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.

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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.

Amouage Fate Woman and Man: Impressions

Dear Scent Diary,

1013034_506257356094855_493262217_nThere are few niche perfume houses that can get perfumistas as frothed up about a new release the way Amouage can. The respect and reverence for the house, Creative Director Christopher Chong, and the perfumes themselves are palpable, if not overtly stated in every tweet, fragrance board comment and blog post devoted to them.

I was lucky enough to participate in a very early split of the two new Amouage Summer 2013 releases, Fate Woman and Fate Man, hosted by a fumie in Dubai who attended the launch event where she not only met Christopher Chong, but had the lasting thrill of having him sign her bottle.

After a couple of wearings of both fragrances, here are my impressions:

Unknown-4Amouage Fate Woman: From the first spritz, this chypre oriental is instantly likeable and wearable. The fresh bergamot at the open over the rich, sweet, woody base is likely responsible for my positive knee-jerk reaction. As things develop, the trademark Amouage rock rose lifts its head, followed by jasmine, though never far above the crowd – they stay within the woody, slightly spicy, insence-y, syrupy blend that strikes me as a relative of Andy Tauer’s famous base, affectionately known as ‘Tauerade’. An animalic hint gives it complexity and juxtaposition. After about 10 minutes, the sweetness thickens the perfume, though it never becomes sugary or dense. Instead, it becomes stupidly gorgeous. It begins to waft at this point and continues to project for the rest of its (very long) life on your skin.

images-1Amouage Fate Man: The first spritz of the pale green liquid took me by surprise with its complete lack of familiarity. I’ve never smelled anything quite like it. It opens with an inky, dense ‘blackness’ that is smokey, bitter and intense. It’s a brick of spice, cumin in particular, that’s been wrapped in black liquorice and set on fire. What you’re smelling is the thick black smoke the fire is producing. It is fascinating. After about ten minutes, the density breaks and the perfume turns softer, allowing you to smell some lovely woods, lavender and immortelle, with the cumin/liquorice fire still burning in the foreground. The projection is low but the lasting power is great, much like its sister. After many hours, the fire burns out and a slightly sweet warmth develops over the calm.

Unknown-3In my opinion, both these perfumes are fantastic. They last well over 12 hours, with Fate Woman throwing her weight around most, even at the end. Fate Man stays powerful but close to the skin for most of its life. At the very end, both scents share some notes in common and their resemblance as siblings is apparent. While Woman is beautiful and knowable very quickly, Man is a mysterious enigma that you want desperately to understand. They are each other’s yin and yang.

I would consider Fate Woman to be quite unisex as the florals never dominate and its sweet woodiness is akin to the drydown of any of the Tauer masculines. But I would imagine many women finding Fate Man difficult to pull off since it lacks any feminine cues. It is killer though, and of the two, it is the one I would consider Art (perhaps unapproachably so). I would recommend sampling each, regardless of your gender.

Perfumer for Amouage Fate Woman: Dorothee Piot.

Perfumer for Amouage Fate Man: Karine Vinchon-Spehner.

The Beauty of Sadness: The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit

Dear Scent Diary,

To my husband’s utter dismay, I’m a jasmine lover.  If I wear a jasmine perfume in his presence he respectfully pretends not to notice, but if we’re in the car, he’s been known to roll down the windows dramatically and hang his head out, mock gasping for air. You now know what I’m dealing with. We’ve finally traced his repulsion to an association he has with his mother wearing jasmine perfume in the car when he was a boy during a time when he was prone to being carsick. Okay, based on that, I suppose I’ll allow the goofy histrionics.Unknown

Jasmin de Nuit is not exactly a jasmine scent. I know this to be true because my husband likes it. He nods his head and pushes his bottom lip out when I slip my Jasmin de Nuit perfumed wrist under his nose.

Jasmine is of course a part of the perfume’s composition but the impression the fragrance gives is not of a sweet, bright white floral. Clearly. The dry down is in fact more akin to carrot cake than it is to a flower. But something about this spicy, amber-y jasmine tinged with humanity and sadness breaks my heart.  Just like a chord of music that can somehow embody the feeling of heartbreak, Jasmin de Nuit takes me to a melancholy place almost immediately. Guerlain’s L’heure Bleu, while a different scent altogether, has a similar effect on me.

Unknown-1images-2The fragrance opens with cardamom, cinnamon, anise and an undercurrent of low-register indolic jasmine. Musky humanity is present, either as a part of the indoles or as a note unto itself. Within ten minutes, the cardamom and other spices become even more dominant while sandalwood and amber begin to seep in. Still present though is the low-pitched, melancholy indole of the jasmine. The bright, sweet, high register portion of the note that we expect when we hear ‘jasmine’ is missing, and with it, its cheer.

everything's going to be alrightPerhaps if perfumer Celine Ellena and The Different Company had named this scent Sunday Evening (in French of course), fewer people would be frustrated by their expectations of a heady, uplifting jasmine scent. Perhaps instead, they would enjoy the spice, sandalwood, amber and indole of this gorgeous fragrance and succumb to the exquisite sadness its beauty brings.

That, or just have a spouse that keeps the perfume’s name a secret.

Action packed: Mona di Orio Vanille

Dear Scent Diary,

MonaDiOrioVanilleI’ve tried few perfumes that move as quickly as Mona di Orio Vanille. Without exaggeration, you must smell your wrist every couple of minutes or you’ll miss a twist or turn in the development of the fragrance. I kid you not, you must put aside an hour or so if you’d like to catch everything. Half an hour at minimum.

Here’s a recap of the action I witnessed:

The opening is surprisingly fresh with an orange note that second by second gets surrounded by others: vetiver, rum, leather, clove, amber. Within five minutes, it smells almost completely different. Gone is the bright freshness, replaced wholly by darker, thicker notes whose texture you’d visualize as a paste. Tonka bean and amber begin to dominate as well as something, well, burnt.

Within another five minutes that ‘something burnt’ starts to demand more of your attention. Something smouldering, or perhaps smouldering only a few moments ago but now stamped out. Give it a few more minutes and yes, the smell is fully formed: it’s a butted out cigarette – but in a lovely way! I admit to stupidly feeling invincible enough at one time in my life to have smoked and I remember this smell very well. It’s the densely bitter smell of tar combined with the aroma of fresh dried tobacco leaves (the remainder of the cigarette) and a whiff of smoke. Blended seamlessly with the vanillic amber that’s sweetening by the moment, and you have Md’O Vanille at the 15 minute mark.

Within another five minutes the plush vanilla finally begins to take centre stage (a balsamic, leathery bean, not a cupcake). The warm, dry sweetness makes me wonder if it might be twinning L’Artisan’s Vanille Absolutement, another vanilla with a dry, bittersweet tonka note. A spritz of that one denies the resemblance – the remnants of the cigarette butt (in a good way!) makes Md’O Vanille its own perfume. This stage lasts the longest of all the stages so far. A whole half an hour!

The change that happens next creeps up rather slowly. But before you know it, the heavy, burnt darkness of the last stage lifts and reveals a balmy, uplifting vanilla scent that’s rich, feels slightly floral and is grounded with amber, tonka, vetiver and resins.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 7.11.51 PMWatch Mona herself describe the story she had in mind when developing the fragrance in this video. The entire thing is  fascinating and heartbreaking to watch but she talks about Vanille from 6:25 to 11:12.

As you may know, Mona di Orio died on December 9th, 2011 at the age of 42 due to tragic complications after back surgery. This is the announcement on her facebook page on the day of her passing.

I continue to be shocked by her death to this day.