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March 25, 2013:
Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles eau de parfum has notes of amber, labdanum, vanilla and patchouli. It can be purchased from NeimanMarcus.com, $108 for 50-ml; $149 for 100-ml. My review is based on a decant of L'Ambre des Merveilles that I purchased from The Perfumed Court (theperfumedcourt.com).
Image (top of page) of swirling hearts in latte foam is from the EndearingDesigner.com.
Detail from Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" can be found at various sites on the web.
Bottle image is from Fragrantica.com.
A Week of Wearing What I Like: Day One
As a cure for writer’s block, this week I’m going to do something different here at my perfume journal. I’m simply going to write one small post a day about whatever perfume I’m wearing, whether it’s something new or an old favorite, with a short description about the perfume itself, along with some random thoughts about whatever is going through my mind ... either free associations about the perfume, or maybe just a survey of what I’m doing that day which might have nothing to do with perfume (I haven’t decided yet). I’ll state right off the bat that this style of writing doesn’t feel satisfying to me; anyone who has read me regularly knows that I prefer to write a weekly essay that is more meaningful or more entertaining than what you’ll see here over the next five days (five days constitutes a week, doesn’t it?). But sometimes it’s better to write anything at all than to sit on one’s thumbs and hope that inspiration is going to strike, so with that in mind, here’s the first of these small exercises. (I'll be posting these at night, by the way.)
What I’m Wearing:
Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena and launched last year, this is a flanker to the original Eau des Merveilles, and though I find it lovely, for me it is no match for the quiet sparkle and subtle sexiness of the original. Whereas Eau des Merveilles couples one of the most clear and delightful orange notes with an ambergris accord that smells like salty skin, L’Ambre des Merveilles is a far more nebulous scent that takes its foamy amber in a direction that is gourmand-like. No, it’s not a true gourmand, but L’Ambre des Merveilles reminds me of meringue, at first, and then for much of its wear it resembles the inside of a Three Musketeers candy bar: a fluffy candy nougat, minus the chocolate. And in its late dry-down, its froth acquires a touch of smoke and leather to make it smell like the froth on a cappuccino, or to be more specific, that delightful meeting place where aerated milk and espresso caress one another.
(In its late-late drydown, it fades to a breath of vanilla, as most amber-based scents do.)
I like L’Ambre des Merveilles at every stage: in its meringue like opening, there is a touch of citrus that is lightly lemony and uplifting; as the fragrance develops to become more nougatine, there are warm caramelic tones that are also delightfully almond-like; and in the far dry-down, I love the air of charred-coffee that manages to stiffen this airy scent just a tiny bit. L’Ambre des Merveilles is a teensy bit woody and leathery in this final stage, but committing those words to the computer screen makes me feel uneasy, because one has to imagine those scents in their most wispy form to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
What I’m Thinking Of When I Wear It:
Getting a first kiss in a coffee shop. L’Ambre des Merveilles is a fragrance that smells tentative and delicate, like first love and frothed milk, but also cozy and warm. It’s a fine balance of the two. One wouldn’t expect to get a passionate first kiss in a public place like a coffee shop – it would more likely be a sweet and tender kiss that would hopefully lead to something more. (Unless, of course, the coffee shop is deserted and you happen to be Ross and Rachel. I suppose that kiss might fall under L’Ambre des Merveilles territory too, since TV sitcom romances have more than a bit of froth to them, which is exactly why we like them).
L’Ambre des Merveilles also reminds me of the color beige—the soft look of a beige sweater, the creamy look of beige sheepskin—which is a color I find chic and flattering. If L’Ambre des Merveilles were to be represented as an article of clothing, it would be a beige, lambswool sweater. If it were represented in a painting, it would be the face of Botticelli’s Venus in his painting “The Birth of Venus.” That long flow of golden hair floating on the sea wind, the serene expression on her face.
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What’s Not to Love About It? (Why do I still prefer Eau des Merveilles?)
L’Ambre des Merveilles is a little too cloud-like for my tastes, and though I usually fall head-over-heels for perfumes that couple opposites—the way this one ingeniously couples delicacy with warmth—still, I find I prefer the definition, the sparkling effervescence and also the more humanly sensual smell of the original. Like L'Ambre, Eau des Merveilles is a very soft scent too, yet it’s not what I would call cozy: it’s got that clear-singing orange note and a gentle eroticism to it that is sexy … and much as I know that people tire of hearing the word sexy (especially when coupled to perfume), I never do. I never get tired of smelling it, either. :-)