One Thousand Scents

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dreamscape: MPG Ambre Précieux

What you are about to read is a true story.

Last night I dreamed that I was wandering around in some pricey parfumerie. There were boxes of samples lying around, and no salespeople in evidence, so I was naturally helping myself to ones and twos from the boxes, not particularly caring what they were, because free is free and I could always give them away. Eventually, when both hands were full, a saleswoman asked me, in French, if she could help me with anything. Nonchalantly shoving my hands into my pockets, I asked, in French (I'm taking lessons), if they had either Poivre or Coup de Fouet by Caron; they're essentially the same thing, with Coup de Fouet being the EDT version of Poivre. The saleswoman responded in rapid-fire French; I asked her to speak more slowly, and she told me that they didn't have it at the moment, but I should check back some other time. And then I woke up.

So yes, I even dream of fragrance.

We're going to Montréal and Ottawa in a couple of months, so I'll have to see if my dream comes true. I've never smelled either Poivre ("pepper") or Coup de Fouet ("crack of the whip"), but since they're oriental scents which smell strongly of carnation and black pepper, it's a near certainty that 1) I'll like them and 2) they'll smell good on me. And then I suppose I'll have to buy.

Of all the categories of fragrance, orientals are my favourite, with chypres a fairly close second: there's just something irresistible about that dark, sexy cloud of base notes in both categories. And of all the oriental scents I love (I have at least a dozen favourites), the winner by a mile is Maître Parfumeur et Gantier's Ambre Précieux. The first time I smelled it was when I received a sample in a swap; I knew nothing about it, but I put a drop on my skin, breathed it in, and said, "Oh, my god" aloud, though I was alone in the room. I was intoxicated by it, possessed, consumed. I used up the vial as slowly as I dared over the next few weeks, and then I bought some. I didn't have any choice. It was more than I'd ever spent for a fragrance and I could barely afford it but I would gladly have gone without food just to own it.

Ambre Précieux has a brief flash of something fresh at the outset--just the barest nod to the understanding that a classically constructed scent must have top notes of some sort. That freshness doesn't last: it's almost immediately swallowed up by the middle and base notes: vanilla, peru and tolu balsams (both of them sweet, woody and vanillic), and a little sandalwood, but most of all, ambergris. It surrounds you like a hazy cloud of warmth, a reverie. It is comforting and sexual at the same time.

It's lucky that Ambre Précieux smells so irresistibly good, because it's tenacious. (It should be; it's almost all base notes, which are meant to stick around.) Even a single drop on the back of my hand will last all day, survive numerous hand-washings, and still be discernible the next morning. I put a few drops on my wrists and the backs of my hands a month or so ago and kept smelling it for two weeks afterward because a small amount had rubbed off onto the cuffs of my winter jacket.

Spring is almost here and I'll have to retire Ambre Précieux for a couple of seasons in favour of lighter, fresher scents, but it will be waiting for me, ready to enslave me again.


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