Perfume Review – Tom Ford Sahara Noir: Ambered Frankincense

Desert Caravan. Photo: "Artemis." Via

Desert Caravan. Photo: “Artemis.” Via

In March 2013, Tom Ford released a new fragrance in his Signature collection called Sahara Noir. It is a rich oriental eau de parfum that is aimed at the Middle Eastern market and that is supposedly Tom Ford’s interpretation of their traditional scents. On May 1, Sahara Noir became available world-wide, and I obtained a sample from a kind sales-assistant at Neiman Marcus. The long and short of it is that Sahara Noir is, essentially, a re-working of Tom Ford’s much beloved, now discontinued Private Blend Amber Absolute, only with oud now added to the mix. There are small differences which I’ll explain later in this review but, for all intents and purposes, Sahara Noir is the new replacement for Amber Absolute.  

Tom Ford advert for Sahara Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

Tom Ford advert for Sahara Noir. Source: Fragrantica.

In the press release I found back in February, Sahara Noir is described as follows:

Sahara Noir is rich and exotic; it wraps the balsamic, incense-touched notes of frankincense in gold and honey-coloured light,” noted Ford. “Middle Eastern culture has an extraordinary appreciation for the luxurious, emotional and memorable qualities of fragrance; perfume is worn there in a way that feels very familiar to me. Sahara Noir is my interpretation of this heritage.

Tom_ford_sahara_noirThe press release is actually important because of its detailed explanation of the notes — notes which are quite different from what Fragrantica lists. In the official description of the perfume, the company states:

The oriental woody juice is crafted around a heart of frankincense. This key ingredient is complemented by top notes of cistus essence Orpur® (Orpur denotes a natural ingredient of exceptional quality and purity), bitter orange, Jordanian calamus – an oasis sweet grass – and Levantine cypress, famed for growing in the gardens of the 1001 Arabian Nights.

The heart blends frankincense essence Orpur® , cinnamon, cool papyrus extract, Egyptian jasmine templar and rose absolute from Morocco. A beeswax extraction from Burma lends body and a supple, honeyed-animalic richness.

The warm dry down is laced with amber. It is formed by a special blend of labdanum – labdanum absolute and a rich natural fraction of labdanum known as ambreinol – combined with benzoin, vanilla, cedar, frankincense resin, agarwood and balsam.

The notes on Fragrantica mention only:

Top notes are bergamot, mandarin orange, violet, ginger and basil; middle notes are grapefruit blossom, orange blossom, tobacco and black pepper; base notes are amber, cedar, patchouli, oakmoss and leather.

So, if we combine the two lists together, the full set of notes seems to be closer to the following:

bergamot, mandarin orange, violet, ginger, basil, grapefruit blossom, orange blossom, tobacco, black pepper, amber, cedar, patchouli, oakmoss, leather, Jordanian calamus grass, cistus [labdanum] essence Orpur®, cinnamon, papyrus extract, Egyptian jasmine templar, Moroccan rose absolute, beeswax extract, labdanum, ambreinol, benzoin, vanilla, frankincense resin, agarwood [oud], and balsam.

A slightly different set of notes, all in all, don’t you think?

Camel Caravan. Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Camel Caravan. Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Sahara Noir opens on my skin as slightly bitter amber with heavy frankincense. There are: bitter citruses that feel like the fresh oils from the rind; peppery cedarwood; dry tobacco leaves; bitter but crystalized ginger; and black, dirty patchouli. The whole thing sits atop a powerful base of rich, nutty, heavily leathered labdanum (a type of amber resin), infused with strong frankincense. The amber-frankincense duet smells familiar — as it should to anyone who has smelled Amber Absolute. As the seconds pass, light touches of cinnamon and rich, heavy honey are also noticeable. The whole thing is potent and, yet, much airier and lighter than you’d suspect, given those rich, heavy notes. I’m not saying that Sahara Noir is a sheer, translucent, fresh scent by any means, but it doesn’t feel opaque, thick, and molten.

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Less than five minutes into Sahara Noir’s development, the perfume shifts a little and becomes significantly less complex. The citrus notes have all but vanished, leaving behind a scent that is primarily frankincense-infused labdanum amber. Those who don’t like labdanum as a stand-in for amber should perhaps take heed, for Rock Rose or Cistus (its other names) is not to everyone’s taste. Labdanum has quite a masculine, leathery bent to its nutty, resinous, darkly balsamic accord, and I know some amber lovers who aren’t always enthused by its particular aroma.

Swirled into the blend are tobacco leaves, peppery cedar wood, dry papyrus, and the smallest suggestion of oud. The perfume is beautifully blended, so few of these notes are individually distinctive by themselves amidst that dominant pairing of frankincense and labdanum. Yet, by the end of the first hour, the peppery wood notes and oud become much more significant. The tobacco fades away, along with the faint traces of spice and ginger that lurked in the opening. By the 90 minute mark, Sahara Noir is a three-way pairing of labdanum, frankincense and oud. As a side note about that oud, I know a lot of my regular readers really struggle with the note. I do, too, when it is medicinal, antiseptic, fecal, or a bit too much of the noble “rot.” Here, however, it is much more akin to incredibly peppered woods. It’s simultaneously dry, a little bit fiery, and highly sweetened (thanks to the resins and honey)– all at the same time. Yet, for the most part, it is not over-powering or bullying; it is far too overshadowed by the leathery amber and frankincense.

Photo: Federico Bebber. Source:

Photo: Federico Bebber. Source:

Sahara Noir remains as this triumvirate for hours and hours. I detect absolutely no citrus or floral notes; not a whisper of rose or jasmine anywhere in sight. Midway during the third hour, the perfume becomes richer and softer, turning into a lovely amber with strong oud and frankincense. The labdanum’s leathery edges have been tamed, mellowing into something sweeter and milder with a honeyed accord. The frankincense is in much better balance, though the oud seems to have increased a little in strength. I will be honest and confess that the oud is a little too much for my personal tastes and a little sharp at times, but it is in perfectly equal proportion to the other two notes. Sahara Noir is now a three-way race, with each horse neck-and-neck as they lead into the home-stretch.

With every remaining hour, the triplets soften even further until, finally, Sahara Noir turned into a nutty, honeyed amber with faint traces of smoke and oud. Lurking at the edges is the merest dash of cinnamon, benzoin and vanilla — the latter having a breath of powder — but neither note is very significant. In the final hours, and to my surprise, I could occasionally detect some vague, soft floral notes underlying the amber. It felt most like jasmine, but the whole thing was a bit too muted and amorphous to really tell. Plus, every time I thought I could pinpoint it on my arm, the note flitted away like a ghost. By the very end, Sahara Noir was nothing more than a faint whisper of nutty amber with a soft feel of caramel.

All in all, Sahara Noir lasted just over 9 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. As always with Tom Ford fragrances, I opt for a lesser amount than what I would normally use with everything else. It was Amber Absolute, actually, which taught me it is best to err on the side of caution initially when it comes to the quantity one uses for one of his perfumes. Using the equivalent of two good sprays on my arm, Sahara Noir was generally quite light in feel. It had serious sillage at first which dropped to “average” after the first hour. At that point, someone standing a few feet away wouldn’t be able to detect it, but don’t let that mislead you. When sniffing it, Sahara Noir is very potent, thanks to the frankincense. If you were to spray more than a small amount, I suspect the sillage might blow someone out of the water. I also think a larger quantity would change the nature of the perfume. Time and time again with Tom Ford’s Private Blend fragrances, I’ve noticed that using too much can lead to quite an overwhelming, ’80s-like experience and, more importantly, to the amplification of whatever note is dominant in the perfume. In this case, the frankincense.


The now discontinued Amber Absolute.

As I noted at the start, Sahara Noir is extremely close to Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute from his much more expensive, more “prestige” Private Blend collection. Amber Absolute was discontinued last year for reasons that I’ve never quite fathomed. It seemed to be one of the big favorites amongst the Tom Ford line as a whole — cherished and adored by a vast number of people, especially friends of mine who enjoy rich amber scents with smoke. I reviewed Amber Absolute and, personally, found the extreme nature of the frankincense to be a bit bullying — and that’s coming from someone who really enjoys the note. For me, the perfume was unbalanced, too shrill and top-heavy with the frankincense, and just a bit too, too much as a whole. I always thought I was in the minority on that assessment, but Sahara Noir makes me wonder if, perhaps, there were more people who shared my views.

You see, Sahara Noir is a much less extreme, more balanced version of Amber Absolute. There is still the labdanum-frankincense accord, but the smoke doesn’t feel acrid and like an 800-pound gorilla. To my nose, Sahara Noir is also slightly more nuanced, along with having a lighter feel and texture, but it’s definitely all relative. There are other — albeit small — differences as well. For one thing, the opening to the two fragrances is not quite the same: the Amber Absolute has much more of a boozy rum, spiced start; Sahara Noir is more citrus-y (for all of about 5 minutes), before turning straight to the labdanum and frankincense. It also has far more dry wood notes, from the very peppery cedar to the oud. Of course, the inclusion of that last element is quite a big difference, though I would argue that — for the most part — it’s a difference of degree and not of kind. The dominance of the core labdanum-frankincense combination in both fragrances makes them much more alike than different, despite the addition of the oud.

All in all, I liked Sahara Noir — but I didn’t love it and I don’t think I’d wear it. For one thing, I’m extremely tired of oud — there seems to be no end in sight to the mania. Everything has oud in it these days. (At this rate, it’s going to be on my bloody pizza next!) Perhaps if I didn’t test at least one oud fragrance a week (and, sometimes, as many three), I’d be more enthusiastic. But Sahara Noir isn’t complex enough to sway my oud fatigue.

For another, while I like frankincense a great deal, I find there is always something a little sharp in the frankincense use by Tom Ford. Sahara Noir lacks the soft, luxuriating, velvety richness of Dior‘s Mitzah, one of my favorite labdanum-frankincense combinations and a fragrance which I thought was much more complex, nuanced, and layered. Perhaps it’s because Mitzah isn’t so focused on just two key notes, and its edges are softened as a result. In particular, both the labdanum and the frankincense in Mitzah are gentler, more rounded, better blended and richer. Perhaps it’s because Mitzah lacks oud with its peppery element which is sometimes a little sharp in Sahara Noir. Whatever the reason, I liked Sahara Noir — but not enough to want to wear it.

As a side note, I cannot help but think Tom Ford decided to tone down his Amber Absolute, while also adding in oud, for marketing reasons. With the inclusion of that note, he could target the extremely wealthy Middle Eastern market, and position Sahara Noir as an exciting new call to their traditional heritage of oud fragrances, as well as heavy, balsamic amber ones. What stumps me is why Sahara Noir isn’t part of his more expensive, potent Private Blend line, instead of the cheaper Signature collection. His intended audience could certainly afford it. I suspect it’s because he didn’t want to underscore quite so easily the enormous overlap between Sahara Noir and a Private Blend fragrance that he just discontinued.

Another source of bewilderment: Sahara Noir is supposedly marketed as a fragrance “for women.” Er…no. I don’t think so! Sahara Noir is as unisex as you can get. In fact, I suspect women who are not used to oud (or heavy frankincense) may blink a little at Sahara Noir. This is not some sweet, gourmand, or spiced soft amber. This is hardcore frankincense and labdanum.

On Fragrantica, the comments thus far seem generally to evince disappointment, though quite a few people really enjoy it. A number of people write about how it is primarily a frankincense fragrance and nothing revolutionary. Well, they’d be right, especially as Sahara Noir replicates Amber Absolute so closely. Two commentators seem to feel it is a complete “knock-off” of Absolue Pour Le Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. With that, I very much disagree. I’ve reviewed Absolue Pour Le Soir and think it is absolutely nothing like Sahara Noir. Absolue is not an ode to frankincense and labdanum; it is a stunning floral oriental that is centered around slightly animalic musk with lovely, rich sandalwood and a variety of other elements.

Some have called Sahara Noir “linear,” and I think it is. But I’ve always thought that term is a negative only when someone absolutely hates the notes that are continuing from start to finish. If you love a rich amber infused with the particularly intense sort of smoke that is frankincense, and if you like the slightly masculine, leathery sort of amber that is labdanum, then I think you might enjoy Sahara Noir. However, those who don’t like oud may not be enthusiastic, and those who already own Amber Absolute can probably skip it.


Cost & Availability: Sahara Noir is an eau de parfum which generally comes in a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle. It costs $150 or $165, depending on US retailer, or £100.00. On the Tom Ford website, however, it is shown in 3 different sizes: 1.0 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. I can’t seem to find pricing for the smaller sizes anywhere and, on the Tom Ford website, wasn’t able to click on the links to put it in a shopping cart to ascertain the cost. In the US, you can find Sahara Noir sold in the 1.7 oz/50 ml size at department stores such as Neiman Marcus (which lists its price at $150), Barneys (which sells it for $165, for some odd reason), and Bergdorf Goodman (which lists its price at $150). I couldn’t find it on the Saks or Nordstrom websites. In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but I don’t know when they will get Sahara Noir. In the UK, you can already find it at Harrods or Selfridges. Both stores sell the 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £100.00. Elsewhere, I’ve seen Sahara Noir listed on Dubai Duty-Free and Tom Ford Beauty doesn’t seem to be carried by retailers in France, but it is in many European nations from Denmark and Belgium to the Russian Federation. Hopefully, you can find a retailer near you using the store locator on the Tom Ford website. As for samples, Surrender to Chance doesn’t have Sahara Noir at this moment as it is far too new, but you can try to find it at any of the department stores listed above to give it a test sniff.

51 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Tom Ford Sahara Noir: Ambered Frankincense

  1. A wonderful review as usual! I tried this when it first came out here in the Middle East and while I think it is a wonderful scent and I am glad Tom Ford is bringing something so “Middle Eastern” to their mainstream line, it is just a little too similar to a lot of things I already own (to me I get so much Amber Sultan-ness to this) that I can’t justify paying for another. And I completely agree, he is definitely pandering to the wealthy frangrance buyers over here as every oud flanker seems to be doing of late. At least this is a good one!

    • First, I’m glad you liked the review, DubaiScents. Second, I’m quite fascinated by this new trend of releasing fragrances first to the Middle Eastern market, then to everywhere else. From Guerlain’s Desert d’Orient trio, to Lancome L’Autre Oud and many others, and now the Tom Ford. Speaking of which, have you tried or even seen Lancome’s L’Autre Oud or the Chopard’s Oud Malaki? If you haven’t, you can read about them or see them in this post of mine: Anyway, the bottle for the Lancome is ravishing!

      But, back to the Tom Ford, I haven’t tried Ambre Sultan to compare, so thanks for the interesting reference. I have about 8 Lutens that I have to get through before I can justify buying more samples from his line, and every week I plan to cover one of those vials that haunts me but every week, something else comes up. I seriously have to get through them so that I can order/try both Ambre Sultan and Arabie. I hear so much about both of them! Does Ambre Sultan have that much frankincense in it?

      • Kafka-
        I will be eagerly waiting your review on Ambre Sultan for Brittany (my eldest) and I love it so much we are getting a decant….we both agree that it is such a glorious scent for Autumn….

      • I am definitely not complaining about the early Middle East releases. It makes up for all scents we don’t get for months and months after the rest of the world. If I were in perfume marketing, I would make sure every new scent gets here as quickly as possible with the Middle East having the world’s highest per capita spending on beauty and fragrance products (I certainly do my share to help that statistic). I did try the new Lancôme and my first impressions were, darn, another beautiful bottle with mediocre juice. I’ve seen the Chopard as well but, have only taken the briefest of sniffs. Once you have tried some of the oud oils from the traditional Arabic fragrance houses it really makes you laugh about what most Western brands consider oud now days.

        I keep meaning to do a side by side comparison of Amber Sultan and Sahara Noir but, I think it is the opening spices that are the most similar to me and yes, there is definitely a frankincense note to AS. Definitely worth a sample, especially if you are considering a FB of this one.

        • How disappointing to hear about the Lancome. That bottle…!!! *sigh* It sounds like I really, *really* need to get a sample of Ambre Sultan. LOL. As for this one, no, I’m not considering a full bottle of Sahara Noir. I’ve truly got oud fatigue because of how many I test each week and, as I wrote, this one wasn’t complex enough for me to overcome it. Last night, I put on Trayee just to wear an oud-included fragrance that I actually love. LOL.

          As for the issue of “Middle Eastern” scents and people’s image of them, I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve spent some time in the Middle East and I also was practically raised on Orientals, so I have very high standards for what I think is a good one. It’s perhaps one reason why I’m in the very, very distinct minority on the issue of Opus VI. I truly don’t think very much of it — which is pretty much heresy, I know, especially amongst those who love ambers and orientals. But for me…. *eh* I expected more. It just seemed like a traditional sort of Middle Eastern scent (minus the oudh), and nothing particularly great. I think my skin amplified the labdanum in a way that wasn’t quite to my taste, perhaps.

  2. Sounds like I wouldn’t be in love with Sahara Noir. Heavier ambers or resins such labdanum or even frankincense are not really my kind of things.
    To say more – I’m no longer excited about Tom Ford releases. Why? Because I know that private blends never appear in Poland (only few from a regular line are carried by Douglas perfumeries) + those PB I tried didn’t impress me much + I’m not willing to pay this kind of money for a bottle of perfume.

    • I know labdanum is not your friend, chéri, so I think this would not be your cup of tea, especially given the frankincense. That said, I would be truly curious to know what you thought of Lavender Palm. Even if you don’t generally like Private Blend fragrances, that one has notes which are more your thing. If you ever do a perfume swap/wish list thing, perhaps you can ask for it. 🙂

      • Sweetie, I’ve got a sample of Lavender Palm so I will keep your wish in mind and try to write a small piece about it sometime else. (I’m writing an OPUS VII review for tomorrow) But I wasn’t really fond of Lavender Palm…

        • ROFL!!! You and Tom Ford! It’s absolutely hilarious! Is it terrible that I’m relieved you didn’t like it? I didn’t — at all — but then I’m not one for Lavender to begin with, while you are. Well, I feel much less crazy now.

          Okay, if Lavender Palm didn’t do it for you, then nothing in Tom Ford’s line will. Yes, you definitely are better off scraping the whole thing. (P.S.- I can’t wait for your Opus VII review. So happy for you!)

          • I should write a post “Tom Ford and me – a history of misunderstanding” LOL! No, it’s not terrible at all Cheri! I’m happy myself that I didn’t like it. You’re not crazy at all.
            There’s only Tobacco Vanille that I wouldn’t mind if someone gave me a decant of.

            Looks like you haven’t tried Opus VII yet? I bet you’d love the scent.

      • And I’m sincerely happy for you that M.Micallef people contacted you. How much of Le Parfum Denis Durand Couture are you getting? A sample? Or maybe a bottle?
        I tried it not long ago and I liked it a lot. A pleasant perfume.

  3. Kafka,
    This review was fantastic! As a lover of frankincense and labdanum I thought this one might be calling my name… however,my concern is the oud….I adore Eden Botanicals agarwood straight up as perfume but the synthetic ouds that are often used in commercial perfumery literally gives me a headache….and then I read what you said about Mitzah…frankincense and labdanum…”gentler, rounded, better blended, complex and nuanced”…now that is the perfume I MUST try!

    • Darling Brie, I would not recommend Sahara Noir for you! No, no, no. But Mitzah, on the other hand….. It is actually one of the ones I talked to you about yesterday and when I put my package together for you, it will be at the top of the list.

  4. Even though in theory, I always like the sound of frankcincense and amber, in practice it never really works for me. That is, incense never works for me. 🙂

    • We all have a note like that, Ines, a note that plagues us and is almost never a happy encounter. 🙂 Mine is usually lavender or ISO E. Or soap. Soapy scents…. *shudder*

  5. I am so glad you reviewed this, as last week I tried a bit at Saks and thought how like his Amber Absolute. I love the way you deconstruct a fragrance, minute by minute, hour by hour. I enjoy reading about what I can only feel, and not say. I truly love frankincense, amber and laudanum. But I do not love oud at all. You mentioned Mitzah, which is a fragrance I have been dying to try, but cannot find. Thank you, Kafka, for another great review!

    • Tora, Mitzah is not only part of Dior’s prestige/exclusives line, but it is also rarely carried any more even within Dior counters at department stores. It is only available at the Dior boutique or online at their website. There is a bit of a complicated situation with Mitzah in particular, with countering arguments as to whether it is being discontinued or not. I explain it more in my post/review on the perfume, but even since then and since I spoke to the Dior lady at the Las Vegas boutique, there continue to be rumours that Mitzah is going to be discontinued. Your best bet is to order a sample now via Surrender to Chance. In fact, I think Mitzah may have been one of the ones I recommended to you during the sale along with Coromandel. There are some similarities to Coromandel (and to Lutens’ Borneo 1834, as well as Anima Dulcis) but it’s not really close. If you love Coromandel, you’ll find Mitzah to be a slightly darker, richer frankincense/amber fragrance (due to the labdanum).

      I have a full bottle of Mitzah and I would be happy to send you a sample but it will take a while. I’m fully out of vials — mini and otherwise — and need to order. Plus, I’m afraid I have a small neurotic issue (phobia, really) about going to the post office. It’s one of the things I dread in life. LOL. But I’m probably going to need to send some stuff off in 2 weeks, so if you can wait, I’d be happy to send you a small vial then. 🙂 Otherwise, get thee to Surrender to Chance!! 🙂

      Oh, wait, this review is for Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir. LOL. Er… um… yeah, I can’t see it being your thing, cherie. Not if you don’t like oud. (When — WHEN — will this bloody oud trend start to fade away???!!)

  6. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Tom Ford fragrances partly because of my own tendency to over apply which may be the reason. This sounds lovely. I am intrigued as how this could compare to Absolue Pour le Soir as in looking at the notes, I’m not sure how they are comparable.

    • I see ZERO similarity to Absolue Pour Le Soir. I just don’t. I cannot fathom how two people on Fragrantica thought them similar, unless their skin brings out nothing but the florals. Even then, Sahara Noir has no animalic qualities, no sandalwood, no musk!! So, please don’t think this is going to be like the MFK Absolue. If you’ve tried Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute, then imagine it with oud and you will have Sahara Noir.

      As for over-applying the Tom Ford line, that may very well be your issue with *all* his fragrances. I have had two friends in real life who shuddered and hated different Tom Ford fragrances. I told them to apply half of what they normally apply for every other fragrance. My friend who thought Amber Absolute was one of the most ghastly things he’d tested all of a sudden found it to be the loveliest, richest, most wonderful amber fragrance. Same thing with a friend who disliked one of the floral Private Blends (I think it may have been Black Orchid). Both thought the perfume in question almost seemed like a different fragrance because the full range of notes could come out more and the perfume seemed more nuance. I think over-applying truly makes the perfumes seem obnoxiously bullying but, worse, they seem to amplify one or two notes to the exclusion of all the rest. I don’t know why that is, but may be you can try it for yourself one day. Perhaps with the Tobacco Vanille. See if it smells less like a Yankee Candle on you that way. 🙂

  7. I’m so glad you reviewed this, as I’ve been very curious about it… partially because I tend to become a bit obsessed with Labdanum based fragrances 🙂 – I love Labdanum so much that I’m buying a few Cistus bushes for my garden this year, and then I’m going to spend most of the summer sitting under them and inhaling that amazing smell!

    I haven’t had great luck with Tom Ford perfumes yet, though I did think Noir de Noir was pretty, and very much enjoyed your review of that one as well.

    • Oooh, cistus bushes! How exciting and what a fabulous idea! You’ll have to let me know how that all works out! As for Tom Ford, I haven’t found a lot that I loved, but I found a few. I enjoyed Oud Wood & Tobacco Vanille quite a bit, and Arabian Wood (if it had projected on me), but for the rest…. Eh. How do you feel about Oud, Cacomixtle?

      • I love the raw material, not so much that I think it needs to be in every single perfume, but it is beautiful and rich and can add depth to some fragrances. I seem to hate the synthetic version, and the end product in any Montale Aoud perfume. So, I’m very wary of the note in current popular perfumes because I’m afraid of being suffocated by the giant bandaid in the bottle. I actually sample all oudh based perfumes outdoors near water so that I can escape it quickly if it starts to strangle me.

        I didn’t mind Oud in Noir de Noir, I like it very much in Trayee, and am unoffended by it in MFK’s Oudh. There aren’t very many notes I flat out hate, with the possible exception of violets (much to my dismay), soap, and laundry musk, and to tell you the truth, I really want to love oud but so far there are very few commercial perfumes that I’ve tried where I did love it.

  8. I’m not a Tom Ford fragrance fan. I like the idea of some of the scents but none have lived up to the hype for me. I love frankincense but it sounds too similar to the other scents you mentioned and I think those would be better for me. I will say that the woman in the ad is just gorgeous. I want hair that shines like that.

    • Well, it’s nothing like Mitzah, Poodle! I only brought up Mitzah as an example of a labdanum-frankincense perfume that I found much more enjoyable, better rounded, more nuanced and complex. Plus, it doesn’t have Oud in it. Sahara Noir, to me, was like Amber Absolute — not like any of the other fragrances which I mentioned and which are very, VERY different. But Ross, another reader, says he thinks Sahara Noir reminds him of Comme des Garcon’s Avignon, only with oud included. I know you love Avignon, so perhaps you should make a trip to one of the department stores and give Sahara Noir as test sniff?

      • Avignon with oud? That doesn’t sound good to me at all. I’ll sniff it if I see it but I won’t go on a quest to find it.

  9. Sahara Noir reminds me more of Comme des Garcons Incense Avignon(+oud) and Montale`s Full Incense than Amber Absolute. AA is more ambery and heavy on olibanum whereas Sahara Noir is all about frankincense. I`m wearing it for the second time today and I`m loving this new release from Tom Ford. One thing i dont understand though, why is it marketed as a female fragrance? I ask coulple of my friends what they thought about it and all of them said that its quite masculine fragrance. Anyways, I`ll be getting a bottle of Sahara Noir sometime next week. Enjoyed your review a lot, Kafka! 🙂

    • Olibanum is frankincense, Ross, so I’m a bit confused by your comment that…. oh. Wait. You mean Amber Absolute is olibanum and amber/labdanum, while the Sahara Noir is just olibanum on your skin? Okay, I think I got it. Well, it sounds like the labdanum didn’t show up on you very much with the Sahara Noir, while it did with the AA in addition to the olibanum/frankincense. Interesting. Also interesting to read what else you thought it smelled like. I’m sure that will help some people. 🙂

      I agree that it’s a very masculine scent in some ways. But I’m glad you hear that you love it and consider it full bottle worthy!

  10. The ‘masculine’ part of the equation worries me slightly, as I don’t like anything harsh or too woody in my ambers, and yet the richness and thickness of the perfume comes across beautifully in this review and I somehow think I might like it….Might see if they have it in Tokyo later today.

    • I do think it’s quite masculine, Ginza. How do you feel about oud? That may determine everything in this case. Personally, I see you more as a Mitzah guy. It’s nothing like Sahara Noir, but it’s a lovely treatment of labdanum and olibanum — without oud.

  11. Dear Kafka, are you sitting down? The notes as listed in NST appealed to me so much so that I went in on an unsniffed split for 10 mLs. If I hate it, it goes to the swap pile and if I love it…I’ll probably just stick to the precious 10 mLs. Great review as always and I am looking forward to trying this once I get my decant (within the next 2 weeks). I will report back.

    Speaking of Mitzah…I am in the “not sure if I like it enough for a FB” stage. It was no longer on display at the NYC Dior boutique on 57th Street but there was a tester in a drawer and I asked for a sample. The SA said they do not have any sample atomizers but if I brought in my own, I can certainly take home a sample; she probably thought I was a tourist and would never return. Well, I AM cheeky and went back the next day with a 5 mL travel atomizer…and used my mad decanting skillz and ended up with approximately 3 mLs. A dear perfumista will be sending me a few more mLs so that I’ll have enough to truly use it more times to finally decide.

    If Sahara Noir opens like Mitzah, I MAY not like it…Mitzah opened with a Cherry Coke-like scent which is kinda yuck; however, it bloomed nicely and had a fabulous dry-down!

    • Oh dear. From what I’ve seen, almost no-one is listing the full, proper notes. They’re only including the sort of stuff that Fragrantica mentions, like the bergamot, orange blossom, basil, violet, grapefruit, etc. etc. Not a mention of the oud or many of the many other things listed in the press release, especially that key hardcore labdanum. It gives a very different picture of the fragrance when you compare the two lists.

      How do you feel about Oud, Hajusuuri? I think it’s in your “don’t mind” list, but I don’t recall you EVER being gaga for an oud-heavy fragrance. Trayee doesn’t count, as it’s so well blended there and there are so many other notes. Personally, I’m not sure if this one would be your cup of tea, but we’ll see.

      Btw, Sahara Noir is NOTHING like Mitzah! I brought up Mitzah only to mention an labdanum-frankincense perfume that I really love. But it doesn’t have Oud, and it’s very different to this one. As for the cherry Cola aspect to Mitzah’s opening, that’s one facet of strongly leathery labdanum. It’s stronger here, in some ways, and the labdanum takes much longer to mellow out, soften and become rounded. Almost 4 hours on my skin for that to happen with Sahara Noir’s labdanum.

      Truly hilarious about you and Dior. WAY TO GO, HAJUSUURI!!! Never get in the way of a perfumista with a plan and a yen for a sample! 😉 So, did you take a pipette with you or did you just madly spray into your decant? I can’t *believe* you got 3 mls worth of the stuff!!! Hahahaha.

  12. Given the notes, I think Sahara Noir would be right up my alley. Alas, I haven’t had much luck with Tom Ford. Oh, well . . . that means more money for other things, right? 🙂

    • The full notes, you mean, as opposed to the ones mentioned on Fragrantica, NST and elsewhere? How do you feel about Oud, Baconbiscuit? You’re another one that I don’t recall seeing ever gush over an oud fragrance. As for pricing, Sahara Noir is much cheaper than the Private Blend and it should be easy to track down, so give it a sniff and see what you think!

      • Yes, the full notes.

        I do love oud! But I either want a good, beautiful, complex, and rich oud or I don’t want it at all. You will be the recipient of a tiny sample of my favorite which I will be able to afford if I win the lottery 😉 Forgive the smidgen, I can only afford it in minis!

        • Awww, you’re so, so very sweet. Thank you for thinking of me, but I’d feel terribly guilty taking away even a smidgen of your favorite. Please don’t send it, Daisy. You know my guilt issues in general, even for small things. This one would be far too great. Even for a smidgen. But the thought and the generosity mean the world to me — more than any sample, I swear! *hugs*

          • Then I will accept with enormous gratitude and a massive, MASSIVE hug to you. I am thrilled to have the chance to smell one of your favorites, and I love how it’s a mystery and a surprise. xoxoxox

  13. I came across Sahara Noir at a store on my way to a birthday party so there was no way Icould put on an unknown perfume. So I sprayed it on a blotter… and for the next 48 hours kept thinking: “What the hell?! Why did TF need to discontinue Amber Absolute which I absolutely love to make this one?” Your detailed review gave me some ideas about why – thank you.

    Now I really want to try it on skin but I predict I’ll like it (despite agarwood! 🙂 ). Let’s see if it becomes a bottle or a decant.

  14. Hmmm, I may need to take time for an adventure to smell this one. Tom Ford typically agrees with me, so I’d definitely want to try this. Amber gives me pause, but I can tolerate and enjoy it in the right context. Thanks for yet another beautiful review!

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