What is amber in perfume? Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t a single ingredient. Rather, as Elena of Perfume Shrine explains, it’s an “olfactory convention of the late 19th century” centred on the combination of vanilla and labdanum.
Amber can be mysterious and stealthy, hiding at the base of perfumes without really coming to the fore. However, it can also be highly appealing in its own right, given its warm, sweet and glowing character.
Drawn in by amber’s scent as well as its Victorian associations, I went looking for a “single note” amber to experiment with. Searching Alkemia’s Etsy shop, I noticed Ambre Extrait, a natural amber perfume at a slightly higher (though still affordable) price point than other Alkemia scents.
Alkemia describes the scent and its notes this way:
“Our 100% natural aged amber accord is an exquisitely sultry blend of some of the most precious and spiritually redolent resins in our Alkemia collection including: North African Rock Rose, Cambodian Agarwood, Prussian Amber Resin, Madagascar Vanilla, Nepalese Spikenard, Somalian Opoponax, Tunisian Liquidambar, Himalayan Cedar, and Honduran Styrax.
“Together these natural unguents and essences swirl into a richly resinous golden single note Amber. In its bouquet, a true amber-lover will be able to detect notes of wild honey, red earth, pale wood, temple incense, smoke, beeswax, sap, bark, saffron, velvet, skin musk, crushed citrus flowers, butter, and suede.”
In the bottle
With the bottle uncapped, Ambre Extrait smells golden and sweet, with a smooth and rounded quality, like a piece of polished amber stone.
It doesn’t have a clean or fresh quality, though – there’s something at its centre that feels almost unwholesome (perhaps the “skin musk” of the description).
Applied to skin, it smells much the same, with the additional emergence of a honey-like quality. It remains smooth, sweet, musky, and seemingly freighted with the mysterious weight of the past.
Ambre Extrait gets milder as it sits on the skin, the sweetness joined by a resinous and woody quality that heightens the “golden” feel of the perfume.
Being very mild and soft, Ambre Extrait is not a public fragrance. But for the wearer, it’s a soothing, fascinating scent. Recommended for “true amber-lovers” as well as mere mortals like me.