How Do You Take Your Amber?

We had a really strange winter this year*: it has never actually got cold. When I say “cold” I mean, of course, our Californian cold – something like 10C/50F. Instead of it the average high temperature in February, for example, was 16C/60F. I’m not really complaining especially after hearing about record levels of snow and cold weather all over the world. After all, no matter how much I realize that warm weather in absence of rain makes our drought situation even worse, objectively if feels nice.

But there was one serious negative consequence for me: this past winter I couldn’t wear almost any of my favorite amber perfumes. Even though I do not do a conscious season rotation of perfumes, my wearing habits gravitate towards the commonly accepted practice of lighter scents in summer and heavier members of my collection in winter. So the only amber I wear in hot weather is my amber necklace.

Amber Necklace

As winter approached I was eager to start wearing my favorite ambers again. The first disappointment came when I put on Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire. This perfume was on my “to buy” list for a couple of years so I decided to finish the sample I had and finally buy a bottle. Actually, I would have bought it not waiting for the last drop to leave the sample vial if it weren’t for an unavailability of more reasonable 50 ml bottles. Now I think that maybe it was a sign: the last time I wore it from the sample I felt almost like washing it off. Now I’m not sure any more if I even want it.

After that I was very careful approaching the rest of the usual suspects: Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, Ambre Fetishe by Annick Gotal, Amber Absolute by Tom Ford and Mitzah by Dior – each got just one wear, if that. I didn’t dislike them but I didn’t get the same warm feeling I used to get from them before. Even L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur felt too heavy for the weather.

There were just a couple of ambers that worked better and didn’t scare me. Unexpectedly, two of those were Ambre Orient by Armani Prive and Amber Oud from By Kilian. I am surprised because both have agarwood – the note that is difficult for me. But this time amber + agarwood combination seemed exactly what I needed. One more perfume that suddenly came into favor was Calamity J by Juliette Has A Gun. After I deplete the decant I will consider adding a bottle to my collection.

Despite all that I had more amber in my life this winter than ever before: last New Year I’ve got a gift from my vSO – Black Orchid Diffuser Set from my favorite designer Michael Aram. I’ve never had a diffuser before but was glad to get this one since I have some other items from this collection. Official notes are citrus, floral notes, tropical fruits, cedar, sandalwood and musk but for my nose it smells like a light amber perfume. And for a while, until I realized from where that wonderful scent was coming, I tried to figure out which of my perfumes left those traces and, which was even more important, where?!

Michael Aram Black Orchid Diffuser

So this year I take my amber light or very light. And, it seems, with agarwood. But I really hope that next year I’ll be able to enjoy the “heavy hitters” (© Olfactoria, Queen of Amber) again.


How do you take your amber nowadays?

* Ines recently started her post with the exact phrase but I swear I had this part already written by the time I read her post.


Images: my own

45 thoughts on “How Do You Take Your Amber?

  1. I have never experimented with a diffuser set, but that Black Orchid set sounds lovely. Your story reminds me of the pleasant ambient smell that we detected in your Paris flat – I think that was traced to some scented spills? Re ambers, I have never cared for the heavy hitting ones, even in the coldest of weathers – though our winter has also been on the wet and mild side. I like my amber scents light and maybe also rosy / spicy. Dior Ambre Nuit springs to mind and Marc Jacobs Amber Splash. Oh, and Prada L’Eau Ambree. Am assuming that has amber in it! Not sure I am drawn to an oudy combo but you have got me wondering now!

    • Dior’s Ambre Nuit isn’t really an amber perfume to me – so I liked it and wore this winter season.
      I wouldn’t have bought that diffuser myself: I think I would have opted for applying those $100 towards a perfume I would wear. But it was great to get it as a gift (and I will spend money on a refill bottle once this one is empty).

  2. We had a really strange winter this year* too!
    The actual winter with snow and temperatures of around -10 to -15C lasted for only two weeks! Imagine all the school children and their parents when they had planned to go skiing to Tatra Mountains and they couldn’t because there was no snow in the mountains (There was ALWAYS snow in the winter!) and artificial snow couldn’t be made because it was too warm.
    I’m with you regarding wearing lighter perfumes in spring/summer and starting to wear something a bit heavier in autumn/winter.
    But I’m not an ambery perfume and still I like my heavier to be quite light (confusing, I know)
    The only actual amber perfume I have is Ambra di Luna from Ramon Monegal and it’s the one I wore quite often, even though that most of our winter was like spring.
    Beautiful amber necklace :)

    • I do not ski but many of our friends used to do it since there’s mountain ski area just 3-4 hours drive north. In the last several years they stopped buying passes because there’s almost never enough snow (even with the artificial one) to justify those seasonal passes.

      I’m not sure if I tried Ambra di Luna yet. I should do that the next time I come across the brand.

      • I don’t ski either but when it’s a winter break at school most kids go to winter ski camps or they go to the mountains with their parents to ski.
        Usually there was plenty of snow at Tatra Mountains but this year was different.

  3. :D :D :D
    See, Lucas is with us. ;)
    I had the same problem this winter, none of my winter perfumes seemed to fit.
    Well, at least now it’s spring I can safely wear my spring perfumes. Although the rate we’re going, I might be onto summer perfumes in no time…

    • I’m so glad that I’m not alone with that strange manifestation of the taste change! It gives me hope that maybe it’ll come back to “normal” once the weather is right (I remember really-really liking all those perfumes so I’ll be very sad if I can’t enjoy them any longer).

  4. After much trial and error I have come to realise I don’t like amber. Not for me. I am quite shocked actually. Maybe one day the amber part of my brain will open. xxx

    • If you never liked something it’s not as scary as when you suddenly discover that your tastes changed.
      I’m sure there is/will be some light amber perfume (in the right combination of notes) that will win you over one day.

  5. Hey Undina,
    I have quite an amber collection and they all get used now and again. Currently the one getting the most love, over all the ridiculously expensive other ones, is L’Occitane Ambre & Santal. At around AUD$80/75ml it’s a spritz and go kinda frag that is fun and light but warm too.
    Portia xx

  6. I don’t usually care for amber, it smells too much like Play-Doh to me. The only amber perfume I wear is Hermes L’Ambre de Merv. Birgit’s description inspired me to try it and I fell in love! I have yet to enjoy another amber.

    So I suppose I take my amber with orange!

    • The way Birgit described her love to L’Ambre des Merveilles that I really wanted to like it – but no, it’s not for me.
      Have you tried Hermes Ambre Narguile? It’s one more that doesn’t work for me but you might like it.

  7. As the winter here has been exceptionally mild there has been very little ambers in rotation. A nice amber find is Téo Cabanel Barkhane which I tested during the few weeks with snow and tempratures below 0 C. I also used TC Alahine which I think is classified as an amber yet I find it more like an almost gourmand floral oriental on an ambery base

    • I like Alahine (and found just the right day to wear it this winter) but I also don’t think of it as of an amber perfume. Barkhane was nice but it didn’t feel unique enough when I tested it to want to go further than a sample I have.

  8. We too had an unusually warm winter, and I’m not complaining :-) so it meant that like you and others here, most ambers stayed in the cupboard. Because it felt weird not ambering up during amber season, I occasionally wore coudray amber et vanille, which is a very soft amber, and otherwise sticked to lighter orientals.

    • Until today I didn’t hear about that brand – and it looks like the perfume you wear is of the same age as some better known classic perfumes (e.g. Guerlain Vega).

  9. I take my amber full blown and heavy – I’ve been an amber nut for decades! When I had my store, we used to specialize in amber jewelry – your necklace is lovely. Here in Oregon we only had 2 very cold snaps that each lasted a couple of weeks, but that didn’t stop me from bringing out my amber army in the relatively cooler weather too. In fact, I wear it all year round – it just seems to suit my skin very well. Ambres Sultan and Fetiche got a lot of love especially.

    • I have a ring to go with that necklace too.

      Last year I loved Ambre Fetiche and Ambre Sultan! That’s why it upset me when I discovered that this year none of them felt right.

  10. I like my ambers on the heavy side, usually, but Ambre Russe is too heavy even for me. (Not so much the amber in it, but I remember it smelling alcoholic in a way that seemed over the top). I actually like heavy ambers like Ambre Fetiche in the humid weather of summer best … they round out and get more pillowy and sandalwoody and hypnotically beautiful then, in my opinion. Also helps that I have scent-eating skin, I suppose. :)

    Your amber necklace is very pretty!

    • I heard from some people that they enjoy some heavy perfumes in heat but for me it doesn’t work this way, in summer I prefer florals or something very light.

      The necklace was a not surprise gift from my vSO one Valentine’s day.

  11. I used to be the amber king, but this year it escaped me. Except for Dior’s Ambre Nuit, I really didn’t wear it at all and then I only wore Ambre Nuit a couple of times. Next year that will probably change and it will be my go to “note”! I’m not a jewelry kind of guy, but I do love beautiful amber jewelry that i see at art shows; that necklace is beautiful.

    • It must be the year then since you did have a real winter this year. Let’s hope it comes back to both of us.

      Though amber was very popular in my native country this is my first amber jewelry since most of those I’ve seen previously were too chunky.

  12. Nice necklace, Undina! I have a decent jewelry collection but the “amber” necklace I have is not elegant and is probably not even real amber.

    As for perfume amber, the one that I end up wearing year-round is the Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles because it is so versatile – light enough for summer/warm weather and the vanilla gives it enough body in cooler weather. It was one of two perfumes I brought with me to Nice as the weather was iffy and I did not want to have to decide what’s appropriate.

    How did you get Rusty to stay away from the diffuser?

    • This is the only amber jewelry in my collection as well. As I explained to Steve above, most of those I previously saw weren’t elegant and I never wanted any of those. This one was delicate that I liked it immediately.

      When I was taking pictures of the diffuser I tried to get Rusty into the shot – a sure method to drive him away, as I learned :). And now it lives on the mantelshelf – one of a very few places to where Rusty doesn’t have access.

  13. Just the Sultan for me. Interesting about the Ines synchronicity. I like Shakespeare’s “now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York”. That is a stunningly modern piece, that necklace. Amber dreams to you.

  14. Sadly I’ve never found the amber that’s for me. I think maybe Ambre Fetiche comes closest. I guess I only love it as a supporting note rather than the main evernt.

    How annoying to wait all year to wear your ambers and then not get the weather for them. Here it is more a case of waiting to wear my hot weather perfumes but the temps in summer not complying!

    I’ll join others with the love for your amber necklace. Very unusual.

    • Thank you, Tara, I like that necklace very much (and spent more than a year to find a matching ring).

      I think I enjoy cold summer even more than I enjoy warm winter so I won’t complain if I can’t wear any of the lighter perfumes because of it :)

  15. Well, at least I know now that a lot of other people could not wear their customary winter stuff either. Why does that make me feel better?

    Amber…hm. The best to me, the one I could wear is Parfumerie Generale’s L’Oiseau de Nuit, otherwise it’s Jean Claude Ellena’s ambers. Ambre Russe smells like zakuski, vodka,and carpets, so no sale here. L’Oiseau de Nuit smells like graham crackers and amber.

    • It makes you feel better because it gives you hope that it’s not a permanent change in your tastes but some kind of a fluke. At least that’s how I feel.

    • If it ever worked for you before – wait for the next season: maybe you’ll have a change of heart then. But if you never actually loved it, maybe it’s time to find a better home for it (and replace it with another perfume that gets more use).

  16. Hi Undina,
    I spent my (cold, wet, dark) winter wearing uber bright citrus to outwit Seasonal Adjustment Disorder.
    However.. I’ve returned to the original amber – Ambre Sultan (which is nonsense as Shalimar or Opium should really be hailed as the archetypes!), but it was my first niche amber and despite smelling numerous interpretations over the last 4 or 5 years, I still think it outshines all the others. A personal opinion clearly, but it just makes me feel amourous and glamourous, which I think is the point of a sultry oriental.

    • Ambre Sultan was my first SL full bottle so it holds a special place in my heart – that’s why I hope I’ll like it again next year.
      I almost never feel like wearing citrus-y scents, even in summer, but I can see how it might be attractive to to fight the winter blues.

  17. We’ve also had a winter much milder than usual this year, so I haven’t really gotten into wearing ambers much this season. On the few occasions I have, I’m finding I’m much more particular than usual. I don’t like ambers that are too sweet or vanillic and there is a certain concentration of a certain note that I don’t have a word for (it might be benzoin) that’s suddenly striking me the wrong way. In all, there is just one amber that has worked for me this winter and that’s Annick Goutals Ambre Fetiche.

  18. I’m a bit late to this post, but I’ve been wearing Chantecaille’s Kalimantan quite a lot this winter. Our winter was also a lot warmer than last year’s but still plenty cold enough for cold weather scents. Still, though I like ambers in theory, I don’t find myself wearing many of them. Kalimantan is an exception because, like Ambre Sultan (which it definitely resembles), it has plenty of herbal notes that seem to lighten it up.

  19. This is a great topic; I think everyone has a pretty strong feeling about amber. I struggle with amber. Apart from a few phases of being very “into” exploring amber perfumes, I generally don’t get along very well with many ambers. I hate to mention Miss Dior Le Parfum (knowing your feelings about the name change), but that is one that I like, and it’s mostly amber wrapped up on sweets. I also like Hermes very light takes, in limited doses, the the L’Ambre version of Merveilles and to a lesser extent Ambre Narguilles (too lazy to look up spellings). One thing I generally run a mile from: Lutens ambers. Yeeps!

    • I feel a little less resentment towards Le Parfum because I know you like it. But Hermess’ ambers don’t work for me – no matter how many times I tried seduced by Birgit’s reviews :)

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