Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

The dainty, fragile, green lily transformed into a smoky, spicy, rich flower of the Orient. That is the essence of Shanghai Lily, the latest Private Blend fragrance from Tom Ford. It is part of a brand-new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line, and was just released in July 2013. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient, and consists of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine, and Rive d’Ambre. I’d heard that the first two were the best, so I focused solely on those, starting with Shanghai Lily. (You can find my review for Plum Japonais here, but, to summarize it in a nutshell, Tom Ford tried to copy Serge Lutens and his gorgeous, magnificent Fille en Aiguilles. Tom Ford failed. Badly.)

Tom Ford Shanghai LilyNone of the new Atelier d’Orient fragrances are listed yet on Tom Ford’s website, but, according to the Moodie Report, Tom Ford’s inspiration for Shanghai Lily was the famed, ancient Silk Road:

This fragrance began with a dream of the Silk and Spice Roads – the ancient, Asian trading routes for luxurious and precious goods[.] I imagined caravans piled high with treasures, and being surrounded by a multi-sensorial abundance of opulence.

 Fragrantica classifies Shanghai Lily as an “Oriental Floral,” and says the notes include:

spicy notes, floral notes, olibanum [frankincense], vanilla, bitter orange, pink pepper, black pepper, cloves, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin, castoreum, labdanum, guaiac wood and incense.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Shanghai Lily opens on my skin with the daintiest of lily notes. Fresh, green and airy, it turns within seconds into something sultry and smoky. Sharp incense smoke, a touch of resins, and a cloud of spices transform the white flower into something dark, thick, rich, and heady. There is a subtle orange note lurking alongside which feels, simultaneously, bitter and like the concentrated oil from a freshly grated orange rind. Quickly, a hint of cumin rises out of the dusty spice blend, smelling sweet and strong, and flecked with incense smoke. It’s quite unexpected, but cumin-phobes should not worry. It lasts all of about three minutes.

Shanghai Lily’s base is interesting. In those early minutes, there is a surprising, almost foody aroma of sweet, yeasty bread that pops up out of nowhere. It’s a scent that I’ve now come to associate with certain kinds of beige woods, not only cashmere blends or the ersatz “sandalwood” in some fragrances, but also, sometimes, guaiac wood. The latter often has a very dry, smoky aroma that can sometimes feel like burnt autumnal leaves but, here, in Shanghai Lily, it’s taken on a sweet edge at first. Later, it turns sour and bitter in one of my least favorite aspects of the fragrance. Also lurking in the base is castoreum. It has a plush, velvety feel which adds to the amber and resinous notes that make up the base. The overall combination is a heady, slightly musky, velvety amber mixed in with dry, smoky woods.

The top notes in Shanghai Lily are initially all about the smoke and spices. The fragrance is heavy with a gorgeous burst of ancient, oriental, frankincense mixed with the fiery kick of black pepper and a powerful note of cloves. The way that the trio combines with the bitter orange is vaguely reminiscent of my precious holy grail fragrance, vintage Opium from YSL, but the similarity is fleeting. For one thing, Opium has a powerful start of juicy plum, citruses, and bergamot, and the minor, muted sprinkling of bitter orange in Shanghai Lily cannot compare. For another, vintage Opium was centered on true, Mysore sandalwood, with a heavily resinous feel, real animal musk, and a good amount of castoreum. None of the notes in Shanghai Lily can compare in depth, quantity or intensity, though I’d bet that Opium — that legendary, glorious, benchmark oriental fragrance — was a strong inspiration for Tom Ford. The heavy infusion of cloves mixed with incense is too clear a signal.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Shanghai Lily’s opening minutes are not much about the lily, though that soon changes. At first, the lily is hidden and muted behind the heavy veil of that gorgeous clove-incense-spice mix. Less than 10 minutes into the perfume’s development, it starts to emerge in much greater strength. It feels as though a Stargazer lily has suddenly been dunked in a syrup made from dark resins, bottles of cloves, and a hearty, exuberant, uninhibited tossing of frankincense. Flickers of vanilla dance all around the edges, adding to the sweetness of the floral bouquet. The castoreum feels much more distant now than in the opening, as does the dry, woody guaiac, but there is still a subtle muskiness that infused the scent.

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Source: hdwallpaperspics.com

Shanghai Lily becomes increasingly floral in nature. The lily is joined by jasmine that is potent, heady, and languorously indolic. There are hints of rose and tuberose that flitter about, and something that resembles the purple, airy, fresh delicacy of violets. The overall bouquet is infused primarily with frankincense smoke and cloves; the orange and cumin are long gone by the twenty-minute mark. Yet, for all the heady, heavy, oriental opulence of the florals, Shanghai Lily has some dryness, too. The smoke and lurking, distant guaiac wood create some balance to the sweetness, ensuring  that it’s never pure goo or syrup. Still, the fragrance is extremely potent in strength, and somewhat heavy in feel, at least initially.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

At the end of the first hour, Shanghai Lily is primarily a quartet of cloves, lilies, jasmine, and frankincense atop a base of amber and woods, and it remains that way for a number of hours. Although the notes don’t change significantly, the lily and jasmine do fluctuate in strength, as do some of the background florals like the tuberose. I also noticed that the lily becomes much more prominent when the fragrance is worn in the heat and humidity.

The main change in the first few hours, however, is in texture. Around the 90-minute mark, the perfume’s edges blur, and the notes start to overlap. Shanghai Lily still emits its main bouquet of notes, but a lot of the sweetness has faded, as has the strength of the smoke. The dark, syrupy resins underlying the scent seem much fainter, too, though the vanilla still lingers. Shanghai Lily feels much drier and woodier, with slightly more peppered, smoky woods that now have a somewhat sour, bitter edge to them. Still, as a whole, Shanghai Lily is a rich, spicy floriental with a dry, woody smokiness. It’s not as dense in feel, and it hovers just an inch above the skin with substantially reduced sillage as well.

One thing I’ve always noticed about Tom Ford fragrances is that it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to dosage and application amounts. His Private Blend fragrances, in particular, carry a wallop at first, so spraying your usual amount of perfume can be a deadly thing. Not only is their projection enormous, but the potency of the Private Blends can overwhelm the nose, sometimes making it harder to detect all the subtle nuances. Spraying (as opposed to dabbing) simply compounds the problem, as aerosolization just makes fragrances stronger. With Shanghai Lily, as with many Tom Ford fragrances, I tested it twice, with the second time focused solely on the perfume’s range and sillage in the first 3 hours. The first time, I was recklessly dabbed on a very large amount — about 4 large smears or the equivalent of 2 extremely large sprays– and the sillage was unbelievably potent at first. The perfume also showed a good range of layers and notes. However, during my second test, I applied only about 2 medium-ish smears (the amount you’d get from about 1 moderate spray), and I noticed a difference. Shanghai Lily turned flat, amorphous, and abstract shortly after the first hour. The notes all blurred into each other, and the fragrance lacked significant nuance. It’s something to keep in mind when you test the fragrance for yourself.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source: Trendland.com http://trendland.com/henry-hargreavess-smoke-and-lily-photography/

Yet, even with the greater dosage, Shanghai Lily becomes a skin scent much faster than that initial power and potency would lead you to believe. Less than 2.25 hours in, Shanghai Lily is just a sheer, unobtrusive, soft veil right on the skin. It’s also almost wholly abstract in nature, a vague puff of white flowers just barely dominated by lily and which have a slightly bitter, spicy, incense nuance. Around the start of the third hour, that odd, sour bitterness in the woody base bothers me even more, but I’m starting to be distracted by something else: the vanilla. The light flecks of vanilla that darted around Shanghai Lily’s edges in the opening are now becoming very noticeable.

At the end of the third hour, the vanilla starts to feel like the only individually distinct, concrete note in the spicy, floral blur, and it’s quite lovely. It’s creamy, frothy, airy, and very smooth. It almost feels rich enough to be called “custardy,” but the note is ultimately too sheer and gauzy for that adjective to truly apply. It’s a very well-balanced element that is far from sweet, thanks to the woody dryness and the black, frankincense smoke underlying it. From this point forwards, for the next three hours, Shanghai Lily is primarily a dry, smoky vanilla scent on my skin. The other notes — from the amber and spices to the florals — are wholly nebulous, amorphous, and tangential blurs in the background. Around 6.25 hours in, even the vanilla turns hazy, and Shanghai Lily is nothing more than smoky sweetness. It remains that way until the end, though the perfume’s smokiness sometimes seems much stronger than it was during the nebulous middle stage.

All in all, Shanghai Lily seems to have three distinct stages. In the first, the fragrance is dominated by a very spicy, smoky floral quartet of notes (lily, jasmine, cloves and incense) atop a plushly ambered base. In the middle stage, the perfume becomes more vague, hazy, and the edges between the notes blur. It also becomes woodier, and drier. There are growing hints of vanilla which helps Shanghai Lily transition into its final stage of being a very airy, frothy, vanillic confection infused with dry smoke. In its final moments, the fragrance is merely a lingering trace of smoky sweetness. Shanghai Lily lasted just over 9.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with a large dosage (about 4 large smears), and the projection was extremely soft after the first potent hour. I suspect those numbers would differ dramatically if one sprayed, instead of dabbed, and if one sprayed on a lot.

I like Shanghai Lily, quite a bit, and, yet…. it doesn’t move me. It hits all the right notes on paper: I adore the walloping clove-incense combination; I love lilies and tuberose; and I enjoyed the drydown. But Shanghai Lily didn’t evoke anything emotionally, it didn’t transport me, or conjure up visions in my head. I like it more than a number of existing Tom Ford Private Blends, but something is holding me back. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect the nebulousness and the flatness of the notes after the first 90-minutes have a lot to do with it. Something about Shanghai Lily simply doesn’t seem as interesting as it might have been, given those notes and that powerful spicy, complex beginning. I suppose the fragrance just seems to go a little downhill, a little too quickly, and nothing about the middle phase or even the last one is all that interesting, dramatic, or original. When I smell the opening, I perk up a little, but I suspect I’ll remember Shanghai Lily in the months to come as “that perfume with the really lovely opening that I should have liked more but ultimately didn’t, because it wasn’t interesting.” None of this is helped, of course, by Tom Ford’s prices which have just gone up to $210 for the smallest size. I could tolerate a fragrance that goes from interesting to amorphously flat and abstract, if Shanghai Lily weren’t such a muted creature with a hefty price tag. And, yet, I have to repeat again, it’s actually quite a lovely perfume. It simply isn’t lovely enough, for me, especially for the price.

Bois de Jasmin doesn’t share my ambivalence towards Shanghai Lily. She adores it, though she wishes she didn’t, given Tom Ford’s prices. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

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. […]

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. […] (On the other hand, if you want something to announce your presence, this won’t fit the bill).

At the end of her review, Victoria says Shanghai Lily is significantly easier to wear than some other famous florals, like Serge Lutens’ “femme fatale” perfume, Fleurs d’Oranger: “[Shanghai Lily] is mild stuff, but it’s also easier to carry.” Perhaps that’s my problem. My style is not about “wilting” and “mild stuff.” I like hardcore Orientals that bloody well epitomize “heady or dramatic,” and “mild stuff” simply doesn’t cut it for me. I want my damn vintage Opium, not some wanna-be copy that wimps out after an hour and descends into a nebulous blur, while charging me $210 for the dubious pleasure.

For everyone else, however, Shanghai Lily may be the perfect ticket. Those who find Amouage‘s intense, heady, opulent, complex, powerhouse Orientals to be too much will undoubtedly be grateful for the tame, mild version offered by Tom Ford. It’s a very feminine floriental that is unobtrusive and subdued, but with great longevity, and some interesting bits. It’s easy to wear, versatile, approachable, and may even be suited for conservative office-environments if you’re extremely careful with the amount you apply. And I really do think it’s a sexy, seductive scent. In fact, I have no doubt that Shanghai Lily will be a best-seller, especially as Tom Ford doesn’t have anything else quite like it. (If I’m not mistaken, it is his first non-oud Oriental that is primarily floral in nature, and with heady white flowers instead of the usual roses.) So, I definitely encourage those of you who love white flowers and Orientals to give it a sniff, but if you’re used to really dramatic, heady, smoldering scents like those from Amouage, I fear you may be a little ambivalent as well.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Shanghai Lily is an eau de parfum which comes in three sizes that retail for: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $520 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. The line is not yet listed on the Tom Ford websiteIn the U.S.: you can find Shanghai Lily at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t believe Nordstrom or Saks has the line yet. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they only list 2 of the old fragrances on their online website. In the UK, you can find Shanghai Lily at Harrods or Selfridges. Both stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00 or £320.00 for the super-large 250 ml bottle. The smaller size is also carried at House of Fraser and UK-5th Village. In France, Shanghai Lily is available at Premiere Avenue which sells the 50 ml bottle for €180. For other all other countries, you can use the store locator on the Tom Ford website to find a retailer near you. Samples: You can buy samples of Shanghai Lily at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.
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42 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

  1. How do you find the time to write these gorgeous reviews on a daily basis? You must be permanently in a perfume-doused pen-wielding splendor.

    This was a very luscious review, though I can also myself imagine the flatness. Tom Ford’s perfumes are always, always, flat in the end, and much as I like the smell of a lot of the range, they never truly transport me either.

    • HAHA, it’s pretty much exactly what you described, only you left out insomnia and severe sleep-deprivation. I think my legal background really helps, not only in terms of compiling and analyzing vast amounts of information, but also with the sometimes excruciating schedule. I am pretty much mimicking my old life at the big, sweatshop law-firm, only the briefs are now about perfume, not for court, and not broken up by litigation/courtroom time. I essentially go straight from posting one review to doing the background prep work, research, and retail/shopping link slog for the next one, then I take a long shower before I plunge straight into the next test. Insomnia seriously helps. LOL. 😉 😀

      As for Shanghai Lily, I think it’s definitely better than some of the total duds from his Jardin Noir series, and in many ways, it’s extremely lovely. But, yeah, for $210, I need not only drama and diva-dom, but also to transported and strongly moved. LOL. Do you have one TF which you like more than the rest, even if you wouldn’t want to spend money buying it?

      • Ironically yes, probably the Hyacinth from the (admittedly cruddy) Jardin Noir. I was contemplating it the other day: it has just come out in Tokyo. Although it isn’t a fully realized perfume in some ways, I love the beginning so much, and it is so nice on hot days, that it might actually become my first FB.

        I envy your insomniac perfumed madness. Keep it coming (but get some sleep, for god’s sake)

        • I second ginzaintherain’s advice. I have a bit of trouble sleeping myself and recently started reading monastic complines (bedtime prayers) last thing at night and they are surprisingly relaxing. Not for any kind of religious reasons. I am not sure the term ‘work life balance’ could be applied to your present schedule. 😉

  2. Well, the other issue is that for $210, one could actually *have* the real deal – Vintage Opium, and still have change left to spare! One may have to be patient to find it, but it’s certainly doable! I’ll have to check this one out next time I stop by a TF counter. The quickness to which it became a skin scent is alarming and disappointing, though.

    • Yeah, that was a surprise to me, too, given the initial strength. One has to spray on quite a bit, I suspect, but then it may be quite overpowering at first. As for the Opium aspects, it’s primarily in the heavy clove mixed with incense, but that’s really about it. The similarities are very minor and fleeting, especially as most of the perfume’s shelf-life lies in that vanilla-incense drydown. I’d definitely prefer to buy vintage Opium, especially in Eau de Parfum form, than spend money on Shanghai Lily. That said, Shanghai Lily is definitely one of the better TF’s of recent memory. (I really disliked the Jardin Noir collection, and Sahara Noir doesn’t count for me as it was simply modified Amber Absolute with oud added in.)

  3. Sounds interesting, particularly because it smells similar to your favorite fragrance Kafka, Vintage Opium which I want to believe was amazing (I have only tried the current Ysl Opium that is available on counters and I didn´t like it). However, I´m starting to think that many fragrances base themselves of Asia, since I have read many reviews of Oriental perfumes, don´t get me wrong, I love Orientals and incense, but aren´t there any scents that pay tribute to good old Europe? I would love to try some perfumes that pay tribute to Europe, just to see how is the old continent supposed to smell, what would be the ingredients and the notes used for a fragrance that pays tribute, maybe to France for example, or to Italy, Czech Republic, Scotland etc. The price is high for this, but if the scent makes you fall in love, I guess it is worth it.

    • Well, there are a LOT of perfumes that are all about Europe, but many of them are chypres or colognes. And, unfortunately, true chypres are not commonly produced or made these days due to the IFRA/EU restrictions on oakmoss. Also, I have a strong love for orientals, and those are the fragrances that are usually about the East, not about Europe. Since I review a lot of orientals and ambers, the focus will be a little more eastward. 🙂 If there were more new chypres or aromatic fougères made these days, I would cover them, but with Oud fragrances being all the rage, that’s another thing that adds to the Oriental focus in large part. New perfumes these days are largely either oud ones or gourmand in focus, because that’s what sells these days.

  4. I also got some similiarities with YSL Opium, but more so with vintage YSL NU edp. I like to wear Nu on occasion, and had the chance to compare both fragrances. I have to admit that I oversprayed Shanghai Lily way too much and it was radiating from my skin for couple of hours and was much more potent than NU. I absolutely dont agree with the price tag thats for sure, but I think SL is very interesting feminine scent if sprayed with caution.

    • I don’t think I’ve tried YSL’s NU, or, if I have, I have absolutely no memory of the scent. LOL. I’m grinning a little at the thought of you overspraying a Tom Ford, and then radiating out for a few city blocks for hours on end. *grin*

  5. Me, like you, loves her dramatic perfumes! Amouage, Serge Lutens, bring it. I love it all.

    However beautiful it sounds, I feel I would find this one lacking heft and oomph as well. Beautiful review, Kafka. I always love reading you.

    • Thank you, my dear Baconbiscuit, for your very sweet words. As for Shanghai Lily, I can see you smelling it, liking it but still going “Meh.” And not just because of the price, either. It’s lovely, especially for the first hour, but then it fizzles like a soggy lettuce. Even then, it’s lovely, in a totally different vanilla-incense way, but it certainly doesn’t have much Ooomph!

  6. When I was at the store last time I managed to get only two (tiny!) samples out of four perfumes so I decided to try Shanghai Lily on paper. The idea was that I usually do not like lily perfumes so I didn’t expect to like this one either. But on paper it was very lovely. And nothing in your review has scared me away 😉 So I’ll probably try it on skin the next time I see it.

    • I suspect you’d like it enough to get a very small decant, but never enough to get a large one, let alone buy the full bottle. You’ll have to let me know if I am right. 🙂

  7. Tom Ford scents seem really nice to me at first but then they lose me. I was getting excited when I saw the notes of this but then when you said it hovers an inch about skin I lost interest. For that money I want more than a skin scent. I will try it if I see it because I could end up being pleasantly surprised.
    I envy your ability to function on little sleep. Greta had me up at 4:25 this morning and I would like nothing more than to go back to sleep like she just did.

    • Well, it would have a lot more sillage if you sprayed a LOT of it, as poor Ross did and ended up radiating everyone around him for a few hours. LOL. Even then, however, the perfume’s main shelf-life is not about being very noticeable, perhaps because the perfume is an attempt to appeal to the Asian market where scents are traditionally a little softer or more discreet.

      As for Greta, don’t you love it when the furry ones wake you up but then have no problems at all going back to a peaceful, long, deep sleep, while you’re up glaring at the ceiling? LOL. I hope she’s feeling a little better, but it sounds like her night-time issues still remain. 😦

  8. Hello dear!
    When I read your review of Shanghai Lily I thought it sounded perfect, ideal for you. Then I saw your statement that summed it all up – “It doesn’t move me”. Now, should it be considered a good or a bad thing?

  9. Your patience in researching and writing you reviews is astounding to me. You have such a gift! Mr. Ford has been a let down to me of late. I am curious about what you think of Plum Japonais.

    • Thank you, my dearest Tora. It really means a lot to me. (More than you can know.) As for Tom Ford, I wonder if he’s putting out too many things in one year. The 4 here, the Sahara Noir earlier, and then two new Ouds in the Fall/Winter…. That’s 7 fragrances in a single year!!! Something is going to suffer with that rate! Then again, if these perfumes are aimed at an Asian market (as their name would seem to imply), then that would explain about some of the issues that I’m having. He’s trying to accommodate a more subdued, subtle, restrained, perfume style or preference. That’s a bit of gross over-generalization about Asian perfume tastes, but there’s always a kernel of truth in cliches.

  10. I got to smell these four yesterday (just on paper) and thought the Shanghai Lily was the most interesting of the group but, it didn’t really call to me over so many other better things you could buy in this prices range (Profumum Roma??). Maybe Tom is really aiming his newer releases towards the ever growing Far East market where tastes in fragrance are a little more subdued (no Amouage for them). The names obviously make you think so. And now we know a little more about where you get the gift of extreme verbiage – your legal background makes perfect sense! Thanks again for a wonderful review!

    • You’re very welcome, my dear. As for my legal background, I talk about it in my “About Me” section, but, yeah, I think it fully explains my style in covering every angle, pro and con, and the obsessive focus on details. *grin*

      Your point about TF aiming the new releases at the Asian market is one that I’ve actually thought quite a bit about. You’re dead-on, in my opinion. I think Sahara Noir (with its pre-release in the Middle East and the Oud) was definitely aimed at one market, and the obviously named “Atelier d’Orient” at another. The thing about Asian perfume styles and tastes is a bit cliché, but there are always some kernels of truth in clichés, and I think even GinzaInTheRain would tell you that the general taste (in Japan at least) is not for heavily opulent, forceful Middle Eastern style perfumery. So, Tom Ford is being an astute businessman, but the result may be a little disappointing for the rest of us.

      As for Profumum, their starting prices may be $30 more, but you also get 50 ml more! A much better deal, ultimately. And what great perfumes they have, no? It sounds like you caught a little of my obsession. Heh.

  11. For most of your review I was thinking I needed to try this (again? – I feel like I have tried it). But then I got to the bit about it being mild, compared to something like Amouage, and now I’m apathetic. I’m not sure I want a perfume like this to be mild (even though I like some mild perfumes). But with a concept like this, I say go big or go home!

    • I couldn’t agree more! A spicy Oriental perfume, in my opinion, SHOULD be something roaring about like a Ferrari! Otherwise, what’s the point of the intense spices and smoke at the start? It might as well be a pure floral, if it wants to be subdued, restrained and politely elegant. For me, the problem is not only the mildness, though. It’s how the edges wilt, and the perfume becomes this nebulous, soft, blurry thing. It’s one thing if that happens in the final drydown stage, since almost all fragrances do that. But to happen so quickly? Taking all the factors together, the perfume becomes a bit problematic — for me, at least. That said, I suspect it’s all quite intentional on Tom Ford’s part because I think he’s trying to aim for the Asian market and create a more subdued, mild, unobtrusive scent that would appeal to the more classic Asian perfume style. He’s an astute businessman, that’s for sure.

  12. First let me say, as a lurker finally commenting, how much I enjoy reading and ruminating over your reviews.
    Can anything ever compare to vintage Opium? I loved it the second it was released, despite its ubiquity. It was everywhere and I loved smelling it in the elevator just as much as on me!

    With this review, you hit the nail on the head for me, put in words what it is that makes a scent ‘mine’. If I am going to shell out money for a perfume, wear it and love it, it must “move me” and make me want to stop, close my eyes, and just stand there and sniff my wrist and be taken away from whatever else is going on around me, like a small moment of meditation.

    So thank you for the review, even if what I got from it wasn’t about the actual scent reviewed 🙂

    • First off, a huge welcome, Kim B! I’m so glad you decided to come out of lurkerdom. I truly am, especially as you are another Opium lover! 🙂 Second, thank you for sharing your feelings about a perfume’s mission, and about how a perfume must feel as though it’s special and “yours.” Have you found many of those (other than Opium)? If so, what are the perfumes that move you? 🙂

      • In a completely different genre than the TF you reviewed here, Chanel No 5 is another one of those instant loves from childhood. Always makes me want to stop and just appreciate it, like the best of art will do. To me it is timeless, and never seems “old lady” like. Again, like all good art, I never tire of it

        • The perfumes with which we connect strongly, instantly, and from childhood are often the ones that stay with us to the end, it seems, being something almost holy and sacred in perfume terms. 🙂 I can definitely relate, so thank you for sharing your beloved with me. 🙂

  13. Lovely review! The sultry part of Shanghai Lily makes me want to give it a try but my previous experiences with Ford’s fragrances are still sharp in my mind! Which is so annoying because I love all things Tom Ford…except for his fragrances! Hahaha I find them so potent…loud and in your face. I know they eventually settle down but by then it’s too late and my eyes and head are on fire! Lol
    I have given all my Tom Ford samples to my mother who absolutely loves how potent they can be! Such opposites!!!
    Xo, Jackie

  14. Pingback: Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Plum Japonais (Atelier d’Orient Collection) | Kafkaesque

  15. Always good to read a review of an expensive and hard-to-find perfume that does not make me desperate to smell it. I find stargazer lilies unbearable.

    Much as I appreciate your thorough and evocative reviews, I wish I could help you with your insomnia. I get five or six hours sleep a night, but it takes me ten hours to do it.

    • Ah, a fellow insomniac. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve had sleep problems since I was a child, and nothing helps (believe me, I’ve tried), so I just make the best of it now. 🙂 As for Shanghai Lily, if you hate Stargazers, you’re wise to skip the perfume. It wouldn’t be your cup of tea.

  16. I tried this briefly – if it was on skin I can’t remember where! – and liked it, but it got a bit lost in the noise of the day’s testing. Your stirring review has spurred me on to seek it out again!

    • I’m glad. I know you like Pierre Guillaume’s stuff, so I hope you’ll let me know if Indochine works out for you. 🙂 I’ll also be curious to see what the sillage is like on you.

      • I have tried Indochine too, but was underwhelmed by it, to be truthful. A soft, indistinct spicy number. Shanghai Lily, OTOH, would merit a second go.

        • Interesting about Indochine. Did you try it again? Because, earlier, you had said you couldn’t remember it as you’d tried it in a blur of other perfume testing? Regardless, we’re always on opposite sides of the fence with regard to every perfume, so I’m not surprised it’s the same here. 🙂 I don’t think we’ve agreed on a single one. LOL. 🙂

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