Tom Ford Champaca Absolute: Perfume Review
A fail-proof way to create a perfume I am guaranteed to like is to make it smell Like a Chanel. Or what is my idea of a Chanel (forgive me for quoting myself, in a review of Beige):
"...abstract, complex, and, regardless of whether it is full of natural ingredients or totally synthetic, (...) man-made, for a lack of a better term."...In other words, to make it smell as a Proper Perfume (again in my interpretation):
"...to smell of no particular ingredient but rather to appear as an amalgamation of several, almost indistinguishable notes ... to interpret its inspiration in a non-literal, non-obvious manner ... to smell man-made, not found-in-nature."Clearly, the Tom Ford Beauty team has decided to follow my requirements (as every perfume-creating team should by the way!) and to create a Proper Perfume. They also were clearly aware than I have always been a big fan of Cold Perfumey Florals (a category made up by moi and thus very subjective) in vein of Chanel's Beige, Gardenia and Hermes's 24, Faubourg. In his new Champaca Absolute, Tom Ford created a bespoke Cold Perfumey Floral fragrance for yours truly...it's just that he doesn't know it.
So much does Champaca Absolute remind me of Beige - in concept not in notes!- that I could almost take my old review, change freesia and frangipani for champaca and jasmine and be done with it. When I say, in concept, I mean that, like Beige, Champaca Absolute strikes me as being "a cold, somewhat arrogant beauty, a "better than thou" scent." For most parts, it is a stylized floral bouquet, a chic and meticulous arrangement made of flowers that have been grown and pampered in an exclusive orangery with man-controlled environmental conditions...and not of those you gather in the wild, carelessly bring home and put in a rustic vase in a haphazard manner.
Having said that, there IS a very green and very natural part right after the heady, tiny bit boozy (cognac, Tokaii (yes, it is that specific) wine and the naturally drunken davana) floral top notes subside, where it might seem that -oh the horror!- the bouquet could indeed have come from some kind of unruly forest...for some time, Champaca Absolute just smells so...real and untamed. I suspect that what gives the silken blend of champaca, jasmine and orchids that ragged, dry, windswept edge is the broom note (in Beige, it was hawthorn). And then the wild note disappears, sleek bob smoothed, slinky dress straightened, face back to its expression of polite superiority. Nature? One has never been to nature, nature is too dirty and uncontrollable. And one has never heard of Oliver Mellors either.
What's remarkable is how remarkably filthy the drydown smells on my skin, not animalic-filthy like musk or civet but more like mineral-rooty-filthy...whatever it is in the inoffensive-sounding base of vanilla, amber, marron glace (!) and sandalwood that makes it smell up to good I do not know. But I suppose that what it shows is that you can take champaca out of the wild but you can't take the wild out of champaca.
Available at Nieman Marcus, $180.00-$450.00 for 50ml-250ml of -very, very long-lasting- Eau de Parfum.