Review: by Kilian Amber Oud — 4.5 points

Previously, I confessed to my aversion to oud. But ever since Pure Oud (by Kilian, 2009), I have consistently been wearing the oud collection from by Kilian. I reckon I am beginning to warm up to this multi-faceted note, especially when it is as excellently crafted as the ones from by Kilian. And, Amber Oud (2011) is yet another sublime creation around this note that I heartily recommend.

In spite of the rather banal name, Amber Oud offers an interesting vantage point from which to appreciate the rich oriental notes. It opens right away with a stirring whiff of incense and labdanum, and without any attempt at a prelude, segues into warm amber. A vanilla so resplendent sets the stage, with the complexity of the cured beans one often finds in a gourmet section. Benzoin provides the dry, lingering sweetness that harks to the fantasy of honeyed almonds. All the rich, hefty notes that make my mouth water constitute the bulk of Amber Oud, but the composition is far from being cloying. Instead, it remains lucent.

The description alone is a testament to the quality of its amber, but what is it that distinguishes it from being a mere ‘nice amber’? The answer to that can remain elusive for the first few tries, as, I find, is often the case with the deceptively simple quality that marks many of perfumer Calice Becker’s creations. However, as I pondered the question, I found myself reminiscing more and more about the time when my mother made traditional desserts.

One of the last steps is to perfume them, and this is almost always a rite to Thai desserts. She would put flowers such as sambac jasmine, rose, and ylang ylang in a small cup and place it in a lidded ceramic pot containing the dessert, thereby imbuing the treats with the fragrance overnight. On the next day, a fragrant candle called ‘tian op’ was instrumental in imparting its unmistakable lingering scent to the treats. The candle has a wick that can be lit on both ends and its wax comprises a mixture of frankincense, benzoin, dried kaffir peel, brown sugar, camphor, nutmeg, sandalwood, and bee wax. After having set tian op in a holder in the ceramic pot and lit it, she would extinguish it by covering the pot with a lid, allowing the dessert to soak up the aroma for ten to fifteen minutes. Even after this step, a potent mixture of frankincense, benzoin, kaffir peel, brown sugar, nutmeg, and camphor that had been seared in a pre-heated terra cotta cup would be similarly used to suffuse the dessert with its opulent fumes. How fondly I recall that caramelised, incense-y, floral accent that staved off some of the rich sweetness of the dessert. The flavour was a combination of melancholic incense and decadent sweet amber, which is essentially what Amber Oud mirrors.

tian op

Tian Op: a scented candle used to perfume food and clothing. Its melancholic fragrance balances out the sweetness.

Now, the answer to what sets Amber Oud apart is clear: it is the floral and incense inflection of its amber accord. Just like how the rich dessert was lifted with floral hints and dry incense, the same effect is employed in Amber Oud in taming the hefty notes. This also explains why the drydown of Amber Oud possesses an uncanny resemblance to Bois d’Arménie (Guerlain, 2006), another favourite composition of mine that revolves around benzoin, incense, and balsams with a sprinkle of rose petals. The result is an unexpected delight in an ostensibly straightforward composition, a hallmark of Becker who has a knack for subtly weaving together multiple layers and facets.

All in all, the played-up aspect of sweet amber together with the unique accent that carries well to the next day makes Amber Oud my perennial favourite. It is an intriguing oud aspect that is both cosy and refined—a quality which I rarely see in an oud composition. A spritz suffices to catapult me to those scrumptious recollection of floral and incense-y fantasy.

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Review: Hermès Twilly –4.5 points

When I first read the tagline ‘the scent of the Hermès girls’, I did not have much hope for Twilly (Hermès, 2017), the latest creation by in-house perfumer Christine Nagel. Clearly, it is targeted at young women in their twenties and we all know too well what sort of composition major fragrance houses tend to have in mind for this demographic. My thoughts wandered off to the theme of La vie est belle (Lancôme, 2012), sugar confection that often ends up in very cloying vanilla and musk.

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But the very first sniff simply debunked all that stereotype. In fact, at the outset, Twilly is sparkling with fresh petitgrain and this is soon joined by a beguiling white floral note at heart. It is something between orange blossom and soft tuberose; and to those who are averse to white florals, fear not: the sweetness of its white florals is foiled by a gingery accent. Even in the dry down, which also lasts well from morning into evening, its musky amber is peppered with herbal accents and sweetened only by powdery heliotrope and bitter-sweet coumarin. Nothing about Twilly betrays a hint of sugary confections.

In fact, Twilly might just be the proof that young women in their twenties do not need saccharine musks to smell good. If they want something coquettish, addictive, and quirky, this is it. Its white floral is sensual enough without being carnal. Its sweetness is just tantalising without being treacly. And, the gingery and herbal accent lends a distinctive note to the mix. It feels like a quirky, seductive eau de cologne that blends citrus, herbal florals, and musky amber. And, it remains wearable. For this reason, Twilly, much like a short, memorable melody, is easily my favourite.

Source: hermes.fr

Review: Jacques Fath Bel Ambre — 4.0 points

Bel Ambre (Jacques Fath, 2015) is literally ‘beautiful amber’. As the name might already suggest, the bulk of the composition rests on a classical blend of vanilla and labdanum, which is called ‘amber’ for its rich, golden brown hue resembling the precious tree resin. One could be forgiven, therefore, for thinking that the name betrays yet another classical sweet amber perfume, but this is not case. This is because Bel Ambre certainly has a few beautiful surprises up its sleeves.

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Of course, the main impression is traditional. The beloved warmth of this perfumery accord indeed already makes itself evident in the top notes. Juniper berry, which is often used to flavour liquor, imparts a boozy note to the bright citrus and savoury herbs. Cumin lends its complementary spicy note. The sum is like the warmth of a strong liquor coursing through your veins.

But the surprise that soon sets in comes as a chill. Buttery iris note creates an interesting cool contrast to the warm amber composition, and along with an animalic overtone of castoreum and smoky leather, they meld into a soft leathery note. It develops in the dry, smoky side, which will suit those who prefer their amber a little less opulent.

The pleasing amber accord reveals itself fully towards the dry down. The powdery sweetness of vanilla, tonka bean, and musk creates a cosy, ever-so comforting cushion. The balsamic note of labdanum imbues the composition with much warmth here. And in the background, a vetiver note offsets the sweetness nicely with a bit of a woody touch.

Bel Ambre is a gentle take on classical amber with a twist. For me, the overall warmth recalls that of Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens, 2000), but it is quieter in terms of volume and slightly sweeter. Of course, there is also the soft leathery and animalic tinge. Its lasting power is great enough to be enjoyed throughout the day. If you are looking for a taste of classical amber but with a chic twist, this is it. And, I am sure that fans of classical amber will hardly find fault with such a beautiful amber, and that applies to me as well. Even when I constantly look for novelty in compositions, a familiar accord that is well-executed such as this one has already won half of the battle for my affection.

Source: spirale-rp.fr

Review: Arquiste Anima Dulcis — 4.5 points

Take a look at the esoteric prose of Serge Lutens and Freudian reference on Un Bois Vanille (Serge Lutens, 2003), for example, and one sees why I am happy with the accompanying information of Arquiste. It talks about the creativity of the nuns of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria in Mexico that has inspired brand owner Carlos Huber. They exploited local ingredients such as chilies, cinnamon, and vanilla to spice up their cocoa infusion, and Anima Dulcis (Arquiste, 2012) by perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier explores this beverage recipe along with its circumstances. The concept is direct and simple.

arquiste

Likewise, the original fragrance communicates clearly and with a beautiful surprise. At heart is a warm dark chocolate theme: imagine dusky bitter cocoa and hot chili infusion. Its gourmand accent is shaped by vanilla, cinnamon, and a bit of glazed orange peel on top. It would be the kind of hot beverage I would love to have on a chilly grey day.

But if you are worried that this might be cloying, fret not because it is surprisingly sombre. The rich balsamic, animalic tone of its amber is a dark revelation for such a gourmand direction of its theme. So is the whiff of incense that weaves in a liturgical air. The sum is dark and sensual, and this is a seriously creative beverage. Anima Dulcis seems to oscillate between dark chocolate confection and animalic amber that envelopes me for most of its six hours.

Although the theme of chocolate is not new, Anima Dulcis is such a surprise because it explores the other interesting side of chocolate: the animalic amber. But it is also perfectly paired with the intense heat of chili. This is the kind of gourmand composition with an edge. The swirling dark gourmand composition is certainly redolent of originality.

Source: arquiste.com

Review: Christian Dior Ambre Nuit — 3.5 points

If one wants a gentle amber, this is it. Ambre Nuit (Dior, 2009), despite the name, is perfect for day, night, and just about any season. It is not the rich, dark, classical amber accord à la Shalimar (Guerlain, 1925), Ambre Fétiche (Annick Goutal, 2007), or the slightly gourmand Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens, 2000). Ambre Nuit, instead, focuses on the transparent warmth of the mix of a classical perfumery accord called amber and throws in a nice measure of rose. A nicely done modern rose-amber by perfumer François Demachy.

ambre nuit

Ambre Nuit opens with the freshness of bergamot and is somewhat aromatic due to the lavender-recalling dihydromyrcenol. From there, it plays on the interesting metallic facet of its rose to complement the amber. It begins with the metallic tonality of pink pepper oil at 0.25%. Then, the tone is extended towards the rather metallic musk fond comprising 11.2% each of Habanolide and ethylene brassylate. This firmly establishes the metallic character of its blooming rose at the centre.

Later, the composition gradually unfurls its sweet amber. There are the vanillic sweetness and balsamic labdanum. The ambery warmth of 5.1% Ambrox is present as a warm ambergris accent, which is in turn extended by the woody-ambery tone of 28% Iso E Super and a touch of cedarwood oil. The ambery warmth feels more like a gentle caress than the enveloping warmth at the fore of Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) and Allure Homme Édition Blanche (Chanel, 2008).

Such a well composed composition is thoroughly enjoyable. It presents a well-done oriental accord of rose and amber accented by an ambergris note. Also, the metallic aspect is a quirky twist to the rose. Ambre Nuit is nothing ground-breaking, but I say we always have room for another well-done amber that delights all day long.

Sources: dior.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odor

Review: Annick Goutal Ambre Sauvage — 3.5 points

Ambre Sauvage (Annick Goutal, 2015) by perfumer Isabelle Doyen is one of those perfumes that must not be tried on paper alone. It takes time on a warm skin to reveal the subtleties of its depth. Otherwise, it would be easy to dismiss the composition for its seemingly one-dimensional character.

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Most of Ambre Sauvage is a dense accord of amber. Pink pepper and lavender lend their bright terpenic accents, but they do not seem to make much of an impact, let alone a lift. The notes therein are so well-blended they feel as though I were looking through a filter for Gaussian blur. I can make out a warm patchouli. There is also a swirl of leather, styrax, and incense that sets the dusky tone of the composition. It stays close to skin, emanating just a woody, leathery air. It certainly feels monolithic.

Despite its name, Ambre Sauvage is far from the animalic notes and incense of Ambre Fétiche (Annick Goutal, 2007). Nor does it resemble the spicy and sumptuous feast of Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens, 2000) in the least. Fans of such dark or opulent ambers will be disappointed.

Nevertheless, the subdued richness feels refined. And, the absence of sweetness means that it can never be cloying. Those wishing to move from modern, streamlined, sweet ambers like Ambre Nuit (Dior, 2009) to a more challenging and shadowy side of amber might find Ambre Sauvage to be a good stepping stone. I just wish its ideas were extrapolated further.

Source: annickgoutal.fr

Review: Christian Dior La Colle Noir — 3.5 points

The moment I saw the name ‘La Colle Noire’, I was struck by the automatic translation that my brain provided — the black glue. But, then again, perfume names should never be taken too seriously in many cases. So, I read the description and learnt that this composition is inspired by Christian Dior’s holiday home. As for the juice, one can tell without having visited the château and its garden that the namesake La Colle Noire (Dior, 2016) by perfumer François Demarchy is filled with May roses.

orientalru

The Rose de Mai in La Colle Noire is distinct. There is jammy and honeyed richness along with the green depth of mimosa note. Accents of cloves provide a spicy contrast. And, after an hour, there is a light amber in the background. Its delicate warm tone is the perfect complement to the soft rose, and it gives La Colle Noire a classical contrast that is easily likeable.

And, classically, sandalwood and musk render a sensual aura in the dry down. The sum is pleasant and elegant as the May rose theme should be. It is carefully balanced and its ingredients smell of quality. The impression it gives is a photorealistic May rose with a warm twist of amber.

I like it for its quality and well-crafted composition, but other far more interesting rose themes abound. It will not sweep you off your feet like the oriental whirlwind of Portrait of A Lady (Frédéric Malle, 2009). Its richness is a tea spoon of raspberry confit, when compared to the red wine of Une Rose (Frédéric Malle, 2000). Nor is it the potent rose that provides a synergistic complement to the oud in Oud Ispahan (Dior, 2012). La Colle Noire is a balanced treatise on Rose de Mai, exploring its facets with quality materials. And, though far from being a literary trophy, it is a cogent essay on May rose.

How the château came to be named as such is more of a mystery than the composition.

Sources: oriental.ru