“Flowers can have a dark enchantment,” says Tom Ford of his new Jardin Noir series. “When you showcase their darker and less innocent aspects, flowers can become so thrilling and beautiful, they could almost ruin you. That was the sensation I was after.”* For a flower from a collection called Jardin Noir, Lys Fume upon first impression is not all that dark. For a perfume named “Fume”, which I take to mean “smoked lily” in French, the smoke is quite subtle.
But even if Tom Ford is after the “film noir” glamour goddesses in theory only, Lys Fume is an enjoyable fragrance. Real lilies smell intensely indolic–of ink and moth balls–and while perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Shyamala Maisondieu tone down the animalic components, they didn’t shy away from exploring some surprising twists to create this blossom.
At first, Lys Fume smells like hot lily petals dusted with pepper and nutmeg–you can almost feel the sandy roughness of crushed spices as you smell the perfume. The initial sunny warmth of the flowers evokes a summer garden on a balmy afternoon, with all the attributes of such a scene: a book lying on the grass, a pitcher of iced tea with yellow circles of lemon, a bottle of sunscreen. Idyllic and relaxing, perhaps, but hardly subversive and smoldering.
Then comes the best part of the fragrance, a heart created out of luscious ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose. The combination of crunchy green notes and the white florals with their heady apricot jam sweetness is striking, and everything sings in such perfect harmony that for a moment I forget that I find Tom Ford’s aspirational prices irritating.
Lys Fume settles down into dry woods, myrrh and musk. It smells at once like waxy lily petals and smoky vanilla beans, with amber wrapping the composition into an elegant bundle. The uplifting sensation that I felt earlier is gone, and it’s replaced by the warm glow. The perfume feels polished and glamorous, but in a much more understated manner than I would expect based on the press release description.
Tom Ford can ruin you with Lys Fume, alright, but it would be mostly on the financial level. Like the rest of the Private Blend collection, Lys Fume is a well-crafted, elegant perfume, but at its luxurious price you can find other interesting alternatives. For starters, it doesn’t rival Donna Karan Gold, a dark, opulent lily Rodrigo Flores-Roux created with Calice Becker and Yann Vasnier. The unfortunate thing is that Gold has been discontinued, a loss I’m still mourning. If you can’t find Gold and don’t want to pay the premium for Tom Ford’s brand name, why not look to the caressing sweetness of Cartier Baiser Volé, the vanilla flecked petals of Serge Lutens Un Lys or the spicy darkness of Penhaligon’s Lily & Spice? They may not be the Tom Ford style “noir,” but some modern femme fatales might want to wear less black anyway.
Tom Ford Jardin Noir Lys Fume includes notes of mandarin, nutmeg, pink pepper, turmeric, davana, lily, ylang-ylang, dark rum, oak, cistus labdanum, styrax, and Madagascar vanilla. 1.7oz Eau de Parfum/$205.00, 8.4oz Eau de Parfum/$495.00 Available from Berdgorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Selfridges and Tom Ford boutiques.
*quote from New York Times T-Magazine