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  1. #1

    Default The smell of Amber

    I have been studying amber fragrances for a couple of months now trying to really understand this note better.

    To start this study, I ventured to The Perfume House here in Portland, Oregon. The staff there are very knowledgable and the selection is quite large.

    As I talked to the clerk and learned about amber, I finally asked, "But what does amber itself smell like?"

    "That," she exclaimed, "I can answer!" She rummaged through a drawer and brought forth a glass jar like a jelly jar. She removed the lid and handed me the jar. It contained some dirty-looking brown rocks. "Smell that," she commanded. And so I did. I expected it to smell like rocks, dirty and earthy and minerally. But it smelled wonderful, sweet, a bit of vanilla, rich and complex. "That," she continued, "is the highest-grade, pure, raw amber. That is what amber smells like!"

    Thinking I may not ever again have the chance to smell such a great thing, I inhaled deeply and tried to capture the smell in my memory.

    Meanwhile, the clerk sprayed something onto a cotton ball and handed the ball to me. "Now smell this."

    It was the same.

    I went back and forth between the jar and the cotton ball. Jar. Cotton ball. Jar. Coton ball. I tried to be very critical and smell very carefully looking for something in the jar that was not on the ball or something on the ball that was not on the jar. But, with the exception of a bit of fading alcohol on the ball, there was no difference.

    "I can find no difference," I said.

    "Because there isn't," my teacher replied.

    "So," I asked, holding up the ball, "what is on this?"

    She put the bottle onto the table: L'Artisan Parfumeur, Ambre Extrême.

    "L'Artisan has," she explained, "more than any other house, succeeded in bottling the true scent of amber."

    "But," I protested, "I read that Ambre Extrême has other notes like cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla... even rose sandalwood, even patchouli."

    "No," she explained, "Amber itself is a complex fragrance and has elements of those notes in it."

    And so I tried again, jar, cotton ball, jar, cotton ball, jar, cotton ball... and they were the same.

    So, knowing that I couldn't take the jar home, I took the bottle home instead. And that is what I learned about Amber.

  2. #2

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    I think these kinds of posts are supposed to be in the general forum now, especially consdering how amber is more pronounced in "women's" frags than "men's."

  3. #3

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Actually, Ambre Extreme seems to get a lot of negative feedback here due to being "boring" or plain, and it sort of is. I am not sure what kind of ambergris you've smelt. There are types, (e.g. origin) and colors which as far as I know reflect the age, the lighter the older. Considering I'm from the middle east, I have smelt a few real ambers and amber perfumes a few years back (should do again when I go back home). And while Ambre Extreme seems to have a little bit of the Raw Amber feel, I just don't don't think it smells nearly as animalic and overwhelming as real amber. Don't get me wrong, it's there, but you'd be fooled if you think that smells like the highest quality or most complex raw amber.

    I'm surprised so few people here have smelt real amber or ambergris. It's rare and expensive, no surprise, but nowhere near what some people make it sound to be, afterall it's legal to obtain. Getting a tiny rock of ambergris or a very tiny vial of pure ambergris oil (or ambergris essential oil, tincture or whatever they call it.) Will run you anywhere from $200-$500. That's Very expensive, but hey that's what some perfumes and middle eastern oils cost, it's nothing near the almost mythical rarity and incredible price people make it sound to be. You know some Aoud oils cost $10,000 for that same amount of oil, and Aoud is just considered "rare" and not as mystical as Amber. I think Ambergris is just getting that reputation due to being an animalic note that's rare in western perfumery, getting mixed up with the other animalic oils that are actually illegal to obtain in some countries. You can easily obtain the real thing from the middle east or from various Ambergris distributors located in New Zealand. My point is, there is a lot to look into in the Ambergris world, and yeah not all of us can drop $2000 to get a few rocks to compare, but you get my idea, there's a long road ahead of you if you're into Amber, synthetic or real Ambergris.

    Now back to Ambre Extreme, I hope I didn't "ruin" it for you. Amber is my favorite note, and while %20 of my collection is Amber perfumes or at least have a strong Amber note in them, Ambre Precieux is my "fancy" amber, and Ambre Extreme is sort of my everyday fragrance, I spray it on in my drawers or just when I'm sitting home alone, I should get the Ambre Ball. Sadly, for an "Extreme" perfume, it's very weak

  4. #4

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    I found it boring and way too sweet. I think the deep base of Ubar, Enslaved Extrait and Lanvin My Sin are heavenly good and/because rich of ambergris.

  5. #5

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Lots of confusion around the amber note, too. Amber is not necessarily the same as ambergris; amber is also an accord that has labdanum, benzoin and/or vanilla, and it doesn't smell much like ambergris. I think there's a possibility that what you smelled was labdanum paste, IIRC the L'Artisan amber is built on the amber accord, not ambergris.

    There is lots of very good information about these notes in the single note exploration forum, I highly recommend reading more there.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Quote Originally Posted by Pimpinett View Post
    Lots of confusion around the amber note, too. Amber is not necessarily the same as ambergris; amber is also an accord that has labdanum, benzoin and/or vanilla, and it doesn't smell much like ambergris. I think there's a possibility that what you smelled was labdanum paste, IIRC the L'Artisan amber is built on the amber accord, not ambergris.

    There is lots of very good information about these notes in the single note exploration forum, I highly recommend reading more there.
    Oh, that's very true, maybe he's actually talking about pure amber, and not real ambergris

  7. #7

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    It is quite obvious he isnt talking about Ambergris

  8. #8

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Cool story Gollnick!
    Salespeople like that are what make the difference between shopping at a place like The Perfume House vs. somewhere like Macy’s (yuck!). It’s so great to have people helping you that are excited and that bring your understanding of fragrance to another level like that, actually showing you raw materials.
    “I wanna say something. I’m gonna put it out there. If you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back…."

  9. #9

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    When I think of amber, (one of my favorite notes), I think of a semi-sweet resin(y) sorta woody-toned vanilla. Hard to explain...but i try.
    Kerosene fragrance samples and bottles here: www.min.com

  10. #10

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    no to be an ass here... but how many ambers have you smelt? and how often? if you have limited experience, then smelling the rock and the cotton ball might seem the same. If you're Ekove and have 20 bottles of various ambers and spend all day sniffing them, there might have been a difference. Not to dissuade you or anything, but I know even just a few months ago I could barely distinguish one amber from another.
    NEW SPLIT - Tom Ford Lavender Palm 50ml in Atomizer - DISCONTINUED!. .

    Most of the time I am very proud of the Basenotes community. Time after time I have witnessed the thoughtfulness, empathy & genuine friendship that members of this community extend to others - oldtimers & newcomers alike. There are other times, however, when egos get the upper hand and civility goes out the window. My philosophy is that I won't say anything here that I would not say if you were standing in front of me. Welcome to Basenotes, each and every one of us. ~ TwoRoads

  11. #11
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    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    First off, welcome to Basenotes, Gollnick!

    Interesting story, something to consider with a pinch of salt I guess. I don't believe there's only one 'best' version of amber. Like all accords, it varies with the source (raw material) &/or scent reconstruction (reverse engineering). Ultimately it often boils down to personal tastes i.e. how would you prefer your 'amber' to smell? Besides, how does one quantify or qualify 'quality' in amber?

  12. #12

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Actually, to think about it, it just would not make sense if he's talking about Amber, the artificial one, over real ambergris. I mean, you really have not smelt an amber-centered fragrance before L'Artisan Extreme? Oh well, either way, there is really a long road ahead of you. I'm sorry if I misunderstood you, because I am actually surprised that someone is that surprised with pure synthetic amber, especially one who has been "studying amber fragrances for months", don't get me wrong, the stuff is good, but very popular. And if you think L'Artisan is good, try Ambre Precieux (soft creamy amber, yet magically complex) or Amber Absolute (a slightly thicker more syrpy amber). L'Artisan will seem like childs play compared to those two.

  13. #13

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Quote Originally Posted by Ekove View Post
    Actually, to think about it, it just would not make sense if he's talking about Amber, the artificial one, over real ambergris...
    This was already pointed out, but to reiterate: amber is not the same as ambergris. Two totally different materials. Amber is confusing enough without mixing it up with ambergris.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Daniel Moynihan

  14. #14

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Quote Originally Posted by Snafoo View Post
    This was already pointed out, but to reiterate: amber is not the same as ambergris. Two totally different materials. Amber is confusing enough without mixing it up with ambergris.
    If my research is correct, Amber is a resin type of material. Ambergris is whale barf that has dried and hardened over time.
    Kerosene fragrance samples and bottles here: www.min.com

  15. #15

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    I love my ambers with a hint of bourbon. My favorite is Ambre 114 by Histoire des Parfums. Spicy head notes: nutmeg and thyme; a middle of rose, patchouli and geranium all over a cozy carpet of benzoin, vanilla, tonka and a most resinous amber.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerosene View Post
    If my research is correct, Amber is a resin type of material.
    Yes, amber is fossilized tree sap, often from prehistoric sources and containing trapped insects. (Did you see Jurassic Park?)

  17. #17

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    I too find it simple, too sweet, and quickly cloying (I've sampled several niche ones). I have a bottle of Ambra by Etro, which I use to sweeten and soften up harsh frags, usually by mixing them together. I can't wear it by itself, though.

  18. #18

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Quote Originally Posted by NYCBoy View Post
    Yes, amber is fossilized tree sap, often from prehistoric sources and containing trapped insects.
    That's the rock (not mineral) called amber. The original post clearly described the resin/oil mix called amber, which can be used as perfume or incense, and on which the various amber accords are based (there may be as many recipes for "amber" as there are for "curry powder"!) And while none of them are the animal-derived ambergris, the rock amber is the most likely to be amber in color, although many beautiful pieces can be had which aren't amber-colored at all.

  19. #19

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Thank you all for such an interesting and educational discussion.

    The very word "Amber" causes a lot of the confusion which surrounds it.

    There is, first, the color Amber which is a deep, warm, yellow/gold sort of color. A lot perfumes which have no form of amber note in their scent are, nevertheless, amber in color and that word may be used to describe them referring to the color, not the scent which can be confusing.

    Then, there's a material called Amber which is fossilized tree resin (not sap); this actually can be burned to give off a sort of pine scent which is sometimes found in incense. There is even a technique for dissolving this material in a chemical solvent and extracting that somewhat musky/piney scent for use in liquid perfumes.

    Next, there is Ambergris, the whale excretion, which is sometimes used and often immitated in perfumes.

    Finally, there is this resin/oil mixture which is common in perfumes.

    What I smelled in the jar is the latest of these.

    Ambergris is similar, but different. It is an amazing fragrance too. I have samples of two ambergris-centric fragrances which I am saving to make a study on ambergris-centric fragrances later.

    I suspect that a lot of the lack-luster reactions to Ambre Extrême come from the fact that people go into it expecting a complex perfume, something like Ambre Sultan, when the whole permise of it, the whole beauty of it, is to be just pure amber.

    If you don't have the opportunity to venture to The Perfume House, and stick your nose in their jar, you can get yourself some Ambre Extrême and smell the same thing. I am certainly not asserting that Ambre Extrême is the best or perfect Amber, but it's an excellent prototypical amber which makes it an excellent reference to have when studying Amber fragrances. The other one out of the 18 or 20 Amber-centric fragrances which I have now tried which I found to be very close is Profumum Ambra Aurea.

    So far, my favorite Amber-centric fragrance is Ambre Precieux. But, yes, while I now feel that I'm starting to get a basic understanding of and appreciation for Amber, I do still have a long -- and hopefully pleasant -- way to go. It is very nice to have resources such as The Perfume House and this forum to draw on and learn from.
    Last edited by Gollnick; 8th October 2010 at 03:40 AM.

  20. #20

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    What does anyone know about something known as 'Rockrose' amber? I have a wooden container that has what I've been lead to believe is amber but it doesn't smell anything like the amber I've been coming across in frags and in oils. This stuff I have blows everything else away that is called 'amber'. It's simply divine, it's heavenly. A strange thing that this stuff does is when you leave the cap on for a very long time this rockrose starts to grow crystals of itself. Long, thin wispy criss-crossed crystals. Nothing like anything else I've encountered.
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  21. #21

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Thanks for the education Gollnick!

    Here's a very thorough thread on the same topic...
    NEW SPLIT - Tom Ford Lavender Palm 50ml in Atomizer - DISCONTINUED!. .

    Most of the time I am very proud of the Basenotes community. Time after time I have witnessed the thoughtfulness, empathy & genuine friendship that members of this community extend to others - oldtimers & newcomers alike. There are other times, however, when egos get the upper hand and civility goes out the window. My philosophy is that I won't say anything here that I would not say if you were standing in front of me. Welcome to Basenotes, each and every one of us. ~ TwoRoads

  22. #22

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Hey Gollnick, great post. Every year or so we need a post like that to clear up the amber issue.
    The Perfume House is a great place. I think the old guy, the owner, is a bit of a crook and notorious bullshit artist, but the rest of the staff are just lovely people, especially once they know that you're an enthusiast.

    We should do a Portland Basenotes outing to TPH sometime. Not many other places to go in Portland, but if we got a group to go it could be fun.

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  23. #23

    Default Re: The smell of Amber

    Hmmmm reading that link someone mentions the rockrose plant in association with labdanum (sp?). This is does a plant substance continue to grow like a mineral would, in crystalline form, after it been harvested? Cause that's what my sample does. It grows when closed off to light.
    ***My SALE thread***My TRADE thread***
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