Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tom Ford Private Blend Moss Breches




It's been rumored Tom Ford Private Blend Moss Breches (2007) is being discontinued, a terrible shame if it's true considering Moss Breches, along with Tobacco Vanille, is among my very favorites in the designer's ultraniche line. Among these, Moss Breches is far, far away from the mainstream scents of today. It takes perfuminess to its highest level, played up by both Chypre and Oriental notes in a single composition, decadently retro in richly subdued earth tones. It's not a fragrance I immediately liked, but it's grown on me in the same way Penhaligon's Bluebell has. Both are what I'd refer to as "animalic", with the musky notes of labdanum and oakmoss being fairly pronounced in this dark, green Chypre blend, making it challenging to wear. However, it also has a warm and sweet, spicy gourmand charm to it. Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental comes to mind, except Moss Breches is a Chypre, along the lines of Sisley Eau du Soir and Paloma Picasso, just greener, with more damp earth-and-wet leaves - the deep foresty scent attributed to oakmoss. Shiseido Koto (1985), for those of you familiar with this hard-to-find fragrance, is probably closest to it in overall scent. Another comparison might be the discontinued Deneuve (1986), with Moss Breches being drier, dirtier, heavier and sharper. This is a strange, complex scent for those unfamiliar with the scent of Chypre, a classical perfume accord brimming with tradition and an antiquated past.

Moss Breches, of course, would not be without mossiness. Oakmoss and tree moss are controlled ingredients in the perfume industry since it was declared by IFRA that these age-old ingredients turn into formaldehyde upon skin contact. Today, most of what we call moss is synthesized, but many vintage perfumes and even certain upscale perfumes do in fact contain moss. The scent, to my nose, is like that of damp autumn leaves, a bit dirty in an outdoorsy way. Many perfumes from the 1960s and '1970s featured oakmoss, such as Chanel N°19, Estée Lauder Aliage and Ô de Lancome. Actually, the use of oakmoss has been around since the birth of the Chypre fragrance family, long before the legendary Coty Chypre and Guerlain Mitsouko were born Chypre is named as such because the accord was born in Cyprus during Greco-Roman rule (Read more about Cyprus here: Cyprus the Divided Country).

Another featured note in Moss Breches is labdanum. Labdanum is a resin traditionally used in Chypre compositions. It's a black resin taken from goat hair after the goats had grazed on the rock rose shrub and resins collected on their fleece. Although I'm skeptical that most Chypre fragrances today contain real labdanum taken from goat hair, the scent has remained a staple in perfumery. It has a heavy, resinous and almost woody, as well as animalic, scent, and acts as a fixative for perfume compositions (base note), making perfumes last longer.

Although Moss Breches smells like a traditional Chypre, I'm guessing the reason I like it so much is because it has a soft, almost vanillic aspect to it as well. The sillage is absolutely gorgeous, a dazzling mossy green. When I wear Moss Breches, I'm reminded of Japanese tea ceremony and its dark, refined green tea (which is a bitter taste/scent (and yet I love it)). According to Chypre Perfumes blog: "The Japanese use labdanum in their Neriko mixtures, which are used during tea ceremony". I guess I'm not far off at all in my perception of the scent! On the same blog, the author writes that "Egyptians used it in their Kyphi mixtures and the Hebrews burned it in their temples". Perhaps Moss Breches is the kind of scent that can bring all kinds of deeply spiritual associations to people the world over.