Amber perfume is difficult for me. There is so much I love about this note – its warmth, the husky voice it speaks with. It’s like Jane Russell in the years after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and before she did Playtex 18-hour bra commercials. Amber perfume also conjures up amber ghosts. Let me explain.
In 2006 I wrote a post on amber perfume called “Show Me the Rat Money!” about my dad, the river of sin and its current that will always try to pull you under.
Rat Money smell is what sin and whiskey and forbidden sex smells like. It´s the shady side of life, the smoky biker bar full of bad men that look irresistible, the part that nobody really wants to talk about too much because it is fun, and we all go there from time to time and hope we don´t get caught up in the Rat Money current and forget to find our way home.
I don´t remember what the Rat Money really smelled like, but it´s my phrase for every smell that I identify with that something that makes you wriggle up your nose and look the other way while casting furtive backward glances trying to figure out what it is and if it´s as much fun as it looks like and hoping nobody will catch you sniffing ’round it…
It is mixed in with the sweetness, the passion, the sorrow, the loss and regret. It meanders through all of our lives like cigarette smoke, clinging sometimes to what we wear, but never to who we are. My daddy understood that. He would play in the Rat Money World, but he never became part of it. He brought his Rat Money home to his wife and children.”
Oh, go read the post, you’ll find out what Rat Roulette is, which I kept thinking was relegated to some bullshit ’70s carny game, but apparently it still gets played for a quarter a spin in the Midwest. A Quarter?! My dad would laugh if he heard that – not even worth putting his hand in his pocket.
Amber opens time’s door, letting it find and haunt me, dragging my memories and loss with it.
I love amber.
I hate amber.
You should also know – the fiercest amber perfumes last approximately 24-48 hours in a high wind with blinding rain. It’s been a rough week all around between the amber and the technical
crap challenges of moving the blog.
Insert all the normal rules here – Amber perfumes I chose were my definition of amber-centric. I don’t have all the amber-centric perfumes covered here, just the ones I can get my acquisitive little mitts on.
Amber Perfume for people who want Casper Milquetoast amber
Or basically a no-amber option. For an amber perfume Ambre di Venezia is a pretty little floral. A little sweet baby amber that refuses to see the world as it is, wrapped in a cocoon of coconut and vanilla. Hey, that’s not a bad thing, just don’t let it try and convince you it’s an amber perfume by the name.
Amber with Training Wheels
Now, this category has this proviso – just because these ambers have training wheels does NOT mean they aren’t great ambers or are dumbed-down ambers. They are approachable amber perfumes that won’t be overwhelming.
Atelier Cologne Ambre Nue is amber perfection and winds up in my favorite ambers for people that don’t think they like amber category. It’s got such a delicate way of dealing with the amber without making it Casper Milquetoast amber. This should also be one of the first stops when you are looking at exploring amber perfume (MPG Ambre Precieux is also in the top three, but it’s down in the Pretty and Beloved category).
i Profumi di Firenze Ambre del Nepal is the last of the amber perfume with training wheels troika. Plush while remaining infused with air, it’s amber that trills instead of plods. No easy feat with the spice and incense notes in this. You assume it will be a heavy oriental. The beauty of this one as well is if you’re ever in Florence? Stop in at the drugstore where they make it, off the Piazza della Signoria, right next to that cute little overpriced restaurant I can never remember the name of, and you can pick up a bottle for like 20 euros, or a small size for about 9 euros. Whoever does their distribution marks it up a bazillion percent to around $100 for the same thing. So I call it a bargain – probably the best amber perfume bargain in existence – but you have to get someone to buy it in Firenze.
Running into mainstream amber, Jo Malone Amber and Lavender is a take on amber that’s probably a little more about the lavender than the amber, and this could be a great thing if you aren’t entirely sure you want to commit to that much amber. Not a favorite of mine, but I think it could find some fans that aren’t me.
Pretty and Beloved Amber Perfume
By Kilian Amber Oud – the husky earthy amber set over smooth as silk oud, amber’s siren song waving you into the port of sin, and you pull your silk curtain shut after a quick peek, left to your thoughts of your pampered and pedestrian life up to now and what it could be… and decide.
Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan – elegant amber full of honey and life’s sweet promise. This has become the amber bellwether. You always expect it to be in the category below – fierce, war-like, strutting out in its amber britches and doing a couple of Magic Mike Moves. But no, it’s just honeyed amber warmth hugs and snugglies.
Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Ambre Precieux is probably one of the most referenced ambers when you ask for a list of favorite amber perfumes. Woody smoked amber with a smooth vanilla patina, it deserves its position on the list of favorites. It is beautifully balanced and is probably the first amber perfume I would tell someone new to amber or amber-averse to try. It’s a great reference fragrance, and your amber perfume search could start and end with just this one scent. Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles is just so damn pretty! Even the Merveilles-averse peeps find L’Ambre to be the one version that they don’t hate (Hi, Musette!) Retaining that wonderful salty ambergris feel of the Merveilles line, it rolls in the amber and vanilla to make it richer, deeper. This is a so-not-rough amber. Amber dressed up in a Dior ballgown.
Il Profumo Ambre d’Or is a very pretty amber with amber, amber, more amber and then a little more. It’s pretty close to an amber soliflore – wait, you can’t be a soliflore if you’re amber. Well, it’s just mostly all amber. If you don’t want to spoil your amber with those messy other notes, just get this one. If someone had handed me Jo Malone Amber & Patchouli and Jo Malone Amber & Lavender and told me the same company had made them, I would have laughed and told them to pull the other one. I know the Amber & Patchouli is from the intense series, but it’s all oily darkness and smells a lot like a Donna Karan Labdanum. Oh, hey, that’s what I think it is! Maybe not. It fairly leaps out at you, and I think it’s much more oud’like than amber, but it goes in the Monster Amber category because it is a big, intense perfume that will eat the air space around you.
Mona di Orio Les Nombres d’Or Ambre is just beautiful. This is elevated above what amber normally is for me. This is amber’s redemption. It starts rough, spiky, spitting like a cat in a gunny sack, then settles into a warm amber content to live peacefully with the other notes. Those who like their amber rough and strong, this most likely is not going to hit the top of your list. If you like your amber to purr until you fall asleep all mentally wrapped ’round it, just go buy this and stop thinking about it. Ormonde Jayne Tolu is a little more about the tolu, but enough about the amber that it gets a spot here. The amber rolls through everything in this amber perfume, and it’s just this sensuous, undulating honeyed richness. I always wish this were me and I could wear it because I love everything about it, but it’s just one step over the amber line.
Word of warning – I wouldn’t wear Ormonde Jayne Tolu once the temperatures get above 65. Well, there are a lot of ambers in this post that I wouldn’t wear, um, at all… outside of the privacy of my home where the only ones complaining are my family and the pets. Well, and wouldn’t wear once it got above 32. Amber perfume radiates. If you love amber and wear it often at the office or for a hot date, just be aware that you may be unaware (i.e. TFClueless) that you are gassing out your cubemates and the corner office or that guy/girl you’d like to
bang later — get to know. Amber Temperance, people!
Pretty and Beloved Amber Perfume on a wee’ish budget!
Okay, the Christmas bonus didn’t come in this year or the raise or the, um, job! What’s a great amber that I can actually afford, you ask? Dior Ambre Nuit – this never seemed to get much traction in the Dior exclusives. It’s a gorgeous amber, elegantly refined, not too sweet, moving either to the feminine or masculine, day or evening. It’s amber’s version of the Little Brown Blouse, it goes with everything. Now you may be laughing here and say, yeah, it’s about a buck a ml, but I don’t have $230 or $250 or whatever to get that great big bottle. Bottle splits and decants!
BTW, my second attempt at doing a message board is what I think sent my last host over the edge. So here’s what I’d suggest for those of you that kind of know each other on the posse and would like to do splits or swaps, just do it on the Posse Facebook page. It’s there, it’s still small, it’s just you guys, so abuse/use it as you like.
Dior Dune is that freakish little early ’90s wonder that defies classification. Luca Turin in Perfumes: The Guide described it –
“Bleakest Beauty in all of perfumery,” and “unsmiling from top to bottom… drained of life, flesh-toned in the creepy way of artificial limbs, not real ones. Marvelous.”
And to that I say – exactly! There’s not an ounce of cheer in Dune or liveliness, and it isn’t pretending to be anything but the solemn-faced Emily the Strange. Dry, realistic, strange, unapologetic.
I’m throwing in a perfume that I don’t seem to have on hand because I remember it and really don’t need to smell it again, Boucheron Trouble. Vanilla amber that is warm and soft and super-cheap at every discounter around and eBay. Another great, inexpensive comforting amber is Barbara Bui. You can snag an ounce of this on eBay for about $27. Lots of love for it from March, Marina, Robin and many more.
Prada’s other amber perfume that falls on the affordable side of the line if you shop discounters or ebay, Prada L’eau Ambree. Lighter, not difficult to wear. Amber on training wheels. Not my favorite amber, but it’s a good mainstream introduction. Also in this category are some that fit in others – Atelier Ambre Nue, i Profumi di Firenze Ambra del Nepal.
Jean Patou Sublime seems to still be out there at a great price, so grab the perfume Luca Turin describes the drydown as “the sweetest, creamiest vanillic amber imaginable.” And it is all of that, but I suspect you may have to hunt around for an older version to make sure you get the right juice, but I can’t help you on which bottle is what or if it’s been reformulated.
This one almost went in the training wheels category, but it’s got a unique angle and a great price point. Tesori d’Oriente Ambra Indiana is an amber gently infused with TFA® (Tampax Fresh Accord). You know, it’s not horrible, not to my taste at all, but if you just don’t like amber being a little rough much of the time, this is an inexpensive amber that fits the “not really amber” amber bill.
Anne Pliska is orange-aid and amber, and it’s cheap and cheerful, and people will stop you on the street to find out what you’re wearing. There’s nothing but love for Anne Pliska here.
The Mongol Hordes are Coming! Amber Perfume
Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe. This amber rolls in fueled by vodka and lust after a handful of Exstasy and Coke hit the pleasure palace center of the brain, and you settle in for the long night partying in Kiev. As the morning light reveals the detritus of the night’s Pan-like revelry, you find yourself deep in conversation with a beautiful/handsome poet who talks about life and love as an art form, and the amber turns to beautiful glowing warmth, glad for human comfort and conversation. If only you could find your clothes, car and dignity, this would have been a great night.
I used to call Hermessence Ambre Narguile “The Nazgul” because once you put it on, you couldn’t shake it for days. It used the Eye of Sauron to track you. Just when you thought you had showered it off, you’d hear that spine-fusing screech from a distance. It’s beautiful, honeyed perfection, with the lasting power of my old 1967 Chevy that finally had to be traded in because it was never, ever, ever going to stop running so I could have a new car. Dior Mitzah is pretty much an amber perfume. I’m just including it briefly here because other people get a lot more amber out of it. It’s primarily patchouli on me. Your experience will be whatever it is on that spectrum. I just can’t comment on the amber in it because I just don’t get it. I assume I’m weird, though.
Tom Ford Amber Absolute – this is one where I’m phoning it in and using my youngest son’s review just so I don’t have to smell it again – “It feels like amber punched me in the nose, then shoved an amber beehive on my head!” Or something like that. All the fierceness of amber wrapped up in a slightly sick sweetness that pretty much horrifies me every time I smell it. Not a fan, YMMV.
Montale Aoud Ambre bangs you over the head with the aoud and slips you an amber roofie. Listen, I found this review on Basenotes that I had to copy a snippet of because, you know what? I think he’s got it!
“this smells like hot sex…on the floor of a truck stop bathroom. When I smell this, I have visions of tangled legs and shiny sweat and crumpled paper towels strewn about the white tile floor.”
There was a reference to urinal cakes as well, which I couldn’t quite place that note before, and you know what? Yeah, urinal cakes! We haven’t had a reference to “urinal cake accord” on the Posse in years. To manage to do a mash-up of urinal cake smell and sex on a truckstop bathroom floor, I am humbled by the audaciously perverted vision in that review, and I think he should write for us.
Do I like Montale Aoud Ambre? I have no idea. Yeah, I think so! Once you get past the urinal cake accord, it’s really pretty great and probably one of my favorite Montale oud scents.
Pierre Montale really doesn’t exist? I feel so, um, duped! Whenever I’ve gone in their shop, they refer to him as if he is in the back whipping up another four fragrances for next week.
A perfume I have ignored for years, Aroma M Geisha Noire is dark, dark, dark amber. Dry, sensual, this is everything I thought Tom Ford Amber Absolute should have been and wasn’t. If Montale Aoud Ambre is sex on a truckstop bathroom floor, Geisha Noire is clandestine, long overdue sex in the back of a Bentley on a cold winter evening, wrapped in fur. Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain is sex in a tent in the Sahara. No, no, that didn’t happen! I mean, I’m sure it has, but not on my watch. It would have been fun if it had. Marocain is the smell of the fire, the desert, the Moroccan spiced food, wine – a spicy incensed amber with a very warm afterglow. What? It’s the Basenotes guy’s review that got this started, blame him/her.
Profumum has two fairly fierce ambers – Fiore d’Ambre and Ambra Aurea. You would have to go a long ways to find two ambers from one line that are quite good, and Profumum has done that. Fiore is warmer. Aurea is a little sweeter on the open, more honeyed. If it weren’t for my annoyance with Profumum’s huge price tag with perfumes in such plain bottles, I’d be a huge fan. I am a huge fan of these two and several of their perfumes, but I get stuck on thinking their price point is just not right. 150-200 is the right spot for them, so they tend to keep sticking out like a bent nail that I have to keep hammering on. Sorry, Profumum, your business, your choices. I’m just saying, spiff up the bottles to look a little more luxe or think about a different price point. Your price and your bottle are arguing with each other.
Sonoma Scent Studio Ambre Noir is another wicked strong amber, huffing out with incense and smoke. It will make those who want their amber growling happy on the open and for a decent amount of time before it does eventually smooth out. Really pretty, and probably the best price point in this category. Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche is a stealth amber monster. I don’t know why I should ever be surprised when Goutal puts out these kinds of scents, and they have a few – Sables, Eau de Fier, Songes (yes, just because it’s a creamy white floral doesn’t mean it isn’t BIG PERFUME), they do wicked powerful perfumes as well as anyone – better even. Fetiche is leather, incense and amber, and it will stick with you through thick and thin, showers and salt scrubs, for days and weeks. Lord, it is a bad houseguest on me that just won’t go home. Most amber seems to cleave to me like a stalker.
Seriously Cray-Cray Amber Perfume
By “seriously crazy” I mean whacky combinations of amber with other stuff that just works or misses, but keeps me entertained. Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve is a wild, feral amber/patchouli bomb. There are those of you reading this whose hearts will beat faster when you read that and others who will mark that off your list forever. Best to choose before you sample it – this thing can’t tell time. You know, like time to wear off.
While Parfumerie Generale L’Oiseau de Nuit may not technically be amber, it just has this unique blend of leather, resin and davana sweetness that makes it feel amber to me, and it is gorgeous and a little fierce, and it may be a good way to go for the Parfumerie Generale fan that isn’t in the mood for a feral amber/patchouli bomb.
Cartier Must de Cartier is probably one of the crazier amber perfumes. Luca Turin said: “Must is the perfume that brought into the world, in expensive liquid form, the full ugliness of the chocolates nobody wants. The basic accord of vanilla, flowers and galbanum is so indigestible that you could use it as an appetite suppressant.” I wouldn’t go that far! But it is weird and I’m never sure if I think that’s in a good way or the chocolate I don’t want spit back out on my plate that I’m staring at. Without a doubt, Must de Cartier is the craziest Rat Money smell in this whole amber pack for me. I’m not entirely certain the rat wouldn’t scurry back in the hole if it ran across Must de Cartier.
AbdesSalaam Attar Chocolate Amber is the standout weird combination that completely works, despite the monumental odds that it shouldn’t. Cocoa and vanilla amber, not a hint of sweetness to be found, despite the name. That’s why it works. It’s that delicious gourmet dessert you pop in your mouth that almost doesn’t feel sinful because it is full of flavor, not sugar, though the sugar is only hiding. This was the biggest surprise in my amber samples – fell in love completely.
Just to keep riffing on Parfumerie Generale, and because this one should have appeared in the vanilla post, but I think it’s as much an amber perfume as a vanilla, Parfumerie Generale Felanilla (stupid name). Hay, amber, vanilla, iris. It is one seriously crazy combination that makes sense once you smell it. Like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – you know he’s as crazy as some of the craziest in there, despite the appearance of sanity. A little metallic with the iris, blasts of warmed saffron, and bubbly vanilla/amber. Works Crazy good. Montale Blue Amber is the amber that shouldn’t be. Amber is warm. Blue Amber is icy cold amber. How can that be a good thing? My love/hate relationship with amber revolves around its warmth, its roughness, its musty quality, smelling of warm old closets. Blue Amber just freaks me out, it’s not natural. It’s weird, but I can’t quite stop trying to figure it out.
Laura Tonatto Amir is the amber that took me down into the Rat Money memory maze. It’s an amazing amber, holding in tension the dark pull into excess of amber and the comfort of sitting safely on the shore and watching. Kind of like a Peeping Tom Amber – never committing to lust, it just likes to watch. But it’s not just that, it weaves a magic spell as it dries down, some bitter and elegant old world charm. The elegant yet crazy cat lady in the big, scary house on the corner that used to do burlesque before she married The Heir. I don’t know. I haven’t smelled Amir in years, and just one whiff, and I’m swirling in the mists of filtered time.
What happened to Laura Tonatto anyway? She has had some great fragrances – E. Duse, Amir. She just doesn’t seem to have done a good distribution model to get her more out there. It’s a shame, there’s so much to love in that line.
Probably shouldn’t call it crazy, but something that will balance orange blossom and amber in the way it has done must have a little bit of nutso involved. Arquiste Infanta en Flor is still drifting in my head as I look at one angle and another. It is remotely possible that this perfume may make a dignified crazy entry in every post from now on until I can sort out where she should go.
Dignified Amber Perfume
Farmacia SS. Annunciata Ambra Nera is the opposite of crazy. It’s one of those blended faces of amber that brings in all the best. Eucalyptus, vetiver, amber. This is the amber of old books, secret places, daydreaming, lusty dreams and a tiger in heat or two. Oops, did I mislabel this category? Sorry! Don’t you think tigers should smell like amber? I know they don’t, but I just keep thinking that’s the smell that goes with them. Durga, tigers and amber.
Throwing in a great spicy vibe, Histoires de Parfum Ambre 114 is a light amber with some spices and herbs. This line never gets enough attention, and it has some great scents, and this is one of the best. Beautifully done, this really is a dignified amber, carrying its beauty so lightly. A fashion model with depth. I did not get my hands on Ambrarem for this, but it appears to be an amber/saffron/oud blend that is well worth throwing in your amber pot.
L’Artisan is always dignified, even when they head off to the circus with the smell of elephant butts, peanuts and cotton candy. L’Eau d’Ambre is no exception. It feels niche, with some great twists of patchouli, geranium and vanilla, but restraining the weirdness with a well-disguised straitjacket, letting amber run the show. No one in the crowd will ever guess the kink that runs just below the surface. L’Artisan is such a beautiful line of perfumes. When it’s been a while in between smelling them, they just make me smile and sigh as I love them more the longer we have been friends.
Teo Cabanel Alahine is a rich, warm amber that could pretty much be the beginning and end of your amber search. This is the amber perfume you pull out of your perfume closet like that favorite old sweater you’ve had for years because it is always right, never too much, never too little. It’s the Goldilocks Pick. If that favorite sweater doesn’t quite do it, grab your Kerosene Copper Skies. It starts off pretty harsh, but just wait. Erin put this on at MiN NY when we were at Sniffa, and I could tell she wasn’t that enamored, and I told her to just be patient. About 15 minutes later she came back by going, “Oh, hey, I think I really like this, eh?” The mix of clove and amber gives this a really addictive, familiar feel that’s like slipping back into the skin you didn’t realize you had slipped out of.
Chanel Coco (parfum) is a huge love for me, just an amazing ambery oriental that never gets old, I don’t care how many people ask me “Hey, what’s that old ’80s perfume you have on?” Hey, Chanel Coco Noir. I’ve smelled Chanel Coco, Coco is a friend of mine, and you’re no Chanel Coco. My favorite iteration of Chanel Coco is the pure parfum, it ropes in and binds some of the more flamboyant oriental BIG ’80’ness, holds all of that rich honeyed warmth close to you, gently wrapped in Chanel’s velvety softness.
Armani Ambre Soie – this release never got as much love as I thought it deserved. Dry, peppery tobacco amber. This part of the Prive line seems to have disappeared into Europe, not to visit our shores again, but this is one of two of that line that should be revived and sent back across the pond. It’s just one of the prettiest ambers that preserve all that amber is, but makes it incredibly wearable.
Prada Cuir Ambre was released in 2012. Difficult to find and buy keeps this from being a hugely successful amber. Leather laid over amber, there isn’t much here that would make either amber or leather lovers less than orgasmic.
Some perfumes that didn’t make the post that probably should have and some we are mentioning twice –
M. Micallef Note Ambree, which I understand is a pretty skanky amber. I can’t find it actively being sold anywhere, so I couldn’t smell it again. I know I smelled it when we were in France a couple of years ago, but don’t have a good enough memory to comment beyond that, and I don’t want to send you on a wild goose chase for something you can’t get anymore. Yeah, I know, I’ve done it before, I’m trying to reform!
Ann’s favorites – Armani Prive Ambre Orient & Christian Dior Mitzah — Both of these gorgeous, loud and proud ambers bring patchouli to the table, and although the Armani seems a bit more complex and has a tad more going on in the drydown, they’re very similar and I adore them both. Mona di Orio Les Nombres d’Or Ambre — This luscious scent is more low-key than the two above: slightly floral, slightly smoky and just plain lovely. Bonus points because it reminds me somewhat of a Diptyque candle
Portia’s favorites – L’Eau d’Ambre. L’Artisan, Piment Brulant. L’Artisan, Ambre Russe. Parfum d’Empire, Jeke. Slumberhouse, Ambra del Nepal. I Profumi di Frienze, Ambre Narguile. Hermes, Twilight. SJP, Coco. Chanel, Halle. Halle Berry, Trouble. Boucheron, Tobacco & Tulle. SOIVOHLE, Let It Rock. Vivienne Westwood, Samsara. Guerlain, Mohur. Neela Vermeire Creations (I know it’s a rose but the dry down is pure amber.
Anita – Mona’s Amber. Yum. Thought I hated amber. Got hoist on my own petard with this one. Got the Cuir and the Ambre from Surrender to Chance, thinking I would love the Cuir and –actually I think I got the amber by mistake – I think I meant to order something else because I Hate Amber! Anyhoo….. the cuir was surprisingly strident on me……the amber……whoa! Sooo beautiful. None of that ‘cat in a burlap bag’ for this gal! It went on beautifully and stayed, completely obliterating the Amber Hate I’d built up, courtesy of the Nazgul. The other amber – actually the Gateway Amber – is courtesy of Missy March. She sent me Memoire Liquide Ambre Ancien and I was all ‘ewww. she sent me amber? ewww’ Because, you know, I was an Amber Hater~ yah. Well, I can’t count the number of times I reached for that lovely little bottle. I foolishly swapped it away…wish I hadn’t. Oh, well. Tant pis and all that. But it’s just lovely and reminded me of how beautiful amber can be.
Okay, your turn! Favorite amber? Hate amber? Love amber and can’t believe I’d slightly disrespect your beloved amber? Have a personal experience with sex punctuated with urinal cake accord you want to share? Drop a comment here or on Facebook Perfume Posse page to be entered!