In 2012, Tom Ford released his Jardin Noir collection for his Private Blend line of fragrances. The collection consisted of four supposedly dark, twisted, “bewitching” takes on traditionally sweet, innocent flowers: narcissus, hyacinth, rose and lily. The fragrances are: Café Rose, Jonquille de Nuit, Ombre de Hyacinth and Lys Fume. I have three of the fragrances (Café Rose, Lys Fumé and Ombre de Hyacinth) and have tested two of them but, for reasons of length, this review is solely for Ombre de Hyacinth.
According to Now Smell This, Tom Ford had the following perspective and goal for the line:
When you showcase their darker and less innocent aspects, flowers can become so thrilling and beautiful, they could almost ruin you. That was the sensation I was after.
Bergdorf Goodman appears to have the full press release description for the Jardin Noir collection:
Jardin Noir explores the forbidden sides of four of perfumery’s most treasured blooms: narcissus, hyancinth [sic], 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.
I had extremely high hopes for Ombre de Hyacinth as an ideal Spring fragrance with a slight edge. For one thing, I adore the scent of the flower which I always associate with March and certain cultural festivities in my family. For another, the description of the scent was beautiful:
Sophisticated. Voluptuous. Passionate. Ombre de Hyacinth creates bewitching tension as hyacinth cloaks its voluptuous beauty behind cool, aristocratic finery.
Ombre de Hyacinth was created by Calice Becker and, according to Fragrantica, the notes are:
Top notes are galbanum, violet leaf, magnolia petals and olibanum [frankincense]; middle notes are hyacinth, pink pepper and jasmine; base notes are galbanum, benzoin and musk.
The very first impression I had of Ombre de Hyacinth was soap. Light, airy, aldehydic, floral soap bubbles with an underlying note of powder. Mere seconds later, there was a strong note of zesty, fresh lemon and lime. The zesty lemon soap image was replaced after ten minutes by galbanum’s bitter greenness atop a woody element.
Galbanum is the bracingly bitter, distilled oil from a Persian shrub and it has a definite greenness; sometimes, it also has an earthy or slightly resinous undertone. Here, it was mostly just sharp, mossy,bitter, and fresh. On occasion, it faintly resembled the dark soil of a freshly tilled garden, but I had a much less earthy experience than some. There was also some sharp black pepper which added an even greater bite to the fragrance.
The peppered wood notes continued to increase in prominence, though the scent was still very green and dark. Thirty minutes in, there was a hint of musky jasmine. For those who struggle with jasmine, you might be relieved to know that it only lasted about twenty minutes on my skin before vanishing, and that it was always very sheer and light. All that was left was that impression of black pepper and wood with some amorphous “floral” notes, soap, and a hint of powder. There was the mere suggestion of hyacinth but, at this point, it was far from strong. It most certainly feels nothing like the actual flower to my nose and it’s a definite disappointment.
There was an odd aspect to the florals that I couldn’t pinpoint, so I looked up one of the ingredients that I was not familiar with — “Violet leaf” — on Fragrantica, and bingo! According to their description, violet leaf is a
metallic smelling, green and aqueous note that is common in modern masculine and unisex fragrances, providing a fresher and non-retro note compared to traditional sweet violet.
Yes, metallic, green and simultaneously aqueous was exactly what the florals smelled like. That mélange of notes, when combined with the bitter greenness of the galbanum and the soapy aspect of the aldehydes, was quite an odd twist on the typical fresh, Spring-like floral fragrance. And I can’t say I was crazy about it.
After about ninety minutes, the scent softened further becoming just some vaguely amorphous impression of freshness: lightly powdered, lightly soapy, lightly woody, lightly aquatic, fresh florals with a hint of greenness. Ombre de Hyacinth remains that way until shortly before the fifth hour when — finally — the hyacinth arrives on the scene. On par with the rest of the perfume, it is extremely light, airy, tinged by soap (again), endlessly fresh, and very redolent of Spring. I feel as though I’m repeating myself ad nauseam, but I can’t help it. This is not a complicated scent. And it’s about as “dark” and twisted as a poodle.
Personally, I would have much preferred a more concentrated essence of hyacinth instead of something that is really akin to a generic, fresh floral which just merely happens to have some quiet hyacinth touches. I would also have preferred something far less soapy and aquatic. However, for those who like fresh, clean florals that are sheer (bordering on translucent), Ombre de Hyacinth may be perfect.
This is not a strong floral or even a strong hyacinth fragrance. Everything about the scent is light — right down to its sillage. In the opening hour, the perfume’s projection is moderate and, thereafter, it drops to become very close to the skin. Its gauziness makes it extremely office-friendly. Yet, it has surprising tenacity for something so airy and translucent. All in all, Ombre de Hyacinth lasted just under ten hours on my perfume-consuming skin.
Nonetheless, I think it’s hugely overpriced for what it is. $205 at the low end of the scale seems very high for a light, fresh, soapy floral scent. It’s not exactly an uncommon category of fragrances, after all.
The Non-Blonde reached the exact same conclusion. She had a slightly similar experience to mine which she boiled down to four words: “nice French hyacinth soap.” But at least she was lucky enough to have a heavy hyacinth start at all! I quite envy her, especially as she initially felt as though she were in a Monet painting. (Lucky devil.)
After about fifteen minutes of walking around inside a Monet painting, the fantasy starts to fray at the hem and disintegrate. The abstract floral heart becomes very soapy and loses its best characteristics. There’s nothing narcotic or illicit in a rental vacation cottage out in the country, as clean and quaint as it might be. It smells good, but the composition flattens in front of my eyes (or nose) and loses any depth, shadows, and “decadence” that Ford aspired to have there. [¶] The dry-down remains bathroomy.
I experienced a lot more woody, peppery notes than she seems to have done — not to mention that disconcerting violet leaf metallic, aquatic accord — but, yes, it does really evoke a cottage out in the British countryside, especially once the more peppery notes subside. A less charitable person might just say it epitomizes expensive hotel soap. Or, as one poor sod on Fragrantica wrote, “This on me smells just like Carpet Fresh and Irish Spring soap – for hours”….
Nonetheless, I would be tempted to recommend it to those who like extremely fresh, clean, soapy scents. Except for one thing. To quote the Non-Blonde: “this Tom Ford fragrance is grossly overpriced for what it is.”
The fact that I know I tried this fragrance and remember so little about it says a lot about it, IMO (perhaps I sent you the remainder of the sample?). Very, very “meh” and this one is definitely not worth $205. Honestly, at half the price I still wonder if I would consider it worth it.
You did indeed send me the remainder of your sample. 🙂 I’m not surprised you found it to be “meh” since you don’t like clean, soapy scents. But, even if you did, I don’t think you’d spend $205 on this one.
Honestly, I didn’t even get much joy out of sticking you with this one. So unspecial, in either a good or a bad way! My favorite is when I can give you something really bad! LOL! *gleefully anticipates the day you smell Zafar/hopes you’ll still be my friend*
I actually almost took out Zafar tonight to test, then gave a quick look at Fragrantica. The sheer number of Blue Cheese comments made me decide that — after Ombre de Hyacinth — I needed something a little less stressful to test out tonight….. I have to say, I was rather hoping you were exaggerating on that one but, alas, it seems not. *sigh*
LOL! I feel like it may have to be a Review en Bref from the sheer fact that you may feel compelled to scrub shortly after spritzing! Even if it became the most phenomenal scent after some time, nothing could make it worth the initial, putrid blast (which never goes away, IMO). Save it for a day when you have a sure thing to cheer you up!
But who knows, perhaps there’s a small chance it will smell great on you. Unlikely, but I have to be the Polyanna for a minute! 🙂
Surprisingly I wore Ombré de Hyacinth yesterday and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It gets soapy at some stages but on my skin it’s mostly galbanum, woodsy notes and hyacinth. Honestly I think it’s overpriced also, but I was lucky to find a bottle for less than it’s half retail price. It’s last for a long time and has above average projection. So I’m very satisfied with OdH 🙂
Good for you for finding a bottle at half the retail price! It would definitely be a better deal then, especially if there is less soap and more interesting hyacinth, woodsy notes on one’s skin. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Ross. 🙂
I noticed that you were looking for a green scent,Kafka. If you have a chance try Atelier Cologne Trefle Pur. I recently discovered it and its perfect for the springtime. Also, being a Cologne Absolue this stuff lasts quite a bit and has this amazing uplifting quality that I enjoy a lot. And it’s quite reasonably priced.
Hm, you know, I think I have that one on my Surrender to Chance wishlist as something to try. I definitely want to explore the line further. That said, I’m not looking for a green scent so much as I’m looking for one that is all purple hyacinths! But I would like to find something Spring-like which *lasts* (key factor there) and if it’s reasonably priced, then all the better. Thank you!! xoxox
This is another line that just leaves me cold. And the prices just make me mad!
Heh. They are very high, but I must say, I very much liked Tobacco Vanille. And Noir de Noir lovely at first, though I’m not a fan of how much it resembled powdered Turkish Delight in its final stage.
I was just in a Turkish delight haze yesterday! I stopped to sniff the new Sugar and Spice series when I spied the Cologne Intense Collection and had to smell that too. The Rosewater and Vanilla was actually my favorite. Who would have thought!
Oh dear. The Dandy does feel that if a perfume advertises itself as being of a particular scent it should live up to that promise.
Whilst I enjoy a sparkling adehyde I always feel that there needs to be a good degree of balance with another element to prevent the ‘soap effect’, though of course that is an historical curiosity as it is soaps that resemble aldehydes and not vice versa.
Anyways this sounds a disappointment – though I am l;eft wondering what happened to the perfume you described as :
“On occasion, it faintly resembled the dark soil of a freshly tilled garden, but I had a much less earthy experience than some. There was also some sharp black pepper which added an even greater bite to the fragrance.The peppered wood notes continued to increase in prominence, though the scent was still very green and dark.”
Did this just disappear? This sounded interesting to me though I can imagine foul to others…
The Perfumed Dandy
It did disappear; that aspect to the perfume was only in the first hour to ninety minutes. Thereafter, it turned into an amorphous woody, soapy, aquatic floral with some green aspects, though not as green as they were initially. It certainly wasn’t a very hyacinth perfume on my skin. Alas.
Alas indeed on two counts – I rather liked the sound of the unhinged green whereas I imagine you’re still on thee hunt for a good hyacinth.
Just a thought, but apart from the two obvious and probably too green Chanel’s 19 and Cristalle – how about Hermes Jardin Nil, Diptyque Jardin Clos (thought it is a bit mossy) or most floral from Floris the old style Edwardian Bouquet.
I’m sure you’ve tried but all do spring to mind – oh dear, unintended pun.
The Perfumed Dandy
“Unhinged green”…. LOL!!
I haven’t tried a few of the scents you’ve mentioned, Beau Brummell ;), so thank you for the suggestions. I greatly appreciate it, though I have to confess that — generally speaking — I’m not passionately enamoured of light, airy, green or Spring-like floral perfumes. (I like my florals like Fracas….. LOL!) I shall let you know if any of them make love spring eternal…. 🙂
Of course there’s hyacinth lurking in Fracas – but with that great big tuberose stealing every scene you’d never guess it!
The Perfumed Dandy
No. 19 is seriously good – I’m not sure if it’s your taste, but it’s definitely worth a try. I wouldn’t think it would have been my taste (despite the impulsive blind buy), but I love it. And each time I wear it I grow fonder and fonder of it. It’s basically the perfect “green” for me. Un Jardin sur le Nil was nice as well, but for me it was more light and transparent than I like, plus I had some longevity issues with that one. Hmmm, tomorrow may be a No. 19 day! I like green, but I’m like you – I sort of like to be ambushed with a scent, so subtlety has only a very small face in my collection (which is funny because I think in real like I’m pretty tame and subdued). 🙂
I’m really looking forward to trying your generous sample of No. 19 vintage Eau de Cologne, though I’ll need to do some reading on all the different formulations and versions out there if I were ever to do a review. As for Jardin sur le Nil, it wasn’t my cup of tea as it was too…. well, Jean-Claude Ellena. Plus, you know how my skin issues are ten times worse than yours, so you can imagine the longevity problem. But I definitely want to try The Dandy’s suggestion of Floris as a possible alternative to No. 19 if the latter doesn’t work out for me.
As for subtle, tame and subdued fragrances, I’m trying to think if I have any in my collection to which the word would apply. I don’t think Givenchy’s Interdit would count, so perhaps the faint remnants of my bottle of Issey Miyake’s L’eau d’Issey? Eh….. I’m a hardcore Opium, Amarige & Fracas lover, so “light,” “sheer,” tame and subdued are adjectives that aren’t part of my vocabulary. 😀
Heh, your collection sounds like a dream! All heavy duty, all the time!
I don’t have too many light things, save for a few. And I am so rarely drawn to them, sometimes I remind myself to wear them. I like the protective cloak feeling of those heavy, powerful scents that really make a statement. I’m sure it also has to do with the fact that our respective skins (and yours in particular) consumes perfume. Even powerful stuff usually plays fairly close to the skin for me, even if I get good longevity, thus “necessitating” heavier things if I want anyone else to smell them.
Someday I will have to smell vintage Opium – I see them on eBay quite often for prices that aren’t too heinous. Have you ever smelled the men’s version, and is it good? Or are they even comparable to one another! Of course, Fracas is another I need to smell at some point. It seems to be a love or hate, so of course, I’m curious!
Nice. I’m not a big fan of hyacinth so I think I don’t miss much not being able to try it.
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MANNNNN, I hated this thing. I like hyacinth and I love galbanum (and I often do okay with violet leaf), so I had high hopes.
Nope. Metal, metal, dirt and fog. Should have called it Silver Shadow and maybe I’d have liked it better. But maybe not.
Is this the EIGHTH thing we agree on?! Yes, I’m keeping score at this point, and it’s a lovely surprise!