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Monday, April 23, 2007

Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Amber Absolute, Black Violet, Bois Rouge

I have always connected, "clicked" with Tom Ford's style and aesthetics. The decadence, sensuality, slightly stagy, theatric feel, a certain arrogant affectation and the stylized old-fashioned glamor paired with very modern, very urban sophistication - these are the characteristics of Ford's work to which I invariably respond and with which I can, to an extent, identify. I love the unapologetically luxurious feel of his designs, the striking, at times shocking but never tasteless eroticism of his styling. I adored Ford's first scent, the very glamorous Black Orchid, and I was excited to get to try the twelve new scents in his Private Blend collection. "Designed with the true fragrance connoisseur in mind", these unisex blends center around "a precious extraction of a single note, such as amber, tobacco, black violet, leather, gardenia, and oud wood". As the press release hastens to note, however, the scents are not one-note compositions, as the "secondary sequences of extraordinary ingredients are wrapped around" the star notes to create "a completely developed and complex eau de parfum. The result is a series of intriguing, sophisticated scents that may enchant or challenge, stimulate or delight." Private Blend is meant as a means of discovery of the fragrances that suit the personality and moods of a wearer who is supposed to eventually "become the curator of their own individualized fragrance collection".

Over the course of this week, I will talk about all twelve scents. I start today with Amber Absolute, Black Violet and Bois Rouge.

Amber Absolute

Tom Ford Beauty call this blend of "the purest form of amber", African incense, labdanum, woods and vanilla a hallmark of the Private Blend collection. This is a complex, opulent rendition of amber; although certainly focusing on the title note, the scent is much more than a basic amber mono-perfume, and as someone who is not particularly fond of amber "soliflores", I very much appreciate the multifaceted quality of this scent. I particularly love the dark and somber incense undertone that poses a striking contrast to the honeyed sweetness of amber and vanilla. Incense here has, to me, a definite "churchy" feel, more specifically, for some reason it makes me think of Orthodox churches with their combination of austere spirit and Byzantine opulence. Incense stays noticeable throughout the development of the scent, only after a couple of hours (this is a very long-lasting fragrance) does it give way to the woods. The woody accord reminds me of the note Lutens uses in his Boisees series, which I know is mostly cedar, but which is so velvety-soft, sweet and warmly balsamic that it always seems to me to be more like sandalwood. Sophisticated, luxurious, chic and at the same time wonderfully comforting, Amber Absolute is a delight. Something tells me that it might become one of the most popular of the Private Blends.

Black Violet

Guerlain's Insolence made me suspect that violets and fruits don't go well together (at least for me), and Black Violet proved that suspicion. With notes of citrus, "pulpy fruit", "black violets", woods and oakmoss, the scent, to me, seems to be focusing on the fruits and woods much more than on violets. It starts with a pleasantly tangy burst of citrus; in a matter of seconds, the sweet, ripe fruity accord (plum? peach? berries of some sort? -hard to tell) begins to unfold. It more or less dominates the composition, overwhelming the violets. It smells sweet and "thick" and indeed does have a sultry, "black" feeling about it. Eventually, woods become more apparent; the woody note here is a little spicy, a tiniest bit powdery, resinous and all in all rather attractive. At this stage, the violet is finally perceptible, but it is not a prominent note by any means. Tom Ford Beauty classify this scent as Floral, but it seems to me to be more along the lines of a woody-oriental composition. When smell-able, the violets appear to be sweet and a little "buttery", and not unlike their creamy-gourmand counterparts in Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste. I love my violets to be either gentle and ethereal or dry and earthy-green, I am not a fan of sweet violet fragrances, not even Lutens' celebrated Bois de Violette, and so perhaps I am simply not able to appreciate Black Violet. It seems to me to be too robust and sweet and lacking a little finesse.

Bois Rouge

Bois Rouge's citrus-herbal-spicy top notes, with their sharp, cold quality set the tone for the rest of the composition, and the tone is decidedly masculine. I like very much the dry patchouli note that becomes apparent on my skin right in the beginning. A forceful, heady jasmine then appears on the scene, and, strange as it sounds in relation to this typically very feminine note, even jasmine here smells masculine. Every note in the composition has a certain bracing, austere quality, an elegant virility of sorts that I can't help but think of as "manly". After the jasmine explosion subsides, I begin to smell cedarwood and sandalwood; the woody accord has a slight cinnamon-like undertone on my skin and an even slighter hint of leather. The spiciness warms up the scent significantly, and vanilla contributes to softening and smoothing the harsh, angular features of the blend. It is a striking, very handsome - in a somewhat severe, jaw-clenched, rugged way - fragrance, and although it is decidedly too masculine for me, it should be breathtaking on a male of the species.

Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances are available at Bergdorf Goodman (not online, it seems), $165.00 for 50ml, $450.00 for 250ml.

Image sources, Vanity Fair, Tom Ford Beauty.



Blogger Unknown said...

Awesome! The more I test these Tom Fords, the more I end up liking them. Amber Absolute is indeed churchy, the incense undertone is quite prominent on my skin, and there's also that waxy note, like the church candles. Black Violet is indeed more fruity than black floral.

11:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I ranked the 12 scents in my mind :-) Amber is 4th, Black Violet is 11th :-) You know which one is 1st, but which one is last? :-) And which one is your favorite?

11:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

So far, Noir de Noir is rocking my world big time. Other favorites are Oud Wood, Tobacco Vanille, and Amber Absolute. Your last one is, um, Neroli?

12:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Tobacco Vanille is so gorgeous! Nope, Neroli is not last at all :-) What's your least favorite?

12:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't care much for Japon Noir, and I'm still trying to decide what I think of the Breches. Hmm... what is your last one? How about the Patchouli?

12:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Yep, that's the one, the Patch. :-) Breches is very interesting. Japon is OK.

12:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful reviews, but you were mean to Black Violet, and I really have learned to love that one, and it took four tries at it. Bois Rouge I like, even when I thought I wouldn't. Amber Absolute is truly wonderful,and I don't care for amber prominent scents most of the time.

Tom has surprisingly done pretty well. My least fave so far is the Velvet Gardenia (sorry!) and my most favorite is... I still don't know!

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Trina said...

Ack! I *literally* salivated, reading your Amber Absolute review. I have a hard time imagining that one NOT working on me. Please make the IRS send my tax refund *now*!!!

2:30 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colombina, I very much like your new design (I'm a big fan of black...) and also share your enthusiasm about Tom Ford (or rather his work).
Because of the above I'm really curious about your review to Noir de noir...

3:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fingers are firmly pplugged into my ears, as though I read with them. Huh. Unsurprisingly, it ain't working for this Angloboy. I think I might need samples. Nyargh!

5:29 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can't wait to try them - Tom Ford is always the epitome of chic!
love the new look of your site, by the way...:)

6:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Sorry about Black Orchid. :-) So you didn't like Velvet Gardenia, eh? I agree that TF has done very well with this. Even those I didn't like I still thought were objectively very well and imaginatively done.

7:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think Amber will be the more universally liked one, perhaps along with Tobacco Vanille, which I am sure you will love too! :-) I loved that one even more than Amber.

7:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Lady Jane,
Thank you! It feels strange, like not my site at all :-) But it's only for one week.
Noir de Noir review is coming up on Wednesday.

7:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I have two words specifically for you: Bois Rouge. I think you will love it.

7:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you very much! I just hope it isn't hard to read the white text. :-)

7:19 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Why, why must Tom do this to me?? Haven't I always been nice to him on the boards when everyone else was trashing him? Didn't I have a picture of him up as my honorary DH (w/ apologies to real one)? I went from thinking I'd only need decants of one or two to gloomily planning for FBs of near half.
Love the TF template! :-)

8:10 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

I kinda liked that Black Violet. To me it's got a big ol' dose of @sscrack similar to the base in Black Orchid. I thought the Purple Patch was nasty. Okay, sprinting upstairs now to try the Amber Ab, which I'd punted down my to-try list, sounds like my type of thing...

8:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I behave towards him in the same respectful manner, haven't had a photo in my account yet, but it's a matter of time...and this is what I get in return. I need 3 bottles. For starters.

8:13 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I don't get any @sscrack in BV, if I did, I probably would have liked it better :-) Which of them did you like the most?

8:14 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Love the look and the review! Love the Amber as well. It's probably 3rd or 4rh on my list (though I didn't really rank them). One and two are Moss Breches and Oud Wood (I think that's the order, though they change a bit, according to my mood). Tobacco Vanille is another favorite. I haven't yet tried the Patch b/c I have heard nothing good about it.

BV is too sweet for me. I liked Bois Rouge, but it didn't move me. I will try it on DH soon!

8:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

But what about Tuscan Leather? I personally loved it, it's probably 2 or 3 on my list :-) Here is something good about Purple's, um, very unusual. :-)

8:37 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Oh, yeah, the Tuscan Leather. I liked that one, too, but on first try, it came out somewhat sweet on me. I need to try it again. Will do so in time for your review:)

9:03 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

J -- sweet on the tuscan leather? It felt a little rough on me on one wearing. The first wearing, I thought it was way smooth. Second wearing, not so much. I'm going to try again and hope that Tom hasn't made Perfume Mood Rings that change every time you put them on. :(

9:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Sweet leather, definitely. Unusual. I liked that.

9:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I do find it invariably sweet (though not overly so), but not "smooth". It is rough and sweet. I like that combo. :-)

9:19 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Oh, lord. I will try it again, but I can see I am doomed:) I have promised myself that I will NOT buy another bottle right now (already have 2 of these). I have talked myself out of the Amber on the grounds that it would be better in the Fall. So regardless of my ultimate opinion on the TL, it will just have to WAIT--or be bought as a(ssssssh) decant or split.:)

9:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


Decant? *gasp* They are evil, bad, illegal, unlawful things. Tsk tsk tsk :-)))))

I came to the conclusion that I need 3 bottles for sure, and 1 of them as soon as possible. Tuscan Leather is one of them. The most urgent one is Velver Gardenia *swoon*

9:27 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too found Amber Absolute to be a breathtaking, incensey amber. I would love it much more if it were not so expensive. I also liked Bois Rouge, but found it, like you, to be too masculine for me. All in all, the TF Private Blends are well done, but I object to the price point.

9:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I object too! Hrmph. :-)

9:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Oh, the Bois Rouge sounds like a must-try! Actually, they all do... and I will get the sample set as soon as I have enough money on my Paypal account... Can't wait to try them! (Although I can wait with the Black Violet, I think)

10:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Bois Rouge is a must-try for sure, and so is Tuscan Leather. Oud Wood is quite leathery on me too.

11:05 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I am trying very hard to ignore these and you are not helping at all. Didn't see these at Neimans or Barneys this weekend, so I may need, dare I type it? DECANTS!!

That's right, Tom! And there's nothing you can do to stop me! You can tie me up and.. hmmm... Think I'l just stop right there.

11:38 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I live the look as well.

11:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Naughty boy :-)
I want 3 bottles and at least 6 decants. Oh woe is me.

11:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!

11:43 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I have a feeling I am going to escape the Tom Ford collection with my wallet intact, LOL...have only smelled 4 of them, and only on blotters at that, but was not impressed. Signed, EFT :-)

12:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I can honestly say that I can't think of many of them that would be "you", except maybe for Neroli Portofino.

12:42 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first got to the site, I thought it was all black out of a show of mourning for the eBay decant shops. :-( But
then I caught on that it's because of Tom Ford's Noir theme.

So, Marina, which Ford is your favorite??? (Please don't say Mustang.) I haven't tried any of them, though Amber Absolute sounds way too much like my sort of thing. How does it compare in character with our beloved Ambre Russe?

1:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Well, that too :-) PST is in glamorous mourning :-)
My favorite is Velvet Gardenia.
I'd say Amber Absolute is much less heavy, sweet and ornamented than Ambre Russe. It is very nice, truly.

1:57 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the new, customized look of PST, M :-D! also love the slightly medicinal, or apothecary (even better, it feels strangely familiar ;)) look of TF Private Blends bottles. as for the juices, I would love to try at least some of them, but I must admit they're not the highest on my priority list. looking forward to following reviews though...

3:39 PM EDT  
Blogger benvenuta said...

Amber Absolute sounds gorgeous. I hope I`ll be able to sample those scents in May in Zurich.

I`m a bit overwhelmed with Tom Ford everywhere these days - goodness, I am interested in his scents, but I can`t stand his public persona and seeing his smug face everywhere on blogs last week made my skin crawl. I hope you don`t mind if I turn off images in my browser for the rest of this week. (Altough the image I hate most was already posted - the Vanity Fair cover)

5:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I do love those bottles too. You should try Velvet Gardenia, I think you 'll like it.

5:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

There won't be any more images of TF this week, I promise :-) I do like the way he looks though, very handsome :-)

5:09 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

I haven't actually tried that many of them yet! I've been playing catch-up with some of the PGs (slinks off)

8:27 PM EDT  
Blogger BCas said...

Wonderful description about Tom Ford's violetes, but I love the honey of these violet . Gorgeous. Kiss
Elisabeth by

4:58 PM EST  

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