Tom Ford Velvet Orchid ~ fragrance review

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid banner

The old saying has it that “everything old is new again.” Tom Ford Velvet Orchid, a salute to the grand oriental perfumes of the 1980s, seems to have taken that saying to heart. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Estée Lauder Cinnabar, Boucheron de Boucheron, and other room-permeating, spicy-woody-ambery fragrances will want to give it a try. Fans of Velvet Orchid’s older sibling, Black Orchid, will probably see no reason to switch.

Velvet Orchid’s notes include bergamot, mandarin, honey, vanilla, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, narcissus, magnolia, Cattleya leopoldii orchid, heliotrope, rum, suede, labdanum, sandalwood, and myrrh — not that any of these notes stand out distinctly. Even without the gorgeous deco bottle and “orchid” in its name, a single whiff ties Velvet Orchid to Black Orchid.

Although Velvet Orchid has the guts to take the ring with any of the big orientals, it’s billed as a floriental fragrance. And maybe compared to Black Orchid, it is. I imagine the Velvet Orchid’s team of perfumers, including big names Antoine Maisondieu, Shyamala Maisondieu, Calice Becker and Yann Vasnier, plus a crowd of interns and not-yet famous noses, pondering how to transform Black Orchid.

“We’ve got to make it more feminine,” Yann Vasnier might have said. “Soften it, punch up the floral notes.”

“Ix-nay on the rotten uit-fray accord,” Calice Becker could have added, but in French, of course. (Do the French speak Pig Latin?)

“But we must keep it in the spirit of Black Orchid,” I imagine Antoine Maisondieu adding from the head of the conference room’s table.

So they stripped out Black Orchid’s cassis and 20% of its indoles, poured in a few beakers of jasmine, and amped the brief citrus opening. They kept Black Orchid’s hazelnut-truffle signature and its mass of warm, exotic base notes. The result is a fragrance with a sharper, more tingly floral top than Black Orchid that is nearly obscured by the rest of the perfume’s muscle.

Yes, Velvet Orchid smells more traditionally feminine than Black Orchid, but it isn’t by any means lighter or more sheer. It shares all of Black Orchid’s density, impenetrable oriental feel, toasty vanilla-amber dry down, and whopper sillage.1 To me, Velvet Orchid hints more at silk stockings and hairspray than does Black Orchid, but the average gal on the street won’t see them as very different perfumes.

In short, if you already have and love Black Orchid, you won’t get a lot that’s different with Velvet Orchid. If you almost liked Black Orchid but found it too much of a morass, you probably won’t like Velvet Orchid either. But, if you love a fragrance with a definite presence and distinct signature, you lean toward orientals, and you don’t already own Black Orchid, I would give Velvet Orchid a try.

I can't help thinking that Velvet Orchid was made for women like the glamorous stars of Dynasty and Falcon Crest — people who say "Darling" and wear gold lamé and velvet during the day. Can shoulder pads and glossy lipstick be far behind?

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid perfume bottle

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid Eau de Parfum comes in two sizes, 50 ml ($112) and 100 ml ($159) and is available at higher-end department stores.

1. I once had a boss who told me he sprayed Black Orchid in the kitchen to mask the stink of fried fish.

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


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

  1. thegoddessrena says:

    Tried on this on the same day as Terracotta and on my skin the Terracotta clobbered this one to the point where I actually made a note to retry Velvet Orchid solo. Liked the opening though

    • Angela says:

      Hey, I thought Terracotta had been discontinued! I’m glad to know I was wrong.

      • floragal says:

        I read somewhere (probably here!) that they’re making it part of their permanent collection because its been so well received.

  2. solanace says:

    Sold. :) I absolutely must try this one.

    • Angela says:

      Let me know what you think when you do try it. I’d love to smell it on someone with the presence to carry it off well, which I bet you do!

  3. happy888cat says:

    I belong to the latter target group! I was contemplating in Black Orchid when news of Velvet came into light so I decided to wait. Seems like this incarnation suits me better! Looking forward to try/buying a bottle :)
    Side note: the fried fish comment really cracked me up.

    • Angela says:

      I’d love to know what you think if you try them side by side.

      Yes, the fish comment really was funny! That guy had great taste in fragrance, though.

  4. melissa says:

    I tried this on skin Saturday — I sprayed it on in Nordstrom on a whim before heading to a party — and was surprised by how much I enjoyed wearing it. I’ve always found Black Orchid a little too something — not too big, or not just that, but heavy on some certain note I don’t prefer. The otton-ray uit-fray maybe, or the way that interacts with the patchouli? Velvet Orchid felt warmer and smoother and I loved the way the honey wove through it. I’m not running out to buy a bottle based on that one wear, but I’ll probably hunt down a proper sample.

    • Angela says:

      I bet you’ll appreciate it more in cooler weather, too. It’s a big fragrance.

  5. chandler_b says:

    Every time I think about anything Tom Ford I always have a pang of regret that I didn’t buy a bottle of M7 at TJMAXX years ago for 30 bucks…anyway I wonder if this considered a flanker or its own fragrance?

    • relleric says:

      I am lucky enough to have a FB of M7 from way back when it first came out. I don’t wear it often but still love it.

      • chandler_b says:

        Yes you are very lucky!

    • Angela says:

      Oh, I have heartburn merely hearing about it! M7 at TJMaxx? Wow.

      This one is a flanker to Black Orchid.

  6. foxbins says:

    I might give this a try, as I’m a fan of big orientals. I tried Black Orchid and got sweet jam, which was not what I wanted. Black Velvet sounds better–less fruit.

    • Angela says:

      Yes–that’s one of the ways that Velvet Orchid really stood apart from Black Orchid for me.

  7. relleric says:

    The SA at Saks this weekend tried this on (I was not brave enough to spray it on myself), and we were both shocked by how strong it was, and also noted the similarities to Black Orchid.
    Well, I’m not a fan of either, but there are plenty of other TF frags that I love.
    Snagged a sample of Oud Fleur in NM, haven’t worn it yet but the card I sprayed it on is still going strong two days later. The Tobacco Oud is really nice!

    • chandler_b says:

      I was in a Saks on Saturday also and was given a card from a SA with Tobacco Vanille sprayed on it and from just smelling it on paper it smells very creamy but too light. Need to smell on skin for sure.

      • Angela says:

        Tobacco and vanille do seem to be a match made in heaven.

    • Angela says:

      When my decant of Tobacco Oud runs out, I know I’ll be putting away my pennies for a full bottle. I really like that one.

      • relleric says:

        I splurged on a 100ml bottle last year, albeit in the brown packaging. I really love it, and it plays well with a lot of other stuff.
        I was more impressed with Tobacco Oud than Tobacco Vanille, although I think it is just too hot for TV, more of a fall/winter frag to me. :)

        • Angela says:

          Nice! 100 ml, too. You’ll be enjoying it for a while, which is great.

  8. pyramus says:

    I have a bottle of Black Orchid and I can’t imagine how it could be improved upon. The vanilla base is one of the most beautiful things I have ever smelled.

    • Angela says:

      I bet their bases are really similar. I didn’t try them side by side–I’m away from my perfume samples right now–but I remember them as similar.

  9. bastet says:

    I’m tempted to buy this just for the purple bottle! I would probably like it since it sounds like the objectionable rotten fruit note of the original has been eliminated or at least toned down. Thanks for the review, I’ve been very curious about this one.

    • Angela says:

      The packaging for these is stunning! I love those bottles.

  10. kate says:

    Oooh I love that bottle…and I loved Black Orchid. So I’m probably just going to buy it for the sake of that purple and gold bottle – will add to my collection of all the bottles of all the perfumes I’ve ever worn……ahhh

    • Angela says:

      I love the bottle, too! Maybe the dark glass helps keep out damaging light, too, so you can keep it on your dresser.

  11. Merlin says:

    M7 (the version just before ‘oud absolute’ is the only Tom Ford I feel totally comfortable in. I also love the dry down of Violet Blonde but I haven’t yet bought a bottle as I’m not sure its a scent I would want to wear very often. There were however rumors of discontinuation that are making me think…

    This one and Black Orchid were just immediate no(s) for me! Some things I just find immediately appealing and others immediately off-putting, and I’m sure many others have the exact opposite intuitions :-)

    By the way CONGRATS on The Lanvin Murders – I just down-loaded it today and am really enjoying all the fashion references (well I don’t know enough to know them all, but I really enjoy the many I do recognize!)

    • Angela says:

      Hey, you’re ahead of the crowd on The Lanvin Murders! I haven’t even gotten around to a formal announcement yet, since the paperback won’t be out until later this week. It posted early on Amazon and the ebook sites. It’s a pretty fluffy book, so I hope you enjoy fluff–smart fluff, that is. Yes, there are lots of vintage clothing references, but I’m not giving anything away to say that a decant of Tabac Blond plays a vital role in the story’s finale.

      Black Orchid isn’t really for me, either, even though I’m glad it’s on the shelves out there.

      • Merlin says:

        A book without any fluff would probably be very dry! I just deleted some further remarks about the book, and things I’m liking, but I’m scared of leaving unintentional spoilers so I deleted :)

        • Angela says:

          You’re so nice even to think of leaving comments about things you like! I really hope you’ll have fun reading it. That’s my goal: be entertaining without being dumb. Other people can shoot for Pulitzer Prizes, I just want to entertain and do it well.

    • Merlin says:

      Caveat, a good friend has just reminded me that M7 is not strictly a Tom Ford :) True enough!

      • Angela says:

        Good point, and I’m not even sure how much Tom Ford has to do with his fragrances. Still, it did come out under Ford’s watch. What a great fragrance.

        • Merlin says:

          It seems that the creative director does have quite a lot of influence over the general feel of the product; making sure it fits in with the brand, etc. Or, that’s how I’v understood it! The distinctions get quite fine, lol. Of course the credit should be going to the nose, but who even remembers the name Sheldrake when it comes to Lutens :)

          • Angela says:

            Wouldn’t you love to talk to Tom Ford about perfume? I wonder what he wears, fragrance-wise? (And so true about Sheldrake!)

          • nathanthomas50 says:

            Mr Ford lives across the road from me in London and I have passed him in the street quite a few times (last week I bumped into him strolling around Regents park all informal in jeans, a white t shirt and a safari jacket enjoying the sun, all on his own, no PA’s , minders etc which was refreshingly un-Tom Ford). On a couple of the occasions I’ve passed him where I was within a foot or two of his ‘aura’ it’s definitely been tobacco vanille, but one time it was Bois Marocain !

          • Angela says:

            Great powers of observation you have (and a terrific location, to boot). I can completely imagine Tom Ford pulling off Tobacco Vanille with great aplomb. You’ve just earned your Perfumista Badge of Honor!

      • chandler_b says:

        I imagine Tom probably annoyed the nose’s since he is so particular about designs and products, but that is probably what made M7 interesting and stand out to me at the time….plus THAT ad. I think in a way M7 foreshadows his later work and own line more than any other scent he did while at Gucci and YSL.

        • Angela says:

          I hope he did annoy the perfumer, because his insistence on a particular vision turned out to be just the right thing. And, yes, that ad…

        • Merlin says:

          The marketing DID involve him in the image of the perfume!

          • Angela says:

            I haven’t seen all the ads, but the one I’m thinking of features a handsome brunette and full frontal nudity. It was kind of scandalous when it came out. I bet Tom Ford loved it!

  12. perthgirl says:

    Ditto what Melissa posted. There’s something about Black Orchid that’s just too ‘something’, so inspired by this review I tried Velvet Orchid this morning and am loving it.
    I got a sample a couple of days ago, and on this cold winter morning it blooms beautifully! I admit I am a huge fan of orientals, but I don’t find this too big or too powerful- though I’d likely reconsider that on a hot day! :)

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad it’s working so well for you! It’s just getting to be summer here, so Velvet Orchid probably won’t be on my agenda for a few months more.

  13. VeraJayne says:

    Well I can not wait to sniff this, big Tom Ford here! I love Black Orchid, it is pretty close to my signature and that’s saying alot with 250 plus bottles in my collection with many fab vintages.It just really agrees with my chemistry. I found 3 bottles of voile at Winners for 16 dollars each in the men’s section and wear that often in the heat,it is beautiful.Hubby gave me BO in parfum and it is to die for. Love the purple bottle. Thanks Angela!

    • Angela says:

      Oh, I bet you’ll love Velvet Orchid, then! I know exactly what it means to say that something is practically your signature fragrance when it has so much competition at home. I bet it smells wonderful on you.

      • VeraJayne says:

        I do not get a rotten fruit note with it. Just a lovely patch and sandlewood. Lots of nice comments too! Like Angel it really is a love it or hate it fragrance.

        • Angela says:

          Obviously it really agrees with you! I bet you smell marvelous.

          • VeraJayne says:

            I bet you smell great too! Big congrats on the book! Can’t wait to read it!

  14. 100mlEDP says:

    Black orchid or BO as I sometimes see it written was the first and so far only perfume I have ever sold off from my collection .
    I could not stand how persistent it was , I always got bored with it and then I started to smell it on everyone and that was it .
    I adore the bottles and must admit this one is so lovely in its deep prune purple bottle but even when I sniffed it from the falcon I placed it promptly back and decided I just couldn’t do it !
    If I had had this first then maybe I would have a bottle as I like Violet edition much better .
    Hoping for a great follow up pillar scent after NIOR.
    (And a marriage proposal from Tom )

    • Angela says:

      I think all of us–boys and girls and other-gendered–are waiting for that marriage proposal….

      • nathanthomas50 says:

        I’m not sure his husband would approve of the marriage proposals ! Lol

        • Angela says:

          Fine! I’ll marry them both.

    • scentfromabove says:

      He is just all kinds of yummy in my book! What a beautiful man!

      • Angela says:

        Yes, he’s movie-star handsome, that’s for sure. In fact, I wonder why Hollywood hasn’t hunted him down?

  15. VeraJayne says:

    Tom Ford fan here! Darn smart phone lol

    • Angela says:

      I knew just what you mean and didn’t even notice the typo!

  16. hajusuuri says:

    I got samples of Tom Ford Velvet Orchid from Nordstrom yesterday. I liked how it smelled on the test strip…it may be SOTD sometime this week! As to the Black Orchid, I don’t have a FB yet…but I have a very cool looking and cool operating Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb atomizer that I’ve naughtily asked the SA to fill with Black Orchid instead of Flowerbomb ;-)

    • scentfromabove says:

      I love the SA at Tom Ford. Its like they know true perfumistas and they aren’t stingy with samples. Hajusuuri, you just gave me some ideas for some small atomizers that I have!!

      • Angela says:

        A good SA–one who doesn’t simply say, “That one is beautiful”–is worth his weight in gold.

    • Angela says:

      Sly! The Black Orchid bottle is so pretty, though. It would be nice to have one of those, too.

  17. scentfromabove says:

    I am a true Tom Ford fan, but was a little hesitant about this particular fragrance. For me, when I get a description of his fragrances, it confuses me. When I hear notes that I like, it doesn’t smell good. But then, notes that I typically wouldn’t wear, it takes my breath away. Dang you, Tom Ford.
    Angela, what sold me on this one was the comment you made about Dynasty and Falcon Crest. That is SO ME! LOL! I want to try this fragrance on that comment alone.

    • VeraJayne says:

      So me too! Just got Falcon Crest season 1 lol

      • Angela says:

        I’ve watched a few seasons of Dynasty, and they were ridiculously fun.

    • Angela says:

      That’s hilarious! We need more people like you out there.

      • VeraJayne says:

        Thanks Angela! My family thinks I’am crazy with my love of over the top 80’s prime time soaps lol. My folks did’nt let me watch them as a kid and as an adult they are a ton of fun! Much better than the real housewives lol. I read that Joan Collins wears Shalimar.Bet she would love Velvet Orchid!

        • Angela says:

          She would rock Velvet Orchid!

  18. nozknoz says:

    Now I’m dying of curiosity about the boss who told you he sprayed Black Orchid in the kitchen to mask the fried fish smell. Was this something he did regularly and was recommending, or something he tried once out of desperation?

    Angela, I love your book! I only wish I had the discipline to pace myself and not inhale it all at once, as I’m enjoying the characters and setting as much as the mystery, but I can’t wait to find out what happens next after each new development.

    • Angela says:

      That boss was a funny guy–I really like him. I’m not sure he cooks a lot of fish, but that was his off-hand comment. (The combo of Black Orchid and fish sounds pretty bad, really.)

      I’m so glad you like my book! I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Thank you!

    • VeraJayne says:

      Don’t give Tom Ford any ideas. Next he will be using a fried fish note lol

      • Angela says:

        I could definitely imagine some brave perfume company taking that on! Or maybe it could become the signature fragrance of The Red Lobster chain.

  19. Omega says:

    My question is, would ppl on The Love Boat wear it?

    • Angela says:

      That’s hilarious! The Love Boat is more my speed, too. Fantasy Island might spawn a good perfume. For the Love Boat, I definitely see a marine note, plus some cheerful florals à la Julie, the cruise director.

      • Laurels says:

        It’s not period-appropriate, but I can’t help thinking that the Love Boat would be full of fruity florals.

        • Angela says:

          There definitely was something fruity and light about The Love Boat. (Or maybe I’m thinking about Isaac the bartender serving up drinks with umbrellas.)

  20. smartylicious says:

    I love Velvet Orchid, it is absolutely gorgeous! I bought a bottle about a month ago and have been really enjoying wearing it. I personally find VO closer to Voile de Fleur (the EDT version of Black Orchid, which has been discontinued), more so than the original Black Orchid EDP, but they’re all one big happy family and there’s definitely the same vibe running through.

    • Angela says:

      It really seems like they’ve done a great job keeping the family resemblance flowing through the flankers. That’s not always true for many perfumes.

  21. Laurels says:

    I love a big oriental, but if VO has the same truffle note as BO, I’m out. It’s a shame, because it sounded great, otherwise.

    • Angela says:

      I do smell the truffle note in Velvet Orchid. However, I have a hunch we’ll be seeing more big orientals coming our way…

  22. ChocolatEyes613 says:

    Lovely review as always, Angela.

    I have been meaning to sample Velvet Orchid, but will probably wait until September. It is starting to get too hot, and humid here in New York. Black Orchid while wonderful in the bottle and on paper, never seems to suit me. It usually smells like jam and bubblegum, on my skin. Which is strange, as my dad thinks Black Orchid is better for a man. Maybe, I have better luck with Velvet Orchid? That purple bottle, is to die for.

    • Angela says:

      I think you’re really smart to wait until the weather cools. I could see Velvet Orchid growing to an asphyxiating size in mugginess. (Although, who knows? People swear Carnal Flower blooms best in the heat.)

      I love the bottle, too!

  23. missminute says:

    I didn’t like this and I was yet to meet a Tom Ford I didn’t like! There was something compelling – it smells to be almost like a blackcurrant cordial we have here called Ribena – so I tried it twice. But you put your finger on what I don’t like, that 80s assault on the senses. I love vintage perfumes – 40s, 70s, 50s perfumes – but the big 80s and early 90s fragrances felt like just too much like everything and the kitchen sink. That’s how I feel about this one, it’s a tad too Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion for me. (Sorry Liz).

    • Angela says:

      I know what you mean. Lucky for you, as a Tom Ford fan you have lots to choose from out there!

  24. naomi77 says:

    Bit late to the conversation but wanted to chime in as I tried this at Sephora during lunch today.
    I happen to love Black Orchid, and although I don’t wear it as much as I used to, I have a back-up FB to my FB, so yes, it’s a standby.

    Velvet is definitely more floral than BO’s fruit. I agree with the review that it’s more an oriental than a floriental though. I find the projection weaker than BO (probably a good thing) but so far, good tenacity.

    My one beef with it is that the drydown is overly vanilla, at least on me. BO dries down in a much more patchouli sort of way.

    It’s certainly nice though, and if I didn’t own BO I might like it, but for me, given that I am one of those people who actually likes the funkiness and jamminess of the original, there’s no room for this one (especially when I’m a bit enamoured of Sahara Noir, so if there’s a Tom Ford FB purchase in the future, that will be it!)

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for weighing in on this! It’s terrific to get someone else’s insight on it. I hope that bottle of Sahara Noir is in your future sooner than later!

  25. kate says:

    Please does anyone know when this comes out in the UK??

    • Angela says:

      I don’t know, but maybe someone else will chime in!

Leave a reply