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L’Ambre des Merveilles - A wonder of wonders – January 11, 2013 New Fragrance Listing


Photo - Wikipedia - Amber Room of the Catherine Palace -  by Jeanyfan

Were you reading-obsessed when you were a kid? I was. I read anything, anytime, anywhere. Books were like Chinese dinners to me – so delicious that I devoured them quickly, then was immediately hungry for another big, juicy one. As a budding teen, what I really craved was to get my hands on the pocketbooks my older sister read under the covers with a flashlight. She called them “bodice-rippers”, which I just knew had nothing to do with sewing.

One of these books had cover art which featured a “wild temptress” with enormous breasts and scarlet-red hair, in a state of semi-undress and reckless abandon, posed in a passionate lip-lock with the kind of guy you could never bring home for Sunday dinner. It was called Forever Amber. It looked like exciting stuff, and my sister carefully kept it out of sight. I came across that book stuck behind her bed several years later, when she went off to college, so I finally got to see inside and give it a quick read. Forever Amber turned out to be ridiculously tame in the passion department. A disappointment, to say the least. Laughable, even. The most exciting thing about that book was the cover.

What’s this got to do with perfume? When I see the printed word amber, I see that book cover. I read and write about perfume a lot, I see this word amber - a lot, so the babe with the red hair has become a very frequent visitor in my imagined perfume world. Last week, when I read the name on the perfume bottle in the Hermès boutique  – she pops up. Oh geez…I’ve got to find a way to delete this image…..

But as soon as I spritz, and take the first quick sniffs of L’Ambre des Merveilles, POOF! she vanishes, instantly replaced by a sensory collage from my scent-library. A kaleidoscope of images surges up - streaming sunlight, baskets spilling over with oranges and lemons, a fireplace with glowing logs, the movie Moby Dick with Gregory Peck (WTF?), a Caribbean beach, a cashmere wrap, leather gloves, a Serge Lutens bell-jar with the numbers 1834, long stringy vanilla beans, a creamy rum drink……this is what L’Ambre des Merveilles looks like and smells like to me for the first minutes.   

This Hermès fragrance was released in Fall 2012, the third flanker in the des Merveilles (The Wonders) series, which started with the original Eau des Merveilles in 2004. Eau des Merveilles is truly unique, known for it’s non-floral, almost salty skin scent quality, which has elevated it to near-cult status. Each of its flankers since then have featured an element of the original creation. Elixir des Merveilles from 2006, which I’ve written about here, is richer and warmer, more orange, less salt, more chypre-like, almost gourmand; Eau Claire des Merveilles from 2010 is airy, musky, more powdery with vanilla notes.

L’Ambre des Merveilles seems to take the key aspects from all three of its predecessors, resulting in an incredibly warm, intimate scent with faint sweetness, hints of salt, woods, and leather, hints of vanilla and tobacco AND….resulting in a scent which also owns a superb sillage. This diffused sillage is light as cloud, airy, spaciously elegant and makes L’Ambre des Merveilles a perfect fragrance for anyone, male or female, to wear anywhere, anytime, quietly leaving a beautiful soft trail in their wake. It’s not a surprise when I learn that L’Ambre de Merveilles was created by Jean-Claude Ellena, the in-house nose at Hermès, the man with the magical light touch who also created Elixir and Eau Claire.

The legendary, sensuous amber note is the star player in L’Ambre des Merveilles from beginning to end, softly sweet, edged so faintly with salt and citrus, like the scent of sun-lotioned skin after a day at the beach. The amber makes this perfume into a warm caress, the kind of fragrance that makes me feel good, happy to be here, happy to be me. The perfect cure for grey winter days.

BTW, the wild red-headed babe with the double D’s? She’s gone for good. The word Amber now conjures the sensuously smooth round glass bottle of L’Ambre des Merveilles, tilted on its artful angled bottom, its surfaces dusted with tiny gold stars which seem to float in the golden liquid inside. And what’s inside is pure beauty.

L’Ambre des Merveilles is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.