Bitter Peach and Rose Prick are the newest additions to Tom Ford‘s Private Blend collection. Bitter Peach was simultaneously exactly what I had expected it to be and, yet, also less than. You see, I had some happy expectations because I really do enjoy a good, juicy peach, but I’ve also long learnt to temper my expectations with fragrances from his house over the last five or six years. Bitter Peach essentially falls exactly where I thought it would. Rose Prick, however, surprised me a little because my expectations going in were minimal to negative, especially as I’m not a rose fan. Since I expected to hate it, it’s probably not surprising that I thought it was better than expected.
Be that as it may, there are several reasons why I don’t think either fragrance is worth buying, not unless you have money to burn and are truly obsessed with the largely simplistic bouquets that, throughout their development, are generally dominated by only a two or three notes.
Bitter Peach is an eau de parfum that was released in October 2020 and is described as follows:
A voluptuous lure, Tom Ford Bitter Peach captures nectar-filled flesh at its luscious, bursting peak, where sweet turns suggestive – and addiction is inescapable.
Intoxicating Pêche de Vigne and Sicilian Blood Orange Oil release the slick sweetness of Bitter Peach at its luscious peak. A sensual heart is revealed through rum-infused Davana Oil, while a surge of Patchouli lures senses to the furthest reaches of inner sensuality and abandon. Presented in a flacon designed with an opaque inner lacquering and an exquisitely tinted translucent outer layer to provide depth and dimension. The hue was inspired by the array of shades at the peach’s luscious center, and vintage colored glass.
Peche de Vigne Accord, Blood Orange Oil, Davana Oil, Labdanum Absolute, Patchouli Oil Indonesia, Sandalwood Oil New Calendonia.
However, the note list at Parfumo and Fragrantica is considerably longer and its inclusion of certain materials, like cashmeran, tonka, and liqueurs, are slightly more in line what I smelled on my skin:
Top notes are Peach, Blood Orange, Cardamom and Heliotrope; middle notes are Rum, Cognac, Davana and Jasmine; base notes are Indonesian Patchouli Leaf, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Cashmeran, Styrax, Benzoin, Labdanum and Vetiver.
Bitter Peach opens on my skin with the eponymous fruit: fresh but also candied sweet, syrupy, and just a wee bit bitter. The latter is a little elusive on my skin during the first 20 minutes because it is largely overwhelmed by the sweetness which, on occasion, verges on the scent of canned peaches drenched in syrup.
In addition, those peaches are also immensely boozy, thanks to the combination of rum and davana which results in the aroma of apricots and a rum-apricot-orange fruity liqueur. What’s unexpected is that the peach accord fuses with the davana to go a step beyond their individual components and to create an impression of a lush, succulent fruit cocktail with delectable, tangy mangoes, both the green and orange varietals.
Lurking below the syrupy peach, the heady apricot liqueur, and the slightly tart mangoes is a woody undercurrent. It has a slight but definite synthetic twang when only a light dose of Bitter Peach is applied. However, a larger application hides it under an even greater, more powerful wave of boozy, peach-dominated, mixed fruit cocktail aromas.
Roughly 20 minutes into Bitter Peach’s development, the patchouli emerges in a distinct and individual fashion. It smells far more of red-berried and purple fruitchouli to me than the Indonesian patchouli one that typically finds in niche fragrances, like, for example, Farmacia SS Annunziata‘s oily, dark, diesel-like, hardcore, and wholly unfruited Patchouly Indonesiano.
Actually, I’ve never encountered any natural patchouli raw material or varietal from any area that smells primarily of sweet red or purple fruits— not unless it’s a synthetic fruitchouli accord with raspberry ketones— so I’m taking Tom Ford’s allegation of “Indonesian patchouli” with a pinch of salt. Whatever is going on here is either wholly synthetic or a mixed-natural-synthetic accord where the patchouli has been double- or triple-filtered to remove all the more traditional, typical patchouli facets, those “impurities” than modern non-Patch-heads cannot stand but which are the very reason why people like me fall for the note.
My real issue with Bitter Peach’s patchouli is that it smells far too much like the chocolate-purple-praline-candied patchouli in Mugler‘s Angel. Yes, I said Angel, that notorious fragrance which leaves people highly polarized and, sometimes, even a bit traumatized since it seems to last an eternity on the skin and is inescapable. As I mention further below, a good portion of the Bitter Peach reviews on Fragrantica center on just how much Bitter Peach does or does not smell like an identical copy or close sibling to Angel.
Personally, I don’t think Bitter Peach is Angel 2.0 in virtually identical form. For one thing, Angel wasn’t a peach-driven scent and Bitter Peach most definitely is for half of its lifespan. Also, Angel was heavy on the vanilla, in my experience, and Bitter Peach is not. That said, I wholly agree that Angel had a strong fruited character as well and that one common ingredient, the patchouli, smells absolutely identical in both fragrances. In fact, just as in Angel, Bitter Peach’s praline-chocolate-fruitchouli-berried-woody patchouli is strong and central to the core bouquet, so much so that Bitter Peach would probably be a no-go for those who despise Angel. (I took a poll on Twitter once about people’s feelings regarding Angel and the overwhelming response was negative. Those people would, I suspect, struggle with Bitter Peach.)
The Angel-like patchouli serves to amplify Bitter Peach’s fruited side (via fruitchouli) as well as the booziness which, this time, takes on a cognac-like quality that is quite separate from the apricot and mango-orange rum. More importantly, the way that the patchouli infuses the peachy fruit cocktail with a chocolate-y, woody filter creates something that is exceedingly familiar beyond the Angel-esque patchouli. I can’t put my finger on it, though. All I can say is, if the peach were not such a dominant, driving force, I would swear that I’ve smelled the boozy davana and mango fruit cocktail somewhere else before.
Bitter Peach’s changes and stages can essentially be summed up as shifts in emphasis from the fruity to the woody to the clean woody musk spectrum. For example, at the start of the second hour, the focus shifts away from a boozy peach-dominated fruit cocktail infused with secondary fruitchouli and Angel patchouli traits into a co-equal blend of the two that is laced with growing woodiness. The woody undercurrents are dry, and become more so as time passes, but the fragrance is still very syrupy, liqueured, and sweet at this stage. The peach’s minor touch of bitterness has vanished on my skin along with the green mango note, but the rum and the davana’s apricot undertones remain.
By the middle of the fourth hour, sandalwood, vanilla, and tonka join the mix and the shift in emphasis moves even further to the woody side, resulting in what is now primarily a creamy, vanillic, woody fragrance with wisps of fruitiness and booze dancing quietly throughout. The peach is no longer a primary or significant force on my skin. Instead, it feels increasingly abstract, sheer, amorphous, and soft, a sort of olfactory fuzzy blur of apricot-ish peachy-ish fruitiness rather than the solid, overt, overpowering, and singular peach of the first stage. Moreover, at this point all the notes are seamlessly and harmoniously blended so that one slides into another and each is harder to separate.
The sixth hour marks the advent of something quite new: cashmeran. It smells clean and creamy, but also adds a faintly soapy white musk quality. It fuses with the sandalwood, patchouli, tonka, and peach remnants to create a wholly blurry, soft, clean, fuzzy woody musk scent where peachy-ish creaminess lies within a sheath of clean white woods before being speckled with a few miniscule droplets of spiced rum or cognac.
Bitter Peach continues its eastward progression with another shift in emphasis roughly 8.25 hours into its development. It is now dominated primarily by woodiness, then musk and cream. To be specific, Bitter Peach smells of: dry, smoky, woody patchouli with creamy sandalwood flecked with some indeterminate spices (a hint of cardamom), all lying atop a creamy soft base of clean cashmeran woody musk and fluffy, creamy, vanilla-laced tonka.
The drydown which begins roughly around the 11th hour is simply a further dissolution of these notes. In essence, the fragrance is a blur, mostly of tonka-ish creamy softness imbued with synthetic clean, white, woody cashmeran musk and an amorphous clean beige woodiness.
Bitter Peach had good longevity and good sillage that was initially quite powerful even with a small dose. I suspect aerosolization and using a greater quantity that I applied would probably double my numbers. I used several generous smears from a dab vial amounting to two small spritzes but I also tested Bitter Peach with the equivalent of one spray from a bottle. In both cases, the sillage and cloud around me were initially pretty big; the cloud felt simultaneously airy, tenacious, potent, and a little overpowering during the first 30-60 minutes. It dropped and diffused to better levels from the 2nd hour onwards.
Depending on whether I applied the equivalent of one spray or two, certain numbers and development stages changed. For example: The actual projection off my arm spanned between 4-6 inches in the first 20 minutes, depending on how much scent I applied; the fragrance grew softer, sheerer, and quieter towards the start of the 4th hour; and Bitter Peach became a full skin scent near the start of the 8th hour, though it was still easy to smell up close if I put my nose right on my arm. As for the drydown, it started, roughly, 8.25 and 10 hours into Bitter Peach’s development, respectively. The overall longevity numbers similarly depended on the size of my application. As a whole, Bitter Peach lasted a minimum of 12 hours, going up to 14 hours with a larger dosage.
On Fragrantica, the reviews focus primarily on two separate issues: The fragrance’s price; and whether Bitter Peach resembles Angel and, if so, to what extent. I’ll get to the price issue for both new Tom Ford releases at the end of this review and will let you read Fragrantica or look up additional reviews on your own later, if you’re interested, because I would now like to move on to Rose Prick.
Rose Prick is also an eau de parfum that was released in 2020. Yes, the name is provocative, but I’m not going to play into Tom Ford’s endless, desperate need for attention via deliberately risqué, sexualized innuendos. It’s too damn boring and juvenile at this point and, frankly, does any real perfumista over the tittering age of 14 really care or really choose a fragrance because of some idiotic, sophomoric pun? (To be fair to Tom Ford, it’s a marketing recipe that has worked wonders for him, his Estee Lauder overlord, and their bottom line, but you’re smarter and savvier than fashionista TF lemmings.)
So let’s move onto Rose Prick’s description, which is as follows:
PETALS. THORNS. Inspired by Tom Ford’s private rose garden, Rose Prick is a wild bouquet of beautiful breeds of rose- Rose de Mai, Turkish and Bulgarian. Sharp and pristine, the piercing prickles of the stems hook onto each other, bonding their blooms in pink perfection. A rose by any other name, wouldn’t be Tom Ford.
The official note list is:
Bulgarian Rose, Turmeric Extract, Indonesian Patchouli, Sichuan Pepper, Roasted Tonka, and Tolu Balsam.
Rose Prick opens on my skin with a syrupy, somewhat metallic rose dunked in pink berried fruitchouli atop a sliver of dry woods. Hints of clean soap bubbles weave in and out of the background, while flickers of vaguely green and somewhat honeyed aromas dance around the foreground. To my surprise, the fruitchouli calms down quickly and within minutes, leaving a photorealistic rose soliflore that is fresh, sweet, honeyed, fruity, minutely woody, and minutely green. Those olfactory facets help to replicate various undertones of a real rose blooming in a garden, but let me make it clear that they are tonalities that add mere flesh, hue, and nuance without ever sharing center stage with the star of the show. To put it quite bluntly, there is a tunnel vision approach to the layering of notes or aromas and they’re all in service to a single laser-sharp thesis: the rose garden of Tom Ford’s description.
What surprises me and was unexpected is how the scent mentally transports me back to the old Laura Ashley shops of the ’80s. Part of it is because there is a very “English rose” quality to the scent, though I wouldn’t say that it is, per se, purely old-fashioned. It certainly isn’t identical to the old, classic Tea Rose fragrance; Rose Prick is much sweeter, richer, and significantly fruitier than that once legendary old drugstore scent.
That said, something about Rose Prick during this opening stage feels more than just a nostalgic nod to the past. It’s actually a highly classique type of composition in its cleanness, sweetness, freshness, and extremely singular focus. Maybe it is the intensely girlie quality or feel that it evokes for me in its opening stage. Or maybe it is due to the fact that heavily stripped down, one-note rose soliflores devoid of either darkness or oud are not as common in the modern era as they were in the ’70s and ’80s. Perhaps my perceptions are skewed because I’m not a rose lover, but it seems to me that, in today’s market, roses are predominantly found in oriental compositions or in mixed floral bouquets. While there are mono-rose soliflores that fall outside both categories — like, for example, Maison Francis Kurkdjian‘s A La Rose— Rose Prick on my skin doesn’t closely resemble those outliers either. Serge Lutens‘ Sa Majesté La Rose mashed up with Tea Rose and the rose in YSL‘s vintage Paris would be a closer fit, but that’s not the exact bouquet here, either. (In addition, Bitter Peach swivels sharply away from being a mono-rose as it develops.)
I can only say two things about this opening stage and initial bouquet: 1) in its heart of hearts, Rose Prick is a sweeter, modernized upgrade of Tea Rose, Paris, or old Laura Ashley rose soliflores from the ’70s and ’80s; and 2) you should not expect a rose like the one in Tom Ford’s beefy, meaty, dark, sultry Noir de Noir or his Café Rose. Similarly, the scent is also nothing like Serge Lutens‘ Rose de Nuit, Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, or the dark, concentrated Arab rose in soliflore attars like Amouage‘s Homage or Al Haramain‘s Mukhallath Seufi.
Perhaps the best way I can convey the feel of Rose Prick’s rose during its initial, opening phase is a comparison to famous people. Rose Prick is Lady Diana in her fresh-faced, sweet Sloane Ranger teenage years, while something like Noir de Noir, Homage, Mukhallath Seufi, or even Areej Le Doré‘s Malik Al Taif are Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé rolled up in one.
Rose Prick shifts somewhat in its accompanying nuances or undertones after 20 minutes. It becomes a mono-rose soliflore laced with equal parts spice, soap, woods, freshness, sweetness, and fruitiness. The patchouli now smells as much of dry woods as it does red, pink, and purple fruitchouli berries. It’s joined by flashes of: cinnamon; pepper; lemon; soapy, clean, fresh white musk; violets; honey; and possibly a geranium rose greenness.
At this point, it might be useful to briefly mention a few of Rose Prick’s raw material ingredients because they reveal more than the nutshell official note list and explain more clearly what is going on, nuance wise, beyond just the rose. In the most simplistic terms, here are the aromas at play in Rose Prick’s nuances and the ingredients that create them:
- Geraniol (sweet, fruity rose-like with a touch of greenness; sometimes smells like geranium rose or rose geranium oil),
- Linalool (citrusy floral aroma),
- Limonene (orange citrus),
- Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone (a violet-y, orris aroma),
- Benzyl Cinnamate (spicy balsam woods),
- Citronellol (a floral, waxy, rose scent derived from fractionation of geranium essential oil),
- Cinnamyl Alcohol (sweet, balsamic, hyacinth, spicy, green, powdery, cinnamic),
- Citral (lemon), and
- Cinnamal (spicy, sweet, vanillic, cinnamic).
These accompanying elements weave in and out in equal measures, never detracting from the rose heart but, instead, accentuating different facets of a rose growing in nature. Think of them like decorative details on a simple pink dress because, for all that I mention these subtexts, the bottom line really is a monolithic rose with little else beyond surface prettiness. And it is pretty, even if it’s not the most riveting or revolutionary scent in history.
Roughly 75 minutes in, Rose Prick abruptly changes and the second stage begins. Suddenly, it’s no longer a classique, ’70s or ’80s skewing, Lady Diana English rose soliflore but is instead a far more oriental scent with a binary focus. Rose Prick is now almost as woody as it is rosy, laced with pepperiness and a hint of spice in addition to all the prior accompaniments. That said, I still think that the fragrance feels overly simplified because it is largely just a woody, spicy, peppery rose soliflore.
There isn’t a lot that happens during Rose Prick’s second stage. There are fluctuating degrees of spiciness as well as a metallic and peppery note which occasionally tips into ISO E Super territory but it’s mild and it doesn’t smell of antiseptic or hospital rubbing alcohol. Instead, it typically remains as something faintly silvered, metallic, cold, dry, cedar-y, and peppered under the warmth and girlie sweetness of syrupy pink-berried fruitchouli, spices, woods, and honeyed, fresh, clean, lemon-tinged roses in bloom. Rose Prick remains that way for quite a while, though it does grow drier, softer, and more amorphous from the 3.25 hour mark onwards.
It is only at the start of the 6th hour —which is when the third stage begins— that Rose Prick changes significantly. In essence, the triangular note pyramid is inverted such that the woods are shrouding and dominating the rose. To be precise, Rose Prick is now a rosy-infused woody scent layered with pepper, spice, ISO E-like clean cedar, and fruitchouli berried sweetness. To put it in a way that parallels Tom Ford’s product description, the woody stem and thorns have overtaken the flower’s petals and heart.
One of the things to note during this third stage is that Rose Prick is now sweet-dry in feel, because the woods have cut through much of the syrup. In addition, the rose is now an increasingly amorphous, sheer abstraction that is layered within the primary notes.
Rose Prick’s drydown begins roughly around the middle of the 8th hour on my skin. In essence, it’s simply a floral woody musk, with the emphasis on the woody part of the equation. It has a textural softness, almost velvety in quality, which I assume stems from the roasted tonka mixed with Tolu balsam, a lovely, vanillic, lightly spicy and balsamic woody material. This part is very pretty, but I’m a little less enthused by the ISO E-like clean, pencil-shavings cedary musk. (I should mention, there is something that smells like Cashmeran here too, but then both Cashmeran and ISO E Super overlap in smelling of clean, fresh, woody musk, so who knows?) All I can say is that there is a clean, cedary, dry patchouli woodiness laced with pepper and a largely abstract, slightly metallic, sweet floralcy that hints at being a rose.
As a whole, the bouquet during the end hours is banal and inconsequential, as if little heed or care was paid to the fragrance’s finish because the opening “Ooomph” and hook are what’s needed to drag susceptible people in for an impulsive purchase when sniffing at a store. (Yes, I’m being snide, but the big brands’ indifference to drydowns —both in big niche companies and mainstream luxury designer companies— drives me a little nuts.)
Rose Prick’s final hours are even more insignificant. If I hadn’t written down notes, I wouldn’t have recalled anything about it. There is a clean, dry-sweet woody musk, something vaguely vanillic, and a touch of vanillic sweet powder (tonka), and that’s about it. It’s as interesting as watching paint dry.
Rose Prick has good longevity, initially good sillage that turns moderate and soft sooner than I had expected, and somewhat low projection. During the first 15 minutes, Rose Prick wafted a soft, airy cloud that was also, somewhat paradoxically, strong, tenacious, sweet, and with fairly good projection. Several wide smears from a vial resulted in 4 inches of projection off the arm and roughly 10 inches of sillage around me. However, the sillage and projection drop several inches after 75 minutes, which is roughly when the second stage begins. Roughly 3.5 hours in, the projection is a mere inch from my arm, while the sillage is soft, discreet, and close to the body. Rose Prick turns into a skin scent on me roughly at the end of the 7th hour. However, it’s not difficult to detect at this point if I put my nose right on my skin. In total, Rose Prick lasted roughly 13.5 hours with several broad smears equal to two small sprays from a bottle.
To read other people’s opinions about Rose Prick, you can turn to Parfumo or Fragrantica. To be frank, the reviews and descriptions are all over the place, from people calling it a “retro clean rose,” a “smutty rose,” a “peppery rose,” and others being clearly influenced by the marketing to focus on practically Freudian sexual symbolism via olfaction. Separate from that, I’ve seen comments on multiple sites opining that Rose Prick skews masculine while others say it skews wholly feminine. One of the few constants in all the comments regardless of site is disbelief or eye-rolling about Rose Prick’s price which, like Bitter Peach, is $350 for the very smallest size (1.7 oz./50 ml). I’ll leave you to read the reviews if you’re interested because I’d like to take a step back now and view both Bitter Peach and Rose Prick from a broader perspective.
ALL IN ALL:
Let me be clear about one thing at the outset: both Bitter Peach and Rose Prick are perfectly decent fragrances with a seamless, harmonious construction and several points of appeal during their development.
HOWEVER, having said that, there is a ridiculously lopsided ratio at play here. If there were such a thing as a creativity and complexity to price ratio, both fragrances would be batting a 1 to 35. To put it another way, Tom Ford is asking Rolls-Royce prices for a nice, solid Honda or Nissan.
There is a point at which there is little use in repeating the same thing about mass prestige or aspirational luxury designer companies. I should probably just create a template paragraph about the ridiculousness of the pricing for the simplistic scents in question and keep posting it in many of my reviews. Even so, I must say, I think Tom Ford is off his rocker these days.
It’s not so much these two fragrances, per se, as the incredible rise in his prices every year in general, to the point where he far exceeds comparable or even more famous luxury designers. Take for example, if you will, Chanel’s Exclusifs: the very smallest size — which is much larger than Tom Ford’s smallest 1.7 oz./50 ml size— is a 2.5 oz. bottle that costs $200. You know what costs $350 like the 1.7 oz. Bitter Peach or Rose Prick? A gigantic 6.8 oz. bottle! Please do not tell me that Tom Ford is more prestigious than Chanel, particularly when these two newest fragrances evoke comparisons to drugstore or designer scents like Mugler’s Angel, Tea Rose, or Laura Ashley.
Something is very wrong here and it is an industry-wide problem that, in my opinion, has infected the prestige sector as much as, or perhaps even more than, the big luxury niche brands. The prices are simply not commensurate with the fragrances in question.
I believe that there is a paradoxical thing happening in the creativity to price ratio for many of these bigger brands: the higher the price, the more the company wants the fragrance to be familiar, unchallenging, and approachable. They’re reaping the benefits of an aspirational Kardashian and Instagram culture where pretty bottles, sexy or sexualized marketing, and astronomically insane prices for a really approachable, uncomplicated scent will hook the largest number of people, particularly the Instagram and Vogue fashionistas whose noses may not be particularly developed and who care only about bragging-rights cache. Creating a challengingly unusual, creative, or original fragrance would pose a stumbling block to engaging this audience.
Am I a little bitter and grumpy in my view of Tom Ford and this entire industry trend? Yes, absolutely. This is the sort of crap that put me off smelling new releases for a long time, along with the greed that has infected niche and led to many of new brands trying to jump on the profitable bandwagon with an emphasis on luxury and marketing over any actual creativity in composition. (Orlov Paris, I’m looking straight at you with your diamonds in the bottles and your generic, redundant, wholly mainstream compositions that smell like La Vie Est Belle or some banal $80 Macy’s scent. Unfortunately, you’re hardly the only niche culprit.)
While it’s true that prices exceeded olfactory originality or creativity long ago, in my opinion $350 for the smallest size of a largely two-note fragrance simply beggars belief. I have spent that amount on a fragrance before, so it’s not as though I’m miserly, but I insist on complexity, a scent that grabs you from the very beginning all the way through to the end, and assiduous care given to every phase, including the typically overlooked drydown. None of that applies to either Bitter Peach or Rose Prick.
Quite separate from all that, I’m frustrated at how Tom Ford keeps disappointing me and shattering my hopes over the last five years. I’ve thought for a while now that he’s given up his earlier, hands-on approach to fragrance development and composition, because the Tom Ford who created YSL‘s legendary M7 and the complex, interesting, or original early Private Blends is not the Tom Ford of recent years. For much of the last five years, the releases feel like fragrances from a different house, one which has given up, become fat and complacent, and is resting on old glories, new marketing provocations, and Kardashian-esque lifestyle aspirations in order to maximize profits.
In short, Tom Ford continues to be, to quote an old American cowboy expression, “all hat, no cattle.”