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Bombay Duck London

Tom Ford Azure Lime

Tom Ford, as we all know, is a gay man who just adores women.  He’s created sexy clothes, sexy sunglasses – and sexy fragrances, which were his first post-Gucci foray into Tom Ford branding.  He’s done it because he’s clearly passionate about perfumery.  And because he’s a total polymath, who can turn his hand to pretty much anything and pull it off with incredible élan.  (A Single Man rates as one of my favourite cinema experiences of the year, and one in the eye for that cabal of Hollywood directors who bleated that a ‘mere’ fashion designer shouldn’t be allowed behind a movie camera lens.)

Azure Lime is Tom’s latest.  And guys, it’s complicated.  Everything I’ve seen suggests that this is a fragrance for women, but if you ask me it’s a fragrance for women who like to smell like men.  To me, that’s no bad thing.  In my day,  I’ve had love affairs with Guerlain Vetiver, Givenchy Gentleman – and years of splashing myself all over with Eau Sauvage.  I even had a Drakkar Noir moment, for heaven’s sake (when I was all power-shoulders and hand-me-a-mallet-so-I-can-smash-right-through-that-glass-ceiling).   And by contrast, I love men who are comfortable enough in their own skin to wear Jicky or a touch of Mitsouko.

This got me thinking:  exactly who was it that decided that fragrance has a sexuality?  Who wrote the rules? And in 2010, shouldn’t they be torn up…?  At the same time, ‘Unisex’ is a term I’ve always found a bit derogatory.  For unisex, read:  neither one thing nor the other.  Dull, mostly.  And Azure Lime – created ‘to capture the easy style and relaxed glamour of Mustique’, we’re promised – most certainly isn’t dull, from the moment it opens with a twist of Caribbean lime, to the woody, sensual finale that goes on till way, way after the sun’s set over the horizon and you’re trailing a slice of cooling aloe vera over your lobster-coloured shoulders.

Azure Lime is dry as gin – that’ll be the juniper, then, which is combined in the top notes with Valencia orange, lemon and bergamot, basil and mint.  Though on me, the deliciously tart gin-and-tonic-with-a-squirt-of-lime totally dominates.  No ice, though.  No ice.  It’s a hot dry fragrance, not at all sultry and humid.  In fact, I seem to be profoundly anosmic to the promised heart notes – allegedly Egyptian jasmine, neroli, violet leaves (OK, I get a bit of violet leaves, with their mysterious greenness) – but it’s not nearly as heady as that list would suggest, instead taking a bit of a short-cut through to the woodiness which swirls around the base like a hot, dessicating breeze rustling the palm trees.  It actually hangs around till you’ve washed the last whispers of sandalwood, patchouli and musk off with soap.  (Note to Mr. Ford:  I’d rather love a body wash that smelled like this, if that didn’t ‘dumb down’ your creation too much.)

There are tropical resonances – but refreshingly, not in a pina-colada/lush fruits way that (yawn) is so dominating the commercial end of the scent world right now.  Azure Lime whisks you to a moonlight night staring at the breakers on the reef, bathed in the ozonic, slightly seaweedy scent of the ocean, with great sculptural lumps of driftwood silhouetted along the beach.  Maybe a bonfire crackling and sparking, somewhere behind you.  (That tinder-dryness, again.)  Now, I have no idea what Mustique smells like.  (A lacuna in my globetrotting.)  But it’s anything like this, I might just start exploring sub-lets from David Bowie or Mick Jagger.

The bottom line, though, is that I’d say it really is Tom Ford in a bottle.  Women find him sexy.  Men find him sexy.  (Gay men and straight men seem to find him sexy, actually.)   This could be worn by anyone, and chances are someone else would find it sexy on them, whoever they were, whatever their own sexuality.  (So long as they had a penchant for ozonic/woody fragrances.)   It blurs all the lines, beautifully, and is probably the perfect fragrance for The Scent Critic’s holiday next week – somewhat less exotically, on England’s South Coast.  (Not somewhere that’s about to be described as having ‘relaxed glamour’ anytime soon, but the big advantage of Hastings over Mustique is that I don’t have to fly there and there’s no risk of my luggage being diverted to Mumbai.  And so far as I know, Mustique doesn’t have a ‘Pirate Day’ when the whole town swashes its buckle, brandishing cutlasses, wearing eye-patches and with countless faux parrots perched atop shoulders.)  But maybe if I close my eyes and block out the noise from the seagulls, I can breathe Azure Lime and imagine myself on a Mustique beach, instead.

Next to Tom Ford.

(If only.)

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