Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Plum Japonais (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

Tom Ford does Serge Lutens. Or, to be more precise, Tom Ford tries desperately to be Serge Lutens, but falls flat on his face. That is my grumpy analysis of Plum Japonais, the latest Private Blend fragrance from Tom Ford. It is part of a brand-new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line, and was just released in July 2013. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient, and consists of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine, and Rive d’Ambre. Today is Plum Japonais‘ turn.

Source: Neiman Marcus

Source: Neiman Marcus

According to the Moodie Report, Tom Ford’s inspiration for Plum Japonais was the ume fruit:

Plum Japanais, as its name suggests, was inspired by the ume plum. ‘I have always been fascinated by unusual ingredients from exotic cultures,’ Ford revealed. ‘The ume plum…has great meaning in Oriental culture; in Japan and China, it is a sacred symbol of Spring. I wanted to craft a fragrance around the ume, because it has a texture and aroma that is so luscious.’

Now, I have searched and searched for some official word on who is the actual perfumer responsible for the Atelier d’Orient collection, or for Plum Japonais in specific. I can’t find it anywhere, which is slightly unusual these days when a perfumer’s name is frequently mentioned in press releases or in articles about a new fragrance.

Fille en Aiguilles. Source: Serge Lutens' Facebook page.

Fille en Aiguilles. Source: Serge Lutens’ Facebook page.

Still, it wouldn’t be important or significant except for one thing: Plum Japonais is a total rip-off of Christopher Sheldrake‘s gorgeous, stunning Fille en Aiguilles for Serge Lutens. It is a fragrance that I love with a passion, and it may be my favorite Lutens that I’ve tried in recent memory. So, you can imagine my grumpiness and sour mood when I thought about how Tom Ford was so blatantly copying about 90% of the Lutens/Sheldrake masterpiece. Yes, there are differences, but they are so minor that I will stick with my numeric assessment that 90% of Plum Japonais is Fille en Aiguilles. It’s so close that much of the detailed break-down of Plum Japonais feels almost redundant (though I will do it shortly), but the main thing you should take away is this: Plum Japonais is Fille en Aiguilles done very, very badly.

Some perfumistas have compared Tom Ford’s style of perfumery to that of a frat boy with his fragrances’ over-the-top loudness and their hyper-sexualized marketing. I don’t always agree because I think Tom Ford is quite capable of producing more restrained, elegant pieces, though his marketing definitely verges on the bold and, sometimes, crass. But Plum Japonais definitely felt like a frat boy took a sledgehammer approach to Uncle Serge’s gorgeously refined, well-balanced, utterly beautiful masterpiece. Fille en Aiguilles may not rank among the best-known Lutens, but it is massively beloved amongst almost everyone who has tried it, some of whom rate it as their favorite Lutens perfume ever. And Plum Japonais simply cannot measure up. It’s as though One Direction attempted to cover John Lennon.

Christopher Sheldrake. Source: jonathanfrantini.com

Christopher Sheldrake. Source: jonathanfrantini.com

During my initial test of Plum Japonais, my irritation was becoming increasingly sharp and hostile, so I decided to make a more concerted effort to find out which perfumer was responsible for ripping off Christopher Sheldrake‘s creation for Uncle Serge. You cannot imagine my shock when I finally dug up the rumoured answer: Christopher Sheldrake himself! [Update: 8/4/13see the note at the end of this review for the information that a different nose seems to be responsible for the creation of Plum Japonais.]

According to the blog, Best Things in Beauty, “[t]he fragrance has been unofficially attributed to perfumer Christopher Sheldrake.” I haven’t seen that attribution mentioned anywhere else, so I have no idea if it’s true or not. But it probably is, given the enormous similarity between the two fragrances — and that just irritates me for a whole new set of reasons. It’s not the fact that Christopher Sheldrake is cheating on Uncle Serge (perfumers are allowed, after all, to work freely where they want, and not just for one client). Rather, it’s the fact that he’s taken his Lutens creation, and so barely tweaked it for Tom Ford that it feels almost insulting to Fille en Aiguilles. It’s damn lazy. And, making matters even worse, the result is a nondescript, utterly imbalanced, very flat, badly done, uninteresting version of Fille en Aiguilles. If Fille en Aiguilles were a person, it should sue for defamation and copyright violation. So, let’s get to Sheldrake’s One Direction-like olfactory copy of the Fille en Aiguilles.

Fragrantica classifies Plum Japonais as “Floral Fruity,” and the notes, as compiled from both that site and Premiere Avenue, include:

Japanese ume plum, saffron, Cinnamon Bark Orpur, immortelle, plum blossom, camellia, agarwood (oud), amber, benzoin, fir and vanilla.

Ume plums or Umeboshi. Source: Hudson Valley Magazine, hvmag.com

Ume plums or Umeboshi. Source: Hudson Valley Magazine, hvmag.com

Plum Japonais opens on my skin with plum liqueur, plum molasses, brown sugar syrup, lots of ginger, strong frankincense smoke, and a subtle woodiness. It’s totally Fille en Aiguilles. Flittering around Plum Japonais’ edges are saffron, muted traces of fir resin, and candied immortelle. The latter shows off both its sides here: its herbal floral face, and its slightly maple syrup one. Once in a blue moon, the oud will pop up in the minutest trace, feeling as muted as the fir resin. 

Cinnamon tree bark. Source: indiamart.com

Cinnamon tree bark. Source: indiamart.com

Within minutes, Plum Japonais’ syrupy plum sweetness turns darker and significantly woodier. There is almost a burnt undertone to the combination which probably stems from the cinnamon tree bark, which is a whole, different animal than mere cinnamon powder. Amusingly, it’s an ingredient that Sheldrake featured front and center in another Lutens’ creation, the woody cinnamon oriental, La Rousse. The bark has an aroma that is spiced, but more akin to very dry, somewhat bitter, acrid, smoky wood. I wasn’t crazy about its odd nuances in Rousse, and I’m not crazy about it here. Still, it’s very subtle at this point, adding just an indirect effect to the overall woodiness running like a vein through all of Plum Japonais’ sticky, fruity sweetness and smoke.

Ten minutes in, something else rises to the surface. An odd floral note that I assume is the camellia. It’s a very creamy, velvety, white, languid scent with a strange but subtle lemony undertone, and it feels quite out-of-place amidst the increasingly dry, smoky, woody bouquet. The spices feel more noticeable, too. The saffron adds a definite kick of fieriness to the fragrance, though the note is not very distinct in its own right. For a few minutes, it adds such a bite to to the fragrance that it almost seems as though a red-hot chili pepper were thrown into the mix, but that impression quickly fades. By the 15-minute mark, Plum Japonais actually feels a little off-kilter. The lemony, creamy floral camellia attempts to balance out the increasingly harsh smoky-woodiness set amidst all that plum molasses and liqueur, but it can’t pull it off. The note is too muted. And, I still think it feels totally out of place.

Fruit Jam. Source: Bettycupcakes.com (For recipe or website, click on photo. Link is imbedded within.)

Fruit Jam. Source: Bettycupcakes.com (For recipe or website, click on photo. Link is imbedded within.)

Nonetheless, Plum Japonais is still almost entirely Fille en Aiguilles, only with minor differences. The very piney, evergreen forest hues of the Lutens beauty are practically non-existent in Plum Japonais, the inclusion of “fir” or “fir resin” in the notes notwithstanding. Sheldrake (if it is indeed he who is behind Plum Japonais) has substituted instead a different sort of woodiness to the scent. Yet, woody dryness is hardly the main, dispositive characteristic of Fille en Aiguilles. It’s the bloody spiced plum liqueur infused with frankincense smoke, that trademark Lutens’ signature of stewed fruit made more concentrated and plummy, with brown sugar sap, and heaping, walloping, hefty doses of sharp, black incense. And Plum Japonais has that in spades, from start to finish.

The problem is that Plum Japonais is like a knock-off of an expensive designer suit, only all the proportions are wrong. Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles is stunningly balanced, whereas Plum Japonais is not. It feels significantly more acrid, more unbalanced in the sharpness of the smoke and the dryness of the woods. And nothing in the first two hours changes my impression, even though some of the other notes wax and wane in prominence. The immortelle occasionally rises to the surface, feeling like the herbal-floral version now, and not the maple syrup one, but it is muted and vague as a whole. The spices feel a little punchier than they did in the opening minutes, and I continue to think that there is ginger mixed in the blend. The camellia, in contrast, has now retreated to the background where it adds just a quiet, shy, creaminess and muted floral whisper to the overall bouquet.

The more interesting thing is the oud. It was just a whisper in the opening, hiding in the shadows behind all that plum liqueur. Now, however, the agarwood is more a wave that surges, ebbs, and then repeats the process. Sometimes, it feels muted, but it becomes increasingly significant at the start of the second hour, turning Plum Japonais into a fragrance where the dry woods almost compete with the incense-infused plum molasses. Unfortunately, I don’t particularly like these dry woods as compared to the richer, deeper, and significantly more interesting pine ones in Fille en Aiguilles.

As for the smoke, it varies as well. On certain parts of my arm, it feels quite bitter, pungent, and harsh, while, elsewhere, it’s more blended into the fruit. I think the cinnamon tree bark is behind some of the differences. Its smokiness in Serge Lutens’ Rousse felt quite acrid and bitter at times, and I think the note here has combined with the frankincense to create a combination that feels quite harsh at times. It’s never the smooth, almost sweetened incense that you’d expect, or, indeed, the gorgeous smoke in Fille en Aiguilles. This is much sharper and drier in nature, with a slightly bitter undertone.

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

It takes 50 minutes for Plum Japonais to soften and lose some of its harsh edges. The plum top notes start to feel flatter, while the smoky oud and the woods in the base seem smoother and less sharp. There is still a bitter, slightly burnt, pungent nuance to the woods, but the perfume as a whole feels a bit less askew and out of balance. Unfortunately, Plum Japonais also starts to feel a little murky and muddy at this time, both texturally and in terms of the distinctness of its notes. It’s starting to blur into a pretty smoky-woody-fruity fragrance just barely dominated by plum. By the end of the second hour, Plum Japonais is starting to fizzle out with notes that feel increasingly amorphous. The sillage has changed too, as the perfume just barely hovers an inch above the skin, if that. Plum Japonais is now just flat, stewed, sweet plummy jam with vague smoke and dry woody notes. In short, the Serge Lutens signature of dried, sweetened, dark fruits with oriental touches, but without the Lutens oomph and drama. At the 3.5 hour mark, Plum Japonais is a total skin scent, and has devolved to mere plummy sweetness barely flecked by some amorphous dryness and smoke. It remains that way until the very end, growing even more hazy, until its dying moments when it’s just vague sweetness.

All in all, Plum Japonais lasted a little over of 6.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with incredibly restrained, soft sillage after the first hour. I applied quite a hefty portion too, as I had a very large sample from Neiman Marcus, so I basically wetted a long patch on my forearm with the equivalent of about 5 huge smears. If I’d applied my normal amount, I suspect the numbers would be significantly lower.

I have to admit, given the strength of Plum Japonais at first, and the power of Tom Ford’s Private Blends in general, I’m a little surprised at the shortness of time, as well as the restrained nature of the fragrance when taken as a whole. However, the fact that the perfume is ultimately quite subdued makes a lot more sense if you put it into context and in conjunction with the similar characteristics of Shanghai Lily. Both Atelier d’Orient fragrances seem intentionally designed to be more quiet, restrained takes on a spicy Oriental. I suspect that Tom Ford is aiming this collection at wealthy buyers in Asia, buyers who may not appreciate his usual, brash style, or a truly hardcore, intense Oriental in the style of something like Amouage. Plum Japonais is an attempt to give them a more subdued take on a masculine, woody, fruity oriental, with Shanghai Lily attempting to do the same for the more feminine, floral oriental version. That said, I want to emphasize that Plum Japonais is not a masculine scent at all. It’s wholly unisex for everyone except those whose perfume preferences lean towards the fragrances that are either fresh, clean, soapy, dainty, powdery, aldehydic, or some combination thereof.

Plum Japonais is too new for there to be many reviews available for comparison. My sense of how people generally see the Atelier collection as a whole is that they think it’s nondescript and uninteresting, with Plum Japonais being the best of the lot. That does not mean that they think it’s a great perfume, however. The Basenotes review section for the fragrance has only three reviews up at this time. One of them, “kende,” seemed to share my views about Plum Japonais’ development:

The problem is how short lived this wondrous moment is. Within 15 minutes the scent begins to feel more and more flat. The complexities start to vanish and what suddenly remains is a puny, underwhelming “perfumey” base that smells like a very commonplace generic perfume type of scent. This doesn’t take hours, mind you. It takes no greater the length of 45 minutes to unravel from that rich, opulent opening. […]

This perfume could’ve really been something special, that opening is something every perfumista should experience, but there is no backbone to hold Plum Japonais up over the hours. It goes on like a work of art and but feels more and more like a cheap photocopy as the minutes turn to hours. […]

The scent is 4 stars.

The longevity is embarrassing for a Tom Ford private blend. 0 stars.

Kende doesn’t know it, but Plum Japonais absolutely is a “cheap photocopy[,]” and he or she needs to go try Fille en Aiguilles. Over in a separate Basenotes board thread, the common consensus for Plum Japonais is, and I quote, “meh.” As one poster put it, “I’m honestly not impressed with any of the new Atelier scents. I guess this would be the stand out, but thats not saying much.”

No-one talks about Fille en Aiguilles because, as I noted up above, it’s not one of the better-known Lutens fragrances. But the perfume blows Plum Japonais out of the water! It is also significantly cheaper than Tom Ford’s ersatz, wanna-be copy which costs $210 for the smallest version. Fille en Aiguilles retails for $140, but can easily be found discounted at a number of online perfume retailers, with the lowest price I’ve seen being $80. (See the Lutens review for full retail links.) Honestly, writing out that price differential just offends me even more. Plum Japonais is such a total waste of money. It’s one thing to take a great perfume and use it as a source of inspiration for another; lots of perfumers create scents that have some overlap or a common signature. But Plum Japonais is such a completely out-of-whack, wholly unbalanced, fizzling, flat, totally lazy, “cheap photocopy” of such a supremely stunning, refined, mysteriously seductive, incredibly evocative, utterly mesmerizing scent that it’s positively insulting. The irrational side of me feels like shaking Christopher Sheldrake — who may be my favorite perfumer ever — and asking him, “Why? Why??!!”

In fact, I think I’m too irate to continue this review.

[UPDATE: 8/4/2013– According to one commentator to the blog, “Mike,” who left an answer below, Christopher Sheldrake did not mutilate his creation because Yann Vasnier of Givaudan is the actual nose behind Plum Japonais. Mike cites as sources two unnamed bloggers who contacted Tom Ford. He later directed me to a review at CaFleureBon which states that Yann Vasnier is the creator of Plum Japonais. That review was posted just yesterday, a few days after my own, so the information wasn’t available to me at the time, but I’m very grateful to Mike for telling me about it. I would like to extend to Christopher Sheldrake my heartiest apologies for thinking he had plagiarised himself with a bad copy, and for wanting to shake him like a rag doll.]

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Plum Japonais is an eau de parfum which comes in three sizes that retail for: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $520 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. The line is not yet listed on the Tom Ford websiteIn the U.S.: you can find Plum Japonais at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t believe Nordstrom or Saks has the new collection yet. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they only list 2 of the old fragrances on their online website. In the UK, you can find Plum Japonais at Harrods (which only has the small size), Selfridges (which carries both sizes), or House of Frasier (both sizes). The small size is also carried by Harvey Nichols. All the stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00, while the super-large 250 ml bottle costs £320.00. In France, Plum Japonais is available at Premiere Avenue which sells the 50 ml bottle for €180. For other all other countries, you can use the store locator on the Tom Ford website to find a retailer near you. Samples: You can buy samples of Plum Japonais at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

The dainty, fragile, green lily transformed into a smoky, spicy, rich flower of the Orient. That is the essence of Shanghai Lily, the latest Private Blend fragrance from Tom Ford. It is part of a brand-new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line, and was just released in July 2013. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient, and consists of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine, and Rive d’Ambre. I’d heard that the first two were the best, so I focused solely on those, starting with Shanghai Lily. (You can find my review for Plum Japonais here, but, to summarize it in a nutshell, Tom Ford tried to copy Serge Lutens and his gorgeous, magnificent Fille en Aiguilles. Tom Ford failed. Badly.)

Tom Ford Shanghai LilyNone of the new Atelier d’Orient fragrances are listed yet on Tom Ford’s website, but, according to the Moodie Report, Tom Ford’s inspiration for Shanghai Lily was the famed, ancient Silk Road:

This fragrance began with a dream of the Silk and Spice Roads – the ancient, Asian trading routes for luxurious and precious goods[.] I imagined caravans piled high with treasures, and being surrounded by a multi-sensorial abundance of opulence.

 Fragrantica classifies Shanghai Lily as an “Oriental Floral,” and says the notes include:

spicy notes, floral notes, olibanum [frankincense], vanilla, bitter orange, pink pepper, black pepper, cloves, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin, castoreum, labdanum, guaiac wood and incense.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Shanghai Lily opens on my skin with the daintiest of lily notes. Fresh, green and airy, it turns within seconds into something sultry and smoky. Sharp incense smoke, a touch of resins, and a cloud of spices transform the white flower into something dark, thick, rich, and heady. There is a subtle orange note lurking alongside which feels, simultaneously, bitter and like the concentrated oil from a freshly grated orange rind. Quickly, a hint of cumin rises out of the dusty spice blend, smelling sweet and strong, and flecked with incense smoke. It’s quite unexpected, but cumin-phobes should not worry. It lasts all of about three minutes.

Shanghai Lily’s base is interesting. In those early minutes, there is a surprising, almost foody aroma of sweet, yeasty bread that pops up out of nowhere. It’s a scent that I’ve now come to associate with certain kinds of beige woods, not only cashmere blends or the ersatz “sandalwood” in some fragrances, but also, sometimes, guaiac wood. The latter often has a very dry, smoky aroma that can sometimes feel like burnt autumnal leaves but, here, in Shanghai Lily, it’s taken on a sweet edge at first. Later, it turns sour and bitter in one of my least favorite aspects of the fragrance. Also lurking in the base is castoreum. It has a plush, velvety feel which adds to the amber and resinous notes that make up the base. The overall combination is a heady, slightly musky, velvety amber mixed in with dry, smoky woods.

The top notes in Shanghai Lily are initially all about the smoke and spices. The fragrance is heavy with a gorgeous burst of ancient, oriental, frankincense mixed with the fiery kick of black pepper and a powerful note of cloves. The way that the trio combines with the bitter orange is vaguely reminiscent of my precious holy grail fragrance, vintage Opium from YSL, but the similarity is fleeting. For one thing, Opium has a powerful start of juicy plum, citruses, and bergamot, and the minor, muted sprinkling of bitter orange in Shanghai Lily cannot compare. For another, vintage Opium was centered on true, Mysore sandalwood, with a heavily resinous feel, real animal musk, and a good amount of castoreum. None of the notes in Shanghai Lily can compare in depth, quantity or intensity, though I’d bet that Opium — that legendary, glorious, benchmark oriental fragrance — was a strong inspiration for Tom Ford. The heavy infusion of cloves mixed with incense is too clear a signal.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Shanghai Lily’s opening minutes are not much about the lily, though that soon changes. At first, the lily is hidden and muted behind the heavy veil of that gorgeous clove-incense-spice mix. Less than 10 minutes into the perfume’s development, it starts to emerge in much greater strength. It feels as though a Stargazer lily has suddenly been dunked in a syrup made from dark resins, bottles of cloves, and a hearty, exuberant, uninhibited tossing of frankincense. Flickers of vanilla dance all around the edges, adding to the sweetness of the floral bouquet. The castoreum feels much more distant now than in the opening, as does the dry, woody guaiac, but there is still a subtle muskiness that infused the scent.

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Shanghai Lily becomes increasingly floral in nature. The lily is joined by jasmine that is potent, heady, and languorously indolic. There are hints of rose and tuberose that flitter about, and something that resembles the purple, airy, fresh delicacy of violets. The overall bouquet is infused primarily with frankincense smoke and cloves; the orange and cumin are long gone by the twenty-minute mark. Yet, for all the heady, heavy, oriental opulence of the florals, Shanghai Lily has some dryness, too. The smoke and lurking, distant guaiac wood create some balance to the sweetness, ensuring  that it’s never pure goo or syrup. Still, the fragrance is extremely potent in strength, and somewhat heavy in feel, at least initially.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

At the end of the first hour, Shanghai Lily is primarily a quartet of cloves, lilies, jasmine, and frankincense atop a base of amber and woods, and it remains that way for a number of hours. Although the notes don’t change significantly, the lily and jasmine do fluctuate in strength, as do some of the background florals like the tuberose. I also noticed that the lily becomes much more prominent when the fragrance is worn in the heat and humidity.

The main change in the first few hours, however, is in texture. Around the 90-minute mark, the perfume’s edges blur, and the notes start to overlap. Shanghai Lily still emits its main bouquet of notes, but a lot of the sweetness has faded, as has the strength of the smoke. The dark, syrupy resins underlying the scent seem much fainter, too, though the vanilla still lingers. Shanghai Lily feels much drier and woodier, with slightly more peppered, smoky woods that now have a somewhat sour, bitter edge to them. Still, as a whole, Shanghai Lily is a rich, spicy floriental with a dry, woody smokiness. It’s not as dense in feel, and it hovers just an inch above the skin with substantially reduced sillage as well.

One thing I’ve always noticed about Tom Ford fragrances is that it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to dosage and application amounts. His Private Blend fragrances, in particular, carry a wallop at first, so spraying your usual amount of perfume can be a deadly thing. Not only is their projection enormous, but the potency of the Private Blends can overwhelm the nose, sometimes making it harder to detect all the subtle nuances. Spraying (as opposed to dabbing) simply compounds the problem, as aerosolization just makes fragrances stronger. With Shanghai Lily, as with many Tom Ford fragrances, I tested it twice, with the second time focused solely on the perfume’s range and sillage in the first 3 hours. The first time, I was recklessly dabbed on a very large amount — about 4 large smears or the equivalent of 2 extremely large sprays– and the sillage was unbelievably potent at first. The perfume also showed a good range of layers and notes. However, during my second test, I applied only about 2 medium-ish smears (the amount you’d get from about 1 moderate spray), and I noticed a difference. Shanghai Lily turned flat, amorphous, and abstract shortly after the first hour. The notes all blurred into each other, and the fragrance lacked significant nuance. It’s something to keep in mind when you test the fragrance for yourself.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Yet, even with the greater dosage, Shanghai Lily becomes a skin scent much faster than that initial power and potency would lead you to believe. Less than 2.25 hours in, Shanghai Lily is just a sheer, unobtrusive, soft veil right on the skin. It’s also almost wholly abstract in nature, a vague puff of white flowers just barely dominated by lily and which have a slightly bitter, spicy, incense nuance. Around the start of the third hour, that odd, sour bitterness in the woody base bothers me even more, but I’m starting to be distracted by something else: the vanilla. The light flecks of vanilla that darted around Shanghai Lily’s edges in the opening are now becoming very noticeable.

At the end of the third hour, the vanilla starts to feel like the only individually distinct, concrete note in the spicy, floral blur, and it’s quite lovely. It’s creamy, frothy, airy, and very smooth. It almost feels rich enough to be called “custardy,” but the note is ultimately too sheer and gauzy for that adjective to truly apply. It’s a very well-balanced element that is far from sweet, thanks to the woody dryness and the black, frankincense smoke underlying it. From this point forwards, for the next three hours, Shanghai Lily is primarily a dry, smoky vanilla scent on my skin. The other notes — from the amber and spices to the florals — are wholly nebulous, amorphous, and tangential blurs in the background. Around 6.25 hours in, even the vanilla turns hazy, and Shanghai Lily is nothing more than smoky sweetness. It remains that way until the end, though the perfume’s smokiness sometimes seems much stronger than it was during the nebulous middle stage.

Source: Micks Images. http://www.micksimages.com/Smoke-II(2399572).htm

Source: Micks Images. http://www.micksimages.com/Smoke-II(2399572).htm

All in all, Shanghai Lily seems to have three distinct stages. In the first, the fragrance is dominated by a very spicy, smoky floral quartet of notes (lily, jasmine, cloves and incense) atop a plushly ambered base. In the middle stage, the perfume becomes more vague, hazy, and the edges between the notes blur. It also becomes woodier, and drier. There are growing hints of vanilla which helps Shanghai Lily transition into its final stage of being a very airy, frothy, vanillic confection infused with dry smoke. In its final moments, the fragrance is merely a lingering trace of smoky sweetness. Shanghai Lily lasted just over 9.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with a large dosage (about 4 large smears), and the projection was extremely soft after the first potent hour. I suspect those numbers would differ dramatically if one sprayed, instead of dabbed, and if one sprayed on a lot.

I like Shanghai Lily, quite a bit, and, yet…. it doesn’t move me. It hits all the right notes on paper: I adore the walloping clove-incense combination; I love lilies and tuberose; and I enjoyed the drydown. But Shanghai Lily didn’t evoke anything emotionally, it didn’t transport me, or conjure up visions in my head. I like it more than a number of existing Tom Ford Private Blends, but something is holding me back. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect the nebulousness and the flatness of the notes after the first 90-minutes have a lot to do with it. Something about Shanghai Lily simply doesn’t seem as interesting as it might have been, given those notes and that powerful spicy, complex beginning. I suppose the fragrance just seems to go a little downhill, a little too quickly, and nothing about the middle phase or even the last one is all that interesting, dramatic, or original. When I smell the opening, I perk up a little, but I suspect I’ll remember Shanghai Lily in the months to come as “that perfume with the really lovely opening that I should have liked more but ultimately didn’t, because it wasn’t interesting.” None of this is helped, of course, by Tom Ford’s prices which have just gone up to $210 for the smallest size. I could tolerate a fragrance that goes from interesting to amorphously flat and abstract, if Shanghai Lily weren’t such a muted creature with a hefty price tag. And, yet, I have to repeat again, it’s actually quite a lovely perfume. It simply isn’t lovely enough, for me, especially for the price.

Bois de Jasmin doesn’t share my ambivalence towards Shanghai Lily. She adores it, though she wishes she didn’t, given Tom Ford’s prices. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

I like my flowers with a twist, and Shanghai Lily is a white floral with a dark mood. The jasmine and tuberose are warmed up and cossetted with plenty of spices and dark resins, which is already interesting. But the best part is that nothing about Shanghai Lily is heavy or oppressive. Instead, it sparkles from its gingery top notes to the incense accented drydown. […]

As much as it pains me to admit it, given Ford’s price tag, Shanghai Lily is beautiful. I love how it sizzles with pepper and clove, which are then toned down by orange. The promised lily is composed out of different floral notes, and its waxy white petals take shape slowly out of rose, violet, and jasmine. And then suddenly, you have on your skin a corsage of Madonna lilies powdered yellow with sweet pollen.

Later, the lilies wilt, leaving you with the scent of an antique rosewood box that not only smells of wood shavings, but also of incense, musk, and something earthy and smoky. The sweetness is mild, the darkness is tempered, and yet without being heady or dramatic, Shanghai Lily clings to the skin for hours. […] (On the other hand, if you want something to announce your presence, this won’t fit the bill).

At the end of her review, Victoria says Shanghai Lily is significantly easier to wear than some other famous florals, like Serge Lutens’ “femme fatale” perfume, Fleurs d’Oranger: “[Shanghai Lily] is mild stuff, but it’s also easier to carry.” Perhaps that’s my problem. My style is not about “wilting” and “mild stuff.” I like hardcore Orientals that bloody well epitomize “heady or dramatic,” and “mild stuff” simply doesn’t cut it for me. I want my damn vintage Opium, not some wanna-be copy that wimps out after an hour and descends into a nebulous blur, while charging me $210 for the dubious pleasure.

For everyone else, however, Shanghai Lily may be the perfect ticket. Those who find Amouage‘s intense, heady, opulent, complex, powerhouse Orientals to be too much will undoubtedly be grateful for the tame, mild version offered by Tom Ford. It’s a very feminine floriental that is unobtrusive and subdued, but with great longevity, and some interesting bits. It’s easy to wear, versatile, approachable, and may even be suited for conservative office-environments if you’re extremely careful with the amount you apply. And I really do think it’s a sexy, seductive scent. In fact, I have no doubt that Shanghai Lily will be a best-seller, especially as Tom Ford doesn’t have anything else quite like it. (If I’m not mistaken, it is his first non-oud Oriental that is primarily floral in nature, and with heady white flowers instead of the usual roses.) So, I definitely encourage those of you who love white flowers and Orientals to give it a sniff, but if you’re used to really dramatic, heady, smoldering scents like those from Amouage, I fear you may be a little ambivalent as well.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Shanghai Lily is an eau de parfum which comes in three sizes that retail for: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $520 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. The line is not yet listed on the Tom Ford websiteIn the U.S.: you can find Shanghai Lily at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t believe Nordstrom or Saks has the line yet. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they only list 2 of the old fragrances on their online website. In the UK, you can find Shanghai Lily at Harrods or Selfridges. Both stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00 or £320.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. The smaller size is also carried at House of Fraser and UK-5th Village. In France, Shanghai Lily is available at Premiere Avenue which sells the 50 ml bottle for €180. For other all other countries, you can use the store locator on the Tom Ford website to find a retailer near you. Samples: You can buy samples of Shanghai Lily at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Perfume Reviews – Tom Ford Private Blends Black Violet & Jasmin Rouge

The famous French author, Stendhal, once said “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.” I think that quote applies to perfume, too. Stendhal’s quote and his brilliant classic, Le Rouge et Le Noir (“The Red and The Black”) came to mind when I decided to review Tom Ford‘s Red and Black perfumes in his Private Blend collection: Jasmin Rouge & Black Violet. Good perfume can lead to happiness but, alas, only one of Tom Ford’s fragrances holds that promise.

BLACK VIOLET:

TF Black VioletPrivate Blend Black Violet was released in 2007, the creation of perfumer, Clement Gavarry, and is classified on Fragrantica as Chypre Floral. Personally, I would call it more an Aromatic Woody scent, for reasons that will soon become apparent. Tom Ford’s press release for the perfume, as quoted in part by Nordstrom, describes Black Violet and its notes as follows:

Crisp citrus surrounds a modern pulpy fruit accord fused with black violets. Woody accents fold into oak moss, adding the universally comforting sensation of warmth.

Notes: lemon, lime, mandarin, orchid, violet, cedarwood, torchwood, vetiver, oakmoss.

Black Violet‘s opening phase is going to be a shock to anyone who expects the name to actually live up to its promise, because there is nary a violet in sight. Not one. Even more surprising, Black Violet starts as the most classic of men’s colognes. There is tart lemon juice, lime, and bergamot that is exactly like a man’s cologne or aftershave in its thinness and lightness.

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Lurking below is vetiver and, even further below, is the faintest touch of some woody note. At first, it’s not spicy, peppered, or smoky, but just something vague. Ten minutes later, however, it starts to take on form and some weight, becoming a quiet dryness. If you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with violets, you’re not alone. There’s certainly none at the start. Same story with the mandarin notes which may have provided some beneficial juiciness or sweetness. There is also no oakmoss (the foundational element for a true “chypre”) that I can smell. While that is not surprising in this day and age of IFRA/EU restrictions on perfume ingredients (especially oakmoss), I don’t smell even a synthetic version in any concrete, substantial, distinctive form. If it’s there, it’s not detectable to my nose.

Vetiver roots, the primary source of the essential oil. Photo:  Herbariasoap.com

Vetiver roots, the primary source of the essential oil. Photo: Herbariasoap.com

Thirty minutes into its development, Black Violet slowly becomes a dry citrus scent with vetiver and flickers of a lightly smoked wood accord. The lime, lemon and bergamot no longer feel individually distinct or separate; they’ve just morphed into an overall “citrus” note. The entire perfume feels incredibly thin in weight and low in sillage. I have the hardest time accepting that this is an “eau de parfum” — the second strongest concentration of fragrance after pure parfum — instead of eau de cologne, the very lightest concentration. In fact, I’ve smelled a number of men’s eau colognes that are significantly more potent than Black Violet. 

Source: Lovetextures.com

Source: Lovetextures.com

Then, exactly at the one hour mark, Black Violet suddenly changes completely. The citrus men’s cologne aspect retreats and, in its place, is a dewy, earthy floral in the most muted, generalized, amorphous of ways. The floral tone is delicate, damp and green, never feeling quite like violets, but more like some random, delicate, purple flower mixed with what feels like a dash of lilac or hyacinth. It’s a ghostly note that pops up, only to dart away, before eventually returning to start the whole tease all over again. The lingering traces of citrus are similarly subtle, hiding in the background, too. More easily apparent is a cool, earthy note that is just like the dark, damp garden soil first thing in the morning. It’s not rooty, dirty, or dank, but lightly floral.

For the span of the second hour, Black Violet remains as a translucent mix of earthiness, dewy florals, and microscopic flickers of citrus — all muted, indistinct, and so close to the skin that it’s extremely hard to detect. It becomes softer and softer with every moment, turning floral muskiness atop some creamy, woody element tinged with a tiny drop of amber, before finally ending as nothing more than musky woodiness. All in all, Black Violet lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes on my skin with at least 90 minutes of that time being essentially so translucent that I thought it had vanished completely. When I say this perfume is thin in weight, hazy in feel, and close to the skin, I’m really not kidding.

It’s not just me and my perfume-consuming skin, either. The Non-Blonde had an extremely similar experience to mine, from the men’s cologne aspect right down to saying “I can barely smell it after three hours.” She’s much kinder and more generous to the perfume than I am — calling it an “abstract ‘smells good’ veil” at the end — but then, I think she’s probably a nicer, more diplomatic person as a whole. My problem with the scent is this: 1) that it is so vague in form and definition that it’s practically nebulous after the men’s cologne opening; 2) I was disappointed by the generic woodiness which followed; 3) the damp, abstract floral stage was pretty, but too translucent and brief to justify the price of the perfume; and 4) given all these issues, along with the microscopic sillage and terrible longevity, it feels completely outrageous to ask $205 for the smallest bottle of this supposed “eau de parfum.” (Yes, I tend to get peevish about perfume prices when the fragrance is so generically vague, fleeting, and sheer.) Even if you purchased Black Violet off eBay for a lower price than retail, I simply don’t think it’s all that special.

JASMIN ROUGE:

Tom Ford Jasmine RougeA significantly better perfume, in my opinion, is Tom Ford‘s Jasmin Rouge which was released in 2011 as part of his Private Blend collection. (As a side note, Fragrantica lists it as being part of Tom Ford’s lower-level, cheaper Signature Collection, but that is not how Tom Ford categorizes it on his website.) Jasmin Rouge was created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and was the winner of the 2012 Fragrance Foundation FiFi Award for “Best New Fragrance for Women” in the “Speciality Luxe” category. It’s a sophisticated, refined scent that is beautiful in its opening, smells very expensive, and is definitely worth a sniff, even if its full development isn’t perfect enough to perhaps warrant a full bottle. 

Tom Ford describes Jasmin Rouge as follows:

Voluptuous.  Sensuous. Audacious. Tom Ford Jasmin Rouge is a voluptuous, saturated, spiced floral. An unexpected blend of precious sambac jasmine sepals absolute, an ingredient never used before in perfumery with dusky clary sage and rich spices, it unveils a new facet of jasmine’s erotic decadence. Jasmin Rouge is as audacious as lacquered red lips. Its deep red bottle evokes lush and hedonistic glamour.

It’s a bit of hyperbole but, as one who love jasmine fragrances, I think it’s generally quite accurate, at least for Jasmin Rouge’s opening stage. There is definitely a voluptuous sensuality to the perfume; and its concentrated, saturated nature takes jasmine to both hedonist levels and very glamourous ones. 

According to Fragrantica, the notes in Jasmin Rouge include:

Top notes: bergamot, mandarin, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black and white pepper.

Heart: Sambac jasmine, broom, neroli, ylang-ylang, clary sage.

Base: Mexican vanilla, labdanum, leather, wood and amber notes.

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Despite this plethora of notes, Jasmin Rouge is a soliflore: a fragrance centered around one main note. Yes, there are varying nuances from start to finish, but it’s primarily a super-concentrated jasmine perfume in nature, so those who can’t stand the note or find that jasmine turns plastic-y on their skin should probably stop reading here.

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Jasmine peacock created from jasmine flowers. Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Jasmin Rouge opens on my skin with seemingly every possible variation of the flower: green and fresh; spicy; indolic, lush and heady; fruity; and lightly musky. The very first minutes are filled with a surprising purple note that is exactly like very dark, Concord grapes. The note soon disappears, replaced by flickers of citrus and mandarin dancing about in the background. The heady, rich, velvety jasmine is the one, true star, however, evoking a summer’s evening when the night-blooming jasmine cast out their fragrant tendrils across the sky like sirens calling to Odysseus. It’s sweet but also airy, potently strongly, and spectacularly stunning.

Jasmin Rouge calls to mind what would be my favorite jasmine soliflore, if it actually lasted on my skin: Serge LutensÀ La Nuit. It is a perfume that many consider to be the gold standard for jasmine soliflores, and it’s truly an exquisite fragrance. Unfortunately, it has the lifespan of a squashed gnat on my skin. (Seriously. 30 minutes tops!) Like the Lutens, Jasmin Rouge is a super-charged, rich, heady jasmine fragrance. Unlike the Lutens, the opening of the Tom Ford perfume has beautiful touches of orange blossom, mandarin and slightly bitter, dry neroli underlying its star. I also detect something that feels like ylang-ylang, though it’s not listed in the notes. And, unlike the Lutens, Jasmin Rouge actually lasts on the skin.

Source: 4coolpics.com

Source: 4coolpics.com

In that lovely opening stage, the fruity-floral bouquet sits upon a base that is, at first, creamily sweet and daintily touched by a milky, light vanilla. Slowly, slowly, the base starts to turn drier, woodier, and spicier; it minimizes the fruited elements and helps prevent any excessive sweetness. So, too, does the slightly green feel of the perfume. It’s almost as if leaves have been brought in to keep the jasmine from turning ripe, over-blown, cloying, or with that feeling of decayed excess that truly indolic flowers (like jasmine, tuberose or gardenia) can sometimes project. Don’t get me wrong, Jasmin Rouge is indolic and heavy — almost boozy in its initial extremeness — but it’s also simultaneously green, fresh and light. It’s a marvelous tight-rope act, and I could not stop sniffing my arm.

Diane Millsap painting, "White Floral I" via Ebsqart.com. (Link to retail page embedded within.)

Diane Millsap painting, “White Floral I” via Ebsqart.com. (Link to retail page embedded within.)

Two hours into the perfume’s development, Jasmin Rouge starts to lose some of its flair. It’s now woodier, drier, lighter, and sits much closer to the skin. There is still a spicy green nuance to the flower, but much of the perfume’s depth (and most of its powerful projection) has dropped out. The citrus, mandarin, orange blossom, and neroli touches seem more nebulous; the perfume’s body seems less lushly opulent and juicy; and there is a slight (just slight) tinge of smokiness at the very edges. I’m not quite as obsessed with the scent now, though I suspect those who want a dry, less purely floral element to their fragrance may be happier.

Catherine Jeltes Painting, "Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape." Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Catherine Jeltes Painting, “Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape.” Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Jasmin Rouge’s drydown begins midway around the fifth hour, when the perfume quietly emits woody notes with touches of smoke, pepper and musk. The jasmine is no longer the dominant note; it feels just as green and spicy as before, but it’s sheer and muted. Jasmin Rouge is now more of a bland, abstract woody fragrance where the light, beige notes just happen to be infused with jasmine, rather than the other way around. In its dying moments, just over 8.25 hours in, Jasmin Rouge is simply an amorphous, vaguely ambered, woody scent. All in all, it has good longevity, especially for a soliflore. It has extremely intense sillage at first, but the projection starts to drop after the first hour and the perfume becomes a skin scent by the start of the third hour.

I liked Jasmin Noir a lot more than most of the critics and bloggers out there. Their main issue is with the bland final stage, and I agree with them to an extent. However, I don’t dismiss the perfume as readily as they do. Bois de Jasmin‘s summation pretty much encapsulates the overall perspective of the blogosphere: “Jasmin Rouge is simply an up-market version of a familiar crisp fruity floral. Though it is lovely, it does not offer any revelations.” I think the perfume is better than that. It smells rich, doesn’t smell cheap or synthetic, screams luxury, is both green and lush, and oozes sex appeal and sensuality. I haven’t found a ton of jasmine soliflores to do that — with the exception of the stunning À La Nuit (with its zero longevity on my skin). And I can’t get over how beautiful the green spiciness is! I do wish Jasmin Rouge had retained more of its juicy, opulent, heady beginning for longer (since I prefer my pure florals to remain as such), and I would have also preferred less woods, but all that is a matter of personal taste.

The real question is whether Jasmin Rouge is special enough for the cost. I can only say that I think it’s worth the cost more than most of the other pure florals I’ve tried from Tom Ford. (For example, I thought the Jardin Noir Collection was terribly over-priced for the scents in question. I couldn’t stand Ombre de Hyacinth, and I thought Café Rose was both cloying and exhausting.) In short, it’s all relative. I would absolutely wear Jasmin Rouge if a bottle fell into my lap, but would I actually buy it? I don’t know, especially as I have issues with Tom Ford’s retail prices. If it means anything, I definitely plan on looking on eBay, since Private Blend fragrances can be found there for much more reasonable rates.

The bottom line for Jasmin Rouge is that you have to really love jasmine to wear it. Those who don’t may find the perfume to be the equivalent of death by white flowers, especially if their skin chemistry tends to turn jasmine plastic-y or sour. Those who love the note will undoubtedly adore Jasmin Rouge’s opening, and the unusual spicy greenness underlying such a lush, concentrated, heady bouquet. I’m less certain as to how they’d feel about the drydown, however, or the perfume’s linearity — it all depends on one’s taste. But Jasmin Rouge is absolutely worth a test sniff, so skip the Black and go for the Red. If perfume is nothing other than the promise of happiness (to paraphrase Stendhal), then Jasmin Rouge’s opulently heady, spicy florals and very feminine, sensual, sophisticated, refined manner might possibly be your ticket there.

DETAILS:
BLACK VIOLET – Cost & Availability: Private Blend Black Violet is an eau de parfum and retails for: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, $280 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. It is listed on the Tom Ford website. (However, it doesn’t seem clear how you can purchase it from there as I don’t see a shopping cart capability for the perfume.) In the U.S.: You can also find Black Violet at fine department stores such as Nordstrom, BloomingdalesNeiman MarcusSaks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but I don’t see Black Violet listed as one of their 2 Tom Ford fragrances on the online website. In the UK, you can find it at Harrods or House of Fraser. Both stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £135.00, or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. The Selfridges website is currently out of stock of the perfume, but you may want to check later. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue is one of the few online retailers that I’ve seen carry Tom Ford fragrances, and it sells Black Violet for €180, €260 or €420, depending on the size.  It is a French site that ships worldwide. I know that Tom Ford Beauty is carried in-store at a number of other retailers throughout Europe, from Denmark and Belgium to the Russian Federation. You can use the store locator linked below on the website to find a retailer near you. In Australia, I saw Black Violet listed on a number of retail sites via the GetPrice website, with prices starting at AUD$220. It is also listed on the Feeling Sexy Australia website for AUD$249.95, but I have no clue if that’s a reputable site or not. The Tom Ford line is supposedly carried at David Jones stores, but Black Violet is not one of the handful of Tom Ford fragrances carried on the its website. Elsewhere, Tom Ford fragrances are carried in numerous different countries; hopefully, you can find one near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website. Samples: You can probably get free samples of Black Violet from any of the department stores listed above, in-store, but you can also order a sample from Surrender to Chance, starting at $3 for a 1/2 ml vial.
JASMIN ROUGE – Cost & Availability: Private Blend Jasmin Rouge is an eau de parfum and retails for: $205, £135.00 or €180 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280, €260, £300.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. It is listed on the Tom Ford website, but it doesn’t look as though you can buy it directly off of there. In the U.S.: Jasmin Rouge is carried at department stores such as NordstromBloomingdalesNeiman MarcusSaks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf GoodmanOutside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find Jasmin Rouge at Selfridges or Harrods, both of which sell all three sizes of the bottles: the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £135.00, the 100 ml bottle for £195, or £300.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue is the first online website that I’ve found to carry the full Tom Ford line, including all three sizes of Jasmin Rouge. Here is the link for the smallest cheapest size, the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle which retails for €180. The company ships worldwide, I believe, but you need to email them to ask for the full details. (I did find an Italian vendor, Vittoria Profumi, but it’s selling the same bottle for way over retail at €265.) In the UAE and Dubai, I found Jasmin Rouge at Souq.com. Australian vendors of Jasmin Rouge proved to be hard to track down, especially as Fresh was out of stock of the perfume (which it sells for AUD$259), but I’m sure there are others out there. For all other countries, you can use the Tom Ford’s Store Locator guide linked up above in the Black Violet section. Samples: You can probably get free samples of Jasmin Rouge from any of the department stores listed above, in-store, but you can also order a sample from Surrender to Chance, starting at $3 for a 1/2 ml vial.

New Perfume Releases: Tom Ford Atelier d’Orient Collection

Tom Ford is releasing a new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient and will consist of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Now Smell This (“NST”) has the press releases for each scent which is provided below. The only site I’ve found that has the details of the notes for each fragrance is Miss Fashion News, so I’ve added that underneath the NST quote:

Shanghai Lily ~ “Opulent. Tantalising. Elegant. Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily eau de parfum is a floral oriental scent that transports the senses into a world of rare and opulent ingredients from the historic silk road. Warm spices, elegant florals and addictive notes of vanilla and frankincense create a hazy reverie of glamour and temptation.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: bitter orange, pink peppercorns, black pepper, clove, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin (Laos), castoreum, cistus, gaiac wood, vanilla and incense. 

Plum Japonais ~ “Delectable. Luscious. Sensual. Tom Ford’s Plum Japonais eau de parfum reveals the extraordinary beauty of the ume plum by juxtaposing it with a lush and unconventional mélange of exotic asian ingredients. Rich and luxurious, it is a fragrance with irresistible complexity.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: saffron, cinnamon bark (Laos), immortelle, plum blossom, camellia blossom (Japan), agar wood, amber, benzoin (Laos), fir balsam absolute, and infusions of vanilla.

Fleur de Chine ~ “Dramatic. Smouldering. Seductive. Tom Ford’s Fleur de chine eau de parfum is an unequivocally romantic and haunting floral fragrance touched with a reverence for the great scents of the past. Precious asian flowers, including hualan flower and star magnolia, are arranged in a bouquet of rare beauty for a scent that lingers on.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: blossoms of tea, magnolia, fresh clementines, white peach, bergamot, hyacinth, hinoki wood, leaves of jasmine tea, plum, rose tea, wisteria, amber, peony, benzoin from Laos, styrax, Chinese cedar, and vetiver.

Rive d’Ambre ~ “Ornate. Compelling. Warm. Tom Ford’s Rive d’Ambre is a golden toned eau de cologne with a veil of colonial elegance. Precious citrus fruits – a talisman of good fortune in asia – are beautifully illuminated by a warm and seductive amber background.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: essential oils of bergamot, lemon and bitter orange with notes of tarragon, green mint, and cardamom [along with]… cognac oil [and] tolu balsam[.]

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

The collection is already out in the UK at Harvey Nichols, along with other British department stores like Harrods and Selfridges. The price for the 50 ml/1.7 oz bottles is £140.00, while the massive 250 ml bottles are retailed at £320.00. No word yet on when precisely the collection will hit the U.S. or elsewhere, and what the U.S. pricing may be. However, Miss Fashion News says that European pricing is €180 for 50 ml and €430 for 250 ml.

Lastly, Miss Fashion News also has some more information about the story associated with each scent — such as how Fleur de Chine is meant to reference the 1930s-1960s femme fatales of the Chinese silver screen — so you may want to glance at that, too, if you’re interested. Also, while Now Smell This has a more generalized, press release description of the scents, there are additional details in the comment section from its UK readers who have already given the four fragrances a quick sniff. So you may want to check out the responses if any of the fragrances intrigue you. One interesting tidbit: one poster says that the UK prices seem to have gone up for these four fragrances as compared to the other Private Blend perfumes. And looking at the Harvey Nichols’ prices in British pounds, I would agree. So, U.S. pricing is bound to also increase from the current $205 rate for the small 1.7 oz/50 ml bottles.