Tom Ford Noir (Review): Is black the new black?

Tom Ford Noir begs the question of whether the reality is as good as the promotional hype, and whether “black is the new black”.

Tom Ford Noir begs the question of whether the reality is as good as the promotional hype, and whether "black is the new black".

Tom Ford Noir (Review): Is black the new black?

So with the normally anticipated hype and promotion that accompanies anything with Tom Ford’s name, Tom Ford Noir was released to the market recently, and with it came the speculation of whether it would be this year’s “must have” fragrance for men. The trouble with any such attention is that it always tends to over-inflate the expectation and sets a lofty, almost unreachable goal for the product. And it raises a couple of sticky questions for this particular scent:

  • Is the reality as good as the hype?
  • Given the increasing use of the word “noir” to denote anything ‘deep and dark’, “is black the new black”?

Both were questions I felt deserved both an answer and a detailed review.

7302672 Tom Ford Noir (Review): Is black the new black?Tom Ford Noir (2012): Tom Ford Noir released this fragrance not as part of his “Private Blend” but as his designer line, geared to a more sensitive price-point and the mass-market. Ford’s past mass-market entries have been solid performances; that is to say they’ve been a notch of two above the fray in terms of quality and overall impression. None have carried a cheap feel about them. But there’s something about Tom Ford Noir that compels me to add the words “until now”.

The fragrance begins with a series of mixed top notes, including pink pepper, caraway, violet, verbena and bergamot. The results here are a bit confusing and mixed, lacking a specific sense of character. This subsides into a spice and floral heart, with yet more pepper (this time black), nutmeg, then the florals – rose, iris, carnation, sage — attempt to take stage but don’t really find their way into the spotlight. Then the base of amber, patchouli, opoponax, vetiver, civet and vanilla — an ‘Oh my God’, less-than-subtle vanilla — takes over until this dissipates. If you begin to think that there are a lot of notes, that’s a good start. The core issue is that this isn’t a bad fragrance, but the combination of notes doesn’t lend itself to a defined outcome other than suggesting “this is peppery” or “it’s deeply floral” or “it feels somber and refined”. It’s none of those, though it seems to be attempting to be any or all of the above. Through the duration of this fragrance, it was challenging to decide what Tom Ford Noir wanted to be. It’s nice enough, but it lacks presence and character, and doesn’t knock one out of the park.

From the beginning, I felt a very earthy sense of dustiness, earthy in tone, not sharp but not clean or crisp. Once the heart blended in, a slight floral sense of the rose and iris reveal themselves, but again, not enough to feel prominent. The base? Vanilla. Prominently vanilla. Not a high caliber vanilla, a la Guerlain’s Madagascar Vanilla, but something very synthetic smelling, a la a cheap extractive found in the baking aisle of your local grocery. In a word, it’s not Tom Ford Private Blend Tobacco Vanille, nor the caliber of a Guerlainade scent. If it were a high quality vanilla, you simply cannot tell it from a cheap and chemically produced variety.

Granted, this is not intended to be quite the caliber of Private Blend — even as an EDP concentration, Noir is only 18% versus the 26% concentration normally found in fragrances such as Noir de Noir. Nonetheless, Tom Ford Noir doesn’t quite match to the caliber of his pre-2007 signature designer fragrance despite a seeming effort to throw the kitchen sink at a men’s follow-up.

Rating: 1.5/5. Not recommended.

Bottom-Line: In the case of Tom Ford Noir, black turns out to be just a very murky brown, without the polish, sharpness, and overall distinction one would expect from a black. This is a disappointing effort from someone who’s made a career of creating hit after hit. While I’m sure it will find a large enough following, this effort is a fragrance that lacks a distinct overall character.

Pricing ranges from $90 for the 50ml size to $125 for 100ml. Availability is in most major high-line department stores, including Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and others. Information on the fragrance is notably missing from the Tom Ford website.

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