Narrative is of utmost importance in understanding a fragrance. Without it, it is difficult to decipher the perfumer’s intentions, the message behind a composition and to determine if the main idea and the final results are properly synchronized or, in some cases, to contextualize your own experience with the product independently of whatever its creator tried to evoke, which can also help to conclude if a perfume is successful in transmitting or evoking something, or if it in fact conveys anything at all.
Some fragrances are accompanied by a clear storyline provided through their respective advertising campaigns. In other perfumes, the narrative seems to be deficient, for which it is imperative to complete it with the background that its creator can provide. In the case of Orchid Soleil, I consider it necessary to determine first of all, the target audience for the product, which implies defining who the Tom Ford woman is.
Tom Ford grew up during the 60s and 70s, and as a young man enjoyed the 80s, so the opulent and exuberant aesthetics of these years have markedly influenced his creations. Since he began his career as a designer, the image he conveys in his designs, on his catwalks, is that of an independent, highly sexual and very extroverted woman.
His women have no patience for frou frou. Everything Tom Ford designs has a deep sense of refinement and while he certainly puts aesthetics above functionality, he clearly prefers to avoid the senseless. His penchant for provocative and over-sexualized ad campaigns has caused him to be accused by many of objecting women, but I must say that such accusation is far removed from reality.
The Tom Ford women are in full control of themselves, their images, their careers, and their decisions. If they wear a very low-cut dress or a tight, unlined lace skirt, it’s because they want to. Their choices are not based on what others may prefer, but on what they themselves desire. Oh, they also have disposable incomes, so they live surrounded by luxury.
Orchid Soleil was conceived as a solar, summer, daytime flanker of Black Orchid, his highly successful and tremendously influential 2006 release. Soleil tries to capture the experience of a brilliant sunshine in a radiant and sensual scent. This would make you to think of the beach, but I highly doubt the Tom Ford woman would visit such places unless she has, at least, rented a private beach for a day or two. She would not let strangers enter into her domains so the best scenario for this narrative would be a day of leisure next to a pool, on her Beverly Hills mansion, away from hectic New York.
Let’s put a pause on the narrative to talk about the perfume itself. Orchid Soleil is a gourmand take on tuberose, albeit somewhat metallic. Tuberose is a flower originally native to Mexico known for its tiny, waxy white flowers that grow along a spike and its heady aroma. In perfumery, tuberose is the quintessential white flower.
Big, carnal, sweet, floral, cloying and overwhelming, tuberose is one of those notes that have to be used in moderation because it will dominate quite easily. The only way to tame tuberose is to have it crippled and, even under these conditions, it will come back to you with a vengeance to hit you with crutches, at some point.
Orchid Soleil is constructed over a backbone of tuberose, starting with bitter orange, pink pepper and cypress. Both bitter orange and pink pepper mingle with tuberose’s mentholated nuances to create a metallic effect, with the tiniest hint of cypress to complete the solar accord. The tuberose here has a strong indolic component that provides sensuality.
Indole is an aroma chemical found on most white flowers, in small quantities, which give them their heady, luscious and corporal profile. Much larger doses of indole are interpreted by the brain as something utterly different and frankly disagreeable: the smell of rotten meat, feces and tar coal. It is interesting how the concentration of compounds can produce remarkably dissimilar results on our olfactory perception, making the brain interpret the exact same chemical as two totally different things. Also, this fact can help you understand why big, indolic white florals are often deemed as sensual, naughty scents.
The tuberose in Orchid Soleil is accompanied with what is described as red spider lily. Lilies are also classified as white florals, with a watery but slightly dirty aroma. Here, the combination of both along the opening notes gives the impression of sweaty skin drying under the sun after taking a dive in a pool. Also, there is an underlying coconut nuance that hints at suntan lotion or sunscreen. Some people describe the flowers in this scent as frangipani. That flower has fruity characteristics which I cannot discern here.
Slowly but surely the gourmand base will become prominent with vanilla, a dash of patchouli and a chestnut cream accord which would be the intended link between Soleil and Black Orchid, pointing at Black Orchid’s well-known black truffle accord. Vanilla and chestnut cream will undoubtedly make you think of a Mont Blanc tart, but no. Sadly, any fantasies you may have of a day of leisure next to a pool eating a lovely Mont-Blanc aux marrons will not be fulfilled. On the other hand, if toasty dough is your thing, you will be more than pleased. The chestnut cream accord in Orchid Soleil smells like toasty matzah, albeit faint and under control thanks to the sugar surrounding it.
The tuberose will be present from initial application until the fragrance dies out, but the sweet gourmand base will inevitably take over. The fragrance stays close to the skin with a perceptible sillage that comes and goes. I don’t know if this perfume contains any ionones, which are substances notorious for causing anosmia for short periods of time, hence resulting in the described conduct. My guess is that there is a heavy molecule in the base responsible for this.
This is a fragrance that perfectly captures the image of a powerful business woman taking a sunbath after a dive in a pool on her mansion; sunscreen applied and drink in hand. In that sense, the intended message is successfully transmitted. Now, whether you like this metallic, toasty gourmand tuberose or not depends on your tastes. Honestly, I appreciated every minute of it. If you have not tried it, I’d like to suggest multiple applications before making any decision, keeping the narrative in mind.
Have you tried it before? Did you like it? Does the description sound interesting to you? Let me know in your comments.
Name: Orchid Soleil
House: Tom Ford
Concentration: Eau de parfum
Nose: Sonia Constant
Release Year: 2016
Category: White floral gourmand
Reviewed Batch: circa 2016
From personal colletion.