Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka : Perfume Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Parfums de Nicolaï Vanille Tonka released in 1997 holds the prize for being one of the most sophisticated vanilla scents. Even though I do not care for heavy doses of vanilla in fragrances, Patricia Nicolaï’s creation was a pleasant surprise. On these days, when the autumnal chills are felt in the morning breeze, its sensual and warm embrace is wonderfully comforting.

The fragrance starts out with a soft smoky note of cinnamon ornamented by sweet tangerine and tart dry lime, which give a sensation similar to eating cinnamon flavored candies that simultaneously burn and chill your mouth. Tonka bean softens the cinnamon with its powdery softness. The scent melds into the skin beautifully, and when vanilla appears, it has an understated, soft, and slightly smoky quality that endows the final result with a hint of delicious sweetness. The elegant drydown touched by smooth balsamic frankincense is what elevates Vanille Tonka out of the gourmand vanilla realm.

The house has several boutiques, the locations of which can be discovered directly from Parfums de Nicolaï. Fragrances and ancillary products are available online at Beautyhabit, First-in-Frangrance, New London Pharmacy, Senteurs d’Ailleurs.



  • MC: Lovely! My wife wears this one. After Vol de Nuit, it’s my favourite scent of hers. September 15, 2005 at 3:48am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I love Vanille Tonka! It´s a truely unique vanilla composition.. As you´ve already mentioned it´s a bit smoky, but I find it also pretty refreshing, so that I like to wear it in summer. September 15, 2005 at 6:25am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, Yes, that´s a very good way to describe it. It´s just loevly 🙂 It´s rather sad that it´s underrated – the other PdN fragrances are worth trying, too. September 15, 2005 at 7:06am Reply

  • cora-lu: Dear V, I always enjoy reading your wonderful descriptions, and especially the ones about fragrances I love and still am intrigued about. You always seem to find some hidden note or unusual association (the tangerine and lime/cinnamon candies in this instance). And you’re so right about the wonderful frankincense hint in the drydown. This indeed is what made me fall in love with Vanille Tonka! September 15, 2005 at 9:17am Reply

  • parislondres: Lovely review as always dear V! Somehow most PdNs do not work well on me. I like this perfume but is not one I can wear. I can appreciate them but somehow – the drydowns are never too great.

    Hope you are well.

    xoxo September 15, 2005 at 5:22am Reply

  • Karin: I like this fragrance a lot.

    A body lotion that smells quite similar to me is Korres Vanilla Cinnamon body milk available from Sephora. (I do not care for the same scent in Korres fragrance line. It does not smell like the body milk.)

    Karin September 15, 2005 at 10:06am Reply

  • Robin: Must echo Laura, it is a lovely scent but I only rarely want so much vanilla. But need to try this one again, it has been a very long time. September 15, 2005 at 10:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, how wonderful! Both you and your wife have superb taste. 🙂 September 15, 2005 at 6:27am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, dear N. Did we visit the PdN store together? I am trying to remember. Lately, I have been exploring more of the line, because it appeals to me very much. It is very underrated here in the States. September 15, 2005 at 6:41am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, it is rather soft and understated, like a second skin. That is the best way to describe it. September 15, 2005 at 6:42am Reply

  • mreenymo: You have an uncanny knack for making me think twice about a fragrance, missy! LOL!

    Guess I’ll have to dig through my samples to try this one again.

    Hugs and love! September 15, 2005 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Marina: Lovely description as always, Vikochka! I used to love heavy vanillas, but know I need something “with a twist”. A twist of balsamic frankincense would suit me just fine 🙂 September 15, 2005 at 9:30am Reply

  • Laura: This is one of my mother’s favorites! For myself, I can’t seem to really cozy up to scents with dominant vanilla in them. I am a fan of PdN in general, though. September 15, 2005 at 9:59am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, yes, I wish they were better known, because then the distribution would be larger. There are so few stores that carry them, other than online retailers. September 15, 2005 at 10:42am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cora, thank you. I find that PdN fragrances are unique in terms of their interplay of notes. Vanilla and frankincense is such an interesting combination. One of the few vanillas I truly like. September 15, 2005 at 10:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marinocka, I like frankincense because of Orthodox church associations. In this case, it is churchy at all, but it adds some mystery. September 15, 2005 at 10:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I am so glad to see another PdN fan. I like just about everything from the line, with few exceptions. September 15, 2005 at 10:46am Reply

  • Atreau: You make every fragrance sound so tempting V. I don’t remember this working on me but I want to test it again so badly now. September 15, 2005 at 10:48am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, thank you for mentioning Vanilla Cinnamon. I was just wondering about it. I will definitely try it the next time I have a chance. September 15, 2005 at 10:48am Reply

  • julien: Hi…
    Sorry for not answering that much these times but my new job is really exhausting….i hope your well, my dear.
    Well,Vanille tonka is with Sacrebleu my favorite Nicolai perfumes.
    It is powdery,not that strong…vanilla in there is not “gourmand”,just has the smell of vanilla without sugar and the woody chocolate balsamic scent of tonka beans is so wondefully matched with it.
    Then some incense and get something mysterious and sensual,long lasting,and dark…my first vanilla scent wich is not “too much” joyous…
    What a pleasure….

    Kisses dear. September 15, 2005 at 2:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I can understand not liking too much vanilla. I was surprised I liked this fragrance! September 15, 2005 at 11:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: S, oh, I just love this particular fragrance. I am a big Nicolai fan! September 15, 2005 at 11:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear R from LA, you made me smile. I wondered about you liking this scent. Now, you would have to let me know. 🙂
    xoxo September 15, 2005 at 11:45pm Reply

    • Aki: Hi! I’m currently craving a bit of sweetness maybe as a comforting need in these winter months.. I am having an evening function soon where I would love to wear something elegant, woody, sweet and comforting to help me face a crowd of strangers at a table!
      I thought of Shalimar.. what do you think? then I started to read about this Nicolai Vanille Tonka which sounds marvellous. How does it compare to Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise? I haven’t smelt either one… Thank you! X February 11, 2022 at 10:58am Reply

      • Victoria: Shalimar sounds beautiful! I would wear a fragrance I’m familiar with and save something else for experimenting in more familiar surroundings. February 11, 2022 at 1:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Julien, nice to see you here again! I was wondering where have you gone. Glad to hear that everything seems to be ok.

    Yes, Vanille Tonka is everything you say. Its softness paired with incense is what makes it stand out. Another great fragrance from Ms. de Nicolai. September 15, 2005 at 11:47pm Reply

  • Tania: Ah, someone gave me a sample once. I could tell it was lovely, but it wasn’t love—I don’t wear big vanillas (unless you count Shalimar). Oh well! September 16, 2005 at 2:45pm Reply

  • julien: Please forgive me…
    I am just so busy and my english is not good as you can see after a hard day of work.
    I swear i don’t forget you,but sometimes life makes us go another way…
    Take care,i still love your comments and of course, i love you.
    I won’t forget you…never.
    Kisses dear.
    Julien. September 17, 2005 at 5:06pm Reply

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