Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Arabian Wood, Bois Marocain and Italian Cypress by Tom Ford – three reviews

~by guest writer Mike Perez

Looks are deceiving. Which should not be a problem when talking about fragrances, right? Wrong!
I am just as guilty as the next guy, when I allow the concept of a fragrance (the ad, the bottle or the celebrity’s name (or the attractive model’s face [and body] associated with it) to tempt me into giving a fragrance my attention - when actually I should be more interested in how the fragrance smells on my skin.
So, I admit it. It’s something I’m trying to get better at. I’m trying to not believe the hype (online or otherwise) that surrounds every new fragrance release and smell fragrances (new and old) with no expectations. It is extremely hard to do. Since I’m a big fan of a bunch of Tom Ford fragrances I decided to practice my new approach by testing the 3 new Private Blend scents: Italian Cypress, Arabian Wood (currently only available at the TF Kuwait boutique) and Bois Marocain (scheduled to be released in May 2009 exclusively to the London boutique).
Here are my fragrance reviews:

Arabian Wood
The first spray of Arabian Wood is neither woody nor ‘Arabian’ but something imperceptibly fougère-like, herbal and slightly nose tickling (angelica?) combined with a sharp varnish / nail polish remover accord. It took a couple of wearings for my nose to become accustomed to it and then only when it’s warmed on skin for at least 20 – 30 minutes do you start to perceive a warm, ashy gentle frankincense accord.
I’m familiar with a handful of pure aoud oils, which to me vary greatly in overall smell and complexity. A few of the high quality oils are just gorgeous. Arabian Wood conveys this same accord not as an oil, but as a fragrance (not easy to do) while avoiding the typical medicinal (Band-Aid like) sharpness. It reminds me of the dry down of aoud fragrances (the Montales and Amouages) after a couple hours – almost as if 5 to 10 hours of sharp, medicinal notes are fast forwarded and skipped and you instantly arrive at the plush, velvety floral/wood aroma. I love it! The frankincense blends seamlessly with the taif style rose and then a gentle white floral note finishes it off in a luxurious and sensual style.
Arabian Wood by Tom Ford is exclusive to the city of Kuwait (one of the richest countries in the world) and this scent feels appropriately decadent. However, unlike genuine Middle Eastern attars, Arabian Wood diffuses and doesn’t wear thick or heavy – its incense and complexity aren’t trapped close to the body of the wearer. I wish it lasted longer – it is gone in 3-4 hours. I also wish it was more affordable – but compared to pure Arabian attars prices, Arabian Wood is lower priced (for once). Imagine that?

Notes for Tom Ford Arabian Wood: Patchouli, Lavander, Galbanum, Bergamot, Gardenia, Jasmine, Rose, Oakmoss, Orris and Sandalwood

Bois Marocain
I’ll get right to the point: Bois Marocain (Moroccan Wood) is an extremely safe and predictable wood fragrance; this is majorly disappointing coming from a luxury line like the Private Blends.
The top notes are a resinous blast of synthetic incense (a very sharp slightly metallic incense – think Nu by YSL) that evolves within less than an hour into a typical linear sandalwood note. Not creamy (or anything remotely trying to smell like Mysore sandalwood) or complex – but a Demeter version of Sandalwood: generic, linear and short lasting.
Rush for Men by Gucci and H&M by Comme des Garcons have walked this line before (pencil-shavings cedar notes lying underneath a raspy incense note) and while I have worn and enjoyed both of these scents before, the fragrance world does not need another, using the same two recycled accords – at almost quadruple the price.

Italian Cypress
Tom Ford said, prior to the release of Italian Cypress in Women’s Wear Daily, "It's a very Seventies gentlemen's fragrance, the kind that you don't encounter very much any more..."

He was partially correct. It is a 70’s style fragrance.
I love a great cypress note (Cypres Musc by Creed was love-at-first sniff when I smelled it years ago) and IC’s is a great cypress scent. In the first few seconds the resinous, coniferous notes are stiff, dry, bitter and very wonderful. Let’s call it the Yatagan-effect (I love it!) but then it head spinningly transforms into a wide expanse of green pine needles, fresh air (well, the effect of oxygenated pine needles) and a breezy mosaic of cypress trees, leaves, twigs, branches, sap, the whole darn forest. An extraordinary beginning! A green so true, that if you gathered together all of the shades of green in the world and picked the greenest, the epitome of green, this is the one you would choose.
But the top notes are not enough to win me over completely.
What Tom did not mention is that the middle and base notes are just like Polo (1978) by Ralph Lauren. As the scent progresses its parallel similarities to Polo are astonishing. The creamy wood effect. The whiff of leather at the edges of the green. Ford managed to copy everything about it except for Polo’s longevity since Italian Cypress lasts on me only about 3-4 hours and then disappears (unlike Polo which lasts + 8 hours). Perhaps TF sought to compete with the wonderful flanker Polo Modern Reserve.
A friend of mine snatched up a large bottle when he visited New York recently and loves it (he thinks it has a very Z-14 by Halston slant to it – another 70’s scent!) Me? I’ll pass. Polo retails for $57 (4 oz) and can be found online at discounters even cheaper - whereas Italian Cypress is $450 (4 oz).
In this case, ‘not believing the hype’ saves me a bunch of money!


  1. leopoldo12:29

    Of all the ridiculous Tom Ford images, that one has to be near the top of the pile. The fake sweat, the fake cuts, the fake pugilist posturing, the fake insouciance, the eye contact with the viewer. And Tom in the middle, planting a kiss on one of the Mr Beautifuls, while he plays the role of tough guy promoter, cigar, hat and all. Or he could be their dad/daddy, kissing them luck. It's a semiotic minefield, E!

    As for these three, I'll try them one day, no doubt.


  2. Mike Perez16:50

    You are right Lee, I chose the image for the very reasons you mentioned. It seemed fitting: Tom trying his hardest to appeal to his viewers. LOL. Oh, if only the fragrances tried as hard, this time around.

    Please try Bois Marocain Lee, as I know you're closer to London than most of us. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

  3. leopoldo17:36

    How did I mistake you for Helg, Mike - multi-apologies!

  4. Hi Lee, how are you? So happy to see you!

    Mike chose the pic, as he stated below. It's rather good in a typical TomFordian manner, isn't it.

  5. leopoldo08:13

    I'm good, E, very good. And you?

  6. I am trying to jungle a million things, honey. Coping with projects and stuff...But good! :-)

  7. Anonymous12:42

    E-Hijacking thread for a second. I gave you some 'props' in sniffa magazine in the acknowledgments of the article "niche, nihcer, nichest.

    xxxooo Michelyn

  8. Anonymous12:43

    a writer with typos!!!! excuse- no sleep no coffee :) M

  9. Mike Perez15:14

    Cool - thanks Michelyn!

  10. Hey mike - great review! Makes me want to go out and smell some aoud ... just have to figure out where to get some ...

  11. On behalf of Mike, thanks for your kind words. He sure does a great job of conveying impressions.
    I believe online is your best bet. There are tons of sites offering various oud-things (but not all sell the authentic stuff which is frightfully expensive)

  12. I got 50ml of Italian Cypress, not the big bottle, and I LOVE IT.

    I still don't get 'Polo' at all when I smell it.

  13. TRex,

    thanks for chimming in! I can't talk for Mike, but I am heartened by your enthusiasm. I should try it out, at the very least.

  14. Mike, your nose and mine must be in perfect sync. I'm familiar with all three of the T. Ford fragrances you've perfectly described. I've sniffed and worn each at different times. They're pleasant enough but not wonderful. I think that's what comes of Ford's quick development and presentation of an entire suite of fragrances. It would have been better to prefect 2 or 3 fragrances rather than dump 8 or 10 all of a sudden on the market.


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