Thursday, April 18, 2024

Lys Fume: Tom Ford’s Daring Fragrance Failure

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There are certain perfumes that accrue such legendary status that they exert their own sort of FOMO until you’ve smelled them. In my early days of fragrance fandom, Tom Ford’s Private Blend line occupied a space in my mind of intense longing. Oh, to be able to capture a whiff of Tobacco Vanille, Tuscan Leather, Noir de Noir, Neroli Portofino! Their expense and unavailability at most shopping malls (this was before Sephora carried any of the Private Blends) led me to stifle the hype I’d started building up in my mind.

I’ll always remember stumbling across the first Tom Ford display I found in a random Nordstrom’s, about a year into my fragrance journey. The uniform colored-glass bottles with their metallic embellishments, the branded testing strips, the decanters in the back of the display – it’s hard not to be enchanted. Even though I’d tempered my expectations, I still found myself nodding and holding back giggles as I smelled Tobacco Vanille for the first time. It really was that damn good.

I later remember reading somewhere that Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances were ‘blocky,’ meaning dense and beautiful but a bit one-dimensional. At that time, I was a new convert to the brand and had an impulsive to defensively call the judgment a snobbish one. The Tom Ford fragrances I loved were bold and beautiful. In my mind, they were close to flawless. Even the fragrances that I didn’t like as much bowled me over with their richness and craft.

In my fragrance journey, there’s been a pattern of similar house infatuations. Amouage, Zoologist and Olympic Orchids seized my attention for months before I started to come around to the weaknesses in each lineup. My slight disillusionment with Tom Ford slowly developed as my experience with other excellent brands grew. My experience with the house finally hit rock bottom with Lys Fume.

Lys Fume Notes

Top Notes: Nutmeg, Turmeric, Pink Pepper, Mandarin Orange

Heart Notes: White Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Rum, Artemisia

Base Notes: Vanilla, Oak, Labdanum, Styrax

Lily is a surprisingly volatile note. From the soft sound of the name to their association with Monet’s beautiful paintings, I often associated the flower with gentleness. However, there is a green bitterness to the lily’s scent that complicates its use in perfume; this bitterness can either be masked or integrated into a composition. The idea of Lys Fume is to match the sharp green of the lily with tempered smoky elements – in this case, labdanum, and styrax.

Lys Fume is well-blended in the sense that the flavors are fused into a cohesive whole. However, the effect of this perfume on my nose is not one of interest, but one of disgust. Smoke is one of my favorite notes, whether in woodsmoke or incense form, but what Lys Fume taught me is that my love of smoke lies in its deeper register.

What makes smokey perfumes beautiful is often a bouquet of spices that take up the bulk of the top notes. As the spices ebb, the smokiness emerges as a body around which everything else revolves. Lys Fume’s smoke is upfront, loud and one-dimensional, and there’s nothing but bitter floral to complement it. There’s something decidedly unpleasant about the whole affair.

I can imagine this serving a very, very specific taste. If you search for bitterness in florals and smoke and want them blown up to Tom Ford-level density, this could be your perfect perfume. It’s a unique idea, to be sure. Perhaps a house with a lighter hand will someday do it justice.

If you’re curious, grab a sample or decant here.

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The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.

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