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.