Tom Ford Private Blend London: Impressions

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The Tom Ford London flagship store on Sloane St.

I’ve had the opportunity to try a few new scents lately and Tom Ford Private Blend London was at the top of my lust list based on the notes. And, okay, lets face it, the exclusivity. Can’t get it anywhere but the new flagship store on Sloane St.? Sign me up!

imagesThe scuttlebutt on the fragrance was that it was Tom Ford’s first coffee scent. The note list also promised cardamom, saffron, incense, jasmine, oud and woods. While all the notes are up my alley, they pretty much had me at coffee. I simply had to know what a Tom Ford Private Blend based on the note of coffee would smell like.

So without further adieu, here’s what it smells like: not coffee.

All the other notes seem to be present and accounted for but coffee, sadly isn’t one of them. It starts very peppery, spicy and complex. The oud and cedar are in the fore from the start. When sprayed lightly, it’s a peppery, spicy (cardamom, cumin) incense and wood scent. Sprayed heavily, it’s very dense like many TF Private Blends can be – dark oud cloaked in spices and smokey incense, and with a sweet almost candied floral heart. It’s unisex, but leans masculine with its dense, woody, smokey darkness. The sweetness at the core allows women in the club, but only the strong, self-assured ones who don’t mind playing with the boys.

Am I disappointed Tom Ford London doesn’t have a prominent coffee note? You bet! But it’s a complex, interesting, sophisticated scent nonetheless that I’m glad to have a decant of. It also has massive longevity and sillage that rivals other powerful Tom Fords like Tobacco Vanille and Amber Absolute.

Will I buy a full bottle? Don’t think so. While it’s a very good scent, the blend seems a bit ‘jagged’ and lacks a certain refinement to my nose. But if you’re in the Sloane Street neighbourhood, it would absolutely be worth having a sniff and checking out the new store (opened at the end of July 2013) while you’re at it. Tom Ford London will be available internationally at the end of January 2014.

Inside Tom Ford's London store.

Inside Tom Ford’s London store.

Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes: Which Ones to Try

On a recent trip to Seattle, I was reminded to sniff out some Olympic Orchids fragrances when a review of Red Cattleyea popped up in my inbox from Australian Perfume Junkies.

imagesNot sure where to track them down in my favourite weekend getaway city, I decided to send an inquiry under the ‘contact’ section of the Olympic Orchids website. To my surprise and delight I got a reply from none other than the perfumer herself, Ellen Covey.

Since the famously hip and curated men’s clothing and niche fragrance store Blackbird had only days earlier closed its doors and left Olympic Orchids without a brick and mortar distributor and testing location, Ellen suggested I come to her studio.

Blackbird, Seattle. Now sadly closed, but still online at www.blackbirdballard.com.

Blackbird, Seattle. Now sadly closed, but still online at http://www.blackbirdballard.com.

Yes, jaw dropped and clapped hands excitedly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be as her studio is too far from the city centre to be practical for automobile-less me, but I certainly enjoyed the idea of it before reality kicked in. We settled instead on the good old-fashioned postal service.

After testing the entire line now, I can say that I’m very impressed. All the fragrances are potent, interesting, have depth, development and good projection. Something I noticed with many of them is that they start off ‘rough’, but change quickly and develop into something interesting and beautiful with a little time. Here are some that I recommend trying.

images-2Ballets Rouges – In a word, stunning. Easily one of my favourite Olympic Orchids creations. In early development, it bears a striking resemblance to Amouage Lyric Woman. Yup. Crazy beautiful creamy rose/ylang chypres, both. They veer from one another (yes I wore them both at the same time to check) at the open and after about an hour, but even then the similarities are there. Lyric Woman is a bit more plush and custardy (my skin amplifies the ylang ylang more than the rose) while the rose comes forward a bit more in Ballets Rouges.  Ellen describes it as a classic chypre with a base of oakmoss, musk, patchouli and labdanum, a floral heart, and citrusy top notes that include aldehydes and bergamot. A must try.

Sonnet XVII – This one reminds me of Chanel 31 Rue Cambon but with an edge. There’s some barnyard dissonance that makes this a little more difficult, or interesting depending on your point of view. It was created in collaboration with Michelyn Camen,  Editor of the wonderful perfume blog, Cafleurebon. Definitely worth a try.

Gujarat – Dark, leathery, boozy but somehow still uplifting. There’s a floral or fruit heart to this that keeps it from being brooding. Very unisex, perhaps even masculine but not in a typical way. Impressive projection. Love.

Olympic Rainforest – Starts off green, sappy and a bit medicinal (tea tree oil?) but a few minutes in develops into a round, plush beauty. If you’re interested in a luxurious green scent, this might just be the ticket.

Olympic Amber – This is a deep, smokey, honeyed, pipe tobacco, Back to Black type amber. As with most of OO scents, it starts off quite different – resinous and dense, with a hint of pine, but develops quickly into the sweet tobacco-y amber that it continues as for quite a while. This was apparently developed as a base for oriental perfumes but Ellen decided it stood well on its own. I concur.

California Chocolate – Wow, orange zest, grapefruit and yuzu all bright and piercing over a bed of fragrant chocolate. If you like chocolate and citrus notes you might as well blind buy this. It’s one of the few OO’s that’s beautiful right from the start. As the citrus dries down, the oily, fragrant pith seems to remain over the chocolate as other notes emerge.  Neroli bridges the gap to patchouli, musk and vanilla in the base. It’s incredible. A must try.

Blackbird is in the old bottle, the ones behind it, the new.

Blackbird is in the old bottle, the ones behind it, the new.

Blackbird – Based on the name and the colour of the juice, one might expect a blackberry-centric frag. And it is, kinda, but the twigs and the leaves of the tree and maybe a few fir branches are thrown into the blender along with. I admit to not loving this one (too much fir?) but I know it has many fans.  It was made especially for the Seattle store of the same name that recently closed (see above) so it’s a collector’s item now. It has great projection and lasting power.

Sweet florals aren’t my thing, but if they’re yours, Red Cattleyea, Javanica and Ossafume are worth a try.

I’ve decided on a bottle of California Chocolate for myself. Ellen has rebottled select fragrances in luxe 30ml bottles that I’m coveting, but of course California Chocolate isn’t one of them. Is it wrong to change my choice for the bottle? Yes, it is. I know it is. I will be a good girl, I promise I will.

Latest Loves and New Discoveries

Dear Scent Diary,

UnknownWhew, it’s been a long few of weeks with work. I find that when things get intense, my perfume habits become the most telltale, revealing more since my perfume choices are born out of a lower ranking on my priority scale than they normally do. What I reach for becomes a quick decision based on a sure thing – the last thing I need is a scrubber or something I’m meh about on a day when I need to be on top of things, or at least not underneath them. So here are the scents that qualify, based on my habits over the last few weeks.

Le Labo Iris 39 – Apparently, it’s what I want to wear when I need to get things done. Iris, fresh damp earth and a bit of soap (in a good way). Love.

Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli – A simple yet beautiful fragrance that I find uplifting and unobtrusive. I reached for it on several occasions, more than once to wear during yoga class of all places.

Il Profumi Chocolat – This has been a new discovery and perfect in moments when I needed a ‘pick me up’ or a distraction when I was stuck for ideas. Incredibly interesting and only mildly reminiscent of chocolate. Woody greenness misted with orchid and chocolate. Masculine but feminine at the same time. Ugh, I love it.

Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance – I’ve taken to spritzing this on clothing I plan on wearing the next day when I need to be creative. The dry-down of this rose patchouli scent is to die for, and apparently inspiring.

Le Labo Rose 31 – Ugh, I need a full bottle of this. My decant is getting scarliy empty after these last few weeks. Loved forgetting what I put on in the morning then being struck by a beautiful spicey, woody rose later in the day and remembering that it’s me. (Update: The husband heeded my hints and bought me a bottle of this as well as Iris 39 for my birthday. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.)

Amouage Lyric Man – I have to admit I don’t love this (my heart is with Lyric Woman). But I do like its fresh, natural, dewy take on rose so I’ve been trying to make my decision to buy a used bottle, right.

Le Labo Labdanum 18 – Yes, it’s been Le Labopolooza around here of late. I found myself spritzing this after a bath at the end of the day for comfort and to celebrate the lack of thinking I’d need to do in the immediate future.

Chanel 31 Rue Cambon – I love the opening of this oh so Chanel fragrance. It’s quite sweet on my skin, powdery, woody and warm. Just when I think it’s quickly disappeared, someone mentions how good I smell.

Carner Barcelona D600 – I only wore this once during all the work craziness but boy did I enjoy it. The iris and (what I perceive as) almond combo had me smiling even when things were going to hell in a hand-basket.

Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay – Its crisp, crunchy, fresh zing was just what I needed on several occasions when I had to make presentations and sound like I know what I’m doing. Love it, and thank goodness for it.

Has anything rung your bell lately?

Must see: BBC Perfume Documentary Series

Dear Scent Diary,

If you haven’t seen it already, this documentary series is nothing short of fascinating. Of course I binged and watched all three parts in one sitting. I don’t necessarily recommend doing that though – one per evening is plenty (each is roughly an hour long). Just click the links and enjoy.

Part One: Something Old, Something New

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 1.00.05 PMPart One covers the venerable house of Guerlain and follows Thierry Wasser as he takes his first steps as head perfumer at the company. We also see behind the scenes as a new Tommy Hilfiger scent is created – from the fragrance, to the bottle design, to the sales floor – and witness how much involvement Tommy really has in the whole process. We see inside Chandler Burr’s approach to scent as well as inside his apartment.

Part Two: Bottling the Memory

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 1.03.57 PMPart Two takes us to Jean Claude Ellena’s dream office in the woods where he talks about his process for creating fragrances, and are a fly on the wall when he presents some new creations to the General Manager of Hermes Perfumes, Catherine Fulconis. We follow some star students at Givaudan and learn about the scent aesthetic at CB I Hate Perfume.

Part Three: The Smell of the Future

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 1.08.56 PMPart Three lets us in on the process of creating a hit scent for Axe and along the way learn oodles of interesting info about fragrance tastes around the world. Did you know that Brazil is the fastest growing market in the world for fragrance? I didn’t. And Roja Dove gives advice to the couple behind Grossmith, the ancient English perfume house set on remaking the Oriental fragrances that once amused Queen Victoria.

Hidden Gems: The Perfumes of Ys Uzac

Dear Scent Diary,

I happened upon the Swiss niche perfume house, Ys Uzac, in late 2011 when I was just starting to compile my ‘perfume houses with good sample programs‘ list. Since they offered generous samples of all their fragrances for a reasonable price, I placed them at the top of my list to try. Finally, after almost two years of other more urgent lemmings getting in the way, and prompted by their very interesting sounding new releases, Immortal Beloved and Satin Doll, I tried the line for the first time.photo-1 copyNow, I’m generally not the gushy or declarative type, but just this once, I’m prepared to go beyond my comfort zone. Ys Uzac, I feel is completely underrated or overlooked or both, and are a must-try niche gem. I very rarely hear them talked about and I just plain don’t get it – all their fragrances are interesting, original, high-quality and generally, smell fantastic. It also doesn’t hurt that their packaging is beautiful and their bottles, chic and modern.

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Vincent Micotti and Vera Yeah, co-creators of Ys Uzac.

The house was founded in September 2011 by husband and wife team Vincent Micotti and Vera Yeoh – he an ex-concert musician (which explains the the musical reference in each perfume’s name) and she a designer (which explains the artful packaging). Vincent himself is the house perfumer and prefers to work with a high percentage of natural raw materials. “It is true that all the fragrances have a very high naturals content, and this is mainly because I appreciate working with naturals very much and try to keep close to a style of aesthetics in perfumery I appreciate. But many molecules that aren’t natural are absolute keys in perfumery, of course.” Unknown-6

Born into an artistic family in Lausanne, Switzerland, he has been fascinated by perfume creation since his teenage years. “To sketch an exquisite wonderland with imagination and creativity is my biggest passion in life.”

In my opinion, all six of the fragrances the house offers are worth sampling, but here is a run down of each of them so you may pick and choose as you wish.

Unknown-1Immortal Beloved –  Easily my favourite of the two new releases and probably my favourite of the entire line. It opens with an incredible booziness contrasted with what feels like a dry leathery note. There’s a sweetness in the background thanks to plum and what I interpret as an orange note, as well as a hint of spiciness thanks to some black pepper. As it dries, a butteriness develops and it enters its most gourmand stage. It’s never completely edible as the dry, leathery opening note takes on a buttery sandalwood character that reminds me of Serge Lutens’ Santal Majuscule. If you like that one, Immortal Beloved will most likely steal your heart. Up close, the now boozy, buttery, woody blend has a rough, prickliness to it, but as it starts to project and waft, the outward impression is of smooth, aromatic cognac and sandalwood. Kill me now and I’ll die happy. This would be considered masculine by many but any woman who likes deep, cognac soaked woody perfumes will love this. It projects extremely well and lasts for seven hours, though it becomes faint at around six.

images-5Satin Doll – Their second new release, Ys Uzac describes it as a ‘modern iris chypre’. On my skin, the open is a somewhat abstract blend of fresh florals contrasted nicely with a dry patchouli base. The fragrance sweetens slightly as it develops and after ten minutes becomes dominated by tuberose and jasmine. The white florals are never heady or rich – instead they’re clean and ‘dispersed’ by orris powder, giving it a light, watery effect overall. In terms of being a chypre, Satin Doll doesn’t have an overabundance of oakmoss or the chypre trademark ‘perfumeiness’ – it’s just very feminine, wearable and lovely.  It stays fairly close to the skin and has excellent lasting power. Satin Doll was recognized as being one of the two best perfumes at Esxence 2013.

Pohdaka – Opens fresh and appealing in a very original way. It’s green and herbal, with mint and shiso leaf (smell the adorning greenery on your plate the next time you have sushi) contrasted with tobacco leaf and leather. It’s fresh, minty, bitter, odd and quite wonderful. Best on a man, I’d say, but one of my favourites nonetheless. Very good lasting power.

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Monodie – Opens with a sweet grapefruit note and ends with a sweet grapefruit note. In between, its blended with plum, freesia, rhubarb and green, green galbanum. Overall, it’s a fresh citrus scent that isn’t tart or crisp. The fruit seemed to mascerate on my skin with the sweetness being softened and rounded by the florals – and there’s something about the intensity of the galbanum note that keeps it  pleasantly strange. Once again, unique and lasts 5 – 6 hours.

images-8Metaboles – Opens green and fresh with tomato leaf, ivy and geranium. There’s a hint of an ambery base when it dries down, giving it the overall impression of a fresh, wearable, green and clean fragrance. Completely unisex and pleasingly unlike other green or clean fragrances. This one had the shortest longevity on my skin.

Lale – Opens with familiar notes but is blended in an unfamiliar way. Grapefruit and bergamot come on strong at first, but soon the unique blend of osmanthus, white tea, rose, saffron and apricot combine to create a sweet yet light and gauzy, modern, fresh scent. Amber and incense in the base give it some atmospheric umph. It lasts and projects for 7 hours on my skin and I’m completely charmed for the entire length of it even though fruity florals are not usually my cuppa.

Well done, Vincent. Well done.

images-3Samples are available from the Ys Uzac website for shipping worldwide, as are 50 ml and 100 ml bottles of each fragrance (100 ml bottles only for the new releases). Shipping is free within Europe and possible worldwide, though the new postal regulation headaches make it worthwhile to contact them first to see if there’s a distributor in your country. The North American launch of Immortal Beloved and Satin Doll is still upcoming (consider this a preview if you live on this continent) but the other four fragrances are carried by both Luckyscent and Osswald NYC.

*I requested and was provided a set of samples. This review was not sponsored and I’m not affiliated with the link.

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