Tom Ford returns to the leather genre with Ombre Leather 16. It is an eau de parfum in his Private Blend collection and it was released earlier this month. Tom Ford’s description and press release describe the scent as follows:
Textured. Sleek. Enveloping.
For the first time, TOM FORD unveils a private blend eau de parfum directly inspired by the runway. Ombré Leather 16 invites you into his complete vision of the AW16 season with a definitive olfactive statement.
A textural take on the most precious of fine leathers, Ombré Leather 16 imprints with a tactile sensuality, revealing a refined combination of contrasts — the sleek enigma of black leather wrapped in voluptuous glamour.
Luckyscent provides the following note list:
Violet leaf, cardamom, jasmine sambac, black leather, white moss, patchouli.
However, according to “Jack Lumber” on Fragrantica, the complete list would be something more like this:
Violet Leaves, Saffron, Cardamom, Coriander, Jasmine Sambac, Black Leather, Vetiver, Patchouli, White Moss, and Amber.
As a side note, the “Ombre” in fragrance’s name is officially spelt with an accent as “Ombré.” The word refers to the very popular, current fashion trend of having colors or tones that blend and seep into each other, graduating from light to dark or, sometimes, the other way around. For reasons of convenience, I’ll skip both the accent and the number “16” in mentioning the fragrance from this point forth, and simply call it “Ombre Leather.”
Ombre Leather opens on my skin with fresh, dewy, green violet leaves sprouting up around blackened leather. It smells smoky, slightly tarry, dry, and very synthetic. A light dusting of spices floats all around, consisting mostly of saffron but, sometimes, smell peppery as well. Moments later, small patches of vetiver, earthy patchouli, and mossy greenness pop up in the base.They quickly fuse together, and read more as a generalized greenness at this point rather than distinct, clearly delineated vetiver or oakmoss. For the most part, Ombre Leather’s opening minutes are centered on smoky, lightly spiced, black leather surrounded by violet leaves and a slightly more indeterminate greenness.
The basic gist of Tuscan Leather‘s opening is the same, but not identically so. I did a side-by-side test to be sure. Tuscan Leather opens on my skin with a rich note of tart, juicy, and surprisingly tangy raspberries. They’re slathered over black leather that smells smoky but, at the same time, also clean. It’s essentially the scent of expensive new shoes or a new leather jacket, and it’s a significantly more solid, concrete aroma on my skin. (It also smells much less synthetic.) Wisps of greenness float about Tuscan Leather as well, but they smell more like fresh green herbs mixed with mosses, and absolutely nothing like dewy violet leaves. Roughly 25 minutes, a strong layer of ashes joins the raspberries on top of the leather, muffling the fruitiness a bit. There was never any ashiness on my skin with Ombre Leather.
That difference aside, Ombre Leather quickly turns into Tuscan Leather‘s brother on my skin. To my surprise, an unmistakeable berry note bursts on the scene, just as in Tuscan Leather. Ombre Leather’s note list may not mention raspberries, but it’s definitely there in my opinion, probably as a result of one of the raspberry ketones that is so frequently added to patchouli to make it smell like “fruitchouli.” It’s not a major raspberry note, but it’s strong enough to cut through and weaken both the violet leaves and the mixed green accord. The result is a tripartite structure: dry, smoky, minimally spiced leather coated with red berries and framed with light touches of greenness.
On my skin, the end result is extremely close to Tuscan Leather except in the smallest of ways. Ombre Leather feels lighter in weight and body. Don’t get me wrong, it’s initially voluminous, and it’s also strong when smelt up close, but there is a diffuse quality to the composition that Tuscan Leather lacked on my skin. The latter felt heavier; not dense or opaque, but bolder and stronger. In addition, its sillage and power were greater. While Tuscan Leather never gave me what some people call “beast mode,” its sillage and projection were more forceful than Ombre Leather. Comparatively speaking, Ombre Leather is quieter in its opening phase and then, later on, actually turns discreet and soft on my skin. With a 2-spray equivalent, Ombre Leather opened with 3 to 3.5 inches of projection and perhaps 4-5 inches of sillage, at most. I did a side-by-side testing of both Tom Fords just to be sure, and Tuscan Leather had higher numbers, roughly 5 inches and 7-8 inches respectively. More importantly, though, it stays strong for longer, while Ombre Leather’s drop much sooner. About 75-90 minutes into its development, the projection was down to about 1.5 inches, and the sillage was about 2-3, closer to the body unless I moved my arms. The comparative softness will be a positive thing for some, less so for others, but my point is something else: Ombre Leather is the more diffuse, lighter, gentler version of Tuscan Leather.
Finally, the individual notes in Ombre Leather felt far less clear and distinct when I smelt the fragrance bouquet from a distance and on the scent trail. There, for the most part, Ombre Leather smells primarily of dry raspberry leather. There isn’t much spiciness and practically no violet or greenness to speak of. If I smell my arm up close, wisps of all those things float around the background, but they’re muted and quite elusive on my skin. It’s the same story for the leather’s smokiness which isn’t really detectable from afar. However, when I smell Ombre Leather up close, the smokiness was extremely noticeable, smelt quite harsh and was redolent of a guaiacol-style woody-amber. In all honesty, it felt much more synthetic than any leather note or smokiness in Tuscan Leather, and the synthetics were more noticeable in this scent as a whole. However, unlike Tuscan Leather, Ombre Leather manifests absolutely no ashiness on my skin. Some people have experienced a “cigarette” note with Tuscan Leather; while I never have, there was also none of that in Ombre Leather, either. Finally, Tuscan Leather is sweeter than Ombre Leather on my skin. Not significantly so, but to a small degree because its raspberry is so much more profound.
To be clear, most of these differences are questions of degree, not wholesale changes in kind. There isn’t a dramatic or fundamental chasm separating the two scents on my skin. For the most part, Ombre Leather opens smelling like Tuscan Leather’s brother with smoky, raspberry-coated leather tinged with greenness in a bouquet that is semi-sweet, semi-dry, and minimally spiced, then set against a backdrop of soft, golden warmth.
The latter is actually another small olfactory difference between the two fragrances, and it first appears roughly 20-30 minutes into Ombre Leather’s development. The backdrop turns ambered in a way that is more noticeable than it is with Tuscan Leather on my skin. Initially, it’s merely an amorphous goldenness quietly and subtly floating about the background, but it grows stronger not long after its appearance. As it begins to seep towards center stage, it rounds out and tames the smoky leather’s edges, improving the scent quite a bit. If one were to buy into Tom Ford’s marketing or characterization of the scent, the result does create the mental visual of “ombré leather”: caramel brown and gold seeping into black.
Ombre Leather continues to change in small degrees as the first hour draws to a close and the second begins, mostly because the notes reassemble themselves, changing in order, prominence, and nuance. Roughly 75 minutes in, the ripples of amorphous greenness grow stronger, and gradually begin to coalesce into something more distinct, a mix of vetiver and oakmoss. Together, they cut through the raspberry, though they don’t destroy it entirely. More importantly, however, the leather changes, essentially turning into the sort that appears in Tuscan Leather’s opening: expensive, new, black leather shoes or an expensive jacket. While the leather’s smokiness is as visible as ever, there is cleanness that is now just as evident. It’s the sort of aroma that is difficult to describe but that everyone who has smelt a new, unused leather item is undoubtedly familiar with, that particular sort of slightly industrial pristine quality that wafts about leather or suede. The cumulative effect is the scent of a new leather jacket imbued with fluctuating amounts of smoke, amber, greenness, and, in last place, a tiny, diffuse touch of raspberries.
Ombre Leather doesn’t change in any dramatic way as time passes and merely grows simpler in its focus. 90 minutes in, the raspberry disappears, and the amber turns even quieter, softer, and more muted. At the start of the third hour, it retreats to the background, while the vetiver and oakmoss go back to being indistinct, amorphous wisps at the edges. In essence, the new leather smell takes over as the dominant chord. Roughly 3.5 hours into its development, a soft plushness spreads all through the base, turning Ombre Leather into a scent that is half clean leather and half clean suede, with streaks of smoke joining the two. It lies atop a base of soft, pale, clean plushness that occasionally feels creamy in nature. The fragrance turns into a skin scent around the same time.
That’s basically it for the rest of Ombre Leather’s development. There was no jasmine that appeared in any clear, noticeable way on my skin at any point in any of my tests, nor any clear oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver, or spices from this point forth, not even in a ghostly or nebulous way. The only thing that happens is the mix of leather and suede gradually dissolves into a clean, quietly smoky suede-like plushness. In its final hours, there is only a simple softness with a hint of darkness about it. As noted earlier, Ombre Leather becomes a skin scent on me about 3.5 to 3.75 hours into its evolution. About 5.75 hours in, Ombre Leather coated my skin so quietly and lightly that I thought it was close to dying. Yet, it clung on for two hours longer, finally fading away a hair over 7.5 hours from its start. As a point of comparison, Tuscan Leather lasts a minimum of 11 hours on me with a tiny dose, and significantly longer with 2 sprays or more, from 16 hours on up.
Ombre Leather isn’t a bad fragrance, but I had expected something other than a toned-down, milder copy of Tom Ford’s existing leather scent. The latter is essentially what appeared on my skin. Had there been a lot of amber or even the booziness that can result from some types of amber or patchouli materials, then Ombre Leather might have felt more authentically “ombré,” more burnished and golden. I would have preferred something that evoked the smooth, aged leather arm-chairs in a private club, swirling in a haze of goldenness. The scent of expensive, unused, new black leather shoes is far from unpleasant and I quite enjoy it, but I can go to Tuscan Leather if I want that. (To be completely candid, though, Tuscan Leather does nothing for me, either.)
I wish I could understand why Tom Ford made the fragrances so similar. Perhaps he was seeking to appeal to someone who wanted a tamer, lighter, softer, and more approachable version of the original? Perhaps he sought to remove the ash note that has troubled so many? If so, then I wish he’d toned down the synthetic quality of the smoke and leather at the same time, because it was far more noticeable to me than it ever was in Tuscan Leather. But perhaps Tom Ford wished to appeal to consumers who have previously disliked the strength, power, and boldness of his earlier fragrances, and who may view thereby Ombre Leather’s softness as more refined and versatile? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s a combination of all these things.
In my opinion, how you view Ombre Leather will probably be influenced by how you felt about the original. My friend, Scentbound, thought the fragrance was a disappointment because it was “unremarkable” and fell “short in originality and performance.” He also didn’t see “much point for it, especially in the presence of Tuscan Leather.” I mention his review, in part, because he did not think Ombre Leather smelt identical to its brother except in one respect: the exact same leather aroma. He found absolutely no difference in the core note. “It was dry and very present. It lacked machismo and yet it stayed masculine.” It was not softer on his skin but “exactly the same.”
He found the leather to be the only real commonality between the fragrances because they were different in other respects. For example, Ombre Leather became a skin scent on him after only 20 minutes! He writes: “I had to bury my nose in the back of my hand to smell what was left of the two solid sprays that landed there.” In addition, it rapidly turned into “a soft, creamy blend” with only soft, minor touches of violet leaf, jasmine, and cardamon. His summation for the fragrance reads as follows:
Ombré Leather 16 appears to be the break in the streak of Tom Ford’s otherwise spectacular track record.
Ombré Leather 16 is not a terrible fragrance. Just an unremarkable one. The Tom Ford quality and blend are unmistakable and if Ombré Leather 16 were released by someone else, I probably would have been much more impressed with it. In the context of Tom Ford’s previous releases, however, it pales.
I know, it’s unfair to judge a fragrance this way. I should let it stand on its own legs without the benefit or the curse of its predecessors. This is Tom Ford, however. Its price is a Tom Ford price and my expectations are of a Tom Ford originality and quality.
On Fragrantica, people’s reactions to Ombre Leather are generally dependent on how each person felt about Tuscan Leather to begin with, but they’re not bad reviews as a whole and the fragrance seems liked. A handful of people experienced a definite touch of floralcy, while others felt the fragrance was drier or greener than Tuscan Leather. By a large margin, most posters conclude that Ombre Leather is significantly softer, milder, and less bold than its brother, and quite a good of those find it more pleasant and easier to wear as well. However, there are one or two exceptions who felt Ombre Leather was actually harsher in aroma. I will let you read their thoughts and their accounts of the various scent differences for yourself if you’re interested.
The bottom line is that you should try Ombre Leather if you love leather fragrances and, in particular, if you would actually prefer a toned-down, lighter, quieter, restrained, and office-appropriate version of Tuscan Leather.