Tom Ford Violet Blonde ~ perfume review

Tom Ford Violet Blonde advert with Lara Stone

Violet Blonde is the latest addition to Tom Ford's Signature Collection (i.e., it's not in his more expensive and harder-to-find Private Blend series). It's his third pillar for women, after Black Orchid and White Patchouli, and it's in the same ribbed bottle with metal label. This time, the bottle is in clear instead of opaque glass — and just as well, thank you; if they'd done it up in opaque violet glass I'd have had to buy it even if it was a scrubber.

It's not a scrubber though. Violet Blonde is soft and cushy-powdery, as is the current fashion, but it's loudly so, in keeping with Tom Ford's aesthetic.1 I preferred it applied lightly; your mileage, of course, may vary. The opening is a heady mix of citrus, sweet fruit, violet leaf and violet (violet fans take note: it does smell like violet in the early stages). It's green early on, and peppery throughout. The fruit notes soften as the top notes dissipate, and the violet fades into a jasmine-heavy floral mixed with a dry, peppery iris. The jasmine is clean, with fruity undertones, and it's strong rather than rich: the ad copy repeatedly uses the word opulence, but it's a decidedly modern sort of opulence. The base is pale earthy woods, smooth and creamy, and mostly clean — as was the case with White Patchouli, the earthy notes are there, but they've been worked over with a fine-toothed comb; there's no must or skank whatsoever.

I think I may be nearly alone among perfumistas in preferring Tom Ford's Signature Collection to the Private Blends. The Signature Collection fragrances strike me as generally better thought out and better executed — they have a kind of polished elegance which stands in stark contrast to the blunt force of some of the Private Blend scents, especially the early ones (I still remember wondering, when I first smelled the Private Blends, if some of them weren't maybe unfinished mods for Black Orchid). The three Signature fragrances fit together nicely; they don't smell the same but they have a similar style, and as such they lend a sense of cohesiveness to the Tom Ford Beauty line that is notably missing from most mainstream designer perfume houses.

Violet Blonde in particular has that same feel of "polished chic" that verges on formal (formal, polished and chic also feature in the ad copy). I likened Black Orchid to a ball gown, and White Patchouli to the upscale New York all-in-black look (trousers, a black turtleneck and boots, big sunglasses, sleek hair, one big piece of jewelry). Violet Blonde, the purple-tinged advertising notwithstanding, I'd put in shades of beige and tan, something rather like the perfectly tailored ladies-who-lunch outfit that model Raquel Zimmermann sports in the advertising for Love, Chloé (although the juice is not so sweet or über-feminine as that for Love, Chloé).

Anyway, the 'verges on formal' style really isn't me, and like Black Orchid and White Patchouli, Violet Blonde is a fragrance I enjoyed visiting but don't want to live in; a coffret of all three in a very small size — 15 ml, say — would be great fun to own, but otherwise, I'm impressed but not tempted.

Tom Ford Violet Blonde flacon

Tom Ford Violet Blonde is available in 30 (if you can find it), 50 ($100) and 100 ($145) ml Eau de Parfum. The notes include violet leaf, mandarin, pink pepper, orris, jasmine, benzoin, cedar, vetiver, musk and suede. In the US, it is currently finishing up its exclusive run at Saks, after which it will be generally easier to find.

1. Mind you, it's loud in comparison to the current crop of cosmetic powder fragrances, but it's not so loud as Black Orchid.

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. Karin says:

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I got cumin in this!!!

    • Robin says:

      Especially interesting because I used to be such a cumin-phobe! But like many notes, possibly it doesn’t bother me anymore. Hope someone else will chime in on this issue.

    • helenviolette says:

      I got plenty of cumin too- after about 10 minutes. I liked it and thought well done, but not needed!

      • Robin says:

        Interesting. Either my tolerance is increased, or my sniffer is not working as well as it used to!

    • Daisy says:

      I didn’t get any cumin either….and I’m often a cumin amplifier. I thought it was pretty, easy to wear and considering I generally don’t get along well with Tom Ford, those are high compliments.

      • Robin says:

        I always thought of myself as a cumin amplifier too. Now I’m stumped.

        • Daisy says:

          Maybe it’s not cumin? Maybe it’s something else that others are “interpreting” as cumin??

          • Daisy says:

            or like you said, maybe our tolerance for cumin is increasing.

        • Robin says:

          Who knows? I’m happier not smelling it, probably, so won’t go looking for it ;-)

  2. breathesgelatin says:

    I definitely find it loud. No in the way that something like Opium is loud – but still loud. The first time I wore this, I sprayed it on at Saks and felt like I was falling in love. The second time I wore it (in a sample vial from the Saks associate), I felt like it was wearing me. I was at work and it just seemed heavy and almost headache-inducing. And this is coming from someone who likes to rock Opium/heavy Andy Tauer scents.

    It is very weird, it is in the ‘nouveau powdery’ category like Love, Chloe and Esprit de Oscar, but it’s also definitely a heady scent, unlike those others, which I think are much more wearable. I think if I wear it to work again, I’ll have to wait until the weather cools down more (still in the 90s here in Austin, Texas).

    • Robin says:

      The way it is loud reminds me of Alien — it’s big but hollow; it has none of the richness of an old-fashioned jasmine-heavy floral, yet it takes up just as much space.

  3. OperaFan says:

    Can’t wait for my split to arrive!
    The only private blend I’ve sampled was Neroli Portofino. A BG SA handed me a card while I was on the way to the cosmetics dept in the basement. It smelled like very nice (read “classy”) laundry detergent…..

    • Robin says:

      Yes — they are either blunt force, or they are those citrus/and or laundry scents that are a dime a dozen. Either way, to me, not worth the money or even anything close to it.

    • Daisy says:

      You got me all worried —so I tracked your package…it’s in NJ; was supposed to be delivered today…but apparently not! So check your mail tomorrow. :)

  4. Emily says:

    I had been planning to try this because I felt that I ought, but after this review, I’m actually looking forward to the experience. (I’m not sure why I initially wasn’t enthusiastic about this one — I own and wear the other three Signature Collection feminines — maybe a clunker felt inevitable at some point?) I admire the recent batch of powdery-ladylike scents more than I enjoy them, but this one sounds like something I might have more of an affinity for. There’s something in the Tom Ford aesthetic that I find fascinating, and it sounds like it comes through here.

    Thanks for the review, Robin, and I hope Tom Ford takes to heart the coffret idea.

    • Robin says:

      So far, I think, he has kept the clunkers confined to the Private Blend series, where he can discontinue them without anybody much noticing ;-)

  5. I’ve been inexplicably drawn to this fragrance since I first heard about it despite not having yet sniffed it. I’m not really that enamoured of any Tom Ford fragrances — or any of his line of luxury beauty products for that matter, I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t fall head over heels in love w/ his lipstick. I own it in Black Orchid & it’s one of the few lipsticks that just refuses to stay on my lips. However for some reason I really, really want a bottle of this and I don’t even know why.

    I have something for violet but feel like I’ve yet to find the perfect violet fragrance. I have a feeling this one won’t be it, but I won’t be satisfied until I’ve bought a bottle of it.

    • Robin says:

      Ah, but I am the only person in the world that didn’t even try his lipstick — doesn’t that mean I beat you, on some obscure scale, LOL?

      This won’t be your perfect violet, I don’t think…there’s only a brief time when I’d call it a violet scent at all. But you might love it for other reasons.

      • Lol. Indeed. I was really disappointed. I kept reading all these glowing reviews at to why it was deserving of being a nearly $60 lipstick and how it was unlike anything else and an artform. And then I tried it. I wore it in a photoshoot and I can’t get over how dry my lips look in the shots … and then just wearing it out in general, awful. I feel like for the pricetag I should wear it around but everytime I do, I end up wiping it off and putting something else on halfway through my day.

        • I’m sorry, nearly $50 lipstick. I guess it was $60 with shipping b/c I ordered it from Bergdorf’s. It wasn’t in very wide release at the time.

          • Robin says:

            I think the Serge Lutens lipsticks (do they still make those?) were even more expensive. I remember looking at the colors in Barneys and being very puzzled — they did not seem that special to me. But then, I really am not a lipstick person anyway. I mostly wear a MAC lipstick that is the same shade as my real lips, LOL…

      • 734elizabeths says:

        I think I win this one – I hadn’t even HEARD about his lipstick! Well, gotta go, off to Saks…

        • Robin says:

          LOL — you win, but if you own one by the end of the day, you forfeit your prize!

  6. Abyss says:

    Lol, I’m totally confused! On one hand, violet, jasmine and dry iris sounds so nice, on the other, loud is really off-putting and slightly at odds with formal. Not as loud as Black orchid is a little re-assuring, though :D Definitely want to try it but I might cautiously spray on paper first.

    Oh and I’m fairly indifferent to both Tom Ford lines (and find the musk sub-line just plain silly). I quite like Tobacco Vanille and Tuscan leather bot nowhere near enough to even consider spending that sort of money. Very curious about that new sandalwood one though.

    • Robin says:

      The musk set is even more puzzling to me than the regular PB line. I just don’t get it.

      When you try VB, do come back and tell me if you agree with the “loud” part — maybe you won’t find it so.

      • Abyss says:

        Will do! I just checked and it seems that it will be available in UK from Oct so I’ll have to wait a little longer.

  7. violetnoir says:

    Did you try his new Santal Blush, R? Octavian at 1000Fragrances raved about it, but I just couldn’t get into it. It didn’t have enough lift of sweetness in it for my tastes.


    • Robin says:

      Just went to read his review — I like it, but not as wild about it as he is. I like the dry aspect, and I like the sheerness, but at times it reads as too close to “sandalwood dryer sheet” on me. I’ll probably review it tomorrow.

  8. k-scott says:

    I sniffed this from a magazine strip and loved it! Can’t wait to spritz it on. Thanks for the great review!

  9. k-scott says:

    I am disappointed, though, that the juice is not purple as that is how it appears to me in the advert with the sexy blonde. It would be so much more striking if it was purple!

    • Robin says:

      The pale juice + clear bottle is not nearly as striking a presentation as I expected after the Black Orchid & White Patchouli.

  10. eminere says:

    Great review, will need to smell this again.

    • Robin says:

      Ha…I think you have to buy it since it’s your gravatar!

  11. mitsouko says:

    Mmm, this does sound pretty good. I am not blonde though and would feel silly wearing something called Violet Blonde with my blue black hair !
    However, I like it – I’d still wear it regardless ! :)

    • Robin says:

      I did not think about that. You never hear of a fragrance called “brunette”.

  12. Rappleyea says:

    I always enjoy your reviews, Robin – thanks! The Tom Fords I’ve tried have been overwhelming, hot chemical messes on me though, so I’ll probably pass on this one. I do like the bottle though and agree with you – if it were violet glass (does Amouage have a violet one?) I might have to buy it anyway. ;-)

    • Abyss says:

      I’d be doomed if Amouage were ever to bring out anything in a purple bottle!

      • Daisy says:

        I know! I think even if they called it ‘Ode to Cumin & Cedar’ I’d still rush online to buy it……then I’d decant it ALL and just keep the purple bottle.

    • Robin says:

      Guessing this one will be the same then!

  13. ol rait says:

    This really does sound fantastic. I can’t wait to smell it.

    I have to agree, though. In my experience, the Signature Collection smells much more thought-out than Private Collection. The only one of the PC I liked was Purple Patchouli. Oh well, right? But White Patchouli was so much better than anything I’d smelled in the PC. Now I kind of want a bottle. Too bad I’m saving for grad school. :P

    Thanks for the Raquel Zimmermann picture again. It really was a fantastic campaign.

    • Robin says:

      The early PBs all smell like rough drafts to me…some of which could have turned into really wonderful fragrances.

  14. Emily says:

    Never tried any of those and have never much cared to, though my generally perfume-indifferent fiancé is (for whatever reason) obsessed with acquiring a bottle of Tuscan Leather.

    • Emily says:

      Whoops, I meant that as a reply to Robin’s comment about the Private Blend clunkers. Sorry!

  15. Persolaise says:

    A little tip:

    The next time you smell this stuff, do so alongside Apres L’Ondee.

    • Robin says:

      Yes, there’s a little nod in that direction.

    • lenika says:

      To me it smelled like Apres L’Ondee for the first 1-2 minutes too!

  16. Naie says:

    Would it be terribly OT and catty of me to say that the model’s face on the ad scares me more than a little bit?

    • Robin says:

      OT and catty are allowed :-)

      I do think it’s a striking image, and for an ad, that’s probably the most important thing.

  17. bowbat says:

    I *love* this fragrance.

    It’s nothing I ever would have even tried — neither the name nor the listed notes appealed to me. However, I went to Saks one day with my list of scents recommended from NST readers (I was a Monday Mail participant). After trying a bunch and finding nothing I really liked (except, actually, Neroli Portofino, which I loved until I was told the price), I asked the sales clerk if they had Bond No. 9 Fire Island. I said, “I’ve been told it smells like suntan lotion — like Bain de Soleil.” She replied, “Oh, you know what smells like suntan lotion to me? Hold on.” She came back with Violet Blonde, sprayed it, and it was love at first sniff.

    I will agree that it can be loud, though I’ve found for me the trick is to only apply one light spritz to my wrists. Anywhere else, and it gets overwhelming. On the wrists, it’s perfect.

  18. SmokeyToes says:

    I’d love to try this one. I love the retro feel of the ad, reminiscent of Opium ads circa the 80’s.

  19. ceelouise says:

    On a magazine strip this was like a coarse, loud Iris Silver Mist.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting because so many people find ISM loud & coarse! But mind you, I’m not one of them :-)

      • ceelouise says:

        This is news to me! I find ISM soft.

        • Robin says:

          So do I.

          • mitsouko says:

            Me too ! Maybe it’s skin chemistry.
            Due to a certain * ahem* accident- I got a bit ‘drenched’ in ISM once- it was never loud or coarse – just definitely ‘ there’…for hours. *LOL*

  20. Carmennovia says:

    Got this as a Blue Mercury sample yesterday. It’s been years since I smelled Allure, but I just sniffed my wrist from this morning’s application, and I would swear it was Allure, not VB.

  21. Subhuman says:

    I dig how Violet Blonde is powdery and feminine but not too sweet; Black Orchid and White Patchouli both have some serious sugar content that I can’t get on with. VB’s dry, peppery edge is refreshing and keeps the fragrance from going over the edge into soft, pillowy marshmallow-ness. It’s pretty and “ladylike”, but nicely sharp and crisp at the same time. I don’t love it, but I’m impressed.

    Also, say what you will about Tom Ford and/or his work, but his Signature Collection fragrances smell like they cost. I find them rich, long-lasting, expressive, and layered; pricier than other mainstream designer scents, but worth the extra coin, in my opinion. (I haven’t smelled any of the Private Blends, but have heard they’re mostly overhyped and overpriced. Fine by me; the last thing I need is more lemmings!)

Leave a reply