Tom Ford Café Rose (2012) seems like a "life after oakmoss" rose chypre made to prove a point that it is still possible within reasonable levels of tolerance to make a chypre without a ton of the much-mourned base ingredient, just with a price tag that might make acquiring it test such a proclamation cost-prohibitive for most fans of the style. Café Rose is like most Tom Ford Private Collection creations in that it is terribly front-loaded with the primary ingredient which forms the theme of the perfume, so just like "Oud This" and "Neroli That", you can expect the rose in Café Rose to be right out there ready to box your nose for the first hour. This isn't really a bad thing for hardcore rose lovers obviously, who have already likely bought more expensive rose perfumes than this anyway, with stuff like Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare (2000), Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (2010) or any number of Middle East rose attars decorating their wardrobes, it's just that the Tom Ford entry into this tier of straight-up rose perfumes may be a bit of an android compared to the rather organic flow of its peers. The theme of Café Rose is to capture rose perfume in a coffee house, so in the strictest sense this is also a gourmand, but I honestly don't get much coffee from the composition if that was what the anonymous perfumer meant. The whole "Nu Chypre/Nu Fougère" theme is a bit controversial anyway, because it just reminds purists that there is no going back to the days of unrestricted freedom for perfumers like Jacques Guerlain or Jean Kerleo. If you can leave all the hobbyist psycho-emtional baggage at the door however, this is still a well-executed if pricey dark rose.
The opening of Café Rose is pretty standard green rose de mai and saffron, with black pepper added for a bit of Gothic bite. The Turkish and Bulgarian rose heart continues the singular drive of the rose as per the Tom Ford way with these private blends, but the dry coffee note and olibdanum creeps in after about 30 minutes, making Café Rose a really humorless rose take compared to the sumptuous Tom Ford Noir de Noir (2007) to which Café Rose has been often compared. Patchouli and amber play into the oriental themes of the rose and saffron combination, adding a bit of late-game richness to the dry down, but a synthetic norlimbanol scratch carrying under the name of sandalwood reminds us that this is a modern perfume from an American house in love with cost cutting even at these prices, making most vintage rose chypre lovers bow out to scrub off now-obvious mossless abomination impersonating as such. People with less draconian views on the progression of mainstream perfume craft away from using natural (and mostly restricted) bases to synthetic ones will be less harsh on ending of Café Rose, which is still mostly a pleasant exercise in spite of the synthetic wood note replacing the more-authentic verdant touch of actual oakmoss. Café Rose lasts pretty much forever, and sillage starts off booming then settles down to moderately soft rose glow over the course of the wear, and anyone looking for a less-fussy direct rose scent from Tom Ford in this price range will be satisfied. Café Rose is also rather unisex for anyone appreciating a direct rose perfume, but still doesn't scratch the itch quite like something even more-focused (and much cheaper) like Tea Rose by The Perfumer's Workshop (1972) or even a bottle of Cabaret de Grès (2002).
In most cases, the aforementioned "front loading" of many Tom Ford Private Blend scents is an instant death-knell for more sophisticated noses knee-deep in the niche side of the hobby, although such extreme focus is often desirable with a rose perfume, so I think it actually works here for Café Rose. Other things in the line focusing on notes like jasmine, patchouli, leather, or other notes tend to end up just smelling like apothecary essential oils to me, but with an extra zero added to the price tag, especially with some of the mega-focused limited edition exclusives that tend to be even more expensive. Sometimes I wonder if the vast majority of Private Collection perfumes are just Tom Ford's own cynicism at the status-soaked state of facetious luxury perfume houses fleecing the nouveau riche, or him just taking the piss in parody of houses like Xerjoff, Roja Parfums, and Creed since his standard lines are usually way more artistic in nature, but then something like Café Rose comes along to temp me right alongside the overcompensating tech bros and their vacuous, entitled girlfriends littering Neimans or Nordstrom on any given weekend. Café Rose is a cyborg entering a genre filled with ghosts, and with that in mind, it does rather well to capture the same feeling, even if at kidney punch price point. Sampling is definitely recommended as the only thing more ubiquitous than a rose perfume in the niche segment is an aquatic in the designer realm, but of all the various snake oils that end up in these Tom Ford column bottles, Café Rose turns out to deliver something that at least appears more earnest than most of the laughable exercises in hyperbole Tom Ford passes off as niche perfume. Thumbs up.
A unisex floral chypre from the "Jardin Noir" collection of Tom Ford.
Rose heavy from head to heart, Café Rose is warm and spicy in character. It smells like it has oud in it, but that is a composite quality based on usage of incense, patchouli, and sandalwood, IMO. I really like the opening salvo of pepper, saffron and rose, leading into the nice coffee-rose combo. Classy and well-made!
Tom Ford's entry into the world of rose/saffron perfumes.
It's mostly a textbook affair, rose and leathery rubbery saffron over the usual patchouli and sandalwood, with a pinch of kitchen herbs giving some green to the topnotes. Café Rose shakes things up just a bit with a quiet animalic growl down in the depths, and a burnt undertone that I'm guessing is supposed to be the coffee. But the thing it does to really separate itself from the pack of similar perfumes is a glossy metallic/plastic sheen over everything.
This seems well crafted, but not especially compelling given the myriad of similar choices. I can't help but think that Montale must have a dozen aoud perfumes by now that do what this does better, and I don't care much for the plastic/metal buzz, so I'm going to vote neutral.
Really nice patchouli rose, but nothing exceptional. I was hoping for a fun coffee fragrance, and it's there but it's subtle. It's like holding a bouquet of garden roses to your nose in the coffee aisle of the grocery store.