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It’s snowing and cold, so this is the perfect time to tell you about Ambre Eternel.  This fragrance is a bit of a chameleon. Let me explain.

First of all, it’s from Guerlain, created by House Perfumer Thierry Wasser as the second in the Absolus d’Orient collection, and it is a scent that Guerlain describes as “an ode to noble and precious grey amber.” 

Grey amber refers to ambergris, the vomit excreted by whales which oxidizes in seawater and sunlight over time, taking on a distinct salty-sweet animalic scent that adds depth to perfumes, drawing other notes into rich accords with its fixative properties. Real ambergris is rare and therefore exorbitantly expensive, and it has been replaced in modern perfumes by cheaper synthetic formulas. The House of Guerlain has created perfumes with an amber accord for decades – Shalimar  was introduced in 1925 and grey amber is still listed as one of the ingredients in the current version of this iconic perfume  (read Gwen’s blog). 

When I read the Perfumers Secrets on the Ambre Eternel webpage,  I was thrilled…. “Thierry Wasser meticulously chose different blocks of ambergris on the basis of their iodine, warm or animal scent to create an exceptional blend, known as a communelle, and thereby obtain[ed[ the perfect amber note”…. Ambre Eternel contains real ambergris, and not the golden caramel, vanilla sweet, synthetic amber note that make most luxury or niche amber perfumes just too much for my nose. 

That said, the opening accord is a shock. Guerlain’s category for Ambre Eternel EdP is a Woody Oriental, but what I’m smelling is a delicate bouquet of pale grey iris, tinged with powdery violets, carried in hands gloved in the thinnest softest suede. Not what I expected, and iris is not on the note list. But my nose smells iris, without a doubt. (I even dabbed an Iris (L’Attesa by Masque Milano) and violet frag (Bois de Violette by Serge Lutens) on my wrists to compare – yup, I’m right). The effect is cool and soft, with distinct leather floral facets misted with salty sea spray and a faint powdery Guerlinade sweetness, the famous vanilla/tonka/amber accord. This unusual amber opening accord conjures an image…grey skies with low white clouds, frothy waves breaking on the shoreline, seagulls, seaweed, rocks, and ambergris washed up on the sand…

After an hour or so, a different amber accord unfolds, changing the grey to soft gold, mixing the cool florals with soft spices, coriander and cardamom, and sweetening the mix with delicate caramel fruity notes as it moves toward the heart. Deep in the heart, the leather is transformed into dark leather instead of supple suede, and the powdery floral accord disappears altogether, replaced by a sensuous mix of orange blossom and peachy notes and wood smoke. The sweet animalic warmth of grey amber pulls them into a sensuous accord that smolders quietly, glowing from within.    

After three hours the base reveals a third amber accord, which is definitely worth the wait. Dark leather, dark and dry woods, wood smoke rather than woody resins, and musky-sweet animalic amber fuse together into the most masculine accord of the three. Leathery, woody, smoky this accord feels dry and incensy, open and airy rather than funky. The scent ebbs and flows, sometimes disappearing and then wafting up unexpectedly, smooth as satin, warm and inviting. The waft is perfect, close and personal, and the scent lasted on my skin until the next morning. 

Ambre Eternel is a chameleon, completely non-gendered yet able to adapt to whoever wears it. This fragrance will play amber three different ways on your skin.  Iris and suede with amber is otherworldly, peachy florals and leather with amber is sensuous, and wood smoke and leather and amber is commanding. It is an exceptional interpretation of a very unique perfume note. Following the dry-down through the three accords turned my day into one of pure pleasure, exploring new olfactory paths, discovering the power of real ambergris, grey amber. Ambre Eternel is now officially my favourite amber fragrance. 

Ambre Eternel is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml

Image - Ambre Eternel EdP bottle by perfumeniche.com

 

 

It’s interesting to me how one learns new things. We learn from other people, we learn from experiences, like travel, but ultimately, we learn from trying new things. For example, trying, wearing and writing about fragrances for the last ten years (yes, perfuemniche.com is TEN!!) I learned that I love birch tar as a perfume note. Had you asked me that ten years ago, if I loved birch tar, I’m not sure what I would have answered. Ask me how this happened, and I’d have to say it happened over time (guess I’m a slow learner). I wasn’t drawn to fragrances like Mississippi Medicine, Cuoio, La Fumée Arabie, Mon Cuir, Nostalgia, Eau du Fier, Patchouli 24 or Gomma, for the birch tar they contain but Andy Tauer’s ‘Lonestar Memories’, his ode to birch tar, changed all that. Once I experienced birch tar as the central character, I realized how much I’m drawn to fragrances that have it in the mix. So, of course, when Hiram Green, the Canadian-born, Netherlands-based natural perfumer, launched Hyde in 2018, I bought my first bottle. When Hyde won a 2019 Art and Olfaction Award, I wasn’t surprised. Hyde is an impressive piece of perfumery. 

But what exactly is birch tar? According to Wikipedia, ‘Birch tar or birch pitch is a substance (liquid when heated) derived from the dry distillation of the bark of the birch tree.’ And later, ‘Birch tar oil also is used in perfumery as a base note to impart leather, tar, smoky, and wintergreen notes.’ Well, that explains why birch-tar and leather are best friends in perfume.

Here’s the thing about birch tar: it’s potent. It’s a real scent monster that can easily highjack a fragrance with its big smoky tarriness, making it a challenging note for many people to love and to wear. As Hiram Green says on his website: ‘Seductive and challenging, Hyde is an ode to all those adventure-seeking souls….’ Challenge accepted.

Hyde opens with a citrus gust of fresh, lemon and sparkling bergamot, which are quickly Shanghaied by birch tar. That pungent tarry, medicinal-faceted, creosote scent lasts just long enough for me to register the smell, before cassie with its spicy, honey, iris-like aspects and green undertone softens the birch tar into sinuous, sexy smokiness. The cassie gives the birch tar a fullness and dimension that transforms it into the deep, dark smell of raw leather. Labdanum refines and amplifies the leather, taming its rawness, making it smoother and skin-friendly while still retaining its intensity. At this stage, malt vanilla gives it a booziness while oakmoss, earthy and mossy echo the green of the cassie at the base. Together they soften the fragrance, making it a gentler more accessible version of itself.

The drydown is smoky, woody and a little sweet. Hyde is a man’s fragrance, yet when I was wearing it the other day, my husband catching the scent turned to me and said, ‘You smell the way you used to after sitting by the fire pit when we were at the cabin. I like it’.

If you recall Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll, a man who feels he is battling between good and evil within himself. He creates a potion designed to separate his evil self from his personality. When he drinks it, he transforms into the cruel, immoral and evil Mr. Hyde. Of course, when Hyde drinks the potion, he turns back into Dr. Jekyll.

Green’s Hyde too, is about transformation. It takes strong, brawny, challenging birch tar and transforms it into a seductive, smooth version of the stuff – Mr. Hyde turning into Dr. Jekyll – and all done with natural ingredients. Now, that’s impressive, making Hiram Green is one of the most talented and creative perfumers working today.

Hyde is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

 

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.

WHAT WE DO

We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
 
We hope you enjoy perfumeniche.com, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.