HANGING AROUND – MUSK PURE by Tom Ford

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The screams of the horses where horrifying as they plunged into the cavernous canyon. Lily Chu’s British protector had pushed her ahead of himself at the last moment of their dash across the rope bridge. The force of that final shove sent her into the side of the mountain and she fell in a bruised heap within a sheltering crevice.   The pursuing Chinese solders could not see her from the opposite side of the gorge where they had shot the support ropes of the suspension bridge causing its collapse.

Lily didn’t move. Some instinct within her held her plastered into the crevice holding her breath. She could hear the Chinese talking loudly and laughing on the other side. Slowly she counted to ten as their voices trailed away. They were leaving. The wind chaffed her ears. Only then did Lily realize that the Nepalese men must have fallen to their deaths with the horses.

“Is it safe? Are they gone?

No one answered. It was cold and silent save for the very faint sound of the laughing Chinese. Lily’s hand covered her mouth in horror. He had fallen with the Nepalese and the horses. She was utterly alone on the side of a frozen mountain in Nepal.

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“Hey…HEY!” an urgent horse cry ravaged the wind. “Lily?”

“Oh, my God! Where are you?”

The rising sun’s rays were creeping down the walls of the mountains as she scrambled out from the crevasse onto the narrow horse path. The bridge was gone and only two ropes dangled over the edge of the precipice where once the bridge had been.

“I’m just hanging around waiting for the coast to be clear.

She dropped to her knees and crawled to the edge and looked over the side. There, hanging onto a few wooden cross slats of what remained of the bridge was the British Agent. And hanging on to his back was Atash. Far below the river raged having long moments before swallowed up the men and horses and carried them away.

“Atash, climb up over me and then you and Lily can help me up. Hurry I don’t think….” Before he could finish Atash was scrambling over him up to Lily’s outstretched hand.

“Come on Jim” Atash called out to his friend as he and Lily reached down to help him up.

“So, that is his mysterious name!” Lilly thought as his fingers just reached hers.

“Yes, come on Jim you owe me that perfume bath you promised me and I can’t very well have it without you?”

He laughed as the morning sun hit him square in the face.

The ping of lead on rock ricocheted into a sorrowful echo. The three looked back down the gorge to see a lone Chinese solder at the far bend. He must have been the last in line and looked back in time to see the three survivors.

“COME ON!” Atash urged.

Jim was up and over in a flash, grabbing Lily and Atash they dashed and dogged a fusillade of bullets to the next bend that lead to higher ground and the interior of Nepal.

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***

Lily stood next to the little duty free shop in the Lukla Airport. It was closed. Locked inside there were bottles of perfume lined up along the back wall. Lilly laughed.  “Who would have dreamed that in this backwater there would be Chanel, Dior, and Tom Ford and… that it would be closed.” She really wanted to freshen up if only with a spritz or two of perfume.

“Religious holy day Miss.” Atash said looking in with her. “I wear Savage Miss, It is very popular here in Nepal.”

“Come on Miss Chu” Jim said. We have to say goodbye to Atash and get on board before the weather changes. Its a long flight to Jaipur.”

Lilly looked out onto what passed for a tarmac and a very short runway that ended on the edge of a cliff. A small single engine plane quivered as like a dead leaf as a gust of wind hit it from the side.  “Isn’t there another way to get to Jaipur?”

“To India? No, not from here. Don’t worry only one in six flight are lost takeoff out of Lukla.”

Twenty minutes later Lily Chu rapped in her mink up to her chin sat huddled next to Jim as he guided the rickety plane down the runway at break neck speed toward the abyss. She grabbed the sides of her seat as the asphalt slipped further and further towards its end.

“Pull UP!” She screamed. “We’re running out of runway!”

Jim let out a whoop and grinned as he pulled the stick towards him at the very last second. Everything solid fell away beneath the plane as it bounced into very heavy turbulence and began to climb hesitantly towards the misty blanket that hid the Himalayas from view.

“Well Lilly next stop Jaipur, unless we hit the mountain hidden somewhere in that cloud.”

Lily squeezed her eyes shut.

“Oh and by the way, my name isn’t Jim.”

At a window next to the Duty Free overlooking the runway a man stood watching as the plane disappeared into the clouds.  He walked to the ticket desk and bought a one way ticket on the next plane to Jaipur.

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***

Tom Ford’s Musk Pure is one of four of the 2009 Private Blend White Musk collection.  To me it is something of a cliffhanger. What do I mean by that? Well it starts off rather generic fresh and boring and with a very acetate vibe radiating out in the opening. That I did not like at all. In fact, I thought my sample had gone off and turned. I was going to dismiss it and wash if off but got distracted by my morning routine and headed out to the Post Office to pick up a package from Paris. Thus, I forgot to give it the heave ho

At about an hour into the life of the fragrance I noticed while standing in line at the Post Office that a warm and wonderful scent was wafting about me. I wondered what the woman in front of me was wearing and was about to ask her when I realized that it was my perfume that was delighting my senses. .  I am glad that I ended up unintentionally giving it a chance to bloom on my skin. At that point when it began to reveal itself I was hanging on every moment of the development not sure just where it was going but hooked never the less for the duration of the adventure. A real cliffhanger!

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The fragrance opens with the top notes of Bergamot, pepper, and ylang-ylang. Where that acetate accord came from I can’t say unless the unfortunate smell is the result of those three notes? Who’s to say? I could just be my skin chemistry saying whoa wait a moment. If you too get that accord…wait a moment.  The mid notes are where the magic comes in. Sambac Jasmin, Lily of the Valley (Muguet) a beautiful Oris butter that radiates warmth when it mixed with a golden bee’s wax note. I was simply stunned at this point and drove home in a delicious cloud.

As beautiful as that first radiation that enveloped me was it was nothing compared to the dry down.  This immensely gorgeous beauty last a ridiculously long time. I put it on at 8 am and it is now 10 pm and the dry down is ripe, warm, and hypnotic. This is NOT your typical laundry fresh musk. Here the Musk is baked with benzoin and a rather woody rather than vanilic tonka bean.  I have spent the day discovering my wrist pressed to my nose repeatedly and smiling in delight at what this perfume does. It is enticing, delightful, and mysteriously compelling. It leads me on and on deeper and deeper into its warm beating beautiful heart.

Musk Pure might just be my most favorite Tom Ford Fragrance. To me it is a day to night scent because the longer you wear it the more complex and mysterious it becomes Perfect for winter and fall in my estimation. As for gender, marketed to women in my view it works for both sexes. With glowing balsamic, woody accords at the end that just make this one so very memorable.

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LUKLA IS A REAL AIRPORT IN NEPAL AND CONSIDERED THE MOST DANGEROUS IN THE WORLD.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF A TAKE OFF ON A GOOD DAY.

THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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A ROUGH PATCH ~ Tom Ford, Patchouli Absolu

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“That mink is going to come in handy when the road starts the climb.” He winked and then nodded to slats in the side of the truck. Lilly Chu looked through them and saw the wall of mountains that crossed the southern horizon from end to end. The full moon reflected off the snow covered peaks in a ghostly glow causing them to look like mountains on the moon. The mere sight of them made it seem even colder. She pulled the collar of her coat up around her chin. “Wherever we are it is coming in handy right now. Where are we?”

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“We are in the back of a sheep truck on the Friendship Highway the only way out of China into India. In short we are in Tibet. Before we reach the border crossing we will have to lie on the floor and cover ourselves with that hay.”

“Can’t we just use our passports?” The wet hay smelled of sheep dung.

“No, too dangerous now after Dunhuang and Shanghai.” He said in a voice as cold as the bodies of the two men who he killed there.

Lily had forfeited her canary diamond ring to bribe their way out of Dunhuang. She lost her luggage in the Gobi the only thing she had left was her mink. Not only were they being pursued by the hit men hired by those she had robbed back in the States but by the Chinese police as well.  They didn’t react well to foreigners killing thugs in China..

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She shivered more from fright than cold. “I could certainly use a bath and some….”

He laughed. “Forget about it. If we make it to India alive you can bathe in a fountain of perfume.”

“Do I smell that bad?”

“I can’t smell anything but these sheep.” She looked at her Englishman who was her only chance of survival. “After all we have been through, won’t you, tell me your name?”

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“I told you before; who I am is not important Lily. My mission is get get you to safety.”

The truck hit a pothole sending the sheep into a panic. He reached out and pulled her back to his side of the truck as the headlights from passing cars lit his eyes.  The sapphire in them had turned to ice. She saw a flash of her reflection in his eyes. Sudden darkness and in the blackness he pulled her closer.

“Please tell me your name…” she whispered.

“If you insist, but once you know my name I will have to kill you.”

She laughed for the first time in days. He formed his hand into the shape of a gun and touched her lips with the tip of his index finger.

“My name is….”

The truck lurched again then a squeal of worn metal as the driver slammed on the breaks. The sheep began to scramble and scream. The doors on the back of the truck flew open in a blare of blinding light. All that Lily could see were the dull black barrels of automatic rifles pointed at her.

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     ***

Patchouli Absolu by Tom Ford is a challenge for me. A huge whack across the nose of dried patchouli leaves. It is bold and rude and at times a dirty. There is a bit of the back end of a truck full of sheep in there as well. It is a late night ride down a rough road to a rendezvous with a mean and dirty lover on the wrong side of town. And sometimes that can be just right.

Created in 2014 this eau de parfum develops in an interesting way. It opens with of rush of WOW that almost turned me off. At the opening top notes of Bay leafy, rosemary and Moss are burned to a crisp in a hot skillet. The only thing that really lingers is the moss, dirty wet moss that is steaming as it assaults the senses. Yes, a very hot skillet and when the mid notes hit with that huge patchouli, laid on and layered over Guaiac wood, Violet wood, Cashmere wood and Cypriol it is amazing. A flaming pyre that is almost stupefying in its swirl of lush crushed leaves and burning wood. There is a moment of familiar behind the redwood curtain patchouli oil and madras bedspreads, a bit of Humboldt County in the 1970’s that floated toward the surface to tease my memories of those day.  It took a few tokes of dreaminess and settled to the bottom and let the bad boy come out to play.

Here is where it rose above the old hippie patchouli and moved into a modern more sophisticated range with just a hint of danger. The base notes of Tonka bean, amber, musk and a tough long lasting but supple leather bring it all together without ever taking off the edge. There is that underlying feeling in the dry down that it could turn dirty again, rough you up and whisper things that only you want to hear at three in the morning. It is an exciting fragrance, a challenging fragrance, a damn sexy fragrance.

Long lasting, yes like a 20 year old boy on his first trip to the Bunny Ranch. Sillage is large and in charge. This is not a perfume that everyone can wear, but if you have the big boy pants to pull it off then you will shine. For the rest of us…well it’s Mister Toad’s wild ride through the patchouli patch on the way to Storyville.

Exciting, dangerous, big and bold Patcholui Absolu is something special, rare and wonderful. But I wouldn’t wear it on a first date, After all,  I am not that kind of guy. But on the third date yes!

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ALONG THE SILK ROAD ~ Black Orchid by Tom Ford

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The scream was cut off by the diving hawk swift chop of his hand to the man’s wind pipe. The shocked look on the face was almost comical as he turned slowly toward Lily Chu, his dying eyes bugling. He staggered toward her with the knife still in his hand. Slashing at the air he fell at her feet.

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   The earth was soaked in blood and black orchids were falling from the sky in slow-motion. The hard glittering sapphire eyes of the killer just beyond the dead body narrowed their focus on her.

“I want to go home… my name is Margaret not Lily. I want to go home.”  The screaming returned and it would not stop. Then there was a terrible jolt that violently woke her.

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“Nightmare?” His British baritone glowed on the edge of warmth.

“It was that man you killed in Beijing.”  Lily looked out the window of the stolen automobile now covered up to the hubcaps in sand. The wind was screaming as it hit side of the car taking away the paint as the sand gouged it from the dead steel body and carried it off into dark desolation of the Gobi.

“We are going to die out here, aren’t we?” She whispered. “How can we be in a desert and be so cold?”  She pulled the mink closer around her neck. “I wish there was at least some light. She fingered the edge of the canary diamond ring now dead in the dark.

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“It’s just wind and sand and a broken axel… When the storm passes someone will come along and give us a lift to Dunhuang. Don’t worry, we’ll make it out of China”

“Yes but will I ever be safe? That man in Beijing was not working alone. They have some kind of hit out on me. They don’t want the money back. Forty million is nothing to them. They just want me dead for steeling it and making them look like fools.” She shivered. “It’s so damn cold.”

“Come here.”

She looked at his craggy face as handsome and cold as the marble likeness of a roman general.  “No…”

“Come here!” He snatched her by the lapels of her mink and pulled her to his side of the car. His arm locked her to his chest, hard and warm. She looked up to see that thing she had only seen twice before and now realized she wanted to see again. His smile. “Now maybe, just maybe we will survive the night.”  He whispered.

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“Let me go.”

He nuzzled his lips to her ear and nibbled her lobe.

In the morning Lily woke to silence and sun. He was gone.  In core shattering panic she scrambled from the car. She was about to scream for him when she heard him calling her name. She turned to see him at the summit of a sand dune. As she neared the top of the dune he reached out to pull her up to the crest.

“Look at this!” He pointed down the other side of the hill.

There in the middle of forgotten nowhere was a small oasis, a crystalline crescent lake and beside it in lush trees stood a beautiful Pagoda.

“You see, even in the most desolate place on earth there is beauty.” He encircled her shoulder with his strong sure arm.

When they reached the gate to the pagoda there were golden flowers carved into the door, and in the center one large black lacquered orchid

Lily’s eyes widened in horror…  Black orchids and blood soaked earth.

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  ***

Black Orchid by Tom Ford was created in 2006 by the fragrance house of Givaudan. This is a Swiss company that creates not only fragrance but has a perfumery school as well. They are known for, Valentino (1978), Gucci by Gucci Pour Homme (2008) and Fire and Ice by Revlon (1994) and of many for the house of Tom Ford, White Patchouli (2008). They have been around for a very long time and among the noses who have worked for them in the past are Maurice Blanchet who created the classic beauty Je Reviens for Charles Worth  and Jean Charles creator of Shocking by Elsa Shiaparelli (1937).

With the creation of Black Orchid, Givaudan and Tom Ford have come up with a luscious Oriental Floral perfume that leans deeply toward the gourmand with the sweet tooth.  It is delicious but with a bite of its own that comes into play with a slightly fleshy vegetate rot. Now this may sound off putting but to my nose it is not.

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It opens with flowers and citrus battling it out for your attention. Clean sparking Jasmine blended with a indolic mix of gardenia and ylang ylang are underscored by bitter bergamot and Amalfi lemons. There is a sweet mandarin orange mixed with a black currant and tuber that make it into a heavy thick jam. This is almost too much as that tuber gets the dirty dying rot accord going on quite strong

But fear not ye of the “clean is cool” school, that all fades off in about ten minutes and up come the fleeting middle notes of  Spices, fruits , lotus, and the imaginary orchid. Now we all know that the orchid flower has no scent. So what is this orchid note in the perfume? It is a synthetic lab created molecule that gives the fragrance a dusty powdery feeling. But really, let’s be frank, what is an orchid all about? It is something of a creepy beauty and has the felling of a flower that is made of living flesh. In “The Big Sleep” Sternwood tells detective Phillip Marlow about the orchids he raises in his hothouse.

Sternwood: You are looking, sir, at a very dull survival of a very gaudy life – crippled, paralyzed in both legs, very little I can eat, and my sleep is so near waking that it’s hardly worth the name. I seem to exist largely on heat, like a newborn spider. The orchids are an excuse for the heat. Do you like orchids?

Marlowe: Not particularly.

Sternwood: Nasty things! Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.

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The rotten sweetness of corruption is in the heart of this fatal poison and it spreads with lethal beauty as the dry down comes slithering up from the earthy bottom of this perfume. The earth from which this deadly flower grows is composed of disintegrating vetiver, decaying vanilla and humid wet sandalwood. Here the most dominating notes enter the perfume at about 30 minutes. Rich dark chocolate wrapped in Patchouli make it sweet, so sweet.  Infusing it all with sly glamour is oriental temple incense that intoxicates the skin and enchants the senses.

The sillage is immense and the perfume last on my skin into an epoch, over fourteen hours. This is not a perfume for little girls and boys beware if you dare to wear this one. This is a woman or mans perfume that bars nothing in the telling of its tale of danger, derringers and dark dames.  Black Orchid is a fem fatale, a noir beauty that is dangerous without regret. It has more treacherous curves than California’s Highway 1 in a rainstorm.

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BLACK ORCHID by Tom Ford 4 gold stars

A STRANGER IN THE NIGHT ~ Atelier d’Orient Rive d’Ambre by Tom Ford

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The great amber dragon skimmed and curved north from Hong Kong through the mountains of Guangdong province, its glowing cyclopean eye never wavered from the silver twin silk threads that were the path to Shanghai. Within the mechanical beast Lily Chu had fallen asleep to the clickety-clack of the dragon on the tacks. She was dreaming on the edge of sleep. Slowly she realized she was not alone in the bed. There was a body pressed up against her back. It was not human and not of this earth. She tried to roll over but the thing kept her pinned against the wall. As it pressed harder its hot breath was upon her neck just behind her right ear. She tried to scream when she felt the claws moving up along her spine.

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(Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu)

Eyes flashed open. A large strong hand instantly covered her mouth. The nightlight gave his eyes a terrifying neon glow. She tried to scream again and pushed against his muscular arm that held her paralyzed as if caught in a jade vice.

“Were you having a nightmare?” He smelled of bitter oranges and cognac. “Don’t scream Margaret and I won’t have to hurt you. Do you understand?”

She nodded in the affirmative.  He uncovered her lips slowly. He still held her pinned as securely as a prized exotic butterfly in a glass case.

“No Margaret, my name Lily Chu.” She said. “No Margaret…”

His low baritone laugh filled her ears blotting out any hope of pretense. “Now that is the worst Susie Wong impression I have ever heard.”  He unpinned her. “Sit up.”

She did as he commanded. “I am cold, may I have my coat?”

He tossed her the mink. As she pulled it on over her shantung silk pajamas she fumbled at the empty pocket.

“Looking for this?” She looked up to see her gun pointed precisely at the bridge of her nose.

“I have a great deal of money I can…”

His icy smile cut her resolve. “Your get right to the point, smart girl. The usual question would be, who are you and how did you get in here?  It is my job to get into locked rooms and who I am is not important. What is important is I know what you have done and that there are men after you because of what you have done.”

The gun pulsed ever so slightly to the beat of the blood running through his trigger finger.

“Are you a cop?”

“Not a cop, not a, what is it you call it, a private eye?  No, nothing as simple as that, I am here on an unofficial basis.”

“You’re not American… you’re Australian.”

There was a tiny quiver in the gun. “British.”

“Are you going to kill me for the money?”

“I don’t need the money.” He lowered the gun and with the index finger of his left hand touched her nose. He smiled almost warmly as his finger deliberately moved over her lips to her chin.

“I am here Lily Chu to help you get away with it.”

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***** 

Rive d’Ambre from Tom Ford’s his Atelier d’Orient line is a light elegant take on a classic eau de cologne with a twist tied up with a silken rope of mystery. The nose behind its creation is perfumer, Olivier Gillotin. He is known for creating 10 Corso Como, Cristobal for Balenciaga and Notorious for Ralph Lauren. Among his many perfumes is one of my favorites, Fath Pour L’Homme for Jacques Fath. (See my review Falling In Love With Fath)

Classified as an Oriental for men and women Rive d’Ambre opens with a sparkling pop of citrus notes like the clash of cymbals and wind chimes in an exotic modern symphony. These notes are linear and come at you in a heady bright jumble of lemon, bergamot and bitter orange. This plays around on the skin for about 20 minutes and slowly the course of the opening they calm and are absorbed into a cocktail of cognac and amber. Spices of cardamom and tarragon add dimension to the fragrance as it falls to the skin at about 5 hours.  In the dry down there is the warmth of tolu balsam and patchouli to cover and comfort the bones of what remains of the fragrance.

This is not a complex or challenging fragrance but that does not make it uninteresting. On the contrary it is surprising in where it goes from that familiar eau de cologne opening into an exotic warm range.  It is a perfect fragrance to wear in the tropics where the heat will open it up and add to its projection. In more temperate climates it would work best in summer. Rive d’Ambre is a light bright smart and sophisticated addition to the Atelier d’Orient collection by Mr. Ford.

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RIVE D’AMBRE FIVE GOLD STARS *****

(NOTE: PART ONE OF THIS STORY IS THE POST ENTITLED: ESCAPE TO SHANGHAI )

ESCAPE TO SHANGHAI ~ Atelier d’Orient Shanghai Lily Tom Ford

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Margaret Fong watched as the typhoon rain made watercolor neon dragons race down the windows of the W Hotel Hong Kong. She sat in the window wrapped in a mink coat unable to sleep from the residue of adrenalin that had fueled her escape from San Francisco.  She could never go home again. What a strange circle completed its cycle to bring her to the place where her great grandfather many times over had left for America. 

She touched the hard as a diamond cold glass that protected her from the storm. Emerald skinned rain dragons with sapphire and ruby eyes seemed to turn a look at her from Victoria Peak.  Steam billowed from their nostrils as they took flight above the city then turned out over the harbor their glowing neon wings lighting the underbelly of the typhoon that battered Hong Kong. She smiled. She didn’t even know how to speak Cantonese.

skyfall dragons

(Dragons borrowed from Skyfall)

She was rich now, richer than anyone in her family had ever been. The large canary yellow diamond on her finger winked at her with cool confidence. She brought her hand down from the window and licked the surface of the diamond then polished it with the sleeve of her mink. Perhaps it had been foolish to have bought it in the jewelry store downstairs. An impulse purchase when she arrived that morning just hours ahead of the storm. She glanced up at the television to see her face on the screen. She was the big story on a slow news day for CNN. She muted the sound.

Her next move had to be to stay on the move. A train would be better than a plane. But where to go, where does a woman who has just embezzled forty four million dollars from one of the richest high tec companies in the world hide?  She opened her purse and pulled out her newly forged passport and ID. The best that hot money could buy, Lily Chu Beijing, People’s Republic of China. She dropped the papers on the table and took out her scarlet lipstick and compact. The most beautiful girl from Galileo High School looked back at her in the tiny mirror.

Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu Escape to Shanghai(Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu)

That face had gotten her pretty far, her brains brought her the rest of the way; she decided not to freshen her mouth. She snapped the compact shut and looked back at the television. She was still on the screen. She grabbed the remote and changed the channel.

An old movie flickered in black and white fuzzy close-up glamour and filled the screen. She smiled in recognition of the images from the past. It had been one of her mother’s favorite movies because she loved Anna May Wong. Anna did nothing for Margaret; it was the glamorous blonde with the funny accent that had captured her imagination as a little girl. It was odd to see her now with her dialog in Cantonese subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The movie began to work its magic once again, even without sound. She flicked the mute button on just at Marlene Dietrich spoke to Clive Brook,

 Shanghai Lilly Marlene Dietrich

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

The new Lily that was once Margaret laughed out loud. Maybe that was why she chose Lily for her alias; the name had stuck with her all these years. And Shanghai, that would be an interesting stop along her escape into the land of 1.3 billion. One quick phone call and she was booked on the midnight express to Shanghai.

The storm had subsided to a mere tropical annoyance as Lily Chu in dark glasses and wrapped in her new mink hurried though the Hung Hom station to catch her train to her future.  “Pardon me” she said as she brushed past a man in a black wool overcoat. He turned to watch her with icy sapphire eyes. Then with measured ease set out after her. Just as Lily settled into her compartment he train let out a low growl and then its high piercing whistle screamed.  As the wheels ground against the steel rails pulling the train out of the station, Lily had no idea that she was being followed to Shanghai.

follower

  *****

Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily from his Atelier d’Orient line is an exotic, stunning entry into the Oriental Floral garden. It is languorous, lithe and liable to lead to trouble. I have no idea if the inspiration behind this perfume is the Marlene Dietrich character of Shanghai Lily from the Josef von Sternberg film “Shanghai Express” (1932). If not, well, this perfume certainly carries all the mystery and intrigue that is found in Dietrich’s portrait of a lady who one character describes as a “Coaster, a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast.”

The perfume is loaded with more notes than Lily’s steamer trunk is filled with French unmentionables.  They come at you all at once in a locomotive rush. Bitter orange, pink and black pepper, cloves, spices and incense kick of the exotic journey, I get a definite mince meat pie accord here that is delicious and long lasting.

In the center of the perfume there is exotica galore as the perfume continues its excursion along your pulse points. Floral notes push in on the opening notes layered over with a sensual labdanum, jasmine, rose and a hint of tuberose. It goes together with the spicy mix so well. And the peppers and cloves laid out in the opening meet up with olibanum, a light layer of barely perceptible vanilla and benzoin keep it from being too pretty.

The dry down at journey’s end is a solid base of cashmere wood, sassy castoreum, guaiac wood and vetiver. This combo keeps this perfume sexually ambiguous and as enticingly daring as Marlene Dietrich was in a man’s tux in the early 1930’s.  It is a well blended perfume that works to the advantage of both men and women. Lasting on my skin a good ten hours and leaving a va va voom sillage for those looking to make an entrance. And what an entrance this perfume makes. Pure star power all the way from opening credits to fade out, as directed by Tom Ford this Shanghai Lily is a box office hit.

 tom-ford-shanghai-lily

SHANGHAI LILY BY TOM FORD Four Gold Stars ****

(NOTE: PART TWO OF THIS STORY IS IN MY POST ENTITLED: A STRANGER IN THE NIGHT)

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