It is agreed that modern perfumery began in 1882 with Houbigant Fougere Royale. Paul Parquet’s use of coumarin transformed the concept of fragrance as utility into something more aspirational. Over the nearly 150 years since, we have seen those aspirations realized. It is something I am always thinking of when there is a new material being used by perfumers. Is this something that will allow for a perfumer and creative director to reach for something they were unable to before. One of the places you often see this is by returning to that original fougere construction you can display a new ingredient within all of the fougeres that came before it. I was strongly reminded of this with Tom Ford Private Blend Fougere D’Argent.
Fougere D’Argent is one of two new fougeres in the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection. I’ll be reviewing the other, Fougere Platine in a couple of weeks. I was more intrigued by the construction of Fougere D’Argent that I spent time with that first.
Fougere D’Argent was composed by perfumer Louise Turner under the eye of long-time creative director Karyn Khoury. That alpha fougere was an axis of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss. Ms. Turner takes Fougere D’Argent to a different place as her spine is ginger, lavandin, and akigalawood. The latter as a substitute for the oakmoss in the original is what really caught my attention.
Fougere D’Argent opens with the more expansive CO2 extraction of ginger. It picks up the bergamot and mandarin for a zesty citrus opening. Baie rose leads into the heart where lavandin is waiting to become the traditional heart. Lavandin is less herbal than other varieties of lavender. The baie rose adds back that herbal quality as an ingredient which allows Ms. Turner to tune to what ends up smelling like a hybrid of the two main lavender sources. Labdanum takes us into the base. What is there is the newer ingredient akigalawood. I’ve spoke of it in the past but due to being the product of an enzymatic degradation of patchouli it leaves behind a patchouli variant which is spicy and woody while leaving out the earthier facets. On its own it wouldn’t have been an ideal replacement for the oakmoss. By adding coumarin, in a nod to the original fougere, it becomes much closer to the oakmoss base from the beginning.
Fougere D’Argent has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed Fougere D’Argent as much as I did because it felt like another signpost on the continuum of perfumery. Ms. Turner reminded me that out on the edges fragrance can still keep deciding what modern is.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
I am a horrible perfume snob; I admit it. Especially when it comes to mainstream releases. There are brands which I know can break out of the ocean of mediocrity that exists in this sector. I was on a recent trip to the mall to pick up samples of things to try from those. I have come to trust the different people I associate with to acquire my samples one of them asked me if I had tried the new Tory Burch. I must have made a face because without saying a word she said, “I’ll take that as a no.” She then followed up with “I think its pretty good probably the best of the tory Burch perfumes.” The snob was in full obsequious mode in my head, “Oh wow the best of Troy Burch perfume it must be faaaantastic….not!” This time I kept a better poker face as she handed me the blotter. Then I sniffed it and the snob in my head was being told to sit down and be quiet for a while.
If I had to give a short description to the previous nine Tory Burch perfume releases since 2013 it would be “fresh florals”. Sometimes there was some fruit for “fresh fruity florals” but it was consistent. It has always felt like a missed opportunity since the fragrance part of the brand has been under the creative direction of Karyn Khoury since it started. But there has been kind of creeping sameness about the output. What sets Tory Burch Just Like Heaven apart is it has an off-kilter green around a single floral. Perfumer Alexis Dadier was seemingly given some latitude to color outside the lines of the previous Tory Burch aesthetic.
It shows right away with rhubarb the core of the top accord. Rhubarb has been used more lately for the vegetal green paired with a kind of grapefruit character. M. Dadier uses petitgrain to focus the citrus part of the rhubarb and mandarin to provide a bit of juicy sweetness in contrast. The keynote floral is heliotrope which is given some depth by ylang-ylang and hyacinth. M. Dadier uses the hyacinth as the “fresh” component so as not to scare off previous Tory Burch enthusiasts. But then he threads the peppery earthy angelica root through the florals extending the effect of the rhubarb from the top accord. To provide a comforting finish, tonka and ambrox give a sweet woody hug.
Just Like Heaven has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Just Like Heaven should be a nice addition to someone’s summer floral rotation. If you’re having trouble trying a Tory Burch fragrance just do like I did and put your inner perfume snob in time out. I think he might be looking over his shoulder wondering what smells so good.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Bloomingdale’s.
I sometimes ascribe intent to something when it doesn’t exist. Which means I overlay something that was never meant to be by the brand or the creative team. Part of that is I like looking for patterns and when I think I find one I want to write about it. One which crops up from time to time is when a version of a perfume is released, and it is derided as being “too light” or “too strong”. What often comes next is something in-between those perceived extremes. It is easy to see Goldilocks saying that one is “just right”. As a brand Tom Ford Private Blend has certainly releases sets of similar perfumes which run the gamut from “too light” to “too strong” and a few releases in the middle.
Two years ago, the “too light” version of a suntan lotion style of perfume was released with Soleil Blanc. I enjoyed it for its almost extreme transparency. I am guessing I wasn’t joined by many. Six months later as part of the Tom Ford Signature collection I found Orchid Soleil to be the “too strong” version. It was stronger, and it had a deep gourmand base accord to boot. I’m not sure this was flying off the shelves either. Now Tom Ford Private Blend Eau de Soleil tries to satisfy Goldilocks.
What sets it apart is a generally brighter tone as perfumer Nathalie Gracia-Cetto and Creative Director Karyn Khoury, who did Soleil Blanc, up the brightness. This is done by adding fresher alternatives to what came before which provides something more present without potentially overwhelming.
The freshening agent in the top accord is a set of citrus notes; cedrat, bitter orange, and petitgrain. It comes together like a focused beam of brightness as if you were focusing the sunlight through a magnifying glass. It becomes a bit fuzzier as cardamom and caraway provide some spicy underpinning. It is further ameliorated by the arrival of the floral heart still dominated by jasmine but in this formulation also matched by ylang-ylang. The latter ingredient provides a kind of unctuous floral effect which fits the whole suntan lotion vibe. What seals it into place is the coconut quality of Mme Gracia Cetto’s “Coco de Mer” accord. It is very reminiscent of many of the suntan lotions I smelled at the beach growing up in South Florida. It ends on a toasty accord of tonka and benzoin.
Eau de Soleil Blanc has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage. To give a reference if you thought Soleil Blanc was a skin scent and Orchid Soleil left a vapor trial this is exactly between those two.
I have liked all three of the Tom Ford interpretations of a suntan lotion style of perfume. If pressed to pick one I think the transparency of the original Soleil Blanc keeps me at arm’s length. The life of the party Orchid Soleil keeps me up too late. Like Goldilocks, Eau de Soleil blanc is “just right”.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I received from Tom Ford Beauty.
The end of January is the cruelest time of year for me. I’ve recovered from the Holidays but now face weeks of grey cold blah-ness before spring takes hold. Those who can, take a winter break to an island to shuck the coats and slip on the swimming gear. I’ve done it a few times in my life and it is rejuvenating giving me just enough to make it through the final weeks until spring. For those of more modest means one of the beautiful things about fragrance is you can use the right perfume to take a mental winter break. One of the latest to do this is Aerin Hibiscus Palm.
Aerin Lauder has done an admirable job of accepting the role of Estee Lauder’s granddaughter but making her line a coherent collection focused on lightly weighted floral constructs. Her co-creative director Karyn Khoury and Ms. Lauder have made the brand a reliable source of these types of perfume since the launch in 2013. Hibiscus Palm fits right in with that.
When you visit the tropics, the flowers scent the air, but the island breezes tend to keep them from forming an overwhelming cloud. Hibiscus Palm is one of those island breezes carrying the smell of the flowers to you as you sip your favorite drink on the beach or poolside.
In the opening the breeze brings the hibiscus along with ylang-ylang. Hibiscus can be slight when used as a perfume ingredient which allows the ylang-ylang to support it while also adding to the tropical aesthetic. More recognizable florals like jasmine and gardenia begin to become noticeable. What I really liked about these early moments was the use of ginger to provide a sharp contrast to all the floral gymnastics. It provides the right amount of counterpoint. As you become used to the flowers a nice sun-warmed skin musk accord is used with vanilla tinted with coconut milk to give that tropical drink vibe.
Hibiscus Palm has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re finding yourself in need of a winter break but can’t get on a plane; head to the fragrance counter and let Hibiscus Palm get you there instead.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Nordstrom.
In 2007 when the first dozen Tom Ford Private blend perfumes arrived they were a sensation. Tom Ford working with Karyn Khoury would create something unique within the niche perfume sector. So many of those originals were such groundbreaking constructs it was maybe too much to expect the Private Blend collection to keep up that kind of creativity over the long run. As we begin 2018 and a second decade of Private Blends it is fair to say the collection has become an elder statesman of the luxury fragrance sector. You might notice I left off niche because as the brand has matured it has also become less adventurous. Particularly over the past year or so there has been an emphasis on using top notch ingredients within familiar constructs. The latest release, Vanille Fatale, is a good example.
As the collection becomes safer the PR copy becomes ever more impenetrable. Here is a bit from the press materials for Vanille Fatale:
“Vanille Fatale is a force of nature personified. A beguiling tempest that takes over like a rush of blood to the head. The impossible becomes real, too good to be true becomes true. Her – or his – unrelenting hold is fixed, refined yet raw, polished yet primal.”
All of that for a fragrance which is a nicely formed vanilla perfume using a great source of the titular note.
Perfumer Yann Vasnier uses saffron as an exotic opener which might give you the idea something more unique is coming. It isn’t. What is coming is one of the Givaudan proprietary Orpur ingredients. The Orpur version of Madagascar vanilla is as good as raw materials get. It has power and nuance. The green nature of the orchid runs through the sweetness like stringy veins. M. Vasnier chooses olibanum and myrrh to provide resinous contrast and depth. It all rests on a soft suede accord in the base. There are some floral notes and coffee listed in the ingredient list but over a couple days of wearing this none of those came through. This is primarily saffron-vanilla-incense-leather.
Vanille Fatale has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It is hard to not try a new Tom Ford Private Blend containing vanilla and not be reminded of one of those early trendsetters in the debut collection; Tobacco Vanille. I’ve heard many tell me the tobacco is too much in that one. For those, Vanille Fatale is Tobacco Vanille avec tobacco. This is a very luxurious high-quality vanilla perfume for which I think vanilla lovers will die for because of the Orpur vanilla. I fall in between wanting there to be some of the adventurousness of the early Private Blends but accepting an elder statesman needs to show some decorum. Vanille Fatale is a decorous vanilla perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
As soon as I see “noir” in the name of a fragrance I have learned to temper my expectations. I feel much like Inigo Montoya saying “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”. If there was one offender I would consistently point at, it was the Tom Ford Noir collection. It was something which was a pleasant perfume but in no way “noir”. If I was to define “noir” I would want it to be a shifting style of perfume, innocent and dark, throughout its development. The literary and cinematic form which spawned the word are tales of moral ambiguity often accompanied by the corruption of innocence. So, imagine my surprise when the new flanker Tom Ford Noir Anthracite gets it correct.
The time-tested creative direction of Karyn Khoury is combined with perfumer Honorine Blanc. This is the first Tom Ford fragrance by Mme Blanc. The concept on the website is to explore the “light in the dark”. I would say Noir Anthracite explores the struggle of light within the dark.
Mme Blanc opens with the first bit of light as bergamot sparks Noir Anthracite to life. Then she uses Szechuan pepper to add in the dark. It would have been so easy to just use black pepper here. Szechuan pepper carries a different piquancy along with a kind of subtle muskiness. It works especially well here because Mme Blanc also uses ginger as a foil to the sunny bergamot too. This is a very different top accord from most of the other mainstream offerings which this will be next to on the fragrance counter. I enjoyed it a lot but I am curious if this is going to be generally accepted at the mall. The heart is another unique accord as galbanum acts as an overarching green presence to which a light application of jasmine and tuberose are used to provide some lift to it. The galbanum is so powerful you might not notice the florals. This is what I mean as the scrubbed clean white florals never really overcome the green of the galbanum. The base is a straightforward sandalwood and cedar.
Noir Anthracite has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Noir Anthracite is quite different from the other Tom Ford Noir releases. I think if you are a fan of those you might not find Noir Anthracite as nice as I did. Although if you are looking for a perfume which calls itself noir, and means it; Noir Anthracite seems to know what the word means.
Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
It is difficult to find some new way to present oud in fragrance. It was with some interest when I received my press sample and press packet for the new Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Minerale that they promised me something never been done before. It is a bit of classic PR overreach to say this is the first to graft oud on to a marine style fragrance in all of perfumery. As far as mainstream releases go it might be more accurate. It is certainly not a style done to death and it has not produced a memorable incarnation either.
Tom Ford Private Blend creative director Karyn Khoury collaborates with perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu on Oud Minerale; the fourth in the Private Blend Oud collection. One of the most interesting aspects of the four Oud collection releases is all of them rely upon an oud accord to provide the titular note. Oud Minerale almost has to employ an oud accord because anything approaching the real stuff would have run roughshod over the rest of the fragrance. You can even say that this is why there are not a lot of oud marine perfumes because that balance would be very difficult to achieve using the real thing. Mme Maisondieu is able to take the flexibility using an accord gives her to find a place for oud to insert itself without being overwhelming.
The opening of Oud Minerale is one of the more accurate marine accords I’ve tried in quite a while. Mme Maisondieu uses a mixture of baie rose and seaweed. It evokes the clean smell of low tide in the early morning or twilight. There is a damp green vegetal note sharpened by the herbal focus of the baie rose. I found it natural as it grabbed in all of the seaside milieu. A bit of fir captures seaside pines while ambergris accord provides the briny ocean as it recedes. The entire marine effect is now assembled for Mme Maisondieu to take a mixture of salicylates, the synthetic aromachemical Pepperwood, and cypriol to form her oud accord. It uses the spiciness of the pepperwood to imitate the bite of real oud without it turning into something threatening. Once everything is in place the combination is expansive as being outside; it fills up all the space in a transparent overall effect. It rests on a base of vetiver, cedar, patchouli, and ambroxan which provide some depth to the oud as it lets go of the marine accord over time.
Oud Minerale has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Oud Minerale is a departure from the other members within the entire Tom Ford collection. It is a fresh take on oud which is perfect for the remaining summer months.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
2017 sees the tenth anniversary of the Tom Ford Private Blend collection. It has been one of the most important perfume collections of recent times. In May of 2007 I remember seeing this group of brown square bottles in my local Neiman-Marcus. It was an audacious attempt to capture this new thing known as a “niche perfume” market. Ten years on it is easy to say under the creative direction of Tom Ford and Karyn Khoury they hit every target, and then some, they probably aspired to. They’ve been so successful it has become an arguable point that Tom Ford Private Blend is no longer even “niche”.
One of the best-selling entries in that first group was Neroli Portofino. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux presented a luxurious version of the lowly drugstore cologne. It made Neroli Portofino a standard bearer for the vibe the Private Blend collection was aspiring to. Neroli Portofino was so successful Mr. Ford and Ms. Khoury decided to create a sub-collection named after it, in 2014. They also changed the bottle color from brown to blue so to make it visually evident when there are new entries. Since 2014 there have been five more releases each continuing the examination of the Mediterranean Hesperidic style of perfume. The latest release is called Sole di Positano.
Ms. Khoury invited perfumers Aurelien Guichard and Olivier Gillotin to compose this latest entry. It is based on a quote from John Steinbeck Mr. Ford admires, “Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone”. The challenge is to create a very light version of the Neroli Portofino aesthetic.
Sole di Positano opens on the twinkling of sunlight off the Mediterranean represented by lemon and petitgrain. To keep it from being too tart the perfumers use mandarin to smooth out that character. The green of the petitgrain is then connected with shiso to add a couple shades of verdancy to the citrus. Jasmine and ylang-ylang provide the floral heart. These are cleaner lighter versions of both of those notes. No indoles in the jasmine along with no oiliness in the ylang-ylang. The green returns with moss, along with sandalwood, in the base.
Sole di Positano has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the past year, there has been a lightening up of the Private Blend releases. I wonder if it is a calculation for the collection to transition to appealing to a younger consumer. Sole di Positano is the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection since Fleur de Portofino. If you like your Mediterranean perfumes on the lighter side Sole di Positano is going to please you.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Tom Ford Beauty.
It is difficult being the second act to a legend. When it comes to American beauty brands Estee Lauder is one of the great All-American success stories. From the foundation of the brand in the 1950’s into the business juggernaut it is currently she has defined beauty for over sixty years. One great aspect of that rise is fragrance was not relegated to being a bit player. It was a critical piece of the overall empire as it grew. There was a time when it looked like there was not going to be a next generation Lauder to carry on because she had two sons. Her younger son Ronald Lauder would provide the genetics when his oldest daughter Aerin would join the company where she is currently the Style and Image Director. In 2013 Aerin Lauder would follow her grandmother into the fragrance part of the business with her own brand called simply Aerin.
The Aerin perfumes have been, by design, a collection of mostly light-hearted floral perfumes. There are a few exceptions but it is flowers which are the inspiration. Even then the flower most represented is rose. One of the first set of spring roses I received samples of for 2017 were the three new releases; Bamboo Rose, Garden Rose, and Linen Rose. If I have an overarching impression is these are nice high quality versions of simple floral constructs. Ms. Lauder has been working with Karyn Khoury as co-creative directors and they have worked well together with a coherent vision which has been consistent throughout the previous releases. What will always make a difference for me even in a fragrance which is not original is when it sets off a scent memory for me. When I got to Linen Rose it reminded me of the summers I spent on Shelter Island, NY which is why I enjoyed it so much. I came to find out when I got to the press materials Ms. Lauder was inspired by her rose garden in the Hamptons just a ferry ride away from Shelter Island.
I have come to like the rose perfumes which have a seaside theme of which Linen Rose is. If it is done well, as it is here, it captures the salt spray, the grass growing in the dunes, and the rose overriding it all. Working with perfumer Richard Herpin this is exactly what Linen Rose delivers.
Mr. Herpin opens on a citrus mixture of lemon leaves and orange all of which is inflated on a bubble of Hedione. One of the things which drew me to Linen Rose was Mr. Herpin dispenses with the typical suite of oceanic notes. He employs coconut water and vetiver to create the dunes and waves milieu. This is subtle and Mr. Herpin uses the Hedione as the expansive element along with those two notes. It works quite well as an alternative. The roses come in on this and they are there in all their typically powdery and spicy nature. It all heads down to a warm amber, vanilla, and benzoin finish.
Linen Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Ms. Lauder is admirably creating her own version of the Estee Lauder legacy with this line of perfumes. I suspect that before too long there will be something special from this team. Linen Rose is maybe the first harbinger of that.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aerin.
I know for many who love perfume they have an equivalent passion for makeup. I am obviously not one who falls in to that particular categorization. I am not so clueless that I don’t know most of the major brands plus if they decide to expand in to fragrance I become even better acquainted with the brand. I knew about MAC cosmetics because they always seem to have a lot of space in the department store beauty aisles. I can figure out that to have that much square footage must translate to a passionate consumer. MAC had tried to branch out into perfume from 1999-2009 but for some reason I haven’t been able to determine why; they gave up on it. Especially because the 2002 releases MV1, MV2, and MV3 were very well-done department store releases. For the end of 2016 MAC is re-entering the perfume market with a collection of six new releases called Shadescents.
The inspiration behind Shadescents are the six-current best-selling MAC lipstick shades. The color of the bottle cap matches the shade of lipstick in the name. What especially got my attention was the collaboration between creative director Karyn Khoury and perfumer Jerome Epinette who were the team behind all six. The concept was to create a perfume version of lipstick. What that meant was not to smell like lipstick but instead for each perfume to be one distinct note or accord which best represented the color. I will confess that I am not one of those synesthetes who sees color when I smell perfume which means I will not comment on whether I think the perfumes succeed on that level. Where I do think they achieve their goals is to take a bold single note and treat it as a soliflore which M. Epinette can surround with some complimentary notes.
Candy Yum-Yum is a candy floss blast of ethyl maltol with vanilla cut with a set of interesting fruit notes. Crème D’Nude also is based around vanilla but in this case a set of botanical and synthetic musks wrap themselves around the sweet core. Velvet Teddy is also musky but matched with honey. Lady Danger uses cherry as the focal point. My Heroine was the one which did not seem to belong because it is a smoky resinous leather. The one I liked best is the one based on the most popular MAC lipstick shade Ruby Woo.
Ruby Woo actually picks up on the themes from Lady Danger and My Heroine as there is cherry and what M. Epinette calls a “red leather accord”. It opens with a kind of patent leather accord which is pierced with a strong cherry which I think is what is meant to give it its crimson shade. M. Epinette then uses as highlighting notes; saffron, iris, rose, and sandalwood. These four notes take the red leather jacket on a lively journey by the time all is said and done.
Ruby Woo has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
If one of the reasons for MAC getting out of the perfume business seven years ago, was they took too many chances. I believe Shadescents is an attempt to rectify that perceived error. All six have identifiable aesthetics similar to many of their mass-market brethren. The collection as a whole provides enough difference that I think it will resonate with the MAC consumer. I’m not a MAC consumer but I would happily wear Ruby Woo.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Macy’s.