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MONOM : Attar in an Italian Bottle

Purity encased in a tiny black bottle, MONOM offers fragrances that go beyond the overpowering smells, instead proposing an experience that is personal, intimate.

LF Says: ★★★★.5

It was a hot, sunny day in Los Angeles. And we were going to trek up to the Hollywood sign. I decided to whip out my new MONOM perfumes. “Let’s give it the litmus test,” I thought.

MONOM Perfumes Fragrances Group Shot

It was an unlikely occasion to try such an elegant looking bottle, but I had already tried the perfumes in stylish indoor gatherings and events. Now I wanted to experience them in the great outdoors.

The reason for this rigorous testing was that MONOM is not a regular perfume. It has no alcohol. It’s like ittar (or attar). Just pure, undiluted perfume oil. “The desire was to create the first European Attar brand, a brand that combined modernity with the ancient use of pure perfumes, without any dilution. Being able to wear the creation of the perfumer’s nose with as little manipulation as possible, from the Nose laboratory directly on your skin,” says Simone Bongiorno, who co-founded MONOM with his father Renato Bongiorno.

How to spell purity

Interestingly, the name itself gives a little hint on the philosophy of the brand. MONOM can be read either forward or backward. The Italian brand looks into the traditions of the past to define its future.

MONOM Respiro fragrance

You might not even have heard of some of them [the ingredients]. There’s Blond Tobacco, Cistus, Humus Accord, and more. 

There was a time when precious oils were used to add fragrance to your body. But with the commercialization of this art, the quality of the fragrance continued to deteriorate. “Ethyl alcohol is only a ‘diluent’ as well as functioning as a ‘carrier’ for the perfume oil molecules. In practice, by removing the alcohol, you have nothing that attaches to the odorous molecules and causes them to evaporate faster, so you have a lower ‘sillage’ (trail) and greater persistence,” explains Mr. Bongiorno.

Having said that, he also clarifies that MONOM is not in the business of selling “herbalist essential oils”. It goes beyond that. It’s more sophisticatedly concocted than just presenting an oil.

Born in 2010, the brand offers 12 perfumes – each delicate and carefully blended – which use a variety of ingredients to craft them. You might not even have heard of some of them. There’s Blond Tobacco, Cistus, Humus Accord, and more. Mr. Bongiorno effused, “…considering that Nicola has 4500 raw materials in his laboratory, you understand how infinite the range of possibilities can be! I invite you to read about Nardo, one of the 10 essences mentioned in the Bible that we worked on in the first collection, or to read about Starfleur 40 enclosed in Florea which allowed us to create a 100% IFRA certified floral.”  Nicola Bianchi is the perfumier at MONOM.

Along with the fragrances, the brand also retails room diffusers and body care products.

Monom perfume packaging

The packaging is as frill-free as the product. Tiny black glass flacons hold the precious oils, which are not sprayed, but rolled-on – just like you would apply attar. The black body helps to protect the blends from light and hence keep their integrity intact. The black bottles are then packed inside a simple plexiglass case, making it a delight to add to your dressing table. Committed to sustainability, the plexiglass containers are certified green, and produced solely from recycled and recyclable plastics.

The (enchanting) experience

Using MONOM is not a grand experience, but subtle, intimate. And I believe that’s how the brand wanted it to be. It is a true pleasure. Using the fragrance is simple enough. Gently push one wall of the transparent case and it will flip out to reveal the fragrance bottle. Roll it on to your neck and wrist. A delicate smell will waft around you.

…it has a silky texture, slightly oil based, but very thin, quickly absorbing into your skin, offering you a long-lasting delicious smell.

Do you know what makes the process intimate? The fact that the fragrance will not overpower the entire room. It is meant for you – to feel good, fresh, and simply highlight your personality, or mood. The smell is strong, but not too much. It permeates the space around you, and you only, in a very silky way. It’s almost seductive.

When applied, it doesn’t sting or chill. Instead, it has a silky texture, slightly oil based, but very thin, quickly absorbing into your skin, offering you a long-lasting delicious smell. It doesn’t have those chemical notes that are just so common with perfumes nowadays.

Monom Reyna fragrance

I tried the Reyna, which is a sweet smell. Yes, I could almost taste the sweetness! With a top note of Mexican Vanilla, it has enhanced by the presence of candied fig, cocoa pyrazine and sweet almonds. And Mexican vanilla is not your regular vanilla. With its unusual shape, it can only be pollinated by the Melipona, a small stingless bee native to Mexico.

Reyna is a wonderful, full-bodied, deep smell to keep you upbeat and happy throughout the day. I wore it while climbing up to the Hollywood sign, I wore it to an amusement park trip. And neither air nor sweat nor water could completely erase the fragrance. It stubbornly stuck to my skin. Yes, after a full, harsh day, it had diminished much. But that’s much more than what a regular alcohol-based perfume would do for you. When I had applied Reyna for an evening party, it stayed much, much longer. I think even till the next day when I could discern its faint notes emanating from my skin.

Monom Mare perfume

The Mare’, on the other hand, is a light smell, perfect for evening soirees and intimate get-togethers. An ‘aquatic’ smell, it starts wafting out an ever-so-slight salinity after a while, giving this fragrance much more depth than you initially thought. The saltiness is extremely blink-or-miss, which though unlike any other fragrance – even in the many ‘ocean-inspired’ men’s perfumes – gives it a natural touch. A quaint feature that I quite liked and found fascinating. The Mare’, however, did not last as long as Reyna.

My third trial was with MONOM’s Vanille Precious Body Balm, and I was completely blown over. This rich balm was a pleasure to lather on. It is thick, velvety, but not greasy. It’s easily absorbed by your skin, leaving behind a very hydrated, smooth, lush skin that is lightly scented with vanilla. The richness sticks on to your skin. It doesn’t erase with just one handwash. It’s perfect for dry to normal skin. It’s perfect for my wintery Chicago days.

Monom Vanille Body Balm

These gender-neutral fragrances – that literally grow on you – are immensely easy to travel with. I just slipped the black bottles – without their plexiglass cases – into the suede pouches that came with the perfumes.

After today

If I have convinced you about this Italian-at-heart brand with a Middle Eastern inspiration, then your next likely question is where to buy it. You can, of course, purchase it from the brand’s website directly, or from niche retailers in Italy, France, Romania and Saudi Arabia. Mr. Bongiorno believe in the power of small retailers, as opposed to large department stores, where the owner or designated sales person can explain the product. “I don’t believe in large-scale distribution because MONOM doesn’t have the classic shape of a perfume and I fear that if no one explains in detail what it is, it will be misunderstood or not fully understood,” he says.

“…we allow ourselves the luxury of proposing something Ancient in a Modern and extremely cool key.”

As for future products, Mr. Bongiorno is working on vetiver – a grassy plant – with his perfumier, Mr. Bianchi. This intriguing plant has his attention with its dual smell characteristics. “I’d like to combine it with spicy notes in the head and indolic notes in the heart, but I still have to understand which is its flower or which is its citrus. I hope soon to be able to present you something unique, impactful, precious and always unconventional!”

There is sudden talk around ‘quiet luxury’ everywhere – which I believe is nothing new. That was the first, pure definition of luxury. And Monom has it perfect, down to its last M. “The luxury of having such a culture as to be the first to arrive in unexplored lands, where everyone is wary, we allow ourselves the luxury of proposing something Ancient in a Modern and extremely cool key. Here the luxury of MONOM lies in challenging the times, proposing once again a timeless emotion,” expresses Mr. Bongiorno.

If you are looking for a fragrance that will announce your arrival in a room, MONOM is not for you. But if you are looking for a genuine product that is made for you, and appreciates you, then head to MONOM.

LF Says: ★★★★.5