In my “perfume notebook,” I found an entry from last January: “Always drenched in musky cologne, he smelled like a mixture of excrement and flowers.” Judging from my wobbly writing, this note was written at night in bed. I was not alert enough to record the book this sentence came from and when I think of the books I read last winter, there are several candidates — all dealing with personalities and events of the French Revolution. The courtier who loved musk back in the 1700s would not believe Tom Ford’s modern “musk” fragrances contain “musk” at all; the Ford musk fragrances are pristine, far removed from musk sacs, anal glands and the like.
The White Musk Collection’s four new perfumes add a lighter, feminine character to the richer, more masculine, Private Blend line-up. These new “white” musk fragrances are sheer and have been put through the hot wash cycle, twice, to remove anything “dirty” or animalic. (In fact, it seems most of the musk went out with the rinse water.)
(jasmine sambac, white pepper, ambrette seed absolute, cumin, musk, honey, black plum, incense, Tonkin musk headspace, benzoin)
Urban Musk opens with green-ish jasmine; it’s the least “washed” jasmine in this collection. Pepper adds a whiff of “bad breath” to the opening (imagine a dry-mouthed socialite of a certain age — her fur coat redolent of yesterday’s application of Joy, a burning cigarette between her lips — blowing in your face at close range). As Urban Musk develops, I detect mildest honey and cumin but only a touch of muskiness. I’d say Urban Musk is more beige than white; it’s a tad darker in character (for awhile anyway) than the other perfumes in this collection. On first spray, I thought: I might need to buy this. When I used an entire sample vial of the fragrance to experience its full effect, I was less enthusiastic; Urban Musk turns into a pleasant, gauzy amber fragrance (an effect I can get with many colognes at half the price).
(Bulgarian rose, saffron, thyme, mate (tea), olibanum, Lily-of-the-Valley, white leather, suede, amber, sandalwood, and musk)
If Montale took one of its rosy-saffron-oud scents and reconfigured it for the drugstore baby powder market, you’d get something close to White Suede — a cheap-smelling take on Middle Eastern perfumery. Rose, saffron and olibanum are discernable but scream: synthetic! A jarring note, that I’m guessing is mate, appears near the opening and “herbalizes” the scent for a minute or two. This old-fashioned fragrance is more starlet than diva: think Veronica Lake, not Bette Davis. No matter the talk of leather, suede, amber, sandalwood and musk, this perfume is very feminine. White Suede turns into pure laundry-detergent musk in the dry-down; it has absolutely amazing (or should I say absolutely frightful?) staying power.
(ylang ylang, orris, jasmine, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, citrus, amber, musk)
Jasmine Musk opens with a clean and artificial smelling “banana” note — a mingling of jasmine and ylang ylang I assume (or maybe it’s just an aroma chemical that ‘reads’ “jasmine” by means of “banana”); the ‘jasmine’ is sweet, dusted with vanilla sugar. As the fragrance dries, the jasmine becomes a tad citrusy and if you put your nose to skin you’ll smell, briefly, a hint of musk. This fragrance is on the light side, with minimal sillage and so-so lasting power. The majority of Jasmine Musk’s listed ingredients are in hiding or used in small quantity.
(ylang ylang, white pepper, bergamot, jasmine sambac, Lily-of-the-Valley, orris absolute, tonka, benzoin, beeswax, musk)
Musk Pure smells of benzoin and tonka-vanillic notes (verging on “amber” in the extreme dry down); it’s powdery but to my nose Musk Pure is the most unisex of the collection. Musk Pure isn’t interesting, does not present anything “new,” and doesn’t smell worth $180 but it’s the only one of this collection that I’d happily wear if a bottle of it fell from the sky into my lap. (Note to Self: I should review Givenchy Pi because so many fragrances I’ve sniffed this year remind me of it, including this one. Givenchy Pi can be had for around $30/50 ml if you shop around.)
I prefer my musks in the Muscs Koublaï Khan/CBMUSK style and this White Musk Collection (Eaux de Parfum) is too light and feminine for my tastes. Musk preferences aside, these perfumes still don’t “qualify” for Tom Ford Private Blend membership — or the Private Blend price of $180 for 50 ml.
For buying information, see the listing for Tom Ford under Perfume Houses.