Tom Ford knows his way around the note of oud. Within his own brand he has a mini-collection of oud fragrances amongst his many Private Blends, each of which takes the style of oud in a very different direction. He’s also the man behind YSL’s M7 which was one of the first mainstream fragrances to promote the use of oud (whether it was the first is up for debate). So it’s safe to say that oud is very much a signature of the Tom Ford brand and it’s a style of fragrance (and I say style instead of note because it’s really more of a genre than a singular ingredient).
The latest addition to Tom Ford’s oud oeuvre is Oud Minérale – a fragrance that intends to approach oud from a much fresher angle. The brand describe it as a scent that merges “rare and precious oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean”, which may lead one to think that perhaps this is an oud too far. After all, smoky, animalic, middle eastern oud is on the polar opposite end of the fragrance spectrum to anything remotely aquatic. But to think that, whilst justified, would not be correct because Oud Minérale is a clever little composition that manages to find the common ground between these two opposing styles.
Much like fashion, the trends of perfumery are cicular and what is in favour now, is likely to be garbage tomorrow. This is the nature of trends – we overdose on the good stuff for a period of time until we get sick of it and something else comes along, and perfume is no different. Just look at the 1980s, when syrupy atom bomb florals existed to; a) be so distinct that one knew what they were smelling a mile away; and b) to terrify the masses. Of course, those scents are as on trend today as leg warmers and zoot suits are, which is to say that they’re not. Heck, one can even look at the ’90s, with its sterile repentance of calone and white musk and see how those things too, are no longer ‘in’. It all comes in to fashion, goes out and then comes back in again in a never ending cycle.
Of course, some trends stick about and the lucky ones take their place in the hall of fame as an entirely brand new genre that constantly develops without falling out of favour. Oud is one such trend – a style that has stuck around for so long now, and in so many guises, that it’s arguably the newest olfactory family. A perfumery trend that has not stood the test of time however, is green. Green was massive in the ’70s and ’80s but fell quickly out of favour. Why? Well, these perfumes have a tendency to be harsh and bossy, rubbing people up the wrong way with sharp edges. Also, as lovely as plants and grasses are, who really wants to smell like them? Exactly. But, as we’ve established, all trends make a comeback and right now we’re seeing a verdant renaissance of green scents both in mainstream and niche perfumery: the new green.
Personally, green has always been the toughest of fragrance families to get on with. There’s just something so standoffish about green scents – something so impersonal and too redolent of nature that puts me off. I admire abstraction in my scents and too often, green fragrances are either too rooted in nature or are simply too harsh. But I’m an evolved perfume sniffer, I can appreciate beauty even in those places where I feel as if I’m likely not to find it. So I’ve put together a list of six green fragrances that actually tickle my fancy. These scents also represent the modern revival of green, which all kicked off with Maison Martin Margiela’s Untitled in 2010. So, Dear Reader, you won’t find your CHANEL Nº19 here nor your Vent Vert, but you will discover six modern green fragrances that will completely destroy that old idiom that says it’s not that easy being green. In fact, for these six scents, to be such a thing is really rather marvellous.
Green fragrances are my least favourite, I’m just going to come right out and say it. They so often feel harsh and demanding, not to mention the fact that many of the greats now feel very dated, relying on aldehydes and galbanum (notes du jour of the ’80s) to create a style that is distinct, yes, but definitely out of line with current trends. So yes, green fragrances, bar a few notable exceptions (see Amazingreen & Panorama) are not for me and judging by their absence from the department store shelves, I’m not the only one to feel this way.
But green is making a comeback at the hands of one of perfumery’s titans. That’s right, TOM FORD is bringing back ‘green’. The leading man of fashion and fragrance is reviving one of perfumery’s most out of favour genres – one that permeated the designer arena throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but now seems decidedly absent. But of course, Mr Ford’s idea of green is inspired by the classics, but does not replicate them. Instead, with Les Extraits Vert, the newly-launched sub-section of green fragrances within his Private Blend Collection, Ford adds his contemporary twist, making this tired genre something exciting and new.
Les Extraits Vert consists of four fragrances; Vert Boheme, Vert d’Encens, Vert de Fleur and Vert des Bois, each of which subverts the green genre rather successfully. Vert des Bois, the subject of this review feels like the most ‘TOM FORD’ of the bunch, offering up smoke, leather and greenery in an aesthetic that is masculine and classy. The brand uses words such as ‘expressive’ and ‘provocative’ to describe Vert des Bois and to an extent, I can see why. Vert des Bois is provocative because it challenges one’s notions of what a green fragrance can be and it certainly makes for a verdant experience unlike any other.
TOM FORD has certainly explored the world of his bestselling cologne, Neroli Portofino with undeniable fervour. The range consists of a dazzling array of interpretations, ranging from the original Eau de Parfum to last year’s honeyed Fleur de Portofino, and all that’s in between. This year, TOM FORD is sandwiching the original between two exciting new concentrations, with the lighter Neroli Portofino Acqua to its left and the intense Neroli Portofino Forte on its right. Both take the bold neroli-musk accord of the original and present it as something either more accessible or luxurious, but always interesting.
A week or so ago we took a look at the Acqua, the lighter, less spendy and more accessible take on NP and this week we are throwing caution completely to the wind with Neroli Portofino Forte, which is pretty much the opposite of Acqua in every respect, being stronger, more expensive and less widely distributed. So, how does a more intense take on TOM FORD’s neo-classic cologne fair in the sniff test? Well, there’s only one way to find out: read on.
Neroli Portofino Forte is a bold, exhilarating intensification of the Neroli Portofino Experience. The classic scent is rarified with rich, sublime depth as the amplified concentration of its floral core is lavishly heightened to utmost opulence. With the bold and impassioned introduction of coastal Italian woods and smooth leather in its composition, Neroli Portofino Forte marks an exquisite monument in the Neroli Portofino collection.
TOM FORD’s Neroli Portofino is pretty much legend at this point. Arriving as part of the initial crop of Private Blends in 2007, it has since been repackaged (in a glorious azure blue bottle, I must add) and has spawned its very own line of body products and flankers, scents such as; Costa Azzura, Mandarino di Amalfi and Fleur de Portofino. Neroli Portofino’s success is easy to understand – it is one of the best, if not the best neroli cologne on the market and it does what many fragrances of this ilk fail to do: it presents luxurious, globetrotting cologne nuances in a highly present and long lasting format, all with TOM FORD’s inimitable signature. What’s not to love?
This summer, MR FORD is expanding the Neroli Portofino lineup to include two additional fragrances. The first is Neroli Portofino Acqua, a lighter, more affordable and more widely distributed the fragrance that could be considered as the ‘Eau de Toilette’ version of the scent that we shall be putting to the test today. The second is Neroli Portofino Forte, which is the inverse of Acqua, serving as a more intense, exclusive and expensive take on TOM FORD’s standard bearer cologne, but we’ll get to that later in the week. The brand describes Neroli Portofino Acqua as follows:
“Vibrant. Sparkling. Transportive. Neroli Portofino Acqua is an invitation into the seductive atmosphere of the Italian Riviera from a new perspective afloat in the coastline’s idyllic azure waters, with endless skies overhead and steep, verdant hillsides just within view. A fresher expression of Neroli Portofino’s clear and sparkling facets, it is an irresistibly light way to wear the fragrance’s citrus-and-amber signature.”
Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino series is a collection within a collection. Housed like a fragrant Matryoshka inside the Private Blend collection, the four colognes that currently comprise the series (Neroli Portofino, Mandarino di Amalfi, Costa Azzura, and now, Fleur de Portofino) tick all of the required boxes; 1) they smell great; 2) they are so much more than straight-up Eau de Colognes; 3) they’re unique; and 4) they have decent longevity and sillage. Don’t be fooled by the (rather beautiful) transparent bottles cast in varying hues of blue and green, because there are some intriguing, and complex juices within.
Fleur de Portofino is the latest addition to the Neroli Portofino collection and it marks a bit of a shift from the world of contemporary Eau de Cologne, to the domain of the floral, where the wistful reigns supreme. The spirit of the collection is well and truly alive here, with lots of aquatic vibrancy and freshness however, flowers take centre stage and the beauty of citrus has been instructed to wait in the wings. The result is a floral that presents a new olfactory take on the mediterranean – one that is teeming with life.
“Vibrant. Carefree. Captivating. Private Blend Fleur de Portofino is inspired by the cascades of white flowers that spill off the the branches of the white acacia beloved shade tree that dots the mediterranean’s gardens and lines its tranquil avenues. Fleur de Portofino creates a crisp and bright floral accord from this bloom, then surrounds it with effervescent citruses and acacia honey. The fragrance creates an effect of sheer floral possession that is incomparably hypnotic and extremely bold.”
Here in the bonny isles of the United Kingdom, the weather is flirting with us. For the last couple of weeks, Mother Nature has been coquettishly winking at us, flashing days of sunlight and pure bliss on to these green and pleasant lands. Of course, we’re in that definite transitionary period between seasons. Spring is here, and Summer is waiting in the wings, but the cold and grey of winter is persistent on some days, meaning that the weather’s dalliance with summer love hasn’t quite taken hold – but soon, it will.
I don’t know about you, but these short flashes of summer and glimpses of warmth, and vitamin-enriched days of halcyon make me reach for the lighter things in my fragrance wardrobe (and there are some hidden amongst my show-stopping sillage bombs, as hard as that may be to believe). At this time one craves bracing citrus, the sweet headiness of flowers and the airiness of musk, all of which lead one to think of one perfume genre in particular, a genre that is one of the industry’s oldest and most classic styles – the humble Eau de Cologne.
Eau de Colognes speak of lighter, fresher and more vibrant signatures. They are lighter, usually boasting a concentration between 2%-5% and utilise fresh citrus notes (mandarin, lemon and bergamot etc.) alongside herbs (rosemary and thyme) and florals (neroli, lavender, jasmine, orange blossom). The Eau de Cologne is ephemeral and designed to be splashed on at multiple times throughout the day in order to re-awaken, revitalise and refresh the sense. In short, they are an olfactory jolt to the system.
To celebrate the changing of the seasons, I’ve collected together six of my favourite Eau de Colognes for your reading pleasure. They range from the classics, which really are light and traditional, to more modern and contemporary twists on the genre, that manage to smell both unique and long-lasting. So brace yourself, folks, for ‘The Eau de Cologne Edit’ – six scents that will get your nose positively aching for summer.