In 2014, Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser introduced Santal Royal, the first scent in a series of fragrances directed firmly at the middle eastern market. Les Absolus d'Orient explore exotic raw materials common in the East, and 2016, Guerlain has launched it's second Ambre Eternal.
The reason for the short lesson here, is because Ambre Eternal is much less the former, (vegetal amber) and much more the latter (grey amber). This excites me no end, as ambergris interpretations in modern perfumery are scant, and perhaps none I find more enjoyable than this new Guerlain release.
With expectations of a honey-like sweet amber extinguished, one can approach Ambre Eternal with a sense of excitement, because it is quite literally like nothing you might have imagined. First of all, for one, it feels very Thierry Wasser. By this, I mean it does not hold any olfactory markers that liken it to the Jacques and Jean-Paul creations of the house... rather, it pushes forward just as one now expects from Thierry's work; that is, it continues to plot a new point in the arc that is the new Guerlain of the two-thousand-and-teens.
Ambre Eternel has a curious flight - one which instantly veers away from the usual Guerlain citrus/floral quickstep, and instead feels somewhat ashen and animalic from the outset. A spiced scattering of dry coriander and cardamom seed introduces an almost-instant ambergris / leathery feel... a sense of balsamic earthiness that immediately tells you this is not a(nother) vegetal amber interpretation. A very delicate peachey/ylang-ylang ribbon underpins the composition; never quite reaching the dizzying heights of Mitsouko et al, but rather, acts as a supportive strut to the composition, lending a light tenderness to what feels like quite a gruff, masculine framework. Precious woody notes play off the slightly salty ambergris, which leave a dry sensation at the back of the nose. But somewhere within - as Ambre Eternal warms on skin - there is a curious fleecy, almost waxy facet. It is warm, husky and very animalic - perhaps much like one might imagine the back of an elephant's ear to smell of. There is something organic about this perfume as it warms on skin, and this gives it a sultry, somewhat carnal quality.
Ambre Eternel ticks many boxes for yours truly. Not only does it highlight again that Wasser is indeed a master of his craft, but it also shows his startling innovation and incredible restraint. Wasser has recognised and demonstrated here that Middle Eastern perfumes need not always shout... rather, they can beckon and haunt; like the stirring song of a whale.
Ambre Eternel is available as a 125ml Eau de Parfum from selected retailers and on guerlain.com.