Tom Ford Jardin Noir Cafe Rose : Perfume Review

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After my mixed experience with Lys Fume, I approached the rest of Tom Ford’s Jardin Noir collection reluctantly. As I wore the fragrances  over these past few months, I grew to like them very much, especially Ombre de Hyacinth and Café Rose. While Tom Ford promised that Jardin Noir would be abloom with twisted, dark florals, the collection is neither twisted nor dark. Instead, it features elegant, polished fragrances on four different themes: lily, daffodil, hyacinth, and rose. The lack of drama is a minus, especially given the concept of this quartert, but these interpretations of classical florals are so smooth and refined that they are worth sampling.

Café Rose was created by perfumer Antoine Lie, who also worked on Azure Lime and Violet Blonde for Ford.  It is the darkest perfume from Jardin Noir, but it has a distinctive Middle Eastern flair. The woods are so pronounced that they compete with rose for top billing, while the incense gives the perfume an exotic twist. The main reason I enjoy Café Rose is for its contrast–it feels sophisticated, but at the same time, it has a flamboyant air. Too much elegance can be boring, after all.

One spray of Café Rose is enough to wrap me in its decadent richness. It has the vaguely exotic feel of Scheherazade’s boudoir, but it wouldn’t be out of place on Lauren Bacall in Dark Passage.  On skin this perfume smells like sandalwood shavings soaked in rose water. A dash of brown sugar and a few swirls of incense complete the picture. But within moments, the toasted notes unfold, and that’s the coffee part of Café Rose. The coffee is a delicate whiff, as if you were to crush a couple of grains between your fingers, but it’s pronounced enough to give a toasty, warm sensation to the fragrance. Don’t expect the richness of espresso–coffee notes are notorious for being hard to use in large amounts.

Tom Ford pricing is aspirational, there is no doubt about that. You pay as much for the brand and its aura of exclusivity as for the perfume itself. But the quality is good enough that if you are ready to pay for Tom Ford’s name, you get a polished, well-crafted perfume.

On the other hand, if you are not, you can find an idea similar to Cafe Rose among other niche lines. For the toasted rose layered with sweet nutty notes, try Parfumerie Générale Brûlure de Rose and Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praline. Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma is an earthier, darker twist on this idea. If you are craving a true Middle Eastern rose, Montale Black Aoud or Aoud Queen Roses are the other interesting options. Finally, Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule will take you to Marrakesh by the way of Paris, but in this case, you should be ready for a rich hit of sandalwood before you get the rose petal showers. There are many other ways to reach the same destination.

Tom Ford Jardin Noir Café Rose includes notes of rose, pepper, saffron, coffee, patchouli, sandalwood, amber, and incense. 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.

Sample: my own acquisition

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72 Comments

  • Persolaise: Yes, I couldn’t agree more about the lack of drama. All four are fine… but they never soar. December 10, 2012 at 7:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Ombre de Hyacinth and Café Rose soar for me, the other two fall flat. December 10, 2012 at 8:03am Reply

      • sara: Will you review Ombre de Hyacinth, Victoria? I love hyacinths but in perfume it usually doesn’t smell like the flower. December 10, 2012 at 9:46am Reply

        • Figuier: Seconding Sara’ – I adore hyacinth, and have yet to find a better version than the hyacinth in Cristalle. Would love to hear your thoughts on this new Tom Ford version :) December 10, 2012 at 11:16am Reply

          • Victoria: If you like hyacinth, I would suggest Annick Goutal Grand Amour. It has such a rich, deep hyacinth note. And so does Guerlain Chamade. December 10, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

            • Figuier: Thanks for the recs – I have a Grand Amour edp mini and like it very much, but don’t find the hyacinth as vivid as Cristalle. I will definitely try Chamade tho – I smelled it years ago, before the hyacinth obsession had hatched ;) December 11, 2012 at 3:26am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, I will probably review it. For me, it’s more of an earthy, dark green iris than hyacinth, but it’s beautiful. It has an impressive tenacity and a great presence. December 10, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

  • Maria: Cafe Rose was my favourite too, but I can’t afford more than a decant. I’m happy to see you mention some other possibilities. What’s the sweetness level of Rose Praline? December 10, 2012 at 9:12am Reply

    • sara: Maria, I went through 2 bottles of Rose Praline before I got tired of it. It’s not sugary, the sweetness is moderate. It’s a little smoky, a little nutty, very cozy. December 10, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

      • Victoria: I agree, it smells so cozy and warm. I don’t wear it that often, but whenever I do, I enjoy it very much. December 10, 2012 at 11:39am Reply

      • Barbara: Yum! I want to smell it. :) December 10, 2012 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with Sara, it’s not cloying. The chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut notes definitely give it sweetness, but it’s nothing like Angel or some other popular gourmand perfumes. December 10, 2012 at 11:32am Reply

  • Barbara: V, how come there are so few perfumes with coffee notes? I would love something that smells like a pot of espresso. December 10, 2012 at 9:27am Reply

    • Marc: Try New Haarlem by Bond no 9 if you want a strong coffee note. December 10, 2012 at 10:46am Reply

      • Victoria: That’s a great suggestion. I also like New Haarlem. December 10, 2012 at 11:33am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s hard to use coffee notes, because they tend to smell too savory on skin. There was a fragrance from Yohji Yamamoto that I loved, and it had a fantastic coffee-caramel note. December 10, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

    • George: Also known for their coffeeishness (???) are Rochas Man (which I think might be close to the Yohji scent suggested by Victoria, as it smells like Body Kouros with a coffee note added, and Body Kouros is supposed to be like Yohji Homme) and Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens. And I second (or is it third by now?) New Haarlem. December 10, 2012 at 11:46am Reply

      • Barbara: Thank you, Marc, George and Victoria! I haven’t tried anything from Bond no 9 yet. I have a sample of Un Bois Vanilla. It is very smoky/woodsy on me. I didn’t think of coffee when I smelled it but now I will pay more attention. December 10, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

        • George: Having said all that, I agree with Victoria on the general unwearability of perfumes that contain a coffee note: as much as I love coffee in all its drinkable forms, when presented as a note within perfumes, and combined with the skin (or once the top notes are depleted) it more often or not becomes to resemble stale coffee breath. Un Bois Vanille (to me) is a better coffee perfume, because the freshly roasted coffee of the perfume is more of an interpretation (which is probably the vanilla plus the smoky woods that you are getting) rather than it being a literal note. December 10, 2012 at 5:43pm Reply

      • Victoria: Rochas Man had a great coffee note too. I didn’t think about it at first, but you’re right, it should be mentioned. In general, coffee notes are more common in masculines scents, since they give this savory, smoky edge that the typical feminine perfumes avoid. December 10, 2012 at 3:55pm Reply

    • Andrea: Wasn’t there also a male fragrance by Thierry Mugler (A men, B men ore one of their flankers) with a huge coffee note? Sorry I can’t be more specific. It is so long ago. But somebody else here will definitely know. December 10, 2012 at 12:34pm Reply

      • Victoria: You’re right, A*Men has lots of caramel, coffee and smoky woods. If a woman likes woods and dark notes, I don’t see why she wouldn’t be able to pull it off. December 10, 2012 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Marc: I didn’t try this collection since they’re all florals and I didn’t think they would work for a guy, but your description of Cafe Rose makes me want to smell it. I love sandalwood and incense. December 10, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Cafe Rose is moderately sweet and the rose is blended with enough woods, so I think that it can work. The rest are definitely more quintessentially feminine. December 10, 2012 at 11:37am Reply

  • ambroxan: I wear Tuscan Leather and Amber Absolute, but the rest of TF didn’t make an impression on me. I didn’t smell Jardin Noir yet, but it doesn’t sound like my thing. December 10, 2012 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I myself prefer the Signature Collection to the Private Blends, but some are very interesting. I just think that the price in some cases is not justified, mostly in terms of originality. I think that the quality is very good across the board, but some Blends are too safe and too simple to make a splash. December 10, 2012 at 11:38am Reply

  • Joey: Antoine Lie also created ELDO Rien, a fragrance I would take with me to a desert island. Adding Cafe Rose to my ever expanding list. Thanks for a review, V! December 10, 2012 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! Yes, he also worked on Secretions Magnifiques for Etat Libre d’Orange, a very controversial perfume. But Cafe Rose, for better or worse, is much more well-behaved. December 10, 2012 at 3:32pm Reply

      • Ferris: So how is Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d’Orange? Never smelled that one before. December 11, 2012 at 2:54am Reply

        • Victoria: I think that it is interesting purely as a concept. As a fragrance, it is borderline unwearable, because it smells extremely metallic and cold. December 11, 2012 at 2:58am Reply

  • Andrea: I loved the dry down of Japon Noir madly. A 4711 top note (which I was not at all mad about) and then a rocky and abrupt passage to a fabulous heart and base. Like Chamade its life span was endless – my jacket and my wallet, where I put the paper strip, were scented for weeks. But all of the Tom Fords I ever tried have this longevity.
    I ended up buying Noir de Noir. And don’t use it much. There you go. December 10, 2012 at 12:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tom Ford’s perfumes (and Lauder perfumes in general) have a fantastic tenacity. I have a scent strip of Cafe Rose that I sprayed about a month ago, and it still smells very strongly. So, a little goes a long way with this fragrance. December 10, 2012 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Daisy: Sandalwood shaving soaked in rosewater? Oh man. I’m sold :-)

    What a wonderful image! I haven’t had too much luck with Tom Ford’s perfumes, but I am willing to set my past aside and give the line another chance. December 10, 2012 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: As I mentioned above, all in all, I prefer the Signature Line, but I really like Cafe Rose and Ombre de Hyacinth. If only they were priced at something a bit more reasonable. I feel the same way about Ford’s lipsticks, which are beautiful but really overpriced. Have you tried any? December 10, 2012 at 3:53pm Reply

      • Daisy: I haven’t tried his lipsticks. I really want to give the Serge Luten’s make-up line a try though. Have you? December 10, 2012 at 5:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve received a book of lipstick samples when I bought some perfume (what an ingenious idea to sample lipsticks, by the way). I thought that ok, what’s the big deal? But the lipstick is really quote amazing. It wears very well, but it is not drying. The colors are intense, but you can wear them as stains. Beige was the first beige I loved. Garde Rose is a bright fuchsia that is surprisingly flattering and can be stained too. The reds are also interesting. I didn’t buy anything in full size yet, but I already know what to ask for the Valentine’s Day. This will give me some time to decide on a color. December 11, 2012 at 3:04am Reply

          • Daisy: That sounds wonderful. I will have to go check them out. Thanks for letting me know what they are like! December 11, 2012 at 6:51pm Reply

            • Victoria: Don’t thank me yet! :) And while you’re at it, swipe your finger across his powder eye shadows. The price of his palette is so astronomical that I wasn’t even tempted (and the colors wouldn’t be my top choice), but the suave texture of the powders was a sensory experience in itself. December 11, 2012 at 7:01pm Reply

              • Daisy: That does sound luxurious! I did just take a look at the Barneys website. $55 for a SL lipstick?! And that isn’t even the lipstick — it’s the refill!

                Wow. And I thought the ByTerry lipsticks were pricey . . . December 12, 2012 at 11:56pm Reply

      • Ferris: What is the Tom Ford’s Signature Line? Is that the line with Black Orchid, Grey Vetiver and the rest? December 11, 2012 at 1:47am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s the one. December 11, 2012 at 2:59am Reply

      • Ferris: The Private Blends are a bit pricey and I can’t afford anything more than a decant. But he does put together some interesting scent combinations. I don’t know if I would pay that much for a full bottle though. December 11, 2012 at 1:55am Reply

        • Victoria: I wouldn’t either, in most cases. I have a mental barrier when it comes to spending more than 200 usd on a bottle of perfume. With some exceptions, but there are not so many of them. December 11, 2012 at 3:06am Reply

  • Annikky: I don’t trust myself around Tom Ford stuff. He knows too well which buttons to push – I think he is one of the greatest marketeers of our time, and I mean marketing in the widest possible sense. I own two of his lipsticks (Bruised Plum and Violet Fatale) and the Shade & Illuminate palette – they are all beautiful and of high quality, but are they really that much better than YSL? Don’t think so. I have so far been able to control myself with the scents, mostly because the ideas behind them are usually more fascinating than the fragrances themselves. And also because the price of one private blend is nearly the same as for Frederic Malle’s coffret for women.  December 10, 2012 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I see what you mean. You know, whenever I’m at Senteurs d’Ailleurs, there is always someone buying vast quantities of Tom Ford. It is very popular.

      I haven’t tried Ford’s lipsticks. Resisting perfume is easy enough for me, but not a good red lipstick. December 11, 2012 at 3:10am Reply

      • Annikky: I have to admit that for a red lip aficionado, Cherry Lush is almost a must-try. Great color, good formula, beautiful design. Despite my doubts regarding TF products, he does transform every public (and private) act of make-up into a little moment of glamour. I do appreciate that. December 11, 2012 at 4:09am Reply

        • Victoria: I peaked at some of the beauty blogs to check out the swatches for Cherry Lush, and I see what you mean. Looks quite stunning. It reminds me of a long vanished Chanel Starlet, which was a perfect 1940s Hollywood red. December 11, 2012 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I agree Victoria- the Cafe Rose is yummy; it avoids the cloying, inspidity that some single florals manifest, It’s a sophisticated rose for an adult. The price is bonkers, though. You’re better off with Stella MacCartney’s original- it smells like roses that have been chain smoking- until you win the Lotto! December 10, 2012 at 4:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a good description. I wear my decant happily, but I don’t know if I’m ready to splurge on a full bottle. But it is very good, and I would say that among Private Blends, it is one of the best. December 11, 2012 at 3:13am Reply

  • Jennifer: I’ve only tried the Hyacinth from this line, and while I liked the greenness of the opening, the drydown didn’t do it for me at the time. But that was one sniff at Neiman Marcus, so I probably need to revisit. Cafe Rose sounds good though. I’ve kind of been interested in exploring rose scents lately, especially darker treatments of rose. I just got a sample of Rossy de Palma, which I’m wearing today. I really like this one. I also like the rose in Santal Majuscule. So given all that I think Cafe Rose might need to go on my ever-expanding to-sample list. December 10, 2012 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that you will enjoy it then. If it were only 50 less expensive, I would be planning my next purchase. It really has such a great presence. December 11, 2012 at 3:15am Reply

  • Amer: I really liked Ombre de Hyacinth (still not enough for the asked price). I like the dark green facet and I can’t think of anything else in the market that has a similar aspect. It quiets down a bit but the green facet is quite persistent (especially if sprayed on fabric). December 10, 2012 at 8:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that Ombre de Hyacinth is really fascinating, especially if you like green notes. December 11, 2012 at 4:24pm Reply

      • Amer: Guilty as charged…
        and I think for a floral it is quite masculine too December 12, 2012 at 5:13am Reply

        • Victoria: I agree! There is so much galbanum in it, it could easily be a masculine scent. December 12, 2012 at 7:42am Reply

          • Amer: To my nose galbanum is not so apparent in this one. I don’t get the piercing pine note I usually associate with it. It was more of a damp, garden soil like green-ness. Reminded me of the moist shaded places in the garden that you usually reserve for planting bulbs. Very realistic and in congruence with the “savage garden” theme.
            I must test again although it is not sold anywhere near where I live. December 13, 2012 at 7:22am Reply

  • Claire: I’m certainly intrigued. I am still in search for that abstract gourmand that you mentioned and Prada Candy is a bit too sweet for my nose. This one may hit the spot. I will haunt this at local department store (or perhaps, is there any sampling program online somewhere, along the line of Lucky Scent?) Thanks, Victoria, for the wonderful review. December 10, 2012 at 11:02pm Reply

    • Jennifer: You might try theperfumedcourt.com or surrendertochance.com. Both of those sites have good selections and they offer a range of sample sizes. December 11, 2012 at 2:16am Reply

      • Claire: Thanks, Jennifer!! I’ll google those two sources and hopefully I can purchase a sample or two. December 11, 2012 at 8:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re most welcome, Claire. It’s not particularly gourmand, more of a woody floral, but it has a teasing sweetness that makes it addictive. I wore it today again and enjoyed the toasty/nutty notes. December 11, 2012 at 6:45pm Reply

  • RoddyJonesStyle: I personal haven’t tried Cafe Rose, but reading this post makes me want to go out and grab it. I also like the bottle. :) Bottles always catch my attention. December 11, 2012 at 4:20am Reply

  • annemariec: I’m intrigued too at the idea of rose and coffee. Rose and spice I have tried; rose and oud; rose and earth; rose and patchouli. I’ve found things I like amongst all that. But rose and coffee sounds delectable.

    Trouble is: Tom Ford’s prices, and that feeling that I’m being exploited by the marketing. And I’m feeling very cautious at the moment about sampling expensive lines. I’ve bought samples from Ramon Monegal and Francis Kurkdjian and been disappointed.

    Oh well. Long day. Time to climb into the pyjamas and look for a comfort scent. December 11, 2012 at 4:37am Reply

    • annemariec: Adding: I have rose in my garden at the moment called Julia’s Rose which is cafe latte coloured. Scent is nothing special, unfortunately! December 11, 2012 at 5:20am Reply

      • Annikky: This sounded so good that I had to google Julia’s Rose. I love the color, it seems very elegant to me. December 11, 2012 at 6:33am Reply

        • annemariec: Thanks, yes, it is. Oddly enough I have two bushes of Julia’s Rose and one is a genuine cafe latte colour warmed by just a teeny blush of pink, whereas the other has a definite pink colour on the outside of the petals. Both are delightful. Unfortunately I’ve just discovered that mine are suffering from die-back, and Julia’s Rose is prone to die-back, apparently. Sigh. You have to be an optimist to be a gardener! December 11, 2012 at 5:52pm Reply

      • Victoria: You know, I’ve been obsessed with that same color–I also googled Julia’s Rose. I kept seeing it in the Japanese fashion magazines, and I finally found out that it has a specific name in Japanese–it’s called “milk chai”. Or cafe latte! :) December 11, 2012 at 6:57pm Reply

        • annemariec: How lovely! December 12, 2012 at 2:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Those two lines you mentioned didn’t do much for me either (except for Amyris). Tom Ford’s fragrances feel more vivacious somehow, and I like their polish. I also like that Ford takes some of the niche ideas and develops them for his mainstream (well, mainstream relatively speaking) collection. He has such a strong image and such a powerful marketing influence, as Annikky also noted, that even some of these seemingly uncommercial ideas take off. December 11, 2012 at 6:54pm Reply

      • annemariec: I see, yes, if anyone can get an unusual vision accepted in the mainstream, he can. Good point, I shall pay more attention. And I liked Amyris too, more than the others from FK. December 12, 2012 at 3:49am Reply

  • ross kanya: Wonderful review Victoria! I have a decant of Cafe Rose, and I enjoy it quite a bit. I wasn`t too found of it in the beginning but I like it a lot now. My favorite though is Ombre de Hyacinth which i recently purchased a bottle of. Such a beautiful dark green twisted floral that is suitable for both sexes. I`d really appreciate if you could review it. I enjoy your blog a lot! December 13, 2012 at 2:03am Reply

  • Merlin: After all this praise I am going to have to test Violet Blonde again. I remember liking it but being unsure whether I would ever feel ‘together’ enough to wear something like that!
    I don’t like White patchouli or Black Orchid, so they are out – and no matter how much I like the private collection I just wouldn’t spend that much. I do however appreciate how potent they are! December 13, 2012 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Sebastiaan: Hi Victoria,

    Thank you for your great blog post on Cafe Rose. I would love to hear what you think of Ombre de Hyacinth!

    Many thanks,

    Sebastiaan March 8, 2013 at 8:09am Reply

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