Tom Ford‘s Orchid Soleil is meant to be a new sibling to his popular Black Orchid and Velvet Orchid series of fragrances, but it doesn’t feel like it to me. The choice of the word “Soleil” in the new fragrance’s title is no mere coincidence, in my opinion, because Orchid Soleil has far more in common with Tom Ford’s recent Soleil Blanc for much of the first half of its life than anything redolent of Black Orchid. There is a token nod to the latter when a highly modified, toned-down version of its black truffle and chocolate accord appears via “chestnut cream” (or, to be precise, patchouli vanilla) late in Orchid Soleil’s development, but the connection between the two fragrances is attenuated. If that’s the reason why you’re interested in Orchid Soleil, you’d do better to lower your expectations, if not put it out of your mind entirely. Actually, I don’t think you should have high expectations for Orchid Soleil at all.
Tom Ford‘s new Velvet Orchid feels like a mirror image of his famous, Black Orchid. Their contrasting essences are: light and dark; day and night; an easy, approachable purring, versus bold, overtly seductive growling. One reason why is that the creamy, velvety florals at their core are infused either with bright citruses, boozy vanilla and caramel amber, or by a multi-faceted bouquet of bitter-sweet chocolate, patchouli, and earthy black truffles. Both fragrances are very enjoyable to wear, even compulsively sniffable at times, but which one you prefer will probably depend primarily on your personal style. Some might find Velvet Orchid to be a de-fanged version of its older sibling, while others may think it’s a considerably easier, softer fragrance.
Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur For Women (VdF) appears to be nothing like Black Orchid. The original Black Orchid was apparently one of those “love it or hate it” scent that was intended to evoke carnal sensuality. Tom Ford actually said explicitly that Black Orchid was intended to evoke a “man’s crotch,” though it’s unclear whether it was washed or unwashed. I have not smelled it, but I am constantly seeing references to sweaty or unwashed testicles (a more polite word than that which is usually used) in comments about Black Orchid. Its fans — and they are many — seem to adore it, though a large number confess they wear it only to bed for romantic purposes and would never dare wear it outside the house. In contrast, VdF is a light, safe, very floral fragrance. It is also boring as hell, but more on that later.
Tom Ford’s press release describes VdF as follows: “[t]he alluring potion of Black Orchid is given a warm effervescent modernity with this new entry.” Both fragrances are classified as floral orientals and both include black truffle, though to different degrees. (Honestly, I wonder if there is any in VdF! But I’m getting ahead of myself.) VdF seems to be a softer, more floral take on the dark, dense original, and not only because it is an eau de toilette while the original is eau de parfum. Fragrantica summed it up as: Black Orchid is “fatal and sexy, while Black Orchid Voile de Fleur is romantic, light and bubbly.”
The Perfumed Court has the fullest list of the notes that I have seen thus far:
black truffle, ylang ylang, bergamot, blackcurrant, honeysuckle, gardenia, spicy lily, black orchid, black plum, black pepper, lotus wood, succulent fruit, warm milk, cinnamon, vanilla tears, patchouli, balsam and sandalwood.
I should state at the outset that VdF was quietly discontinued around 2010 but I’m reviewing, in part, because it is easily available on Amazon and other e-retailers. On eBay, it ranges in price from around $30 to $90, depending on size and seller. It’s a scent that may be worth a shot for those of you who fear Black Orchid (original) may be too much, especially for places like the office. However, those of you who have issues with indolent white flower scents, especially gardenia, should stay far, far away.
VdF opens with a burst of bergamot, a scent that falls between orange and lemon, and gardenia. There is hint of honeysuckle and ylang-ylang, though it’s most definitely not the ylang-ylang in Téo Cabanel’s Alahine. This ylang-ylang is softer, creamier and lighter but, to be honest, it’s hard to detect at times under the onslaught of gardenia. Gardenia is a flower that often imparts an indolic nature to scents. It’s a frequent cohort of tuberose or jasmine, and has a very narcotic, heady scent that some people find similar to cat urine, a litter box, or moth balls. Not everyone, but some people definitely have a bad reaction to more indolic scents. (For more on the precise meaning and nature of “indolic,” please see the Glossary.)
The top notes for VdF also include black currant and, unfortunately, it creates a very sour, unpleasant note on me. The Perfume Shrine has a good explanation of the scent as well as the occasional tendency for some people to smell sour, almost urine-like ammoniac notes: “[c]ompared to the artificial berry bases defined as ‘cassis,’ the natural black currant bud absolute comes off as greener and lighter with a characteristic touch of cat. Specifically the ammoniac feel of a feline’s urinary tract, controversial though that may seem.” I’m really surprised that I actually smell that here. There are numerous scents which people occasionally feel resembles a “cat’s litter box” (usually feces, more than urine) and which makes them queasy. Fracas – that famous indolic tuberose powerhouse – is perhaps the best and most frequent example. I’ve never had that problem; in fact, Fracas is one of my old favorites and a scent that I truly think deserves its legendary status.
With VdF, for the first time in my life, I smell something sour that verges almost on cat urine. It must be the black currant. It doesn’t last and it does recede after about 20 minutes, but 20 minutes is too long given the huge sillage of the scent in its opening hour. The sour, almost ammonia-like, scent surprises me and I scour my brain to see if I saw any other comments to that effect. If I did, I don’t remember them now. So, perhaps, we should just chalk this one up to skin chemistry. Nonetheless, I must confess, the sourness leaves me unfortunately biased against the perfume. In fact, I’m not sure I can get past it.
But we must soldier on, so onward and upwards. Once that incredibly unfortunate note recedes, VdF is all soft ylang-ylang and gardenia, with jasmine following closely behind. And, that’s about it. On me, there are no hints of leather that I’ve read about elsewhere, absolutely no earthiness (even in mild form) from the black truffle, no… nothing. One perfume blog, Perfume-Smellin’ Things, described VdF as a “femme fatale” scent:
[O]nly a tiny bit less robust than the sinfully opulent original Black Orchid, Voile de Fleur replaces the pungently earthy accord of black truffles with a leathery undertone, thus transforming from some (most probably evil) mythical creature of the night into somebody slightly less outlandish and more “urban”…a femme fatale.
Good lord. Really? I wish it smelled that way on me. I might have liked it if it did. Alas, on me, VdF is just a linear blast of gardenia and ylang-ylang. One big flat-line. And the patient dies shortly thereafter….
I wish I had more to say, but I don’t. I’m too underwhelmed and bored to even be verbose. (And you know how verbose I usually am!) This is not a scent I can recommend. White flower lovers may have issues with the linearity or the longevity of the scent. Non-white flower lovers who are sensitive to gardenia may recede gagging from the indoles or the sourness of the black currant notes. Everyone else will just be bored beyond belief. Spare yourself the money; take a nap instead.