Major Tom

Writer The Guyliner is obsessed by smelling good. And when it comes to choosing his fragrance, there’s only one man with a 100% hit-rate.


I’ve always had an obsession with smelling great. Whether it stems from teenage years of suffering the oppressive pong of Lynx in the locker rooms after PE or being stuck sitting on the school bus next to the guy who’d stopped washing in protest at something, I can’t tell you, but I’ve always made leaving the trailing scent of an angel behind me as a top priority whenever leaving the house. In fact, it isn’t enough for me that I smell adorable, I like to be told I do.

I’m not sure I can think of a greater compliment. No, seriously. Oh, sure, people can tell you you’re beautiful clever or funny, but these are just things people say. I’ve hovered over enough horse-frightening babies to know that “Oh, he’s gorgeous!” carries as much weight as an election promise. But for someone to tell you, unprompted, that you smell wonderful, or to ask you the name of the fragrance you’re wearing – that’s real. Nobody ever needs a gun to their head to say that.

I was fortunate that both my parents had a similar obsession so even though we weren’t millionaires, they both splashed out on fragrances and nice shower gels and soaps and whatever. Fragrance and hair are my family’s two major weaknesses when it comes to vanity and consumerism.

When I went to university and would get my student grant – this is 100 years ago – the first thing I’d do would run and buy some ‘aftershave’, as it was called then. There was no greater thrill than the girls in my classes walking next to me in the corridor and telling me I smelled lovely.

So my kink is people telling me I smell good, and like most addicts, I need a regular fix. While I’ve sported a great many scents and sprays over the years, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties, and newly single, that I discovered the magic potion I’d been waiting for all these years. One man. Two words. An inexplicable inability leave the house wearing anything other than a gleaming white shirt. Tom. Ford.

Like many, I suspect, I shunned Tom Ford at first. He was almost too slick, too groomed, too A-list gay, too aspirational yet unattainable for me, as I stared at the marked walls of my very first ‘bachelor pad’ praying the god of freelance work would cut me some slack. I discovered him while running for a plane, late for the gate but desperate to make use of my duty-free allowance. I picked up a bottle of Grey Vetiver and jetted off, returning a changed man.

Tom Ford’s fragrances have this way of making you feel… special, and sexy. And oh so clean. Wearing a splash or six of Tom Ford makes you feel like your entire body’s been sandblasted in and out. Everything gleams, from your cheeks to your colon – you will never feel this fresh again.


But when you hit that high, you need more. I was ready to fall in love – not with a guy, that was a couple of years off – and thankfully Neroli Portofino came into my life and I’ve never looked back. Part of Tom’s Private Blend collection, the fresh and exciting Neroli Portofino feels like a fairy godmother has sprinkled magic dust on you and afforded you the life of a millionaire playboy, but without all the horrible bits like a pathetic coke addition, unkempt fingernails and badly highlighted curls. It’s crisp and sophisticated, mixing bergamot and lavender and, of course, neroli (orange oil) to create an experience rather than a scent.

I’d spent several months dancing around it in Selfridges Beauty Hall, treating myself to some precious sprays before sprinting out again. It’s almost prohibitively expensive, £130 for 50 ml, and I simply couldn’t justify it. How many words would I have to write to afford it? Where would I even go wearing it? It was a friend, who was doing well at work and had stopped denying herself the finer things in life, who broke the spell. One birthday, a knock at my door brought a perfectly wrapped, shiny box, and inside was a 100ml bottle of Neroli Portofino. It was more than a fragrance, it was a good luck charm – if I was going on a date and really fancied the guy, I would spray on a little and let the scent do the rest. it may be crass to confess, but I had a 100% hit rate whenever I wore it, even if it was for just one night. And I’m not that pretty or charming – I know Tom had something to do with it. The reaction I’d get from wearing Neroli Portofino was like Madonna walking into the room. Actual strangers would lean into me on the bus and on more than one occasion (two), they’d ask me what I was wearing and tell me I smelled fantastic. It’s as near to fame as I’d ever want to get.

As I got a bit older, and started to look for something heavier and even more sophisticated, my attention turned to another fragrance from his private blend collection that had evolved into a distinct brand, as Neroli had done. Oud Wood is an assured, sexy fragrance that refuses to overpower; it’s smoky, warm and intense. Seconds after spraying it on yourself – and while I know it’s vulgar, I am not shy about spritzing – you forget it’s there. Until, that is, you kiss someone hello or goodbye, or walk into a room, and are told, fairly quickly, that you smell delicious.

When I am feeling a little low, or nervous about meeting someone for the first time, or, conversely, feeling supremely confident, I return to Oud Wood and, suddenly, I’m back in control. It’s my armour and I’m ready for battle.

With the exception of his fairly blatant For Men fragrance, Tom Ford’s knack with his fragrances is he’s pretty vague about who they’re for. His private blend collection, especially, is about the person, not the gender, and while some might be more obviously feminine or masculine, they’re subtle and sophisticated enough to cling to any skin. Some scents play with this more than others – Tobacco Vanille is another that gives a luxe feeling that, if you sprayed it on the wrists of a jury, would smell different on each and every one of them. They wouldn’t convict.

But they’re a ‘sometimes’ treat: at around £195 for 100 ml, these are not everyday splash-ons and most of us would need to do a little bit of saving, or go without Pret lunches for a month to get our hands on one. My saviour is that my birthday is at Christmas, so I’m usually lucky enough that someone – usually my long-suffering boyfriend, himself a helpless victim of my Neroli Portofino witchcraft – will buy me a bottle.

It’s never over, however.

I was in Selfridges the other day and saw, to my delight, they’d launched another version of Neroli Portofino. Forte, as the name suggests, is more concentrated and intense. Imagine.

“Is it very different?” I asked the perfectly groomed assistant as I tried to wrench the bottle from his impeccably manicured hands.

He told me something about herbs and infusions and notes but all I could focus on was the bottle. The last part I did catch: “So you don’t have to spray as much – you can wear less”.

Less? I don’t want to wear less. I want more. More. And it is more: £195 for a mere 50ml. But I’m still going to buy it one day; I need that rush again. And, of course, as soon as I do, I want you to tell me how wonderful I smell, but only if you mean it. The thing is, with a Tom Ford fragrance, I know that you will.

It’s not just a cologne, it’s a truth serum. Lean into me. Tell me.

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver, £64

Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, £145

Tom Ford Oud Wood, £145

Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, £145

Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Forte, £195




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