Disappearing Act: Baldessarini Ambré
The problem with reading lists of fragrance notes is that they can trick you into wanting to own the scent when it has no business being on your skin.
L'Artisan Parfumeur's Mechant Loup ("Big Bad Wolf", more or less) and Voleur de Rose ("Thief of Roses") ought to be perfect on me. The former is a concoction of hazelnuts, honey, licorice and myrrh, all of which I love, and the latter is a rose scent for men with notes of patchouli and plum, and I love roses, the apex of florality, the Queen of Flowers. But Mechant Loup, on my skin, is boring, with scarcely any presence at all and certainly nothing notable about it, and Voleur de Rose is just disgusting, all filthy patchouli and hardly any discernible rose. (The rose note in L'Artisan's Safran Troublant is more obvious, and that's just a grace note.) Many people love them, but they're not for me. Whenever I see a bottle of either I look wistfully at it, and maybe even grab a quick sniff, but they haven't changed and neither have I. I can't wear them, and that's that.
The new Hugo Boss Baldessarini scent, Ambré, looked like a slam dunk. First of all, anything with ambergris is it is something I want to wear; I just love it unreservedly, and almost all my most favourite scents have amber in the base, usually quite a lot of it. Secondly, the notes sound like they add up to a winner (with one possible exception):
Top: Whisky, mandarin orange, red apple.
Middle: Leather, violet
Base: Vanilla, amber, oak, labdanum
I wasn't sure about the apple in the top note. I'm getting a little tired of these oddball fruit notes in everything. (You can hardly turn around without bumping into a women's scent that's overloaded with them, everything from pomegranate to lychee.) But hey; amber! And it's called Ambré!
Well, you can see where this is going.
The opening has a slightly bitter quality that recalls the strikingly pungent bitterness of Hermes' Bel Ami. Ambré doesn't smell of whisky, exactly; that combination of harshness and smoothness isn't there. But it smells suave and lean at first, with a crisp fruity flourish which is pleasant, if a little too up-to-date to fit the image the advertising presents, that of a mature man who has the world in the palm of his hand.
As it calms down, a soft, barely leathery sweetness begins to take over, combined with a dark, subtle floralcy contributed by the violet, probably one of the most important floral notes in men's perfumery (it plays a large part in such classics as Geoffrey Beene's Grey Flannel and Givenchy Pour Homme). After no more than an hour, the base notes come to the fore: wooded, sweetened vanilla, mostly.
It feels as if it should be beginning to develop further, and then it just goes away. Ambergris is a potent, durable perfumery material: most amber scents last many, many hours on my skin, sometimes still detectable the next day and even after washing. Ambré lasts a couple of hours and then vanishes. There's something very wrong with an amber scent that can't last through a normal workday or an evening out.
It's not a bad scent. It just isn't a very good one, either. It's too bland, too careful, and much, much too short-lived.