Francesca Bianchi‘s Sex and The Sea and its sibling Sex and The Sea Neroli are tales of two different days at or near the beach. Today, we’ll look at both and how they compare.
Soleil Blanc, the latest fragrance from Tom Ford, looks ahead to the golden days of summer, seeking to capture the feel and scent of languid moments at the beach. It is an eau de parfum that was released last week as a part of the Private Blend Collection, and it is described by Tom Ford and Neiman Marcus as follows:
Unexpected. Sultry. Addictive.
Remote private islands where summer lasts all year and one day seamlessly blends into the next inspire Soleil Blanc, an addictive solar floral amber alive with seductive refinement and refreshing decadence. TOM FORD’s latest private blend creation unapologetically exudes the endless pursuit of sun and luxury that defines TOM FORD Soleil.
Soleil Blanc opens on my skin with light, gauzy jasmine that is very clean, non-indolic, synthetic, and peppery. It’s the same sort of peppery jasmine as in Amouage‘s Opus IX, but the flower is significantly softer here, more shimmery, toned down, and diffuse. The pepperiness differs as well. Here, it feels like a side-effect of ISO E Super which has been used in the way that its creator, the fragrance and flavour company, IFF, originally intended the aromachemical to be used: as a super-floralizer and voluminizer. In short, it doesn’t feel like an actual pepper product or material, even if the effect is still the same. The ISO E-jasmine is also infused with other notes. Every inch of it drips with coconut cream which has been manipulated to intentionally replicate the precise scent of suntan lotion. (Not the oil, but the creamy milk variety.) White musk finishes things off, adding to the overall cleanness of the scent.
Soleil Blanc is an extremely linear scent that changes in tiny drips and dabs, moving so incrementally that one doesn’t almost realise the changes until the bouquet has suddenly veered into a different direction. For the first 2.5 hours, it blasts away without any subtlety as an amplified, loud, breezy, and immensely clean version of jasmine Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion.
Inch by inch, moment by moment, Soleil Blanc changes, first growing sweeter, then woodier before finally taking on a sense of vaguely golden warmth. Roughly 75-90 minutes in, vanilla rears its head, smelling like a sugary frothy confectionary thing that adds to the whole sense of “trashy fun” that I suspect Tom Ford was going for. (If he wasn’t and if he was truly seeking to create luxurious “refinement,” then he failed. Big time, in my opinion.) About 2.5 hours in, a streak of synthetic, clean woodiness awakens in the base and rapidly begins to climb upwards, smudging the jasmine’s petals first with a very fake, quasi-“sandalwood” aroma, then with something more akin to the cedar aspect of ISO E Super.
Perhaps it’s both because it’s become increasingly difficult to pull apart Soleil Blanc’s notes. They overlap completely, creating a blurry haze of peppery white floral coconut suntan lotion with soft, amorphous woods and sugary, vanillic musk. It’s almost as though the fragrance were a hybrid mash-up of the floral-oriental and floral woody musk genres. What I don’t like is a subtle nuance or whiff of something that I can’t describe properly: at times, it is a stale aroma that feels almost rancid, but not quite that. At other times, there is almost an oily sweat quality to the aroma, but it’s not really that either. It’s difficult to explain and the amorphous nature of the many synthetic notes makes it even more difficult to figure out the source, but I suspect it stems from the combination of the woody accord and the coconut cream going wrong on my skin.
Soleil Blanc shifts gears roughly 4.5 hours into its development when the drydown phase begins. In essence, the fragrance moves away from its floral-coconut focus into something less overtly tropical and more nebulously golden in feel. I wouldn’t call the new bouquet “ambered” in the proper, technical sense of the term and it’s certainly nothing that is clearly delineated or dark, but there is a hazy sense of warmth that now wafts about. I think the scent is meant to parallel the end of a long day at the beach when the sun is setting, there are lingering traces of suntan oil on your skin, there is the vaguest sense of tropical flowers in the furthest distance, and everything feels softly golden.
Where Tom Ford’s interpretation differs from reality is that there is nothing aquatic or salty about Soleil Blanc but, rather, a strong sweetness instead. In fact, the sugary white musk increasingly becomes the main focal point of the fragrance. Sometimes, it bears nuances of something nebulously vanillic; sometimes, it’s laced with woodiness instead. Most of the time, though, it’s simply sweet, clean musk that is abstractly golden and warm in feel. In its final hours, all that’s left is a golden sweetness.
Soleil Blanc had good longevity, good projection, and massive sillage. Using several generous smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with 4-5 inches of projection but the scent trail extended half an arm’s length before it grew even further, expanding to about a foot and a half. You might want to keep in mind that my skin tends to amplify the sillage of fragrances with a lot of ISO E Super and white musk. (That is, in fact, one of their purposes.) After 2.5 hours, Soleil Blanc’s projection was 3 inches and the sillage at about a foot. At the start of the 4th hour, the numbers became an inch and 6 inches, respectively. Soleil Blanc only became a true skin scent on me after 6.75 hours. Given the fragrance’s loudness and sillage, I was surprised that it only lasted 10.5 hours in total. I had expected more, but it seemed to splutter out towards the end on my skin. People on Fragrantica, however, rank the scent as “very long-lasting” in the early ratings for that category.
Soleil Blanc was just released but there are a handful of reviews on Fragrantica already. In a nutshell, the 3 comments range from ambivalent to negative. One person didn’t find Soleil Blanc to be distinctive or original, merely a sweeter variation on a theme that Tom Ford has already explored in a number of his recent releases. They’d been told by a salesperson that Soleil Blanc had “pistachio” as a note, but they didn’t detect that and neither did I. All they smelt was a creamy floral blend with a nougat-like sweetness. A second Fragrantica commentator was flatly unenthused by how Soleil Blanc was “a smooth, coconuty, flowery, musky fragrance.” A third was “really disappointed” not to experience any real amber, merely “a floral powder puff.” They also thought the scent was the furthest thing from unisex and was purely feminine in nature.
I agree that Soleil Blanc is a feminine scent, but I think it will probably appeal quite a bit to women who like very sweet, summery, mainstream, commercial florals. It’s the sort of scent that is bound to be deemed as “trashy fun” by some, even if Tom Ford claims it is actually a high-browed, refined, and luxury take on the summery genre.
It’s not, and that is one of Soleil Blanc’s big problems in my opinion. I enjoy coconut-y, beachy fragrances as an occasional indulgence, but this one simply lacks the quality to to warrant the Private Blend pricing scheme. Tom Ford has increased the starting price for the smallest size to $220, and nothing about Soleil Blanc merits that amount in my eyes. Its maelstrom of synthetics and cloying sweetness doesn’t smell all that refined, elevated, or high in quality. Instead, it smells like a basic mainstream designer scent, the sort of thing that belongs on the Sephora or Macy’s shelf next to Marc Jacobs Honey or the beachy Estée Lauders of Tom Ford’s parent company. It would work well as part of Tom Ford’s regular line as a summery companion to his other immensely sweet, very feminine florals like Noir Pour Femme and Velvet Orchid, although I think that Soleil Blanc is much cheaper in feel than the latter. In short, I find it extremely over-priced for what it is.
I disliked Soleil Blanc immensely. It was painfully synthetic, painfully sweet, and boring as hell. Even if it were a fraction of the price, I wouldn’t want it on my skin. I never once thought it rose to the level of “trashy fun.” Instead, I found it as interesting as watching paint dry. If Soleil Blanc had committed fully to the whole beach thing through a really rich, luxurious, and high-quality coconut note, then paired it with saltiness, good-quality Tahitian tiaré, expensive vanilla, and subtle aquatics, it actually might have been a “fun” beach scent. But that’s not what happened.
If you’re looking for a feminine, sweet, summery floral, you may want to try Soleil Blanc for yourself. For me, though, it’s a definite and absolute pass.