The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

Monday, December 12, 2011

L'Art of Guerlain: Tonka Imperiale

Guerlain Tonka Imperiale is the kind of cozy fragrance that I immediately took a liking to. Just by reading the notes list and knowing that it's composed by Thierry Wasser, it was a no-brainer for me. It's a honeyed tobacco confection with an astringent rosemary topnote and a coumarin-rich, mellow drydown that is so fabulous that I've not been able to wear anything else since I got my bottle last week. At first, I kept thinking about Tonka Imperiale's similarity to Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, but after having worn both fragrances many times now, I can sense the many differences between them. Tonka Imperiale has gourmand facets that are amped-up in typical Wasser style but still can easily be worn by women and men. Tobacco Vanille tends to fall on the drier side of the spectrum, a little less like baklava and more like vanilla-scented pipe tobacco straight from the shop. Both are excellent fragrances, but Tonka Imperiale was made for me. It's a scent with body and strength, but its edges are soft and yielding, very seductive. It reminds me of this photo of Greta Garbo- I think she would have worn Tonka Imperiale with great style.

notes: rosemary, almond, tobacco, honey, gingerbread, hay, tonka bean (the Guerlainade accord is definitely here)

Tonka Imperiale can be classified as an oriental gourmand with a really wonderful progression of notes: as time goes by, it only becomes more comforting and complex on my skin. The overall effect is so rich and full that its tendrils reach out to encompass and enhance every degree of heat my skin gives off, amplifying the balsamic undertones. This perfume is another success in Guerlain's Lutens-esque L'Art et la Matiere line, and I very much hope to see more fragrances as arresting as this one in the future. 

[Guerlain Tonka Imperiale is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus (in store and online), a 75ml bottle is $235. Bottle was purchased for my own collection.]


  1. Ohhhh, it sounds so cozy - lounging by the fireplace wrapped in cashmere cozy - not basking in the glow of the tv in a Snuggie cozy LOL

    I love your description of "tendrils reaching up" and enhancing your body heat. Tonka Imperiale sounds like it could be quite devastating to those who fall under the spell of its sillage.

    That rosemary top note really has me intrigued..

  2. Carrie, this sounds divine. I'll have to see if there's a tester at my department store counters.

  3. Joanne- I seriously cannot stop wearing Tonka Imperiale. And the weird thing is, every time I wear it, it smells a little bit different on me. I'm not sure why, but it's fascinating!

  4. Liz- let me know if you can't find a tester, I can send you a sample. :)

  5. Tonka Imperiale is going on my New Year's Resolution list of things to seriously sample in 2012. How could I not after your breath-taking review??!! Plus I was clued in months ago by Tarleisio that the two of you were in love with this and that I should try it. The notes list certainly hits on everything I enjoy in a fragrance. :-)

  6. Thank you for commenting, Suz! It was Iris Ganache that Sheila and I were mooning over, I ended up getting a bottle of that too. For me, Tonka Imperiale came later. Honestly, if I had to pick between the two, I wouldn't be able to. I'm also in love with Bois d'Armenie, that's next for me!

  7. You're right...yeah, how did I mix that up? Well, that just makes for another one I'll be adding to the New Year's list. (Or two more, if I count Bois d'Armenie, as I get the distinct feeling I should.) :)