. It occurs to me that I have never worn Amyitis, although I do have a sample of it somewhere, and that might be because I tend to lean away from the melancholic in general. The robust fleshiness of her Cuir is interesting me at present, although I doubt that I would ever wear it out of the house. Although I do have an upcoming weekend trip to a wolf sanctuary where Cuir might be just right! Or get me devoured, one or the other.

    • Actually, Olfactoria did send me a vial of the Oud, one of the most expensive perfumes there is, and I could entirely see why it is so lauded and adored. Strangely entrancing indeed: definitely an original spin on a note of depleted interest. Like the Vanille, she managed to imbue these materials with poignant emotion. Not an easy feat.

  6. Nancysg

    I love reading this post again. I need to put Amytis into my perfume rotation again (even though I think of it more as spring like versus the Polar vortex I am living with right now). I find Amytis to be the easiest of Mona’s creations to wear. Even compared to the newer Absolue Cologne which is a dark sea/citrus. Perhaps I do like mystery in my perfumes. I think of my life as being rather straight forward and open. Is perfume the hidden locked away segment? But I have no qualms about wearing perfume every day – work, at home, out shopping. Makes me wonder if people perceive me any differently based on the perfume I am wearing.

    • Interesting, and sorry for my (recently, always very belated) replies.
      Dark sea/citrus sounds freaky but vaguely intriguing, but I am glad that you agree that this is one of the easier of her scents to actually wear (as opposed to just admiring).

      I personally love green perfumes in any case, and liked how the herbs and grasses were cloistered within that melancholy, saged iris.

      Fascinating what you say also about your life seeming straightforward, and therefore wanting to give a hint of what else there is inside to the public. This is surely the magic and ultimate point of perfume, and why so many people get it so WRONG. Wearing these cheap and vulgar florientals, that aside their occasional sexiness, do no one any favours in the enigma stakes.

  7. Katy

    I am terribly behind on my niche perfumes. The only niche I have had the pleasure of testing are Andy Tauer’s and Providence Perfumes. I have not smelled a single Uncle Serge, Mona or anything else. I feel left out of these conversations. I do not want my curiosity to outstrip the budget! There is so much in the mostly maligned mainstream that I would like to try. I can at least find those on a fragrance counter in my part of Virginia. I love your description of this fragrance, I want a sniff!

    • I think even the most committed perfumista is behind on their niche perfumes! There are so many out there now that it is simply impossible to know even half of them, maybe even a tenth of them. It can induce a kind of panic, but then there are certain brands, Serge Lutens being one of them, that are most definitely worth sampling. For my rather traditionalist (though I really hate to admit that) nose, houses like Tauer are just too out there and weird. Interesting to examine, but not actually pleasurable, by and large (I have never even heard of the other brand you mention, incidentally!).

      If you are drawn to the more mainstream brands, which do obviously have a lot of good scents in their rosters, then I reckon you are more likely to enjoy the niche brands such as Lutens, Lorenzo Villoresi, The Different Company, whose scents are edgy and original but still very much in the plushly, recognizably enjoyable arenas.

  8. Nancysg

    Katy, I could send you a sample, but not sure how to contact you.

    • Katy

      Nancy, how very kind you are. You can email me at stinker underscore kit at yahoo dot com. I wear fragrance everywhere too. The selection of the daily perfume is almost sacramental for me. I sit before my antique oak dresser where all my bottles are carefully stored, in the dimness before the break of day, and I take a emotional and spiritual sounding and go from there. Today, the masterful and underrated Alien. I apply fragrance before clothing so even sillage bombs are somewhat contained!

  9. Martha

    The only Mona di Orio fragrance I know is the Vanille. I was introduced to it by a generous perfumista who sent me a spray sample. It grabbed me right away and I bought a bottle very soon after receiving the sample. Thus far, I have fallen in love every time I wear it. It works well on me and provides interest as well as comfort. The vanilla is not a confectionary type of aroma; it is a familiar beloved scent yet dry and a little boozy. Often there is a strong element of smoke, almost like a freshly stubbed out cigarette. Sigh. I love it. By the way, how does one pronounce the perfumer’s surname? I’m not sure of how to emphasize the vowels in “Orio”.

    • I wouldn’t know exactly how to pronounce it in all honesty, but I imagine like the cookies: O-Rih-O. No idea though.

      As for the Vanille, yes yes yes, did you read my review of it? I didn’t like it entirely at first but then suddenly got it. A very deep and emotional scent that is an essential part of the vanilla pantheon.

  10. This sounds like quite the intriguing scent. I found a shop here in Vancouver that sells her fragrances, I will see if they have this one to sample.

  11. Melancholy Gardens the right note on the brink of my 69th birthday, a funny year anyhow.
    The conversation about the strangeness of scents and the every day ritual of dressing after choosing and putting on perfume … the lovely sad, dreamy pictures. Tarte citron definitely and something bitter, sour and fizzing …
    with a sillage to last until my 70ies!

  12. Thanks. Maybe I should start counting backwards from 69. Is weirdly possible. The Perfumed Conversation Pieces were my first presents today, And I love all those different voices about a mutual Passion.
    Sitting in the shady corners of Amsterdam, as The Sun and I love at The distance. Have to wear a hat the last ten years. Maybe I’ll end wearing those White Linnen children’s sun hats. Finally an Estee Lauder in my scent ladder.

  13. Wearing this for the first time today after tracking down a bottle (and a few other of the discontinued di Orio’s in South Africa). Such a beauty. ❤

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