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Oriental Lounge: My Timeless Amber

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Oriental Lounge: My Timeless Amber

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Every once in a while, I simply have to do a straight review. I don't like it. I'd much rather write those quasi-semi-pseudo-literary reviews that just plain annoy the hell out of some people. But sometimes I stumble onto something really, really good, and the word must go out. Besides - I have all winter to work on "Hot Amber & The Lumberyard Time Machine".

Technically, this was a blind buy. But not really blind. You see, this is different, because it's from The Different Company. And The Different Company is different because every one of their scents smells decent to me. Not a scrubber in the bunch. So when I ordered the new Oriental Lounge, I knew - in a mathematically valid but otherwise magical way - that I would like it, and maybe even love it. But the question still remained. Why?

I waited all day and showered - on my day off, mind you - just for the occasion. Seeking to "get in the mood" for what TDC calls "one of the most sensual fragrances" in their line, I took a leisurely nap. When I arose, a relaxed shower. Fresh skin. Clean clothes on the bed. I did a bikini dance in front of the bathroom mirror, modeling my black underwear to a shocked congregation of old-school cologne bottles. I think that Eau de Cologne Imperiale may have fainted. In the words of my hero in the B-movie Army of Darkness - "Gimme some sugar, baby."

Spraying on the juice from the sexy, cubic, heavy-as-crystal bottle, I waited for lower love that never came. Instead, I began wandering randomly around our bedroom, with my nose pointed skyward and my wrist dangling over my head. Thank God my wife didn't come upstairs, only to see her DH walking around in his undies, passionately moaning "Amber! Amber!", like some foolishly infatuated john, calling out to a long-gone hooker after she had skipped with his wallet.

For you see, instead of a cheap fling with a new sexy scent, I had once again proven to myself that the best things in life - such as signature amber scents - are thoroughly worth waiting for.

Amber - in all its forms - is powerful stuff. Used properly, it puts wood on the ball. When Mike Perez admitted to having cried upon sniffing Ambre Sultan, I instinctively did some kind of internal bow to the greatness of that scent. There are few scents worthy of such a thing, but Ambre Sultan is - beyond doubt - one of them. Yet, I had never bought it. Nor had I bought Ambre Précieux, which I prefer even to Ambre Sultan. And there is no way that I would touch Neil Morris' fascinating but shocking Burnt Amber. No - I needed something softer, but somehow, impossibly, still retaining the power of amber. And I didn't want to settle. So I waited, in a quest for my perfect amber. I even bought two scents that were merely "ambery" - Miller-Harris Feuilles de Tabac and Creed Bois du Portugal. Love 'em both, but neither one filled that void in my wardrobe. They have the classy uptown aspects of amber, but not the sexy warmth that I craved.

When I bought a set of four Hermèssence scents, including Ambre Narguilé, I held out some real hope that I would find my true amber love. Banking on Jean-Claude Ellena's light touch and trademark transparency, I hoped for a signature-worthy amber scent. Instead, I remember my shock when I smelled a heavy, fruity, tobaccoish, amber powerhouse. Sadly, I gave up hope of ever finding the amber of my dreams.

And now, wandering around in my bedroom calling out to amber, I realized just what Céline Ellena had done. As the power of amber rose through the topnotes, I waited for it to go to far - to do too much. But that moment never came. Through a mesmerizing balance of freshness, spiciness, and the most gentle touch of a softening powder, amber is allowed to be sensuous but no more. The power of amber is transformed by taking some of it away. It is, to me, amber through the vision of a woman and not a man. Next to this amber, all others - even the greatest - are pornographic. Ambre Sultan may have the voluptuous sexiness of the royal harem, but Oriental Lounge has the seductive intrigue of a slit dress and escalating glances in a dark, exotic club. You can have your thousand-and-one nights with the harem, buddy. I'm buying that lady a drink.

It's a shame to get clinical about this scent, but there are readers who want it, so bear with me. Oriental Lounge is talked up less as an amber scent than as an oriental/spicy/gourmand, which fits the way that amber is restrained. In some ways, OL's weak boozy angle parallels the modern trend of weak orientals like Dirty English and D&G the one For Men. But there is, much more predominantly, a fresh, cardamom-like spiciness due to caloupilé, aka curry plant leaves. This is an Asian spice plant which is NOT used for curry per se, but rather as a leaf spice IN certain curries and whatnot. It's not some over-the-top, curry or cinnamon thing. It's very subtle and soft.

Some of the freshness is due to bergamot, used nicely here. There is also a soft, powdery aspect - presumably tonka. Worry not, powderphobes. Others have described it as creaminess, and that works - the typical tonka thing is nicely modified to unfamiliarity. There is a quiet chocolate/cacao note, and in combination with the spice, makes an impressive gourmand. No Snickers bar, thank goodness. It resembles L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme - the lightness of the EDT without the dryness. The gourmand of the EDP without the heaviness. And it dries down even better than either of these, which is saying quite a bit, given how much I love L'Instant's drydown. It's a softer and more gentle drydown - very sexy. Longevity is not as good as L'Instant, but it's good enough. Projection depends on how your nose is dealing with amber. Overall, it's reasonable and very EdP-ish, meaning people need to get close. Sillage is light to moderate.

Now I want to talk about balance. This is a very balanced fragrance. Amber is tamed by a wonderful combination of everything else. The fact that it is kept in balance is really rather remarkable. The scent does have a development, but it's neither whipping around madly, nor predictably linear. It starts off impressively multi-faceted, and finishes as an impressively good skin scent. There are both gourmand and woody aspects to the drydown. One of the notes is "satin wood" - I don't know what it is, really, but it really is damn good. And as far as skin scents go - well - let's just say that you really, really want to end up in bed with somebody wearing this one. Man or woman doesn't matter, as far as who's wearing it (who you get in bed with is up to you). To call this scent "unisex" is too cheap and vulgar - it's like talking about toilets. It has that timeless feel which has no sex. Yes, a certain macho quality of the amber is gone, but what is left is wearable by anybody.

I suppose that I should say something bad about this scent, or I'll sound like a complete shill. Well, it could have better longevity and greater sillage. Both top and heart check out too early for me. I love to sniff it, and I wish it would project more, to compensate for amber fatigue. Is it too early to start clamoring for the "extreme" version? But I have to be honest, that might just kill it. If perfume designs are like any other complex system, then you have to have trade-offs. If you want the slit dress, then say goodbye to the thong, and definitely the ski boots.

What does this scent mean in the greater context of perfumery? First, it's novel territory for The Different Company, and more specifically, Céline Ellena. So kudos to both for a nice offering in a new area. Beyond that, I think this scent makes amber more accessible to many people, and more wearable, too. People who recoil at the louder ambers should check this out. But more than these things, I have to say that Céline is really giving her father a run for the money now. I think there will be many like me, who will prefer the sexy enticement of Oriental Lounge to the bold pipe tobacco quality of Ambre Narguilé - to say nothing of the Sultan of Ambre.

I don't think this is a scent that everybody needs to own, but I think people should definitely put it on their test lists. This is one of TDC's strongest offerings, in my opinion.

I already have Rodrigo Rojas' tagline for "Hot Amber & The Lumberyard Time Machine".

Gimme some amber, baby.

Blogger Disclosure: I was paid negative $120 by The Different Company in exchange for a potentially favorable review. This included a special email incentive discount comparable to the notorious "free shipping". An investigation is clearly warranted.

Updated 3rd May 2018 at 06:53 PM by Redneck Perfumisto (Image uploaded to Basenotes)



  1. DocmanCC's Avatar
    Blogger Disclosure: I was paid negative $120 by The Different Company in exchange for a potentially favorable review. This included a special email incentive discount comparable to the notorious "free shipping". An investigation is clearly warranted.

    Great stuff, RP. I haven't laughed out loud like that for a while.
  2. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Glad I could oblige! Thanks, Docman!!
  3. JaimeB's Avatar

    I saw this very same scent at Barneys recently, and had to go to the French version of wikipedia to find out what calouplié is, since TDC lists its ingredients on its testers in French, and this was the one word with which I was not familiar.

    It is, as you say, not an ingredient in commercial curry powders, but an aromatic leaf which is cooked in South Indian curries, especially those based on coconut milk. I have a couple of friends who traveled around South India for a few weeks some years back, and their reminiscences of sailing through the Bay of Cochin with a local who doubled as their steersman and cook made my mouth water. These guys were seriously taken with South Indian coconut milk curries, especially the seafood ones.

    I have smelled dried curry leaves in international grocery stores here in San Francisco, but I'm sure these are only pale imitations of the fresh, green, pliable ones right off the tree. According to the great all-knowing, the plant has fragrant flowers and edible berries, but the seeds are poisonous. Using the leaves as we might use bay laurel leaves in Western cookery seems to be the wise approach. I believe they are removed before serving the dish, unlike the Kaffir lime leaves one finds still floating around in Southeast Asian soups.

    All in all, an intriguing note to use in perfumery, and one I've never heard of in this connection before. I guess it's a stroke of perfumer's genius to make novel combinations like this...
  4. Hebe's Avatar
    I'ver never really "got" amber, but that does sound interesting. Lovely reading, thank you.
  5. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Thanks for the great info, Jaime! Kind of scary that the other parts of the plant are toxic, but I guess a lot of plants are that way. And I agree - these perfumers (and especially the very good ones) are quite able to spot new ground very quickly and exploit it. I think that Sel de Vétiver was clearly one of those cases - a very ingenious scent that is probably both my most favored and most atypical vetiver. This new scent also grabs my attention... in three novel ways, only two of which I can actually describe. One is this new spice itself, which has a certain freshness which works well in juxtaposition with amber. The other is way that amber is really highlighted by hiding it to some extent. I think that's just neat. And the last thing is very hard for me to describe because every time I catch the effect, it's so transient that I can't quite describe it. I'm not sure if it's an actual note, or an aspect, or what it is, but it has the eerie quality of déjà vu for me, and I just love it when I catch it. I almost wanted to sit on this review until I understood that aspect of the scent, but I really believe this is a superb fall scent, and I wanted people to be aware of it quickly. My workplace scent-buddy has given this one a thumbs-up, too.

    Hebe - I do hope that amber rings the bell for you at some point, because when it does, it's just lovely. Luca Turin takes a bit of a dim view of ambers - they're kind of easy and bland in some way, and it takes something a bit out of the usual mold to catch his fancy. He liked Sultan, Précieux, and Narguilé, and a few others, but many he found boring. I'm not even sure if he would think of this one as an amber. I do love amber, but not sufficiently that I want to own every one of them. I just like it enough to own one real bottle, and maybe my travel bottle of Ambre Narguilé. So I wanted it to be one that I, personally, loved - not everybody else's amber.
  6. queen cupcake's Avatar
    This was really funny! I'll be back. Thanks, Jamie.
  7. queen cupcake's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by queen cupcake
    This was really funny! I'll be back. Thanks, Jamie.
    [face reddening] I meant: Thanks, Redneck Perfumisto!
    Updated 19th October 2009 at 03:49 PM by queen cupcake
  8. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    [face reddening] I meant: Thanks, Redneck Perfumisto!
    No need to be apologetic, Elizabeth! (And it's not like I wouldn't mind having something I'd written mistaken for Jaime's, either! )

    Besides, I came this||close to actually leaving an entire, huge comment for somebody else on Jaime's blog just a couple of days ago! I don't think it gets more embarrassing than that. (I'm actually using this opportunity to confess it, so that when it does happen eventually, I'll be able to say that it almost happened before, with some believability. )

    [...and if Jaime sees this, I really have to ask him what's up with the phrase "and it's not like I wouldn't mind", which I've used since childhood, which has been used at least 97,500,000 time on Google, and which everybody seems to think means "I would, in fact, like". Yet, rigorously looked at, it would seem to mean the opposite. As I was driving just a moment ago, I was struck by the horrible thought that maybe I was using some kind of peculiar Kansan regionalism nobody would understand, but it's apparently not just me. ]
    Updated 20th October 2009 at 02:09 AM by Redneck Perfumisto (added comment)
  9. ECaruthers's Avatar
    Jaime is an English teacher. So, if he hasn't already done so, lets all ask him to explain The Ideom. All together now,
  10. JaimeB's Avatar
    What a curious turn of phrase! I think I would expect "and it's not like I would mind if...," or, more directly, "I wouldn't mind if...."

    Well, let's see if we can work this out:

    First of all, "I don't mind" is a phrase we use to give permission for something. The trouble with this is that it's counter-intuitive, because we're using a negative (not mind) to make an affirmative statement (essentially, "Go right ahead," or "Be my guest," or even perhaps "I really wish you would"). This confuses non-native English learners no end, because "no" here seems to mean "yes."

    Where the second negative comes from is a bit trickier: "It's not as if I wouldn't mind..." seems to imply that it is as if you do mind, taking the curious English-language notion that two negatives make an affirmative. Well, in formal logic, of course, they do; but in spoken English, normally they don't.

    In truth, real English, as she is spoke, deals with double negatives as perfectly grammatical in a completely negative sense: "He don't know nothing;" "I ain't got no money." These are clearly negative statements in normal spoken English, as every native speaker knows, regardless of the rules of formal English (which we linguists call "written code'). It's called "written code" because it's what we expect to see in writing, not what we normally say in natural (unreflective) speech. Believe it or not, even English professors talk like this on weekends and after we leave the campus.

    Even Will Shakespeare did this sort of thing. In one of his sonnets, the final couplet is:
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved. [Sonnet 116]
    A free paraphrase in modern English:
    If you can prove me wrong about this, I never wrote, nor ever loved any man.
    (What I really love Shakespeare for is stuff like "This was the most unkindest cut of all," (Julius Caesar 3.2.183), conclusive proof that official grammar is relative and subject to the vagaries of time and taste. Needless to say, a contemporary student would be corrected for this kind of superlative construction, though in Shakespeare's time it was quite routine, even in writing.)

    There is even a literary trope (or figure of speech, as a layman might say), called litotes, which uses a double negative to make an affirmative statement in a kind of forced understatement, e. g., "She was not unlovely," meaning "She was beautiful"; "His speech was not inconsistent with official American foreign policy" (i. e., it was consistent with that policy). In the case of litotes, two negatives do make an affirmative, albeit an ironic one.

    Now all this confusion about negatives can also lead to naïve constructions such as "I could care less if...," by which I suspect people really mean "I couldn't care less if...." Obviously, if you could care less, you must care a great deal; whereas if you couldn't care less, it's because you already don't care at all. That's what people mean when they say this: "I don't care at all." It might be clearer, although possibly less interesting, if they just said that. (I myself prefer not to give the proverbial fig, which is a very unambiguous fig, particularly when it is not given!)

    Sometimes errors like these are the result of over-correction. People are corrected as children, perhaps, for using "double negatives," and so, when they are in doubt or confused by a decision about it, they automatically opt to delete the offending negative. This can also work in reverse; a negative can creep in because of doubt as easily as it can be scrubbed on account of it.

    And so, in conclusion, I think this soi-disant "Kansan" expression "and it's not like I wouldn't mind if..." is a round-about way of saying "I wouldn't mind if...." I believe that by torturing the syntax to such a degree, the speaker loses track of the number of negations in the construction, and thereby produces a kind of mental hiccup. In the ensuing uncertainty, error on the side of redundancy seems to make the expression clearer. Do you follow this logic? I never could, but to some people, this seems just the thing.

    Another time, we can talk about:

    • "Express line. Ten items or less." (If you can count to ten, you should also know that "fewer" is the correct comparative form for countable nouns, in this case, "items.")
    • Or "He did it for you and I." (For I? Really?)
    • Or the results of misheard expressions like "I'll never step foot in there again." (The time-honored cliché is "set foot," FYI.)
    • Or how about "I'm going to lay down for a while." (What is it that you are going to lay down? "Lay" is a transitive verb, and so requires an object; you don't "lay down"; you lay something down, like the law, or a grammar rule, for instance.)

    Enough haranguing! Go in peace to wreck English as much as you like. We all do, sooner or later, after all.
    Updated 20th October 2009 at 07:16 AM by JaimeB
  11. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Thank you, Jaime! I not only feel like I understand this thing now, but I got a darn good laugh in the process (and my wife is going to wonder why I'm laughing so hard the next time we get in the "Express line"!)

    OK, folks. Let's break out those logic hammers and idiom saws!

    If there ain't some error that we can't make,
    Then we ain't never writ, no how, no way, no nothin', I don't suppose.

    Or maybe not!
  12. ECaruthers's Avatar
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    An "idiom" is a word or phrase which means something different from what it says - it is usually a metaphor. Idioms are common phrases or terms whose meanings are not literal, but are figurative and only known through their common uses.

    I didn't learn what an ideom was until I took Spanish. All languages have them. One side effect of learning other languages is a better understanding of my own.
  13. JaimeB's Avatar
    Yeah, so language matters aside, I pre-bought Oriental Lounge at Barneys as part of a deal involving a little store credit back for every so much you spend... Hmm, as if I needed any incentive to buy scent...
    Updated 26th October 2009 at 05:41 AM by JaimeB
  14. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Alright! I do hope you enjoy it, Jaime! I'm already offering and getting requests for samples, which I will most gladly share. I've been de-ambering my nose for a couple of weeks now, so I can jump back in on this one (it has great longevity on clothes, BTW.) And my Parfums DelRae samples just got here - I'm planning for a big sniff session soon. Very excited about that!


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