The old saying has it that “everything old is new again.” Tom Ford Velvet Orchid, a salute to the grand oriental perfumes of the 1980s, seems to have taken that saying to heart. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Estée Lauder Cinnabar, Boucheron de Boucheron, and other room-permeating, spicy-woody-ambery fragrances will want to give it a try. Fans of Velvet Orchid’s older sibling, Black Orchid, will probably see no reason to switch.
Velvet Orchid’s notes include bergamot, mandarin, honey, vanilla, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, narcissus, magnolia, Cattleya leopoldii orchid, heliotrope, rum, suede, labdanum, sandalwood, and myrrh — not that any of these notes stand out distinctly. Even without the gorgeous deco bottle and “orchid” in its name, a single whiff ties Velvet Orchid to Black Orchid.
Although Velvet Orchid has the guts to take the ring with any of the big orientals, it’s billed as a floriental fragrance. And maybe compared to Black Orchid, it is. I imagine the Velvet Orchid’s team of perfumers, including big names Antoine Maisondieu, Shyamala Maisondieu, Calice Becker and Yann Vasnier, plus a crowd of interns and not-yet famous noses, pondering how to transform Black Orchid.
“We’ve got to make it more feminine,” Yann Vasnier might have said. “Soften it, punch up the floral notes.”
“Ix-nay on the rotten uit-fray accord,” Calice Becker could have added, but in French, of course. (Do the French speak Pig Latin?)
“But we must keep it in the spirit of Black Orchid,” I imagine Antoine Maisondieu adding from the head of the conference room’s table.
So they stripped out Black Orchid’s cassis and 20% of its indoles, poured in a few beakers of jasmine, and amped the brief citrus opening. They kept Black Orchid’s hazelnut-truffle signature and its mass of warm, exotic base notes. The result is a fragrance with a sharper, more tingly floral top than Black Orchid that is nearly obscured by the rest of the perfume’s muscle.
Yes, Velvet Orchid smells more traditionally feminine than Black Orchid, but it isn’t by any means lighter or more sheer. It shares all of Black Orchid’s density, impenetrable oriental feel, toasty vanilla-amber dry down, and whopper sillage.1 To me, Velvet Orchid hints more at silk stockings and hairspray than does Black Orchid, but the average gal on the street won’t see them as very different perfumes.
In short, if you already have and love Black Orchid, you won’t get a lot that’s different with Velvet Orchid. If you almost liked Black Orchid but found it too much of a morass, you probably won’t like Velvet Orchid either. But, if you love a fragrance with a definite presence and distinct signature, you lean toward orientals, and you don’t already own Black Orchid, I would give Velvet Orchid a try.
I can't help thinking that Velvet Orchid was made for women like the glamorous stars of Dynasty and Falcon Crest — people who say "Darling" and wear gold lamé and velvet during the day. Can shoulder pads and glossy lipstick be far behind?
Tom Ford Velvet Orchid Eau de Parfum comes in two sizes, 50 ml ($112) and 100 ml ($159) and is available at higher-end department stores.
1. I once had a boss who told me he sprayed Black Orchid in the kitchen to mask the stink of fried fish.