The Scent of Black Orchid

Tom Ford’s newest creation, Black Orchid, entices.

Black Orchid, as its name promises to deliver, is a dark voluptuous perfume with all the attributes necessary to become the scent of choice of a film noir femme fatale. The perfume seems to play, from the onset, with the evocation of disquieting shadows projected on the wall of a passion crime scene and makes us enter a universe replete with seething sensuality, foreboding and mystery. It is beautifully rare, both dark and unexpectedly green, heavy and fresh perfume with gourmand and even slightly offensive overtones.

The action of the perfume on the wearer is both dramatic and subtle. Black Orchid by Tom Ford initially imposes its presence with the help of what could be described as a shock-and-awe tactic. It then slowly ensnares you to the point of making you forget it just barely, a few hours ago, entered your life.

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This is quintessentially what a real femme fatale is supposed to do. It is also what a dream come true may feel like, one moment foreign, the next, intensely familiar. The perfume thus plays adroitly with conventions and expectations as it starts en force with heavy top notes and moves on to fresher, greener and even ozone-like and citrus-y undertones towards the end all the while preserving its dark character.

The perfume interestingly enough seems to reverse the classic order of perception of notes. A base notes impression, paradoxically, appears first followed by lighter notes and then even more high-pitched ones in the dry-down. It seems to be suggesting that the consenting victim who will inhale this scent will be similarly turned inside out like a glove.

The fragrance includes top notes of French jasmine, black gardenia, truffle, Ylang-ylang, Bergamot, mandarin and effervescent citrus. The heart is composed of a Tom Ford black orchid, spicy floral orchid accords and lotus wood. The dry-down features notes of Patchouli, incense, amber, sandalwood, and vanilla tears.

As a designer interested in perfumes, Tom Ford demonstrates, to me at least, that he possesses a signature and a vision that he is eminently capable of transcribing into scents. The parallel with French perfume designers imposes itself more vividly to my mind now with Black Orchid.

Perhaps an American touch is revealed in a taste for the crisp and the clean that surfaces in Black Orchid piercing through the seemingly deleterious fumes of the beginning. In other words, the ending is happily optimistic, restores social order and the perfume is thus more conventional and easier to live with than what the potentially disturbing opening suggested.

The inferno of the jungle and human excess may be suggested but we end up with a long sip of tastefully chilled white wine, whiffs of redemptive religious incense, and a very cinematic and safe ending.