Tom Ford Private Blend Santal Blush : Fragrance Review

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Santaltf

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Is it possible to create a stunning sandalwood fragrance without using Indian sandalwood? As I smell more and more sandalwood dominated new launches, the answer to this question increasingly appears to me as negative. There exists nothing that duplicates the fragrance of Mysore sandalwood, which smells more of flowers and fresh cream rather than of dry woods. Tom Ford Santal Blush is an attempt to construct a classical sandalwood accord, using Australian sandalwood, spices and resins. While it does not convey the mellifluous character of true sandalwood, it presents an elegant twist on the woody theme reminiscent of Diptyque Tam Dao.

The opening chord of Santal Blush is the least appealing part of the fragrance for me—metallic, dry, with resinous hints of incense and cumin. As time goes on, the sharpness becomes more muted, and the sweetness of cinnamon and rose unfolds gently to soften the initial impression. The sandalwood undulates very slowly, filling out the spaces of the composition with its dark creaminess. It is not the enchanting rose syrup and milk sweetness of Indian sandalwood, yet it is very appealing nonetheless. There is a suggestion of oud and leather in the drydown, which together make this woody fragrance dry and smoky.

Just like Jasmin Rouge, Santal Blush smells expensive and refined. The ylang ylang and jasmine notes feel rich and velvety, the woody notes have an alluring heft, while the musk has a sensual softness. Its woods and incense theme is presented in a contemporary niche tradition that would be familiar to those who have smelled Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Costes or 10 Corso Como. It is harmonious and well-crafted, but it does not capture my imagination. Compared to Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore, it is easier to wear, while lacking a dramatic impact. On the other hand, it stands head and shoulders above Le Labo Santal 33, given its elegant aura. While its sillage is understated, Santal Blush has an excellent tenacity.

Tom Ford Private Blend Santal Blush includes notes of ylang ylang, cumin, cinnamon bark, carrot seed, jasmine, rose, cedarwood, Australian sandalwood, oud, musk and benzoin. Private Blend collection is available at the Tom Ford boutiques, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks5thAvenue. The Eau de Parfum–$195 (50ml), $475 (250ml).

Sample: my own acquisition

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22 Comments

  • Andy: Sandalwood is such a favorite of mine. I still have to get my hands on some really good sandalwood essential oil to use as a point of comparison, but of course it is becoming harder and harder to find. I don’t know if it’s just me, but all sandalwood seems to turn very gourmand on my skin. After initially smelling very fresh and woodsy, it warms up to something powdery, creamy, and buttery, ultimately reminding me of an abstract sort of custard filled pastry. And I love sandalwood hydrosol as a refreshing body spray. Definately still on the lookout for an ultimate sandalwood fragrance, though. September 1, 2011 at 10:06am Reply

  • Elizabeth: Could perfumers replicate the smell of Mysore sandalwood by using those milky and floral notes that you mention? I’m wondering how they do it for the current version of Chanel Bois des Iles, which I have been wearing on and off for years. It still smells great to me! September 1, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • chayaruchama: It’s elegant and tenacious, but Mysore IS the Gold Standard, no question.
    I’m a bore on the subject, I fear ;-0
    I adore the Lutens; No one has ever objected to my wearing it- it augurs only sighs and canoodling. September 1, 2011 at 11:50am Reply

  • sweetlife: Mmm. Sounds worth sniffing, though I do love the creamy aspect of the real thing. In fact, I love it so much that I wear it even though I almost instantly break out in tiny hives where I’ve applied it. September 1, 2011 at 6:58pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: Sandlewood is my note!!! But with this all I can focus on are the womans hands and nails….Photoshopped and spidery?? Facinating image! Wait, is she trying to catch him or the perfume into her web? September 1, 2011 at 11:51pm Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: At least TF is upfront about using Australian sandalwood. Some other companies seem to just avoid the issue. I’m looking forward to sniffing this as I did not like Le Labo’s Santal 33. I have a small amount of some Amouage Sandalwood attar which does smell as if it’s the Indian variety but I don’t know for sure. September 2, 2011 at 8:39am Reply

  • Cybele: Thank you for the straight forward review. Do you know which perfume actually still contains Mysore sandelwood, I understand Bois de Iles, any others? And could you recommend any fragrance that captures “the enchanting rose syrup and milk sweetness” you describe? September 2, 2011 at 8:58am Reply

  • Suzanna: I’m with hongkongmom on the hands! The finger-claws (or spider legs as hkm points out) take the total attention. I can’t say the image is terribly appealing from an erotic standpoint. However, back to the days of the dragon lady, last seen in the 1970s!

    (I love Santal de Mysore, but it smells like a cake iced with DK’s Black Cashmere on me.) September 2, 2011 at 10:18am Reply

  • maggiecat: Sandalwood is one of the few notes my husband really likes in perfume, and I’m looking forward to trying both this and the Jasmin Rouge. Thanks for an interesting review! September 2, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • Victoria: I can definitely see the gourmand aspect of sandalwood. It is very creamy, soft on my skin too.
    I used to use sandalwood hydrosol on my hair right after washing it. It made it smell so good. September 4, 2011 at 10:22am Reply

  • Victoria: It is extremely hard to replicate this feeling, because what gives sandalwood this quality is not due to a handful of aroma materials, but to hundreds! Most of them are not even perceived by the instruments used to analyze the scent, because they occur in such small quantities. Yet, the human nose is remarkably sensitive.
    It is possible to mimic the effect to a degree, but it just will not be the same.
    Bois des Iles uses such a complex combination of ingredients that while sandalwood is important, it is not the only dominant note. I agree, it smells great to me too. September 4, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Victoria: Some people complain of cumin in Santal de Mysore. I do not find it bothersome, but then again, it is not a note that I dislike. September 4, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Victoria: What really disappoints me about Santal Blush is how thin it gets in the drydown after a while. I wish it had a bit more heft. September 4, 2011 at 10:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, the image is striking, but also a bit creepy to me. Not sure why… September 4, 2011 at 10:30am Reply

  • Victoria: Amouage used to use the real thing. I have not smelled their fragrances in stores in a while (I still have my own bottles from a few years ago,) so I am not sure how they’ve changed the formulas, if they did. September 4, 2011 at 10:31am Reply

  • Victoria: Cybele, I do not know, to tell you the truth. Maybe, Amouage or some small niche brands that can still afford it. Definitely not any big brand, as not only is it expensive, the quantities available are very small. Big brands need to be sure that the ingredients can be sources in certain amounts year after year. September 4, 2011 at 10:34am Reply

  • Victoria: As for the milky sweetness, I find it in Samsara, oddly enough, since it use manmade sandalwood materials (it has always did, even when it was first launched.) I love the EDP version.
    Also, Jeux de Peau by Lutens. September 4, 2011 at 10:35am Reply

  • Victoria: >>a cake iced with DK’s Black Cashmere
    This imagery is somehow so precise and appealing to me! :) September 4, 2011 at 10:35am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! Hope that more people can chime in who have smelled it. September 4, 2011 at 10:36am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Sandalwood is a very important scent for me: it is the preferred fragrance for meditation incense and is used by Buddhists to cleanse and purify a space and remind all who enter that it is sacred. As such, I am very attracted to perfumes that have a sandalwood note, as they have a very calming effect on me and add to the “Zen” of my mood.Can’t say though that I associate Tom Ford with Buddhist temples and meditation cushions, but perhaps he had something more Tantric in mind? September 7, 2011 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: I certainly do not associate Tom Ford and Buddhism! :) September 8, 2011 at 11:25am Reply

  • Carol: THIS is a perfume that is rich and inviting. Very fallish. Jasmine Rouge is a little too sweet although Santal is warm and reminds one of a roaring fireplace, perfect port and man at your side.

    Love it and the fact that when I enter a room it annouces me with grace and a women for culture and taste.

    Thanks to my local Nordstrom and Joanne for letting me try this wonderful addition to the Tom Ford collection. September 28, 2011 at 1:41pm Reply

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