Tom Ford Ombre Leather 16 was launched by Tom Ford to coincide with his A/W 2016 collection, which he debuted on 7th September at New York Fashion Week as an innovative direct-to-market collection (the clothes were available to purchase already the next day, as opposed to the 6 months it usually takes for a collection to hit stores). It’s an interesting concept, releasing a fragrance to drop at exactly the same day as a clothes collection, but then Tom Ford has always been interested in the total look of everything designed under his name.
There is a sleek, potent, almost sexualized glamour to everything Tom Ford puts his hand to. His clothes, perfume, makeup, and even his movie sets all relate perfectly to each other, united by an unchanging dedication to a particular aesthetic that embodies his personal taste. It’s true American luxe – slightly pushy, monochrome stuff that convinces on the richness of the materials alone.
His Ombre Leather 16 is no exception. This is American Haute Luxe at its finest, a rich but dry leather with a smooth ombré effect not unlike the brown-on-brown tones of the set of his movie, A Single Man, where the tonal shifts between mahogany and chocolate and sepia are barely perceptible to the naked eye but still manage to convey the happy meeting of taste and wealth. The fragrance is also, like the movie, ever so slightly soulless.
The leather note is similar to that of Tuscan Leather but here is given a darker, drier treatment – there is no raspberry sweetness and the musky, sueded finish of Tuscan Leather has been swapped out for a very streamlined, almost buttery texture. It slides as seamlessly onto the skin as a handmade shoe slides onto a foot.
Opening on a potent blast of leather, it momentarily skates close to chemical/tanning pungency but thankfully banks back in time. It develops into a rich, sturdy leather that speaks of fantastic wealth, like the interior of a Jaguar or the mingling aromas in a bespoke leather shop on Saville Row. For this reason, I find Ombre Leather 16 to be far more refined and more formal than Tuscan Leather, which seems outdoorsy and rugged in comparison.
Ombre Leather 16 also seems to deftly sidestep all the common faults people pick with leather scents – there is no powder, no excessive floralcy, and crucially for a lot of men out there, it does not in any way resemble the lipsticky, dusty insides of a lady’s handbag. But neither is this a big, butch leather a la Peau d’Espagne or Rien. It is a masculine, stern, be-suited thing, to be sure, but this is a leather that stays firmly in the boardroom and well away from both fuel-soaked garage and prairie.
All the other listed notes (patchouli, violet leaf, jasmine, white moss, cardamom) are there to pull together towards creating that sumptuous but dry leather accord, and are not incredibly distinct in and of themselves. Towards the start, I can pick out a slightly fresh, watery herbal accent, which I assume is the violet leaf, but the effect is more of a dark, smooth leather that’s been rubbed with something green to put a high shine on it than a note that sings strongly on its own.
Certainly, I can smell a clean, saline moss in the far dry down and shadowy patchouli, but they blend so completely with the leather accord that I see them for what they really are: overlapping building blocks used to create that ombré effect . I thought I picked up on an ambery resin there in the background, which might account for the slight uptick in sweetness in the base of an otherwise dry (unsweet) fragrance, but none is listed.
Longevity is phenomenal – easily 12-18 hours, and projection is pretty good too. It’s a little quieter overall than Tuscan Leather, which makes sense as the character of Ombre Leather 16 is dark, dry, and refined “luxe” as opposed to the more outgoing and cheerful Tuscan Leather.
Let’s just put it this way, – when worn side by side, Ombre Leather 16 is wearing a Saville Row suit while Tuscan Leather is wearing dock shoes and lederhosen. There’s a time and a place for both, but while I appreciate Tuscan Leather, I think Ombre Leather 16 is far better. It’s the 2.0 version.