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