A Bloom From the Banks of Lake Eerie


–  a review of Tom Ford Private Blend’s Black Violet

Certain things shall always and forever be perpetually out of my reach. I may, some sunshiney day, become a bestselling writer (here’s hoping!), I may some day aspire to be an inspiration for others, and some day, I may even be able to swan into certain stores in various locations in certain metropolises and airily wave an Amex card with the catch phrase: “Just give me one of everything, darlings!” I may, so I hope, some day be able to kindle desire in another human being, and if I’m very, very lucky, maybe even someone I actually want in return.

But I shall never, no matter what I do, be six feet tall, a perfect size 0, or be anyone so impossibly hip even Tom Ford might think I’m deathless cool.

There’s something about Tom Ford the designer I just don’t get. Which could very well be that I’m not a six foot tall dead ringer for Bianca Jagger in her Studio 54 days. It could also be that my brand of ‘sexy’ doesn’t necessarily imply ‘slit-to-there’ and ‘slashed-to-you’ve-got-to-be-effing-kidding-me’.

Which actually sums up what I thought about his perfume line, too. I’d never tried Black Orchid or any other main line or Private Blend perfumes, and there they gleamed in their classy bottles, like his entire personal aesthetic…just out of reach. I wasn’t a Tom Ford kind of female, more a ‘Anna Sui meets Diane von Furstenberg in a Whitechapel alley with a dash of Rick Owens’… woman. Tom Ford perfumes weren’t sold anywhere within two hundred miles of me. They were probably gorgeous. As it was, I was already ruined for life when I encountered Amouage.

Famous last words. I’d eat them, but that lemon cupcake I just devoured didn’t leave any room, which is yet another reason I shall never be deathless cool – I eat too much. I was resigned to live out my days the perpetual Tom Ford virgin, and it didn’t bother me, any more than never knowing the wonders of Xerjoff bothered me…too much. Still, that niggling pitchfork of curiosity prodded me on occasion. I would read reviews that made me go… ‘hmmmm’. I would wonder. And more to the point, wonder whether I was, in fact, missing out on the Next Great Perfumed Epiphany.

Lo and behold, somewhere in the world are Great Facilitators with Great Big Hearts who take pity on penniless perfume bloggers with Platinum Amex tastes on back-alley thrift store budgets and titanium curiosity pitchforks. Lo and behold, I’m no longer a Tom Ford virgin.

Lo and behold, the world has shifted ever so slightly on its axis, and even if I’ll never be Nadia Auermann, never mind Bianca Jagger, I can certainly wear a Tom Ford perfume and survive. Just don’t tell him I’ll never be that cool.

When the ultra-darling Carlos with the epically sized heart sent me not one, but four Tom Fords, I was rather taken aback, not just by his generosity (which is legendary), but by which one I reached for as if guided by an unseen hand.

It was…Black Violet, from his Private Blend line. There were other wonders in that little sample pack, other marvels I will certainly review, but my inner Gothadelic won out by selecting something I would never have chosen on my own accord.

So is it dark, or even black? Is it even violet? Will I wake up as a latter-day Jerry Hall?

It is very dark. It is definitely violet. And no matter how fever-delirious, I shall never be Jerry Hall. Damn it.

Black Violet is…a shapeshifting, ghostly flower left on the threshold of some equally phantasmagorical portal of the Otherworld. It is quite possibly one of the strangest perfumes I’ve encountered, and trust me, I’m not at all averse to strange, weird or WTF.

Strange in the sense that this is an eerie perfume. From the initial fruity, sweet citrus burst, a fata morgana flower blooms. Not a violet in the sense we usually think of violet, which is often violet leaf with its fresh, grassy-green laugh in the sunlight, this is all about the violet flower, which is to say, if violet flowers grew on the banks of the river Lethe in perpetual twilight, the only burst of color in the shadows. A violet flower wrapped in a sheath of formfitting, moody, dark, dark wood…a wood of weird and wondrous creatures that shift and dance on the edge of your vision, but do they exist or are they mere figments of your overheated imagination?

Violets that glisten in moonlight and dewdrop instead of dappled sunshine, violets that fade to a mere whisper, a ghost of what was, what you surely imagined, but did you really? For now, we’re brought back to the forest floor and that moonlit dark with a plush, earthy, velvet-smooth oakmoss. Oh, yes…oakmoss. Oakmoss which should lead us into chypre territory and so have me at ‘hello and hell, yeah!’, but this is no man-eating beast of a chypre, this is far too understated, far too much a creature of Faërie, dancing on the edge of awareness, leaving only a glimmer of its ghostly beauty behind, but beauty nevertheless.

Black Violet is definitely a haunting, goth, witchy kind of violet, the kind that sneaks up on you and makes you think…yes, I really should own this, I really, truly should and how can I live without it and surely it’s not that expensive and such is the price of haunting these days and…

And somewhere in there, I blink and I’m brought back to real life and a recent memory of another haunting perfume that this resembles very much to my fever/flu-ish nose…and that stops me cold.

On the other hand, how often does it happen you encounter a bloom…from the banks of Lake Eerie?

Nose: Clement Gavarry.

Notes: Bergamot, citrus, fruity notes, violet, oakmoss, woods.

Tom Ford Private Blend Black Violet (2007) is available at Nordstrom’s, Bergdorf’s and other upscale locations.

All thanks to Carlos, who made this happen! 🙂

20 thoughts on “A Bloom From the Banks of Lake Eerie

  1. The ad campaigns got on my nerves, but then I saw his film, A Single Man, and fell head over heels in love with him and all his works. So now I am always respectful and very interested in what he does in perfume. I actually liked White Patchouli, and have tried quite a few of the others at the counters, but I need to have samples that I can live with before I can tell anything. I was disappointed in my counter experience of Violet Blonde, though the concept is a great one. There is something to be said for an eerie violet, one may well need such a thing sometime or another….especially in a the romantic goth mood.
    Love that photo!

    1. I’m a bit ashamed to say I still haven’t gotten around to seeing “A Single Man” (my sister the film critic praised it to the skies)…but I really need to do something about that. I’m also waiting to try Violet Blonde (for whatever reason, I want to call it ‘Violent Blonde”!)

      Violets are not often eerie…but this one certainly is! Try it if you can! 🙂

  2. I am with Lucy here, ad campaigns nerved me too. Loved this blog.. I do have several TF decants but not this one. I do want to experience it now! Isn’t it lovely to have friends who don’t want you to be a TF virgin 😉

    1. Sandi…it is indeed very lovely and I’m very fortunate to have friends who hate the idea that I might be missing out! 🙂 Black Violet is such an unusual perfume – you should give it a try!

      I do hope you keep reading – there are more Tom Fords to come as soon as I get rid of this flu!

  3. This is one of my favorite perfumes in the Private Blends collection, eventually I’ll go for a decant but for now I enjoy a sample that I’ve got – it has an amazing staying power on my skin (~12 hours).

    I’m glad that you’ve finally got to try some of TF’s creations: they are worth your time and your creative energy.

    1. I think you had me somewhere at ‘weird’ and ‘lavender’, my friend…how so? Do tell! 🙂

      I look forward to exploring more Tom Fords as I am able – yes, they ARE good, they are indeed very good, it’s just the price that kills me!

      1. I just tried this one from a tester bottle so I cannot elaborate much. What I can tell is that while lavender is sort of dry, herbal, cool Lavender Palm is thick, sombre, feels oily and takes your mind completely off the barbershop.

  4. Sheila, that was a dark fairy tale of a review. I am in love with your writing!
    I’m a Tom Ford “virgin” myself. Black Violet might just be the perfume I give it all up for. 😉

    PS Bianca Jagger in the 70s = eye-popping gorgeous.

    1. When you get a chance, JoanElaine…give ’em a whirl! And definitely Black Violet, because it really isn’t like any other violet I’ve ever tried.

      Bianca Jagger was indeed eye-popping gorgeous. Something about those stylish women of the Seventies that was somehow lost since then…

  5. Mesmerizing description, Tarleisio. This sounds like a fragrance that a woman who wrote a novel called Quantum Demonology would love! 😉

    You said you have a memory of another haunting fragrance that this one resembles, so now you have me curious. What is it? For some reason, reading your review makes me think of Odin 04 Petrana, although I’m quite sure that’s not the one you’re comparing it to, since that’s an iris scent. Anyway, inquiring minds want to know… 🙂

    1. Of all the commenters who’ve read this, I should have known that my Scent Twin would pick up on that tantalizing hint…;)

      I was hugely surprised to be reminded of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ ‘Paradise Lost’, created for the Clarimonde Project. Not in the sense that they smell entirely alike – which they don’t, although they share certain notes in common – but they share something of the same feel….that haunted, otherworldly aspect. ‘Paradise Lost’ is less linear, thicker and more complex – but it definitely shares some of the ghostly genie in the bottle – and that was the biggest surprise of all! 😉

      If push came to shove and I had the opportunity to choose between them – I’d go for ‘Paradise Lost’, but having said that, if anyone ever threw a bottle of Black Violet at me, I’d wear it quite happily! Haunting is never bad…;)

  6. Not even real-person Tom Ford is as hip as brand-person Tom Ford would like him to be. So I think you’re doing okay. 🙂

  7. First: I love Carlos. (Waves merrily.)

    Second: Tom Ford ads annoy the bejesus out of me.

    Third: I did find Black Orchid absolutely HEEEEDious – it’s that chocolate-dirt-cucumber thing in amongst the enormous flowers – but the edt, Voile de Fleur (sadly discontinued) is wonderful, wonderful stuff: sheer milky white florals with a little black thread running through, sweet but dangerous. Liked Tobacco Vanille, but since I preferred the greater complexity of Havana Vanille I passed on my little decant. Violet Blonde smelled like SweeTarts to me, bleargh, though I didn’t make it past the first fifteen minutes and I don’t know if it got better after that.

    Black Violet has been the only other TF that has really drawn me, and since reading your Eerie Flower description, I’m even more interested in it.

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