Perfume Review: Black Orchid by Tom Ford

November 28th, 2006

Black OrchidTom Ford Black Orchid was one of my major anticipations this year: its promise to bring retro glamour back to perfume as well as the rendition of a one-of-a-kind flower of black orchid captivated me to the point of infatuation. It was evident from the start the scent would be somewhat controversial (consider other perfumes created under Tom Ford’s direction – M7, Gucci, Youth Dew Amber Nude). I can take controversial any time (unless it’s pretentious) – there’re way too many smell-and-forgets (SAFs) out there. When it comes to perfume, I like to be challenged, provoked, haunted. Black Orchid did jus that, and it is after numerous skin tests that I’m writing this review.

Classified as a spicy oriental, the accord of black orchid is achieved with the help of opulent floral and fruity notes (ylang-ylang, jasmine, bergamot, black currant) on the base of patchouli and woods. Upon first contact with skin, the scent strikes me as bitterly dirty and edibly creamy simultaneously. It’s a rather pungent beginning, almost to the point of being appalling. As it’s claimed to be the modern version of retro glamour, I can’t help but wonder if “modern” in today’s perfumery translates into everything sweet and vanillic. The “noir” retro chic is definitely there, and for that alone I can tolerate the vanilla. What I cannot tolerate is the underlying aquatic note that manages to permeate the scent in all stages of development. I’m puzzled as to its source – it must be the black truffle. I can only imagine it smelling wet and earthy (in this case, more wet than earthy). Combined with the base notes of patchouli, incense, vetiver, amber, and sandalwood, it has a jarring, obtrusive effect. Black Orchid leaves a smothering impression on me – I cannot help but find the fragrance overpacked. It will definitely wear you. It will dominate. It will intimidate. It will rip up all the retro glamour with its excessive forcefulness and lack of grace.

Tom Ford Black Orchid is available at Neiman Marcus.

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  • 1. chaya ruchama  |  November 29th, 2006 at 6:54 am

    Sweetheart mine-

    Why don’t you tell us how you really feel ?

  • 2. chaya ruchama  |  November 29th, 2006 at 6:59 am

    Oh, goody !
    I’m postable, after a long hiatus…
    I thought it had potential, but there are elements I would have omitted, had I been asked [ Hah ! Fat chance ! Who gives a toss what I think, anyhoo? I ain't exactly Luca Turin....].

    It will sell well-
    Only, you and I won’t be buying…

    Hope your holiday was glorious…
    MWAH !

  • 3. newproducts  |  November 29th, 2006 at 7:39 am

    I have yet to test this, but I’m in no rush. The gourmand notes in advance predispose me to not like this one. Your review expresses exactly how I imagine it will be: an overly packed and loud perfume that wears me.

  • 4. March  |  November 29th, 2006 at 7:41 am

    Hey, how was the first day of the job?

    I did a bottle swap with NST and have been able to smell this at my leisure. WTH — what IS that aquatic note?!?!? I can’t quite believe it’s supposed to be there — like you, I keep thinking it’s some sort of olfactory misfiring on my part (Scentzilla had a bit of gossip that Tom Ford wanted a “man’s crotch note” in there, maybe that’s it?!) BO (what a perfect abbreviation) is more than the chocovanillapineapple I got the first time or two; it’s definitely more rank. But that aquatic note sort of kills the buzz for me, it seems so wildly out of place.

  • 5. Judith  |  November 29th, 2006 at 8:06 am

    I have only tried this briefly, but “overpacked” was precisely my impression. And too sweet. And there IS pineapple! It did not smell like any man’s crotch I have known, unless perhaps he put fruit salad on top. I don’t remember the aquatic note, but I have no particular desire to find it!:)

  • 6. Patty  |  November 29th, 2006 at 8:14 am

    Ina, are you really sure you didn’t like it? :)

    It’s sort of growing on me, and the aquatic whatever note that is doesn’t last too long on me, and then I like it fine. Not love, but I surprisingly reach for it more often than I thought I would. It’s sort of like Flowerbomb for me… I oddly am just a little attracted to it.

  • 7. Elle  |  November 29th, 2006 at 8:22 am

    I definitely got the aquatic note and, for me, aquatic is the antithesis of retro glamour. Tom, what were you thinking??? Excess sweetness also does not define retro glamour for me and I’m afraid that my sweet amplifying skin brought out every sugary note in this scent. Tom….please, please don’t do this w/ the next set of scents you’re bringing out.

  • 8. Leopoldo  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:00 am

    I’m writing this with a papaya shoved down my underpants: I smell sweet and look gifted (or goitred – you choose).

    I like the first ten minutes of this scent.

  • 9. peppernuts  |  November 29th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    I totally agree with you, Ina, the aquatic note is a turn off for me. And there are somehow to much of complements in this Perfume and they don´t attract each other:) No.

  • 10. Cait  |  November 29th, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    I spritzed this at NM on a black card and found that it smelled absolutely heavenly in my purse. It was lodged in my checkbook for weeks. Thanks to a care package from my scent sister March, I have been able to test this on the skin. On the skin, it is less ideal but still interesting. I think you got it right when you said overpacked. Perfect descriptor.

    I don’t mind aquatic notes. I really like the hiding coconut in this one, more obvious on the paper than skin.

  • 11. CindyN  |  November 29th, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Well, I seem to be in the minority of 2 who seem to really like this scent. Enuf to have purchased the larger bottle rather than the small one I had on hold. For me, no aquatic note, nor pineapple note. Yes, I would have preferred that some of the top note lasted longer, or that the bottom notes didn’t rest so heavily on the vanilla (more woods, plz). I think this is a polarizing, love-it or hate-it fragrance. However, if all of you who have purchased it and regret it, you can send it my way, I won’t complain :-).

  • 12. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Chaya, it definitely had potential for me as well. Darn.

  • 13. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Newproducts, I’d still recommend testing it. Just be prepared to be slightly shocked. :)

  • 14. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    March, the first day went really well, thanks! Not sure I get the crotch smell but the wet mushroomy thing is too much for sure.

  • 15. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    Judith, I get no pineapple. I do get something reminiscent of coconut, though.

  • 16. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    Patty, I can totally see how this can grow on you. Hence my testing it several times but to no avail. Same with Flowerbomb.

  • 17. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Elle, I join you in your plea. :)

  • 18. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Leo, LOL! On the contrary, I like it only in the very, very remote drydown. ;)

  • 19. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Peppernuts, you said it.

  • 20. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Cait, I like it better on paper than skin too. Shame.

  • 21. Ina  |  November 29th, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    Cindy, I totally agree with you. It’s a love it or hate it scent. Don’t feel bad. Ms. Colombina (who’s not here today) adores it beyond belief, so you’re not alone. :)

  • 22. Marina  |  November 30th, 2006 at 11:35 am

    More For Me.
    Mwah ha ha ha

  • 23. CindyN  |  November 30th, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    I was thrilled that Marina loved it; she was the other of the “2″ that I referred to. Until her review, I thought that my olfactory system had gone bonkers. Now I just know that I’m bonkers!

  • 24. Ina  |  November 30th, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Marina, you can have it all!

  • 25. Ina  |  November 30th, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    Cindy, I’m glad there’s a tiny little Black Orchid lovers camp out there…




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