Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Black Amber by Agonist

Total Reviews: 11
Agonist Black Amber looks great on paper--that is, the note breakdown is very interesting. To put it mildly, though, the fragrance is a bit all over the place, the lengthy list of main notes being some indication of the chaos in the juice.

That said, though, chaos isn't always a bad thing, and I like a lot of what's going on in Black Amber, my first try from the Agonist line.

Included in the note breakdown and perceivable in the blend are incense, amber, labdanum, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, and patchouli. It's mainly a resinous, woody, spicy, incense-laden blend that starts out with some bite but ends up being a little sweeter and more resinous in the dry down.

And there are a number of notes listed that I'm unfamiliar with, like davana, red seaweed, and thornbush flower, specifically in the top, but since the fragrance starts out a bit sharper and ends up a bit smoother, as happens more often than not.

Overall this is a nice fragrance, perhaps a little pricey for what it is, at $195 for 50ml (Luckyscent, Neiman Marcus, etc.) but still an intriguing entry that could be a cold weather winner for men or women alike, though it leans masculine to me.

7 out of 10

13th February, 2018
One of the best discoveries of my humble nose, perhaps because of my inexperience, not being familiar with those perfumes of amber that renounce to follow the amber pleasure as the main chord and, on the contrary, subject it to an atmosphere or attempt other than its immediate warmth. Here, however, amber is easily recognizable, but I can admit it by that sheath of pale, dark vegetation that shelters it.
In effect, this is an attempt to explore the black face of amber: the result is a light air of enchanted forest on the skin. Too pleasant, again, not only for the amber, but for the pepper, a slight honey flavor, and other memories of cooking or domestic natural aromas. But all this is mixed with success, perhaps renouncing the possibility of the extraordinary in the black exaltation of incense (which persists like the smoke of a forest burned by the moon), but beautiful, mysterious and lonely. An enemy fragrance of the day, or at least another light that is not the wintery and lugubrious that drowns any flower of joy.
Esoteric; I dew of its essence in my lonely walks of the cold spring nights. It looks like a perfume made for mysticism and serenity at night, Gothic and, nonetheless, smiling.
Too pleasant, but pleasantly sad.
30th January, 2018
Sometimes, it feels like the Agonist brand is struggling to find its place in the market. First, with the $1300 art bottles, then the cheaper regular bottles, then they drastically reformulated all their perfumes as completely different natural perfumes but kept the old names, so you never really know what you're going to get.

Judging by smell alone, my sample of Black Amber is the natural perfume version. It's nice, but definitely has a bit of that essential oil perfume smell, a sort of fishy cedar chip odor hovering in the background. Aside from that, it smells peppery on top and then like a complicated mulchy smell in the heart, almost like someone tried to recreate the smell of a pine forest using resins instead of pine. In the realm of natural perfumes, I've certainly smelled worse, but this just isn't "clicking" for me, which is a shame considering that ambers are one of the few perfume families that can smell absolutely wonderful made from natural oils, but they just haven't done that here.
30th January, 2018
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To me the key characteristic of this fragrance is birch tar deep in the background... But birch is not listed so i'm guessing it's just a combination of other dark woods and smokyness that gives me that birch vibe.
Other than that it's a pretty straight forward spicy incense, with a nice "mental color" of graphite grey.

Seemingly nicely blended but left me kind of cold and uninspired.
23rd April, 2015
This is an interesting take on an amber based scent. The whole scent isn’t overtly sweet and cloying like most ambers, but instead it has an subtle ozonic/marine quality to it. It opens up a tad on the cherry cough syrup side, but thankfully that aspect goes away rather quickly. The sweetness settles down into a wonderful dry, ashy vanilla that’s as if you’re smelling a piece of vanilla amber resin as the wind blew across a smoldering fire next to the ocean. It’s a dry and subtly sweet vanilla amber with a peppery/earthy backbone that stays at about arms length for sillage and also has good longevity.
03rd July, 2014
The "flow of consciousness" of notes I feel at the opening: amber, incense, lavender, linalol, clove, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, benzoin, pepper, vanilla, aromatic woods (cedar?)... most of them I don't know if are actually there but that is how the opening smells to me. Basically a sweet and spicy amber, with a pleasant, bold opening. It then slowly becomes a bit more green-balsamic as minutes pass, some herbal feel with a mentholated touch – kind of CdG realm. That's a nice transation. You feel the pungent feel of ambroxan on the base, the cedar and the styrax, and also a tiny bit of dry and a bit plastic patchouli – does not smell great, but it is still fine for the purpose. And that linalool insecticide vibe, subtle but persistent from the very beginning. Frankly this overall smells a bit dull to me – the amber/incense/green notes accord is nice, but also a bit confused and... I don't know, not catchy. Pale, perhaps. Anyway, overall this scent is closer to some green incenses CdG's like Sugi or Zagorsk, more than to amber-based scents. Short persistence (too short for me). Nice, but not worth the price tag for me.

18th April, 2014 (last edited: 19th April, 2014)
This dark incensey/oriental is a delicious combination of balsams, resins, woods, floral notes and incense in which the latter plays a backbone role surrounded by a delicious sticky spiciness. The first blast is almost boozy and i suppose (may be ostensibly) to detect a rhum/tobacco cozy combo in the middle of the spicy resins, jumping up in mind nuances from aromas as Idole de Lubin, Bois d'Ascese (smokier) and partially Coze 02 (without the booziness). The resins are soon prominent enveloping all the elements (floral notes included) in a sort of sticky incensey embrace by soon dark and mysterious. There is a touch of smoke in the blend as flanked by cloves/cinnamon, birch resins and dark woods but the smoke is marginal (such a smoked sugar) and the incensey aroma is closer to a spicy/vanillic type than to a properly steamy one a la Norma Kamali Incense. Vetiverus comes partially to mind because of the central combination of resins, vetiver, amber, incense, styrax, patchouli and labdanum but Black Amber is probably less resinous and more properly leaning over the oriental side. Yes, as an incensey one the Black Amber's type of olibanum is more closer for instance to Messe de Minuit or to all those decadent/resinous/oriental liturgical fragrances than to the drier, smokier and colder (aseptic) incenses a la Kyoto, Black Tourmaline, Hinoki, Full Incense or Caraceni. The dry down is a delicious but effectively rather linear incensey/spicy oriental with a dark woody side and a touch of honey/wax in the mix. A great choice for the Easter's nights spent roaming around the mediaval towns for tight halleis and churches enlighted by the candels casted inside for the "night of the tombs"'s ceremonies.
22nd December, 2013
Kaern Show all reviews
United Kingdom
Gotta agree these are six killer fragrances from Agonist. If I had had £800 on me, I would have purchased the lot, but went for this and 'The Infidels', which has a retro feel, but with no reference points to others I know. Black Amber is just so lush for winter. Get on to them -- I'm going back to the Well for sure.
26th October, 2012
25th October, 2012
Sybarite Show all reviews
United Kingdom
A dry earthy and peppery amber, with smoky and salty facets which give it a subtle leathery undertone. The slight saltiness lent by the seaweed absolute certainly imbues this amber with interesting "touch-of-the-sea" nuances ,which one could argue lends it a more accurate true 'ambergris' approximation which other ambers tend to lack. So an ingenious and original choice of note which gives this amber it's own unique character. (And don't let said seaweed notes put you off, for whilst certainly present, it's use is subtle enough as could be easily missed unless focused on.)
The 'earthiness' and ever-present 'smokiness' I imagine is mostly due to the cypriol/cyperus (nagarmotha) which usually tends to be so. Tho' it could also perhaps be from the amalgamation of the baser notes (perhaps even a particularly smoky vetiver variety, as some tend to be ?) It is however a rather different kind of 'smokiness' particular to the more usual cade or birch-tar, for example. It's difficult to explain exactly, but it's far less "bonfire" and more subtle peppery/earthy in quality. Here it reads more as a particularly smoky frankincense. Like one's smelling the burnt incense tears, smoke and all, from a lit censer (as opposed to just frankincense oil). ... There is also a subdued herbal presence in the background. But it's more like an indistinct melange of dusty dried herbs rather than freshly-picked 'green'. (Is that oregano I smell back there ??). And hiding beneath all this, the expected vanilla (for a typical 'amber-accord') is actually rather unexpected, for being surprisingly subtle and suppressed, used with such restraint that I'd say it's probably the perfect amber for a 'vanilla-o-phobic'. (Tho' personally I'd have preferred more vanilla with all that lovely smokiness. (Two notes I find most complimentary.) Another thing that's kept in check is the sweetness, it's overall a far more dry than sweet amber. And tho' I personally don't mind sweet balsamic ambers, I'd actually say that Black Ambers' dry resinous aspect is probably it's most alluring quality.
And whilst this amber is certainly dark and intriguing, there's also something lacking for me that I can't quite put my finger on. Being a big amber luver a good 'amber' frag practically leaves me weak at the knees, Black Amber unfortunately, for whatever reason, just doesn't.
Bottom line - there are just better, more captivating ambers & for a better price.
(Tho' the newer 'non-sculpture' flacons certainly make these far more affordable.
13th October, 2012
A sweetish incense-centered concoction which I find both interesting and disappointing at the same time.

Pros: The quality of the incense is great. More leaning towards the one in L'Eau Trois and Messe De Minuit than to, say, Avignon or Preludio D'Oriente. Botloads of other resins and woods such as styrax, cypriol, cedarwood and sandalwood enhance the dry character while vanilla provides a sweetish facet to slightly smooth the fragrance.

Cons: Not as potent as I expected, somewhat short-lived and a tad too linear...The seaweed note in the opening is meh. Fortunately it recedes very quickly...
18th September, 2012