Skip to main content

Monoï, Eau des Vahinés - Takes me to paradise - July 13, 2012 New Fragrance Listing


Photo - Wikipedia - Tahitian women on the beach - Paul Gauguin, 1891 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris

There’s a certain floral accord that has the power to instantly, with a finger-snap, make me feel like I’m in paradise, surrounded by white sand, turquoise water, soft scented breezes. I’ve been to tropical paradises, and this exotic floral scent is the tiare flower, the national flower of French Polynesia, especially Tahiti, and it’s a type of gardenia called Gardenia Tahitensis.

But it’s not “BIG G” gardenia, not the oxygen-sucking, man-eater variety that you might be thinking of. This “French Gardenia” has a heady but gentle waft, and smells like a combination of gardenia and tuberose, with undertones of fruit blossoms, green leaves, and dark vanilla. Its delicate snow white petals are used in fragrant necklaces, and they speak the sweet hypnotic language of love in the Tropics.

And in Tahiti, it’s not just the smell of the white tiare flower, it’s the exotic accord that’s formed when the tiare flower buds are macerated in coconut oil to make Monoï oil, used to scent skin and hair. This is the way I experienced tiare – as Monoï oil, the luscious mix of the fragrant flower and the nutty coconut – soft, airily sweet, and smooth. It’s said to be a scent that has medicinal properties, used for migraines, inflammation, anxiety, to calm babies, as an aphrodisiac even. Tiare blossoms are traditionally worn by Polynesians behind the ear – on the left means you’re taken, on the right means you’re available, at the nape of the neck means “Come with me” (the aphrodisiac in action!)

Tiare is used in niche perfumes, and not so much in mass-market frags because of the cost, but even in niche it’s kind of hard to find a frag that showcases this note the way I remember it. Annick Goutal has Songes – tiare with citrus, and jasmine notes, which are dominant; Montale has Intense Tiare – tiare with rose and jasmine – it has the coconut but is waaay too sweet; and Ormonde Jayne has Tiare – tiare with two citrus, three white flowers and wood notes. None of them smell like my memory of the tiare in Monoï oil. They’re too much, or too sweet…. or too abstract!

So I found my way this summer to Yves Rocher’s Monoï, Eau de Vahinés, which I would never have found if not told by a “nose” that many of the Yves Rocher frags are created by highly regarded perfumers, like Annick Menardo, Jacques Cavallier, Olivier Cresp, Sophia Grojsman, to name a few over the years. Monoï, Eau de Vahinés was created by Nathalie Garcia-Cetto, who includes Burberry Brit Woman, Love, Chloe, Dior Higher Energy for Men, in her creative list.

Now Yves Rocher is known as a mass-market perfume brand, and is lower-priced than niche brands, but the quiet little secret is that in many of his scents he uses not only good creative, but good materials - see my posts about Rose Absolue from his Secrets d’Essences line, and Néonatura Cocoon. You’d be hard-pressed to tell me they’re not niche perfumes if I stuck them under your nose in a blind test. With Monoï, Eau des Vahinés, Yves Rocher has done it again, and created another niche frag. (Vahinés, BTW, is Wahine, which means woman, wife, or girlfriend, in Polynesian).

There aren’t many notes listed for this limited edition EdT, but right out of the bottle, the notes are all there. First is the tiare, the gardenia and tuberose mix, sweet and exotic, sharpened just a little with ylang-ylang, the “poor man’s jasmine” which adds a slight greenish edge to the sweetness. The big opening accord starts softening almost immediately as the coconut note comes up, and the creamy nutty smoothness dampens the white florals so that they begin to float like angels wings.

The development is linear, and changes in the drydown only as the vanilla darkens into the rummy smoky aspect rather than sweetness. Mixed with the coconut and the vanilla, the tiare note and wisp of ylang-ylang form a perfect skinscent, clean and clear, not too loud, not too mai-tai, beachy or suntanny – Monoï, Eau des Vahinés is tropical perfection.

It only lasts a couple of hours, but that’s OK, because I love spritzing again. I'm in paradise, smelling the luscious sensual Monoï oil accord, just as I remember it.

Monoï, Eau des Vahinés is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.