Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily EDP Perfume Review

Tom Ford Shanghai Lily

Tom Ford Private Blend Atelier d’Or*ent ins’t bad. Or maybe I think that because my expectations have been lowered by the previous subpar collections. Unlike some of the other collections, there are some in Atelier d’Or*ent that I don’t mind wearing.

The first few times I tried Shanghai Lily, I tried talking myself out of loving it. I had a feeling that my lowered expectations were getting in the way. I like the idea of lily-centric fragrances but I rarely wear them (even though I own a few). Shanghai Lily is different than the others I own. It’s smokier and has more spice.

Ford describes the scent as “This fragrance began with a dream of the Silk and Spice Roads – the ancient, Asian trading routes for luxurious and precious goods. I imagined caravans piled high with treasures, and being surrounded by a multi-sensorial abundance of opulence.” Orientalism has always been a popular theme in the perfume industry and for the past decade it has felt like it is the only theme within the niche and luxury categories.

My “images” of Shanghai Lily differ from Ford’s (but don’t tell him that. I hear he’s an ass in real life). After emptying out a generous brand sample, I decided that what I like about Shanghai Lily is that it reminds me of telanovela actresses. It’s dramatic with sometimes uncomfortable”blocking”. It may get my attention with a few “soap opera slaps” but by the end, I’m not really paying attention. I try to get sucked into the series, but my attention span longs for something more engaging.

As I have already mentioned, Shanghai Lily is a spicy lily. The top is dry pepper and cloves with citrus that reminds me vaguely of Yves Saint Laurent Opium. This is the “soap opera slap” within the fragrance. It’s spicy, fiery and passionate. This bridges to a creamy lily white floral with spice. It’s heady Madonna lilies dusting bright yellow pollen all over your black marble counter top (always the downside to fresh lilies in the home). It can be a little funeral parlor-ish depending on your previous olfactory experiences. Personally, I love this huge, powdery floral. This part of the fragrance is still holding my attention. The dry down of Shanghai Lily is “fresh” and powdery yet smoky. This dry-down is sort of a bummer as up until this stage, I was falling for Shanghai Lily. The bummer is that it wears really close to the skin and lacks any “real” character. It is a close-wearing powdery (and plastic-y), vanilla incense that I feel like I’ve smelled before. It’s a storyline that has already been done.

It’s a shame because there are parts of this fragrance that I adore; parts that almost make me want to purchase a bottle. But, then I realize that it’s not 100% to my liking and that it doesn’t last on my skin at all. I think when I want something over the top and spicy like this, I’ll wear YSL Opium or Caron Bellodogia. And who am I kidding? I rarely every wear lily perfumes. I can’t remember the last time I wore Donna Karan Gold or Penhaligon’s Lily & Spice!

Chelo Alonso

Notes listed include olibanum, vanilla, bitter orange, pink pepper, black pepper, cloves, jasmine, rose, tuberose, vetiver, cashmere wood, benzoin, castoreum, labdanum, guaiac wood and incense. Launched 2013.

Try Shanghai Lily if you like spicy florals. Or if you like perfumes like YSL Opium, Amouage Honour Woman, Caron Bellodogia, Serge Lutens Vitriol d’Oeillet, Estee Lauder Cinnabar and/or Penhaligon’s Lily & Spice.

Projection is average but I think that longevity is below average. I get about 4 hours of wear. The base is so faint that it *could* be there but I don’t notice it. This is my #1 complaint with this fragrance.

The 1.7 oz retails for $210 and the 8.4 oz retails for $520 at Nordstrom and Harrods (UK).

Victoria’s Final EauPINIONA spicy floral with a with a “clean” yet smoky incense dry-down. I do think Shanghai Lily is “good” but it doesn’t hold my attention 100%. I honestly feel I’m being harsh because of the retail price. If it were in the “regular” line and cost about $100, I think I’d put up with the longevity issues and dull-to-me dry-down. But, if you like lily fragrances, this one is worth sampling.

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*Sample obtained by me. Product pic from Fragrantica. Chelo Alonso pic from

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