New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fucking Fabulous- Is It?

A year ago, designer Tom Ford began pairing a perfume with his debut of the spring/summer fashion collection. Last year’s Ombre Leather 16 was a standout within the Private Blend collection. I wore it quite a bit during the fall and winter last year. I was excited to hear the same thing was happening this year with a new Private Blend tied to last week’s debut of the spring/summer 2018 collection called Fucking Fabulous. With a name like that the first question becomes, “is it?”

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

The name itself has generated the typical buzz Mr. Ford revels in as he forced every beauty publication and reporter into figuring out how they were going to mention it. I have always had mixed feelings on Mr. Ford’s marketing style. It seems to work for him and just as with other aspects of other brands I’d rather focus on the perfume.

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

For Fucking Fabulous if you look at the fashion collection which accompanied it you see Mr. Ford reaching back to the 1990’s for inspiration. There were padded shoulders, the return of a maillot paired with leather cargo pants, and millennial pink just so you know he knows what year it is. That shows through with Fucking Fabulous it is a luxury version of a department store powerhouse of the 90’s. The main difference is instead of relying on the synthetic version of the ubiquitous notes of the 90’s the perfumer, Shyamala Maisondieu, chose the more expensive options. For the most part, it works.

Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2018

It opens on a bitter almond oil. This carries a bit of a sting to it which is smoothed away by using tonka resinoid. In this version, the tonka pushes its warmer toastier aspects forward. These take that sharp nutty first few minutes and cover them in a jacket with big shoulders. The leather cargo pants show up carrying some clary sage in their pockets. The sage roughs the leather accord up a bit. This is also a lighter leather than in most Private Blends. A powdery orris adds that millennial pink shading. Cashmeran is that sleek woody maillot tying it all together.

Fucking Fabulous has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Is It? Not really. Within the Private Blend collection it isn’t close to being the most fucking fabulous of the line. What it is, is another clever comingling of Mr. Ford’s fashion and fragrance aesthetic along with his provocative PR. I like the luxury take on the powerhouse perfumes of the past but it’s not what it says it is.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle supplied by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Minerale- Oud Tide

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.

Karyn Khoury

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.

Shyamala Maisondieu

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Vert D’Encens- Pine-cense

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.

Antoine-Maisondieu

Antoine Maisondieu

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.

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Shyamala Maisondieu

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.

yann vasnier

Yann Vasnier

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Costarela- Beach Carry-All

As summer sets in we all think of taking some vacation time. For many of us that choice is to head to our favorite, or nearest, beach. It is one of the reasons the whole aquatic genre of fragrance has been successful. It reminds us of being next to the ocean even when we are in our work-a-day world. Up until about a year and a half ago I was impatient with this style. It had grown insipid in its insistence on slavish imitation. Then something surprising happened as some of the independent perfume brands did a hostile takeover of the aquatic. They used the basic building blocks but began adding new ingredients. It was like they were looking for their own private beach to share with those in the know. As a result, I have a whole new grouping of aquatics to wear this upcoming summer. One of the latest additions is Carner Barcelona Costarela.

sara carner

Sara Carner

Costarela is the seventh release for Carner Barcelona. Owner and Creative Director Sara Carner took us on a trip of her hometown of Barcelona over the first five releases. Last year was the first release to travel somewhere else, Palo Santo, but it fit in with the overall brand aesthetic. Costarela is a marked departure from both place and style for the brand.

Shyamala-Maisondieu

Shyamala Maisondieu

Sra. Carner worked with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu on Costarela. One of the things which fueled my disdain for the previous generation of aquatics was they got the marine vibe right but they missed out on the beach. Sort of like a forest themed perfume focusing on the trees but missing out on the earth they grow in. In Costarela Mme Maisondieu brings the surf and the sand together.

Cotarela opens with a delightfully odd pairing to open an aquatic. Bergamot for its sunny qualities is a staple of the form. Saffron is not. Mme Maisondieu adds the saffron and it almost seems like it acts as sun spots against the sparkly brightness of the bergamot. This phase has surprising staying power. I expected it to move along but it hangs in for over an hour on my skin. Eventually the crashing waves draw my attention away from the sun. Here Mme Maisondieu’s marine accord imparts the combination of water and salty sea spray. Then the mineralic sand accord buttresses that familiar sea spray accord with a granularity of stoniness that completes the total beach accord. Like the top notes Costarela lingers here for a quite a long time. When it eventually progresses into the base it is a very dry woody accord of cedar and ambroxan.

Costarela has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I think Sra. Carner needed a beach vacation she could carry around with her. By designing Costarela I now also have a beach carry-all whenever I need to get in that relaxed state of mind.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Carner Barcelona at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Palo Santo- Into the Woods

There are brands which execute so well on their stated aims I get worried when they take their first steps away from that. The truth is for a brand to have longevity you can’t reliably keep mining the same inspiration. At some point the creative team has to take something of a chance in moving to a different vein of inspiration. My first indication that a change is coming is the press release. When I received the press release for the new Carner Barcelona Palo Santo there was not a mention of Barcelona. The previous five releases have captured the artistry and vibe of the city on its label I sort of wanted them to keep showing me more. Instead creative director Sara Carner has gone into the woods searching for a perfume which represents the mystical.

sara carner

Sara Carner

Palo Santo is the name of a wood indigenous to South America. It is burned as incense. Used medicinally as a tea. It is also part of mystical cleansing rituals. Palo Santo translates to holy wood because it has been used throughout the centuries in the sacred rites of the area. Sra. Carner asked perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu to help her find a way to interpret this wood as fragrance.

Shyamala-Maisondieu

Shyamala Maisondieu

In the previous five perfumes in the Carner Barcelona collection there was a real sense of vibrancy which matched Sra. Carner’s love of Barcelona. Palo Santo is the opposite of that as it almost asks the wearer to speak in solemn whispers while meditating. Mme Maisondieu works throughout the composition of Palo Santo to build a pyre of sacred smoke rising through a hole in an imaginary roof.

Mme Maisondieu chooses an interesting opening pair of the slightly fruit quality of davana floating on rum. The boozy opening could be mistaken for a party night on La Rambla. It doesn’t linger long before Mme Maisondieu deepens things while making Palo Santo a little less party and a lot more church. In the heart she takes guaiac wood and tonka to create a sweetly woody accord which she then pours warm milk over. This makes the heart contemplatively incense-like with a softness different than the top notes. That quality continues into the heart as two additional lighter woods add themselves into the mix as amyris and cedar join in. They fit seamlessly and make for a woody quartet of tenors. Vetiver provides the final bit of green woody aspect.

Palo Santo has 10-12 hour longevity and below average sillage.

While Sra. Carner has taken a trip away from Barcelona, Palo santo does fit in with the rest of the Carner Barcelona collection. In particular it feels like a natural progression from Rima XI. After enjoying Palo Santo I am ready to follow where Sra. Carner is ready to lead me. Even if it is deep into the woods.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Les Liquides Imaginaires Succus- In the Treetops

There are brands that have almost pretentious ways of describing their fragrances. It can be difficult to move all of the heavy-handed words to the background and allow the perfumes to do the talking. In the past Les Liquides Imaginaires has used too many words and as a result some very interesting compositions where tied down under the prose. Les Liquides Imaginaires’ co-founder and creative director is Philippe di Meo. He started in 2013 releasing two different trios of perfumes. The very first was an exploration of perfumes focused on the dark alcoholic inspirations of port, red wine, and champagne. When I tried the champagne-based one Dom Rosa I was very surprised at the experimental nature of this mix of bubbly champagne and classic rose surrounded by metallic and chilly notes. It stood out as the other two were more mainstream in their construction and less adventurous. In the two trios which would follow the same pattern emerged as one would seem to have a more experimental edge to it and that was the one which appealed to me most.

philippe di meo

Philippe di Meo

The fourth and newest trio is called Eau Arborantes. This time I purposefully did not read all of the press copy I just wanted to see what I got from the three perfumes. Eau Arborantes obviously conjures up green living things. Tellus is a very straightforward earthy patchouli which held no interest for me. Saltus seemingly wanted to go for something woodier and resinous. It achieves this but the only real interesting difference is the eucalyptus which plays off the predominantly sandalwood perfume it is. Succus though is the one which really captured my attention as it rolled through a series of sprightly transitions from citrus to herbal to transparent floral to end on a woody base. The rapid movement felt like a fast moving breeze and it made wearing Succus a lot of fun. Succus, as was Saltus, was signed by perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu.

Shyamala-Maisondieu

Shyamala Maisondieu

Succus opens on a typical orange and grapefruit tart and juicy citrus accord. Very quickly Mme Maisondieu keeps it from being too familiar as she adds rosemary, juniper, and clary sage. They infuse the citrus, tinting it with an herbal verdancy. Almost as soon as I start to enjoy this we are moving on as a bit of laurel and an orchid accord provide an opaque floralcy from out of the citrus and herbs. Mme Maisondieu goes for a mixture of synthetic wood and musk with Georgywood and Moxalone providing each, respectively. A bit of incense and a little vetiver tie it all together nicely.

Succus had 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Once I had tried them all I went back to read the press release to find out Eau Arborantes is meant to be a tree from the earth (Tellus) to the trunk (Saltus) to the high treetops (Succus). Going back and reading that I definitely get the imagery. Succus is the one which really does reach the heights for me and belongs atop the other two in this trio.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Les Liquide Imaginaires.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Velvet Orchid- The TF All-Stars Make a Fragrance

I’ve always wondered how a perfume with multiple perfumers attached to it actually comes to be. I’m not talking about a collaboration of two that I think I understand. There are a number of fragrances which seemingly take a village to create. The latest fragrance to have me considering this is the new addition to the Tom Ford Signature Collection, Velvet Orchid.

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The TF All-Stars (Clockwise from upper left: M. Vasnier, Mme Becker, Mme Maisondieu, M. Maisondieu)

Karyn Khoury is in her accustomed position as creative director and she decided to convene a supergroup of perfumers to compose this flanker to the original Tom Ford Signature Fragrance, Black Orchid. My weird imagination even sees them on a stage, as The TF All-Stars, introducing themselves. On top notes we have Calice Becker, holding down the heart notes it’s Yann Vasnier and covering the base notes we have The Maisondieus, Shyamala and Antoine. I am pretty sure this kind of perfume by committee is not accomplished by doling out phases but I do wonder how all of these very competent perfumers managed to come together and make pretty darn good perfume worthy of being added to the Tom Ford Signature Collection.

The original Black Orchid is one of those fragrances that, when it was released in 2006, was a true gender bender as there were many men who wore it even though it was primarily marketed to women. I am one of those men as the central orchid accord in Black Orchid is surrounded by a very restrained floral followed by patchouli and sandalwood in the base. For Velvet Orchid The TF All-Stars were asked to create a “corporeal flower accord” to complement the original orchid accord. This group doesn’t just stop there as on top a fantastic rum and in the base vanilla take on prominent roles with the familiar notes from Black Orchid. It makes Velvet Orchid a traditionally pretty floral fragrance which is very good.

The same mandarin that was present in the original is on top in Velvet Orchid but now it is drizzled with honey and doused with a rum note called succan absolute. This makes for a sweetly boozy opening and one I really enjoyed. It leads to the same orchid accord that made up the heart of Black Orchid. Here is where The TF All-Stars decided to really turn this Velvet Orchid into a power ballad of florals as on top of the orchid comes a series of floral duets starting with Moroccan and Turkish rose, hyacinth and heliotrope, jasmine and jonquil. Throughout the heart of Velvet Orchid it is like trying to follow three simultaneous guitar solos which are miraculously also harmonizing. For much of Velvet Orchid it remains in this powerful floral refrain. Over a few hours a very subtle sweetness begins to swirl into the melody. First myrrh and sandalwood start off; a very refined suede and peru balsam rough it up a little but it sets the stage for a perfect vanilla note to provide the finish. It adds up to a decadent sweetness to leave one wanting more.

Velvet Orchid has all-day longevity and above average sillage.

I have always admired the Tom Ford Signature Collection for pushing the envelope in the mainstream fragrance space. It is why Velvet Orchid is a bit surprising in how it displays itself as very traditionally floriental. It isn’t groundbreaking or unusual but in its nod to the traditional The TF All-Stars manage to find a way to leave their very talented impressions in all the small moments throughout. Even though you might have heard this tune before this supergroup of perfumers have found a way to make it feel new again.  

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.

Mark Behnke