First off, I must admit to a bias against the Private Blend Collection, which is Tom Ford’s extensive luxury fragrance line. I know perfumes like Tobacco Vanille and Oud Wood have a lot of fans but they have always left me cold. I can’t shake the impression that they are designed to fulfil aspirations rather than capture hearts or emotions. However, one of the three perfumes released in 2013 which I’m reviewing today did surprise me – and in a good way.
With a name like Oud Fleur I was expecting this perfume to be a rather feminine floral underscored by oud. This is more or less what I got eventually but to begin with it was all about very spicy, slightly sweet, oud tinged woods. The opening is quite boozy and fruity, no doubt owing to the presence of davana and tagette (marigold).
I would have guessed cumin dominated the spices but it’s not listed below:
Notes: oud wood, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon bark, pimento berry, rose Bulgaria, rose absolute Morocco, rose absolute Turkey, geranium, tagette, osmanthus, davana, date accord, patchouli, sandalwood, incense, styrax, cistus, leather accord, ambergris, castoreum.
I’m not generally a fan of strong spices and I find they dampen down the rose and osmanthus a little too much during the first few hours. It starts of in the Tom Ford spicy/woody/oudy style but becomes quieter, sweeter and fruitier. Like many of its stable-mates it has depth, but doesn’t project the way you might imagine. Lasting power is very good, although it seems to fade away rather than bother with a distinct base. It’s certainly not one for the oud aficionados among us considering that note only has a minor supporting role.
Shanghai Lily is a glamorous, retro oriental floral which manages to avoid feeling old-fashioned. It’s a full bodied, opulent fragrance featuring spicy notes, floral notes, olibanum, vanilla, bitter orange, pink pepper, black pepper, cloves, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin, castoreum, labdanum, guaiac wood and incense.
It’s not obvious from the list of notes but the clove dominates the top and heart along with the eponymous lily. The clove here is less medicinal and much more of a spicy carnation. This is not the cold, musty carnation we so often get in perfumery but the rich, seductive aroma of carnation essential oil. The lily is somewhat indolic but not to an off-putting degree.
Shanghai Lily is a woman who has lived a life and lived it fully. Always made-up and always in heels, she is confident, alluring and more than a little knowing. Yet underneath the powdered facade of the 1940s screen siren lurks something altogether more intimate. During the drydown it gets animalic in the best way, with a nice contrasting backdrop of vanilla. There’s no clean or stabby musk, nothing faecal or nasty, just a deep, sensuous aroma that lingers for hours.
For the very first time, I have encountered the kind of skank I can actually wear quite happily. While I may not spring for a bottle, this is a pleasant revelation and proof that perfume can always challenge your preconceptions.
Fleur de Chine
Far from transporting me to China as was the intention, Fleur de Chine immediately reminds me of classic French perfumery. On first spray there’s a bright white flash of aldehydes, leaving behind a trail of soap suds. Whereas Shanghai Lily wears her make-up like a mask to cover up her less savoury aspects, Fleur de Chine is scrubbed clean with nothing at all to hide. Impeccably turned out at all times with white gloves and a Kelly bag, she is the kind of woman you are in awe of but feel a little detached from.
The notes feature magnolia, exotic floral notes, tea, clementine, white peach, bergamot, hyacinth, hinoki wood, plum, jasmine, tea rose, wisteria, amber, peony, benzoin, styrax, cedar and vetiver.
Once the fizzy opening has subsided, the creaminess of the white florals comes through with just a dab of powder. It’s pleasantly airy with a nice touch of something fresh, which could well be a combination of the tea and fruit notes. While it has an assured elegance about it, there’s not much complexity and the base is generic fresh woods. This is not the kind of blandness you’d expect from the notes or the price tag. If retro, aldehydic florals are your thing, you may well be better off (not least financially) sticking to the classics this perfume is trying to mimic; namely Lanvin’s Arpege and Chanel No. 22.
What has been your experience with Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection? Any favourites?
Editor’s Note: Whatever is in the bottles is one thing, but another is the marketing images of Tom Ford’s Private Blends. Those photos are amazingly beautiful. That is where a lot of the money goes, that is for sure…