Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hermes Ambre des Merveilles: fragrance review

Much like the brownie points of "casual chic" of the original Eau des Merveilles (2004) by perfumers Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer, L'Ambre des Merveilles never intends to intrude a space, but rather infiltrate like a secret agent. To pursue a musical analogy, whereas amber (ambre) is usually solid Buxtehude, L 'Ambre it's a lacework melody by Gabriel Fauré; two cyclical piano phrases, like the four-beat gait of a horse, having a conversation with an echoing cello.

An Adirondack Lake by Winslow Homer via hudillo

The newest Hermes in the Merveilles fragrance line (again) showcases perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena's mastery of his materials: there's nary a heavy or syrupy off note as trap-like as this perfume trope can get; the equivalent of a warm hug rather than a baked goods pastry or a head shop rife with patchouli and amber aphrodisiacs. We're long off that vulgarized route and yet L'Ambre never misses a beat on smelling alluring and sexually appealing all the same—or rather, in spite of it.

L'Ambre des Merveilles unites some aspects of both Elixir des Merveilles and Eau Claire des Merveilles (previous flankers from 2006 and 2010 respectively) into its DNA, the comforting gingerbread cookie nuance gaining the nuzzling sweetness of the hug of a close friend who's wearing cosmetic powder and sweet amber perfume oil. Because, you see, there's both warmth and austerity in L'Ambre, interpreting the amber "fragrance note" (really a mix of ingredients) into a perfume that explores all facets of this most traditional aperture of Orientalia: the initial piquancy, the resinous depth and heft, the powdery trail lingering on skin and clothes, the vanilla dryness...The bitterness of labdanum, a touch of soil, of earth smelled in the air, the saturation of crocus yellow trailing off the horizon ~and what I sense as powdery benzoin~ mingle with the bittersweet citrusy top note and a hint of blond tobacco into an amalgam that is brighter than the sum of its parts, yet is still oddly founded on the minerals and salty skin idea of the original Eau.

L'Ambre des Merveilles feels light and buoyed and collapsingly soft, like being surrounded by a sunny cloud, and invokes thoughts of nostalgia, quiet contentment and being at peace with the world.

Music: Gabriel Fauré - Sicilienne, for cello & piano, Op. 78 dedicated to William Henry Squire


  1. Thats serendipity, I had just put on Ambre de Merveillie! Your description is perfect, quiet contentment describes it exactly. I bought a FB just last week, it really is a very wearable scent.

  2. Amber and winter is divine but I do not think I could wear it on a warm day.

  3. Great review, perfect description! I'm not usually an amber fan. But it's so lovely - I just discovered L'Amber after reading the lovely Olfactoria's Travels blog about it. I got a .5 oz and It's perfect for the season. On my skin, I get a whiff of the very currently popular flavor for everything - salted caramel.

  4. Your review shares many of the admirable qualities of the perfume it describes: everything needed for complete satisfaction and not one bit more. I don't think of this economy of style as austerity exactly, but rather as a kind of calming elegance. You've expressed it very well.

  5. E,

    enjoy then, I find it most wearable in any occasion and any season. Isn't it fun when serendipity strikes? I just had a travel edition secured for when cuddling up with a good book.

  6. M,

    do try this amber, it's quite nice in warmer weather too! Not cloying at all. Atypical for a resinous "amber" frag (not ambergris).

  7. Annina,

    thank you and hope to see you again. Glad to see B is also enjoying this one.
    Yes, salted caramel, savory toffee notes are big right now, you're absolutely correct. This is very refined and highlights the bittersweet nuances so pleasurably. Enjoy your mini!

  8. Kathryn,

    aw, thank you for such a magnificent compliment. You're too kind.

    I always try to resist the urge to add just one more thing, just one more paragraph. Elegance is refusal, yes? :-)

  9. What a beautiful description. I went immediately to a youtube video I saw last night, a 20 year old horse named Hope, an eventer, who I love. My sound card is messed up, especially on youtube, but I played the Faure with this video, and it was perfect, just perfect. Thank you so much.

  10. Woops! I forgot to post the link to my dream horse, Hope
    Here it is. Mute video and play the Faure. I will eventually listen to her selection when I get my equipment attended to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXE8XDAYa6I

  11. N,

    what a beautiful horse and idea of combining the music to it!! :-)

    Thanks for suggesting it!


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