Tag Archives: Tom Ford


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One of the greatest pleasures in fragrance is the holiday perfume.


To arrive, finally. Tired, excited, stimulated by the unknown, senses taking in every last detail, but grubby and sullied from all those hours on the plane, itching to get in the hotel shower.




The brand new smell of clean sheets; linen; towels, unfamiliar toiletries you are dying to try. To get out there and explore the area, let it inundate you.


To unpack. A long, long shower. Clothes laid out on the bed, the smell of where you have just come from recognizable, mingling comfortably with this unaccustomed environment. Your new scent, still in its brand new box, placed beckoningly on top.




To then emerge, dripping; fluffy toweling yourself, inhaling this new air, your brain awakened to it. Breathing in, happily, the disorienting, nervous thrill of travel.



Now perfume.



It is hot outside, scorching. 



To lock your senses in the the perfect photograph; a snapshot of scent within the memory of water: orange groves, lemon groves; mint. Revivifying freshness: minute, precious wet droplets of scent to rehydrate your nervous system; wake you ; feed your body and the mind with olfactory pleasure. To immortalize the moment : stop time.










To spray these scents all over myself with happy abandon, lapping them up, especially citruses and colognes in hot countries and a scent that hits the spot. Caron’s Eau Fraîche, prior to reformulation, was one such fragrance: so elating: a softened, rounded rush of grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, artemis, bergamot and galbanum over flowers, and subtle, sensual base notes, sheer sunshine in a bottle, and there could never have been a bottle big enough: I would have got through gallons of that scent quite happily each summer if I could have done as it was my ideal summer perfume. Recently reformulated, it is now a pale nothing, a ghostly lemon of its former joys.










The first time that Helen came to Japan, in anticipation of her also wanting this ‘olfactive commemoration of newness’, I left a brand new bottle of Creed’s Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse on her pillow. It is a scent which to this day she says still gives her a sense of excitement and poignant optimism, of the remembrance of the bleary culture shock of arriving in such a different country as Japan, of the Autumn sun beyond the window, the happiness inherent in that lovely scent itself, and the adventures that were about to occur. The Creed mandarin – like the Caron –  is more an abstract combination of beautifully combined ingredients than an overt representation of a recognizable citrus fruit; a glassed orchestration of bergamot, white flowers, ambergris.  A protectant veil of goodness.




Of all the mandarin perfumes I like, though, including Il Profumo’s Mandarin, Diptyque’s Oyedo and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mandarine, I think that the new perfume from Tom Ford, Mandarino D’Amalfi, is perhaps the best I have smelled yet. It is delightful, a scent I yearn to take on holiday with me. To look out breezily from a terrace somewhere: renewed, sipping on prosecco…





Opening with the most delectably fresh, zinging pow! of strongly scented mandarin peels complemented with mint, basil, blackcurrant, lemon, tarragon and grapefruit, a heart of familiar, cologne-ish orange blossom, coriander, shiso and jasmine, the perfumer – the amazing Calice Becker, whose work I love for its beautifully simple aim – to smell good – even when that end result lacks the edge and avant garde weirdness of much recent niche perfumery, creates here a perfectly realized, beautifully simple mandarin scent that feels like an immediate hit. 




Mandarino D’Amalfi, a new addition to the lighter, cologne-based Neroli Portofino range in the Tom Ford lineup of oudhs, woods, and thick, languid flowers, is mandarin, mandarin, mandarin: a mandarin-themed scent with great tenacity (practically a miracle in citrus perfumes), while managing, throughout, to maintain its essential citric integrity. Think of it as the mandarin equivalent of Thierry Mugler Cologne if you like (a scent that achieved the unachievable in its vast lengthening of the natural cologne timespan while remaining recognizably a cologne). Yes, there may be subtle anchorings of vetiver, labdanum, musk, even civet in the base notes of the scent, but this base accord does nothing to distract your attention from the fact that this perfume is all about the mandarin; piqued and elaborated by the green notes and other citruses, expanded and given true ‘perfume’ credentials by the delicious floral marriage of jasmine and neroli in the heart.




Essentially, though frightentingly expensive for a citrus perfume, I think that this might be the mandarin to end all mandarins. We are going away in December, and this is what I will be taking with me.


Filed under Orange





















Perfection can be problematic. Like fashion models – often technically physically flawless but curiously lacking in sex appeal – or like Tom Ford’s meticulously worthy cinematic debut ‘A Single Man’, which reached an impeccable consummation in its distinguished acting and artful cinematography (but which personally left me cold), or even the man himself – a suave, handsome hunk who doesn’t seem to grey or age a whisker as the years go by (yet looks strangely plastic), there is a certain muted terror lurking in the seamless infallibility of the TF universe; the ruthless ambition;  the nail-clenched, acrylic, lip-drenching gloss. 


Grey Vetiver, the first time I smelled it, from the bottle, in an airport, had me nodding again in immediate recognition of another job well done. It was perfect –  pitch perfect. A beautifully rendered, citric, peppery, woody vetiver; elegant, masculine, commercial – a bit too solemn and resolute for me perhaps – but undeniably, like all the man’s work, masterfully constructed. And that was that. I didn’t think about the scent again after; for me, one sniff was enough: just one of the many tasteful and discriminating vetivers on the market such as Sycomore, Sel de Vetiver and Vetiver Extraordinaire that, while pleasing, don’t entirely appeal to my emotions, my deeper, more instinctive olfactory synapses.


I do really love vetiver, though. There is a sensuality, an earthiness, but  also a mystery and spirituality within the essence’s olfactory DNA, something innately dignified – yet also truthful and open – that always really draws me in. So when I recently spotted a discounted bottle of Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (along with a vintage parfum of Patou 1000) at a recycle shop in Yokohama, I couldn’t help buying it. What the hell. I figured that it might be good for Duncan, a tried and tested vetiver wearer, or if not, could be farmed off as one of the Christmas presents I must soon start amassing and packing off to England.


Later in the evening, after work that day, I happened to bump into a friend of mine at the train station, another Neil, not a perfume nut, but someone who does wear scent and who once texted me from some discount emporium in the city to ask me whether Calvin Klein Eternity For Men was an acceptable choice for a bloke ( I said yes; I used to wear it myself). As it turns out, it smells very good on him, though it has to be said that he might want to occasionally want to tone down the dosage (not that his coterie of Japanese females seem to mind..)


Dying to try out the Grey Vetiver, but loathe to let it touch my own skin (I simply can’t abide anything even the slightest bit ‘macho’ on myself, especially not in my black-suited work mode), Neil, always a very open-minded individual, was quite happy to have a couple of sprays of the scent on the back of his hands, and we spent the rest of the train journey together with the stylish aura of Grey Vetiver surrounding and encircling him most effectively; it smelled rich; velvety, dark, and rather sexy actually. But, still, most definitely for me at least, there was something a bit too poker-faced and self-serious;  way too governor of the board.  Neil agreed. In fact, he had never heard of vetiver oil, let alone Tom Ford, and, to my great delight, misheard the name of the perfume initially as ‘Tom Jones/ Grave Etiquette’, which made a strange kind of brilliant sense and made me almost spit out my drink. It was grave, especially on Neil, though not quite as hairy-chested as the great Welsh heartthrob himself………. ‘Ah yes’ he said; ‘It’s not unusual, but this is the stuff;  classy; very teak-lined, executive boardroom; tailored suit; straight down to business; elegant”. Would he wear it, I asked? ‘Yes, just not all the time. Only when I need to impress.’


On Duncan it was the same : just way – once the lighter, more refreshing top notes had subsided – too conservative; prescribed, and straight in the drydown, too pointedly ‘virile’ : “It needs some sweetness or something” he said, and, on him, I agreed. There is no way I could have stood D smelling like that: so constricted, so self-consciously austere.



So that would have been that, had I not, the other day, ventured to try the perfume, just once, on myself –  because how could I not if I was about to give it away, profligate though that sounds? Perhaps to Neil I thought, as we often meet by chance in the evenings, take the train together, and Grave Etiquette is a scent that I would quite happily have as our scented accompaniment. Or else I thought, maybe I could give it to my dad ( although somehow, come to think of it, he has quite enough executive confidence in him already and probably  doesn’t need that aspect of his character accentuated). My mum would definitely have liked the classic, almost art deco design of the bottle though: quite often she has commandeered certain of my perfumes for that very reason, just to display in the downstairs bathroom. It was about to go in the post.


But I had to be sure. It’s not always easy to give away what you instinctively want to hoard. And so, quite bravely (I felt), I sprayed it on. And I braced myself for aggravation (nothing less conducive to my serenity than those thudding, aggressive, acrid male perfumes).


But…… wait a minute; taut, acidic, spice-laced, elegantly citric notes: nice (…..? ? …) A gorgeous vetiver heart, the kind of vetiver I really like; rich, deep, anchored;  clean but with soul; fused, surreptiously, with nutmeg, pimiento, sage, and a gentle, rounding, powdery orris : the key, perhaps, to  making this perfume settle, as it begins to, quite naturally and pleasingly as it does, onto my skin (……?!) Wow, I find myself saying to myself, amazed; I really quite like this; it could almost be my beloved Racine; surely this isn’t working on me, how bizarre. Yes, the Maître Parfumeur et Gantier vetiver is sharper, more lemony, with a plum note in the top that I love and that really clinches it, but Grey Vetiver is, somehow, similar: the warm, earthy, yet highly strung and supercilious kind of vetiver accord that I go for. And my skin always brings out the warmer notes in perfumes in any case, which is perhaps why I didn’t get the patrician, dark-browed authority that both Duncan and Neil gave off when donning this well-tempered mini meisterwerk. My goodness, I think, I really like this. Perhaps I had subconsciously been wanting a new vetiver I realize; had found my (long empty) Racine popping up into my smell brain again, craving a substitute.


“It suits you”, says Duncan, concurring quickly as I rush downstairs for a double check and inspection, just to make sure that I haven’t made some grave error and am about to go out the house smelling like Donald Rumsfeld. No, it really works, he assures me. And so the last two weeks, to my great surprise, I have been practically obsessed with Grey Vetiver, spraying it all over my sweaters and scarves; on my jeans, on my coat. I have already used up about a quarter of my bottle since I bought it, it is an ideal Autumn scent. The brutish ‘manliness’ I feared would be so harsh and overly apparent simply did not transpire; the perfume is masculine, but on me, pleasingly so, and just in the right measure ( and I know exactly what I measure I want in that regard).  Admittedly, I did add a touch of Shalimar on a couple of occasions – which I find, strangely, usually works very well with vetivers, as it contains a subliminal vetiver note in its base – just to plump out the overall effect of the scent when going out; but in any case, the hoped for compliments came quickly after, I felt good and very natural in it all day (nice lasting power as well), and I think that Grey Vetiver is now destined to become one of my go-to scents, my staples. I rarely feel this immediately comfortable in a scent, this happy and confident just spraying with abandon. I love how it smells on my clothes, on my skin, in the air around me.



Me, in Tom Ford. Who knew?













Filed under Flowers

GREEN DAY: What is cool and refreshing on a hot afternoon? (starring OMBRE HYACINTH by TOM FORD, from the JARDIN NOIR COLLECTION (2012))




















It is getting hotter and hotter.


My strangely lizard-like constitution, though, is just warming up in this gorgeous mid July sun, and though people around me are huffing and puffing in the sun, I myself usually feel healthier, incubated, and more alive, in temperatures around 26-30 degrees ( it is not until the full endangering swamp of Japanese August  – 34 and higher, with about 95% humidity, as though life had somehow become a permanent sauna –  that I start to feel a bit debilitated).  Even so, this hot and humid weather needs fresh fragrances, be they light tropicalia; citruses, or the icy, transient leaf florals that take you down a notch, allow you to float more serenely in a poetic envelope of Cocteau Twins blue-green.







Ombre De Hyacinth is a perfume I first tried this last year in Barcelona, which happened to be going through an August heatwave (one local told me it was the hottest she had ever known it to be), and, heat lover though I am, I must admit to having a multidimensional  meltdown outside the Sagrada Familia where I literally overheated, was panicking and barking at Duncan and his parents and had to run into a cheap dollar store to buy hideously unfashionable and unwearable shorts, tank-top and flip flops in a maniacal attempt to cool dow – – –  style had to be immediately sacrificed, or I was about to become human casserole….






I remember later that evening, after a long shower at the apartment we were staying in, pre-Las Ramblas stroll, I decided, as a change, to try Tom Ford Ombre Hyacinth, part of the Jardin Noir collection that I had bought along with me in my suitcase, and I found to my surprise that I really loved the bluey-green blast of hyacinths and galbanum in the top. Like everyone else who has reviewed this perfume, though, I was disappointed by what happened next; a kind of generic, soapy musk that appears fairly quickly after the gorgeous, realistic jacinthes have faded, and lingers for hours, especially on clothes; I remember feeling quite irritated all evening by how I was smelling; a man with no balls, a wimpy, floral cop out.




Yesterday, however, for some reason it was much more enjoyable. The top accord (hyacinth, violet leaf, galbanum, olibanum and magnolia petals) was even more appealing, with an almost netherworldly pull into arcadian groves that at that particular moment was a very real, private, escape; as though I were slightly in a different dimension to the street I was walking along ( I have long adored hyacinths and had a whole rapturous ode to them planned  this spring but it somehow passed me by…it will have to wait until next year instead now…..Borsari Jacinto! Grand Amour! Chamade!!)





This perfume is no Chamade, of course but then nothing could (or should) be; it is a hyacinth more akin to Serge Lutens’ savon metallique Bas De Soie, but rather than a duet with iris, the hyacinth here is all hyacinth, so green and blue, so refreshing. Yes, the base is a nothing, but yesterday it was a nothing, a blank canvas of forget-me-not blue that surrounded me in a way that felt quite pleasant, unassailable…






A true perfumist needs scents for every eventuality, every last craving mood, and you know what, I think I might have to save up and buy this just for the knowledge that on a hot, grimy day, it is there, waiting for me if I need it:  that I can then shower up, spray on this, and enter my own solitary, cooled down, Grecian dreamscape.







































Filed under Flowers







Ombre Mercure is a woozy, classical modern – a salted, thicker Apres L’Ondée, diffused with the modernistic fumes of Violet Blonde, a touch of Une Fleur de Cassie, and some of the floral warmth of the first Gucci Eau de Parfum….


‘Reminiscent of loose powder, red lipstick and the classic chypres, it is especially designed for passionate characters’ says Mlle Gunzburg, a renowned makeup artist who released her first collection of fragrances last year, and I can quite easily imagine some people falling for this soft, gauzy perfume, which is definitely shadowy, as its name suggests, though not in the least mercurial.


Essentially an earthy iris butter with powdered violet over a ducksdown of patchouli, benzoin and musky vanilla, it is a very slow, drifting perfume, like mauve-reflected clouds in a painting. Seamless and unjarring; enveloping.











What it lacks, though,  is that indefinable something, or ingredient – wit? – that would take it into the realms of the irisy sublime. On the other hand, its anchored slowness and immediate romantic appeal could easily make it someone’s signature.













Lys Fumé is another immediately likeable perfume, though one that is not remotely worth its extravagant price tag. Having said that, it is an interesting take on the lily. Unlike many spotless, altar-inhabiting lilies, this is more like a lys of the underworld……….


As a part of the Jardin Noir collection, it succeeds in being, if not quite ‘smouldering’, then certainly, at the very least,  shifting and quixotic – a hip young Gucci-clad beauty sitting downstairs in some private members’ club, a bit unsure of herself, perhaps, but defiant. This perfume would rise in coils from her shoulders and slowly seduce.



The lilies are not smoked, as you might expect, but underlying the top notes of lily, mandarin and pink pepper, is a strange dusting of nutmeg and turmeric, an unusual note in a floral perfume that gives it a blurry, caliginous edge. A dollop of rum and a sultry base of styrax, oak and labdanum take this impression even further.




Lys Fumé is not as intriguing as I am perhaps making it out to be – like most Tom Ford perfumes there is something plasticky and self-conscious about the scent. At the same time, I can imagine being sat next to this girl with her fixed, restless gaze, and being intoxicated.


































Filed under Flowers, Iris, Lily, Perfume Reviews, Powder, Violet










Any half-decent release in the dire world of commercial men’s fragrance is cause for celebration. And Noir, the latest Tom Ford release from his mainstream collection (his Private Blends are about four times the price), is really rather nice. The louche, airbrushed seductor has come up with a convincing men’s oriental for the twenty first century that will hopefully catch on with modern males and start a new trend for smells that attract rather than repel, bringing some softening and intelligence to the ghastly, weapon-like woody-citruses that usually dominate this market and club you on the head with their heavy-set, meat-head preposterone. I would happily snuggle up to someone wearing this blend and I am sure that there are many others out there who will feel the same.

Tom Ford is a savvy fashion genius who single-handedly resurrected Gucci from the ashes of irrelevance with his Studio 54 background and modern take on the 1970’s night-orchid aesthetic, transforming the company into a behemoth of urbanite cool and sex, the sheen of his bi-sexual decadence unwaning for nearly two decades.  With his own eponymous brand and its extension of this glossy-luxe, the clothes, the perfumes, similarly speak of the night; of the finest clubs and restaurants; of nocturnal A-listers who rarely see the light -vampiric trendsetters living the life and rarely leaving the hotel.

So it is easy to see why the Tom Ford fragrance collection has proven so successful. The perfumes are well-made, rich and provocative blends that scream ‘exclusivity’ and (prescribed) good taste in their simple, sturdy design-perfect flacons. True, I have yet to smell a fragrance in the line that I desperately want to own myself, but they are highly regarded by many and deservedly so. For me, though, when I smell any scent from the range, I feel I am sensing arch, elegant, but artificial fumes rising up from the bottlesrather than notes. I think of his scents as exotic poisons crafted in airless rooms – often hypnotic, undeniably sensual and luxuriant confections that sit on the skin like heavy garments, but not those that I can inhale with ease. It is fashion asphyxiating nature; yet this is possibly the whole point. The Tom Ford fragrances really are for dressing up for nights out in the city, and in this regard they work perfectly.

The list of notes in Noir, particularly those in the base (opoponax, amber, vetiver, patchouli, civet and vanilla) reads like an old Guerlain, and Mr Ford has clearly been spending some time doing his homework with plush masterpieces from the house such as Shalimar and Habit Rouge and deciding to revamp them for the modern market. But despite the appearance of Shalimar’s key natural (opoponax, a sweet resin similar to myrrh), Noir is in fact more like a reworking of that house’s best kept men’s secret – the original eau de parfum of Héritage (1992), an aromatic, peppered oriental that shouted ‘hot man in silk robe’ like no other (the edt was always slicker, thinner, sharper – it was the delicious depth of the sadly discontinued edp with its tonka and animal dry down that I always fell in love with).

Yes, Héritage was powdered suavité, a scent that drew you in to its conceited, self-loving  swagger, and Noir manages to capture some of this tactile, soft animality with a gently musked and bearded patchouli dry-down that is very sensual – unusual in the current climes of overdone, plastic banality.

That the scent is based on Héritage becomes even more evident if we look at the first and middle stages of the fragrance . The Guerlain began with a sharp blast of black pepper and bergamot; clary sage, violet, and a pinch of nutmeg, developing to a subtle rose and geranium heart before the lustful orientalia began to make themselves known and you realized you were in the presence of a full-blown male odalisque (this could be a great women’s scent as well, by the way). Noir, which isn’t really dark or black in any sense but is clinging, still, to the dull trend of calling everything and anything noir whether the smell merits that description or not, has all the above ingredients and develops in exactly the same way as Héritage, but has added notes of lemon verbena, caraway seed and pink pepper, all of which I find somewhat superfluous. It is less rich and poudré than the Guerlain, as if the icing sugar had been sucked off from the bonbon, and rather than the swiftly dissipating Guerlain bergamot that begins most of the house’s scents, in Noir there is a citronella-like roof to which the others notes rise and stick, rasping and a touch too synthetic for my comfort, a citric pillar thrust down through the downy ambers to keep the oriental alert and emboldened and prevent it from becoming too vieux beau, too Casanova in silk slippers.

This accord eventually attenuates, however, and it really is the base in this scent that works best, with its classic oriental finish : a retro-sassy take on old themes that is worth the wait.  Despite a certain throat-tickling insistency from the verbena-geranium accord in the heart, Noir is a scent that may lack poetry but not romance, and it could prove to be another  huge hit in Tom Ford’s annals of seduction.

(‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ is the title of an early album by Dead Or Alive: a question I often ask myself about fragrances from this house)


Filed under Masculines, Opoponax, Orientals, Patchouli, Perfume Reviews, Vanilla