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Bombay Duck London

Laura Mercier Ambre Passion

‘I want to eat that’.  Not often that a fragrance elicits a comment like that from someone who strays within sniffing distance.  The Scent Critic isn’t surprised, though:  the whole Laura Mercier bath and body collection was originally inspired by foodie Laura’s passion for All Things Edible, and within her portfolio of eaux de toilettes the patisserie-minded scent-lover can enjoy fragrances inspired by crème brulée, vanilla, marrons glaces or almond/coconut.  But this is edible in a different way.  A come-and-let-me-lick-you-all-over sort of way:  rich, intense, passionate.

A small bottle of concentrated oily essence (which, as with most oils, has tremendous staying power), Ambre Passion Elixir is a turbo-charged and deeply sensual take on her 2005 Ambre Passion original.  Amber-lovers will probably swoon automatically at first whiff – but what I encounter in this is not just the sweetness of that resinous note, but major smokiness.  Woodsmoke.  Smoked tea.  Bonfire.  (Even, I swear, a soupcon of smokey bacon!)  At its heart, almost marbled through the amber, you’ll find subtle patchouli moments, plus the narcotic headiness of jasmine.  I don’t get the promised rose or geranium, no matter how hard my nostrils try – but I do detect hints of booze-soaked spiced fruits, almost bring-on-the-mince-pies and Christmassy.

The end result is a bit like snuggling beneath a fur blanket (faux, of course, in this day and age), in a mountain-top chalet while a snowstorm rages outside.  Which kind of makes a July launch slightly weird, but I guess this the exoticism of Ambre Passion would also go down very well on a steamy Ibiza dancefloor:  it’s also very boho chic, very gypsy skirt, very – this takes me back – Kensington Market circa 1972, where I used to buy vials of sandalwood and patchouli and amber oils from the hippie stalls to dab on my slender teenage wrists.  Only of course this oil is far more soignée – coming, as it does, from this make-up-artist and perfumer whose life-long passion for fragrance in general (and ambergris in particular) is captured in Ambre Passion Elixir’s dinky and seriously understated gold-topped bottle.  After your throbbing pulse has warmed the essence up, it acquires the depth of a classic French perfume – one with the miraculous ability to make you sit that wee bit straighter in your chair, match your bra to your knickers and restrict yourself to a single square of dark chocolate (or half a chocolate éclair), or any of those other tricks which Frenchwomen seem to pull off effortlessly.

Because it’s an oil, I had the urge to play around with layering chypres and other Orientals over it, and got some very delicious results.  (Shalimar, Mitsouko and Sisley’s Eau du Soir, the subject of my last review, for starters.  Try it yourself, and let me know how you get on.)  Unlike the Jo Malone brigade, I’m not usually one for ‘combining’ scents – but because oils give fragrance something to cling to, this works, and it’s fun, even if it’s Not The Done Thing.

As for ambergris?  Personally, I still constantly marvel at the notion that what is essentially whale sick could smell so utterly, so addictively sweet and glorious.  I have a tiny ball of the real thing, which 20 years after it was given to is as potent as ever – but with the use of ambergris banned in many countries, it’s more likely the key note in Ambre Passion is created from ambergris-like notes like ambrox or labdanum.  Still, devotees of Laura Mercier’s Ambre Passion (which in some countries has become almost as rare as the sperm whale itself) will be thrilled to get their hands on this new, intense twist.  Good enough to eat?  I can’t help but agree…

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