Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather

next-tuscany-leather-sofaAh, leather. I am late to the leather bandwagon, and am still blaming Chanel Cuir de Russie for that.  (I did have something of a revelation with regards to CdR recently,  in that one afternoon I tried the same masochistic retest that I periodically attempt, and CdR did NOT smell like our cattle working pens. Instead, it was smooth leather, iris and a very buttery ylang, really lovely. However, the next day? Back to cattle pens. And the parfum? CATTLE PENS. I can’t win for losin’, as they say.)

But the leather scents that I like, I really like.  I adore Cuir de Lancome, which smells like the inside of my mother’s good leather purse, ca. 1975. I have swoony love for Balmain Jolie Madame in the parfum, which is like wearing a kick-butt pair of leather combat boots and carrying an enormous bouquet of violets, complete with the leaves and maybe one gardenia in the center (you only need one gardenia to be able to smell it).  Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, which I like to call “Odd Footstool” because it makes me laugh, is a delightful mix of leather followed by caramelly amber. Yum.

tuscan leatherTuscan Leather, from Tom Ford’s pricey Private Blend line, was recommended to me as a straight-up leather scent, and I have to say that it does smell like a leather sofa to me – soft, polished, comfortable.  The notes, according to Fragrantica, are saffron, raspberry, thyme, olibanum (frankincense), jasmine, leather, suede, amber and woody notes.  The scent does actually carry on with leather all the way through, unlike some other leather fragrances, which have a leather stage but don’t seem to stay there. Instead, Tuscan Leather is pretty literal. I do not smell raspberry in here, though other people seem to catch it. It is a little on the sweet side, especially compared to the ferocity of the green-leather classic Bandit, but I rather like that TL has the feeling of a cozy nook rather than a rawhide whip. There is a creaminess to it, which I’m attributing to the saffron because that note seems to offer a creamy effect in other scents with saffron.  I do smell a bit of incense, which melds with the woody notes toward the base, and as the fragrance goes on, more and more amber.  It never winds up as ambery-sweet as Cuir Ottoman, though, and the general effect is of a men’s club, with multiple leather sofas and a vague whiskey-and-pipe-tobacco hint.

A friend of mine shudders when she smells this, insisting that it reminds her of cocaine. I don’t have any reference for that in my personal life, so I’m at a loss. Sure, it may actually smell like sniffery-jollies in a 1980s nightclub, but I would never ever know.

Tuscan Leather is on the masculine side, and it’s unusual for me to thoroughly enjoy wearing a fragrance geared toward men*, but this one I do.  Sillage is moderate and longevity average; I typically get 3-6 hours of wear from an eau de parfum, and I get about five hours’ worth out of TL. Toward the end it becomes quite sweet and ambery, having finally left behind the leather and the woody-incense notes, but I don’t mind so much.

It’s ridiculously expensive at $225 for 50ml, or $280 for 100ml, at major retailers such as Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcus, just like the rest of the Private Blend line, so I’m not going to buy any, but it is wonderful, and I would love to smell it on a man.

(*I have notoriously girlified taste.  I can usually wear unisex fragrances easily but I simply cannot manage anything even vaguely fougere, or anything with a shaving-cream angle.  It’s like wearing cotton Y-front briefs. Just NO.)

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Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012

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Vintage Rochas Femme parfum de toilette – I have tried the reformulated Femme from the 2000s and enjoyed it. Yes, even that cuminy stuff some people say smells like B.O.? Just smells like spice-cabinet, Mexican-food cumin to me. I like it. I like it with the peachy-plummy stuff and the ambery-woodsy stuff. So I figured I’d do great with vintage Femme.

Uhhh, nope. Big FAIL. Stewed MESS. Remember Kevin’s hilarious post on NST reviewing Serge Noire (which, for the record, I like)? Well, that’s how this vintage Femme comes across to me: a big ol’ witches’ brew of way-past-ripe. Stinky, even.

Weird, huh? I mean, I’m perfectly used to vintage perfumes, how dense they can sometimes be, and how patient you have to be to let them settle in and get comfortable and bloom on your skin. And sometimes they might look just fine in the bottle, and still be age-damaged. However, when that happens and age has damaged a perfume, there’s usually a sense that something smells wrong, or there’s a “hole” in what you’re smelling, or a fadedness, a sense of something missing. This bottle has none of that. Nothing about it seems age-damaged: no nail-polish, no maple syrup, no holes or fadings or erasures, no sense that it’s moldered. No mustiness.

It’s just doing the same sort of thing that fruity chypres usually do on my skin: curdle. The comment that people usually make about older Femme is that it smells like warm skin. (Sometimes they say it smells like post-coital skin.) But this is more like a vat of stewed fruit that has rotted and gone garbagey. There is just something about fruit + oakmoss that goes really horrid on me, I confess. I did okay with that ONE 1990s Mitsouko parfum, but the fruity-chypre genre really disturbs me in general.

I’ve already found a new home for this little bottle of vintage Femme, and I hope both the bottle and its new owner will be very happy.

Esteban Classic Chypre – This one started off really lovely, a bergamotty rose-jasmine accord made serious with oakmoss and woods and patchouli, very classic, very pretty. Eventually it settled into something that smelled most horrifyingly of Calvin Klein Obsession, which I hate almost as much as I hate Opium and Youth Dew. I did not scrub it. But I wanted to.

Accord Parfait Chypre (Bergamot & Black Tea) – what can I say? The bergamot’s pretty obvious, and so is the black tea. Did I ever mention that I love the smell of brewed black tea? Or black tea leaves, for that matter. I do. I make a gallon of sweet iced tea every other day (The CEO mainlines the stuff, and I might have a glass every couple of days myself), so I know what plain black tea smells like, and I like it. This smells delightfully like strong, unsweetened black tea… for about twenty minutes. Then it’s gone, leaving behind a faintly mossy-woody drydown. Honestly, I think this fragrance is more like a strongish tea cologne. Might be truly wonderful in summer heat.

Accord Parfait Boisé (Heliotrope & Santal) – well, this is very pleasant. It’s built along the same woody-vanilla lines as Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille and Smell Bent One, but instead of the dark roasted effect of UBV or the chai-tea spices of One, it has a delicious lacing of heliotrope (and not the Play-doh variety), and I think I’m also getting a hint of cedar and a sprinkling of pink pepper too. This was another Surrender to Chance sample, and the brand’s perfumes are apparently not sold in the US – apparently this is another set of niche perfumes that are not too complex but very attractive anyway, probably due to some a) decent raw materials and b) restraint.

Accord Parfait Famille Fleurie (Mirabelle & Gardenia)– again, what an attractive fragrance this is. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing strikingly unusual… just pretty. It is, to be honest, like a little piece of Mary Greenwell Plum or the top/heart of Juicy Couture parfum, without the different drydowns of those fragrances (modern chypre or caramel wood, respectively). There may be a very quiet woody-musk base in Famille Fleurie which serves to extend the pretty floral heart, in which I smell tuberose, jasmine and a hint of rose. It doesn’t seem particularly gardenia-specific, lacking the overripe and heady aspects of the flower, but most “gardenia” fragrances do, anyway. The fruit is tangy and unsweetened but quite present. Really nice

Tom Ford Jardin Noir Ombre de Hyacinth – on the opening, I’m reminded of Bas de Soie and Penhaligon’s Bluebell, only less strident. There’s a really nice quality to it that makes me think of dirt in spring, damp and just waiting to start growing stuff. Metallic dirt, does that explain anything? They could have called it “Silver Shadow,” that would have been appropriate.

After awhile, it begins to smell a little bit like Prada Infusion d’Iris, without that silky-powdery musk thing that Id’I does so well. After that, it goes thin and slitty-eyed. Having gotten me into a mood calling for “green and iris,” it got all stabby, so I went and covered it up with a goodly spritz of Jacomo Silences parfum de toilette, which was completely delightful.

You should just go buy Silences instead. Or wait for the revamped version, Silences eau de parfum sublime, instead – Chaya Ruchama mentioned the EdP Sublime on her Facebook page, commenting that the new one is actually nice and she might even call it full-bottle-worthy. (I mean, it isn’t as if Tom Ford really needs my cash to fund his lifestyle.)

Vintage Caron Bellodgia parfum de cologne – oh, this is niiiiiiice. Very nice. After a ten-minute soapy stage, it’s all beautiful carnation floral. I get the jasmine and rose in here, too, but carnation is center stage. So pretty. (Thanks, Shelley!!) The downside to wearing this is the recognition that Caron has Totally Screwed This One Up. I suppose all perfume carnations are doomed at this point, due to IFRA restrictions on eugenol, but I for one am kinda ticked off about it. Carnation fans are all in mourning.

Malmaison! The original Metallica (stupid name anyway)! Old-school Old Spice! Bellodgia! All gone or messed with. Grrrr. I do still have Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s really beautiful Oeillets Rouges. And Fragonard’s pretty-pretty Billet Doux was available on the website last time I looked. (Why do I not have a bottle of that? I’d probably wear the heck out of it.)

But do not even talk to me about Vitriol d’Oeillet. I think that’s a good fragrance, but it doesn’t smell much like real carnations, ergo I am Not That Interested.

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Tuesday Roundup Fragrance Mini-Reviews, March 20, 2012

Here is the collection of mini-reviews for this week; I also wore a couple of new things that deserve their own full reviews, so come back on Friday for those.

Tiffany EdP – I snagged a 3ml carded mini of this off ebay, just to see what it was like.  I’ve seen the mini bottles go for prices higher than you’d think – people must have really liked this, though I don’t ever remember smelling it before.  My immediate thought is, Wow, somebody ripped off Karl Lagerfeld Chloe!  There’s a smidge of aldehydes, and a fruity note, and some nice white flowers.  I’m not going to swear that all the floral notes are natural, but enough of them are that it smells like flowers instead of floor cleaner (also, I know that this sample is 1990s).  It’s lovely.  It also reminds me in a small way of Ines de la Fressange, in its exuberant peachy-floral prettiness.  Tiffany has a much less forceful base than Chloe; it appears to be a nice sandalwoody thing instead of the mossy kitchen-sink drydown of Chloe.  It’s very attractive and very feminine.

Tom Ford Black Violet – I was all set to hate this.  I mean, Luca Turin’s review in Perfumes: The Guide was enticing mostly because it claims that Black Violet “tells a story.”  I have been since my early childhood a total sucker for a story, and I notice that all my most favoritest perfumes tell me stories, or take me somewhere, and I always want more of that.  But the descriptions I read on Fragrantica and Basenotes did nothing to encourage me to try it.  I blame Tarleisio (again. Seriously, that woman could write her way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth if necessary) of The Alembicated Genie and her wonderful review.  I like the woody violet top, I like the woody middle, I like the sensation of darkness that I really do get from this scent.  It does head almost into Forbidden Youth Dew territory, so wearing Black Violet is a little like dressing up Goth for me – i.e., something I would never really do.  But it’s interesting.  If I had a full bottle, it would probably grow on me.  I don’t, and won’t: it’s really pricey. I don’t love it, but I’m glad it exists.

Jennifer Aniston – okay, full disclosure: I kinda liked Jen on Friends.  I kinda liked Friends.  Did it make me want to look/be/dress/cut my hair like Jen? Nope.  And I was pretty snarked when this fragrance was being released and the ex-Mrs. Brad Pitt said that it wouldn’t smell like other perfumes which were too loud and inappropriate (Anais Anais, boo hiss, who in the world would wear something so perfumey?), it would be soft and smell clean… yeah, Jen, ’cause your perfume would be the only perfume in the world ever to smell clean… ahem.  (You can read my at-the-time snark here.) In any case, this is fairly nice.  I mean, it does smell cheap to me.  If there is real jasmine in the mix, it’s in ppm levels.  But it is not the non-perfume perfume I was dreading, and overall, up top it smells like a dab of Kai after you take a shower, followed by a nice beachy skin scent that is probably made up primarily of whatever material is known as “solar musk.”  Not awful at all, and if this were sold at Walgreen’s at under $40 a bottle, I’d recommend it.  It isn’t, so I won’t.

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Discontinued Saints

I blame Left Coast Nose for this one.  She mentioned a scent she liked in a comment, and then helpfully pointed out that it’s discontinued.  Which got me to thinking… how much of the stuff I actually own and wear is no longer being produced and sold at retail?  A bunch of it, that’s how much.   Edit:  I should explain, I bought nearly all of the following at online discounters, where most of them are indeed still available at the time of writing.  Exception Shalimar Light, which is getting scarce as alligator feathers.

I had titled this post “Love’s Retail Lost,” and then when I went looking for a photo to accompany it, I found this:

which, although not precisely on topic, was too good not to share.

I checked my Excel file, where I keep notes on what I’ve tested, what I’d like to test, and what I’ve bought, to find out.  To be fair, I excluded my (extensive) collection of vintage miniatures, which I bought primarily because they were vintage/discontinued/hard-to-find.

Mariella Burani edt.  I think Mariella Burani is still making some kind of fragrance, but the eponymous one is no longer produced.  When you find it at the discounters, it’s likely to be very cheap because stocks have been dumped.  This does not reflect its quality.

YSL Paris Pont des Amours Printemps Edition 2008   Again, another LE.  I can’t really complain about limited editions not sticking around, however much I’d like to (I’m still mourning over the L’Artisan Jacinthe de Bois I never got to smell).

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur   I have seen Black Orchid recently in a retail store, but not VdF, and I can’t find an online listing for it at a retail establishment. 

Balenciaga Rumba.  Another “let’s just dump it at cost” scent because it’s been discontinued and there’s tons of old stock sitting around.  It’s a very 80’s style fragrance, big and rich and vampy, and that is quite unfashionable these days.

Donna Karan Gold.  Recently discontinued, along with a slew of other Karans.  I am saddened to report that they are still making the (hideous, IMO) Be Delicious and all its sugary little flankers.

This one’s in question: I can’t find Givenchy Organza Indecence, whether the original or the Les Mythiques version, anywhere.  But March says in her comments to me on this post she was told it’s not discontinued, just really hard to find.  Givenchy should get its act together – this one was a both a big seller and hugely popular among perfumistas.

L’Arte di Gucci.  It doesn’t surprise me that this one’s kaput, to be honest.  It’s too… too big, too lush, too animalic, too shrieking, too everything  for current tastes.  (Except marshmallowy and fruity.  It’s not fruit-flavored-candy enough for current tastes.  And now I’ll stop snarling about the fruity gourmand fad, at least for now.   I admit to liking Hanae Mori.)

Stetson Rich Suede, which was probably an LE to begin with.  Oh, well.

Ines de la Fressange 1999, the Calice Becker fruity floral  – there’s a newer version in a tall bottle with gold leaves, a gourmandish thing by Alberto Morillas, but I think it too has been discontinued.  I know I snark about fruity florals from time to time, but this one is done just right: light-hearted, tangy, a bellini in a bottle.

Okay, okay, fine, I’ll cop to this one: Victoria’s Secret Pink.   This would be the original Pink, not Pink Beach or Pink Angel or Pink Panties or whatever the heck those ever-sluttier Victoria’s Secret execs are coming up with these days, an airy green peony-freesia floral that is still pleasant to me, and which I bought another mini of this past year, to replace the old one that was getting really low.  My excuse? The CEO likes it.

Victoria’s Secret Victoria.   The very first fragrance VS released, waaaay back in the… late 80’s, I think, a beautiful floral chypre that nonetheless has a difficult opening due to age.  I’ve now smelled three different bottles of this, and all three are off in the topnotes – decayed bergamot, or something.  I never owned this when it was new – I couldn’t afford it.  But it’s lovely, when the weird top burns off.  VS used to carry really beautiful, elegant nightwear – I had a gorgeous teal satin spaghetti-strap nightie that I wore for years – heavy satin, with four-inch-deep soft ivory lace.  Victoria smells like that thing felt – elegant, luxurious, pretty.  

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet.  I hereby curse Clive Christian to live, without diamonds and Lexuses and cash, sleeping in a tent and eating local food, in a miserably poor place for three months.   Perhaps he’d give up this ludicrous “most expensive perfume in the world” nonsense, and all the teddibly posh trappings of his current perfume business, which just annoys the %#** out of me. 

Cuir de Lancome.  A perfume with brains and beauty and a backbone?  Of course it’s discontinued, because no one under the age of 21 bought it.  Look, I’m not being ageist.  I think young women should wear what they like, even if I happen to find the popular fruity-sweet style ditzy and unpleasant.  It just burns my shorts that Lancome should decide not to continue producing a beautiful scent and selling it to “mature women” because they’d rather concentrate their efforts on selling things like Miracle So Magic and Tresor In Love.  Which I doubt very much will sell better than Cuir – they’ll just sell to the right demographic.

Shalimar Light.   News Flash: Eau de Shalimar is not an acceptable substitute.  Whose bright idea was it to bottle the smell of lemon baby wipes?

Guerlain Terracotta Voile d’Ete.  This may have been intended as limited edition as well, but I can’t find anything that says so definitively.  (Note to self: Aha!  This is what Agent Provocateur Strip was reminding me of!  Not an exact match, of course – this is spicier – but similar in the floral-amber category.)

I’m not even including reformulated things like Ralph Lauren Lauren – the reformulation of that one was like taking Sigourney Weaver and turning her into, oh, Blake Lively* – and Kenzo Parfum d’Ete – which has been changed into a different, but still pleasant, scent.  (*Please don’t hate on me for the Blake Lively comment.  Blake’s fine as she is, but in my opinion, Sigourney is Too Much Woman to be turned into someone young, blonde, and… hmm, how to say it?  Naive.  Blake should aspire to be Sigourney, not the other way round.  RL Lauren used to be kind, interesting, beautiful, classic and strong.  Now it’s merely pretty. )

So if I count up the discontinued scents, ignoring the reformulateds and the vintages, that’s, like… (frantic scrambling to get the calculator) a whopping 28.6% of my full bottle wardrobe.  This is a little scary.  You think so?  On the other hand, it might tie in to the fact that I am a Total Sucker for stories of lost love.  This is probably even more scary when you consider that I bought all of these bottles knowing that these fragrances had been discontinued.

Anybody else as crazy as me?

Image is I’d rather be a perfect sinner by theilr at flickr.com.

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Tuberose Series Part 1: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur

First up, a Stealth Tuberose – betcha didn’t know it was one! Unless you’ve worn it, of course, upon which the tuberose is like the face of an old friend, at an event where you never expected to see her.

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur eau de toilette
Date released: 2007                        
Perfumer: David Apel
Sample provenance: my 1-oz bottle, bought on ebay from individual seller, not perfume distributor

Subcategory: Gentle white floral with tuberose

If you smelled the original Black Orchid edp, and you’re thinking that Voile de Fleur is simply the edt version, you’re mistaken. The listed notes for each only overlap a little, and the proportions are different, so that each fragrance has a different focus. BO is, well, weird – a plum-cucumber-dirt-cocoa thing, with a touch of Dior Poison and another of Youth Dew. It’s intriguing but not wearable, in my opinion. A check of the reviews on basenotes.net and fragrantica.com reveals that there are very few people that liked both BO and VdF; most commenters loved one and not the other. (Some people hated both.)

Voile de Fleur shares the plum and the white flowers, and the woody base, of BO, but it has a whole different take on the matter: it’s pretty.

Here’s Tania Sanchez’ review from PTG:
           **** Fracas gardenia. A smiling, bonny tuberose halfway between Fracas and Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, fresh and lovely with a sleepy languor, simply beautiful in all its parts.

I think she’s right on the number of stars – and right on its being primarily tuberose, a lovely natural one blended with ylang and lily – but a little optimistic on the description of the feel. I never get “sleepy languor.” I get “edgy white florals.” In fact, at times I feel a little worried that VdF is going to whip off her stiletto pump and nail me in the eye. For what? Just because.

(Digression: Ever see “Single White Female”, with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the crazy copycat roomie? Scared me for weeks. Admittedly I have low tolerance for Scary Movies, but I like to think that’s because I have sufficient imagination to feel the effects keenly. Or I could just be a chicken, there’s that possibility.)

Here are the notes for VdF:
Black truffle, ylang-ylang, bergamot, blackcurrant, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, plum, black pepper, lotuswood, succulent fruit, hot milk, cinnamon, vanilla tears, patchouli, sandalwood, balsam.

No mention of tuberose, did you notice? And how kind of Mr. Ford to specify that the fruit note is “succulent.” The milk’s hot, by the way… Oh, well, I suppose that the tuberose + truffle could be close to gardenia, so I’ll buy that one. And the blackcurrant and plum warranted mentioning on their own, so I’ll stop whining about Tom Ford’s I’m Way Cooler Than Thou-ness now. (Bonus: this one’s in wide distribution, and therefore very affordable. I’m regularly seeing 1oz bottles on eBay for about $20, and 1.7oz bottles at online discounters for $50.)

On my skin, though, VdF is mainly this: plum, white florals, cream, wood, and a mysterious dark thread (leather? balsam?) that winds its way through the scent like vaguely threatening kudzu tendrils. Some days I get more Dark Thread; some days I get more creamy floral pudding; other days it’s all plum followed by white flowers and no wood at all. I never know which face will present itself. I’m not the only one to get darkness out of it, either – see the reviews at PST and Aromascope in the Review Report.

Voile de Fleur has turned out to be a sleeper hit for me. It doesn’t make me swoon or eat my head; I can wear it to work, feel beautiful, and still get my tasks done. There’s enough interesting stuff going on in it besides the tuberose (plum and wood), that I don’t wind up feeling like a 50’s pinup girl with a tropical flower in my hair while trying to calculate the early-pay discount for the truck-repair shop down the street. Perfectly suitable for work. If I apply a little more heavily after dinner, The CEO enjoys snurfling my neck, and that’s pleasurable too.

The Bottom Line (see below for explanations of my eclectic judging criteria):

Quality A-
Grab-scale score 8
Short description Plum tuberose; interesting but doesn’t distract.
Cost $           * Note: this one is out of production, apparently, and unavailable at retail, although you can buy it on ebay and online discounters)
Earns Compliments? Yes
Scent presence Persistent (2 spritzes last 10-12 hours), mild to moderate sillage.
Review Report: Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Now Smell This, Aromascope, Blogdorf Goodman (brief)

(The Bottom Line criteria:
“Quality” refers to how well-made I think the fragrance is. Does it smell natural? (I freely admit that I don’t have any background in chemistry, and at times I may be totally and completely wrong.) Does it flow from one stage to another seamlessly? Are all the stages pleasant, or just the top? Do the notes have synergy and smell good together? Scored on an A-F scale.
“Grab-scale score” simply means, Does the fragrance “grab” me – please me? I’m the only person reviewing, so mine’s the only opinion that matters with this score. I don’t care if Luca Turin or Patty at Perfume Posse loves it, this one’s all about me, me, me. Also, frequently I’ll notice that some really well-made perfume just does nothing for me emotionally, and I don’t want to waste my time with stuff I don’t like.
“Short description” – self-explanatory. Lifted from PTG.
“Cost” is also lifted from PTG, and in fact, I’m using the Turin-Sanchez model for the “standard US retail price for the smallest full-size bottle of the lowest concentration in standard distribution.”  If it’s NOT available at retail price, I’ll let you know where it can be found, and for how much.  I’ll be honest, sometimes it’ll be ebay, because I like vintage. 
$ 1 – 50
$$ 51-100
$$$ 101-200
$$$$ over 201 (yeah, right, like I’m gonna review one that expensive!)
“Earns compliments?” – another self-explanatory criterion. Am I the only one who likes it?
“Scent presence” – how long does it last with my standard two spritzes (one wrist, one base of neck)? How far does it radiate? Do I smell it a lot, or do I have to snort my skin? Can other people smell me beyond my standard 3-foot radius?
“Review Report” – links to other blog reviews I found worth reading.)

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