Thursday, 20 October 2011

How Do You Make Tom Ford Santal Blush? Slap On A Bit Of Jasmin Rouge...!

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! 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, photo of Blush Eco Baby wool from, photo of Zinfandel from, photo of model from, photo of blusher from, sunset photo my own.


Anonymous said...

Incredible title! :)
I like Santal Blush, but also not enough to even contemplate more than my samples (I have two, lucky cow that I am! ).
I will use this sandalwood charged atmosphere to let you know how much I like your Ava Luxe N°23! It is really lovely!
I'm looking forward to trying the new Hermessence that is also based on sandalwood, and I should think Hermessences are quite your thing too, are they not?

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

I don't know where I get these titles - they seem to invent themselves, like your good book that read itself!

I was partly inspired by your review of Santal Blush and we are as one on the texture of it, which is stunningly smooth and elegant. I wouldn't be surprised if you can actually smell more in it than me - I do have this issue with woody notes, especially cedar, which swamps a composition.

So pleased about Ava Luxe 23. Sorry you only really have the top to sniff - it was mostly used up / evaporated when I passed it on to you!

And yes, I am excited about the new Hermes and will see if it has come into the Bahnhofstrasse store in Zurich next week when I am there.

Btw, a friend whom I have "inducted" into the perfumista faith is coming over to Vienna next week and I have given her the walking tour guide to follow that we took. Very different weather, methinks!

Thanks also for the recent klout.

: - )

Tara said...

I like the concept of an understated sandalwood and rose perfume so it's too bad it wasn't well executed. "Portrait of a Lady for wimps" sounds great! It's not worth the money if it just fades into nothingness, though.

Now I want some Cadbury's mini-eggs! They are almost as moreish as Twiglets :)

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Well, that was my experience, certainly, but it could be that you fare better if your skin doesn't do that "cedar total eclipse" trick mine does.

Would be interested to hear what you make of it if you test it in due course.

And oh dear yes, mini-eggs are notoriously addictive. I shouldn't be allowed around Kettle Chips either.

Undina said...

I'm replying right after I read your review, so I have several things to say (and I still remember them!)

First of all, I think you found just perfect visuals for your story. Having painted myself into the corner by trying to use (mostly) my own pictures, I'm always impressed by your and Birgit's ability to choose just the right pictures for your posts.

Second, I think I'm in a giggly mood because it's Friday but I laughed aloud when I read your "Le Labo Workship" - a freudian concoction (workshOp/worshIp)?

Third - I object to your comparison of PoaL and SB! I do not think they smell even close by any standards. I know that perception is very individual, I just had to defend my favorite PoaL. And please notice: I don't even dislike SB. Which bring us to the forth point.

On my skin SB isn't that fleeting. It might not stay on as long as other Tom Ford's perfumes and I've just tested a lot of them recently for my weeklong testdrive (I plan to write about it next week, though not about SB) but it definitely didn't strike me as something disappearing quickly. I will be testing it more next month so I'll see if it behaves differently.

And the last - other than the comparison protested above and a question of tenacity, I liked reading your review. I'll re-read it after I test SB the next time.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thank you for your long and considered comment - funny about the "workship" typo - totally missed that, so it must be significant, even though I only like a few of the Le Labo range so far!

The reason I compared PoAL to SB is mainly because they are both oudy roses - it was a fairly throwaway comment to be honest, just as my statement about Violet Blonde showcasing Quorn doesn't bear close scrutiny. : - )

That said, PoaL plays out as a *potent* oudy rose on my skin and SB has a faint trace of oud, though less faint than the rose itself.

I think you may have misunderstood me on the question of SB being fleeting. Only *the rose note* is short lived - the rest of the scent (the creamy woody bassline as I termed it), was still going gangbusters many hours after application.

Yes, my only quibble with this one was the lack of blush!