Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Plum Japonais (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

Tom Ford does Serge Lutens. Or, to be more precise, Tom Ford tries desperately to be Serge Lutens, but falls flat on his face. That is my grumpy analysis of Plum Japonais, 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. Today is Plum Japonais‘ turn.

Source: Neiman Marcus

Source: Neiman Marcus

According to the Moodie Report, Tom Ford’s inspiration for Plum Japonais was the ume fruit:

Plum Japanais, as its name suggests, was inspired by the ume plum. ‘I have always been fascinated by unusual ingredients from exotic cultures,’ Ford revealed. ‘The ume plum…has great meaning in Oriental culture; in Japan and China, it is a sacred symbol of Spring. I wanted to craft a fragrance around the ume, because it has a texture and aroma that is so luscious.’

Now, I have searched and searched for some official word on who is the actual perfumer responsible for the Atelier d’Orient collection, or for Plum Japonais in specific. I can’t find it anywhere, which is slightly unusual these days when a perfumer’s name is frequently mentioned in press releases or in articles about a new fragrance.

Fille en Aiguilles. Source: Serge Lutens' Facebook page.

Fille en Aiguilles. Source: Serge Lutens’ Facebook page.

Still, it wouldn’t be important or significant except for one thing: Plum Japonais is a total rip-off of Christopher Sheldrake‘s gorgeous, stunning Fille en Aiguilles for Serge Lutens. It is a fragrance that I love with a passion, and it may be my favorite Lutens that I’ve tried in recent memory. So, you can imagine my grumpiness and sour mood when I thought about how Tom Ford was so blatantly copying about 90% of the Lutens/Sheldrake masterpiece. Yes, there are differences, but they are so minor that I will stick with my numeric assessment that 90% of Plum Japonais is Fille en Aiguilles. It’s so close that much of the detailed break-down of Plum Japonais feels almost redundant (though I will do it shortly), but the main thing you should take away is this: Plum Japonais is Fille en Aiguilles done very, very badly.

Some perfumistas have compared Tom Ford’s style of perfumery to that of a frat boy with his fragrances’ over-the-top loudness and their hyper-sexualized marketing. I don’t always agree because I think Tom Ford is quite capable of producing more restrained, elegant pieces, though his marketing definitely verges on the bold and, sometimes, crass. But Plum Japonais definitely felt like a frat boy took a sledgehammer approach to Uncle Serge’s gorgeously refined, well-balanced, utterly beautiful masterpiece. Fille en Aiguilles may not rank among the best-known Lutens, but it is massively beloved amongst almost everyone who has tried it, some of whom rate it as their favorite Lutens perfume ever. And Plum Japonais simply cannot measure up. It’s as though One Direction attempted to cover John Lennon.

Christopher Sheldrake. Source: jonathanfrantini.com

Christopher Sheldrake. Source: jonathanfrantini.com

During my initial test of Plum Japonais, my irritation was becoming increasingly sharp and hostile, so I decided to make a more concerted effort to find out which perfumer was responsible for ripping off Christopher Sheldrake‘s creation for Uncle Serge. You cannot imagine my shock when I finally dug up the rumoured answer: Christopher Sheldrake himself! [Update: 8/4/13see the note at the end of this review for the information that a different nose seems to be responsible for the creation of Plum Japonais.]

According to the blog, Best Things in Beauty, “[t]he fragrance has been unofficially attributed to perfumer Christopher Sheldrake.” I haven’t seen that attribution mentioned anywhere else, so I have no idea if it’s true or not. But it probably is, given the enormous similarity between the two fragrances — and that just irritates me for a whole new set of reasons. It’s not the fact that Christopher Sheldrake is cheating on Uncle Serge (perfumers are allowed, after all, to work freely where they want, and not just for one client). Rather, it’s the fact that he’s taken his Lutens creation, and so barely tweaked it for Tom Ford that it feels almost insulting to Fille en Aiguilles. It’s damn lazy. And, making matters even worse, the result is a nondescript, utterly imbalanced, very flat, badly done, uninteresting version of Fille en Aiguilles. If Fille en Aiguilles were a person, it should sue for defamation and copyright violation. So, let’s get to Sheldrake’s One Direction-like olfactory copy of the Fille en Aiguilles.

Fragrantica classifies Plum Japonais as “Floral Fruity,” and the notes, as compiled from both that site and Premiere Avenue, include:

Japanese ume plum, saffron, Cinnamon Bark Orpur, immortelle, plum blossom, camellia, agarwood (oud), amber, benzoin, fir and vanilla.

Ume plums or Umeboshi. Source: Hudson Valley Magazine, hvmag.com

Ume plums or Umeboshi. Source: Hudson Valley Magazine, hvmag.com

Plum Japonais opens on my skin with plum liqueur, plum molasses, brown sugar syrup, lots of ginger, strong frankincense smoke, and a subtle woodiness. It’s totally Fille en Aiguilles. Flittering around Plum Japonais’ edges are saffron, muted traces of fir resin, and candied immortelle. The latter shows off both its sides here: its herbal floral face, and its slightly maple syrup one. Once in a blue moon, the oud will pop up in the minutest trace, feeling as muted as the fir resin. 

Cinnamon tree bark. Source: indiamart.com

Cinnamon tree bark. Source: indiamart.com

Within minutes, Plum Japonais’ syrupy plum sweetness turns darker and significantly woodier. There is almost a burnt undertone to the combination which probably stems from the cinnamon tree bark, which is a whole, different animal than mere cinnamon powder. Amusingly, it’s an ingredient that Sheldrake featured front and center in another Lutens’ creation, the woody cinnamon oriental, La Rousse. The bark has an aroma that is spiced, but more akin to very dry, somewhat bitter, acrid, smoky wood. I wasn’t crazy about its odd nuances in Rousse, and I’m not crazy about it here. Still, it’s very subtle at this point, adding just an indirect effect to the overall woodiness running like a vein through all of Plum Japonais’ sticky, fruity sweetness and smoke.

Ten minutes in, something else rises to the surface. An odd floral note that I assume is the camellia. It’s a very creamy, velvety, white, languid scent with a strange but subtle lemony undertone, and it feels quite out-of-place amidst the increasingly dry, smoky, woody bouquet. The spices feel more noticeable, too. The saffron adds a definite kick of fieriness to the fragrance, though the note is not very distinct in its own right. For a few minutes, it adds such a bite to to the fragrance that it almost seems as though a red-hot chili pepper were thrown into the mix, but that impression quickly fades. By the 15-minute mark, Plum Japonais actually feels a little off-kilter. The lemony, creamy floral camellia attempts to balance out the increasingly harsh smoky-woodiness set amidst all that plum molasses and liqueur, but it can’t pull it off. The note is too muted. And, I still think it feels totally out of place.

Fruit Jam. Source: Bettycupcakes.com (For recipe or website, click on photo. Link is imbedded within.)

Fruit Jam. Source: Bettycupcakes.com (For recipe or website, click on photo. Link is imbedded within.)

Nonetheless, Plum Japonais is still almost entirely Fille en Aiguilles, only with minor differences. The very piney, evergreen forest hues of the Lutens beauty are practically non-existent in Plum Japonais, the inclusion of “fir” or “fir resin” in the notes notwithstanding. Sheldrake (if it is indeed he who is behind Plum Japonais) has substituted instead a different sort of woodiness to the scent. Yet, woody dryness is hardly the main, dispositive characteristic of Fille en Aiguilles. It’s the bloody spiced plum liqueur infused with frankincense smoke, that trademark Lutens’ signature of stewed fruit made more concentrated and plummy, with brown sugar sap, and heaping, walloping, hefty doses of sharp, black incense. And Plum Japonais has that in spades, from start to finish.

The problem is that Plum Japonais is like a knock-off of an expensive designer suit, only all the proportions are wrong. Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles is stunningly balanced, whereas Plum Japonais is not. It feels significantly more acrid, more unbalanced in the sharpness of the smoke and the dryness of the woods. And nothing in the first two hours changes my impression, even though some of the other notes wax and wane in prominence. The immortelle occasionally rises to the surface, feeling like the herbal-floral version now, and not the maple syrup one, but it is muted and vague as a whole. The spices feel a little punchier than they did in the opening minutes, and I continue to think that there is ginger mixed in the blend. The camellia, in contrast, has now retreated to the background where it adds just a quiet, shy, creaminess and muted floral whisper to the overall bouquet.

The more interesting thing is the oud. It was just a whisper in the opening, hiding in the shadows behind all that plum liqueur. Now, however, the agarwood is more a wave that surges, ebbs, and then repeats the process. Sometimes, it feels muted, but it becomes increasingly significant at the start of the second hour, turning Plum Japonais into a fragrance where the dry woods almost compete with the incense-infused plum molasses. Unfortunately, I don’t particularly like these dry woods as compared to the richer, deeper, and significantly more interesting pine ones in Fille en Aiguilles.

As for the smoke, it varies as well. On certain parts of my arm, it feels quite bitter, pungent, and harsh, while, elsewhere, it’s more blended into the fruit. I think the cinnamon tree bark is behind some of the differences. Its smokiness in Serge Lutens’ Rousse felt quite acrid and bitter at times, and I think the note here has combined with the frankincense to create a combination that feels quite harsh at times. It’s never the smooth, almost sweetened incense that you’d expect, or, indeed, the gorgeous smoke in Fille en Aiguilles. This is much sharper and drier in nature, with a slightly bitter undertone.

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

It takes 50 minutes for Plum Japonais to soften and lose some of its harsh edges. The plum top notes start to feel flatter, while the smoky oud and the woods in the base seem smoother and less sharp. There is still a bitter, slightly burnt, pungent nuance to the woods, but the perfume as a whole feels a bit less askew and out of balance. Unfortunately, Plum Japonais also starts to feel a little murky and muddy at this time, both texturally and in terms of the distinctness of its notes. It’s starting to blur into a pretty smoky-woody-fruity fragrance just barely dominated by plum. By the end of the second hour, Plum Japonais is starting to fizzle out with notes that feel increasingly amorphous. The sillage has changed too, as the perfume just barely hovers an inch above the skin, if that. Plum Japonais is now just flat, stewed, sweet plummy jam with vague smoke and dry woody notes. In short, the Serge Lutens signature of dried, sweetened, dark fruits with oriental touches, but without the Lutens oomph and drama. At the 3.5 hour mark, Plum Japonais is a total skin scent, and has devolved to mere plummy sweetness barely flecked by some amorphous dryness and smoke. It remains that way until the very end, growing even more hazy, until its dying moments when it’s just vague sweetness.

All in all, Plum Japonais lasted a little over of 6.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with incredibly restrained, soft sillage after the first hour. I applied quite a hefty portion too, as I had a very large sample from Neiman Marcus, so I basically wetted a long patch on my forearm with the equivalent of about 5 huge smears. If I’d applied my normal amount, I suspect the numbers would be significantly lower.

I have to admit, given the strength of Plum Japonais at first, and the power of Tom Ford’s Private Blends in general, I’m a little surprised at the shortness of time, as well as the restrained nature of the fragrance when taken as a whole. However, the fact that the perfume is ultimately quite subdued makes a lot more sense if you put it into context and in conjunction with the similar characteristics of Shanghai Lily. Both Atelier d’Orient fragrances seem intentionally designed to be more quiet, restrained takes on a spicy Oriental. I suspect that Tom Ford is aiming this collection at wealthy buyers in Asia, buyers who may not appreciate his usual, brash style, or a truly hardcore, intense Oriental in the style of something like Amouage. Plum Japonais is an attempt to give them a more subdued take on a masculine, woody, fruity oriental, with Shanghai Lily attempting to do the same for the more feminine, floral oriental version. That said, I want to emphasize that Plum Japonais is not a masculine scent at all. It’s wholly unisex for everyone except those whose perfume preferences lean towards the fragrances that are either fresh, clean, soapy, dainty, powdery, aldehydic, or some combination thereof.

Plum Japonais is too new for there to be many reviews available for comparison. My sense of how people generally see the Atelier collection as a whole is that they think it’s nondescript and uninteresting, with Plum Japonais being the best of the lot. That does not mean that they think it’s a great perfume, however. The Basenotes review section for the fragrance has only three reviews up at this time. One of them, “kende,” seemed to share my views about Plum Japonais’ development:

The problem is how short lived this wondrous moment is. Within 15 minutes the scent begins to feel more and more flat. The complexities start to vanish and what suddenly remains is a puny, underwhelming “perfumey” base that smells like a very commonplace generic perfume type of scent. This doesn’t take hours, mind you. It takes no greater the length of 45 minutes to unravel from that rich, opulent opening. […]

This perfume could’ve really been something special, that opening is something every perfumista should experience, but there is no backbone to hold Plum Japonais up over the hours. It goes on like a work of art and but feels more and more like a cheap photocopy as the minutes turn to hours. […]

The scent is 4 stars.

The longevity is embarrassing for a Tom Ford private blend. 0 stars.

Kende doesn’t know it, but Plum Japonais absolutely is a “cheap photocopy[,]” and he or she needs to go try Fille en Aiguilles. Over in a separate Basenotes board thread, the common consensus for Plum Japonais is, and I quote, “meh.” As one poster put it, “I’m honestly not impressed with any of the new Atelier scents. I guess this would be the stand out, but thats not saying much.”

No-one talks about Fille en Aiguilles because, as I noted up above, it’s not one of the better-known Lutens fragrances. But the perfume blows Plum Japonais out of the water! It is also significantly cheaper than Tom Ford’s ersatz, wanna-be copy which costs $210 for the smallest version. Fille en Aiguilles retails for $140, but can easily be found discounted at a number of online perfume retailers, with the lowest price I’ve seen being $80. (See the Lutens review for full retail links.) Honestly, writing out that price differential just offends me even more. Plum Japonais is such a total waste of money. It’s one thing to take a great perfume and use it as a source of inspiration for another; lots of perfumers create scents that have some overlap or a common signature. But Plum Japonais is such a completely out-of-whack, wholly unbalanced, fizzling, flat, totally lazy, “cheap photocopy” of such a supremely stunning, refined, mysteriously seductive, incredibly evocative, utterly mesmerizing scent that it’s positively insulting. The irrational side of me feels like shaking Christopher Sheldrake — who may be my favorite perfumer ever — and asking him, “Why? Why??!!”

In fact, I think I’m too irate to continue this review.

[UPDATE: 8/4/2013– According to one commentator to the blog, “Mike,” who left an answer below, Christopher Sheldrake did not mutilate his creation because Yann Vasnier of Givaudan is the actual nose behind Plum Japonais. Mike cites as sources two unnamed bloggers who contacted Tom Ford. He later directed me to a review at CaFleureBon which states that Yann Vasnier is the creator of Plum Japonais. That review was posted just yesterday, a few days after my own, so the information wasn’t available to me at the time, but I’m very grateful to Mike for telling me about it. I would like to extend to Christopher Sheldrake my heartiest apologies for thinking he had plagiarised himself with a bad copy, and for wanting to shake him like a rag doll.]

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Plum Japonais 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 Plum Japonais at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t believe Nordstrom or Saks has the new collection 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 Plum Japonais at Harrods (which only has the small size), Selfridges (which carries both sizes), or House of Frasier (both sizes). The small size is also carried by Harvey Nichols. All the stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00, while the super-large 250 ml bottle costs £320.00. In France, Plum Japonais 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 Plum Japonais at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.
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47 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Plum Japonais (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

  1. Pingback: Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily (Atelier d’Orient Collection) | Kafkaesque

  2. Thank you for this review! I was excited to try this one (I just realized it’s probably because I adore Japanese plum wine) but I despise plagiarism, even if it is of oneself, and you reminded me I must seek out a sample of Fille en Aiguilles. 🙂

    • I’m probably a little *too* grumpy about it, but something about Tom Ford trying to rip off Serge Lutens (with the help of Serge Lutens’ favorite, main perfumer) really bothers me somehow. It’s totally irrational, I know, but it’s Uncle Serge and you know how I feel about him. The fact that Tom Ford has such a brashness about him, can be so arrogant at times, and that he’s charging $210 for a rip-off copy, may be the final nails in the coffin. Yes, perhaps that’s why I’m so grumpy. There are differences with Fille en Aiguilles being more piney and wintery, but Jesus H. Christ, a massive chunk of the perfume is the same! Done by the very same man in fact! But Tom Ford is going to saunter around as if he’s invented stewed, fruited plummy liqueur with frankincense and woods,and as if people should be honoured to pay $210 for the privilege. Gah!

  3. I will be “grumpy” right along side you. I was thrilled when I had Plum Japonais sprayed on my arm. Then, ewww…what is that crappy imitation of labdanum and why does it smell so bad?? The jammy unctuous exotic opening, turns to sour weirdness, and then *poof* nothing but a disappointment. This could have been so awesome. It had such promise. I just pulled out my sample of Fille and tomorrow I am going to do side by side just to see. But not tonight. I like to go to bed with something that will rock me in it’s soporific and comforting arms…..

    • If that weird sourness was a little bitter and acrid, then I bet you’re smelling the cinnamon tree bark. It was similar in Sheldrake’s Rousse, only here, you’ve got (synthetic smelling) oud adding to the mix. I didn’t get any glorious, gorgeous labdanum, or even bad, crappy imitation of labdanum. It was mostly plum molasses with sharp smoke and an increasingly acrid woodiness. Then *poof* indeed! I mean, honestly, if I hadn’t almost poured a good chunk of my large vial on my arm, the perfume probably wouldn’t have lasted more than 4 and 1/2 hours.

      I’m so peevish about the whole thing that I’m giving my money to Serge Lutens. I just ordered Fille en Aiguilles, even though I had actually planned to get the large size of Coromandel next. I consider it as my personal finger to Tom Ford with his blatant attempt to rip off Uncle Serge’s idea and, even worse, ruin it with some mangled, flat, distorted mess.

  4. Lol, so this is just a bad, more expensive copy of another perfume, now I find that to be classless. I just dislike plagiarism and unfortunately it happens so often, not only with perfume but with everything, ideas, concepts, designs, clothes, accessories, makeup… speaking of makeup I remember cringing when I saw how many Chanel Peridot polish imitations came along back in the day, from China glaze to other brands, shamelessly copying the color, it´s so wrong, and more recently the Lancôme and Guerlain makeup fall collections are so similar with the veil concept…now the question is who copied who. I think I would rather try the Lutens fragrance, simply because it is cheaper and richer and I love the originals over copies. The sad part is, that except for the people that are really involved with perfume, most won´t know that Plum Japonais is a copy and will think it is amazing, simply because Tom Ford is a more commercial brand than Serge Lutens…

    • It seems the Grumpy Couch is getting another addition. 😉 😀 Come on over, and sit next to Tora and myself. LOL! BTW, when you go to Paris in the Fall, if you go to Serge Lutens’ purple headquarters, I will beg that you try Fille en Aiguilles. I know you’ll love it, I really do.

  5. How unbelievably odd that one and the same nose has done both. Thanks for the review Kafka. I like a few of TFs fragrances but will pass on this as I’m lucky enough to have a sample of Fille en Aiguilles

    • I think it’s more depressing, than anything else, because it means that Sheldrake is getting tired, so he’s taking easy shortcuts. A number of his recent fragrances have been unimpressive or nothing special, like this year’s Fille de Berlin for Serge Lutens. In fact, a lot of people think that many of the fragrances that he’s done for Lutens in the last few years have been a decline from the old Sheldrake/Lutens stuff. All the Lutens fragrances that people talk about and admire are old Sheldrake creations. So, what he’s done for Tom Ford doesn’t bode very well, even if Tom Ford himself wanted a copy of Fille en Aiguilles, simply because Plum Japonais is not a very well-balanced, interesting, or particularly good fragrance. In some ways, Shanghai Lily may actually be a better perfume, although that one is flat and fizzles out too.

      • I’m going to stick with the TF “staples” as it doesn’t sound like the new collection is that interesting (fingers crossed that Noir de Noir and Tobacco Vanille don’t go away)

  6. I’m leery of Tom Ford’s stuff in general. Not that there aren’t quality fragrances in his lineup but there is a lot of overpriced, overhyped stuff as well. So it doesn’t surprise me that Plum would be an inferior copy offered at a bloated price. I do need to try Fille en Aiguilles though. Sounds wonderful. Added to my Surrender wish list 🙂

    • I’m so glad you’re going to try the Lutens, Cohibadad. I will look forward to seeing what you think of it. As for Tom Ford, I agree very much with your overall assessment of his fragrances. I think his best one was actually not even for himself but for YSL: the gorgeous M7 in vintage form. If you haven’t tried that one, you seriously need to! You can often find samples of the vintage sold on eBay, but you may want to look at my review to ensure you’re getting a sample from the right version and bottle.

    • Will the TF collection be hitting your shores soon? Given how it’s aimed at the Asian market and given that you’re in Japan, home of the ume plum, it should be arriving soon, no? I will be really interested to see what you think of it. BTW, a small hurrah for more Fille en Aiguilles love! 😀

        • He (or, rather, Sheldrake) seem to have taken the heaviness issue seriously into consideration when crafting the Atelier Collection. All the comments in reviews (like Bois de Jasmin’s) for Shanghai Lily, about how it’s mild and a skin scent, it’s clearly an intentional decision by Tom Ford. Both Shanghai Lily and Plum Japonais are heavy only in terms of initial sillage and spiciness, and only for about 30 minutes at that. Then, they weaken drastically until, to quote Tora, “poof”…. finito. It would be fascinating to see the sales figures for the collection in a year’s time. Really fascinating.

  7. How interesting! I have a small sample of it so tomorrow night I will try it in parallel with FeA. When I smelled Plum Japonais on paper it reminded me of another perfume but I don’t want to say which until I try it again. But if I smell the same resemblance between PJ and FeA I will be super jealous you found it first: I haven’t met good candidates for my Deja vu series in a while.

    I’ll re-read the review after I do my own testing tomorrow.

    • The woods are different because there is only a pinch of fir in Plum Japonais and Sheldrake focuses primarily on other woods instead, but otherwise, what manifested itself on my skin was a clear tweaking of Fille en Aiguilles. On me, the latter was always as much about plum molasses and incense as it was about the woods. It will be interesting to see how Plum Japonais shows up on you.

      As for the other fragrance that you were reminded of, I’m dying of curiosity now! Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline? (That one many people think is extremely similar to Fille en Aiguilles, and it too came after the Lutens. I haven’t tested it yet, but will very shortly. I needed a small break from Lutens’ copies at the risk of my grumpiness running over. LOL.)

      • I came back to say “wow!” I still can’t believe what I’m smelling. These two are really very similar. But my Fille en Aiguilles is definitely better! And even at full price that I’ve paid for it, compared to TF’s perfumes, it seems like a steal 😉

        I still can’t believe in that shameless [self]-plagiarism!

        • I could kiss you right now, Undina. Seriously, I could. THANK YOU! I was starting to feel a little insane in the last day or so, given the heatedness of my reaction. I thought, maybe I’m just a little too gaga about Fille en Aiguilles, maybe the closeness isn’t THAT intense, maybe I’m just imagining that it’s like an off-the-rack copy, only with the proportions all wonky and distorted. So, THANK YOU for assuring me that I’m not losing my mind. I’m so relieved, you have no idea!

          And, yes, Fille en Aiguille is definitely a bargain even at full retail when compared to TF prices! As for Christopher Sheldrake’s self-stealing (and possible knife in Uncle Serge’s back for taking what is technically his fragrance), I find the overall laziness to be the most troubling aspect. Given how people say many of the Serge Lutens fragrances have gone down in brilliance and beauty over the last few years, given my lukewarm reaction to even this year’s Fille de Berlin, and now, given this wholesale copying of his past fragrance, what does that tell us about Sheldrake’s overall state? It doesn’t seem good. I would bet you he’s burnt out a little and tired of trying to be cutting edge. Because, one thing is for certain, these new creations for Tom Ford don’t seem like anything special or different in the slightest!

          • I’m very afraid that might be true 😦

            Oh, and I wanted to brag a little about my nose: the perfume of which Plum Japonais reminded me when I smelled it on paper was By Kilian’s Forbidden Game. When I checked later (I didn’t know/remember that at the time) I realized that what smelled familiar was three notes they have in common – cinnamon, plum and vanilla. On skin the difference is bigger than the resemblance. But I was surprised that I could smell those notes since usually I’m not that great with deconstructing scents.

          • Thankfully, there is a possibility that it may not be true about Sheldrake. I’ve updated the review to reflect a comment added below by “Mike,” who says two (unnamed) bloggers contacted Tom Ford about the nose behind Plum Japonais and that it’s Yann Vasnier who created the perfume. He didn’t give names or any sources for me to cite to, but, if it’s true, then it’s just another type of plagiarism. But at least it puts my beloved Christopher Sheldrake off the hook! (He really may be my favorite perfumer out there!)

            As for your nose, you should trust yourself more, my dear! I bet you are much better with deconstructing scents than you give yourself credit for! 🙂 I haven’t tried the Kilian yet, but it’s interesting about the notes that you could pull out. I shall have to put Forbidden Games on my list of things to try at some point since I do like plum and cinnamon a lot. Kilian perfumes rarely work out for me, but who knows, there is always a first time. 😉 lol

  8. And just to add insult to injury, I heard the price of the Tom Ford line is going up next month making it even more ridiculously priced! This is making me appreciate the overall affordability of the Serge Lutens line!

    • I was wondering when the rest of the TF perfumes were going to increase to match the new Atelier d’Orient prices! Thank you for letting me know. And, yes, they are becoming increasingly ridiculous in price for what they are.

  9. Tom Ford just doesn’t do it for me. I will stick with FeA. I had to laugh when this one made you so mad you bought the Lutens perfume. Excellent choice.

    • It was definitely a case of irritation changing my planned shopping schedule. 😛 But I’m thrilled I got my paws on the Fille, even if Chanel’s Coromandel was my original goal and first on the list. The Lutens just makes me feel so happy and joyous — two sentiments I did not feel with Tom Ford’s Plum Japonais. I think you’d be singularly unimpressed with either of them but, as another Fille en Aiguilles fan and owner, I would love for you to try it and to let me know what you think of the overlap.

  10. Plum Japonais is by Yann Vasnier, Fleur de Chine is by Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Rive d’Ambre is by Olivier Gillotin and Shanghai Lily is by Shyamala Maisondieu and Antoine Maisondieu. Source is two different bloggers, who both have checked it from press office. Vast majority of Tom Ford fragrances are signed by Givaudan perfumers.

    • Hey Mike, thank you for stopping by. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to share the details as to who specifically created the new Atelier line. 🙂 Do you have names for the bloggers, and have they gone on record with the information they were told? I’d like to be able to cite them for the claim that Yann Vasnier created Plum Japonais. I will definitely update my post to add that new information, but I’d like to point to something specific.

      In some ways, I’m very relieved that Christopher Sheldrake didn’t mutilate his own creation, but it doesn’t change the fact that Plum Japonais is a bad copy of something much better — no matter who did it! lol. Have you tried Plum Japonais or Fille en Aiguilles? 🙂 Again, thank you so much for stopping by. It was lovely of you to add further details to The Case of The Previously Seen Smoky Plum. 😉

      • Hi, Victoria of BdJ checked them for me first. I asked for them in the review of Shanghai Lily and V remembered Yann Vasnier off the top of her head. Later she got back to me via e-mail, confirmed that and the rest. And just recently the same names that V gave me are mentioned in Mark B’s recent reviews on Cafleureb. (I actually just realized that I just assumed he had contacted press office, I didn’t contact Mark personally)

        I’m only guessing, but I think it might be possible that the blogger you cited with the info on Sheldrake had just seen the review of “meama” on fragrantica, where he wrote “Well no, it IS a Lutens (or rather a C.Sheldrake, the nose)!” but I personally read that particular review meaning that in his opinion it is very much the style of Sheldrake. That fragrantica-review was online since June 25th, and the BTiB review on July 10th.

        Haven’t tried it myself yet, but looking forward to it. I know FeA well, and I like it but don’t love it. I’m hopeful for Plum Japonais as Vasnier’s “noseprint” has appealed to me in many cases. Especially these days when basically everything has already been made by someone else in one way or another, I take these “this is a clear copy of…” statements with quite a bit of salt… 😉 (I don’t mean just this particular review)

        • Ah, I appreciate all the further information. When I posted my review, CaFleureBon & Mark B hadn’t reviewed Plum Japonais. (The review is dated just yesterday, August 3rd, and I wrote mine on August 1st.) And Bois de Jasmin didn’t have a review for Plum Japonais. I hadn’t seen the comment by “meama” on Fragrantica about Sheldrake, so perhaps you’re right about the beauty blogger using that as the source. My initial thought, as my review shows, is that someone had ripped off Sheldrake, which is why I originally hunted about for the creator of Plum Japonais, and not that Sheldrake himself was responsible.

          You raise an excellent point about how “everything has already been made by someone else in one way or another,” but, for me, it is a question of degree. I think it was Chandler Burr or Luca Turin in a NY Times article who said essentially what you just wrote, but in the context of the great benchmark perfume legends. And it’s absolutely true: Fracas for big, white powerhouse florals; Opium for spicy orientals; Guerlain’s Vetiver for vetiver, etc. etc. Perfumers are naturally influenced by the Motherships, if you will. But in terms of copies, it isn’t about the spirit and feel of a perfume so much as a question of how close the kinship is. For me, here with Plum Japonais, the degree of kinship is far too close. Others may disagree and undoubtedly will, especially as skin chemistry will determine how each of the two perfumes manifest themselves on their skin.

          Whatever the issue of copying or not copying, I just hope that Plum Japonais works for you. If you love the Vasnier style and “noseprint” (LOVE that phrase, by the way!) and if FeA isn’t your cup of tea, then I hope Plum Japonais will be the one. 🙂

          May I just thank you again for taking the time to stop by and to share all this information with me? I appreciate it enormously, and I will further update my P/J review in a little while with a link to the CFB review mentioning Yann Vasnier. But I’m glad you stopped by for another reason as well, as I’ve found our discussion very interesting. Talking about perfume styles, philosophy, or the connective tissue between various creations isn’t something I get to do often. I hope you will feel free to pop by in the future. 🙂

          • No problem. And just in case, as clarification, I first asked Victoria with the commentator name Mikael in the comments section of the review for Shanghai Lily, I didn’t mean to imply that there was a review of Plum Japonais on BdJ.

            I’ll get back to you if/when I get to try Plum Japonais (if i remember)!

  11. Do you think your disappointment would have been less had FeA come out after/you had tried it after? Or are the dissimilarities between the two significant enough that you feel your opinion of this would be the same, regardless. I will need to try this collection, but as much as I love Tom Ford stuff, he’s really churning them out now and raising the prices to the point where 1) the new scents feel less special and 2) they are becoming completely unaffordable (and they were already damn pricey). Bah humbug to this one, by the sounds of it!

    • No, I wouldn’t have been impressed by Plum Japonais even if I hadn’t tried Fille en Aiguilles. The reasons are simple: 1) It’s unbalanced in its notes, to my nose, especially at the beginning; 2) it falls flat and loses shape or definition surprisingly quickly; and 3) I didn’t like the nature of the woods with their sort of weirdly bitter, sour nuance. I may not have been irritated by the whole thing, but I doubt I would have been Wow’d or awed. It just doesn’t feel like anything particularly special to me, especially when you factor in the price.

      • That’s sort of what I figured as well! It sounds like it just misses the mark entirely. Tragic. I keep telling myself price is subjective, but honestly, at those prices I *do* demand more. Especially because there are so many niche lines with great products, and a lot of them are more affordable, even if only marginally so!

  12. Interesting – I was immediately struck by a resemblance to Feminite du Bois (sp?) but an amplified, rather disagreeable version. But in fairness I haven’t smelt Fille en Aiguilles, tending to avoid the pine note in all its manifestations! 😉

    • Heh, I’m not always very keen on pine myself. It’s a damn tricky note and, usually, isn’t handled very well. In fact, Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline recently turned into Pine-Sol for a good number of hours on my skin, thanks to that pine. As for Plum Japonais, interesting that you saw it as being Feminité du Bois. I can see how that may happen. 🙂

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  16. c’mon k, tell us how you really feel about this one! 😉
    sheldrake as the culprit behind this travesty? if so, maybe HE’S having a laugh at ol tf’s expense….
    still, seems like your source’s provenance is a bit dodgy as i think you’ve come to realize

    • Well, at the time of my review, there was absolutely no information on the nose beyond that one article. 🙂 I quoted it as a claim and a possibility, and later amended my review when other sources came out with different information.

      My main point at the time was that Plum Japonais seemed a hell of a lot like Sheldrake’s Fille en Aiguilles (only not half as well done), and that point remains true no matter who did the perfume. People who like Plum Japonais should try Fille en Aiguilles because it’s a much better, richer, more nuanced, sophisticated fragrance. 🙂

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