The Big Smoke – Tom Ford Private Blend London Perfume Review

House of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight, 1903
Houses of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight, Claude Monet, 1903

London is an awesome city. I say this not just because I am British and therefore undeniably biased in the matter, but also because it is a simple truth. London has a charisma that many cities do not, stemming from the many contrasts that besiege its winding streets. These disorganised clashes of new and old, rough and smooth, and clean and dirty, make for a cultural mish-mash that is at times, utterly bonkers and entirely unique but ultimately very charming.

One man that loves London as much as I do is Tom Ford and to celebrate the opening of his Sloane Square boutique in 2013, the incredibly prolific fashion and perfume purveyor that is Mr. Ford created his very own olfactory tribute to this finest and fairest of cities. Taking its name from the city of the same name and launching last year, ‘London‘ is the newest addition to the Private Blend collection, available only in a select number of stores within the nation’s capital.

The brand describes London as being “rich, elegant and urbane” – three words that could certainly be attributed to the city after which it is named, if only just the glamorous bits in which one would find a Tom Ford boutique. But this perfume is more than just a tribute to a city, it is in fact a celebration of Mr. Ford’s favourite ingredient – oud. Now before you all start rolling your eyes at the sheer mention of the ‘o’ word (I see you), heed this notice: this perfume is a damn good example of how to do an inconspicuous oud – an oud that doesn’t take centre stage and plays a supporting role, or as they used to call them back in the day – an oriental.

Tom Ford's London
Tom Ford’s London

The Notes

Top: Madagascan Black Pepper, Saffron, Cardamom, Coriander Seed, Cumin and Coffee
Heart: Egyptian Geranium, Jasmine, Frankincense and Cistus
Base: Oud, Musk, Birch, Cedar and Balsam Torchwood

How Does it Smell?

In the opening London is warm, resinous and spicy in a manner that is very much in keeping with Tom Ford’s love for all things, well, warm, resinous and spicy. The most prominent of these is a delicious wave of cardamom that is draped within a dusty, auburn cloud of oriental smoke. It’s at this point that one realises that Tom Ford’s idea of London seems more in tune with the eye-catching (read: gaudy) Egyptian Staircase inside opulent department store Harrods, than it is witth the nitty-gritty streets of the Big Smoke.

But this Eastern influence is not a bad thing, after all, London is a pretty multicultural place that has a lot of Middle Eastern money pumped into it. Further to this, the smoky oud that represents these more exotic locations isn’t actually the main event here, instead acting as the centrepiece that the other notes adorn. Unlike a lot of ouds one encounters, this particular blend portrays an incredibly sturdy sense of woodiness that is reminiscent of the mahogany panels that wrap the walls of an old gentlemen’s club and is therefore rather pleasing in its almost old-fashioned approach.

Leather also plays a strong part in London’s development. For me, leather notes always sit on a scale somewhere between ‘new car smell’ and ‘animal hide’, with whips, handbags and leather gloves lurking in or around the middle. The leather in London is much closer to the animalic side of the spectrum and the fragrance most definitely benefits from it. Now, don’t get me wrong, London doesn’t portray animalic leather in the way that Dior’s positively pornographic Leather Oud does or in the way that Mona di Orio’s chorizo-esque Cuir does, but it is gently barnyard-y in a sexy sort-of-way that is more than enough to satiate one’s appetite for some leathery funk.

In the base, London glosses out to a much softer and sweeter affair. The main player is vanilla, an oriental staple that in its use here adds sweetness (only a tad – this vanilla is very much on the drier side of the scale) and maintains the fragrance’s overarching theme of rich smokiness, engulfing the spicier and animalic facets to make for something that is altogether more plush and intimate.

All-in-all, London is an absolute triumph of a scent. OK so it isn’t typically British in the way that something from the likes of Floris would be, but in my eyes that’s a good thing – after all, the scents of British gentry have been done to death and are no longer a true representation of modern Britain as it is today. London the perfume excels at being modern (much like the city), perfectly pairing wood, leather and oud in an orientally styled fragrance that smells so darn luxurious one almost feels as if it should be saved for best. Now if only I had a Tom Ford suit to wear it with…


Tom Ford’s London is part of the Private Blend collection and is only sold within select department stores and Tom Ford boutiques within London. London is available in 50ml (£140) and 250ml (£320) Eau de Parfum.

Sample via Tom Ford. Image 1 via Image 2 via Notes via Quote via