Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

The garden centers and grocery stores (the only places I go these days) are full of potted hyacinths, one of my favorite flowers and favorite scents. Yesterday, in anticipation of Easter next weekend, I bought two pots of forced hyacinth bulbs: one has flowers of a delicate, creamy pale yellow; the other’s flowers are a cheerful, slightly tacky, bright pink. So the scent of real hyacinths is wafting through my house — what better time to review a recently acquired decant of Tom Ford’s Ombre de Hyacinth?

I had wanted to try it for a while, but it is discontinued and not easy to find. Imagine my delight when I saw it listed on the website of a decant subscription service I was considering! Sign me up! And I did.

Tom Ford launched Ombre de Hyacinth in 2012; it was created by Calice Becker as part of the “Jardin Noir” collected that also included Cafe Rose, Lys Fume, and Jonquille de Nuit. The brand had this to say about Ombe de Hyacinth: “Sophisticated. Voluptuous. Passionate. Ombre de Hyacinth creates bewitching tension as hyacinth cloaks its voluptuous beauty behind cool, aristocratic finery.” Fragrantica lists its top notes as: Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Magnolia Petals and Olibanum; middle notes as Hyacinth, Pink Pepper and Jasmine; base notes as Galbanum, Musk and Benzoin.

When I first spray it, I smell the hyacinth faintly, not as strongly as I had expected, and it doesn’t dominate the middle stage either. I would say that the strongest top notes to my nose are the violet leaf and galbanum, with the violet leaf most dominant, and they both continue to be evident throughout the fragrance’s stages; I like both of those notes, so I quite enjoy that. I don’t smell magnolia at all, and very little pink pepper, but I do get an undertone of the resins listed.

Kafkaesque wrote a great review of Ombre de Hyacinth, which included some of the press release upon its launch:

“Jardin Noir explores the forbidden sides of four of perfumery’s most treasured blooms: narcissus, hyacinth, rose, and lily. Convention is abandoned and unexpected ingredients converge with bewitching and intoxicating results. Iconic flowers fall open, dropping their innocent facades to reveal the subversive beauty and fierce elegance they normally keep hidden.”

Sorry, but no. There is nothing “noir” or subversive about Ombre de Hyacinth, though it is very pretty and even elegant. Kafkaesque commented on its soapiness after a short time, and I agree. While I find the real scent of real hyacinths to be “voluptuous”, bordering on narcotic, that is not what I smell in Ombre de Hyacinth; rather, I smell a pleasant, understated green floral. Jo Malone’s Blue Hyacinth is a much more realistic hyacinth scent, to the point of being photorealistic. Five hours after I sprayed Ombre de Hyacinth, most of what I smell is a white musk with a remaining hint of green floralcy and a lightly spicy note under those that I assume is the benzoin.

While I like Ombre de Hyacinth, I would never have paid its original price and I won’t be seeking out a full bottle now that I have my decant. Whew! That’s a relief, given that it was discontinued some time ago and that would be hard to to as well as expensive. Have you tried any of the “Jardin Noir” collection? What did you think?

Featured image by Kevin Lee Jacobs.

May Muguet Marathon: White Suede

May Muguet Marathon: White Suede

I encountered Tom Ford’s White Suede quite early in my perfume journey, when I was searching for other lily of the valley fragrances because I had been so disappointed in the current eau de parfum formulation of Diorissimo (I have since learned that the EDP is an entirely new creation by Francois Demachy, and the EDT is closer to what I remember). White Suede‘s notes are listed as: rose, saffron, thyme, mate tea, olibanum, lily-of-the-valley, amber, suede and sandalwood. Fragrantica’s readers list lily of the valley among the top three strongest notes, so I had to try it. Shout-out here to a lovely sales associate at Neiman Marcus, who patiently showed me a number of LOTV fragrances and gave me a generous sample of White Suede. I have found that the two department stores that are unfailingly helpful with samples are Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. When I buy fragrance from a general retailer as opposed to online, or at a specialty boutique, it’s usually at one of those stores.

White Suede jumps right out with a strong but soft suede note. I don’t smell thyme at all, which is supposed to be one of the top notes, but I do smell a hint of the tea note that is also supposed to be part of the opening. But White Suede was never meant to be primarily herbal or floral: it was part of the “White Musk Collection”, more focused on a lighter, cleaner musk than Tom Ford’s earlier scents. And yes, musk moves to center stage pretty quickly in the fragrance’s progression on my skin.

As that happens, a green undertone also emerges, which I think is meant to be the lily of the valley, but I doubt I would identify it as such if I weren’t looking for it.  That’s not to say I dislike White Suede; actually, I like it quite a bit. I tried amping it up by layering it with a more strongly muguet-centric fragrance, Woods of Windsor’s soliflore Lily of the Valley, which was quite nice; they played well together. I think the reason White Suede doesn’t hit my nose as “lily of the valley” on its own is that traditionally (and in real life), muguet has a lemony aspect to it, and that is completely absent from White Suede. Muguet can also have a soapy tone to it (or maybe we associate soap with muguet because that fragrance note is so widely used in soap and bath products). Since clean white musks also have a certain soapiness, which many of us smell as akin to laundry, there’s a relationship there which White Suede seems to exploit.

White Suede is definitely a unisex fragrance, and it’s quite nice. It is also quite expensive, and I wouldn’t characterize it as a “muguet” fragrance despite the impressions of Fragrantica readers, so if your heart is set on a true lily of the valley scent, there are better and cheaper options, including some high-end choices from Dior, Hermes, and other luxury houses. It does have enough kinship with lily of the valley to layer nicely with a more traditional muguet floral, so if you like suede, musk, and muguet, give that a try and let us know what you think!

Featured image: Dolce & Gabbana white suede gloves