Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Rive d’Ambre (Atelier d’Orient Collection)

Tom Ford Rive d'Ambre 50 ml

Source: Harvey Nichols.

Bright citruses turned to softened amber gauziness. That’s the essence of Rive d’Ambre, the latest Private Blend fragrance from Tom Ford. It is part of a brand-new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line, and was just released in July 2013. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient, and consists of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre.

None of the new Atelier d’Orient fragrances are listed yet on Tom Ford’s website, but, according to the Moodie Report and press copy, Tom Ford’s inspiration for Rive d’Ambre was the way that “precious citrus fruits” are a “talisman of good fortune in Asia[.]” As Ford apparently told the Moodie Report:

Source: -

Source: –

‘Rive d’Ambre is inspired by the tradition of presenting precious citrus fruits as gifts,” revealed Ford. “True to my nature, the sparkling fruits are wrapped in rich and warm sensuality.’

That last bit of egoism made me roll my eyes, as did the press copy used by Neiman Marcus for its description of Rive d’Ambre: “Tom Ford Rive d’Ambre is a golden-toned eau de cologne with a veil of colonial elegance.” Colonial elegance? I’m not going to touch that one with a ten-foot pole, but my thoughts are slightly sardonic. 

Rive d’Ambre is an eau de parfum that was created by Olivier Gillotin of Givaudan, and its notes — as compiled from Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance — include:

bergamot, lemon, bitter orange, tarragon, cardamom, spearmint, benzoin, pear wood, cognac, tolu balsam and amber.

Rive d’Ambre opens on my skin with a burst of freshly squeezed lemon and bergamot, followed by squirts of slightly bitter oil from the skin of a zested orange that is tart, sweet and bright, all at once. There is also a ton of pepper from ISO E Super, and a hint of some fresh, green herbs that only faintly and vaguely resemble tarragon. Rive d’Ambre has the brisk, very fresh, clear-as-a-bell opening of a citrus cologne that has been modernized to remove any barbershop nuances. The crispness is beautifully bright and refreshing.



It takes less than three minutes for Rive d’Ambre to start to soften, and for its edges to start to blur. The fragrance never had a roar to begin with, but it’s turned into a very muted, quiet meow in an astonishingly brief amount of time. In fact, it felt as though the notes were slipping away, out of my grasp, and vanishing into the air, so I actually applied a second dose, for about 4 very large smears, all in all. The same result ensued, even with the greater quantity. Clearly, Rive d’Ambre is meant to be a muted, discreet hint on your skin, and nothing more. Fifteen minutes in, Rive d’Ambre is a soft haze of citruses that are starting to grow warmer, sweeter, and more golden. The fragrance now feels less like a crisp cologne, and more like a slightly ambered eau de toilette strongly infused with citruses. It’s pretty, but it’s also neither very distinctive, nor very original. 

Bergamot. Source:

Bergamot. Source:

At the end of the first hour, Rive d’Ambre starts to change. From a distance, the fragrance still smells like citruses with a soft, warm glow. Up close, however, if you really, really inhale forcefully at your arm, you can detect a slight woodiness stirring at the base. There is also a really beautiful herbal note that sometimes resembles spearmint, and, at other time, a more pure, sweet, herbal mint. It’s one of my favorite parts, especially given the strong lingering taint of ISO E Super in the fragrance. Eventually, a new note appears in the base, though it’s as soft and muted as everything else to do with Rive d’Ambre. It’s a hint of dry, but boozy, sweetness that just barely suggests cognac.

Mark Rothko, "No. 14-10 Yellow Greens," 1953.

Mark Rothko, “No. 14-10 Yellow Greens,” 1953.

Unfortunately, shortly before the two-hour mark, Rive d’Ambre basically collapses in on itself. The fragrance feels totally flat; the notes have dissolved into an empty, hollow shell of themselves; and everything feels muffled, muted, and hidden. Rive d’Ambre is now primarily an amorphous, abstract hint of flat citruses with dry woodiness atop a sweetened, warm base. By the end of the third hour, the base becomes sweeter with the infusion of the tolu balsam resin, creating a fragrance that is primarily rich amber at the top. A hint of cognac dryness trails a few feet behind, and a whisper of citrus brings up the rear. An hour later, the citrus disappears entirely, and Rive d’Ambre quietly emits amber, a dry woodiness, a hint of sweetness, and an absolutely gorgeous whiff of cognac. The latter is simultaneously dry, and with a tiny subtext of smokiness. The overall combination results in a very pretty drydown that is actually a wee more complex than the early stage of Rive d’Ambre had led me to expect.

Still, the fragrance feels a lot like a will o’ the wisp at times. It’s an airy gauze that’s so sheer, thin, and soft, you have to forcibly sniff with your nose right on your skin to detect anything more than a nebulous “amber.” At its very end, in its final moments, Rive d’Ambre truly is nothing more than an abstract blur. All in all, Rive d’Ambre lasted just shy of 6.75 hours on my skin, but with the use of a double dose. Others have reported 3 or 4 hours in duration, which wouldn’t surprise me at all. If I’d applied my regular dose, I doubt I would have been able to detect any detailed layers to the scent, or that it would have lasted above 3 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It’s a problem for a fragrance with such a high price tag, and it’s one that isn’t limited solely to me.

For the most part, the reaction to Rive d’Ambre seems very short on enthusiasm. On Basenotes, one person entitled his review, “A one-trick citrus pony with little reason to exist.” Another wrote: “very light and non descript and does not last. A poor effort.” Over on Fragrantica, one commentator enjoyed the first hour of Rive d’Ambre but found it quickly “falls off a cliff for me[.]” I’m not sure if that refers to the flatness of the notes or to the longevity issue, given that he also complained about how quickly Rive d’Ambre disappeared on him even with a very “liberal” application in quantity. Interestingly, two people on Fragrantica thought there was little to no amber at all in the fragrance! I suspect that those whose skin chemistry amplifies base notes will detect more amber, while those whose skin intensifies the top notes in a fragrance will have primarily a citric experience.



If one were in PR, one might positively describe Rive d’Ambre as a bright, warm, citrusy glow. It would be technically correct, but it would also be an extremely good spin on things. Which brings me to my main point about Rive d’Ambre. I think those used to Tom Ford’s signature style in such Private Blends as Tobacco Vanille, Oud Wood, Amber Absolute, and some others will find Rive d’Ambre to be a mundane, generic, unoriginal dullard without character and oomph.

However, in my opinion, Tom Ford is not aiming Rive d’Ambre at them or at me, but at people who actually dislike his usual style. A friend and fellow blogger, The Black Narcissus, lives in Japan, and he told me that the Japanese would never abide the usual Tom Ford heaviness or drama. It seems that some in the Asian market find the usual Tom Ford signature to be overbearing, excessively heavy, and overly oriental or spicy. Being the good businessman that he is, Tom Ford is targeting a very wealthy market that loves luxury goods by offering something more appealing, though I wonder how they’d feel about the PR copy’s reference to “colonial elegance.” Still, it doesn’t hurt that his muted, tamed, conventional fragrance will also appeal to buyers everywhere who appreciate some freshness in their fragrances. For example, in that Basenotes thread, one person actually adores the “unique brightness” of Rive d’Ambre, while another likes how it is a fresher, lighter interpretation of an amber. I can see the appeal of that last point for those who aren’t hardcore amber lovers.

In short, Rive d’Ambre isn’t a terrible fragrance by any means, but what you think of it will depend purely on your expectations and taste. That’s true of all fragrances, but it’s perhaps more true of Rive d’Ambre than most, given its extremely simplicity, lack of body, and muted unobtrusiveness. This is a perfume for people who prefer fresher, more discreet, wispy, gauzy fragrances. It is an utterly safe, conventional, but bright, initially zesty, very crisp citrus that turns into ambered warmth, thereby feeling unisex and avoiding the impression of a traditional men’s cologne. It’s not my style or my taste, but it’s ideal for a specific group of people out there. That said, I think the longevity issue will be a problem for everyone. The reports seem to be consistent: even if you apply a lot, the fragrance will disappear far sooner than you’d expect.

Whether Rive d’Ambre is ridiculously over-priced for what it is then becomes a question of taste. I personally think Rive d’Ambre is absurdly expensive for such a simple, unoriginal, short-lived fragrance, but then, I’m not one whose idea of a perfect scent involves bergamot, lemon, and some amber. So, for me, it’s a total pass. Nonetheless, if you’re a citrus lover who has disliked Tom Ford’s usual brash, bold, or intense style, or if you’re someone struggles with more traditionally heavy ambers, then perhaps Rive d’Ambre will be your version of Goldilocks’ perfume. 

Cost & Availability: Private Blend Rive d’Ambre is an eau de parfum which comes in three sizes that cost: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; or $520 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. The line is not yet listed on the Tom Ford websiteIn the U.S.: you can find Rive d’Ambre at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Neither Nordstrom nor Saks has new collection up on their website yet. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I believe Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they only list 2 of the old fragrances on their online website. In the UK, you can find Rive d’Ambre at Harrods, House of Fraser, or Selfridges. All three stores sell the small 1.7 oz/50 ml size for £140.00, and the super-large 250 ml bottle for £320.00. The smaller size is also carried at Harvey Nichols. In France, Rive d’Ambre is available at Premiere Avenue which sells the 50 ml bottle for €180. They ship throughout Europe, and I believe they might ship world-wide but I’m not sure. For other all other countries, you can use the store locator on the Tom Ford website to find a retailer near you. Samples: You can buy samples of Rive d’Ambre at Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

New Perfume Releases: Tom Ford Atelier d’Orient Collection

Tom Ford is releasing a new collection of fragrances within his Private Blend line. The collection is called Atelier d’Orient and will consist of four perfumes: Shanghai LilyPlum JaponaisFleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Now Smell This (“NST”) has the press releases for each scent which is provided below. The only site I’ve found that has the details of the notes for each fragrance is Miss Fashion News, so I’ve added that underneath the NST quote:

Shanghai Lily ~ “Opulent. Tantalising. Elegant. Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily eau de parfum is a floral oriental scent that transports the senses into a world of rare and opulent ingredients from the historic silk road. Warm spices, elegant florals and addictive notes of vanilla and frankincense create a hazy reverie of glamour and temptation.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: bitter orange, pink peppercorns, black pepper, clove, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin (Laos), castoreum, cistus, gaiac wood, vanilla and incense. 

Plum Japonais ~ “Delectable. Luscious. Sensual. Tom Ford’s Plum Japonais eau de parfum reveals the extraordinary beauty of the ume plum by juxtaposing it with a lush and unconventional mélange of exotic asian ingredients. Rich and luxurious, it is a fragrance with irresistible complexity.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: saffron, cinnamon bark (Laos), immortelle, plum blossom, camellia blossom (Japan), agar wood, amber, benzoin (Laos), fir balsam absolute, and infusions of vanilla.

Fleur de Chine ~ “Dramatic. Smouldering. Seductive. Tom Ford’s Fleur de chine eau de parfum is an unequivocally romantic and haunting floral fragrance touched with a reverence for the great scents of the past. Precious asian flowers, including hualan flower and star magnolia, are arranged in a bouquet of rare beauty for a scent that lingers on.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: blossoms of tea, magnolia, fresh clementines, white peach, bergamot, hyacinth, hinoki wood, leaves of jasmine tea, plum, rose tea, wisteria, amber, peony, benzoin from Laos, styrax, Chinese cedar, and vetiver.

Rive d’Ambre ~ “Ornate. Compelling. Warm. Tom Ford’s Rive d’Ambre is a golden toned eau de cologne with a veil of colonial elegance. Precious citrus fruits – a talisman of good fortune in asia – are beautifully illuminated by a warm and seductive amber background.”

NOTES from Miss Fashion News: essential oils of bergamot, lemon and bitter orange with notes of tarragon, green mint, and cardamom [along with]… cognac oil [and] tolu balsam[.]

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

The collection is already out in the UK at Harvey Nichols, along with other British department stores like Harrods and Selfridges. The price for the 50 ml/1.7 oz bottles is £140.00, while the massive 250 ml bottles are retailed at £320.00. No word yet on when precisely the collection will hit the U.S. or elsewhere, and what the U.S. pricing may be. However, Miss Fashion News says that European pricing is €180 for 50 ml and €430 for 250 ml.

Lastly, Miss Fashion News also has some more information about the story associated with each scent — such as how Fleur de Chine is meant to reference the 1930s-1960s femme fatales of the Chinese silver screen — so you may want to glance at that, too, if you’re interested. Also, while Now Smell This has a more generalized, press release description of the scents, there are additional details in the comment section from its UK readers who have already given the four fragrances a quick sniff. So you may want to check out the responses if any of the fragrances intrigue you. One interesting tidbit: one poster says that the UK prices seem to have gone up for these four fragrances as compared to the other Private Blend perfumes. And looking at the Harvey Nichols’ prices in British pounds, I would agree. So, U.S. pricing is bound to also increase from the current $205 rate for the small 1.7 oz/50 ml bottles.