Aromatic Fougere Gourmand Lavender Leather Masculine Review Suede Tonka

Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous: A Review

February 9, 2018

 

I’d love to get all worked up about the name, but as someone who says “fuck” rather a lot, I really can’t. I’m not proud of it, but in my defense, I’m Irish. In Ireland, people are so foul-mouthed that English shows such as Come Dine with Me film one season over here and then skedaddle back to the UK, their pearls clutched to their throats in shock at the ease with which everyone – everyone – from the tony middle class housewives in Howth to 4-year-old kindergarteners turn the air blue.

 

But here’s the thing you need to know about Irish people: despite our potty mouths, we need for you all to think we are the last remaining bastion of Christian morality on the outskirts of Europe. We are the isle of saints and scholars, so by God, we are going to live up to it. In order to preserve this (thin) veneer of respectability, therefore, Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous is sold in Brown Thomas, Dublin, with the “obscenity” scribbled out in black permanent marker. Obscenity – that’s the SA’s word, not mine, by the way. Who on earth under the age of 60 ever says the word obscenity? Right. They probably all just say fuck.

 

Here’s the other thing. Brown Thomas can’t keep Fucking Fabulous in stock. It’s flying off the shelves. Offended and titillated in equal measure, people are buying the fucking thing! And if Tom Ford released a flanker for the Irish market called Fecking Fabulous, it would probably double its market share. (Add in flankers with names such as Feck, Arse, and Women, and you tap into the Father Ted fan base).

 

What does it smell like? I’m not sure it even matters, because people are buying it for the name alone, to display in the living room cabinet to get a rise out of their Ma or to bring to parties as a sort of conversation piece. We are a nation of messers, you see.

 

But for what it’s worth, Fucking Fabulous is pretty good. It’s basically a gentle, creamy, aromatic tonka bomb with an underpinning of bitter, doughy suede. It starts out with a lot of lavender and sage, which gives it a fougere-ish feel, but the plush, brushed-suede texture of the tonka envelops the herbs so completely that it never feels fresh or too foresty.

 

In fact, the smart positioning of the aromatic, herbal side against the creamy tonka side reminds me very much of other modern fougeres, like Boy by Chanel, Lothair by Penhaligon’s, and even Fourreau Noir by Serge Lutens. What these fragrances all have in common is their modern approach to the old, hair-balled fougere genre, which is basically to add so much creamy stuff – tonka, vanilla, heliotrope, sandalwood, and so on – that you barely feel the itchy, hair-shirt sting of the lavender or moss. I have likened Fourreau Noir to a dense lavender doughnut before, and Jtd of ScentHurdle called Mon Guerlain a “taffy fougere” – and that’s pretty much what’s going on with Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous. It’s a gourmand fougere, albeit one that’s far less edible and sweet than any of the other fragrances mentioned here.

 

If I had to distinguish or differentiate it further within the gourmand fougere category, then I’d say that Fucking fabulous feels quite masculine, thanks to its brushed suede note. There’s a moment at the start when the lavender and sage combine with the bitter almond to form a brief impression of licorice, cherry, and even mint – like the herbal bitterness at the start of Fève Délicieuse (Dior) – but it soon smoothes out into that tonka bean smell, which I think of as the scent of a freshly-vacuumed carpet.

 

I don’t mean that in a bad way. Tonka bean is often used as a replacement for vanilla in men’s fragrances because it smells like a rugged, spicy, “tanned” version of vanilla, but with a significantly more aromatic presence, possessing facets of hay, lavender, and lots of other herbaceous things. However, because it’s been so overused in masculine fragrances, especially designer ones, there’s a sort of sameyness from one tonka bomb to the next that makes it olfactory equivalent of a plushy, deep beige carpet. Think of Arianna Huffington’s comment on President Obama’s re-upholstering of the Oval Office – “the audacity of taupe”, she called it, despairingly – and you get the idea of the total effect of a tonka overload; a mushroom cloud of bland creaminess that expands to fill one’s field of vision, cheerfully water boarding any other element placed there to try and break it up a little.

 

And for me, that’s what Fucking Fabulous ultimately becomes; a huge, creamy expanse of tonka bean suede with only a lingering trace of the aromatic interest of its opening. It’s a very high quality tonka fragrance, mind, with none of the cheapness associated with the material’s near ubiquity. But if I’m going to wear a fragrance that’s tonka bean for about 70-80% of the ride, then I’d just as soon avoid the price tag that comes with anything Tom Ford, and opt for something more prosaic but just as tonka-ish, like Tonka by Reminiscence.

 

But that’s a purely personal preference – I might wear a tonka-based fragrance three times a year, at most, because I’m just not that into it. But if you are, and you have the money to go Tom Ford, then Fucking Fabulous is one of the better examples of how to do the material on today’s market. Just please, whatever your feelings on “obscenity”, don’t deface the bottle with a black marker. Or maybe I’m talkin’ to the 80% of people who just buy this for the bottle, in which case, as you were.

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