Tom Ford has added Mandarino di Amalfi and Costa Azzurra as two new, summer fragrances to join his extremely popular Neroli Portofino. The trio now comprise The Neroli Portofino Collection, but are also part of the higher priced Private Blend line. Both fragrances will be released in early July, so they are not yet available in most stores. Today, I’ll look at Mandarino di Amalfi, and save Costa Azzurra for the next review.
Mandarino di Amalfi is an eau de parfum created by Calice Becker, and which is described in the Tom Ford’s press release as follows:
MANDARINO DI AMALFI captures the calm idyll of the whitewashed villas dotting the cliff sides of Amalfi.
The fragrance opens with an abundance of coastal Italian ingredients. Herbaceous ingredients such as tarragon, spearmint, blackcurrant bud are showcased with sleek mandarin fruits, bergamot and grapefruit. Lemon sfumatrice, an artisanal pressed lemon oil, and a twist of basil, create the delectable hint of a basil-limoncello cocktail.
Cool black pepper and coriander seed rise up through a concentrated orange oil. A floral core emerges with the richest orange flower. A floral core emerges with the richest orange flower, clary sage and a duet of jasmine which notes capture the flower’s creamy depth as well as its bright, fresh whiteness. Shiso leaf adds an unexpected twist that is as enchanting as a memento from Japan displayed in a grand Mediterranean villa.
The background unfolds with the brightest, liveliest and most luminous aspects of vetiver roots. Amber and labdanum lend texture, while musk and civet bring a pulsing flicker of warmth.
The succinct list of notes for the perfume is:
Top: tarragon, mint, black currant, grapefruit, lemon sfumatrice oil, and basil;
Middle: black pepper, coriander, orange blossom, clary sage, shiso, and jasmine;
Base: vetiver, amber, labdanum, musk, and civet.
Mandarino di Amalfi opens on my skin with herbal, minty, soapy, peppered and green notes. There is mint and the anise-like tarragon, sprinkled with a good few pinches of black pepper, all infused with neroli. In perfumery, the difference between “neroli” and “orange blossom” comes down to the method of distillation which results in very different aromas being emphasized. Neroli is usually green, slightly pungent, aromatic, rather citric in nature, and filled with the bitter oils of the fruit’s rind. Orange blossom, in contrast, is a note that is generally sweet, fully floral in nature, with little greenness or strong citruses, but the definite potential for languid, indolic undertones.
Mandarino di Amalfi begins as a truly neroli scent on my skin, but it is also heavily dominated by the herbs which accompany it. There is a powerful, strong dose of clary sage which is a plant that has herbaceous, lavendery, and very soapy aromas. Here, it adds a fresh, herbal cleanness to Mandarino di Amalfi, but also a lot of soapiness. White musk accentuates the clean profile, but the subtle inclusion of an abstract floral note eventually makes the combination smell like expensive hairspray. The floral component never actually translates into “jasmine” on my skin, but merely feels like some nebulous white flower that has been stripped of all identity and turned clean.
The final core component of Mandarino di Amalfi is a multi-faceted greenness. In addition to the neroli, mint and tarragon, there is also a good dose of vetiver which smells here like lemongrass. Its aroma is amplified by an actual lemon note which smells brisk, zesty, and chilled, and which is accompanied by the bitter, fragrant oils from its rind. Small slivers of basil and green shiso leaf complete the picture.
As a whole, Mandarino di Amalfi opens as a very green, herbal, minty, peppered blend with as much soapy clary sage as actual neroli and citruses on my skin. It’s a very light, crisp bouquet with much greater softness in both body and projection than many Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances. In fact, I’d say that the original Neroli Portofino is about two or three times as powerful, rich, and strong on my skin. Mandarino di Amalfi’s sillage is also much lower. Using 2 smears, or roughly one big spray from an actual bottle, Mandarino di Amalfi initially projected only 2 inches above my skin, while most Private Blends would be much more. In addition, the sillage soon dropped, and Mandarino di Amalfi generally hovered just an inch above the skin for the next few hours.
At the end of the first hour, Mandarino di Amalfi turns fractionally softer, deeper, and smoother, but it is still primarily dominated by green neroli with herbal and extremely soapy clary sage, followed by floral hairspray musk. The main trio is lightly flecked with mint, tarragon, lemon, a touch of pepper, and a hint of abstract woodiness. Half an hour later, all the green and herbal notes in Mandarino di Amalfi merge into one. It’s no longer easy to separate out the individual elements into mint, tarragon, vetiver, or even lemon any more.
In fact, the whole perfume becomes a blur by the start of the 3rd hour. At the same time, Mandarino di Amalfi loses much of its herbal profile, leaving a scent that is primarily a green citrus with soapiness, abstract florals, and cleanness. The neroli still feels as though you’ve pricked the rind of a green fruit, letting its bitter oils mix with the sweet juices, but it’s much hazier now in feel. More importantly, the first whisper of orange blossom stirs in the base. For now, it’s subtle, but it eventually seeps up by the start of the 5th hour, adding a sweeter, richer, almost romantic feel to neroli greenness. Mandarino di Amalfi feels significantly softer as a whole, both in body and sillage. The perfume hovers just a hair above the skin at the start of the third hour, then turns into a skin scent 40 minutes later.
Mandarino di Amalfi isn’t a very complex fragrance on my skin, and its core essence barely changes in the hours which follow. The most significant alteration is one for the better when the soapy clary sage finally gives up its tenacious hold at the start of the 5th hour, ending all herbal tonalities once and for all. The sense of white cleanness remains, but there is no longer a heavy streak of soapiness. At the same time, the orange blossom takes over as the neroli’s main companion.
From afar, Mandarino di Amalfi smells primary of clean, green citruses with floral sweetness. Up close, you can detect the two main notes more clearly, including a brighter, richer juiciness that has appeared in the background. The perfume is actually starting to take on more of a similarity to Neroli Portofino, minus the creaminess that the latter manifests on my skin. I’m also happy to report that the musk has lost its hairspray aroma, and has fully receded into the background. As a whole, Mandarino di Amalfi is a nice, simple, floral citrus fragrance with a very pretty orange blossom aroma and an enjoyable touch of green neroli. The perfume remains that way without any change until its very end, a little over 7.25 hours from the start.
I think there are good and bad sides to Mandarino di Amalfi. The intense soapiness of the clary sage on my skin was not my cup of tea, and was far more than what I usually encounter with the note. At the same time, I must say, the perfume’s moderate longevity surprised me, as it’s not stellar for a Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance, and, as you will see, other people experienced a scent that died even more quickly. On the other hand, the Mandarino di Amalfi’s drydown was very appealing, with a simple, easy, approachability that seems like it would work well for summer. It was fresh, soft, sweet, versatile, and wholly unisex in feel.
For all that I’m trying to be objective and fair, the really honest truth, however, is that Mandarino di Amalfi left me enormously underwhelmed. That is one reason why I’m dubious as to whether Mandarino di Amalfi is distinctive, original, or long-lasting enough to warrant the price that Tom Ford is asking. Mandarino di Amalfi costs $210 for a 50 ml bottle, no 100 ml bottle is offered, and the next size up is a gigantic 8.4 oz option that costs $520. Neroli Portofino is priced the same way, but there is a 30 ml option which costs only $135, and, more importantly, I think Neroli Portofino is a somewhat better fragrance.
On my skin, Neroli Portofino is brighter, sunnier, juicier, sweeter, and with a lovely creaminess in the base that appears from the start. It’s not such a significantly green scent, and there is no mintiness or herbaceousness either. In my opinion, there is no excessive white musk resembling hairspray, and substantially fewer soap suds. In all fairness, however, skin chemistry is going to play a role in how much of that you experience, though clary sage is known to be a soapy element that, in some fragrances, almost takes on a Noxema-like nuance. Still, putting aside the issue of the clary sage, I think Neroli Portofino is a richer, deeper scent with more body and nuance. It also has substantially better longevity on my skin as well. As a whole, I think it feels much more expensive, and not as faceless or generic, but, clearly, this is all highly subjective.
Mandarino di Amalfi has some definite pretty bits, especially from the middle stage onwards, but that is where it also starts to take on a closer similarity to Neroli Portofino. In fact, the drydown of the two fragrances is extremely similar on my skin, and I did a side-by-side to make sure. That said, it’s not a bad fragrance when taken as a whole. In fact, I think Mandarino di Amalfi is more appealing than the new Costa Azzurra which was a big disappointment after a really wonderful opening 15 minutes.
Mandarino di Amalfi has not yet been released, but there are some early reviews on Fragrantica. The response is generally positive, and most people seem to really like Mandarino di Amalfi, with a few calling it a “little gem” or a “masterpiece.” Others are underwhelmed, however, in part because they experienced some truly terrible longevity periods, averaging about 1-2 hours. One poster’s criticism is practically a treatise, and he says he’s someone who normally adores both the Private Blend line and Tom Ford as a whole. What is interesting is that even Mandarino di Amalfi’s admirers find it to be similar to other fragrances on the market — from Hermès Verte d’Orange to Creeds‘ Jardins d’Amalfi, and even an Issey Miyake flanker — and their comparisons underscore the fact that Mandarino di Amalfi is not exactly a distinctive, excitingly different fragrance.
A selection of the reviews:
- wow; I was blown away by how good this one smelled. I put it on my skin and still smell it 4 hours later so I am going to go back tomorrow and purchase it. I don’t really see the NP similarities as I think that one is highly overrated for a “private blend”. I am very critical of Tom Ford because I don’t think his stuff is anywhere near as good as the Creed lines he tries to compete with but this one is a masterpiece to me. [¶] It starts out very orange/lemon then fades into something a little floral and musky for about and hour then becomes this amazing citrusy green cologne. This reminds me of a much better Hermes Verte D’Orange; an updated better quality version I should say. I rarely ever spend full price on a perfume but I will def. do it for this little gem.
- I too saw the similarities with Hermes.., I will add this that it’s DNA is very very similar to that of Jardin D’Amalfi… For ME- it’s superior to Jardin D’Amalfi, but not quite the longevity….. There’s a note that I don’t see on the list of note breakdown, but I’m CERTAIN it’s in there: PINK BERRIES!!! And yes, this is a gorgeous fragrance
- Wow. If you like citrus it’s absolutely amazing! My wife loved it and wants it for herself. I think I could get away with wearing it on a hot day…it really is unisex. It’s a great scent, indeed.
- Didn’t like it but when I went back to work all the women were going crazy over it. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
One of the negative reviews pertains to the issue of an extreme overlap with Neroli Portofino, along with a mere 2 hours in longevity. The poster, “Pojoijosh,” describes himself as a huge fan of the Private Blend and Tom Ford line, but he found Mandarinio di Amalfi to be so uninspiring and dull that he rated it a 2 on an excitement scale of 1 to 10. His rather rambling critique boils down to the following:
Of the 2 new blends, this is the far more interesting one, and I’m using that `interesting ` adjective quite loosely, but sadly, that’s not saying too much because I was completely and entirely underwhelmed [….] the question that kept lingering in my mind (which I somewhat lost sleep over for a few days […] was… are these 2 new additions ‘really’ Private Blends, or are they Sears® Private Blends?
Take a slightly herbal edge of Tarragon and sprinkle it onto Neroli Portofino in the opening of this juice, and that’s exactly what Mandarino di Amalfi smells like, and the similarities between these 2 in their drydowns is so close (if not smelling exactly the same) that it would be utterly pointless to own both[….] Overall, longevity of Mandarino di Amalfi was a whole 2 hours, and I think that was even pushing it… […]
Another commentator experienced an equally brief period of time, calling both the sillage and longevity “far below par for what this scent costs.” “Spcmiller” writes:
I just received a decant of the two new Private Blends, and I find this one the most engaging. Let me just say that if I had to pick one word that sums up this scent it would be chaotic. Or perhaps misdirected. I don’t see the similarities to NP that everyone else is stating, and I own samples of both. MdA is a nice, clean (but definitely middle-of-the-road) citrus scent, and sadly that’s the extent of its charm. For being an EdP, its longevity and silage are both far below par for what this scent costs, and I was hard pressed to get more than an hour or so out of it. But lemme tell you: that hour was wonderful, but an experience I’ve lived before with scents that cost a fraction of this.
If you look at the votes for longevity and sillage on Fragrantica, Mandarino di Amalfi doesn’t score particularly well. For sillage, the vast majority (8) choose the weakest category at “soft,” while the longevity numbers come in at 5 for “poor,” 1 for “weak,” 1 for moderate, and then 4 for “long lasting.” In short, there seems to be uniform agreement that Mandarino di Amalfi has very low, intimate sillage, but more of a split on the issue of its duration.
If you enjoyed Neroli Portofino, I think you should try Mandarino di Amalfi for yourself. Skin chemistry will impact which notes are highlighted on your skin, so you may be spared the onslaught of soapiness that I initially encountered. However, while there are differences at the start which make Mandarino di Amalfi worth a test, I don’t know if they are significant enough by the end (let alone when you take both fragrances as a whole) to warrant getting Mandarino di Amalfi if you already own Neroli Portofino.