I don't know where Tom Ford has been eating his kulfi, but I'm pretty sure it isn't the same place where I've been eating my kulfi. The taste of the dessert - essentially an Indian form of ice cream - is, obviously, one of its most important features. But I'd argue that its texture is perhaps an even more crucial component of its very particular identity. A delectable combination of the velvety, the creamy and the flaky - like downy, sugar-coated snow - the feel of the stuff serves as a perfect medium for the almond, the pistachio, the mango or whatever flavour takes your fancy. In other words, it's an ideal marriage of form and content.
I mention it here not because I wish to torture your taste buds but because the press material for Tom Ford's new Noir Extreme claims that the composition contains a kulfi accord. As is well known, perfumers are capable of conveying not only smells (which are, in many ways, more sophisticated variants of tastes) but textures too (the example that instantly comes to mind is Jean Patou's carpet of petals, Joy) so there's no reason why this latest addition to the Noir range shouldn't conjure an image of one of the Asian subcontinent's favourite treats. However, I'm sorry to say that it doesn't. There's no kulfi here... or at least, not anything that I recognise as kulfi.
But now that I've got that out of the way, I'm pleased to report that Noir Extreme is, in fact, a sensuous, saturnine oriental with pronounced gourmand leanings. It may not contain much kulfi, but it unquestionably projects a dense, buttery richness (think: Werthers Originals) as well as a weighty, languid amber note. Spices come into the frame too - notably saffron and cinnamon - together with a suggestion of rose and jasmine for contrast. Finally, the structure is propped up by woods dripping hot butterscotch. If all this sounds unbearably calorific, then don't worry. It's a credit to the perfumer - and to the brand's Creative Directors - that the overall effect comes across as modern and relevant, unlike, say, Ford's recent pastiche of the hairy-chested 70s, Patchouli Absolu.
Somewhat surprisingly, Extreme doesn't owe a great deal to the original Noir; it isn't simply a more intense rendition of the latter's Habit Rouge-inspired take on citruses and vanilla. That said, it does share its older brother's gender-bending philosophy. In the same way that Sahara Noir was a bold addition to the feminine market, Noir Extreme tries to push guys out of their comfort zone: it tells them to relax and feel comfortable with spraying a higher dose of sweetness onto their skin.
Whether it succeeds will be revealed in due course. Clearly, Sahara Noir didn't perform as desired and, to my horror, has been discontinued. Noir Extreme probably has a better chance of succeeding because... well, because it isn't quite so extreme. Like Mr Ford's gorgeous dinner jackets, it is heavy with decadence. But it doesn't attract excessive attention to itself. It lulls passersby into a false sense of security, until its beautiful drydown goes in for the kill, at which point, like all well-made orientals, it wants nothing more than to have a good time. Speaking of which, I'm off to find some kulfi.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tom Ford in 2015.]