Tom Ford Arabian Wood, 2009

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(image, Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

Perfumer not cited.

Arabian? This smells Arabian in the manner of a Creed fragrance. That is to say, British.

Can we dispense with “Arabian” unless we’re referring to horses or history? I assume Tom Ford uses the word because it’s Fashion Fantastical. Arabian, you know, like A Thousand and One Nights. It’s a tentative half step away the orientalism of early 20th century perfumery. It’s Gilbert and Sullivan exoticism dusted off and recycled without commentary or a thoughtful context. The Tom Ford line carries a few of this style of neo-homo-traditional perfumes and appears like a more stylish House of Creed. Replace the tassels and epaulets with glossy pseudo-mod and you still have the same thing: hot air and cuff links.

The perfume was tailored by Ford for the Kuwaiti market. Europe bottled for the Middle-East and called Arabian?  Misdirection? Confusion? Fashion industry smoke and mirrors?

The perfume is quite nice, though. Arabian Wood is a hybrid of two very traditional genres. The herb-on-hay sweet-soapiness of a fougère sits next to the dry bitter green of a tight-assed chypre. An old-school barbershop boisterousness fits comfortably with a straight-laced chypre. This combination could have been a clash, but is nicely balanced and wears more like a conversation. The tinderbox-dry woodiness balances the moist feel of the fougère, but in the end the fougère wins, and a dark, minor chord similar to that of Rive Gauche pour Homme’s basenotes lasts until you wash it off.

Simplicity is a virtue in the classic aromatic fougère. Messing around too much with the basic formula diminishes the stride of the old boy. Ford have added enough to make it stand on its own, but haven’t muddied the waters. The name is a bit of misdirection, but the perfume is straightforward and handsome in a classic, soapy, manly fashion.

(An overview of the Tom Ford Collection.)


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