Category Archives: Cologne

The Voyage of Hermès

Tom Ford gets all the flashy olfactory glory in these parts, but his scents aren’t always the most user-friendly. That’s partly why I like them. They are not meant for everyday use (nor are their price points). For everyday office wear, I prefer something softer and more subtle, something less garish and out-there. That something should retain an elegance and refinement as befits a person struggling to maintain some sort of nobility and style in a world of Axe body spray and Cool Water.

The House of Hermès had a genius run when it employed Jean-Claude Ellena as its fragrance-maker. Mssr. Ellena crafted the exquisite ‘L’Eau d’Hiver’ which is an understated classic for Frederic Malle. Yet it was his work for Hermès that truly struck a chord with me. Under his tenure they produced some wonderful scents, such as the gorgeous Jardin series featuring garden-inspired fragrances from around the world. I recently discovered that he was also the person behind my latest acquisition – Voyage d’Hermès.

In the past few years, on the hunt for the ever-elusive niche scent that no one else around me had, I’ve veered into pricey territory, giving Andy and my parents undue financial stress when it came to Christmas and birthdays. Along with those heftier price tags came heftier fragrances – if you’re going to drop $310 on a small bottle of Eau de parfum, it damn well better project, slaying with sillage and leaving no doubt who was coming and going. That is all very well for special events and memory-making moments. For the long stretches of in-between time, however, someone like Mssr. Ellena handily beats the heavy hand of Tom Ford. Perfect for the office or family gathering where one wants to be distinguished but not glaring, Voyage d’Hermès is a quietly sophisticated addition to the fragrance arsenal.

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Tom Ford’s Fucking Fabulous

Everyone I know probably thinks that I would have purchased this solely for the name alone, and everyone would be right. When rumors started circulating that Tom Ford was naming his latest limited edition Private Blend something like ‘Fucking Fabulous’ I believed it instantly. It was just insane and cheeky enough to be true. I also wanted to have it just to answer ‘Fucking Fabulous’ when/if anyone asked what I smelled like. And having the matte black bottle in my collection with that iconic name shouting its contents was the third reason for ponying up the hefty price point.

That said, one doesn’t spend the kind of money required for a Tom Ford purchase based on name alone, I don’t care how fucking fabulous it may be. I still needed to try it. This past fall, I managed to get into his flagship store in New York and spritz a bit on my arms, and I was smitten enough to justify the Christmas gift request. It arrived a couple of weeks ago thanks to Santa Andy, and I absolutely adore it.

Billed rather deceptively as an Oriental leather, to me it’s much softer than that. The main and most-lasting note I get is a tonka accord, but there are spicy elements of bitter almond oil, orris root, and clary sage that open and develop throughout the scent’s trajectory. I get a bit of citrus at the outset too, not totally dissimilar from ‘Rive d’Ambre’ which I love. The leather is lacking a little, but that works here. Too much would ruin the delicacy of what’s happening. (Of course, it’s possible I’ve been spoiled by the head-knocking jolt of ‘Tuscan Leather’…)

The elevated price point of ‘Fucking Fabulous’ is earned mostly from the name alone; sillage and lasting power aren’t this fragrance’s strong points. A few hours later it’s still there, but it’s very soft, as if shy to leave the skin. That may seem the anti-thesis of its bold moniker, but sometimes being fabulous is more about seducing than demanding. The former is whispered elegance; the latter is crude. The line between them is finer than most care to realize, and no one walks that line with more swagger than Tom Ford.

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Not Your Grandmother’s Geranium

A frigid lucidity greets the New Year. The clarity and clean slate demand something fresh and pure. The heaviness of the holidays now behind us, we are free to move beyond the excess and seek out something simpler. To that end, I’m trying out a classic Frederic Malle fragrance, ‘Geranium Pour Monsieur.’ Created by Dominique Ropion, this is at first glance a spring or summer fragrance, but as I occasionally do with some citrus scents, I find winter a perfect time in which to wear it. We need something to break up the claustrophobic weight of the moment. There are more than enough weeks to surrender to the smoky, heavy warm scents of winter; some days you need something to break it all up.

Piercing the cold like a sliver of sunlight through an icicle, the bright notes of ‘Geranium Pour Monsieur’ are a welcome distraction. With a heady dose of its namesake grounding the whole experience, the fragrance also pulls in mint, rhodinol, aniseed and assorted spices to give it just a hint of warmth. It’s as light and breezy as it sounds, which means it’s not the longest-lasting out there, but a mid-day reapplication never hurt anyone. Such freshness is not long for such a brutal season anyway, but this is an instant antidote for the winter doldrums, when your olfactory senses are ripe for a surprising twist.

For me, fragrance is usually reliant upon seasonal influences. This is one of those rule-breakers that can find a place for itself in any season, not unlike Tom Ford’s ‘Oud Wood’ or the exquisite ‘Eau de gentiane blanche’ by Hermès. It depends on the mood and the whim of the wearer – a dangerous aspect for most of the time, but here it works.

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Leather & (Raspberry) Lace: Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather

One of the very first Tom Ford Private Blends produced, and the most touted scent to the whole line back then was Tuscan Leather. It remains a cornerstone of this line, but it took me a long time to come around to it. It’s not a subtle one, and the first few years of sniffing it had me unconvinced. It was potent. It was loud. It was almost obnoxious. One would think I’d have loved it. One would be wrong. 

Fortunately taste and perception shift over the years. A good cologne will do that in a day. I never bothered with trying Tuscan Leather on and seeing how it dried down, I only took that initial oomph and steered clear. I missed the real magic of this stalwart performer until I threw a ‘Naughty or Nice’ party with S&M leather undertones and finally got around to sampling this fragrance for a full night.

It begins in unapologetic fashion with the cracking of a leather whip.

Some leather is stiff. Worn by the years, faded by the sun and wind, it dries out, stiffens up, and stands on its own. It hits hard because that’s the only way to survive.

Some leather is supple. Processed and delicately treated, it spills and folds like the softest silk. It kisses and caresses the skin, hiding its toughness in flowing elegance, cloaking its delicacy in shrouds of smoothness.

Tuscan Leather gives both of these aspects a delicious turn, beginning in tough, cowboy-boot stomping glory and finishing with a sweetly refined send-off.

This is not a scent for the faint of heart or weak of nose. That opening is no joke, and as one of the very first Private Blends, Tom Ford was announcing he didn’t come to play. Tuscan Leather is a complex, challenging, and ultimately exquisite experience that may have some shying away from its harsher points. Those who want a true fragrance journey should board this wild ride and prepare for glory.

Starting off with a heavy jolt of its namesake, leather plays a primal part in the proceedings. Though I usually think of leather as one of the lasting aspects that shows up rather late in the dry down, here it announces itself front and center, and stays there for the greater part of the show. A smokiness pervades as things progress, lending dark beauty and potent mysticism with just the slightest hint of incense, courtesy of the olibanum. The official literature for Tuscan Leather lists black suede as part of the formula, giving it a hedonistic edge. It verges on going musky, but is pulled back by night blooming jasmine, which claps back with its own sweetness, bravely defying all the harder elements at work. The juxtaposition is delicious, and results in one of the most beautiful dry-downs of all time: a luscious raspberry-like sweetness that somehow retains all the rustic leathery goodness of the beginning.

Sillage and projection is powerful – do not go heavy on this, especially in an office environment – and its duration is a good six to eight hours (with the dry down lingering into the next day if you let it).

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Tom Ford’s ‘Noir Anthracite’

With all the fucking hubbub over his ‘Fucking Fabulous’ fragrance, a new mainstream Tom Ford fragrance snuck in the back door in chic and sleek fashion. ‘Anthracite’ is the latest of his Noir line – one which has, up until this moment, failed to capture my adoration. I’m not even a fan of his ‘Noir de Noir’ from the boutique Private Blend collection, so another Noir sounded fatally bland. Still, something about ‘Anthracite’ and its relatively quiet entrance appealed to me, and since I’m in need of an office fragrance, I gave it a spritz.

Surprisingly, I liked what I smelled. There’s nothing edgy or extreme about this one, but it wisely veers clear of being too sporty and citrusy. There’s an opening of bergamot, but that quickly dissipates into pepper and woody ginger. The cedar is strong in this one, which works for the transitional fall-to-winter months. It’s got a deliciously dry midsection, which I like, befitting a martini or a vesper. It’s professional, with just the slightest hint of intrigue to set it apart from more standard fare. I also detected a pinch of patchouli that contributes a nice accent without screaming like some 60’s banshee. After a couple of hours, the spicy edge is subdued by the cedar, in the same way that the woods can be elegant in their coming austerity. The perfect set-up for the onslaught of winter.

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Fucking Fabulous

Don’t hate me for the profanity-laced title of this post, nor for any of the ‘fucking’s that are about to follow. Blame it on Tom Ford, whose latest limited-edition Private Blend just stomped all over his recent fashion show with its none-too-subtle name: Fucking Fabulous.

If ever there was a fragrance to buy without sniffing the contents first, it would be this one, but I’ve already tempted fate with his exquisite ‘Oud Minerale’. While that worked out well, one doesn’t risk it a second time – not for $310 a bottle. For that price point, I need to try it on and see how well it lasts, what the dry-down might be, and whether my Private Blend shelf can handle one more bottle (no matter how stunning the black matte flagon and brazen name might appear).

The reviews I’d seen early on were not for the fragrance itself, but for the name, and such hype is what has driven Tom Ford from the beginning. Ever since that groundbreaking first full-frontal male nudity ad for his stint at Yves St. Laurent through to his sweaty crotch-nestling work for his own cologne, Ford is a master of straddling the border between tasteless and tasteful. Some folks are crying vulgar foul, some are crying marketing gimmick, and some are crying for sheer joy over the tonka bean opening. I need to try it on to form my own opinion, and then I need to sell a newborn or something.

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Shore Scent: Oud Minérale by Tom Ford

A scramble and a gamble, this is Oud Minérale by Tom Ford. 

I broke the cardinal rule of fragrance-purchasing: never buy an item that you haven’t tried on. But this is Tom Ford, and his Private Blends are made for breaking the rules. Unlike the Vert and Portofino lines, which each feature a magnificent specimen (Vert d’Encens and Mandarino di Amalfi) for each clunker (Vert de Fleur and Fleur de Portofino), the Oud line has, thus far, had winners across the board. I’m especially enamored of the classic Oud Wood and it’s smoky floral sister Oud Fleur, so if there was ever a safe bet to make on a Ford fragrance untested and untrue, it would be the latest, Oud Minérale. Thankfully, it’s a gamble that paid off.

The scramble part is that I wanted a fragrance for our trip to Maine, where we would be reunited with the sea, but there were only a few days in which to make that happen, so as an advance anniversary gift, Andy (with a little preparatory aid from me) managed to have the Tom Ford rep at Bergdorf Goodman overnight us this release. There’s nothing more magical than making a memory with the power of a new scent. I wasn’t particularly looking for a new one, but when the new Oud claimed to be a woody marine sort, something rather new to Ford’s lexicon, I thought it might be perfect for the coast, something that embodied the salty grandeur of the sea, and the rocky rugged landscape of the Marginal Way. I’m happy to report that I found both in this thrilling addition to the Private Blends collection. The literature for it is filled with typical over-the-top Tom Ford superlatives, but it all comes remarkably close to the truth:

Original. Oceanic. Elemental.

Private Blend Oud Minérale merges rare and precious Oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean, capturing the refreshing play of surf and sea against the burning flame of smoked wood.

Tom Ford’s reinvention of Oud marks an olfactive watershed that pairs two of the world’s most intriguing elements to reveal tonalities both exhilarating and powerfully transcendent.

The first thing that hits me is the smoky wood. Once it drifts away, the salty pungent sea swirls mysteriously in its wake. it churns like this for a while – about an hour or two – and this oceanic heart carries its precious cargo of Ford’s Oud as a worthy companion. They jockey for prominence, and for a moment I think this water might be a tad too choppy, but then it recedes and calms. As the dry down begins, there are exquisite echoes of Venetian Bergamot. It’s an intriguing coupling of wood and water that feels right for a summer seaside night.


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Now Bring Us Some Figgy Perfume

My anniversary gift from Andy is typically a new fragrance, and this year proved no different. With Tom Ford’s latest Private Blend proving a re-tread of his ‘Mandarino di Amalfi’ I couldn’t justify that price point with something so similar, and though Hermès is my usual go-to spring scent (the wondrous Jardin series by Jean-Claude Ellena remains a vibrant seasonal accent) I was somewhat at a loss as to what to get. (This is a luxurious conundrum in which to find oneself. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m lucky to lead such a charmed life, and I am grateful.)

The question over what new fragrance might tickle my olfactory fancy was decided as soon as I took another swing through Atelier’s Cologne Absolue line. I’d tried them all a while back, but fragrance needs to evolve for me. Very rarely does the first sniff or trial run result in instant love. I need to be wooed. Teased. Convinced.

That happened relatively quickly with a few sprays of the ‘Figuier Ardent’ – a lovely twist on the common fig. Slightly fruity, slightly sweet – two things I abhor in a cocktail but eagerly drink up on my skin – this is a slightly watery fragrance as well, which is why it tips into a realm I can eagerly appreciate. Perfect for the crux of spring and summer.

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The Red Thread of Rhubarb

It was originally a summer fragrance for me. With its fruity rhubarb brightness and underlying white musk, Eau De Rhubarbe Ecarlate by Hermès was a surprise addition to my fragrance cabinet during the last fair season, yet it sort of got lost in the summer shuffle. When I was putting together an outfit for the first day of spring, and red was the chosen color of pants and tie, I recalled the red bottle of this gorgeous scent, and resurrected it a little early. Crafted by Christine Nagel, it’s a slight departure from the Jardin series that Jean-Claude Ellena left as his Hermès legacy, but it retains the elegance and sophistication of the house.

I’ve been out of the Hermès loop for a bit, so I’m not sure what they have on offer for this spring. I do know there is a new Tom Ford Private Blend coming out – Sole di Positano for the Portofino line – and another Oud, thrillingly titled Oceanus – so I’ll practice patience and see which one speaks to me the loudest. For now, we have rhubarb dreams and summer memories.

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A Jewel of a Scent

Oud, that rich and resinous substance that lends itself to some of the most exquisite fragrances in the world, has almost run into overexposed territory. A couple of years ago Tom Ford released a trio of Oud frags – Oud Wood, Tobacco Oud, and Oud Fleur – that were all delicious, and in the ensuing years we’ve gone into oud overload. Not that I’m complaining – we have yet to reach any sort of oversaturation point – and when something like Atelier’s recent ‘Oud Safir’ came along, my fragrance expert at Neiman Marcus gave me an unsolicited sample knowing I would fall in love instantly, and she was absolutely correct.

For me, this is oddly reminiscent of Byredo’s ‘Black Saffron’ and is just as potent. It’s a banger of a fragrance that softens as the day goes on, beginning in brash and sparkling form before veering into something rich and decadent. It’s like a jewel that has been transformed into a scent – hard and sleek, simultaneously opaque and transparent. It bites and soothes, and is warm enough for the fall and winter. Along with the agar wood, there is suede, pink pepper, and birch to resonate long beyond the top bergamot notes.

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Love Trio

This post neatly merges three of my loves in one simple and refined package: fragrance, leopard, and Tom Ford. It’s a collection of Ford’s mainstream frags (and quite honestly, this is a lazy-ass repost of photos already featured here). But hey, it’s the holiday season, and if people want shit wrapped this is the cost. My Christmas tree thanks you for understanding.

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Tom Ford for Men

A true classic never goes out of style, and Tom Ford’s first mainstream cologne (named, simply, ‘Tom Ford for Men’) remains one of the few fragrances I’ve ever brought more than once. I returned to it again recently, after running low on ‘Tom Ford Extreme’ – and even though I do prefer the latter for its richer and deeper resonance, the original is perfect for everyday office wear, or a casual Sunday brunch in the fall.

As sacrilegious as it may be to say, there’s something in it that reminds me of my Dad’s Old Spice. In its porcelain white bottle and old-school stopper, Old Spice was the first cologne I ever smelled. It barely influenced me one way or another as far as colognes went, so harmless and generally inoffensive was its tried and true formula. My mother’s perfumes were more interesting to my budding olfactory senses.

Ford employs a similarly spicy theme, then elevates it as one would expect from such a master of style. It’s got a slightly brighter opening, with elements of citrus that lead the charge, then settles into a spicy but light musk. Elements of Black Orchid emerge and carry it through the day, yet it’s not quite as loud as that infamous stomper. Never overbearing, but never completely silent, it makes its presence known without having to shout. Many of us, myself included, could learn from such quiet command.

While his exquisite Private Blend Collection is something I save for special days, sometimes you just want a simple, low-key fragrance for those in-between moments that comprise the bulk of daily life. Tom Ford consistently proves that the daily doesn’t need to be the mundane.

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Tom Ford & the Elusive Japon Noir

Whispers had it that upon the launch of his Private Blend series, Tom Ford favored the dark and decadent thrill known as Japon Noir, and that he regularly wore it himself. It’s very much a head-turner, and as one of the most hyper-masculine entries in that original PB series, it stood on its own at that end of the fragrance spectrum.

Japon Noir opens with a bang – an oriental with deeper elements of leather and pine resin – but calms down after an hour or so into something slightly sweeter. An edge of incense runs through its trajectory, lending warmth and a slight smokiness to the proceedings. It holds onto this to the end, which comes a little sooner than I’d like, but for such a powerhouse opening it would be all but impossible to sustain.

This one has been discontinued for a while now, but I was lucky enough to grab a bottle before it disappeared completely. It’s the perfect fragrance for the month of November, when things suddenly go dark and gray, and the only thing that gets us through the doldrums is an inspired spritz of something sophisticated and somewhat smoky.

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Tom Ford: My Private Blend Collection

If I have an obsession, it’s with fragrance, but compared to other obsessions (crack, heroin, luxury cars, gambling, Louis Vuitton) my cologne fixation has yet to ruin any lives. If anything, it improves things – our bathroom smells sweetly at all times. Still, seeing the long list of fragrances which I have amassed over the years does give me pause, and for now I’m doing just that: taking a pause in the cologne collection, and a look at what currently resides on the Tom Ford shelf of my cologne cabinet.

  • Amber AbsoluteA favorite that was mysteriously discontinued before being brought back when someone realized the mistake. I’m told the second version is slightly weaker than the first, so I’m glad I got part of the first batch because it’s a whopping stomper of incense and warmth and all the best parts of fall.
  • Arabian Wood – An Oriental wood that smolders with old-world elegance.
  • Bois MarocainDry and decadent, with the faintest wisp of the woods.
  • Costa AzzurraOffspring of the Neroli collection, this slightly smoky citrus is ideal for summer nights.
  • Japon Noir – Sadly discontinued, this is a dark and slightly spicy oriental that burns with masculine elegance. Ideal for late fall nights.
  • Lavender PalmThe dryness of this lavender-based floral is what keeps things interesting, with just enough edge to lift it out of the musty verge.
  • Mandarino di AmalfiAnother off-shoot of the Neroli collection, Mandarino is a bright citrus that sparkles with memories of the sun and the sea. (I purchased it while en route to a Cape Cod summer vacation, and it remains heartwarmingly wed to that sunny beach memory.)
  • Neroli PortofinoThe original summer scent for the Private Blend collection, this remains a bright classic, spawning several cousins (as seen above). It’s all about the Neroli here, but that’s one single-note scent that I don’t mind.
  • Oud FleurAs he did with the Neroli line, Ford saw fit to take the seminal ‘Oud Wood’ (seen below) and craft a couple of variations, including this gorgeous rose-tinted floral, whose smokiness lends it the gravitas to put over an otherwise-traditional rose.
  • Oud WoodA classic oud fragrance – woody and intoxicating with more than a little wordly sophistication – it’s a rare cologne that works at all times of the year, perfect for the office but equally adept at strutting itself in fancy form for evening events at the turn of a shoe.
  • Plum JaponaisFord’s Orient line was hit or miss with me, with two of the four being big winners, and two not so much. My favorite, perhaps of all Private Blends thus far, is the Plum Japonais, which gives a sultry glow to the tempered sweetness of the plum.
  • Rive d’AmbreA golden orange orb of spicy, fruity lusciousness, it’s a deep summer bit of enchantment.
  • Santal BlushAnother fragrance bound to a happy memory – the holidays at home. It was a Christmas present from Andy, and I only wear it around the holidays, so it retains that special sheen. Ford’s glittering voyage of sandalwood is a soapy treat of smooth sweetness.
  • Soleil BlancAn impulse buy for a summer beach jaunt, Soleil Blanc turned out to be one of my least favorite Private Blends, perhaps because of such limited wearing options. It’s a floral coconut that basically turns into the (very expensive) remnants of a standard suntan lotion.
  • Venetian BergamotI love bergamot in any way, shape or form, but this gives it a subtle twist that makes for a perfect late summer/early fall bridge fragrance. The freshness is subdued here, even with a floral tweaking that almost sends it into perfume mode.
  • Vert D’EncensMy latest acquisition, I simply couldn’t resist this delicious green take on incense from his Vert line. It begins in bold fashion, but calms down like a pile of burning embers. A second pulse of grassy green breathes life into the trajectory, and then it all dries down to heliotrope and honey, which is every bit as delicious as it sounds.

That’s enough for now, and it really should be enough forever, but just when I think I’m done he comes out with something spectacular. Lately, my love is burning for the leathers – Tuscan Leather and Ombre Leather 16. I’m hoping the samples I have will give me the fix I need. If not, that’s what holiday wish lists are for.

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The Real Great Debate: Battle of Tom Ford Leathers

Inspired by his recent runway show, Tom Ford has a new leather fragrance out – ‘Ombre Leather 16’ – and it’s a doozy. One of the first Private Blends he ever released was ‘Tuscan Leather’ – a potent beast that I despised for a few years before coming around to its smoldering, dark beauty and delicious dry-down. Which brings me to the dilemma of the day as I seek out a leather fragrance: do I go with the ‘Tuscan’ or branch out to the lesser-known ‘Ombre’? This past weekend I had the opportunity to try both, but rather than sort things out, it only intensified the debate.

‘Tuscan Leather’ was the flagship of the Private Blends when they made their debut. The ultra-luxe line offered a niche for those looking for something exceptional – in quality, sillage, longevity, and, of course, price. Each was a decadent treat, and while a few soon fell by the wayside (‘Purple Pachouli’ and ‘Moss Breches’) about half remain in circulation (and some such as ‘Tuscan Leather’ and ‘Oud Wood’ are gloriously timeless).

The new ‘Ombre Leather 16’ actually opens with a bigger leather burst, and it’s a bit drier than its ‘Tuscan’ predecessor (which appeals to me as we head into fall/winter). However, the ‘Ombre’ dry down becomes something more delicate and soft, while ‘Tuscan’ powers on with its leather kick for a bit longer before softening into a well-renowned raspberry musk sweetness. The bad news for my wallet is that each is beautiful in its own right, and distinct enough to stand alone. Which leaves me in a pickle. A deliciously-scented pickle.

Thanks to the kindness of my Tom Ford experts, however, I have a couple of samples to see me through the decision-making process. These things take time. These things must be done delicately…

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