Blink and you miss it.
You know how it is when people call you over to see a beautiful sunset (in this case, the view from my hotel room in Italy - the one with the rectangular toilet!), and by the time you get there the egg yolk orb of the sun is just dipping below the horizon, suffusing the sky with a delicate pink, which soon fades to grey? Well, I am sorry to say that that appears to be the problem with Tom Ford's new release, Santal Blush, of which I had the highest hopes, not least because of its evocative name. The choice of the French word "santal" is always a good start: two syllables are easier on the ear than the three in "sandalwood". Follow that with a wistful descriptor like "blush" and you've got a scent name dream team...
Then "Blush" is in fact the shade of wool I am knitting a cardigan with for a fumehead friend's baby; it also makes me think of pastel pink Cadbury's mini-eggs - and it is of course the colour of the scent itself! Hmm, thinking about that pink juice, you could be forgiven for mistaking Santal Blush for a high class Zinfandel - that's until you tried an experimental spritz down the old hatch. Which, after my incident with the 2.5ml glass atomiser, I wouldn't recommend.
So how does Santal Blush smell exactly and what's with the sunset analogy?
Notes: ylang ylang, cumin, cinnamon bark, carrot seed, jasmine, rose, cedarwood, Australian sandalwood, oud, musk and benzoin.
Okay, so for a full fifteen minutes, Santal Blush lived up to my expectations. The opening is woody in a faintly raw, packing-case-splinter kind of way, which is doubtless due to the cedar wood, which I always find more rufty tufty than the smooth operating sandalwood with which it is paired. I get a slight dusting of spice and something that I would characterise as vaguely "rosy". Thanks to my synaesthetic training at the Le Labo workship earlier this year, I can most definitely declare this smell to be pink!
On reflection, it's a bit like FM Portrait of a Lady for wimps. And it turns out there is also oud in there, though goodness knows the composition doesn't need any more types of wood - even the cinnamon is described as "bark"...; - ) The beleaguered rose note is woefully lacking in staying power and in no time at all it is like that disappearing sunset or some poor consumptive in a Bronte novel, fading away before your very nostrils.
I could also liken it to those "hint of" fruit drinks that are 99.3% carbonated water, but declare pomegranate and blueberry prominently on the label, which is - annoyingly - perfectly legal. I know, because I challenged Schweppes on this very point. But at least with those kind of drinks you can taste the ingredients in question at all times. In Santal Blush - in addition to this issue of the vanishing rose note - if ylang-ylang (a favourite note of mine) and jasmine did show up, I swear they were hiding behind a tree (and there's enough to chose from).
Which is such a shame, because in terms of its texture, once it gets going Santal Blush is as smooth as the drydown of Violet Blonde, if not smoother. And to achieve that whilst using not one but three woody notes, which can so easily veer into scratchiness in my experience, is quite masterly on the part of Yann Vasnier, the nose behind both fragrances.
Yes, I am afraid that apart from the first quarter of an hour, Santal Blush is merely a milky woody bass line, in need of a rosy melody. As well as being a bit like a pared down version of Portrait of a Lady, it also strikes me as a buffed up, sanded down version of Diptyque's Tam Dao (my original "trapped in a tea chest" scent), with a side order of cream.
Now I have gone on record many times as saying that no perfume could be too minimalist to appeal to me. "Send all your bland monotone scents in my direction", I have commented on blogs, "I'll give 'em a loving home." I am now going to have to eat my words, because there simply isn't enough going on with Santal Blush for me: the note pyramid is too bottom heavy, the rose too elusive and evanescent.
I am aware that it may well be my skin which is at fault, for I have a hunch that it amplifies wood notes to the exclusion of all else, especially cedar. In complete contrast, Octavian of 1000 Fragrances raves about Santal Blush, and his nose picks out all sorts of nuances and activity. I could easily believe that it is a combination of wayward skin and amateurish nose that prevents me from discerning the complexity of this fragrance, but that is just the way it goes!
So...in summary then, top marks for a flawlessly smooth foundation, but in my view Santal Blush seriously needs some colour in its cheeks to mitigate its woody pallor - now where's my pot of Bourjois?
Photo of Santal Blush from coolspotters.com, photo of Blush Eco Baby wool from modernknitting.co.uk, photo of Zinfandel from corkingwines.com, photo of model from Bourjois.co.uk, photo of blusher from montpellier-beauty.co.uk, sunset photo my own.