Estee Lauder Amber Ylang Ylang

I admire Estee Lauder (the woman and the brand) for producing some scents I really like and then not discontinuing them, thank you very much.  My favorites tend to be from their back catalog – the original Azuree, Private Collection, Youth Dew, Cinnabar.  Even if the Lauder department store areas have a nasty habit of hiding these older gems behind the counter, what´s not to love about a company with several fragrances from $35 – $65 (check their website), which in today´s market is essentially free?   I admire rather than like most of the “newer” releases like Beautiful, Pleasures and White Linen.  Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia was beautifully done but not my sort of thing at all.  Sensuous is all right, but I can only really smell it in the lotion, and even the summery Bronze Goddess was more a cheerful rip-off of the smell of tanning oil than a new scent idea, although I bought a bottle.

So I wasn’t anxiously awaiting the new Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang For me, “amber” in a fragrance name is often associated with some viscous, cloying smell that smothers me like the proverbial trapped fly.  The marketing materials say Aerin Lauder “drew inspiration from the luxurious simplicity of her own private world.  The fragrance captures the essence of an enjoyable evening in a warm, inviting room filled with the luxurious textures of wood, velvet and cashmere in browns and golds.”  The words private and intimate are repeated throughout the release.  Notes are bergamot, geranium, golden amber, ylang ylang, Bulgarian rose, honey, incense, vanilla and sandalwood.  (Elsewhere there are references to Ceylon cinnamon that didn´t make it into the main list of notes.)

I´m under the impression Amber Ylang has gotten a somewhat lukewarm reception among perfume nuts, and a first sniff gives me a suspicion why – if you are a fan of their Tuberose Gardenia, surely Amber Ylang is rather mousy by comparison.   Tuberose Gardenia is an elegant, dressy scent that commands a certain amount of attention when it makes its entrance, whereas Amber Ylang is more likely to sneak in quietly through the side door and be sitting in that comfy plush velvet chair over by the fireplace, drink in hand, before you even know it arrived.

And for some of us, this may not be a bad thing; even the most enthusiastic perfume lover can crave the occasional fragrance that doesn´t stalk into the room like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and hurl its fur at you in a diva-esque fit.  Amber Ylang´s development is linear and unsurprising – the spicy-green pop of geranium and bergamot that fades almost before it’s registered, followed almost immediately by amber and its sidekick, the ghost of Play-Doh, that unique, doughy smell that can pop up for some of us in amber scents like People of the Labyrinths´ Luctor et Emergo (aka POTL) and Anne Pliska.  I can´t detect the rose at all, and the ylang ylang and honey are rich rather than sweet.  The incense (and the cinnamon?) are spicy-resinous, reminiscent of benzoin rather than something more churchy.   There´s a mildly woody phase somewhat reminiscent of Sensuous.  The drydown is a warm amber-woody-spicy vanilla.

Amber Ylang wears close to the skin, but like the softest pima cotton camisole, it´s there snug and warm for the entire day.  I could still smell it faintly on the back of my hand in the morning.   I experimented with wearing it at different strengths – a couple small spritzes vs. drenching myself, and while I enjoyed it even in higher doses, on one afternoon (and on my shirtsleeve) I got quite a bit of Play-Doh, although there was still enough else going on in the scent I really didn´t mind it the way I do in POTL and Anne Pliska.

Amber Ylang is certainly less of a powerhouse than anything like Beautiful or Beyond Paradise.  For all that, it´s pretty.  If Sensuous and Amber Ylang represent any sort of a directional trend by Estee Lauder, I´m all for it.   Amber Ylang may also be the first reasonably amber-laden fragrance I want – amber for those of us for whom a little amber goes a very long way.

Amber Ylang Ylang as a concept is not exactly uncharted territory.   On the other hand, I wore it for several days and there is a restraint and level of sophistication I find interesting.  It´s not gourmand, and it´s not a cupcake scent – I could wear this to a business meeting and not feel like I was smelling girly.  It´s not bitter like Annick Goutal´s Vanille Exquise, but it´s fully adult in the same way.  So.  For those of you who were hopeful of another blockbuster like Tuberose Gardenia – you didn´t get it.  For those of you in the market for a quietly elegant comfort scent that would work all day and into the evening, Amber Ylang Ylang might be worth trying.

image, 1oz. parfum bottle (pictured) of Amber Ylang, $300.  If you want EdP and a plain cap, I believe it’s $65 for 1oz.

  • tmp00 says:

    so it’s $235 for a… special cap? hmmm..:-?

    • March says:

      Nah, it’s $235 for the cap and an upgrade to PARFUM from edp, as two nice commenters on here have pointed out without using the word “dummass.”

  • Kristy Victoria says:

    March, just wanted to let you know, that the bottle with the stones on it that is $300 is the parfum! It’s not just the same scent with a nicer cap.

    • March says:

      You are absolutely right, my apologies, I just glanced again at their marketing piece. I’ll correct it in the post (mjharvey up there pointed out the same thing) :”>

  • Existentialist says:

    I love the house of Lauder as a general concept, and some of their frags specifically. Youth Dew, Azuree, the original Private Collection… I think it is awesome they continue to crank out quality scents at prices real people can afford. However, I am not inspired to try this. It just sounds too…nice. But in principle, I love that they continue to produce affordable, non-crap perfumes. Eventually they’ll come up with something new that I must own.

    • March says:

      Sounds like you’re more old-school. :)>- And there’s nothing wrong with that.

      I may wind up with some Sensuous lotion, although, dang, that purple bottle it comes in is heeedious.

      • Existentialist says:

        I’ll take that as a compliment. :”> I hope to end up as one of those elderly women who always have lipstick on and are dressed to the nines to go to the market, and are perhaps a little cantankerous, and have on some outrageously great perfume that can’t reasonably be worn by anyone under 65.

  • Robin says:

    I don’t really much like amber and don’t care for ylang ylang either, so no surprise I didn’t care for this one, but I did think it was really nicely done. I thought it was reminiscent of Sensuous too, which seemed kind of odd, like they were doing a more expensive “niche-like” version?

    Hope they’ll keep the PC series going, anyway.

    • March says:

      Yes… good point … what were they thinking? I don’t mean that in a snotty way. But Sensuous and this one feel different than the rest of the line. I’d take some more of that!

  • Patty says:

    I did like this one, but I like most ELs recently, but they just won’t bang me over the head with love!

  • Kathryn says:

    I may have found the perfect use for Amber Ylang today. I put some on this morning before discussions with the carpenters working on my house, They ordinarily do not respond at all well to female opinions. However, I think the AY was cozy and comforting enough that it took some of the edge off a few of my more critical comments. Perhaps AY is potentially useful camouflage. It might be harder to think of a woman as, euphemistically, “difficult” when she goes around smelling like play doh.

    Beyond that, I actually find AY quite pleasant to wear. It’s a little bit more outgoing than Barbara Bui with a similar low key, mild amber/woods thing going on in the base. I don’t get any plastic smell at all, and what is play doh to some is that lovely cottage garden flower heliotrope to me. I like it. And if it continues to work its magic with recalcitrant construction workers, I could easily grow to love it.

    • March says:

      I thought afterward about working BB into the post and I suppose I should have — it reminds me more of BB than anything else. Only BB doesn’t do the play-doh thing (knocks wood.) But I hear you on the compliant guy aspect! 🙂

  • violetnoir says:

    I was hoping for the blockbuster…AY-Y smelled like brown sugar on me.


  • Shelley says:

    Play-doh like some get from, say, L’Heure Bleu?

    (BTW, does anybody remember when Play-doh tasted good? Um, I mean, I’ve heard that used to be the case…)

    • March says:

      See, I am one of the folks who don’t ever get Play-Doh from LHB (crosses herself) and so I am not sure, but assume it has something to do with the heliotropin.

      My kids are always bringing home home-made play-doh from school. I prefer the commercial stuff 🙂

      • Shelley says:

        Must say, I don’t mind the Play-doh waft when it comes.

        I used to make the homemade with my own kids, back when they were younger and I was a domestic goddess mom. Had a pretty good recipe, actually.

        However, the best tasting stuff was the Play-Doh of my youth…seriously, they re-formulated so that it wouldn’t have that taste, because some parent or consumer org complained that kids were actually tempted to eat the stuff. (Now who would go and rat on a perfectly good occasional snitching of the stuff?? Me own mither???)

  • AngelaS says:

    March, it sounds like you and I had a similar experience with Amber Ylang. After all, what’s not to like about it? It’s warm, smooth, pretty. On the other hand, although it’s wildly likeable, I couldn’t quite fall in love with it. Maybe the parfum is a different story.

    I wore the old Azuree yesterday. Now, that one I love.

    • March says:

      I had the same response to the old Azuree that Tania Sanchez had in The Guide — that indignant, why the *hell* did I not know about this fragrance earlier?!?!?! And it’s dirt cheap. It’s not an everyday scent for me, but I love it.

      The Amber Ylang fits in (in my perfume wardrobe) sort of where I’d put Barbara Bui, and BB I like better. But I was happy to meet a new Estee I could live with, you know?

    • helenviolette says:

      Hello Angela, I got to try the parfum the day I bought this one. It was nice but Very Similar to the Edp, actually seemed a bit quieter (aka, even more “likeable”)- The edp seemed to have a little more moxie-I probably wouldn’t have bought it but I had $40 gift certificate that was minutes from expiring. it is nice and pretty- good to have a mainstream winter scent.

      March, you nailed it. It is Amber for the non-amber lovahs. I was expecting to hate it b/c Amber and I don’t get along (Ambre Sultan=chingow) I also get play-doh.

      Now I need to sniff out some Azuree..

      • March says:

        There’s some other amber I once described as Rasputin’s armpit. Ugh. And you could kill me with POTL. b-(

        The Azuree is a pretty ballsy fragrance, nothing like Amber Ylang.

        • sweetlife says:

          R.’s armpit would be Ambre Russe, I believe. I remember since it’s one of my favorites and I get a big kick out of loving something that is too much for March the Skank Monster.

          • March says:

            Yup, that’s the one! I think at some point I came to appreciate its… bouquet, although I still wouldn’t wear it. 😉

    • Melissa says:

      I tried the parfum as well and I found it to be soft, rounded and pretty, but not distinctly different. I like my ambers armpit-ier too I suppose.:o

  • Musette says:

    I admit to a fondness for Play-Doh, only because it was one of the first ‘scents’ that I could identify (beyond the regular stuff found in perfume, like rose, gardenia, etc) That being said, I definitely do not want to WEAR Play-Doh!

    I remember absolutely loving EL’s Private Collection when it first came out…..and now, for the life of me, I can’t remember why. I’ll have to go resniff it. I shy away from the EL counter because all of their makeup and treatment is so heavily scented – makes my face hurt!:(


    • March says:

      Doll, you def. need to go get them to scare up the older scents next time you visit. Private Collection, Azuree, cinnabar … they don’t make ’em like that any more, and I swear Azuree is like $34, it’s ridiculous. btw I think PC was the sort of “first adult scent” of several women on here.

      • Musette says:

        I have a little samp of Azuree somewhere – remember trying it and liking it mucho but not remembering it now…will have to try again.



  • Divalano says:

    “fancypants collectors bottle”

    I don’t know why but that makes me snicker. Hee.

    You get bitter from Vanille Exquise? Last time I tried it I remember it being beyond cuddly candy, no backbone at all. Maybe I should try again.

    • March says:

      Poking fun at the bottle and myself simultaneously. The SA “unveiled” the $300 bottle for us at NM on Saturday. I end up thinking, who would waste $300 on a bottle when you can get a perfectly good one for $65 and spend the rest on perfume?!? But one could just as easily poke fun at my multi-lifetime supply of fragrance, right?

      • mharvey816 says:

        Well, the fancypants bottle is also the parfum, while the regular one is the EDP. And yes, I fell so hard for this fragrance that a mere week after I bought the EDP, I bought the parfum at Sniffa. The BG EL counter totally lurves me now. LOL

        • March says:

          Dude, free samps forever! :)>- Will correct the oversight on the bottle, thanks — I should have read my marketing materials more carefully. I swear though I didn’t hear the SA say “parfum,” although I’m sure she did, or simply thought she meant EDP.

    • March says:

      Whoops — also — yes, Exquise is a tad bitter on me. Delightfully so, not a criticism. I like that note, it keeps the scent grounded for me.

  • Melissa says:

    I tried Ylang Saturday at NM and found it to be pleasant and wearable. No plastic note, but rather a simple linear cozy amber. That said, I don’t need it. I like my ambers with more kick and complexity.

    • March says:

      Lovely to see you Saturday! 😡 Your comment underscores my impression of this as an amber for non-amber lovers… /:) certainly if I were wild for amber I’d pick something else.

  • Gail S says:

    Okay, now you’ve done it! I’ll have to try to find a sample of this one after all. I was resisting because the market I live in isn’t big enough that anyone here sells the private collection scents. And go ahead and call me low-brow, but I’m quite enjoying Sensuous (although I HATE it when someone asks me what I’m wearing and I have to say the name out loud!) You may remember that woody scents tend to overpower me, but Sensuous is just the right level of woody, slightly sweet and spicy, with a warm woody drydown. I’ve been in the mood lately for understated, but persistently pleasing scents like that (TDC Jasmin de Nuit also fits the bill) and wouldn’t mind trying another 🙂

    • March says:

      Well, there you have it. A little something woody for everyone. I *wanted* to like Sensuous, and did sort of, but as I think I wrote last week I have trouble smelling much of it. The lotion, though — that was wonderful, I may get some of that. If you liked the Sensuous I do think you should sample this one, because the woods strike me as similar.

  • Louise says:

    I do admire some ELs a great deal (especially Cinnabar in parfum, Spellbound at times), but just can’t do any of the new ones. Gardenia is lovely, and eats me alive in a single gulp @-)

    The Ylang was much better on you than on me…where it went to straight plastic. Play-doh would have been nicer, I think, at least it has positive memories linked to it. Plastic, not so much.

    The only recent “mainstream” release that I’ve liked at all is LM Nuits Enchantees-it is soft, but lasting, not too sweet, easily wearable.

    Happy Monday 🙂

    • March says:

      You know, I keep forgetting to try that LM. I am sure I’ve walked right past it at Nordstrom at Tysons. I stayed away from the LM fragrance section ever since she released those gourmand ones. :-ss

      Plastic? That doesn’t sound very nice at all. btw the eye-batting emoticon was really working it today!

    • Shelley says:

      Hey, Louise! :d/ I just happened upon Cinnabar myself…it’s been waiting for me in one of those EL sample trunks that I picked up at auction. I tried it, I like it. Still trying to figure out the Venn diagram for things I like / things my skank sophisticate pals like. This is an interesting addition to the overlap section…

      Hope you’re well. ~o)

      • Louise says:

        Cheers to you, too 😡 The Venn diagram will only confooze you. I think I’m an oriental girl at heart, with wanderings into skank and chypres. But stay tuned, it all shifts rapidly :-ss

        • Shelley says:

          Heaven knows I’m confuzzled enough as it is. Will repress the occasional urge to organize/take stock. (Shouldn’t be too difficult an effort. (:| )