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.
It is difficult to find some new way to present oud in fragrance. It was with some interest when I received my press sample and press packet for the new Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Minerale that they promised me something never been done before. It is a bit of classic PR overreach to say this is the first to graft oud on to a marine style fragrance in all of perfumery. As far as mainstream releases go it might be more accurate. It is certainly not a style done to death and it has not produced a memorable incarnation either.
Tom Ford Private Blend creative director Karyn Khoury collaborates with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu on Oud Minerale; the fourth in the Private Blend Oud collection. One of the most interesting aspects of the four Oud collection releases is all of them rely upon an oud accord to provide the titular note. Oud Minerale almost has to employ an oud accord because anything approaching the real stuff would have run roughshod over the rest of the fragrance. You can even say that this is why there are not a lot of oud marine perfumes because that balance would be very difficult to achieve using the real thing. Mme Maisondieu is able to take the flexibility using an accord gives her to find a place for oud to insert itself without being overwhelming.
The opening of Oud Minerale is one of the more accurate marine accords I’ve tried in quite a while. Mme Maisondieu uses a mixture of baie rose and seaweed. It evokes the clean smell of low tide in the early morning or twilight. There is a damp green vegetal note sharpened by the herbal focus of the baie rose. I found it natural as it grabbed in all of the seaside milieu. A bit of fir captures seaside pines while ambergris accord provides the briny ocean as it recedes. The entire marine effect is now assembled for Mme Maisondieu to take a mixture of salicylates, the synthetic aromachemical Pepperwood, and cypriol to form her oud accord. It uses the spiciness of the pepperwood to imitate the bite of real oud without it turning into something threatening. Once everything is in place the combination is expansive as being outside; it fills up all the space in a transparent overall effect. It rests on a base of vetiver, cedar, patchouli, and ambroxan which provide some depth to the oud as it lets go of the marine accord over time.
Oud Minerale has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Oud Minerale is a departure from the other members within the entire Tom Ford collection. It is a fresh take on oud which is perfect for the remaining summer months.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
2017 sees the tenth anniversary of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. It has been one of the most important perfume collections of recent times. In May of 2007 I remember seeing this group of brown square bottles in my local Neiman-Marcus. It was an audacious attempt to capture this new thing known as a “niche perfume” market. Ten years on it is easy to say under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury they hit every target, and then some, they probably aspired to. They’ve been so successful it has become an arguable point that Tom Ford Private Blend is no longer even “niche”.
One of the best-selling entries in that first group was Neroli Portofino. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux presented a luxurious version of the lowly drugstore cologne. It made Neroli Portofino a standard bearer for the vibe the Private Blend collection was aspiring to. Neroli Portofino was so successful Mr. Ford and Ms. Khoury decided to create a sub-collection named after it, in 2014. They also changed the bottle color from brown to blue so to make it visually evident when there are new entries. Since 2014 there have been five more releases each continuing the examination of the Mediterranean Hesperidic style of perfume. The latest release is called Sole di Positano.
Ms. Khoury invited perfumers Aurelien Guichard and Olivier Gillotin to compose this latest entry. It is based on a quote from John Steinbeck Mr. Ford admires, “Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”. The challenge is to create a very light version of the Neroli Portofino aesthetic.
Sole di Positano opens on the twinkling of sunlight off the Mediterranean represented by lemon and petitgrain. To keep it from being too tart the perfumers use mandarin to smooth out that character. The green of the petitgrain is then connected with shiso to add a couple shades of verdancy to the citrus. Jasmine and ylang-ylang provide the floral heart. These are cleaner lighter versions of both of those notes. No indoles in the jasmine along with no oiliness in the ylang-ylang. The green returns with moss, along with sandalwood, in the base.
Sole di Positano has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the past year, there has been a lightening up of the Private Blend releases. I wonder if it is a calculation for the collection to transition to appealing to a younger consumer. Sole di Positano is the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection since Fleur de Portofino. If you like your Mediterranean perfumes on the lighter side Sole di Positano is going to please you.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
It is difficult being the second act to a legend. When it comes to American beauty brands Estee Lauder is one of the great All-American success stories. From the foundation of the brand in the 1950’s into the business juggernaut it is currently she has defined beauty for over sixty years. One great aspect of that rise is fragrance was not relegated to being a bit player. It was a critical piece of the overall empire as it grew. There was a time when it looked like there was not going to be a next generation Lauder to carry on because she had two sons. Her younger son Ronald Lauder would provide the genetics when his oldest daughter Aerin would join the company where she is currently the Style and Image Director. In 2013 Aerin Lauder would follow her grandmother into the fragrance part of the business with her own brand called simply Aerin.
The Aerin perfumes have been, by design, a collection of mostly light-hearted floral perfumes. There are a few exceptions but it is flowers which are the inspiration. Even then the flower most represented is rose. One of the first set of spring roses I received samples of for 2017 were the three new releases; Bamboo Rose, Garden Rose, and Linen Rose. If I have an overarching impression is these are nice high quality versions of simple floral constructs. Ms. Lauder has been working with Karyn Khoury as co-creative directors and they have worked well together with a coherent vision which has been consistent throughout the previous releases. What will always make a difference for me even in a fragrance which is not original is when it sets off a scent memory for me. When I got to Linen Rose it reminded me of the summers I spent on Shelter Island, NY which is why I enjoyed it so much. I came to find out when I got to the press materials Ms. Lauder was inspired by her rose garden in the Hamptons just a ferry ride away from Shelter Island.
I have come to like the rose perfumes which have a seaside theme of which Linen Rose is. If it is done well, as it is here, it captures the salt spray, the grass growing in the dunes, and the rose overriding it all. Working with perfumer Richard Herpin this is exactly what Linen Rose delivers.
Mr. Herpin opens on a citrus mixture of lemon leaves and orange all of which is inflated on a bubble of Hedione. One of the things which drew me to Linen Rose was Mr. Herpin dispenses with the typical suite of oceanic notes. He employs coconut water and vetiver to create the dunes and waves milieu. This is subtle and Mr. Herpin uses the Hedione as the expansive element along with those two notes. It works quite well as an alternative. The roses come in on this and they are there in all their typically powdery and spicy nature. It all heads down to a warm amber, vanilla, and benzoin finish.
Linen Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. Lauder is admirably creating her own version of the Estee Lauder legacy with this line of perfumes. I suspect that before too long there will be something special from this team. Linen Rose is maybe the first harbinger of that.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aerin.
I know for many who love perfume they have an equivalent passion for makeup. I am obviously not one who falls in to that particular categorization. I am not so clueless that I don’t know most of the major brands plus if they decide to expand in to fragrance I become even better acquainted with the brand. I knew about MAC cosmetics because they always seem to have a lot of space in the department store beauty aisles. I can figure out that to have that much square footage must translate to a passionate consumer. MAC had tried to branch out into perfume from 1999-2009 but for some reason I haven’t been able to determine why; they gave up on it. Especially because the 2002 releases MV1, MV2, and MV3 were very well-done department store releases. For the end of 2016 MAC is re-entering the perfume market with a collection of six new releases called Shadescents.
The inspiration behind Shadescents are the six-current best-selling MAC lipstick shades. The color of the bottle cap matches the shade of lipstick in the name. What especially got my attention was the collaboration between creative director Karyn Khoury and perfumer Jerome Epinette who were the team behind all six. The concept was to create a perfume version of lipstick. What that meant was not to smell like lipstick but instead for each perfume to be one distinct note or accord which best represented the color. I will confess that I am not one of those synesthetes who sees color when I smell perfume which means I will not comment on whether I think the perfumes succeed on that level. Where I do think they achieve their goals is to take a bold single note and treat it as a soliflore which M. Epinette can surround with some complimentary notes.
Candy Yum-Yum is a candy floss blast of ethyl maltol with vanilla cut with a set of interesting fruit notes. Crème D’Nude also is based around vanilla but in this case a set of botanical and synthetic musks wrap themselves around the sweet core. Velvet Teddy is also musky but matched with honey. Lady Danger uses cherry as the focal point. My Heroine was the one which did not seem to belong because it is a smoky resinous leather. The one I liked best is the one based on the most popular MAC lipstick shade Ruby Woo.
Ruby Woo actually picks up on the themes from Lady Danger and My Heroine as there is cherry and what M. Epinette calls a “red leather accord”. It opens with a kind of patent leather accord which is pierced with a strong cherry which I think is what is meant to give it its crimson shade. M. Epinette then uses as highlighting notes; saffron, iris, rose, and sandalwood. These four notes take the red leather jacket on a lively journey by the time all is said and done.
Ruby Woo has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
If one of the reasons for MAC getting out of the perfume business seven years ago, was they took too many chances. I believe Shadescents is an attempt to rectify that perceived error. All six have identifiable aesthetics similar to many of their mass-market brethren. The collection as a whole provides enough difference that I think it will resonate with the MAC consumer. I’m not a MAC consumer but I would happily wear Ruby Woo.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Macy’s.
The Tom Ford Private Blend collection has been releasing a collection within the collection over the last few years. For 2016 the four new releases are called Les Extraits Verts. When I heard the name I was looking forward to a Tom Ford take on green. When I received my samples a couple weeks ago I was surprised overall it wasn’t as vert as I was expecting. Although there was one exception Vert D’Encens.
Vert Boheme missed the vert boat entirely as it was mostly citrusy floral before getting a bit musky at the end. Vert de Fleur did have the green going but it didn’t feel special to me. Vert des Bois was my second favorite of the four as perfumers Olivier Gillotin and Rodrigo Flores-Roux really added in some odd versions of green in olive leaves, and marigold along with some more traditional choices. It made for a really engaging development.
Vert D’Encens was the one I spent some time with because it, too, was an off-beat green but with two very common ingredients; pine and incense. Longtime creative director Karyn Khoury oversaw a team of perfumers consisting of Antoine Maisondieu, Shyamala Maisondieu, and Yann Vasnier. The decision to combine a full body pine tree, including sap, to a full throated frankincense turned out to be just the green I was looking for.
In the early going the perfumers bring out a very traditional pine joined by lemon and lavender. In these very first moments Vert D’Encens is a little bit a like a lot of drugstore pine fragrances. It doesn’t stay that way long as a green cardamom and sage set the stage for a pine sap accord. That accord carries a tint of the camphoraceous quality which provides a lift as the pine intensifies with the sap accord and the pine from on top becoming stronger. Right as it seems like the pine is at its zenith a fine silvery frankincense cuts across it and embeds itself in the sticky pine. Together it forms what I thought of as Pine-cense. This is where Vert D’Encens stayed at for hours. Much later on cedar and vetiver add a bit cleaner green to close things out.
Vert D’Encens has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
What drew me in to Vert D’Encens over the other Les Extraits Vert was the simple combination of the pine and incense. The perfumers found a way to find just the right balance for me. It is definitely going to be another excellent choice as the weather gets cooler as fall arrives.
Disclosure; This review was based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
On the surface if you tell me that there are flankers within the Tom Ford Private Blend collection I would be against it. In an already voluminous line of perfumes taking up space with flankers seems wasteful. Except when it comes to Neroli Portofino; creative directors Karyn Khoury and Tom Ford have found a way to do it thoughtfully. That starts with using perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who composed the original to also be the nose behind the flankers. The first flanker was last year’s Fleur de Portofino which was much more floral than its parent. Now that is followed up by two more flankers Neroli Portofino Acqua and Neroli Portofino Forte.
When it comes to the names of these it is exactly what it promises on the label. Neroli Portofino Acqua is a very light eau de cologne version. Neroli Portofino Forte is a fortified version a little heavier than the original. What it seems like to me is they have now created a Neroli Portofino for all seasons.
Neroli Portofino Acqua is constructed with the same framework of orange and orange blossom on top combined with a warm amber base. It is the middle accord that imparts the sense of airiness which gives Neroli Portofino Acqua its style. The opening is the same citrus mélange of orange, lemon and orange blossom. It is in these opening moments where Neroli Portofino Acqua is the most similar to Neroli Portofino. Then, where the original gets more floral, Acqua rises on a fresh breeze from the sea. It picks up the citrus accord and carries it to the amber base. This again is much lighter in feel than it was in the original. If there was anything you disliked about the original Neroli Portofino because of concentration I think Neroli Portofino might be the right concentration for you. Neroli Portofino Acqua has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sr. Flores-Roux makes many more changes to Neroli Portofino Forte. The similarity to Neroli Portofino is definitely there but is feels much more like Fleur de Portofino did in its ability to stand apart. The first change is to switch the orange out for blood orange. This adds a contrasting tartness which is then shaded green with an herbal chord of basil, rosemary, and tarragon. Forte stays much more herbal and green as the orange blossom shows up as a much less influential note than in any of the other three flankers. Sr. Flores-Roux then adds in a smooth refined leather accord along with sandalwood. This is where the warm amber accord of Neroli Portofino again arises but as with the orange blossom it is other notes which are in the foreground. Some muscone in the final phase of development turns the last moments more animalic. Neroli Portofino Forte is a version to be worn in those chilly shoulder seasons around summer. I have been wearing it during these days of chilly mornings and temperate days and it is perfect. Neroli Portofino Forte has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
When a set of flankers is reimagined with the flair that Sr. Flores-Roux brings to this collection it is hard not to be impressed. I know Neroli Portofino Forte has definitely replaced the original as my favorite of the four. If you’ve ever wanted a blue bottle Tom Ford Private Blend on your dresser one of these four should definitely do the trick.
Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
Header photo from groomingguru.co.uk
There is an interesting subsection of perfume genres titled suntan lotion. There are some great examples from some of our best perfume brands. It should be no surprise that Tom Ford Private Blend wants to join in the fun in the sun with the new release Soleil Blanc.
Growing up in South Florida the smell of suntan lotion was one of the consistent smells of my day-to-day life. Which is why I probably enjoy this niche within a niche. To get this right there is a certain amount of tropical touchstones which need to be present. Perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto working under the creative direction of Karyn Khoury has chosen to go in a slightly different direction. Soleil Blanc eschews the deeper, oilier nature some of the other sunscreen fragrances conjure. As a result, Soleil Blanc is kept very sheer almost like the scent of the afternoon’s suntan lotion as it remains on a wrap hanging on the door.
Soleil Blanc speaks sotto voce right from the start as breezy cardamom is matched up with bergamot and baie rose. The cardamom is the focal point and its slightly lemony nature conjures up the sun. The tropical nature is carried off by ylang-ylang bolstered with jasmine and a very precise amount of tuberose. Ylang-ylang has this oily quality when taken on its own. The jasmine used here is meant to lighten that up. The tuberose is very controlled and it is meant to enhance the tropical feel without getting out of control. Again this is all done at the volume of a whisper. The base forms an interesting sun-kissed skin accord of benzoin, tonka, and cocoa. That last note is there for a very interesting alternative to Ms. Gracia-Cetto using a bunch of musks. Together this is the smell of your skin as you get up after a day sunbathing. A very distant fragrant reminder of the afternoon.
Soleil Blanc has 14-16 hour longevity and very low sillage. This is one of those perfumes where you will think it is gone after a few hours. Because of the low sillage it can seem that way but it does last a decent amount of time.
Ms. Gracia-Cetto has composed the cleanest of the suntan lotion scents. The low wattage on it is going to be an issue for some. I found the transparency of it all to be very appealing. It is such a clean scent that it doesn’t remind me of the beach but instead sunning by the pool or as Ellie May Clampett says the cement pond. Soleil Blanc is by far the quietest of the Private Blend collection but sometimes there is beauty in the softer moments.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.