Some time ago I was sitting around contemplating. Something or other. And it flashed into my mind out of the blue: We need less Tom Hanks. More Tom Ford.
Of course, I knew little about TF. Just that he was good-looking, sexy in a 70's kinda way, probably gay but posed with nude starlets, and had a really cool style. I don't know what he's like in person, but in pictures and all he seemed to be the kind of persona that just oozed sex. And boldness.
I think he was a designer or something? It was more like he was famous for being an icon. Anyway, then he went into perfumes. Yeah, I never smelled the Amber Nude or any of that. And I became aware of the buzz around his own line, but didn't see much of it.
Well, today I was at Bergdorf (a place I never go) and saw his Private Blend line.
I repeat: God. Damn.
I didn't smell all of them. I first tried Tuscan Leather. I don't know how I can convey this so people will understand, because it's important. This leather is perfect. Perfect. It smells like dry suede, maybe with a woody-smoky drydown. I'm a little unreliable with descriptions right now, because my nose is fatigued. Or maybe priapic or something. But this leather is absolutely spot-on spectacular. This is what Cuiron by Helmut Lang, which was lovely, was supposed to smell like. It doesn't smell at all like the other leather-types I've smelled; meaning, I don't have to concentrate to get the leather. I don't have to wait for an epiphany, like with Cuir de Russie. It's much more leather than Bel Ami (but Bel Ami is its own animal, and very beautiful in its own right.) (Kelly Calèche--this is not a leather scent. I know everyone goes on about how it smells like a leather bag, but I think it's a floral-vegetal scent with some leather thrown in. Pleasant in its way, but not a leather.) This gives it to you straight-up: dry suede woody leather, not moist or oily or rubbery, not too smoky. Nothing too distracting in it. It's absolutely flawless. (And this after an unsuccessful search for Lancôme's Cuir (which I now find is called Cuir de Lancôme?)--a cologne I can't imagine ever finding in the States, since the name is pronounced [queer], unless you go all French on it with the breathy, long e and the soft r, and that sounds pretentious. When Cuiron was out, someone I know who worked at Bloomingdales said they pronounced it "seer-on." I don't think that's because they didn't know how to say it; I think it was so it would sell to American men who would, ridiculously, be turned off by a name that is pronounced "queer on!").
Then, of course, I smelled Tobacco Vanille. Hundreds of years ago this cologne would be seen as a reason to believe in a Deity. It's perfect. Just perfect. And here I thought Five au Clock au Gingembre was the perfect tobacco scent. Oh no. This is mind-boggling. To get an idea of its scent, imagine plunging your nose into a bag of fresh pipe tobacco that has had too many flavor chemicals added to it. It's just impossibly beautiful and rich: that cherry-like topnote that's in some tobacco blends (which is probably more accurately described as a cherry-almond, but I got rich cherries), but it stays rich with a bombastic pipe tobacco accord that is everything you want from one: sweet, cocoa-like, rich, herbal.... This is how the site (which you may need a cold shower or some hand lotion to look at--I love you, Tom Ford) describes it:
A modern take on an old world men’s club. A smooth Oriental, TOBACCO VANILLE opens immediately with opulent essences of Tobacco Leaf and aromatic spice notes. The heart unfolds with creamy Tonka Bean, Tobacco Flower, Vanilla and Cocoa, and finishes with A Dry Fruit Accord, enriched with Sweet Wood Sap.Yes, I get tobacco leaf and dried fruit notes. I'm sure there's a cocoa and a tonka accord in there (can you do a tabac without a tonka/coumarin note)? I'm wondering what it means by "dry fruit accord"--I think I remember reading in The Secret of Scent that damascones can have a dried-fruit smell, one which was described as smelling like those women's clothing catalogues that come out in autumn, with all the orange sweaters and the browns and ecrus and slightly desaturated reds. I'd love for a perfumer to take me through this scent and tell me what goes where and what creates this and how this modifies that.....
The thing I find a bit strange about the scent is that it's called Tobacco Vanille. Why the Vanille? Hasn't tobacco been flavored for years with vanillic and tonka like chemicals? Flavored tobacco implies something vanillic. If I'm not mistaken, tobacco was flavored with coumarin for years. And there's some cologne at Barneys, some Italian name, that makes one called Tabacco, and it might as well be called Tonka, cuz it's heavy on the coumarin note, which smells fucking fantastic. I wish you could perfume shop by entering into a database what you really like---hay, beeswax, tabac, coumarins, helychrysium--and get a report of scents that allegedly contain those notes, scents that smelly strongly of those notes, and scents that incorporate those notes. Or whatever. You can sort of try that with some sites, but it's never worked out perfectly in my experience. You can't do that in a store, because if you say, "I want something coumarinic," no one will know what that means. Of course, I'm being a bit highfalutin when I say that, because I can't say that I've smelled pure coumarin. I've smelled pure tonka absolute, raw tonka beans, hay-type reconstructions, etc. but not pure coumarin. But I feel like I have enough knowledge of the type of note it represents that I can at least name-drop it.
In short, this is the richest, most nearly perfect tabac scent I've EVER come across. Better than Five o Clock au Gingembre, better than Tabacco, better than Havana, better than Tabac Blond if that even counts (I smelled that at the Caron counter, along with Bellogdia. TB=too pricey for what I'd get. Bellogdia=loved it cux I love carnation notes, but then I realized it smells EXACTLY like a $2 carnation oil I bought once. So why not just wear that for carnation? Or L'Air du Temps, if you want something really powdery? I figured I could probably make a carnation scent rather than buy that. I bet I could eventually make something similar to Tuscan Leather, however, now that I'm getting somewhat familiar with leather notes and bases; don't know that I could achieve it's beauty, though, but at least I could get a dry leather note until I could afford to buy the Tom Ford version.)
Those two are my favorites. A few others I tried at the Tom Ford counter: Moss Breches. Fucking GORGEOUS moss. Nerolo Portofino: orange blossom accord. I approve. I judge neroli things harshly, because I remember being driven through blooming orange groves on the way to middle school, so I know I've smelled real orange blossoms in bloom. Of course, I can't remember the exact scent, but I know that neroli oil doesn't smell like it, and neither has any reconstruction I've ever come across. But that's what perfumery's about: it's usually not about re-creating nature, but about interpreting something. A perfume isn't a photograph; it's more like a painting, sometimes cubist, sometimes watercolor, sometimes uninteresting, sometimes depthless. I liked the Neroli Portofino; I found it pleasant. But I wasn't in the mood for a neroli, so I didn't really look much at it. I didn't smell the Oud or the Gardenia--I would like to. Two others I smelled: White Suede, which I didn't stay with but liked the topnote. It reminded me of this very almond (perhaps I should say benzaldehydic) fragrance oil I got one Christmas. I think what the fragrance oil was going for was a sweet, snowy almond scent with traces of powdery vanilla and possibly some lemon. I guess it was either to evoke thoughts of cookies or snow, I'm not exactly sure. The almond thing does come along in xmas home fragrances every now and then, though. I also smelled Musk Pure, because I think it was one that I'd read a rave review about. I expected it to be creamy, skin-like, oily and a bit gamey. Instead it just smelled like musks. Meaning, it had that fuzzy/powdery/velvety smell familiar to stuff like detergents, soaps, musk oils from the healthfood store and well, you know. Musks are everywhere. I guess this was just a blend of musks. I was hoping for something a bit shocking, like the "MUSK!" that you think the original material smelled like. As in, something animal, gamey, dirty, but also smooth and warm. Nowadays, however, musk seemingly has come to mean an odorant that is a very large molecule. Or perhaps a large molecule that's not woody-ambery.
Anyway, after looking at the Tom Ford scents I felt something I'd not felt while perfume-sniffing before. I thought to myself, "I don't need to smell anything else. These two scents are the be-all and the end-all. These are the only ones I want." One day I may get them too, which is a testament to how good they are, because I can't say that for my other great scent loves, that is, Cuir de Russie, Five o Clock au Gingembre, and Carnal Flower ($300) and Musc Ravageur from the Frederic Malle line. (Ooh! And since I mentioned that line, and I've blogged about Cashmeran and Dan Tes Bras before: I smelled Alien the other day, which allegedly also has a slew of Cashmeran in it. Maybe it's a cognitive thing, but I really, really smelled the Cashmeran. And once again, I didn't like it.)
OK, so that's all I've got for Tom Ford right now. Tom, if you're reading this, thank you. If you'd like to send me these scents, I would be eternally grateful. If you'd like to give me them in person and hang out and teach me how to be cool, that would be even better.