I should probably just permanently disqualify myself from writing about anything that contains amber as a major component.
Balmain's recent Ambre Gris does. The very top is sugared immortelle, not unlike L Lempicka, with a slightly fruity-floral feel to it, but lurking just below the surface--BANG, amber. A lot of amber.
The trouble is that I love it. I have no sense of perspective on it at all. If I smell something heavily ambered, I'm probably going to just fall in love with the scent and then I'll lose all objectivity, although, come to think about it, I'm about as subjective as can be when it comes to scents: I love them or hate them and there isn't much middle ground. There isn't any
with amber and ambergris, though. I am addicted to the stuff. Therefore, you are going to have to take everything I say with a grain of salt. If you don't like amber scents, or sweet scents, well, just move right along.
The amber, as I have said, starts at the beginning and runs through the entire scent. It's not linear, though: grace notes and unexpected accords slide into view and then vanish, every one of them seemingly devised to act as counterpoint to the sweetness of the amber. A pointy little sprinkling of cinnamon appears about an hour in. Smack in the middle, for a little while, is tuberose: not enough to make it floral, and not enough to make me uncomfortable, but enough to cut through the gathering sweetness, a pinpoint spotlight piercing the fog. A slightly dusty wood and a crumb of myrrh show up late in the game. Finally, though, the amber swamps everything else, as it must: the base is amber and vanillic benzoin and not much else, for hours
. It is wonderfully composed and very beautiful.
I am still not sure about that bottle. The flacon itself is a nice solid block of glass, the juice is a lovely grey, but the cap? I can see that it's meant to evoke a thimble, which is an obvious choice for a couture house's fragrance: Madeleine Vionnet's eponymous scent did the same thing. Hers, though, used an actual thimble shape atop a stylized dressmaker's form,
but the cap for Ambre Gris has been abstracted into something that could be
a gilded golf ball,
a jaundiced disco ball, or
Disney's Epcot Center.
My first experience with an amber-dominated fragrance was in 1987 (I actually remember the year), when I bought a miniature of the 1985 scent Anne Klein II. Calvin Klein's Obsession, from the same year, also contained a lot of amber, but Anne Klein II was possessed by it: it was a strange little minimalist bottle (a glass cylinder cut in half down the long axis) full of pure liquid warmth. I had never smelled anything like it. I wore it all the time
, down to the last drop.
It was, of course, discontinued, although you can buy a duplicate of the scent
, which is supposedly made with the original formula (the company that makes the copy has the right to use the recipe but not the name). Haven't tried it, don't know if it's exactly the same, but I had the experience of smelling it a couple of weeks ago nonetheless.
In my last order from The Perfumed Court I had ordered the Ambergris Sampler
, which contained Ambre Gris and six other scents. When I opened the little plastic enveloped to extract a sample, I of course stuck my nose in and took a whiff, and to my astonishment, that muddle of molecules from seven different fragrances smelled exactly
like my memory of Anne Klein II. I did it again just now, and there it was again: the precise experience of smelling something I haven't smelled in twenty years.
When I was going on last week about an online fragrance boutique called Parfum1, I had a reason for it. I had been browsing for the best price on a bottle of Ambre Gris, just in case, and Parfum1 has it for $22.50
, with a 25% discount (code SPRING25NPE), making it a stunningly bargain-priced $16.25. For a 100-mL bottle.
It'll last you forever, it's cheaper than any drugstore brand, and it's really nice
. Several people have written in the comments that they've done business with the company and it's reputable, so what are you waiting for?
I entered an online contest at Andy Tauer's blog and won a full bottle of my choice. Since I've only worn three of his scents, I was debating whether to pick something I hadn't tried before, and Herr Tauer said,Please do me a favor and do not buy unsniffed. I do not want you to be disappointed....
This is good advice. Very good advice. I trusted that I would like anything of his and wouldn't be disappointed, but what if I had been? A waste of a bottle!
As it turns out, I went with the one of his that I loved best, Lonestar Memories. It's glorious stuff, dark, resinous, smoky. If you haven't tried it, you really ought to. Mine arrived in the mail today, and I am going to be wearing this a lot