The good news is that if you want to smell like a nice French hyacinth soap for the better part of the day, no matter how hot it is and/or how much time you spent cleaning the basement, the new Ombre de Hyacinth from Tom Ford Private Blend (part of the Jardin Noir quartet that also includes Jonquille de Nuit, Café Rose, and Lys Fume ) will get the job done nicely. The bad news is that Ombre de Hyacinth is a a case of bait-and-switch when it comes to the hyacinth note, depth and intensity. There's also worse news: this Tom Ford fragrance is grossly overpriced for what it is.
I love hyacinth in perfume. LOVE. When it's the star of the show and paired with various greens- bitter and sweet and maybe a touch of powder I'm a goner. The opening of Tom Ford's Ombre de Hyacinth is stunning. I was immediately reminded of vintage Chamade as well as of Bas de Soie by Uncle Serge and my dearest darling Grand Amour (Goutal). The classic pairing of hyacinth and galbanum smells exquisite and not too sharp, as there are other flower petals floating in and out of focus. The top notes smell as exquisite and expensive as one would expect from the marketing blurb of the Jardin Noir foursome:
“Flowers can have a dark enchantment. Their beauty can be so extreme that it has a narcotic effect on the senses and a decadence that feels almost illicit." --Tom FordDoesn't it sound wonderful?
After about fifteen minutes of walking around inside a Monet painting, the fantasy starts to fray at the hem and disintegrate. The abstract floral heart becomes very soapy and loses its best characteristics. There's nothing narcotic or illicit in a rental vacation cottage out in the country, as clean and quaint as it might be. It smells good, but the composition flattens in front of my eyes (or nose) and loses any depth, shadows, and "decadence" that Ford aspired to have there.
The dry-down remains bathroomy. Soap and powder in vintage packaging are very nice and I like the way the fragrance holds onto the skin despite sweat and sun. Just as I found that I get more lasting interesting notes from Ombre de Hyacinth on a paper blotter, there's quite a bit of that in the way my clothes and pillow smell the day after. Perhaps it's a matter of skin chemistry, but I suspect that the deterioration of the notes and crumbling of the perfume's structure have more to do with the amount of quality raw materials as well as commercial considerations in putting the biggest effort into the top notes that lure and seduce the shopper on the spot.
Notes: galbanum, violet leaf, magnolia petal, olibanum, hyacinth, pink pepper, jasmine, benzoin and musk.
Tom Ford Private Blend- Ombre de Hyacinth ($205, 1.7oz) is available from Bergdorf Goodman and select Saks and Neiman Marcus locations.
Art: Self portrait with a hyacinth pot by Lucian Freud.