The year was 2012. Tom Ford grabbed a bottle of Shalimar off of his shelf and wondered how it would be received as a masculine release in a post-Dior Homme market. Noir EDP was born.
That's a slight exaggeration, but Noir EDP is Shalimar at its heart, albeit darkened and modernized. There's considerably less baby powder, a slight dose of gothic rosiness, and heavy emphasis on dark resins and dirty patchouli (which, along with geranium and vetiver, dominate the drydown).
Considered as a modern Shalimar flanker, it's a worthy remix. This complex blend shifts the balance, but does nothing to diminish the integrity of the composition. Its discontinuation speaks to its failure to capture the heart of the market, but the surviving Noir pour Femme carries on some echoes of it (Noir Extreme, on the other hand, has more kinship to Spicebomb than Shalimar).
If vanilla ruins things for you, then I expect vanilla will ruin this for you. I don't understand the marketing logic of calling something "Noir" if it has any appreciable vanilla drydown, which definitely does, as well as possessing a powdery/soapy drydown which for me has come to seem characteristic of many Tom Ford fragrances.
The opening of this is addicting and beautiful. It does conjure to mind Habit Rouge with its rose/vanilla, but the star in the opening is the patchouli/iris. Gorgeous. And I don't use those flamboyant terms loosely. But as this patchouli dries out and fades the beauty fades as well. Two hours in what you are left becomes more and more powdery and feminine. It does feel like an EDP, with the enhanced thickness, close projection and decent longevity. I get a respectable 6 hours here. My problem is not with the presence, but the nature of drydown. Just not quite to my tastes. Every time I put on that opening though I forget about all of that and just revel in the smell. Its rich and sensual. It is not super cost prohibitive, and if I find a great deal someday I may pick up a bottle. Thumbs up here. A pretty good fragrance.
Tom Ford is the one higher-end designer house that I feel sees the most indifference in the fragrance community from their selections than any other, with most of this indifference coming from male colognoisseurs. I can totally see why, as he brings little innovation to the table making a living by mostly doing personal takes on his own favorite past perfumes for Gucci PPR or mucking with classic styles, and I have been indifferent about a great many of them myself, but I can respect what is trying to be accomplished in most of them. Tom Ford has always been fascinated by older perfumes, something he shares in common with the nostalgic and affable (but also pretentious) Roger "Roja" Dove. Tom Ford, like Roja Dove, makes some modern things but by and large likes reinventing the wheels first cast by perfumes that came before, but unlike Roja Dove, Ford doesn't fold in a nauseating degree of decorum or adorn bottles with gold-plated crystal-studded caps to justify a price beyond reason (even if his lines are a bit pricey). Tom Ford seems to prefer chypre and oriental compositions for men, but Tom Ford Noir (2012) is a little more complex than that. I'd call this a male floriental, which for those who know what a floriental is, probably sounds fascinatingly anachronistic or a disaster in a bottle. Luckily, I find Tom Ford Noir to be the former, but trying to "man up" a heady and near-extinct genre is going to be divisive in the 21st century. If ever there was an example of "try before you buy" from the house of Tom Ford, this would be it, as the development is long and top notes here do not indicate the majority of the scent's personality in a full wear, which is a trait it shares with the classic perfume genre Tom Ford Noir emulates.
Some folks say Tom Ford Noir is the male Guerlain Shalimar (1925), but there's no tonka or fougère-like structure under Tom Ford Noir, nor any of the glamorous atmosphere. If anything, Tom Ford Noir is closer to Jicky (1889) with its shockingly animalic display of civet and florals, but even then, this is a real stretch. In my opinion, perfumer Olivier Gillotin (a Tom Ford favorite) follows a train of thought last seen in action with the oddball Joint by Roccobarocco (1993), presenting civeted rose on a semi-oriental vanillic chypre bed and trying to make it masculine. The primary difference is the older and much more obscure Joint features the rose and civet prominently, while Tom Ford Noir adds more spices and amber to the equation to make the overall scent more complex. Vintage perfume aficionados who are fans of the rare civeted rose masculine should take note here, as the basic structure is bergamot, verbena, and violet up top, Bulgarian rose, geranium, and soapy iris spiced with nutmeg and black pepper in the middle, then civet, vanilla, amber, and opoponax with an IFRA-compliant sprig of oakmoss garnish in the base. Overall, this is a spicy, soapy civeted rose and vanilla scent that is very "fashionably out of fashion" like a lot of feminine Tom Fords, and pitched to men, which makes it highly unusual for its style. Sillage is more subtle in the EdP, but longevity is better than the subsequent EdT version that saw release a year later, which has a louder top but fades fast. This feels most appropriate in a romantic setting because of the animalics, but if you want a Tom Ford Noir for the office, there are flankers in the line which may suit better. Also, Tom Ford Noir is best in colder climates, due to its thick oriental base lines.
Fans of the long-discontinued Joint by Roccobarocco should really try Tom Ford Noir, and the modern dandies still prancing around will also find favor in Tom Ford Noir, but few others will see value in it. The civet note is very noticeable in Tom Ford Noir, which was of great surprise to me and made me do a double-take on the release year, but sure enough, this is a 2010's designer release with an animalic focus. Whoever said traditional perfumery is completely dead has never smelled this. Tom Ford Noir Extreme (2015) would be a more modern mainstream take on the style, removing half of the florals and the civet to cut out the animalic and dandy elements which probably scared more new buyers than they enticed, and became more popular by being approachable to the average modern nose as a result of the trim. The discontinued Tom Ford Noir Anthracite (2017) would move in a bizzare early 80's mega-butch powerhouse direction, creating something appropriately dry and harsh like the coal in its title. I feel like Ford may be visiting different decades with each new entry of the Noir series, but I could be wrong. The original Tom Ford Noir is a good seller despite its irreverence for trend, remaining a department store staple at Tom Ford counters; it still feels the most daring too, despite being the quietest of the trio, and reminds me a lot of Avon Charisma (1970), that soapy civeted floral feminine wonder which has practically become transgender in the 21st century thanks to all its now-masculine "clean and green" elements which at the time were fashionable for ladies. I think Tom Ford Noir directly relates as a male take on this door-to-door cheapie classic more than any other feminine perfume, although many Tom Ford fans won't make that connection since they can't be bothered with cheap perfume, let alone vintage cheapies. It's okay Tom, I can keep a secret if you can. Thumbs up!