Lavender is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It is one of a set of florals which seems to not ascribe itself to one gender or the other. It has been the focal point of some of the great perfumes ever. It was always going to be a part of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. The first attempt was the completely modern take called Lavender Palm which was an exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. Even though it has been discontinued it remains one of my favorites of the entire Tom Ford Private Blend collection for how audaciously contemporary they went. Earlier this year the decision was made to go in the other direction with Belle de Jour. This was an elegantly made crowd pleaser. Now with the release of Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme, and for once, that last word should be taken literally.
When it comes to the ubiquitous perfumery ingredients, I have some affection for lavender. It is because there is a big difference between the most common source lavandin and the harder to extract Provence version. The Provence version is harvested after being left to dry in the fields for days before extraction and distillation. It has the herbal quality of lavender more prominent because of the drying process prior to extraction. In this year’s Beau de Jour it was a nearly equivalent amount of lavandin and Provence lavender used in a softly satisfying way. For Lavender Extreme perfumer Olivier Gillotin working with creative director Karyn Khoury the Provence lavender is given a much more prominent role.
The only time I really notice the lavandin is in the very early moments of Lavender Extreme. M. Gillotin combines it with eucalyptus to form an abstract accord of the real Provence lavender to come. That lavender comes in with a rush. You notice it immediately as the herbal nature of it washes across that earlier lavender accord with gusto. I enjoyed the way the lavender seemed to grow more extreme throughout the middle part of the development. It then begins to be modified in some clever ways. M. Gillotin uses a bit of carrot seed to provide a sweet rooty contrast. Tolu balsam complements the herbal-ness. Tonka bean comes with its roasted sweetness to keep the lavender from getting too strident. Benzoin provides a sweet resinous polish to the final stages.
Lavender Extreme has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have often complained that perfumes with “extreme” on the bottle are not truth-in-advertising. Not so with Lavender Extreme. This is a soaring spire of lavender spelled with a capital L.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
When there is a brand as long-lived and influential as Tom Ford Private Blend has been it is inevitable there are some discontinued perfumes. One of my favorites which is no longer available is 2012’s Lavender Palm which was released as a store exclusive to their Beverly Hills Tom Ford boutique. It stands out because it was a fantastic contemporary example of a lavender perfume which did not remind you of a barber shop. I don’t know why it was discontinued but it seems like the brand wants to take another attempt at a non-barbershop lavender in Tom Ford Private Blend Beau de Jour.
For this new perfume longtime creative director Karyn Khoury collaborates with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. What they produce is a perfume of lavender encased in green.
When you smell lavender in fragrance the most common version is called lavandin. Lavandin has the more floral quality associated with functional lavender products like soaps. If a lavender perfume is referred to as soapy it is most likely this source. What M. Maisondieu does is to use another source of lavender. From the Provence region of France it is dried in the fields before extraction and distillation. This provides a lavender which has a much deeper herbal quality. This herbal-ness is always around in a natural lavender extract. This version used in Beau de Jour is more pronounced. It must be because M. Maisondieu has some partners which require it.
Beau de Jour opens with the layering of the Provence lavender and lavandin. M. Maisondieu finds a balance of fresh floral and herbal. The Provence version becomes the focal point as a set of four green ingredients tease out the herbal nature. They are rosemary, basil, geranium, and oakmoss. It is like each ingredient find a spot and pulls. The rosemary and geranium do it in a gentle manner. The basil and oakmoss exert more strength. The oakmoss becomes the most prominent over time. As the oakmoss and the lavender hit their stride it is where Beau de Jour comes off as a nouveau chypre. It finds grounding in an earthy patchouli matched with ambroxan. The patchouli dovetails with the chypre vibe. The ambroxan gives it a modern bit of polish.
Beau de Jour has 12-14 hour longevity.
I think Beau de Jour is a more accessible lavender than Lavender Palm. My guess is this will become one of the more popular Private Blends because of that.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
Back in the summer Tom Ford Private Blend released two different fougeres. I reviewed Fougere D’Argent first because I felt it had a more contemporary feel. I also promised in that review to get to the other, Fougere Platine, in a couple weeks. Its been two months and I think I put it off for so long because it is a classic fougere done well with good quality ingredients. There should be some attention paid to perfume which achieves just that. So, better late than never here we go.
As always creative director Karyn Khoury is overseeing any new release from this brand. This time she works with a team of perfumers, Olivier Gillotin and Linda Song. Ms. Song has been doing most of her early work on the mainstream side of fragrance. I was interested to see how she would do with a niche budget. The answer is in the first paragraph; the perfumers create a fougere which is more fleshed out throughout its development.
All fougeres begin with lavender and this is one which displays equal parts the floral and herbal faces of it. Which it needs because clary sage and basil amplify that quality. It is a greener style of lavender top accord, but it is still recognizably lavender. If you are a fan of M. Gillotin’s work on the Private Blend Vert series this has a bit of that feel early on. The heart is a mixture of labdanum, olibanum, and honey. This was where the perfume crossed the line into luxuriousness for me. It is my favorite part of Fougere Platine as the lavender sinks into the sticky resinous heart accord. The honey provides a sweetness vector for the resins to cling to. The honey slowly transforms into dried tobacco leaf made green by atlas cedar. The original fougeres had oakmoss and coumarin in the base. The perfumers’ approximation here is to use the narcotic quality of tobacco and the clean woodiness of cedar as their base accord, which worked for me.
Fougere Platine has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
If there was a silver lining to waiting for two months; wearing it in the cooler fall weather made it cozier. Fougere Platine is a well-executed version of a straightforward fougere. If you’re a fan of the style and want a black-tie version this might be a good formal fougere.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
I suspect it is quite difficult to maintain a consistent state of enthusiasm for any endeavor. Perfume is unlikely to escape that. Eleven years ago, Tom Ford released one of the boldest collections at the time as he popularized luxury perfume with his Tom Ford Private Blend collection. In 2007 it was unheard of to release ten new perfumes into the luxury market at the same time. Working with creative director Karyn Khoury these perfumes stood out for their unique quality. I own all the first ten and I still think about what they would change in the niche market. It was another groundbreaking fragrance move from Mr. Ford.
Over the past few years I have been wondering if the brand is working a bit on autopilot. My recent favorites have been obvious riffs on some of the originals. It was understandable as it seemed like the naming of the perfumes were meant to be the innovation now. After Fucking Fabulous I rolled my eyes when I received the press release for the latest entry, Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry. I was worried the name was all I would remember.
Lost Cherry is unique in the Private Blend collection for being the first intentionally gourmand entry. Noir de Noir is my favorite of the Private Blends because it is a chocolate-red wine-rose stunner on me. That is all achieved through clever perfumery creating that accord. The perfumer for Lost Cherry, Louise Turner, moves in a more direct fashion as she combines some different sources of cherry.
One cherry comes in the form of the cherry liqueur known as Cherry Heering. The other is the rich fruitiness of black cherry itself. The third is the most interesting as it is the result of headspace analysis of the filling of a cherry cordial. Known as griotte syrup, I use it in cocktails often. Ms. Turner has found a way to re-create it as the third piece of the cherry trio.
Ms. Turner opens with the black cherry fruit on top. It is combined with slivers of bitter almond. It is added to a glass of cherry liqueur as a slightly alcoholic quality begins to appear. It intensifies with a jammy rose inserting itself. If you’re looking for a lost cherry it doesn’t take long to find it as this top accord assembles itself. The rose adds a metaphorical viscosity which is enhanced when the griotte syrup accord oozes onto the scene. Ms. Turner adds in pistachio as a nutty foil to the bitter almond from the top. This is a perfume equivalent of a cherry cordial; if you start at the center first. The remainder of Lost Cherry is building the chocolate casing as an accord of sandalwood, tolu balsam, tonka bean, and vanilla. It is a guess, but I think there might be some of the tonka resinoid used in Fucking Fabulous because the tonka has more of a presence that I expected.
Lost Cherry has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is as good as it gets with a gourmand style of perfume. The only caveat is the same with any of them; if you’re not fond of cherry Lost Cherry isn’t going to find you changing your mind. If you’re looking for something new from Tom Ford Private Blend this is definitely that. It has been a long time since I couldn’t stop thinking about a Private Blend release. Lost Cherry has helped me find my enthusiasm for the brand, again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Tom Ford.
It is agreed that modern perfumery began in 1882 with Houbigant Fougere Royale. Paul Parquet’s use of coumarin transformed the concept of fragrance as utility into something more aspirational. Over the nearly 150 years since, we have seen those aspirations realized. It is something I am always thinking of when there is a new material being used by perfumers. Is this something that will allow for a perfumer and creative director to reach for something they were unable to before. One of the places you often see this is by returning to that original fougere construction you can display a new ingredient within all of the fougeres that came before it. I was strongly reminded of this with Tom Ford Private Blend Fougere D’Argent.
Fougere D’Argent is one of two new fougeres in the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection. I’ll be reviewing the other, Fougere Platine in a couple of weeks. I was more intrigued by the construction of Fougere D’Argent that I spent time with that first.
Fougere D’Argent was composed by perfumer Louise Turner under the eye of long-time creative director Karyn Khoury. That alpha fougere was an axis of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss. Ms. Turner takes Fougere D’Argent to a different place as her spine is ginger, lavandin, and akigalawood. The latter as a substitute for the oakmoss in the original is what really caught my attention.
Fougere D’Argent opens with the more expansive CO2 extraction of ginger. It picks up the bergamot and mandarin for a zesty citrus opening. Baie rose leads into the heart where lavandin is waiting to become the traditional heart. Lavandin is less herbal than other varieties of lavender. The baie rose adds back that herbal quality as an ingredient which allows Ms. Turner to tune to what ends up smelling like a hybrid of the two main lavender sources. Labdanum takes us into the base. What is there is the newer ingredient akigalawood. I’ve spoke of it in the past but due to being the product of an enzymatic degradation of patchouli it leaves behind a patchouli variant which is spicy and woody while leaving out the earthier facets. On its own it wouldn’t have been an ideal replacement for the oakmoss. By adding coumarin, in a nod to the original fougere, it becomes much closer to the oakmoss base from the beginning.
Fougere D’Argent has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed Fougere D’Argent as much as I did because it felt like another signpost on the continuum of perfumery. Ms. Turner reminded me that out on the edges fragrance can still keep deciding what modern is.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
I am a horrible perfume snob; I admit it. Especially when it comes to mainstream releases. There are brands which I know can break out of the ocean of mediocrity that exists in this sector. I was on a recent trip to the mall to pick up samples of things to try from those. I have come to trust the different people I associate with to acquire my samples one of them asked me if I had tried the new Tory Burch. I must have made a face because without saying a word she said, “I’ll take that as a no.” She then followed up with “I think its pretty good probably the best of the tory Burch perfumes.” The snob was in full obsequious mode in my head, “Oh wow the best of Troy Burch perfume it must be faaaantastic….not!” This time I kept a better poker face as she handed me the blotter. Then I sniffed it and the snob in my head was being told to sit down and be quiet for a while.
If I had to give a short description to the previous nine Tory Burch perfume releases since 2013 it would be “fresh florals”. Sometimes there was some fruit for “fresh fruity florals” but it was consistent. It has always felt like a missed opportunity since the fragrance part of the brand has been under the creative direction of Karyn Khoury since it started. But there has been kind of creeping sameness about the output. What sets Tory Burch Just Like Heaven apart is it has an off-kilter green around a single floral. Perfumer Alexis Dadier was seemingly given some latitude to color outside the lines of the previous Tory Burch aesthetic.
It shows right away with rhubarb the core of the top accord. Rhubarb has been used more lately for the vegetal green paired with a kind of grapefruit character. M. Dadier uses petitgrain to focus the citrus part of the rhubarb and mandarin to provide a bit of juicy sweetness in contrast. The keynote floral is heliotrope which is given some depth by ylang-ylang and hyacinth. M. Dadier uses the hyacinth as the “fresh” component so as not to scare off previous Tory Burch enthusiasts. But then he threads the peppery earthy angelica root through the florals extending the effect of the rhubarb from the top accord. To provide a comforting finish, tonka and ambrox give a sweet woody hug.
Just Like Heaven has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just Like Heaven should be a nice addition to someone’s summer floral rotation. If you’re having trouble trying a Tory Burch fragrance just do like I did and put your inner perfume snob in time out. I think he might be looking over his shoulder wondering what smells so good.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s.
I sometimes ascribe intent to something when it doesn’t exist. Which means I overlay something that was never meant to be by the brand or the creative team. Part of that is I like looking for patterns and when I think I find one I want to write about it. One which crops up from time to time is when a version of a perfume is released, and it is derided as being “too light” or “too strong”. What often comes next is something in-between those perceived extremes. It is easy to see Goldilocks saying that one is “just right”. As a brand Tom Ford Private Blend has certainly releases sets of similar perfumes which run the gamut from “too light” to “too strong” and a few releases in the middle.
Two years ago, the “too light” version of a suntan lotion style of perfume was released with Soleil Blanc. I enjoyed it for its almost extreme transparency. I am guessing I wasn’t joined by many. Six months later as part of the Tom Ford Signature collection I found Orchid Soleil to be the “too strong” version. It was stronger, and it had a deep gourmand base accord to boot. I’m not sure this was flying off the shelves either. Now Tom Ford Private Blend Eau de Soleil tries to satisfy Goldilocks.
What sets it apart is a generally brighter tone as perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Creative Director Karyn Khoury, who did Soleil Blanc, up the brightness. This is done by adding fresher alternatives to what came before which provides something more present without potentially overwhelming.
The freshening agent in the top accord is a set of citrus notes; cedrat, bitter orange, and petitgrain. It comes together like a focused beam of brightness as if you were focusing the sunlight through a magnifying glass. It becomes a bit fuzzier as cardamom and caraway provide some spicy underpinning. It is further ameliorated by the arrival of the floral heart still dominated by jasmine but in this formulation also matched by ylang-ylang. The latter ingredient provides a kind of unctuous floral effect which fits the whole suntan lotion vibe. What seals it into place is the coconut quality of Mme Gracia Cetto’s “Coco de Mer” accord. It is very reminiscent of many of the suntan lotions I smelled at the beach growing up in South Florida. It ends on a toasty accord of tonka and benzoin.
Eau de Soleil Blanc has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. To give a reference if you thought Soleil Blanc was a skin scent and Orchid Soleil left a vapor trial this is exactly between those two.
I have liked all three of the Tom Ford interpretations of a suntan lotion style of perfume. If pressed to pick one I think the transparency of the original Soleil Blanc keeps me at arm’s length. The life of the party Orchid Soleil keeps me up too late. Like Goldilocks, Eau de Soleil blanc is “just right”.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Tom Ford Beauty.
The end of January is the cruelest time of year for me. I’ve recovered from the Holidays but now face weeks of grey cold blah-ness before spring takes hold. Those who can, take a winter break to an island to shuck the coats and slip on the swimming gear. I’ve done it a few times in my life and it is rejuvenating giving me just enough to make it through the final weeks until spring. For those of more modest means one of the beautiful things about fragrance is you can use the right perfume to take a mental winter break. One of the latest to do this is Aerin Hibiscus Palm.
Aerin Lauder has done an admirable job of accepting the role of Estee Lauder’s granddaughter but making her line a coherent collection focused on lightly weighted floral constructs. Her co-creative director Karyn Khoury and Ms. Lauder have made the brand a reliable source of these types of perfume since the launch in 2013. Hibiscus Palm fits right in with that.
When you visit the tropics, the flowers scent the air, but the island breezes tend to keep them from forming an overwhelming cloud. Hibiscus Palm is one of those island breezes carrying the smell of the flowers to you as you sip your favorite drink on the beach or poolside.
In the opening the breeze brings the hibiscus along with ylang-ylang. Hibiscus can be slight when used as a perfume ingredient which allows the ylang-ylang to support it while also adding to the tropical aesthetic. More recognizable florals like jasmine and gardenia begin to become noticeable. What I really liked about these early moments was the use of ginger to provide a sharp contrast to all the floral gymnastics. It provides the right amount of counterpoint. As you become used to the flowers a nice sun-warmed skin musk accord is used with vanilla tinted with coconut milk to give that tropical drink vibe.
Hibiscus Palm has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re finding yourself in need of a winter break but can’t get on a plane; head to the fragrance counter and let Hibiscus Palm get you there instead.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
In 2007 when the first dozen Tom Ford Private blend perfumes arrived they were a sensation. Tom Ford working with Karyn Khoury would create something unique within the niche perfume sector. So many of those originals were such groundbreaking constructs it was maybe too much to expect the Private Blend collection to keep up that kind of creativity over the long run. As we begin 2018 and a second decade of Private Blends it is fair to say the collection has become an elder statesman of the luxury fragrance sector. You might notice I left off niche because as the brand has matured it has also become less adventurous. Particularly over the past year or so there has been an emphasis on using top notch ingredients within familiar constructs. The latest release, Vanille Fatale, is a good example.
As the collection becomes safer the PR copy becomes ever more impenetrable. Here is a bit from the press materials for Vanille Fatale:
“Vanille Fatale is a force of nature personified. A beguiling tempest that takes over like a rush of blood to the head. The impossible becomes real, too good to be true becomes true. Her – or his – unrelenting hold is fixed, refined yet raw, polished yet primal.”
All of that for a fragrance which is a nicely formed vanilla perfume using a great source of the titular note.
Perfumer Yann Vasnier uses saffron as an exotic opener which might give you the idea something more unique is coming. It isn’t. What is coming is one of the Givaudan proprietary Orpur ingredients. The Orpur version of Madagascar vanilla is as good as raw materials get. It has power and nuance. The green nature of the orchid runs through the sweetness like stringy veins. M. Vasnier chooses olibanum and myrrh to provide resinous contrast and depth. It all rests on a soft suede accord in the base. There are some floral notes and coffee listed in the ingredient list but over a couple days of wearing this none of those came through. This is primarily saffron-vanilla-incense-leather.
Vanille Fatale has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It is hard to not try a new Tom Ford Private Blend containing vanilla and not be reminded of one of those early trendsetters in the debut collection; Tobacco Vanille. I’ve heard many tell me the tobacco is too much in that one. For those, Vanille Fatale is Tobacco Vanille avec tobacco. This is a very luxurious high-quality vanilla perfume for which I think vanilla lovers will die for because of the Orpur vanilla. I fall in between wanting there to be some of the adventurousness of the early Private Blends but accepting an elder statesman needs to show some decorum. Vanille Fatale is a decorous vanilla perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
As soon as I see “noir” in the name of a fragrance I have learned to temper my expectations. I feel much like Inigo Montoya saying “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. If there was one offender I would consistently point at, it was the Tom Ford Noir collection. It was something which was a pleasant perfume but in no way “noir”. If I was to define “noir” I would want it to be a shifting style of perfume, innocent and dark, throughout its development. The literary and cinematic form which spawned the word are tales of moral ambiguity often accompanied by the corruption of innocence. So, imagine my surprise when the new flanker Tom Ford Noir Anthracite gets it correct.
The time-tested creative direction of Karyn Khoury is combined with perfumer Honorine Blanc. This is the first Tom Ford fragrance by Mme Blanc. The concept on the website is to explore the “light in the dark”. I would say Noir Anthracite explores the struggle of light within the dark.
Mme Blanc opens with the first bit of light as bergamot sparks Noir Anthracite to life. Then she uses Szechuan pepper to add in the dark. It would have been so easy to just use black pepper here. Szechuan pepper carries a different piquancy along with a kind of subtle muskiness. It works especially well here because Mme Blanc also uses ginger as a foil to the sunny bergamot too. This is a very different top accord from most of the other mainstream offerings which this will be next to on the fragrance counter. I enjoyed it a lot but I am curious if this is going to be generally accepted at the mall. The heart is another unique accord as galbanum acts as an overarching green presence to which a light application of jasmine and tuberose are used to provide some lift to it. The galbanum is so powerful you might not notice the florals. This is what I mean as the scrubbed clean white florals never really overcome the green of the galbanum. The base is a straightforward sandalwood and cedar.
Noir Anthracite has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Noir Anthracite is quite different from the other Tom Ford Noir releases. I think if you are a fan of those you might not find Noir Anthracite as nice as I did. Although if you are looking for a perfume which calls itself noir, and means it; Noir Anthracite seems to know what the word means.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.