Fragrance X
First in Fragrance
My Photo
Location: New York, NY
© Copyright 2005-2011 Perfume-Smellin' Things
All rights reserved
Custom Search

Friday, November 03, 2006

Perfume Review: Tom Ford Black Orchid

Black Orchid is the first offering from the newly established Tom Ford Beauty brand, modestly envisioned by Ford as “the first true luxury brand of the 21st century”. With his first perfume, Ford wanted to create “an iconic fragrance that could become the center of the world of Tom Ford Beauty”. Being, by his own admission, obsessed with orchids, the designer wanted to base the scent on the blackest orchid of all, a flower strange and rare. The flower, a black bloom with a hint of aubergine, was found at a Swiss orchid breeder, and, using the headspace technology, the essence of the Tom Ford black orchid was captured. Outfitted in opulent, Art Deco-inspired black and gold packaging, the darkly-sweet, heady fragrance speaks of unabashed luxury and glamour.

According to Tom Ford, the fragrances that have been launched in the last decade were “so stripped-down, so transparent in terms of color and often in terms of scent (…) they often become quite watered-down. Ford’s goal was “to create old-fashioned, but in a new sense”. (From Women’s Wear Daily, 07/28/2006) Like it or dislike it (and opinions probably will be as polarized as that), no one could call Black Orchid transparent or watered-down. The robust, striking juice certainly evokes an era that is much less politically correct and “stripped-down” than ours. And actually one doesn’t have to go back too far to find an example of a scent of similar boldness and lavishness. To me, Black Orchid has the same general feel as Poison, that magnificent giant from the 1980s. Tom Ford Beauty only tells us that the fragrance was created by Givaudan, but if I dared to attribute it to one specific perfumer or to guess where at least some of the inspiration came from, I would have said that Black Orchid evokes the audacious, generous, alluring style of Edouard Flechier.

It was easy for me to fall in love with Black Orchid, because in the very first notes it has given me what I always adore in perfume, the warm darkness, the appealing earthiness, the strangeness. The first accord, the blast of wet soil (black truffle?) and patchouli is odd, even awkward. With its fruity and gourmand accents, which would appear shortly, Black Orchid certainly gives a nod to the current trends, but that black, velvety earth in the beginning, which would be always present at least as a hint throughout the scent’s development, becoming more prominent in the drydown…that black earth, in which black orchids grow, is what constitutes the boldness and the unusualness of the scent and what shows to me that Ford Beauty are prepared to go in directions where few luxe brands dare to venture.

After the striking, unexpected top accord dissipates, the (black) flowers begin to flourish, they are creamy (ylang-ylang), buttery even (tuberose?), they are heady. Combined with the honeyed fruitiness, the flowers smell hypnotic, they are so sultry, they are almost unbearable. Were it not for that earthiness, which at times, in the middle stage, has a beautiful incense undertone, the heart of Black Orchid could have been too much for me. In a while, the fleshy fruity-floral sweetness subsides; patchouli, incense and woods become more apparent. The official description promises “the Noir Gourmand Accord” in the base of Black Orchid, and there is a chocolate-like quality here, but, perhaps again because of the earth and the woods and the incense, it is not nearly as Gourmand as it could have been. The scent has tremendous lasting power and takes a long time to develop, continuing to change on my skin for eight-nine hours. In the very last stages of drydown, Black Orchid is all soft creaminess of vanilla and sweet balsam. If I had to describe this fragrance in one word, the word would be “decadent”.

This glamorous bombshell of a scent can be found at Neiman Marcus, where Eau de Parfum retails for $90.00-$135.00 and pure parfum in black crystal Lalique bottles, for $600.00. It is said that in the spring, three ancillary Black Orchid products will be also released, an $80.00 hair perfume, a $45.00 body lotion, a $45.00 cleansing oil, and a $48.00 finishing oil spray.

The first image is from, the second from



Blogger tmp00 said...

well, I am going to have to go check this one out. It doesn't sound me but it does sound lovely..

11:05 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am a firm believer than anyone can wear anything they want, no gender boundaries allowed...but there are some scents that I just can't imagine on a man, and Orchid is probably one of them...although...that earthy thing that it has...if you could just get that part of it and none of the flowers-gourmands, it could have been wearable and enjoyable for you.

11:08 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I personally think that there are some scents that I should be leave to the ladies (although I am wavering about Tuberuese Criminelle). Conversley, I don't think there is a man's scent that a woman shouldn't wear.

11:37 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

There is at least one I can think of *braces self* Eternity For Men. Ugh. But then I think that no one should be allowed to wear it...or its feminine counterpart. Well, actually, to be fair, I just have an issue with that scent'sgenre, it's not that I wouldn't wear it because it is too masculine for me. Trying to think of Too Masculine ones. OK, Azzaro Pour Homme. Or! Or! Drakkar Noir! :-)

11:41 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! The main floral theme is to me a sweet, creamy, heady accord, a mix of ylang and tuberose...for all I know that is what those black orchids smell like. It doesn't *smell* like Poison, but it has the same oomph and expansiveness.

11:51 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the feeling, I dunno how, that you like, or rather adore this Marina - not that I've seen any opining on makeupalley....;-)

It does sound beautiful - and I know a certain lady friend who would probably suit this down to a T. I'll track her down a sample.

4:11 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow C, I am surprised you like this. I was prepared for a scathing review from you. Upon smelling this monday and again trying it on tuesday I was unimpressed. More than that I was disappointed. For me it has all that fruit... I'm so sick and tired of the fruit I could scream! It's just been so overdone. And it is just not sultry at all, it's safe. For me the ad campaign, AGAIN out does the juice found inside that gorgeous bottle. I was a bit dumbfounded... To each their own I guess, that's the beautiful thing about fragrance!

6:27 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Two things, oh my goddess friend-
1) pineapple/coconut- Dear God, save me...
2} Uh-oh... dreaded marine [NOT Marina !]notes- FEH !

I love the bottle, and the rest of it is lovely, but those 2 make me very unhappy !

It will sell like a bastard ,though...

You still love me ?

6:52 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Now I'm all confused--chocolatevanillapineapple, or earthy and deliciously decadent?? I guess I will have to smell it myself to see where I fall out in the chemistry lottery. Still sounds as if it may be too fruity/sweet/gourmand for me, but ya never know!

7:32 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

I think the best thing about this scent is that if it's successful it may inspire a trend away from stripped-down, clean, ozonic scents. I *want* a return to decadence, to skank.
However, right now it's hard to focus my mind on anything other than the fact that the parfum, which is the formulation I'd want, is six - long string of expletives deleted - hundred - more expletives deleted - dollars. SOB!!!!!

7:38 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

:-) When I get smitten with a scent I trumpet about it anywher I can...apparently :-)

8:34 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Lucky skin chemistry on my part, I guess. If there wasn't a lot of earthiness there, on my skin, I most probably wouldn't have liked it at all. I am not sure I would have thought it was safe, because even when you take out all the earth it is a Big scent, but who knows. I am very glad I "clicked" with this scent :-)

8:36 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Firstly let me assure you that I will always love you.
Secondly, MARINE NOTES? After this, who can deny that skin chemistry matters! Perfume POsse girls get chocolatevanillapineaple, Kayliana gets a safe scent, I get earth and oomph, you get marine...whoa.

8:38 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Chocolate - yes, a little in the base, vanilla, a little bit in the very last drudown. Pineapple- absolutely not, not on my skin anyway. Earth- yes. Decant- definitely :-) If it doesn't behave itself in the same way it did on me, i.e. if it does not show its earthy side, I don' think you'd like it. ...Of course I would have never thought you'd like West Side, so what do I know... :-)

8:40 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Ford wanted an iconic scent, and like the scent it or not, that's what it is. And I guess the price of parfum is part of that "the luxe-est brand of 21st century" goal. Apparently, the Lalique parfum bottle for the parfum comes empty. The refil with parfum is enclosed with it but the juice is not poured in. I wish they sold some of those refills without the bottles. Or in plainer bottles.

8:44 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Layering with those two sounds like a great idea! Carry on!

9:28 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

I can see I will never live down having liked West Side:) Well, I didn't like it enough to buy it; does that count?:)

9:47 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Hehe. Well, there is nothing wrong with liking WS, it's a lovely scent...I am just surprised a little, that's all :-)

9:51 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

When I was living in the United States, I went to school to be an orchid judge...just one of my hobbies. I didn't last long (less than a year) because I moved south. However, I do remember that there was no such thing as a black orchid. That was a question asked during a test! If someone has raised a real black orchid (and not just a really dark purple one) it probably isn't the common Cattleya or Phalaenopsis. It's probably a Cymbidium or something even more exotic. The headspace technology samples the fragrance emited and tries to duplicate it using scent chemicals. I bet this "black orchid" smells like a truffle or pepper-like or maybe even a little like vanilla (which is another orchid). I love the night fragrant orchids the best but they are usually white because they are polinated by moths. I will do some research on the black orchid and get back to you.

10:14 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Fascinating! One of my favorite fictional characters, Nero Wolf, is an orchid afficionado (nerd alert! nerd alert!)
What I read in the article is that Ford wanted a black orchid and found a Swiss breeder who had just "created" one, a black orchid with a hint of aubergine. So Ford bought the four plants that the breeder had and the rights to the orchid strain. And now they are Tom Ford black orchids. Tyhe article didn't say how those orchids smell, but I like your theory a lot!

10:22 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for the wonderful review.
the perfume is an archetype for me.
Gloria Swanson .
I admire Tom Ford vision.
As for me , I purchased the perfume but i will not wear it often.
Why? Because the personality and voice of the perfume seems different and out of pace with mine.
Lovely perfume.

10:25 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! And gosh, yes, it is definitely fit for Gloria Swanson!

10:29 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Hurrah! Someone else gets earthy/woody! I was starting to doubt myself :-)

10:31 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Wet soil? Patchouli?! Incense?!?! Woods?!?!?!?!!


I get chocovanillapineapple and you get Fragrance Nirvana?

Harrumph. (sulks off to brood).

12:58 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Nyah nyah nyah
Well, there are things that work for you that don't for me. POTL? Chergui?

1:29 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

How dare you brandish the evil POTL at me?!?! (making sign of the cross) Colombina the Terrible and March the Maleficent are united on that front.

Chergui -- okay, nyah nyah nyah

There was something else recently too... I got smoky, glorious something and you got nada.

PS I may have regained my senses, I smelled an empty M de Bourbon bottle and it smelled great. Their Lys was nice too (bottle is gorgeous!)

2:54 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I AM SO SORRY! What a horrible mistake to make. *sprinkles holy water* Ugh. It must be Patty then who likes The Evil One. :-)
As for M de B, that's only how it smelled to you from the bottle. I bet you if you apply you get rubber feet dipped in amber again :-( I haven't tried Lys by the way. Nor any other de Bourbons.

2:58 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The thing looks like you and I are the only ones who get earth :-) I thing we two just have been blessed by the right skin chemistry :-D *feels smug*

3:37 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

M, still puzzling over Black Orchid a bit myself. Definitely get the earthiness, but not for long, and wish the incense stuff was more pronounced. But all in all, a much better scent, in some ways, than I expected.

4:24 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I had very, very low expectations after reading first reviews...I mean, chocovanillapineapple! I am so happy it works so well for me / on me :-)

4:26 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for me, all of the best parts of this one are in the first 10-15 minutes, when it is indeed interesting and hypnotic. then all that good stuff goes poof and the scent turns into a run-of-the-mill, dull gourmand - not bad, just "meh." as i've said before, it will do well because the interesting aspects are frontloaded - and so many consumers don't know to wait to see how a scent develops. great bottle, too - that certainly won't hurt sales. - minette

4:32 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I actually think that the first strange notes might put off many people. Maybe I am mistaken. I think the scent will do well.

4:34 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review. I can't agree more. I was beginning to think I was going bonkers, since I tried this last Friday and immediately fell in love. After reading how March and Patti hated it, I posted my loving thoughts about this wonderful fragrance--and was feeling a tad alone ;-) However, I am bowled over at just how incredible, different, trend-bucking a frag it is. I guess this one will truly be one of the great love-it or hate-it juices; even more highly reactive with body chemistry than the norm. While I was in NM, I layered it with Blue Agava, and went to heaven, sniffing my wrists all the way. CindyN

5:25 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Blue Agava, this one...I think we are scent twins! :-)

5:35 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Well, you know I'm going to be retrying this. And to be fair, I DID like it, actually. It's really pretty. I just found it sort of sweetly gourmand instead of incense and earth and all that good stuff. But who knows? Maybe next time... a girl can dream.

5:46 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Fingers crossed!!

5:47 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I missed this review when you first posted it, but made my way back here after reading Marlen's review. Two raves in a row! The noir quality that you speak of, and the slight dirtiness that both you and Marlen allude to make this sound wonderful. I am beginning to love ylang ylang in perfume, and I hope I get it here. I must test this the first chance I get!

6:38 AM EST  
Blogger minou said...

What a beautiful, strange, enduring scent! Your review perfectly captures the leisurely, multi-faceted development of this fragarance. I love how rich this is, how it stays relatively close to my skin, the dark, addictive earthy notes. I live in the scentless wonderland that is halifax, nova scotia, and was recently able to obtain a sample of this beauty during a trip to montreal. Needless to say, I will be a richly dark-smelling orchid in a sea of olfactory ghosts this winter (until my sample runs out....)

12:33 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am so glad you like it too. I loved what you said: "a richly dark-smelling orchid in a sea of olfactory ghosts this winter". :-) You smell wonderful.

12:37 PM EST  
Blogger minou said...

thank you! I am sure you smell like a dream! :)

1:20 PM EST  
Blogger Barbara said...

I love, love, love Black Orchid - *everything* about it. From the earthy, voluptuous opening through the velvety florals to the vanillic/incense drydown, this scent makes me swoon with delight! I'm seriously addicted and prepared for the damage this fragrance will do to my bank account! ;-) It is just perfect in our New England fall weather, too. It's what Calvin Klein's Euphoria aspires to be.

7:42 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a student in Germany and a neophyte in perfumes.

With due respect, I think Calvin Klein´s Euphoria is very different from Tom Ford´s Black Orchid. Black Orchid is all out Philippine Ylang-ylang flower. That´s why there´s no more Ylang-ylang flowers left in the Philippines I think :)

My body can stand Tom Ford´s Black Orchid but my husband would never wear it.

However, my body cant stand Euphoria. It starts smelling like a circus.

I like Black scents- Bulgari, Aigner, etc. I dont know why !

If someone can find me a day version of Bulgari Black, do tell me please :))

1:46 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also believe that anyone should wear what they like, and I am a man that LOVES and wears Black Orchid. In fact, it has given me more compliments than anything else I have ever owned. I am lucky in that the sweet woods, incense and creamy balsamic vanilla is what my skin brings out with very little florals at all, and I will continue to love and own this fragrance for as long as it is in production!

1:30 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I purchased Black Orchid Finishing Oil Spray because I whiffed on a male friend. I fell in love with it and bought it at Nordstroms. I cannot find it anywhere. I need my "Black Orchid Finishing Oil Spray". Where is it????? I am almost out. I receive so many compliments when I wear it. It is not overpowering but very alluring and suttle. I need it now....

11:35 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home