Wednesday 24 February 2016

GUERLAIN - Les Absolus d'Orient : Ambre Eternel

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.

I feel - before I write my actual review - that the term 'amber' deserves some disambiguation. You see, it's somewhat common in the fragrance world - particularly for newcomers - for one to be bamboozled by the term. Here on Sorcery of Scent, I've blogged before about vegetal amber (i.e.: the hardened nuggets of tree sap, fossilised over many decades), and this is the component that many recognise when one sees the 'amber' being used in a perfume pyramid, or in a perfume's name. The scent profile of this type of amber is characterised usually by a blend of individual components such as labdanum, vanilla and patchouli. The 'other' amber, however, is grey amber (ambergris) - a by-product of the sperm whale which is highly coveted by perfumers for it's fixative qualities. Ambergris is formed in the gut of the sperm whale, whose diet comprises chiefly of squid. The hard squid beaks and cartilage that is not easily digested by the whale remain in the intestine, and over time, is covered by a thick, waxy intestinal secretion that grows and grows in size as the whale ages. Whilst many have suggested that the whale somehow passes this colossal blob from it's body (through regurgitation), the truth is that the process has never been witnessed and thus cast's a shadow of doubt. Others believe that the whale in fact perishes as a result of this intestinal obstruction, and when the carcass is eventually broken down by sharks and other feeding marine animals, the indigestible mass is released into the sea, where it floats for many years, taking on a richer, marine/balsamic quality.
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


Rain Clair said...

I smelled a relatively fresh piece of ambergris once and it was knock your socks off putrid. However, it was putrid in the way I love smelling skunk spray, lol! I kept going back to sniff it. It was warm but very gamey and I can't compare it to anything else I've ever smelled. It was explained to me the scent and color will change the longer it spends tumbling around in the ocean being cured by saltwater. Apparently, it becomes very smooth, sweet and more earthy than putrid over time. It's an ingredient I really enough in fragrances.

Martin said...

Thanks Dimitri. I like Guerlain. The great post