The weather´s warm and spring seems to have arrived at last. I grew up here, and I can rag D.C. for various things, but the spring flora, from the cherry blossoms onward, is tough to beat. This year, possibly as a result of the miserable cool weather early on, the blooming period is weirdly condensed – tulips, wisteria, late bulbs, flowering plums and other ornamental fruit trees, dogwood and, of course, the azaleas are all blooming simultaneously. Driving around yesterday in the sun, the palette was so hyper-saturated it had a little of that David-Lynch Blue-Velvet vibe. As I looked at yet another absurdly vivid tableau – blood-red, fuchsia and apricot-orange azaleas against a backdrop of tightly planted white dogwood — it came to me: Tom Ford. Tom Ford!!!
Do you know azaleas? Here’s a photo. They´re boring, crappy-looking shrubs (people use them here as foundation plantings) for 11 ½ months a year. Then for two weeks they´re all decked out like painted harlots. Nothing subtle about them. They don´t even smell (okay, they smell like plants, but they´re not fragrant.) They´re … lurid. Frequently they clash with their surroundings and seem not particularly well thought out. The Tom Ford Private Blend collection has some scents that are extremely wearable, and some that aren´t; several that are reminiscent of some aspect of Black Orchid (often in the base); some that are complex and some that are very simple. But when it comes to nuance, Tom Ford is tone-deaf. These fragrances are not cheap. God knows. Also, Ford wouldn´t know elegance if it waltzed up wearing Balenciaga couture and slapped him across the face with its elbow-length gloves, and I sort of wish it would. Honestly, I appreciate having a whole batch of fragrances that aren´t fruity-floral (although I´d like to cut back his access to vanilla.) I admire the overall ballsiness of these new releases (along with Black Orchid), and I´m grateful for fragrances with this heft. But I kept wishing Tom could have added a bit of subtlety and elegance to his retro-esque collection. Individually I admired several of them; together, though, dang it, it’s like looking at a yard full of azaleas. But maybe that’s just me.
So. I thought I´d leave you with my reviews. They´ve already gotten extensive blog coverage, and since you know how I yammer on and on and on, I reviewed these 12 scents in 12 words or less per scent. They are listed in my order of preference (favorite to least). The numbers at the end of each reflect my feeling about the scent (scaled from 1 to 10) at first application, followed by my revised feeling several hours later, to give you a sense of what I thought of the development.
The one stunning surprise was the Oud Wood. I don´t even like oud particularly, it often seems harsh to me, but this! It lasted a full 48 hours on me, no joke, through a bath, and I still got dim whispers, and I was grateful. If I could have one bottle, that would be it. Also, Velvet Gardenia is right up there with Fracas in office-ban sillage; you were warned.
Oud Wood – velvety oud, mouthwatering cardamom/pepper opening, vetiver ignites smoldering sandal/amber drydown. 8 – 9
Moss Breches – Statement chypre, like green Baghari? Decent sillage; alluring, arid spicy-earth drydown. 8 – 9
Noir de Noir – similar to Ta´if, less green. Languid, nuanced saffron-rose, gentle woods. 7 – 9
Velvet Gardenia – haunting, indolic gardenia, intense sillage — obscene, green, spiced, fleshy. What bleu cheese? 8 – 8.
Bois Rouge – hot mess of herbs n spices; four hours later, delicious cinnamon woods. 3 – 7.
Amber Absolute – perfect somber church incense meets thick amber, warm woods; too much vanilla. 8 – 6
Black Violet – candied buttcrack. Dark violet followed by Black Orchid skank, fades surprisingly fast. 5 – 5.
Japon Noir – spicy, hint of leather, armpit (vetiver? cedar?) didn´t knock my socks off. 5 – 5.
Tuscan Leather – suede gloves, peat, tart fruit and … is that vanilla again? Go away! 6 – 5.
Neroli Portofino – citrus, neroli, musk falls off the SMN truck, disappears. Worth $165? No. 5 – 4.
Purple Patchouli – interestingly ugly, no patch, just orchid and … drain cleaner? Chemical-seaweed drydown. 3 – 4.
Tobacco Vanille – cherry pipe tobacco becomes lousy Christmas potpourri; hint of vanilla, Play-Doh. 4 – 2.
Azalea image: mooseyscountrygarden.com