Loretta has a secret, but she hides it in plain sight. The first time she digs her claws into your neck, you experience a moment of fear, but you quickly tell yourself that she won't be hard to figure out. She's just a tuberose. She may be assertive and tenacious, but she's easy to read, and therefore easy to forget.
Her second attack is an altogether more perplexing affair. For one thing, it makes you question why you dared to equate a tuberose with legibility. The absolute derived from the plant's flowers is one of the most complex materials in the perfumer's palette, and the fact that Loretta somehow lulls you into complacency about her key ingredient is a measure of her hypnotic grip. More importantly, this intriguing new femme fatale from Andy Tauer's Tableau De Parfums shocks you into a disturbing realisation: what you took to be a tuberose may, in fact, be something entirely different.
Once you give in to the uncertainty, the perfume yields fascinating rewards. Seen from one angle it resembles an attempt to accentuate tuberose's most conspicuous features: the bitterness; the green facets; the caramelised base. But seen from another, it almost feels like a decision to construct a tuberose-like creature from unexpected materials. So although she's sweet, Loretta won't let you decide if she's playing with citrus fruit or a basket of white petals or maybe even some shavings of syrupy ginger. Although she's heavy and rich, she often convinces you that she's been made out of wood rather than a garland of intoxicating florals. And although she occasionally reminds you of Poison and Opium, she resists being placed in the same category as those two paragons of excess.
Tauer has stated that it took him only two trials to create this perfume and there's an endearing roughness around its edges which seems to support his claim. Unlike last year's smoothly-finished Miriam, Loretta knows that her strength lies in a lack of symmetry, an ability to wrong-foot the people with whom she comes into contact. Her parting shot may be a delicious vanillic base, but even as she's bidding farewell, she bares her teeth and gives you a frightening leer. You think you've worked out her secret? She's got plenty more behind her inscrutable gaze.
In brief... Whilst Tauer's latest offering instantly prompts all manner of metaphoric musings, Jo Malone's Bay & Blackberry does anything but. I've never been a fan of the brand. Indeed, I've often been infuriated by its unwavering drive to foist innocuous pleasantness on people who dislike perfume but feel they must wear it. However, I'm happy to report that this new piece of work, composed by Fabrice Pellegrin (Womanity, Volutes) is a more interesting prospect. Needless to say, it is light, airy and transparent (this is Jo Malone, after all) but it sustains its eponymous fruit note extremely well (tart and almost tomato-like up top; juicy and fleshy towards the base) and it uses the bay facet to add both freshness and dryness. Devotees of L'Artisan Parfumeur will no doubt make comparisons with Mûre Et Musc, and there's no denying that B&B uses synthetic musks to suggest the blackberry in much the same way as the 1978 hit does. But it has enough personality to warrant its own patch in the Malone Garden Of Perennial Paleness.
Somewhere in the middle of the aesthetic spectrum occupied by Loretta and B&B lies Tom Ford's new masculine addition to his 'non-exclusive' range. Noir is on-trend in the sense that it's part of the bandwagon of black, but thankfully, in many other ways, it veers off in less fashionable directions. If I wished to be harsh in my assessment of it, I'd say it's little more than a combination of Guerlain's Habit Rouge and Heritage: it features the sweet, citrusy dustiness of the former as well as the ambered woods of the latter. But I'm inclined to view it in a positive light, chiefly because it modulates the tone of the Guerlains. It makes the woods less strident and the powdery resins less powerful, thereby satisfying current demands for unostentatious masculines without compromising its personality. It also displays an extremely subtle, almost imperceptible spice facet (mainly pepper) which stops the whole from tumbling into clichés of yesteryear. Niche fans may find it too tame, but as far as 2012's mainstream releases go, it's pretty impressive. It's not especially noir-ish, but colour issues aside, it deserves a place next to M7 and Gucci Pour Homme as one of the most enjoyable men's scents gifted to us by Mr Ford.
[Review of Loretta based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Scent & Sensibility; review of Bay & Blackberry based on a sample of eau do cologne provided by Jo Malone; review of Noir based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tom Ford; all samples provided in 2012.]