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Ambre Eternal - An ode to real ambergris

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