Champaca Absolute by Tom Ford~men and big florals
~by guest writer Mike Perez
When I started exploring niche perfumery, I stumbled upon a bottle of Guerilla 1 by Comme des Garcons, window shopping in Miami Beach. G1 is a mixture of champaca flower notes, fruits and spices and smells like the inside of a butcher shop (no lie). I assumed this strange accord was the champaca flower that I’d never smelled before, but its meaty (almost surgical and metallic) smell is more likely a blending of champaca with a lot of other notes, to achieve this effect.
Tom Ford announced that his newest Private Blend scent (the Private Blend range currently includes 12 scents) is to be released soon (fall 2008) and it is named Champaca Absolute. The name is a ‘reference’ to champaca absolute, a perfumer’s term for the liquid extraction of the flower. There are a few ways to extract the fragrance from the flower: CO2; concrete and absolute. Like many florals, the extraction process can vary the scent profile of the flower. Champaca Absolute then, makes reference to this ‘pure’ form of the champaca flower essence. I haven’t smelled champaca absolute. But from hunting through the internet for a scent profile I came up with this: Champaca is related to the star anise family and it’s smell has been compared to magnolia; it is slightly less peach-y than magnolia with a bit of spice; many compare it to a white flower such as orange blossom, but admit that it has its own unique scent profile; it has a distinct tea note (*). It seems I thought I knew what champaca flower notes smelled like - but based upon these descriptions, I did not.
Champaca Absolute begins with a soft fermented plum note, very wine-like in a hazy sort of tannic effect. Immediately the champaca notes appear and blossom on my skin.
Whoa! The first time I wore CA I got nervous because it is very big floral. I was heading to my office that morning and I was slightly uncomfortable with arriving there with a strong floral presence all around me. For a second I felt as if I was wearing a pair of women’s sunglasses and I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. Colognoisseurs(**), you know exactly what I’m talking about!
But once the floral notes warmed on my skin (no civet or indolic properties are apparent to my nose, rather it’s a clean and distilled floral note) I relaxed into wearing it. It is amazing how much champaca smells like tea. Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger utilizes a tea note to good effect, but the tea accord in CA is tenacious and not delicate. It mixes beautifully with the spicy floral profile of champaca and this ‘spicy tickle’ in my nose reminds me of sniffing a carnation - and lasts the entire duration, all the way to the base notes.
The base notes are smooth and dry, in a soft chypre style - with a light sprinkling of fruity warmth to it. I’m reminded of Gucci by Gucci, another woman’s fragrance that I personally cannot wear- due to its ‘feminine’ dry down.
CA wears very close to my skin, which I was thrilled with, since if it was stronger it might’ve made me uncomfortable. Mr. Ford clearly had women in mind, when he created CA. It’s the most unabashedly floral of all of the Private Blend scents (even more than the high-definition, indolic Velvet Gardenia).
But still, men (besides Tom Ford himself) will wear this scent, I am sure of it. My advice: Apply lightly and give it a few minutes to settle on your skin. Then put on your sunglasses and stand tall when you walk out the front door. :)
Official Notes: not yet available, to be updated.
* Thanks to Ayala Sender and the vital information on champaca absolute on her Smelly Blog ** Term for a male ‘perfumista’ – created by Quarry (Basenotes member)
ON THE PRESS NEWS: In addition to Champaca Absolute two other Private Blend scents, Italian Cypress (exclusive to Tom Ford boutique in Milan) and Arabian Wood (exclusive to Kuwait) will join the regular lineup within six months of their exclusive debuts.
Pic courtesy of anna.vedeneeva/flickr