I remember going to my local Neiman-Marcus one day in 2007. The head of the fragrance department was excited to see me because she had a new line to show me. I was taken to a counter where a row of brown bottles with round gold-colored orbs on top. This was my introduction to Tom Ford Private Blends. It is hard to underestimate the influence this would exert over the fragrance market. It defined the ultra-luxe sector. They also defined a Tom Ford fragrance aesthetic. As he and Karyn Khoury would creatively direct a kind of boldness which would become a defining trend of the noughts. Over time I would own all those initial releases and many of the ones which followed.
Like many brands the most recent releases have shown an evolution. I like many of them. Lost Cherry is a good example of how that early aesthetic remains in place without becoming stale. There have been attempts to reach out to the newer perfume consumers who perhaps enjoy a lighter style. Even those still had that Tom Ford-ness present. When I received my sample of Tom Ford Private Blend Ebene Fume it felt like the past and present were in the bottle.
One of the things that was great about the early releases was the highlighting of an ingredient that was given a luxurious setting. In Ebene Fume perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux features the wood of palo santo as the focal point. This wood has seen some popularity in niche perfumery over the last few years. It has a scent profile which is like sandalwood. In the areas where it is indigenous it is seen as an instrument in religious rituals. Sr. Flores-Roux sees the parallel between burning palo santo and incense to create the nucleus of this.
Both are present in the beginning. Twin spirals of resin and wood which form a central double helix. In the earliest going there is a subtle theme of green running through things. Thyme, papyrus, and violet leaves add a noticeable accentuation to the main ingredients. Osmanthus serves as a bridge to a sturdy leather accord. The palo santo and incense swirl around it. Then a simple piece turns this transcendent.
Cade oil is a perfume ingredient I usually curse inwardly when I see it on an ingredient list. In the hands of amateurs, it is a headache inducing sledgehammer which obliterates anything it is around. Sr. Flores-Roux is a maestro who knows the right amount can change everything. In this case the cade oil acts as the flame underneath a pyramid of palo santo and incense. I could imagine flames licking at the woods and resins. This is all perfectly balanced. It is this single addition which elevates Ebene Fume.
Ebene Fume has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This will make long time Private Blend fans think of the past and there is some of that. There is also a dose of the present as a more modern ingredient is given the Private Blend treatment. What it confirms is after fourteen years and seventy perfumes there is no lack of imagination here.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Tom Ford Beauty.
I know the creative process behind any perfume is an intricate process. When I’ve been given a peek behind the scenes it has shown me how delicate the effort is. I likened it to a real tall Jenga tower as you try to add that last piece. Use too heavy a hand and it all comes tumbling down. This usually doesn’t play out in public.
Starting in 2016 Tom Ford began releasing perfumes with “Soleil” in their name. They seemingly wanted to capture a fragrance based on a brief of suntan lotion and sun. They veered all over the place trying to get things just right. Through the four previous releases they stubbornly clung to that suntan lotion vibe. When I was told the fifth “Soleil” was on its way I was wondering what this one would attempt. Turns out creative director Karyn Khoury decided to rip up that previous script and start over with Tom Ford Private Blend Soleil Brulant. This time the focus was just the “soleil” as the warmth of summer sunlight is what comes through. Perfumer Daniela Andrier is behind this as she undertakes her first brief for Tom Ford.
The first surprise comes with an herbal citrus top accord around baie rose. The intensity of the pink pepper adds in a green underneath the luminosity of the orange. The citrus becomes warmer as it melds with a heart of orange blossom and honey. This is so different than any of the previous “Soleils”. This smells like an abstraction of bronze skin with a sheen of honey perspiration. That deep warmth is enhanced with amber and incense creating the base accord. This adds in a more complex depth which completes things.
Soleil Brulant has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Soleil Brulant succeeds where the previous releases had difficulties because they go in a different direction. By focusing on the sun instead of the SPF protection they produce something much more engaging. This is going to be a fantastic choice as temperatures warm up for those who would like just a teensy bit more heft to their spring and summer fragrances. It all happened because they chose to rethink the concept and try, try again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Lavender is one of the most common ingredients in all of perfumery. It is one of a set of florals which seems to not ascribe itself to one gender or the other. It has been the focal point of some of the great perfumes ever. It was always going to be a part of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. The first attempt was the completely modern take called Lavender Palm which was an exclusive to the Beverly Hills boutique. Even though it has been discontinued it remains one of my favorites of the entire Tom Ford Private Blend collection for how audaciously contemporary they went. Earlier this year the decision was made to go in the other direction with Belle de Jour. This was an elegantly made crowd pleaser. Now with the release of Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Extreme, and for once, that last word should be taken literally.
When it comes to the ubiquitous perfumery ingredients, I have some affection for lavender. It is because there is a big difference between the most common source lavandin and the harder to extract Provence version. The Provence version is harvested after being left to dry in the fields for days before extraction and distillation. It has the herbal quality of lavender more prominent because of the drying process prior to extraction. In this year’s Beau de Jour it was a nearly equivalent amount of lavandin and Provence lavender used in a softly satisfying way. For Lavender Extreme perfumer Olivier Gillotin working with creative director Karyn Khoury the Provence lavender is given a much more prominent role.
The only time I really notice the lavandin is in the very early moments of Lavender Extreme. M. Gillotin combines it with eucalyptus to form an abstract accord of the real Provence lavender to come. That lavender comes in with a rush. You notice it immediately as the herbal nature of it washes across that earlier lavender accord with gusto. I enjoyed the way the lavender seemed to grow more extreme throughout the middle part of the development. It then begins to be modified in some clever ways. M. Gillotin uses a bit of carrot seed to provide a sweet rooty contrast. Tolu balsam complements the herbal-ness. Tonka bean comes with its roasted sweetness to keep the lavender from getting too strident. Benzoin provides a sweet resinous polish to the final stages.
Lavender Extreme has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have often complained that perfumes with “extreme” on the bottle are not truth-in-advertising. Not so with Lavender Extreme. This is a soaring spire of lavender spelled with a capital L.
Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
When there is a brand as long-lived and influential as Tom Ford Private Blend has been it is inevitable there are some discontinued perfumes. One of my favorites which is no longer available is 2012’s Lavender Palm which was released as a store exclusive to their Beverly Hills Tom Ford boutique. It stands out because it was a fantastic contemporary example of a lavender perfume which did not remind you of a barber shop. I don’t know why it was discontinued but it seems like the brand wants to take another attempt at a non-barbershop lavender in Tom Ford Private Blend Beau de Jour.
For this new perfume longtime creative director Karyn Khoury collaborates with perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. What they produce is a perfume of lavender encased in green.
When you smell lavender in fragrance the most common version is called lavandin. Lavandin has the more floral quality associated with functional lavender products like soaps. If a lavender perfume is referred to as soapy it is most likely this source. What M. Maisondieu does is to use another source of lavender. From the Provence region of France it is dried in the fields before extraction and distillation. This provides a lavender which has a much deeper herbal quality. This herbal-ness is always around in a natural lavender extract. This version used in Beau de Jour is more pronounced. It must be because M. Maisondieu has some partners which require it.
Beau de Jour opens with the layering of the Provence lavender and lavandin. M. Maisondieu finds a balance of fresh floral and herbal. The Provence version becomes the focal point as a set of four green ingredients tease out the herbal nature. They are rosemary, basil, geranium, and oakmoss. It is like each ingredient find a spot and pulls. The rosemary and geranium do it in a gentle manner. The basil and oakmoss exert more strength. The oakmoss becomes the most prominent over time. As the oakmoss and the lavender hit their stride it is where Beau de Jour comes off as a nouveau chypre. It finds grounding in an earthy patchouli matched with ambroxan. The patchouli dovetails with the chypre vibe. The ambroxan gives it a modern bit of polish.
Beau de Jour has 12-14 hour longevity.
I think Beau de Jour is a more accessible lavender than Lavender Palm. My guess is this will become one of the more popular Private Blends because of that.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.