Discount Diamonds: Sean John Unforgivable- The Exception

Those who have followed my reviews over the years know I think most celebrity scents are cynical. They use the name of the person on the bottle while that person has no idea what is in the bottle. I’ve been told of many celebrities who don’t smell the perfume until their first publicity experience. It irritates me that a fan of the celebrity coughs up their money for a product which has nothing from the person they admire.

Those who have read my reviews over the years know I am not a fan of multi perfumer teams. It may not be true, but it always reeks to me of focus groups and compromises. That the perfumes designed by committee also seem to have no soul anecdotally proves my point.

To everything there is an exception. Sean John Unforgivable manages to prove both of my thoughts incorrect.

Unforgivable was released in 2006 as the first fragrance from Sean Combs aka P.Diddy’s Sean John clothing line. He certainly found a dream team of creative people to work on this. Evelyn Lauder and Karyn Khoury would be co-creative directors overseeing a team of four perfumers; David Apel, Aurelien Guichard, Pierre Negrin, and Caroline Sabas. There isn’t a name I just listed that I don’t admire the heck out of. I just carried my usual skepticism over too many perfumers at the organ serving too many managers. However it happened Unforgivable turned out way better that I thought it would.

It opens with a burst of citrus as lemon and grapefruit add a tart initial impression. A smart use of Calone takes the melon-like quality of it as a lighter fruitiness underneath along with its fresh sea spray scent. It shifts to a fougere-like heart of iris, lavender, and herbs. Clary sage is the most prominent but there are some other green herbal pieces here too. It ends with a light sandalwood focused base accord given some warmth through amber and tonka bean.

Unforgivable has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

When it comes to perfume by committee celebrity scents Unforgivable stands out as one of the best. It can be found for less than $20 at almost any discount fragrance seller.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Black Orchid Parfum- Parfum for Assignations

During the holiday season of 2006 a new perfume hit the shelves which had the perfume forums buzzing. It was the first time there would be a mass discussion of a mainstream fragrance targeted to women which appealed to a lot of men who smelled it. Even so recently the idea of a man wearing a woman’s perfume was worth discussion. The perfume which set this off was Tom Ford Black Orchid. The idea of unisex, or shared, styles was not really embraced. It put a mass-market brand in a bind, especially if you had something that would appeal to a fragrance lover not a gender. The original Black Orchid was that kind of perfume. It helped it was in a black bottle so a guy could keep it on his dresser. As he has done throughout his time overseeing fragrances Mr. Ford would expand the boundaries.

Karyn Khoury

As much as I admire the original my favorite is the version released for the fall nine months later, Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. It has been discontinued for a long time, now. The only other flanker of Black Orchid was an Eau de Toilette release in 2015. In 2020 we have the latest Tom Ford Black Orchid Parfum.

David Apel

The original perfumers David Apel and Pierre Negrin have been the noses behind all the Black Orchids. Karyn Khoury has been the creative director overseeing them. Each iteration has illuminated an aspect of the original. Black Orchisd Parfum the press release tells me is the original but more. While that is true there is a sensuality which runs throughout which is new. This version feels as if it is designed for after hours.

Pierre Negrin

The signature keynote of Black Orchid is black truffle. This is a like a variant of patchouli carrying earthiness and gourmand-like qualities. In Black Orchid Parfum the perfumers pair it with a full-bodied ylang-ylang. It becomes deeper as plum picks up the truffle and the black orchid accord meshes with the ylang-ylang. What I am describing is a fruity floral on the surface. Except it is something much deeper than that as all the ingredients resonate in the bass section of the olfactory scale. There is depth which sems to know no end. It is taken another level down with patchouli and rum in the base. I never realized it, but Black Orchid was begging for a boozy ingredient because the rum here pushes this to new heights (lows?). As this all comes together it is fantastic.

Black Orchid Parfum has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Black Orchid Parfum embraces its shared style this time not asking to be seen as one gender or the other: that’s progress. It is also the kind of perfume seemingly intended for close encounters of the sensual kind. Which means either or both could wear it. I now have a new favorite in this collection. It is also the best mainstream release of 2020 so far.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Sephora.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Rose Prick- Diva-Off

There is a Beavis and Butthead laugh track to some of the recent names of Tom Ford Private Blend. I hear their insane giggle when I see a perfume named Fucking Fabulous, “I know I am Beavis, hee hee hahaha.” Lost Cherry, “go help her find it Butthead, mmm mmmm hah hee.” Now we can add Tom Ford Private Blend Rose Prick to those, “You said prick heh heh heh.”

The names are part of Tom Ford’s penchant for provocation which has done well for his brand. The thing is the perfumes choose to be less so. Although Lost Cherry is a fantastic take on that fruit as the center of a perfume. Rose Prick falls into the same category as Fucking Fabulous did. Taking excellent materials to make something not as interesting as it could have been.

Karyn Khoury

The same creative team is on hand as Karyn Khoury creatively directs perfumer Guillaume Flavigny. This time the quality is in using the three primary natural rose ingredients in Rose de Mai from France with Turkish rose, and Bulgarian rose. These are the richest roses you can use. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like they find harmony in Rose Prick.

Guillaume Flavigny

The opening of Rose Prick is the best part as M. Flavigny uses Sichuan pepper and turmeric. It provides the herbal fruitiness of the pepper as the earthy glow of the turmeric creates a halo effect around it. This descends onto the mixture of roses. Each of these roses have distinctive personalities and they seem to be pushing against each other rather than trying to find a greater harmonic. When I was wearing Rose Prick it was like a diva-off between the roses. Each wanted the stage to herself while trying to shove the others out of the way. It makes for a kinetic floral heart which might work for some. This time I found it distracting. I just wanted one of the roses to win. I was glad when the patchouli and tonka in the base came around so that I had something else to focus on instead of the extroverted florals.

Rose Prick has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Rose Prick falls into the same ground as Fucking Fabulous; both average styles of perfume with excellent ingredients. Those quality materials help make them stand apart. If you are a real rose lover, I suspect the jostling character of the rose divas in the heart will appeal. If you aren’t, Rose Prick might be one diva too many.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Metallique- The New Aldehyde

1

One of the ingredients which defines perfume of the mid-20th century is aldehydes. From their appearance in Chanel No. 5 they were prevalent in many of the great floral perfumes which followed. It was so entwined with that era in perfume it also came to represent it. It also is the one ingredient which elicits the damning reaction, “oh that perfume is for someone older than me.” It is the keynote of the dreaded descriptor “old lady perfume”. This has kept it from being used very often in new perfumes. Tom Ford Metallique is going to try to change that.

Karyn Khoury

Metallique is part of the more widely available Signature Collection. As much as we write about the Private Blend collection the Signature Collection is equally as impressive. Creative director Karyn Khoury makes sure any fragrance with Tom Ford on the label lives up to the reputation the brand has built. For Metallique she partners with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu.

Antoine Maisondieu

The name is appropriate for the way aldehydes present themselves within a fragrance. In those classic perfumes it was described as smelling like “Aqua-Net” hairspray. M. Maisondieu has found a way to lighten up the aldehyde accord he uses here. This is a much more restrained effect overall.

Metallique opens up with the aldehydes springing to life. M.Maisondieu rather quickly brings in bergamot and petitgrain to give some sparkle. It is a smart way of balancing out the metallic quality. It allows baie rose to add a green herbal quality further softening the aldehydes. In the past the florals would be the heavy hitters. M. Maisondieu goes for a less powerful trio of aubepine, heliotrope, and muguet. The green of the baie rose connects to the green of the muguet then expanding into the heliotorope and aubepine. M. Maisondieu then uses the botanical musk of ambrette and the warmth of balsam to provide the foundation.

Metallique has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

What makes Metallique stand apart from those classic aldehydic florals is this modern version does not fill the room. Ms. Khoury and M. Maisondieu have designed a version which is much less extroverted even though it retains the aldehyde-floral-musk spine. It still has some verve without becoming overwhelming. I will be curious to learn if they have found the path for aldehydic florals to appeal to a new audience with Metallique.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather Intense- Let The Right One In

In a line of perfume as extensive as Tom Ford Private Blend is, it is easy to say there is something for everybody within. Ever since its 2007 debut it has offered perfume lovers an almost unparalleled opportunity to find “their’ perfume. I am no different. I have favorites within the genres which span the collection. More than any other fragrance brand there is probably a “Goldilocks” version of what ever kind of perfume makes you smile.

That has certainly been true of the leather focused offerings. One of the original set of Private Blends was Tuscan Leather. Tuscan Leather was a surprising combination of raspberry over suede leather. It was not my favorite of that first collection. Over the years there have been other leather perfumes. Three years ago I found my “just right” one; Ombre Leather 16. No raspberry and a leather with suppleness and bite. From this perspective I was quite interested to see where Tuscan Leather Intense would fall.

Karyn Khoury

On the days I wore Tuscan Leather Intense it was hard not to think in the early moments that it was a discarded mod of the original. Creative Director Karyn Khoury probably did not do that because while the opening feels like a shuffled version of the original the latter half is all its own thing.

It opens on the same trio as the original; saffron, raspberry, and thyme. The difference here is the raspberry is pushed to the back over the thyme and saffron. The leather early on is also a bit unrefined with rougher edges. The thyme sets the pace for what is a much greener opening. That effect is deepened as davana comes into focus. It creates a woody green softening of the leather into a sueded version. A lot more olibanum coats it with smoke. The biggest change comes as a strong set of animalic musks turn this leather into something a bit untamed. Some amber provides a touch of warmth in the final stages.

Tuscan Leather Intense has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

Tuscan Leather Intense captures many of the qualities which have made Tom Ford Private Blend leather perfumes stand out in the past. It is interesting enough to me that when I reach for Ombre Leather 16 I am going to give Tuscan Leather Intense a glance. As a perfume consumer if you’re looking for a Tom Ford Private Blend leather to call your own you just have to let the right one in; Tuscan Leather Intense is going to be that one for many.

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

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Palm- Too Contemporary?

Ever since its debut in 2007 the Tom Ford Private Blend collection has been one of the most successful expansions of luxury niche perfumery into the marketplace. They represent one of the defining brands of that style. They were the first perfumes I would review where I would be asked, “Are they worth it?” The answer to that is always an individual choice. What was undeniable was the collection was representing some of the best-known ingredients in high quality forms where the difference was noticeable.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury creatively directed each perfume to provide a singular luxurious experience. That so many of them are on “best of” lists show their success. They have been so successful that there is debate to whether they should even be referred to as niche anymore. I think they still retain a niche aesthetic while having a wider distribution than most other fragrances referred to with that adjective. Over the first three years of existence they cemented their style over 21 releases. Then 2011 happened.

Karyn Khoury

This is conjecture on my part, but it seems like they had tired of hearing how “safe” they were. If you were to try the three releases from 2011 it feels like they wanted to have the word contemporary be part of the lexicon when describing Tom Ford Private Blends. Jasmin Rouge, Santal Blush, and this month’s Dead Letter Office entry Lavender Palm succeeded. What separated them from the rest of the collection was they took the keynote in their name off in very different new directions. All three have been among my favorites within the entire line. For some reason Lavender Palm was discontinued after only two years. I’ll provide my hypothesis for that later.

Yann Vasnier

Lavender Palm was released early in 2011 as an exclusive to the new Beverly Hills Tom Ford boutique followed by wider release a year later. Perfumer Yann Vasnier was asked to capture a Southern California luxury vibe. He chose to use two sources of lavender wrapped in a host of green ingredients.

The top accord uses the more common lavandin where M. Vasnier adds citrus to it. The whole opening gets twisted using lime blossom which teases out the floral nature of the lavender while complementing the citrus. This is an opening with snap. The heart coalesces around lavender absolute. Here is where things take that contemporary turn. M. Vasnier uses clary sage, aldehydes, moss, and palm leaves to form a lavender accord that is at turns salty and creamy. It seemingly transforms minute-by-minute. It remains one of the most unique lavender accords I have experienced. A soft resinous base is where this ends.

Lavender Palm has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

Lavender Palm became widely available in the beginning of 2012 and was discontinued by the end of 2014. I think the reason might be this was the only one of the three 2011 releases which unabashedly altered the previous style of the collection. There aren’t many Tom Ford Private Blend releases to be found in the Dead Letter Office; Lavender Palm might have got there by being too contemporary.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme- Lavender with a Capital L

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.

Karyn Khoury

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.

Olivier Gillotin

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Beau de Jour- Accessible Lavender

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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.

Karyn Khoury

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.

Antoine Maisondieu

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Fougere Platine- Formal Fougere

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.

Karyn Khoury

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.

Linda Song

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry- Found Enthusiasm

5

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.

Karyn Khoury

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.

Louise Turner

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.

Mark Behnke