New Perfume Review Tom Ford Private Blend Patchouli Absolu- Clear Patchouli

One of the first Tom Ford Private Blend perfumes released in 2007 was Amber Absolu. For many, including myself, it is one of the best entries of the Private Blend collection. By giving perfumer Christophe Laudamiel the direction to create a study in amber creative directors Tom Ford and Karen Khoury would repeat this starting with Oud Wood. The latest release, Patchouli Absolu, is another exploration of one of the most used notes in all of perfumery.

For this they turned to the same perfumer behind Oud Wood Richard Herpin. What made Oud Wood work so well was M. Herpin’s ability to surround oud with a set of notes not containing rose which allowed the full versatility of this, at the time, unusual perfume note to be displayed. With Patchouli Absolu his job is much different as he has to take a note probably every person who has any interest in fragrance is familiar with and make it different. He accomplishes this by making a refined version of patchouli. You could even say it is a patchouli which has been to a Tom Ford Men’s Store and fitted for a tux. It has the power you are familiar with but it is now refined and elegant as well.

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Richard Herpin(r.)

One of the ways M. Herpin does this is by using patchouli flower as one of his top notes. Patchouli comes from extraction of the leaves and the flower is not used very often because it is a more ephemeral version of what you get from the leaves. M. Herpin can do this because he matches it with a new aromachemical called Clearwood from Firmenich. Clearwood comes from a fermentation of sugar cane. Firmenich describes clearwood as a “Soft, clean version of patchouli without the earthy, leathery, and rubbery notes found in the natural oil.” It is this clearer version of patchouli which allows the patchouli flower to add back the parts that are missing but with a degree of subtlety. This opening sets the tone for the rest of the development as this patchouli is tamed. Even when after an herbal intermezzo of bay and rosemary the patchouli which comes from the leaves arrives it is also more controlled in every way like the man who has his name on the bottle. The base segues into a leather and woods finish surrounding the patchouli in a luxurious frame.

Patchouli Absolu has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The funny thing about Patchouli Absolu is when you try it at first it seems very simple, maybe too simple, especially on a mouillette. I really didn’t find Patchouli Absolu compelling until I wore it. Once it was on my skin it became more expansive exponentially. On the strip is was all closed up; on my skin the very intricate opening truly comes to life. The use of Clearwood was a very smart choice by M. Herpin and it really showed once I was wearing it. Patchouli Absolu is a Tom Ford patchouli and that gives it a degree of luxury this ubiquitous note rarely finds.

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

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Tom Ford Private Blend London- Like A Pendulum Do

As a perfume collection matures over the years it tends to swing back and forth like a pendulum. The Tom Ford Private Blend Collection has been around since 2007, under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karen Khoury. Most of the early fragrances had an intensity to them and that depth is what drew me to the line in the first place. Noir de Noir’s mix of chocolate, rose, oud, and patchouli is a good example. In 2010, things lightened up a bit and Jasmin Rouge is a good example of where the pendulum had swung to as the jasmine was kept cleaner and the notes surrounding it were kept in check. That kind of restraint added a sense of ephemeral beauty to those that I came to appreciate very much. But, but, but I wanted another Private Blend which swaggered with audacity. Little did I know it had been released last September.

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Tom Ford Private Blend London was an exclusive to the new Sloane Square Tom Ford boutique which opened in 2013 in London. There was little enthusiasm for it among the London contingent of perfumistas and as a result without an attendant buzz I had a very difficult time getting a sample. I did finally get one from online decanting site Surrender to Chance. What I was greeted with was a fragrance which seemed to encompass something more than trying to assay London as a fragrance. This was a fragrance of the East; exotic spices, opulent florals, and deep woods. This was the London of the Royal Geographic Society as their members brought back things seen for the first time from all over the globe. In a wood paneled drawing room, furnished in leather, one explorer shows off the cinnamon and cardamom he acquired. On another table a species of jasmine from the Himalayas scented the room. Raw vanilla pods from the West Indies mixed with these very intense smelling oud wood chips from Egypt smoking in a censer. This is the smell of Tom Ford Private Blend London.

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Yann Vasnier

Perfumer Yann Vasnier opens London up with a spicy mélange centered on cinnamon but heavily influenced with cardamom, ginger, and black pepper. This captured my attention immediately as M. Vasnier swirls all of this up into a spicy sirocco which blows with an airy potency. The jasmine in the heart is full on indolic jasmine and it has to be to make any headway against the spices. This skanky jasmine fits in perfectly with the spices and it is heady stuff. It gets even deeper as oud over leather makes up the key notes of the base. It is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and amber but this is drawing room leather and oud mostly.

London has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

My wish has been answered as London feels like it belongs to the original collection more than the more recent releases. It seems appropriate if London is the signal that the pendulum is swinging back because y’know; London swings like the pendulum do.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample purchased form Surrender to Chance

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: I expect London will be available worldwide sooner than later as the previous exclusive fragrance to a boutique, Lavender Palm, became widely available about a year later. As of this writing it is still only available in London.

New Perfume Reviews Tom Ford Private Blend Mandarino di Amalfi & Costa Azzurra- Summer Tableaux

The Tom Ford Private Blend collection is one of the more successful luxury collections on the market. One thing about it though is the fragrances which make it up would hardly be described as light. Outside of 2007’s Neroli Portofino and 2010’s Azure Lime this is not a collection I reach for during the summer. The two newest additions to the Private Blend line, Mandarino di Amalfi and Costa Azzurra, are going to change that.

As they did last year with the Oud Collection, Creative Directors Tom Ford and Karen Khoury are creating another collection of three by adding two new partners to an existing entry. This time the prior release is Neroli Portofino and the two new ones are packaged in the same blue glass bottle to signal they belong together. Both of them are being released at the perfect time as these are warm weather fragrances made for summer fun.

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Calice Becker (l.) and the Author

Mandarino di Amalfi is composed by Calice Becker and it is Mme Becker at her absolute finest. When Mme Becker really hits a home run with me is when she takes what seems an almost impossible number of raw materials and fashions something subtle and complex. Mandarino di Amalfi takes the very common trope of a citrus fragrance and by adding in herbs, spice, flowers, resins and musk she twists the normal into something almost paranormal as some of these notes flit through like fast moving poltergeists.

Mme Becker places her luminous mandarin in place and then like an olfactory version of a clove orange she pierces it with all manner of herbs and spices. A spear of tarragon, a javelin of blackcurrant bud, a lance of coriander, an arrow of spearmint, and a stiletto of basil stab through the citrus each adding a particular kind of energetic contrast. By the end of the early going you have well spiced herbal mandarin standing by itself. This wonderfully aromatic phase is caressed by a floral touch of jasmine and orange blossom. The jasmine is the smell of humid summer nights and a bit of shiso adds a green foundation to the florals. Vetiver and labdanum make things a little greener but not overwhelmingly so. Finally a bit of civet and musk end with a flash of animalic sensuality. On its surface Mandarino di Amalfi is an orange perfume but underneath Mme Becker adds in layers of pleasures to discover as the day unfolds.

Mandarino di Amalfi has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage, it is pitched perfect for a summer fragrance.

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Yann Vasnier

Yann Vasnier takes Costa Azzurra in a completely different direction. Costa Azzurra is the perfume of the beachcomber walking the beach at midday among the driftwood and the seaweed with the waves crashing nearby. I grew up in South Florida and spent many afternoons looking to see what the ocean left behind as the tide receded. M. Vasnier captures all of that in Costa Azzurra.

Costa Azzurra opens with a fresh cologne top note trio of lemon, lavender, and basil. The first sniff feels so familiar only to have a wave crash and the marine setting comes alive. M. Vasnier uses a bit of ambrette seed, myrtle, and algae to create his ebb tide tableau. This leads to a heart of woody notes to create his driftwood accord. Cypress, cedar, oak, and a pinch of oud all combine to create that unique sun-bleached wood accord which also shimmers with the heat of the sun beating down on it. This all lays over the marine accord from the top to truly create the beach landscape in fragrant form. The base takes us back to the comfort of incense, vanilla, and labdanum in a green tinted resinous finish. It is the driftwood at the heart of Costa Azzurra which is the star here as M. Vasnier captures it perfectly.

Costa Azzurra has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Neroli Portofino was never my favorite of the Private Blends but these two new companions are much more interesting to me and already they have proven to be good summer company. I will be wearing my samples down to their last drops over the next few months.

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

Mark Behnke

Tom Ford 101: Five to Get You Started

The idea for this series came when I took a friend to the Tom Ford fragrance boutique at Bergdorf-Goodman. His eyes began to spin and he looked at me with the silent plea of, “Where do I start?” I realized that, as I did that day, I could help others navigate the mega-collections that are out there.

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Tom Ford

Tom Ford, on the fragrance end, has been a mix of trendsetter and the ad campaigns have been provocative; needlessly provocative some would say. Do a search and you can make up your own mind on the PR side of things. On the fragrance side of things this is an overall very strong collection which is split into two different tiers. The Signature Collection comprises the mainstream releases and can be found at most of the masstige store chains. The Private Blend Collection is more exclusive and carries a price to match that exclusivity. There are currently 10 scents in the signature Collection and 29 Private Blends. Here is where I think you should start.

Black Orchid was the first fragrance release, in 2006, by the new Tom Ford Beauty. Tom Ford would join forces with Karen Khoury as Creative Directors on the fragrance side, a partnership which continues to the present day. Perfumers David Apel and Pierre Negrin perfected an exotic orchid accord at the heart. The top notes pierce it with a ray of citrus sunshine and it takes root in a base of incense, sandalwood, and patchouli. Marketed to women I have turned so many men onto this it is one of my favorite gender bender fragrances.

A year later the Private Blends would arrive and Tobacco Vanille would start a trend of ultra-rich tobacco fragrances. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin uses the leaves and the flower of tobacco to create a narcotic hypnotic heart. Spices pick up the dried leafy quality of the tobacco but a precision tuned vanilla paired with benzoin coaxes the sweet undercurrent to the foreground and makes this the ultimate comfort scent.

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Harry Fremont

Grey Vetiver was released in 2009 as part of the Signature Collection and was composed by perfumer Harry Fremont. This might be the easiest to wear vetiver fragrance on the market. Citrus and sage opens into a floral heart of orris and nutmeg before vetiver, amber, and oakmoss combine for a fantastic finish. Grey Vetiver is one of my favorite suggestions for a workplace perfume as it is very interesting without being so extroverted to make people take unusual notice.

Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux is one of the most amazing perfumers when to comes to taking a floral note you think you know well and illuminating things you’ve never noticed before. In 2011 he did this with jasmine in the Private Blend, Jasmin Rouge. M. Flores-Roux takes an unapologetically whole jasmine with all of its skanky indoles in place and surrounds it with clary sage, cardamom, and a gorgeous cinnamon. This transforms the jasmine into something completely different than I am used to wearing.  All of this is on a leather and vanilla foundation. This is as sophisticated as jasmine gets in a perfume.

There is no triter note in perfume than lavender it has been used and abused in too many cheap compositions. Perfumer Yann Vasnier completely rehabilitates that reputation with the Private Blend Lavender Palm. By using the two sources of lavender together and expertly blending them with clary sage, fizzing aldehydes, moss, and resins; Lavender Palm feels like that kid from the wrong side of the tracks who has become a big success. This has become my summer lavender staple since its release.

As I mentioned above the Signature Collection can easily be found at upscale department stores. The Private Blends are more exclusive but still quite widely available.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the fragrances mentioned.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Fashion of Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford- Fall 2014

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As fragrance fans we eagerly look forward to the next perfume release from Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford. Both of these, now, ubiquitous names started with their fashion lines before expanding into the accessories and beauty sectors. The fragrance calendar goes all year long but the fashion calendar is pretty much concentrated on two times of the year, February-March and September-October, when fashion designers show their latest couture in runway shows. The shows happen about six months before the season they are meant to be worn in. Thus the February shows are for Fall of that year and the September shows are for the Spring of the following year. It is also a traveling circus as there are fashion weeks starting in New York, then London, followed by Milan, and finishing up in Paris. For the current cycle, fall 2014, we are about halfway through with New York and London finished and Milan ongoing.

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Marc Jacobs (l.) and Tom Ford aking bows at their Fall 2014 Runway Shows

My interest in fashion is similar to my interest in the great perfumers. Both endeavors are highly informed on what has gone before with the best designers and perfumers using things from past creations as the launching point for the future. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford are perhaps two of the savviest at doing this. Their designs are based on classic lines but always there is a bit of a modern or retro-modern twist apparent. It is a big reason why they are the most anticipated runway shows at New York where Mr. Jacobs is the closer with the last show; and London where Mr. Ford moved his shows to from New York a year ago.

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Marc Jacobs' "Cosmetic Colors" (l.) and Tom Ford's Jay-Z Knockoff of a Knockoff

(Photos George Chinsee/WWD (l.) and Giovanni Gianonni/WWD)

One of the things I always find fascinating is how each season forms its own zeitgeist as all the designers seem to work towards the same big ideas. Halfway through the Fall 2014 offerings the colors seem to contain more pastels than you see in the Fall. Spring is usually where the pastels fill the runway. These pastels are of the cooler variety. Mr. Jacobs described them as “cosmetics colors” when describing his collection. Both designers brought in sportswear themed flourishes with the most talked about of those Mr. Ford’s knock off of a t-shirt Jay-Z has been wearing on stage when he performs his hit “Tom Ford”. The sequined couture version will carry a price tag, 100 times more than the $65 t-shirt, which has its own shade of social commentary underneath.

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Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 (Photo: George Chinsee/WWD)

Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2014 collection was all about soft colors and fabrics to go with it. It was almost as if the Marc Jacobs Blush fragrance could’ve been the tagline for the fashion. There were lots of examples of great separates the best which was the chunky knit look with its own slouchy vibe to it. All of this was brought together in one look as a sparkly stunner.

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Tom Ford Fall 2014 (Photo: Giovanni Gianonni/WWD)

Tom Ford’s Fall 2014 collection was less pastel and his color palette was more focused on black, navy, and red. In a collection of dark looks it was the reds which provided impact as either a red crocodile skirt suit or a luxurious velvet dress both of which are the kind of aspirational couture Mr. Ford does so well. The middle look above represents where hemlines will be next fall as it looks like the knee and lower will be on trend.

By the time fall rolls around I am sure we will be getting new fragrances from both designers to match the looks above.

Mark Behnke