The Name Is Actually The Least Exciting Thing About Tom Ford Vanilla Sex
An honest review of Tom Ford's latest fragrance.
Tom Ford is known for giving its fragrances names that are as provocative as the scents themselves, such as “Lost Cherry”, “Bitter Peach”, and “Rose Prick.” Now, with Vanilla Sex, the brand is offering a hot take on a nearly universally beloved gourmand note.
In the last 12 months, it seems that almost every brand, from niche to mass, has released a vanilla-forward scent. Still, you have to wonder what’s in store with a name like Vanilla Sex, which suggests the duality of sweetness and comfort along with excitement and scandal. And then, of course, you have the idea and act of “vanilla sex” itself, which, culturally, is looked at as so uninteresting that it bores you to sleep halfway through. So what does Vanilla Sex (the fragrance) smell like? Here’s my honest review.
The name of this scent sets expectations high, and honestly? It does not disappoint. It is immediately and undeniably pleasing and inviting. Part familiar, part conceptual, it pulls from different sides of the vanilla spectrum for a scent that’s warm, approachable, and yet wholly unique.
It’s a plush, enveloping experience that immediately scratches the vanilla itch with a note that resembles real vanilla extract, not unlike the rightfully viral Kayali Vanilla. It’s balanced by a heady, spicy warmth that resembles Boy Smells’s lush Vanilla Era, and even features a noticeably fresher note that reminds you of the palo santo in Matiere Premiere's Vanilla Powder. It’s a lot all at once, but Tom Ford is all about hedonism.
Vanilla Sex is a linear scent, meaning that, instead of shedding its different layers throughout wear and showing different sides of itself, it smells largely the same from the moment you spray it on to when you shower it off.
It opens with bitter almond, which gives it a warm, nutty quality that’s part boozy and part bakery. At the heart, you’ll find plush florals and a whole lot of vanilla. The base is held down by even more vanilla in the form of Vanilla Tincture India, a note created specifically for this scent, and Ultravanil, a vanilla molecule that’s proprietary to Tom Ford. There is also the vanilla-like tonka bean and soft sandalwood to let it all breathe. It brings in everything you love about vanilla fragrances and challenges you to expand your idea of what the note is and can be.
Like all Tom Ford scents, this is big, bold, and impossible to ignore. What I like about this is, while it commands attention, it’s not heavy. It feels very intentional. People will smell it on you, to be sure, but it’s not going to enter a room before you. To me, this is exactly how I wish all fragrances would wear. No matter what time of day you spray it on, you’ll most likely still be smelling it the next morning, but you won’t be running from it either. It’s not going to choke you out. Remember, this is Vanilla Sex.
Which brings us back to the name. Does it pay off on its promise? Though certainly bold, the scent leans more vanilla than sex — it’s approachable, sweet, and easy to love. But maybe therein lies the proof of what makes it vanilla sex. While we know Tom Ford to thrive off scandal and imbue his brand with pearl-clutching salaciousness, maybe this fragrance is less evocative of BDSM and leather, and more about discovering the sensual, surprising elements of the basic and mundane. After all, sometimes there’s nothing better than some really good missionary.
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