Tom Ford Lys Fumé, 2012

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(image, The Smoking Flowers)

Perfumers  Shyamala Maisondieu and Rodrigo Flores-Roux

The name Lys Fume is only half correct. The lily is there, the smoke is not. No complaint, though. This is a handsome and well composed floriental. Lily is the centerpiece but other elements that fly in and out of this perfume include other flowers, fruit, plastic, spices, India ink and resins. A soliflor this ain’t.

It’s been compared to Donna Karen’s Gold, and the comparison is appropriate. Gold is a lily floral amber that alternatingly purrs and growls. The smoky, ambery base notes start to rumble up through the topnotes almost immediately after you spray it on. Lys Fume is less overtly louche than Gold, but is sweeter in both scent and personality. In Gold, Amber is the accompanying score to the flower, but it can feel like a Phantom of the Opera theater organ taking  over the room. This is how Gold plays with contrasts (growl) as well as the common threads (purr) between the lily and the amber. Lys Fume doesn’t ride amber like a parade float as Gold does. It joins the other elements to give a rich, plastic-smelling feel that holds the balance of the sweetness and the spiciness just so. The base is spiced but not spicy.

Lys Fume unfolds at a leisurely pace, and the extended heart notes are similar in character to the plastic floral notes of Vierges et Toreros. The plastic sheen in Vierges suggests shrink-wrapping. Lys Fume’s plastic smells like India ink and seems to be a fortunate side effect of the wonderfully ‘off’ note that form the scent of ylang ylang. The composition is balanced, and notes like plastic and ink don’t stand out anymore than do spices and florals.  Is this plastic note a Maisondieu family secret? Antoine employed it to striking effect in Vierges et Toreros. Here, perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu integrates the plastic note in such a way that it could be the base note for a whole new generation of floral Oriental perfumes. Delicate, but not at all sheer. Strong, but effortless.

Often in perfumery, ‘distinctive’ is code for odd and undesirable. Lys Fume is distinctive in that it is striking and memorable. It has just the sort of beauty that I look for in a perfume. It draws you in not merely because it’s pretty, but because it has some thought to it and is equally interesting and beautiful. The inky plastic keeps the Lily note aloft. Sillage is low, endurance is good. But Lys Fume gets its highest marks for integrity and coherence of overall shape from top to bottom.

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