Tom Ford Atelier d’Orient Shanghai Lily : Perfume Review

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I’ve been slowly testing the new Atelier d’Orient quarter, which was launched earlier this season in Tom Ford’s Private Blend collection. While I was enjoying Plum Japonais, Fleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre well enough, Shanghai Lily stood out the most. I fell for it so hard that on any given day if I don’t have other perfume wearing plans it ends up on my skin. There are a few fragrances from Tom Ford’s Private Blend collection that hit the spot–Champaca Absolute, Velvet Gardenia, Cafe Rose, but Shanghai Lily is quickly becoming my favorite.

Anna-May-Wong

I like my flowers with a twist, and Shanghai Lily is a white floral with a dark mood. The jasmine and tuberose are warmed up and cossetted with plenty of spices and dark resins, which is already interesting. But the best part is that nothing about Shanghai Lily is heavy or oppressive. Instead, it sparkles from its gingery top notes to the incense accented drydown.

Shanghai Lily is, of course, Marlene Dietrich, who played this notorious role in the 1932 film Shanghai Express. But the woman I see behind Ford’s perfume is Anna May Wong. Wong had a smaller role, but whenever her character Hui Fei appeared on screen, she held her own. She had such a beguiling mix of innocence and sensuality that  when I think of Shanghai Express, Wong comes to mind before Dietrich. I wonder if Tom Ford was thinking of her as well.

But let’s forget all the exotic motifs that the name contains.  As much as it pains me to admit it, given Ford’s price tag, Shanghai Lily is beautiful. I love how it sizzles with pepper and clove, which are then toned down by orange. The promised lily is composed out of different floral notes, and its waxy white petals take shape slowly out of rose, violet, and jasmine. And then suddenly, you have on your skin a corsage of Madonna lilies powdered yellow with sweet pollen.

Later, the lilies wilt, leaving you with the scent of an antique rosewood box that not only smells of wood shavings, but also of incense, musk, and something earthy and smoky. The sweetness is mild, the darkness is tempered, and yet without being heady or dramatic, Shanghai Lily clings to the skin for hours. Even at the end of the day when I no longer notice my perfume, I get compliments on it as I’m kissed goodbye. A perfume that encourages others to lean in closer is a good thing in my book. (On the other hand, if you want something to announce your presence, this won’t fit the bill).

Compared to Serge Lutens’s femme fatale flowers like Fleurs d’Oranger or Tubéreuse Criminelle, this is mild stuff, but it’s also easier to carry. It has something of Caron Parfum Sacré‘s spice and in terms of dark flowers, it’s closer to the much missed Donna Karan Gold than Ford’s other lily, Lys Fume. Zesty and fiery at first, it becomes suave and velvety in the drydown. All of its stages are equally interesting, and this is one of the reasons I enjoy this perfume. That it makes me dream of carved boxes, old movies, and lilies in Renaissance paintings is another reason.

shanghai lily

Tom Ford Private Blend Atelier d’Orient Shanghai Lily (Eau de Parfum) includes notes of bitter orange, clove, pepper, jasmine, rose, vetiver, guaiacwood, amber, benzoin, castoreum, frankincense, and vanilla.  The price is the least appealing aspect of this perfume–50ml will set you back $210.

Image: Anna May Wong.

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109 Comments

  • Connie: I really want to try this set of new releases-hopefully I’ll see them at Saks soon! July 16, 2013 at 7:41am Reply

    • Victoria: They should be soon, and it looks like they are at Bergdorf Goodman/Neiman Marcus already. July 16, 2013 at 11:45am Reply

  • mitsu: I love Anna May Wong more than Dietrich in Shanghai Express. She was way ahead of her time.

    I haven’t tried any Tom Ford fragrances yet and I’m interested to smell this one. Thanks for a great review. July 16, 2013 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s just unfortunately that the unfair laws of her time prevented her from starring in more films. She is just stunning and she has such a great presence on screen. July 16, 2013 at 11:46am Reply

  • Amer: My main issue with the (relatively) recent lily hits like Lys Fume and Lys Soleia, is the inclusion of Ylang which to my nose smells nothing like a lily and it ends up overshadowing the central theme with its sunscreen and fruity nuances. I haven’t smelled this yet but I hope I’ll find something evoking a true white-green lily for once. July 16, 2013 at 8:49am Reply

    • Zazie: Hi, have you tried Lys mediterranée by frederic malle? It is not particularly green, but it has a watery-ozonic quality to it, and it has none of the fruity “butteriness” of the lys you mention (I happen to love ylang-lily perfumes, but I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea ;))! July 16, 2013 at 9:17am Reply

      • Amer: No problem with Ylang, just don’t perceive it as a lily. I think it stands in its own category. Some people refer to it as a yellow floral note although I’m not sure as to what else lies in this family. Genet? Tagettes? No relation between them… Thanks for the suggestion. Will try as soon as possible. A lilly close to my ideal is Baiser Vole. I am looking for something in this genre just a tad milkier. July 17, 2013 at 3:19am Reply

        • Victoria: Another idea is Serge Lutens Un Lys, even though it’s more of a lilac than lily. If it had a bigger clove note, it would smell exactly like the white lilies my grandmother grows. July 17, 2013 at 7:20am Reply

          • Amer: I have a sample of this somewhere but some excavation is in order to unearth it. I am not the most tidy person when it comes to perfume samples. :S July 18, 2013 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Shanghai Lily won’t be your cup of tea, not so much because of ylang-ylang, but because it’s definitely not white-green. It’s soft, powdery even, and creamy. I’m with Zazie on Lys Mediterranee, and I recommend it trying it. July 16, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

    • Elisa: Interestingly Lys 41 also has a sunscreen note to my nose. But it’s well-known that Le Labo’s naming system is misleading. July 16, 2013 at 5:23pm Reply

      • Elisa: (Meaning, the lily note is overshadowed by tuberose, jasmine, coconut etc.) July 16, 2013 at 5:25pm Reply

      • annemariec: Yes, I get a touch of sunscreen in Lys 41 as well, glad you mentioned it. July 16, 2013 at 6:55pm Reply

  • ralu: Lovely review! Looking forward to giving this a try on my next trip to Saks. 🙂 No matter how much I like it, I won’t buy it but may be I’ll get a decant. You mentioned you get compliments on it. I love it when I get compliments on my perfume. The last one was at the Bastille Day Celebration last Friday. I wore Coromandel since temps were unusually cool. 🙂 July 16, 2013 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: At that price, I don’t know if I’m ready for a full bottle too, unless my mom wants to split it with me (it’s a good thing to have a perfumista mother).

      Sounds like a nice choice for a celebration. Coromandel always puts me in a good mood for some reason. July 16, 2013 at 11:50am Reply

  • Zazie: In my fragrant journey I’ve become a very difficult prey for lemmings (call me jaded, or just plain happy with what I own!!), but I must admit that shanghai lily bites close: I was immediately drawn to the name and the flower, and your review does nothing to temper my curiosity.
    I am enjoying like crazy Lys Soleia, and am very fond of white floral bouquets and lilies…
    we will see… Anna May Wong stood out for me too: beautiful and enigmantic… But I also loved Dietrich in that movie: I am partial to her cheeckbones and slim, furiously elegant silhouette… now I wonder, which perfume would have suited her character in the movie? (my vote goes a la nuit ;)) July 16, 2013 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m also in love with Lys Soleia, and I wore it a lot in the winter to make myself feel more uplifted. It does such a great job for that!

      I agree, Dietrich is stunning, and in fact, when both she and Wong are on screen together, they just sizzle. July 16, 2013 at 11:56am Reply

  • rosarita: I would love to smell this and maybe I will have a chance someday (as I’ve no doubt whined about before, I don’t live anywhere near a Macy’s let alone a Saks) but the astronomical price of new perfumes is really depressing, especially combined with the price hikes of gasoline, groceries and everything else. I bought my bottle of Donna Karan Gold on ebay for less than $20 a few years ago and it remains my favorite lily. Your review of Shanghai Lily is very tempting, the gingery lift and spices sounding best of all. July 16, 2013 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: I hear you! Some part of the price I can understand, because based on what I smell in this perfume, the fragrance formula is quite lavish. All of the floral essences are becoming more and more expensive, and with the cold weather in Turkey and Bulgaria this spring, it seems that the price of rose will jump up.

      But with Tom Ford, the price is part of the brand strategy, and that’s what makes me ambivalent. On the other hand, I don’t want to skip reviewing an interesting perfume, just because of its distribution or pricing. July 16, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

  • DP: I have a “contact” on my cell phone that is listed as “PTT” – Perfumes To Try. That way when I’m out shopping, traveling, etc., I’ve always got my list. There is now a “PTTasap” – Perfumes To Try as soon as possoble category, and this just went to the top of the list.

    Anyone who might happen to open my phone’s contacts list to these entries would be curious to find “Name – Tom Ford. Address – Atelier d’Orient…” Etc.! 😉 July 16, 2013 at 9:24am Reply

    • george: It sounds like a perfumista oriented app in the making 🙂 July 16, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

      • Victoria: Now, this kind of app would be terrific! July 16, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Brilliant! 🙂 I absolutely love this. July 16, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

  • RenChick: This is a beautiful review! I love your way with words and this makes me want to try Shanghai Lily even more than I already did, even though I’m beginning to think white indolic florals are not for me as I test my way through the likes of Fracas and AG Songes. The hunt continues to find one that doens’t make my nose react in aversion, maybe this one will be it! July 16, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! It’s always very easy to write about perfumes that touch me.

      Fracas and Songes are pretty potent stuff, and I admire you for bravely starting with those. But what about something greener, gentler, perhaps like Diptyque Do Son or L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillons? Or even Goutal’s Un Matin d’Orage, which to be fair, everyone seems to find underwhelming except for me. 🙂 July 16, 2013 at 12:03pm Reply

      • Annikky: Everyone seems to be sadly misinformed in this case, Un Matin d’Orage is beautiful! July 16, 2013 at 12:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 Yay, I finally have a companion in my affection for Un Matin d’Orage. I even wore it for some of my pre-wedding activities. July 16, 2013 at 12:15pm Reply

          • Annikky: There was a time when I visited a conveniently located Goutal counter during my lunch hour every day, to spray myself with Un Matin d’Orage. It’s not the most original scent in the world and I generally veer towards statement florals, but there is something in UMdO (this dewy quality?) that adds enough interest and I haven’t found in anything else so far. July 17, 2013 at 2:26am Reply

            • Victoria: To me Marc Jacobs for Her and by Kilian Water Calligraphy come close. If only by Kilian were less expensive… July 17, 2013 at 7:22am Reply

      • Austenfan: I love it too, and I remember Octavian’s glowing review of it when it first came out.
        Mind you, it is not my favourite Goutal but it is very good and very wearable. July 16, 2013 at 4:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love its dewy, innocent character. It’s a white seersucker dress perfume equivalent for me. July 16, 2013 at 5:02pm Reply

  • Lainie: Intriguing review! I was in Santa Fe last week and stopped into a chic perfume and cosmetics store with a whole gorgeous bar of Tom Ford perfumes, but the salesperson gave me the scathing, you-don’t-look-rich-enough-to-be-here look and I didn’t bother trying any. I wish I’d read this first and would have known exactly what to ask for. July 16, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

    • Lynley: Ooh I hate that haughty salesperson attitude! I get intimidated by it too, but then I remember that it’s probably not like they could afford what they sell on their wages either 😉 July 16, 2013 at 10:27am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Just look very ladylike at them and let them show you 10 testers without buying, and then say in your sweetest voice: have a nice day! July 16, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: I meant to say this: just let them feel YOU are the client. In my experience they become friendly then. July 16, 2013 at 1:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Totally inexcusable! This kind of attitude would rub me the wrong way too. I’m sorry that you had this negative experience. July 16, 2013 at 12:04pm Reply

    • lila: Oh, don’t let that stop you! They’re probably like that to everybody. Just be glad that they’re not pestering you and leaving you to peruse on your own!! 😉 July 16, 2013 at 12:10pm Reply

      • Victoria: What a great outlook! Brava, Lila. I will try to remember this too (Belgian stores are not known for their impeccable customer service). 🙂 July 16, 2013 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Jennifer: That sucks that the SA treated you that way. I went to the Tom Ford counter at Neiman Marcus here in Houston, and the lady there was super nice. And I certainly didn’t look like I “belonged” there…lol. Maybe next time you’ll get somebody different. July 16, 2013 at 5:45pm Reply

    • AndreaR: I have been to this store in Santa Fe and its sister store in Carmel, CA. In both stores I was treated as an intruder rather than a cherished guest. July 16, 2013 at 11:39pm Reply

  • CC: Thank you for such a lovely blog, like so many have written this has expanded my sensorial world tremendously since I got pregnant and possibly due to a heightened olfactory sensitivity started looking around for more and better stimulae.

    On the Tom Ford – it sounds lovely and I can’t wait to try it. I’m also with you on Anna May Wong. Does it help that I am going through a hot, steamy Asian summer? Counter-intuitively, I prefer heavy perfumes in summer, I like a certain “stickiness” and I leave colognes for clear, crisp winter days. July 16, 2013 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind words, CC! Many of my friends who have children mentioned that being pregnant made them more sensitive to scents (sometimes, not in a very good way, sometimes, leading to very exciting discoveries). I hope that your experience was more of the latter!

      I do that too sometimes, especially when I want to be reminded of sun and summer–I associate citrus colognes with summer vacations. But some floral orientals work really well in warm weather, especially if you don’t overapply them. July 16, 2013 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Lynley: Great review as always Victoria- you’re one of my favourite enablers in the way you describe scents as I can picture them so clearly! 🙂
    It’ll probably be awhile before they arrive here, but I’m really looking forward to trying this! Love lily. Love spices even more. It sounds like bad news lol… 😉 July 16, 2013 at 10:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Sigh, with Ford’s prices I’m starting to becoming reluctant in trying the new perfumes. And yet, the previous and this collections are very interesting, probably more than most of the original Private Blends.

      I would love to hear what you (and others) think of these perfumes when you try them. July 16, 2013 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: The only introduction to Tom Ford’s latest creations has been a “hint” of Fleur de Chine and I was taken away not only by its beauty but the price! It’s not to be and this along with many other well executed fragrances of late has become a frustration to purchase anywhere (from $225.00 to $500.00) a bottle. Nonetheless, I won’t waiver to test them and walk away. For for those living in the NYC area they are currently at Bergdorf Goodman until around August or September when Saks will carry them. BG is not very accomodating at all when it comes to their samples or even the testers for that matter. So, unless I know someone from TF I hesitate to try them there. But your review mentions Lys Fume from the flowers collection which is one of my favs and while I am not exactly a spice girl at heart TF’s fragrances are exceptional. Based on this review TF continues to be a naughty boy at heart. By the by, I’m tempted to contact his parent company and let them know of their indifference to their potential clients. Apparently, I am not the only one experiencing this attitude! Sadly, your beautiful review is overshadowed by these irreverent associates selling TF. July 16, 2013 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I replied to rosarita above with some of my thoughts on this, and I completely understand what you mean. On the other hand, I’m much more willing to accept this price than $200-500 per bottle from some other niche houses that sell the same stuff you get at the department store, except in a much fancier bottle. I love niche, but these days this label means nothing and the price means even less.

      But rude attitude from the sales staff is entirely unacceptable. Usually BG’s fragrance department has a nice track record for customer service. July 16, 2013 at 12:13pm Reply

  • george: Will be interesting to see a comparison between this and vierge de fer when that comes out. July 16, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

  • Annikky: Oh my, this has my name written all over it… You make it sound absolutely beautiful and I’m afraid it may actually BE as beautiful as you say. White florals with a touch of darkness sound perfect to me. Velvet Gardenia is my favourite Ford so far, although I liked the Jardin Noir quartet a lot, too.

    Btw, is there a mini trend happening? What with Ford releasing two lilies in succession, Lys Soleia and Baiser Vole doing well and Lutens’s lily coming up soon? July 16, 2013 at 11:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Velvet Gardenia was my own top favorite until Shanghai Lily came out. In fact, Velvet Gardenia is the only Private Blend full bottle I own. My other dream is Cafe Rose.

      Interesting observation on the trend! There are definitely plenty of lily scents around. July 16, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

  • lila: Oh my. This sounds right up my smelly alley! I love Sacre (I’m already planning a trip to Caron in NY to snag a bottle of it for my birthday in Dec.) and I’m finding myself in a bit of a floriental phase right now. I hope it’s a Saks as I’m going there this weekend. July 16, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I love spices when they’re not too sweet as in Parfum Sacre or Or et Noir, another Caron. Something heavy like Serge Lutens’s Arabie is very difficult, on the other hand. Shanghai Lily has a fair bit of sweet balsams, but the incense tempers the richness and the whole effect is much more layered and nuanced. July 16, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

  • lila: I agree, spices need a light dose of sweetness to be fully appreciated. Although, I say this when the temps and humidity are sky high. I might be able to stomach more sugar in the winter. 🙂 I just now spritzed on my sample of Cafe Rose per your mention of it. It’s a beauty. I get a rather straight up rosy, white sandalwood. Not as dirty as La Fille de Berlin. It’s a bit of a mix of Sa Majeste la Rose and Santal Blanc. July 16, 2013 at 1:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Cafe Rose is definitely more sandalwood than coffee on me as well, and I agree with your comparison. If you added a little roasted note to that mix, it would be Cafe Rose. Hmmm, maybe I could just try layering Santal Majuscule and Sa Majeste la Rose… July 16, 2013 at 4:00pm Reply

      • lila: Yes, as time goes by the sandalwood in Cafe Rose gets stronger on me which would of course mean sandalwood with a capital “S”! I’ll have to try layering too. July 16, 2013 at 4:48pm Reply

        • Victoria: Just tried it with Santal Blanc, since conveniently both samples were next to each other. It’s not exactly Cafe Rose, but in terms of character, it’s very interesting. The cedarwood becomes much more obvious the longer I have it on, so I will try to play around with the amount of Sa Majeste la Rose. Thank you for an idea! I love trying new layering combinations. July 16, 2013 at 5:05pm Reply

          • lila: I’m wearing a layering of Sa Majeste la Rose and Santal Majuscule (3 squirts of Rose and 1 of Santal M). It’s also not Cafe Rose. First impression, it’s soapy and clean. I think the rose in Cafe Rose is dark like in La Fille de Berlin, not a crisp rose as in Sa Majeste, but this pairing makes Santal Majuscule more wearable in warmer weather (and maybe Sa Majeste more wearable in colder weather). The woodiness is also very pronounced. July 17, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

            • Victoria: Getting the balance right by mixing two complex perfumes is hard, but it’s fun to experiment! July 17, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

              • Lena D.: Victoria, just wondering if you ever got the balance right in layering Sa Majeste with Santal Majuscule? November 12, 2014 at 4:02pm Reply

                • Victoria: Some experiments did happen. 🙂 I found that it worked best with either a small dose of one or the other. Just to push one of the accents more. In equal quantities, it smelled muddled. November 12, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

                  • Lena D.: I tried a spray of SM with Coromandel. It was intense! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Mel: I love when a scent elicits a movie association! And your Shanghai Lily description seems spot on about Anna Mae Wong. What I would love to know, V, is which scent you think would work for the dragon lady archetype, such as Gale Sondergaard in The Letter? July 16, 2013 at 3:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum came to mind right. Or Estee Lauder Azuree! It’s sultry, but in a very different manner from the languid, “reclining on a sofa alluringly” aura of white flowers. What about you (or others), what would you pick? July 16, 2013 at 4:03pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: That dragon lady from The Letter is really terrifying. She could wear a monstrous perfume like Shocking by Schiaparelli.
        Or because of her chilling selfcontrol, Bandit. July 16, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: I like your choices much more than mine! Bandit seems so spot on. July 16, 2013 at 4:47pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I am not the biggest lily fan in this world, although I do love DK Gold. The pricing is a bit prohibitive, and the line is not very accessible where I live.
    You do make it sound very tempting though, and the actress is beautiful! July 16, 2013 at 4:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you already have Gold, then you can skip Shanghai Lily. The whole collection is very good, but I have to say that the price dampens my enthusiasm somewhat. (Admittedly, someone like me is not at all a target customer for Tom Ford). But I loved Shanghai Lily enough to yearn for it, so while I feel guilty recommending something so expensive, I can’t help sharing my discovery. July 16, 2013 at 4:58pm Reply

  • Rafael: This review reminded me of and made me reach for Balmain’s Jolie Madame. July 16, 2013 at 4:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Then I’m already happy to have reviewed SL. Jolie Madame definitely deserves more attention. Which concentration do you wear? July 16, 2013 at 5:03pm Reply

      • Rafael: As dense a juice of the vintage parfum I can find. It makes for a great masculine. July 16, 2013 at 5:52pm Reply

        • Victoria: It really does! Ironic for something called Jolie Madame, isn’t it? July 17, 2013 at 8:06am Reply

  • Hannah: The Tom Ford Private Blends are so frustrating to me. If I were a millionaire, I’d own a few of them. I’m not into white florals but it sounds beautiful so I will try it–luckily I might not feel remorse after smelling like I have for a few of them. July 16, 2013 at 5:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would gladly wear many of them, since they are really lovely scents, but the price always stops me. As I mentioned yesterday, I bought only Velvety Gardenia so far. That one is completely unlike anything I currently own. And it’s the one they ended up discontinuing. July 17, 2013 at 8:15am Reply

  • Claire: Hello Victoria, I’ve been stalking this collection for the longest of time with no avail. Hopefully it’ll arrive in my neck of the woods soon. Can you comment on the clove note on this perfume? Like anise, clove can be a sour note for me as I have not-so-good childhood experience with clove. Thanks for your thought.. July 16, 2013 at 11:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Clove is an accent, since it’s a natural part of lily. It doesn’t overwhelm, and while it gives a spicy bite (along with pepper), it doesn’t seem as strong as clove in Yves Saint Laurent Opium or Caron Parfum Sacre. July 17, 2013 at 8:17am Reply

      • Claire: Thanks, Victoria! Those comparisons are helpful. I will keep hunting the local counters for these. July 18, 2013 at 1:18pm Reply

  • Sylviane: Thank you Victoria for the review. I got a sample of Shangai Lily from TF corner in Le Bon Marché and I am wearing it today. I find it very pleasing and easy to wear. I am surprised however, given its composition, that on my skin it turns into a less harsh and more powdery version of AG Songes. It’s feminine and elegant but still not worth the price, in my opinion. July 17, 2013 at 5:49am Reply

    • Victoria: On me Songes is quite different. It’s jasmine, jasmine, jasmine and then sandalwood, but in terms of their characters, I can see the similarity–languid, sultry white florals. Songes is more dramatic too. On the other hand, body chemistry definitely can make a big difference.

      I love Shanghai Lily, and even so, its price seems entirely excessive to me! July 17, 2013 at 8:38am Reply

      • lila: I wish Songes went jasmine on me! For some reason I get honey from it. I’ve tried both the parfum and eau de toilette and each one has the same affect. Maybe it’s the indoles? July 17, 2013 at 10:26am Reply

        • Victoria: I take you don’t like the honeyed part? I also get the sweet nag champa incense out of it. July 17, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

          • lila: Well, it’s not that I don’t like the honey, I just wasn’t expecting it. If I just get a gentle waft of Songes, then I think the parts come together o.k., but broken down (when I really inhale it on my skin) something goes wrong. I do notice the incense you mentioned, right after the plastic floral opening. That particular incense reminds me of one of those college town incense/rock/bead/palm reading stores. I’m still not sure why I get hints of honey, especially in the dry down. The scent lasts quite a long time on me, too. July 17, 2013 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Lauren: Wow, what a rave review. I can’t wait to smell this. It’s hard to get me to the mall, so I appreciate your inspiration to get out there for smelling purposes! July 17, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to hear what you think about it and 3 others. July 17, 2013 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Emma M: Oh, this does sound lovely – I’m always won over by an incense drydown.

    I have adopted a strategy of ignoring the Tom Ford counter – something to do with trying to avoid costly temptation, but also a feeling that Ford’s marketing and all round perfectionist brand image doesn’t quite speak to me (if that makes sense?). Now, if they had used that image of Anna Mae Wong in their campaigns, I’d have been over at the TF counter like a shot!!

    Regardless, I am inspired by your review to give Shanghai Lily a try and to dig out my bottle of DK Gold for a spiced lily fix. July 17, 2013 at 4:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Totally makes sense. It’s a very distinctive aesthetic, and I’m not sure if it’s exactly what I like either. But I admire the quality of his fragrances, and although I complain about the price, the perfumes are beautifully crafted. Whether they’re worth their price tags or not is another matter and largely subjective.

      On the other hand, I love their advertising for Black Orchid, Violet Blonde or Sahara Noir, all three featuring different women. July 18, 2013 at 8:07am Reply

  • Mikael: Thank you for the review Victoria, this one and actually the whole quartet sounds worthy of a sniff, even though the prices are indeed (yet again) quite insane. Do you happen to know the perfumers for the other three in the Atelier d’Orient collection? July 17, 2013 at 7:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even more so than before! 🙂

      I don’t remember off the top of my head, but I know that Plum Japonais was done by Yann Vasnier. The rest are either by Vasnier or Rodrigo Flores-Roux, or both. I will double check later. July 18, 2013 at 7:56am Reply

      • Mikael: Thanks, I’ll check back later if you can confirm the authors of Fleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre as well. Nice to know about Yann Vasnier, I love and appreciate so many of his creations that I’ll adjust my sampling priorities accordingly with these (and grit my teeth with the prices 🙂 ) July 18, 2013 at 8:42am Reply

      • Maggie: Hi Victoria, according to a review on Ca Fleure Bon today: Fleur de Chine – Rodrigo Flores Roux, Shanghai Lily – Antoine & Shymala Maisondieu, Rive d’Ambre – Olivier Gillotin and as you mentioned, Plum Japonais – Yann Vasnier. August 4, 2013 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Figuier: This sounds beautiful, Victoria, and I love the associations it conjures up for you – especially the painted lilies, I know exactly the kind you mean (they symbolize the Virgin Mary I think), and am also a fan.

    I got an oppressive ‘cooking (palm) oil’ note from the salicylates in both DK Gold and Lys Soleia for some reason, but I do like lily in general, and love the idea of a dark yet airy lily. You were the one who first pointed out to me the lily in the drydown of Guerlain Terracotta, and that dusky, creamy lily is my ideal. How does this compare? July 18, 2013 at 4:50am Reply

    • Victoria: I love visiting old churches, especially in small towns where they’re often filled with flowers and have a quiet, serene atmosphere. The scents of lilies and snuffed candles is an evocative scent for me for this reason. Shanghai Lily really blends the cool (stones, dark arches, white lilies) and warm (burning candles, spicy incense) well, and maybe that’s why I keep thinking of the church paintings. Anyway, it’s already a good sign for me when a perfume makes me fantasize a little.

      Terracotta is sweeter and creamier for sure, while Shanghai Lily has a crisp, bright character at first and then becomes more velvety and powdery. The lily part is probably more subtle too than in Terracotta, but both are great even on hot summer days. July 18, 2013 at 7:54am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: This sounds so gorgeous, I could weep! I love your description of an old church full of flowers candles and ancient stones… exactly the kind of scent I am searching for: somethng rich and dark and Gothic. Tom Ford does a great job of evoking the classic femme fatale in his original Black Orchid, and the much-lamented Velvet Gardenia (what was he thinking discontinuing that???) and this one sounds like a worthy successor. Must dash to neiman marcus and give it a sniff. July 18, 2013 at 6:24pm Reply

  • L.: You say these are at Neiman Marcus stores already? Will have to make a trip …

    Sounds a little like Malle’s Rubrum Lily candle, to be honest. Except the wood shavings, but I guess they have to put something in the drydown 🙂 July 19, 2013 at 7:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ironically, Lys Fume smells more like Rubrum Lily before you start burning it. 🙂 July 20, 2013 at 8:54am Reply

  • Steph: I just received my sample of this and WOW! It smells fantastic! The price makes me falter, though. If it wasn’t for that I would go out and buy a bottle today! August 1, 2013 at 5:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: If the price were even 50 euros less, I might have used my upcoming birthday as an excuse, but as it is, SL is out of my league. Doesn’t prevent me from admiring it though. August 2, 2013 at 7:17am Reply

  • Tijana: I have been enjoying your blog for a while, but only now decided to write my first comment – thank you so much for the wonderful reviews, before I even consider a fragrance, I always check your review on it first. While we don’t have identical tastes, we have tons in common, including this fragrance, Champaca, Coromandel, reformulated Opium, BdI and many more… Speaking of Opium, it is interesting that, if i have my info correctly, both the reformulated Opium and Shangai Lily have been developed by Antoine Maisondieu, and I actually find similarities between the two. I adore Shangai Lily and I am seriously considering splurging on the smallest bottle, but I must admit that there is a distant relationship to Opium (and maybe that is also why I like it as I love Opium). And since this fragrance has prompted me to write my first comment, maybe I need to purchase it to commemorate the occasion, 😉 (excuses, excuses).
    Thank you again for your lovely reviews, the perfumista world is richer for having you in it! October 20, 2013 at 9:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Tijana, thank you so much for your comment. It’s a pleasure to meet another perfume lover! 🙂 I found your note about the similarity between Opium and Shanghai Lily so interesting that this weekend I wore them side by side. You’re right, the spicy floral portion (along with a generous dose of balsamic, incensey notes) is similar. I love both perfumes, and even though similar, they have different characters to me. I’m still nursing my decant of Shanghai Lily. October 21, 2013 at 8:20am Reply

      • Notturno7: Hi Victoria, Shangai Lilly sample reminds me of Chanel’s Coco Noir. What do you think?
        I love sampling SL but it’s so expensive and as I have few bottles (and body creams )of Coco and Opium because I love all that spice, should wait before splurging. It’s so beautiful though!! I might not resist buying it !! February 18, 2016 at 5:59am Reply

        • Victoria: I would wait. If Coco hits the same spot, then you probably don’t need to splurge on Tom Ford. They’re both spicy orientals. February 18, 2016 at 2:41pm Reply

          • Notturno7: Thanks for the reply. You’re so sweet. We shall see what I end up doing. I have Shanghai Lilly on my wrists and it’s a love at first sniff. I’m addicted!! Even drydown is gorgeous!
            I like it better then Coco Noir (unfortunately,lol) February 18, 2016 at 5:35pm Reply

  • greatsheelephant: This reminds me a little of YSL Nu but there is something about Nu that becomes wearisome as it dries down whereas this is softer and more comforting. November 19, 2013 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I see what you mean! I love Nu, but it’s unrelentless for sure. November 19, 2013 at 5:18pm Reply

  • Jack: This scent reminded me a lot of Bond No 9’s Andy Warhol Montauk perfume, except Andy Warhol Montauk is 100 times better because it is a better smell and at a better price. TF was nice in the first few minutes of wearing it but turned out to be too exhausting. And for the price, not worth it. January 30, 2014 at 3:19pm Reply

  • esoteric: i’m very interested in trying it. does it really worth the crazy price? and do you think it could work in summer? March 27, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Objectively speaking, no, it’s not worth the price at all. You’re paying so much for the brand name, which is why I personally haven’t splurged on this perfume beyond a decant. It’s beautiful, but the price is far too high.

      It can work in the summer, I think, since it’s not too heady. March 27, 2014 at 9:46am Reply

      • esoteric: i will give it a sniff anyway as i don’t mind paying for the brand if i do like the fragrance (you know that feeling when you have to have it 😀 )
        maybe i’ll make my mom share it with me haha! March 27, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

        • Victoria: Sharing with mom was my plan too, but we still haven’t decided to do it. 🙂 March 27, 2014 at 1:01pm Reply

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