Suzanne's Perfume Journal

April 30, 2011:

Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche can be purchased from a number of stores and boutiques that carry the line, and is usually $135 for 50-ml or $175 for 100-ml. However, the online perfume discounter currently offers the square, 100-ml bottle for only $65, which is pretty darn tempting. I know a number of perfumistas who have been pleased with their fragrance purchases from this particular discounter.

Images (top): actress Eva Green playing the role of Vesper Lynd in the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale; Annick Goutal bottle image is from a perfume shopping site.

Until a couple weeks ago, I regarded amber perfumes the same way I regard chocolate cake: decadent, delicious affairs that you can pretty much count on to always be good, and for that reason alone, not something I’m much interested in seeking out. Their straight-forwardly simple formulas tend to bore me, and they are quite often too much of a good thing: too caloric and too insistent, mainly. Having said that, of course I’m now going to tell you that I have, of late, fallen into a deep swoon over some amber perfumes; Ambre Fétiche by Annick Goutal being one of them—largely thanks to the sublime Birgit, of Olfactoria’s Travels, whose recent review of Ambre Fétiche describes how its lean, sensual formula imparted a feeling of daring in her, of having a secretive side not obvious to those who see her as the innocent young mom dressed in ballerina flats and a trench coat, pushing a baby stroller through the streets of Vienna.

Those who follow the perfume blogs and have been gently pulled into Birgit’s orbit via her many charms—intelligence, elegant manners, and an instinct for bringing out the best in people—know that her Hitchcock-blonde beauty already lends her an air of a woman who has secrets. But if wearing Ambre Fétiche puts her in touch with the more mysterious side of herself, who am I to argue? Especially when she and the bloggers I call her “temptresses-in-crime” waxed so rhapsodic over this fragrance in the comments section of Birgit’s post.

Now having ordered a decant of Ambre Fétiche and fully surrendered myself to it this week, I can affirm that Birgit and her posse are right: this is seriously gorgeous stuff. Here is an amber that woos you with what it keeps in reserve as much as by what it wafts so confidently, so knowingly. Think of the most beautiful woman or man you can imagine—yet one whom you suspect that, as formidable as they appear, is keeping the full crushing weight of their beauty from you, guarding a mystery. Think of Eva Green playing Vesper Lynd in the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale; think of her in that black dress, voluptuous and angular in equal measures, but with a cool, feline intellect and steely guardedness that makes her an intrigue, a challenge to Bond. She keeps her heart tucked away in the tight folds of that Algerian love knot on her necklace, and when she finally takes it off it is because she is truly in love with Bond, but even he cannot fathom how deep her love goes and the kinds of secrets she holds onto.

Ambre Fétiche has notes of frankincense, labdanum, styrax, benzoin, iris, vanilla and Russian leather. It is an arid and rather vegetal amber when it first connects with skin, thanks to the ethereal smokiness of frankincense, the resinous of labdanum, and the initial root-like nature of the iris note. As the sweeter, plusher amber resins of styrax and benzoin exert their presence, so too does a light leather note; it’s really a soft leather, but it adds a lightly animalic facet to the fragrance that keeps Ambre Fétiche smelling dense rather than fluffy, sensual rather than sweet. As the fragrance dries down, it will encompass the vanillic richness that one expects of amber scents; the iris note will undergo its typical transformation and add a tickle (nothing more than that) of powderiness to the scent. And if you wear this fragrance to bed, the warmth of your breath under the covers will make Ambre Fétiche bloom into that narcotic, balsamic flower that has no name and almost seems to defy description, but which, once you have known it (in this and other amber-based perfumes), enslaves you like a drug.Even so, in Ambre Fétiche, amber’s deeply-quilted sensuousness lies beneath the surface of something that is guarded and a bit feral, making it seem like the perfume has an intellect or an inner world that is unknowable except, perhaps, to a cherished few. I understand exactly what Birgit experiences in this fragrance and I understand, too, why her friend Dee (from Beauty on the Outside) describes it as “both modern and ancient.” This is an amber of classic beauty—with a pared down, understated quality that imparts an air of emancipation and separateness from its genre. Isn't it that bit of phantom mystery that compels us towards something, that makes it live on in our minds and renders it timeless?

Ambre Fétiche by Annick Goutal: Amber with a Phantom Side

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