Tom Ford Jardin Noir Lys Fume : Perfume Review

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“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 Golda 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

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70 Comments

  • Lucas: Thanks for your review Victoria. From Tom Ford Private Blend I know only one single fragrance (Neroli Portofino) one friend sent me a small sample.

    TF Private line is not being sold in Poland, only his non-private perfume can be found here but I had no interest in them at all.

    This Lys Fume also sounds like something I wouldn’t like to wear. September 12, 2012 at 8:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I prefer the regular line to the Private Blends, although as Amer and I were talking about a few weeks ago, the best fragrances in the regular line are the feminine ones. September 12, 2012 at 3:22pm Reply

  • Amer: “ruin you on the financial level”???
    Hilarious and spot on. For me private blend is something I gladly sniff through in the shop looking for the “oh that’s interesting” moment but haven’t found a single one that is good enough to wear on a regular basis. Their simplicity is something that I find tiring after a day’s wear and the price feels like an insult really. Some of them even have a really anticlimactic evolution and others, like Neroli Portofino, are nothing but a slightly revamped version of a drugstore classic (4711 anyone?). Anyway, sorry for the rant, I just wanted to agree with you in a civilized manner but got carried away. Perhaps it is partly because of a recent experience with a Tom Ford SA that really acted as if she was in charge of the national treasury guarding the “precious” Neroli. I also find it generally irritating when I see ruined potential. With that price one would think TF could afford the best ingredients and perfumers and come up with something spectacular every single time. As it is I don’t see why one would spend so much in this price range when Nasomato is available. September 12, 2012 at 8:33am Reply

    • Barbara: That’s how I feel: they are so simple that their price is like a slap in the face. September 12, 2012 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: The one that gets under my skin even more is Azure Lime, which while impeccably crafted smells like any other masculine cologne you find at Macy’s. This feels too aspirational to be reasonable.

      I think that the idea behind Private Blends is the simple etude with one strong signature. Some fragrances in the line use excellent materials (Lavender Palm uses some excellent lavender absolute, the ylang ylang note in Lys Fume is just devastatingly beautiful), but this is still not enough to justify the price. Not for me, at least. September 12, 2012 at 3:27pm Reply

      • Amer: Azure Lame September 13, 2012 at 4:37am Reply

  • Barbara: Great review! Not a single Private Blend is worth its price IMHO. But I just love Black Orchid for a glamorous scent. Always makes me feel good when I wear it. Just the other day I wore it and got lots of compliments. It’s definitely a winner in my book! September 12, 2012 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Barbara. Violet Blonde is one of my favorites. I also like Black Orchid, and especially its flanker Voile de Fleur. September 12, 2012 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I am wearing Gold today. I’ve got a 100 ml. of the EDP for which I paid I think 15 Euros on ebay. Gold is beautiful. I am not a huge lily-lover but every now and again I crave Gold.
    I’m afraid Tom Ford annoys me. A lot. Which has sort of kept me from trying any of his fragrances.

    Have you ever tried Divine’s L’Etre aimé (féminin)? Another Yann Vasnier lily. Not quite as refined as Gold perhaps, but I quite enjoy it on occasion. September 12, 2012 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried L’Etre aimé, but it has been on my list for a while. Thank you for giving me a nudge to try it.

      By the way, I bought borage oil today at the bio store. What is your favorite way to use it? September 12, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I actually tend to use it instead of night cream. Not every night but probably once a week. It also works wonders on itchy skin. It oxidizes pretty quickly so once opened it needs to be used up within I think 6 months.
        You can mix it at will with essential oils and other skin oils like apricot oil or shea butter. September 12, 2012 at 4:10pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I saw it right next to the argan oil, so I pounced on it. :) I’m going to try it tonight. Do you store it in the fridge? Also, does it change color or scent as it starts to oxidize? September 12, 2012 at 4:19pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Mine hasn’t turned and still smells fine. I would rely on your nose mostly. Mine is in a cool cupboard, the place where I got mine from recommends storage in a refrigerator.

            L’Etre is lovely but I think not as good as the original Divine or L’Ame Soeur. September 12, 2012 at 4:42pm Reply

            • Victoria: I just tried it, and it feels wonderful. The oil got absorbed right into the skin and it really felt weightless.

              The original Divine is still my favorite from the collection, while L’Ame Soeur is another close rival. September 12, 2012 at 7:30pm Reply

              • Amer: try adding some rosemary extra. It will keep the oil fresh for much longer and will do your skin some good. It is not an essential oil so there is no risk of becoming sensitized to it September 13, 2012 at 4:30am Reply

              • Austenfan: Ditto on the Divines!
                Did you know that these two now exist in extrait as well? I own the Divine and have sniffed ( and swooned over) L’Ame Soeur.

                Glad the oil worked. September 13, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

  • Apollonia: I agree with my sister perfume lovers here – and you, Victoria, put it so well and made me giggle into my coffee when you said, “Tom Ford can ruin you with Lys Fume alright….” because although his scents all sound gorgeous, I could never justify paying his prices! There are some entire lines I will never be familiar with for the same reason. September 12, 2012 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad I could make you smile this morning! :)
      I agree with you, there are whole lines I usually avoid for this reason. September 12, 2012 at 3:44pm Reply

  • eminere: How many stars do you give it, Victoria? September 12, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I forgot the stars! 3 stars. It’s still a good fragrance. September 12, 2012 at 3:46pm Reply

      • George: Is price a factor in your star-rating? I get from the review and the rating that you give that you are leaving the reader to do their own economical math, which I kind of agree with because everybody’s economical concerns are different.
        However, I am also remembering your review of Jersey: did you dislike the musky development so much that it gets a one star review, even without factoring in cost? If there was ever a fragrance whereby the rating to go from high to low based on the factoring in of cost, it’s Jersey, even though I guess there might be a high manufacturing cost in what I think is a fractional use of lavender. But then again, I didn’t mind (but didn’t love) how it develops, and if you disliked it that much, I could see why you could one star it without even factoring in cost. September 12, 2012 at 4:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: Usually, I try to leave it out of the rating. I mention the price and my value per quality ratio, so to speak, in the review itself, if I feel that it’s either very high or very low. For instance, if Gold were sold at Lys Fume’s price, I would still give it 4 stars. But the ratings aren’t an exact science, of course. It’s more of a shorthand.

          In case of Jersey, I really didn’t like it. It smelled like a functional product to me, not a fine fragrance. September 12, 2012 at 7:38pm Reply

      • eminere: Thanks Victoria! September 13, 2012 at 7:30am Reply

  • breathesgelatin: I can’t find the Private Blends in Austin and thus probably won’t get a chance to try this. But it sounds gorgeous.

    I have been watching Donna Karan Gold at the discounters – you get still get it relatively cheap. I may have to go for that instead. September 12, 2012 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t recommend Gold enough if you love dark, sultry florals. If you can find it at a good price, go for it. Who knows for how long it will be around at this low price before the stocks vanish. September 12, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

  • Lucas G: I used to love Donna Karan´s Gold. As for the Lys Fume and the rest of the garden, i am still waiting for my samples to arrive, but in your review i already feel i am going to love it. I hope you review soon the Hyacinth and the Daffodil from the collection! Im very curious about them! September 12, 2012 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucas, if you like Gold, Lys Fume would be a nice discovery. I would love to hear your thoughts too when you get your samples. September 12, 2012 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Emma: Noir meant something when Caron launched Narcisse Noir almost a hundred years ago and when Serge Lutens created Nombre Noir for Shiseido.
    Tom Ford has so many Noirs in his collection, half of them are not dark or mysterious at all. September 12, 2012 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with you on both of these points. I think that Denyse of Grain de Musc put it well when she said that the noir trend is tiresome, not because the fragrances are not noir, but because the trend itself is uninteresting. September 12, 2012 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Elisa: “Flowers can become so thrilling and beautiful, they could almost ruin you” — what an odd remark! I love your financial interpretation. :)

    Good to know this isn’t as good as DK Gold, which I have 2 backup bottles of.

    I always think fresh lilies smell like rubber. September 12, 2012 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: The only weird thing I’ve experienced with flowers was when I fell asleep in a room with a large bouquet of lilies and had dreams about funerals all night long. But it wasn’t ruinous or thrilling in the slightest. :)

      Wore Lys Fume and Gold side by side and Gold won out. My husband picked it without being asked: “whatever you’re wearing on your right arm smells better.” September 12, 2012 at 3:58pm Reply

  • Rachel: Your “Tom Ford can ruin you with Lys Fume, alright” is right on! But I like several Private Blends like Noir de Noir, Champaca, Tuscan Leather, they smell different from anything I’ve tried before. Do you have a favorite or do you find them all overhyped? September 12, 2012 at 12:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Velvet Gardenia is still my favorite, because it’s probably the only true gardenia I know. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued. I like Champaca Absolute and would gladly wear Tuscan Leather and Lys Fume if I had them, but for this kind of money, I would rather buy something from Lutens or Frederic Malle. I don’t think that they are overhyped, but part of the price you’re paying is definitely for the brand name. As long as you are happy with the scents and can afford them, why not enjoy them? September 12, 2012 at 4:01pm Reply

      • Lucas G: Now you mention gardenias and Lutens, i just got a newsletter: the new exclusive Lutens will be a gardenia called Une Voix Noire ( a black voice) sounds very alluring already…

        P.S. Why is everything noir this days? September 12, 2012 at 5:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: I think that the noir trend has been going on for the past few years, and the word has certain glamorous connotations. As Emma put it above, it’s just a marketing trend, nothing more. Half of the fragrance purporting to be noir are anything but. September 12, 2012 at 7:29pm Reply

  • Daisy: Great review! I wonder if it is really meant to mean “smoked lily,” though. If so, wouldn’t it be “Lys Fumé,” with the accent on the final e?

    Sounds more like Lily Smoke, as in vapor or fumes, or something that envelops or trails — which sounds more fitting based on what it smells like. September 12, 2012 at 1:16pm Reply

    • Daisy: Yes, looking at the Tom Ford site, I think that the “fume” is not intended to be a past participle used as an adjective. Sometimes accents are omitted above capitalized letters (as all the letters in the TF line are), but he puts them above other letters like BEAUTÉ, so we can assume that “fume” is meant to be a noun.

      Sorry for the language lesson! It’s my degree! September 12, 2012 at 1:24pm Reply

      • Marie: I’m French. If I see “Lys Fume,” I translate it as “the lily smokes.” September 12, 2012 at 2:01pm Reply

        • Daisy: I agree with that too. September 12, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

          • Daisy: Fume as a verb, I mean. September 12, 2012 at 2:06pm Reply

            • Marie: It’s a silly name, it makes no sense at all. “Lys Fumé” is much better. September 12, 2012 at 2:12pm Reply

              • Daisy: I agree! I meant to say a noun in English. So sorry for the confusion! September 12, 2012 at 5:44pm Reply

      • Victoria: Ah, it’s fun, no worries!

        Here is what the press release says about Lys Fume: “LYS FUME captures the decadence of tropical intoxication as liquor-soaked dreams
        float in a garden of pure, white lilies.
        Soft notes of Italian mandarin and pink peppercorn and cool, spicy nutmeg and
        turmeric entice you into a lush and overgrown garden of night-blooming tropical
        white lilies, tangled with ylang ylang from Moheli. The intoxicating air, soaked with
        this expansive floral effect, is streaked with the beautiful, sub-tropical melancholy
        of balsamic, South Indian davana essence and West Indian Demerara rum essence.
        A woody harmony of rich vanilla absolute from Madagascar, amber-toned cistus
        labdanum, styrax and oakwood creates a dreamy, hypnotic warmth.”

        A drunk lily, perhaps? :) September 12, 2012 at 4:07pm Reply

        • Daisy: I have that Henri Rousseau painting Le rêve in my head when I read this… September 12, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

        • Amer: somehow I can see turmeric and lilies really going well together. September 13, 2012 at 4:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know what it means, so my translation is my own interpretation. Tom Ford is not known for naming its line in the grammatically correct French. Tobacco Vanille, Ombre de Hyacinth (Hyacinth is Hyacinthe in French), etc.

      Isn’t the noun for smoke in French “fumée”, rather than “fume”? September 12, 2012 at 4:04pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Yes, it is la fumée September 12, 2012 at 4:13pm Reply

      • Daisy: Yes, you are right! That’s exactly what I forgot to include about his hybrid names: Lys in French to mean lily, and Fume in English to mean, well, fumes.

        So sorry! Reading back I realize that I was a little confusing. My final deadlines for graduation are Friday so I my mind is a million places!

        And yes, la fumée for smoke. September 12, 2012 at 5:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: I bet we’ve spent more energy thinking about these names than Tom Ford PR did. :) September 12, 2012 at 7:23pm Reply

          • Daisy: Haha! So true!

            When I think of Tom Ford, I think of unapologetic sexuality. Anyone out there who thinks bad French/English or linguistic ambiguity is hot?

            :-) September 12, 2012 at 7:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: Agreed! Especially when the English word has ambiguous connotations. Fumes aren’t sexy.

              But I love your image of Henri Rousseau’s painting. Now, would it be cool if a perfumer were given that artwork as a brief! September 13, 2012 at 3:02am Reply

      • Lucas G: Hyacinth in french is jacinthe. I think he wanted to mix lenguages… or maybe he wanted to refer to the mythic Hyacinthus, the tragically doomed lover of Apollo…

        Lys in french is masculine , so fumé is the word for “smoked”, smoky would be “enfumé”. Since the accent on the “e” is missing, i think it is again a mix of french and english, meaning Lily smoke or evaporation. September 12, 2012 at 5:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: In my French gardening books, hyacinthe or jacinthe are used interchangeably. The mythical Greek hero would have been Hyacinthe too in French, so yes, it’s not a correct French phrase however you twist it. I’m not surprised that names don’t make sense, because these days pretty much everything has already been trademarked. It’s much easier to lay claim to something that isn’t very common. Hence, this mishmash. September 12, 2012 at 7:18pm Reply

        • Elisa: Except that “fume” in English has really negative connotations … almost always used to refer to something noxious or toxic, like gasoline. I wonder how SA’s are pronouncing it, like “fume” in English or like it would be pronounced in French with an accent? September 12, 2012 at 7:19pm Reply

          • Victoria: It’s pronounced as Lys Fumé here in Belgium (at least at the couple of stores that carry the Private Blends). September 12, 2012 at 7:27pm Reply

          • Lucas G: Maybe he wanted the “negative” connotation so it sounds more twisted and darker??? I dont know… as a spanish is all foreginer to me :) September 13, 2012 at 3:58am Reply

  • maggiecat: This sounds lovely – I’ll happily sample it, but at those prices? Well, maybe that lottery ticket will pay off. September 12, 2012 at 1:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: :) I will sample anything, and this one was definitely enjoyable enough to live with. September 12, 2012 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Dear Victoria,

    Kudos to you Victoria a newfound education in the world of fragrance for me. It is proving interesting, but not far removed back in the days of my association with advertising/publishing. Advertising usually selected many agencies for product campaigns, so I guess I chalk it off as marketing is as marketing does. At any rate, I’m taking this all in. And a spokesperson should be well thought out: Lancome is now running a campaign with Julia Roberts. Sorry, I cannot relate. By the by, all devotees of BdJ and Guerlain fragrances. Les Deserts D’Orient est arrive at Bergdorf Goodman. Now this I look fwd. to sampling.

    Since it was the anniversary of 911 yesterday, I took the day instead of brooding and indulge in some time well spent by stopping in to many of the fragrance boutiques and engaging in conversations about scent that I love to read though your blog. September 12, 2012 at 4:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad to hear that you had a good day yesterday, considering all of those painful memories that we can’t avoid on 9/11. We went for a walk and came home and baked biscotti (trying out the oven in our new apartment!) I expected it to be a very sad day, but somehow we managed to channel our energy into something positive. I still missed NYC and my family and friends very much. September 12, 2012 at 7:33pm Reply

  • Alexa: Dear Victoria, thank you for your article. Tom Fords Private Blend is not sold in Sweden either
    (as far as I know), so I will try it next time I travel abroad again. Looking forward to read other articles written by you. September 12, 2012 at 6:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome, Alexa! I hope that you will get to try it soon. And if you like the lily notes, then it’s worth sampling. September 12, 2012 at 7:39pm Reply

  • Ruta: Another gorgeous lilly is PG Profanes Louanges (which I happen to wear today), and it does have this tad of darkness and smokyness Tom Ford promises in his perfume name :)
    I am not big fan of lillies, but I find Profanes to be incredibly beautiful and attention catching lilly frag September 13, 2012 at 5:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ruta. That’s a great suggestion, and it’s now on my list to check out. September 17, 2012 at 6:19pm Reply

  • Miriam: So glad to return to reading your blog, Victoria–it’s been too long.

    I love a smoky lily with myrrh (six or seven years since we met, Passage d’Enfer is still my signature, every-day, fragrance), but I’m on a quest for something a bit fancier, with a more prominent lily note. If PdE is my daytime fragrance, then this would be my evening lily. I read your review eagerly and am convinced this probably isn’t the scent for me. I liked Gold, but found it a bit too vanillic for me.

    There has to be a fresh, dry, spicy lily out there that is less expensive than Golconda. I’m very excited to try Louanges Profanes, it sounds like a slightly deeper, darker version of PdE, but with more lily. September 26, 2012 at 6:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Miriam, what a pleasant surprise to hear from you! I was recently thinking about you and how much I enjoyed meeting you in Philadelphia at that lovely cafe.

      I think that Lys Fume is nevertheless worth trying, because it’s less sweet than Gold. It feels thinner and more balsamic in the drydown, if that makes sense. Really nicely crafted. I haven’t tried Louanges Profanes, but it sounds very interesting to me too. September 27, 2012 at 4:51am Reply

      • Miriam: I’ve been thinking about you, too! I miss Philadelphia and it’s cafes (am now an English prof in Athens, GA, which is very arty and folksy, but I miss cities). I will try to find a sample of this perfume to try it out. These days when I get bored with PdE I usually switch to something by DS and Durga– Roots Scrubbed Clean, which is only available in NYC at In God We Trust is (in my opinion) the fresh, rooty Angelica that Angeliques Sous la Pluie wants to be, with much more staying power. It’s pretty amazing. I also like Siberian Snow. September 27, 2012 at 4:32pm Reply

        • Miriam: (Of course I meant “its” not “it’s”– what a terrible typo for an English professor to make!) September 27, 2012 at 4:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: DS and Durga is an interesting brand, and I like Roots Scrubbed Clean as well. Your description is so spot on! I haven’t smelled Siberian Snow, so I’m going to add it to my list to try. September 27, 2012 at 5:46pm Reply

  • Anaïs: Lys Fume – I like this scent. However, on my skin, it’s turning sickeningly sweet as if I’ve been coated in lily pollen. February 21, 2013 at 5:28pm Reply

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