It is evident to me that Mona di Orio had a special kind of sensibility. Her esthetic is very soulful, partly melancholic, partly elegant glamour and partly discrete eroticism, and that shows, particularly in her later perfumes.
Les Nombres d’or Collection has gained cult status among perfume lovers for its sophisticated interpretations of various raw materials, Vanille, Ambre, Musc and Cuir being amongst the most popular ones.
Lux is part of the reissued perfumes with which Mona di Orio made her début under her own name. Luca Turin, he of the “Perfumes-The A to Z Guide” fame was particularly harsh towards both Mona di Orio’s person and work. He awarded only one star to all her three launching fragrances: Carnation, Lux and Nuit Noire, which were released in 2006. His review for Carnation really is rather cruel: “Di Orio describes herself in her press material as a living Modigliani, which, desirable or not, is clearly delusional. She also says she studied with Edmond Roudnitska, but her creations suggest she paid little attention. The good news about Carnation is that it does not smell of cloves, as most attempts at that elusive flower do. The bad news is that after teetering for a few moments on the edge of something interesting, a sort of leathery Chinatown, it settles into an awful fruity-chemical mess“. And about Lux, which he calls “dire citrus” he says it’s “the world’s most expensive cheap lemon sorbet flavor“. I don’t know what prompted such a vitriolic reaction, because in fairness Lux or other Mona di Orio creations I’ve smelled are far from being bad, in fact Mona’s delicate and elegant touch comes through in each and everyone of them. Of course, Turin’s negative remarks only made me more curious about those elusive first Di Orio releases, so when I found out some of them were going to be reissued I made sure to obtain some samples. I thought I had a Nuit Noire one as well, but that performed a disappearing act on me, so I had to just soothe myself with some Lux. By the way, the name is the Latin word for light, and indeed it’s a luminous fragrance, at least in the beginning.
Lux it’s basically an animalic citrus drawn with great subtlety, quite refined and thoroughbred, if a little pale and bloodless. At times it reminds me of both Dior Diorella and Miller Harris L’air de rien, but less lively and a bit too sparse.
It starts with a shimmering lemon accord, shot through with some sweetness, like sugar crystals on the edge of a lemonade glass. It’s a pretty, invigorating start, and it feels like throwing the garden facing windows open on a beautiful, sunny day. There’s also a flicker of green bitterness lurking in the background, that makes the fragrance feel crisp and cool at this stage. Pretty quickly though, within a few minutes, the edges of a warm, vaguely dirty amber, inch their way to the center of the perfume. It is this stage that I enjoy the most, the light being slowly conquered by shadow. A tinge of melancholia and a subtle bodily vibe make this very appealing to my personal taste, and I’m waiting impatiently for the oriental layer to intensify and become even more sensual. I’m expecting woody, vanilla creaminess with strong musky undertones, but what I’m getting is a very transparent, a little bit resinous and warm gauzy feel, that lefts me wanting for more. I want the promised night with its hot embrace, but I’m left hanging in the wan half light, that it’s neither here or there.
So, Lux is an interesting exercise, but I can’t help feeling that is sketchy and quite pale, sort of excessively understated. It has low sillage and longevity, it’s practically gone in about 3-4 hours, and as such I find it indeed, too highly priced. It behaves more as a cologne than an eau de parfum, and while I enjoy it (sort of), I think Eau d’Hermès is a more satisfying, sturdy example of a citrussy, light flooded fragrance with a sexy, animalic underlayer.
Lux is worth trying though just to realize how Mona has experimented within her trademark chiaroscuro style right from the beginning and how she bloomed as a perfumer in her Les Nombres d’or collection, which feels a lot richer but done in the same polished manner as Lux. And it’s also a good reminder for always taking Luca Turin’s reviews or anyone else’s for that matter with a little pinch of salt. Including this one.
Lux Notes: Sicilian lemon, litsea cubeba, bigarade petitgrain, Haitian vetiver, Mysore cedarwood, sandalwood, musk, amber, Siamese benzoin, Bourbon vanilla.