Parfums de Nicolai Musc Monoi : Perfume Review


Summer ends the same way for me. It seems that only yesterday I made vacation plans, unearthed a swimming suit from a pile of winter clothes and bought an extra bottle of sunscreen. And then I wake up at the end of August and see that the local stationery store is advertising “start of school” sales and tall lindens lining the avenues in the city are slowly changing from green to gold. If I could hit a pause button for a moment, I would, if only to capture this languid, golden sensation of late summer days. But everything rushes forward inexorably, and the most I can do is reach for bottled summer fantasies, such as Parfums de Nicolaï Musc Monoi.

musk monoi

Monoi (also called tiare) is a tropical blossom that smells creamy and intensely sweet. It’s macerated in coconut oil to capture its heady perfume, and the scented oil is used on skin and hair. If you’ve ever seen a fragrance or body product advertised as having a tropical fragrance, then this monoi-coconut combination is something you’ve already encountered. In France, summer scent often means sweet orange blossom, such as L’Oreal’s classical Ambre Solaire sunscreen, and in Musc Monoi, perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï weaves both Mediterranean and tropical inspirations.

The result is a simple, charming perfume that is easy to wear and enjoy. Musc Monoi, despite the presence of white flowers (fruity orange blossom, ylang ylang, and of course, monoi), notes that are as subtle as the tropical sun, feels radiant and sparkling. It opens up on skin liberally laced with citrus and minty accents, and this shimmering sensation stays behind even when you’re wrapped in white petals and musk. To say that it lasts well is an understatement; you’ll smell it on your skin after a shower. On the other hand, Musc Monoi wears close to skin and won’t announce your presence a mile away.

After an hour or so, the musk takes center stage, and everything else, including monoi, becomes secondary. This means that if you’re lukewarm about musky perfumes, Musc Monoi isn’t for you. It’s all about soft, fluffy white musk that hides a few coconut scented flowers here and there.

Musc Monoi is not an unusual or particularly memorable perfume, and if you’re searching for something summery but with many twists and turns, look elsewhere (Chanel Beige, Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess, and Kai are good places to start). Simplicity is the very reason I like Musc Monoi. Simplicity paired with good quality makes it even better. It’s fun, bubbly and lighthearted enough that I would want to wear it on cold days for a bit of sunwarmed feeling. Or just whenever I feel like kicking back and putting the world on pause.

Parfums de Nicolaï Musc Monoi includes notes of neroli, lemon, petitgrain, ylang-ylang, jasmine, coconut, calone, magnolia, sandalwood and musk. 30ml/$50, 100ml/$120. Available at Luckyscent, Parfums de Nicolaï boutiques, New London Pharmacy.

Extra: Sunshine Dreams and Tropical Flowers



  • Phyllis Iervello: I love this fragrance…it is summer in a bottle. I have been wearing this a lot all summer and know I will be wearing it well into the Fall. To me it epitomizes the season I love best and the one which flies by the quickest. August 25, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: It is so easy to enjoy (of course, if you like musks), and it does have that summery feeling captured really well. I wore it a bit in the summer, but now that it is rainy and cold, I crave it even more. August 25, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

  • Tammy: Thank you for reviewing it. I love musks especially floral musks and Musk Monoi was on my lemming list already. August 25, 2014 at 9:31am Reply

    • Victoria: If you like musks and flowers together, then yes, you’ll like it. It’s not too sweet or heavy on coconut like some tropical perfumes, which is another plus for me. August 25, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

  • rainboweyes: Yes, to me summer always seems much too short too! So I’m enjoying my last days in Spain, my friends back home in Germany say it feels like October right now 🙁
    I’m not sure if Musc Monoi is a perfume I would like, I tend to avoid musky scents. Unfortunately I still haven’t found my perfect summer scent but I think the main problem is that I don’t really know what type of scent I’m looking for. Somehow I don’t like citrus any more, green scents are reserved for spring (or rainy days), maybe a nice floral (without white flowers, though)? Next year my search will go on… August 25, 2014 at 10:02am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t have that many perfumes that are only summer appropriate. It’s more that I look for scents according to my mood (and that our summers are too unpredictable in terms of weather). Some of these summery perfumes capture my fantasies of being on the beach or enjoying some sun. The irony is that I dislike being in the sun, since my skin burns instantly, so perfume is one of the easiest ways for me to indulge this summer fantasy. August 25, 2014 at 11:34am Reply

  • jillie: You have described so well that strange feeling I get at the end of summer – the realisation that this season is about to fade away as the circle of life is spinning (more rapidly each year, it seems). You should patent that pause button.

    Yves Rocher has had a line called Monoi de Tahiti for many years; it smells of gardenia and coconut and some people say it reminds them of the new Guerlain Terracotta le Parfum (maybe a good substitute for everyone who couldn’t get hold of the Guerlain!). I think I would perhaps prefer the Nicolai, and can’t wait to try it. It sounds like it could be a lovely reminder of summer with a comforting veil of musk to take the edge of the melancholy. August 25, 2014 at 10:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Yves Rocher has a number of excellent collections, and I need to try their Monoi de Tahiti. Thank you for mentioning it, Jillie!

      Since our summer seems to have vanished into the rainy days of autumn already, this pause button would have been much appreciated. 🙂 August 25, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

    • L: Yves Rocher is more of a bargain than the Guerlain, too! I picked up a bottle of YR Manoi of Tahiti dry oil and perhaps it’s turned (it was on sale, after all), but after the initial waft of tiare/coconut, an ever so slight muscle relaxing balm scent, eucalyptus perhaps, has settled on my arms. 🙂 August 25, 2014 at 3:15pm Reply

  • SophieC: Interesting review thank you. I at last visited the PdN shop and left without a purchase. I cannot recall musc monoi lasting but perhaps I was trying too many different perfumes. The weather here today certainly feels like summer has ended- cold and pouring rain- but I am sure classic harvest weather will peep out again and I recognise exactly the impression you describe about this time in summer. I absolutely love Autumn though so rather look forward to it. Also L’Artisan’s Mure et Musc seems perfect for sunny early Autumn I feel- would be curious to know what you and others think? August 25, 2014 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Mure et Musc is a musk classic! It’s been around for so long, and yet it still feels contemporary. If you like musk, it’s one of the best perfumes in its genre. I agree with you that this kind of inky-fruity musk is great for both the rainy days and days filled with the autumnal golden light. Or just about anytime, for that matter. It’s a very good perfume. August 25, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

  • Judy: I have really enjoyed wearing this scent all summer. It feels like a day at the beach. Here in the (pretty deep) southern United States, I am usually ready for summer to end. It can be brutal here, and I love our cool falls and chilly winters. August 25, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: The southern fall is beautiful, even if brief, and I also remember how happy I used to be when the heat and humidity finally subsided. The nice thing about Musc Monoi is that it easily adapts to any weather and it doesn’t feel too heavy on a warm day. August 25, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

      • Judy: I do think that I’ll enjoy wearing it this fall, too, especially since we are predicted to have a warm one. My mother, who hates most perfume, says this smells like clean laundry being ironed! August 25, 2014 at 3:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, I get that hot ironed linen feeling out of Musc Monoi too. I find it very comforting. August 25, 2014 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Eric: Does anyone know of a good musk that would be ok for men? I tried Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan and liked it, but odd I can’t smell it on myself. August 25, 2014 at 1:39pm Reply

    • limegreen: Hi Eric — I just got a sample of Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur and liked it more than I thought I would (not being a musk lover). I like Roucel’s Dans tes Bras so thought I would give it a whirl. It’s creamy on my skin and long-lasting, bet it would smell great on a guy! Earlier this year (in cooler weather) I also tried Bond No 9 New York Musk — high wattage musk. I tried it because it supposedly had notes that I like (osmanthus, blackcurrant, grapefruit flower) but I couldn’t find them, only smelled musk! It’s very strong and the fragrance lingered in my car, too. August 25, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

      • Victoria: Great recommendations! I will also add Kiehl’s Musk to this list. It smells good on anyone. August 25, 2014 at 3:37pm Reply

    • limegreen: Here’s Victoria’s lovely review of MR: August 25, 2014 at 2:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Musks can be tricky, because many people have anosmias to one type of musk or another. But here are a few musks I like: Annick Goutal Musc Nomade, Parfum d’Empire Musk Tonkin, Serge Lutens Bois et Musc, and Le Labo Musc 25. August 25, 2014 at 3:40pm Reply

    • Andy: I love MKK, sorry to hear it doesn’t work on your skin. I second most of these recommendations too (those I’ve tried), but to add in a cheap thrill (my favorite!), why not try Smell Bent’s Commando? That same close, personal, skin-on-skin vibe that I get from Muscs Koublai Khan is present, and if you don’t find the Lutens too “savage”, you might appreciate Commando. August 25, 2014 at 5:06pm Reply

      • Eric: Thank you lots, Limegreen, Victoria and Andy! August 26, 2014 at 2:51am Reply

      • limegreen: Andy, such a hilarity. I would *almost* buy Commando just for the grin factor. August 26, 2014 at 5:05pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Summer seems to have ended rather abruptly doesn’t it? Musc Monoï sounds very lovely and there are never too many “simple” scents in one’s wardrobe, especially summery ones. I still hope the weather will improve though. August 25, 2014 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hope so too! After all, it was beautiful and sunny this weekend.
      Simple but nicely crafted scents that evoke something pleasant are never amiss, and since Parfums de Nicolai is priced reasonably (in comparison to other similar lines), this one is hard to resist. August 25, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Elisa: I must be anosmic to the musk in this — tried my sample this morning and it was gone after an hour. Ah well! I’ve got enough beachy scents in my collection anyway. August 25, 2014 at 3:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: What are your favorite beachy scents, Elisa? August 25, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Andy: Mmmm…love monoï oil, need to add this to my next sample order. I just got back from the beach, and when the weather isn’t so nice, the oil is my favorite way to pretend it’s still summertime. August 25, 2014 at 5:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have to make your monoi sugar scrub this week. This is another way to add a bit of summer to one’s day. August 26, 2014 at 8:39am Reply

  • Kandice: This sounds wonderful. I feel like I missed summer somehow. It sped by, and now it’s over. It sounds like this would be great for extending the season. And it’s fairly reasonable in price too. I’ll definite check this out. Thanks for the review! August 25, 2014 at 5:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: I really feel that I’ve missed the summer and I didn’t even get to wear my swimming suit once. These three months have been very busy. But at least, one has some means to fantasize about beach and summer fun. 🙂 August 26, 2014 at 8:41am Reply

  • Aurora: You’ve found a lovely way to hold on to summer, Victoria. And thank you for having rounded up this type of perfume after your reviews first of Bronze Goddess, Terracotta, and Nuxe Le Parfum.

    I even love to use straight huile de monoi, the kind that contains a dry tiare flower inside, available from French supermarkets for a song whenever I want to be transported instantly to the beach. August 26, 2014 at 7:06am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I know exactly the kind of oil you mean. I love it too, although I suspect that most brands aren’t 100% natural. Real monoi oil is quite expensive. There is no denying though that even the inexpensive supermarket blends smell very good. August 26, 2014 at 8:45am Reply

      • Aurora: Yes, Victoria, you are right, they are mostly coconut oil (probably not even cold pressed even) and I wouldn’t use it on my face, but I’m glad you find too that the scent is quite good. L’huile prodigieuse de Nuxe, I save for my face as it isn’t greasy at all and the blend of oils is impressive. August 26, 2014 at 9:07am Reply

        • Victoria: There are certain brands at the pharmacies that have the certificate of authenticity, and they are more expensive (and more difficult to find). But for a strong, linger scent of monoi, the supermarket oils are good, especially if you want to use the oil for scenting as well as moisturizing the skin. August 26, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

          • Aurora: Thank you so much Victoria, of course you are absolutely right about checking a French pharmacy for a more genuine huile de monoi.

            I am visiting Drome, at the beginning of September, the little town of Nyons – I don’t know if you have been there during your last trip to Provence? It’s famous for its olives and derived products, and I will make the most of its pharmacies and local shops.

            There is still a distillery in use, where a very good lavender essential oil is made and I plan to be more resourceful and use some of your wonderful recipes to make scented products. What fun it will be, I can’t express enough what a treasure your blog is: I keep working my way back through the catalogue of perfume reviews, recipes and articles on a variety of topics all of them interesting. August 27, 2014 at 7:22am Reply

            • Victoria: I have never been to Nyons, but I’ve eaten the olives from there. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip when you return, and perhaps, I will try to make a visit myself. I’m sure that you will have a wonderful time! How can you not, with all of those scented and delicious things around. 🙂 August 27, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

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