Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015)

Atkinsons' Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong
Atkinsons’ Amber Empire (2015) © Victor Wong

I remember listening to a radio show on which the host asked listeners to call in and talk about their favourite movie director. A guy called in and said his was Tim Burton. When asked which movies of Tim Burton he liked most and why, he could only name “Nightmare Before Christmas”. Ridicule ensued.

I was like that listener when I declared Maurice Roucel to be my favourite perfumer two years ago, partly because he was one of the very few high-profile perfumers whose name I could remember (due to CRNCNTWS, Can’t Remember Non-Chinese Names Too Well Syndrome), and also he was the nose of one of my favourite perfumes, Le Labo’s Jasmin 17. (I was senselessly madly in love with Le Labo back then.) However, I was very troubled by the fact that I didn’t care about his most famous work, Musc Ravageur.

Now I don’t think I have any favourite perfumer, although I have a few favourite perfumes and perfume genres.

I admire Mr. Roucel’s ability to create hits out of shoestring ingredient budgets, like DKNY’s Delicious (2004) and Nautica Voyage (2006). His style to me seems to be all over the place, but when he is given a bigger budget and freedom (this is purely my speculation), his affinity towards certain style of perfumes becomes more apparent.

When I found out recently he had created a perfume named “Amber Empire” for the British brand Atkinsons, I was very intrigued. To my knowledge, I don’t think he has designed any amber themed perfume before. And the main supporting note that he picked was unexpected, too – oolong tea (a type of Chinese green tea.) This big amber/tea combination is quite novel to me (Annick Goutal’s “Duel” being the only one that comes to mind), and neither ingredient steals the show. The opening is mildly sweet and herbal, like an ice tea sweetened by light brown sugar. Shortly after, the shy tobacco flavoured tea note appears and disappears. A rather simple and intoxicating perfume, both grand and unassuming at the same time, and it’s a joy to wear.

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Armani’s Ambre Eccentrico (2015)

Armani Ambre Eccentrico, 100ml
Armani Ambre Eccentrico, 100ml© Victor Wong

Wearing Ambre Eccentrico is like eating Halloween candies, not just some, but a whole bucket full of them, blindfolded. The initial pleasure is great – you get tasty ones like Cinnamon Amberlicious and Tonka Bonka; they are classics and everyone’s favourites. In the mix you also get plasticky Plum Bums and cellophane-wrapped sun-dried fruits disguised as candies. As you crawl to finishing line in a span of 8 hours, you’ve realized that the bucket of candies came from trick-or-treating in a Turkish neighbourhood who didn’t care for Halloween at all.

Ambre Eccentrico is named aptly for it is not your typical amber perfume; it is resinous and fruity (not the fresh ones like apple or pear, but sun-dried ones). It reminds me a little bit of Chanel Egosite, which also has a dried fruit note, but Ambre Eccentrico wants to make sure you get the idea that it is an eccentric amber-based perfume, and they amplified the fruit notes. The result is an addictive but also nausea-inducing perfume that you want to wear occasionally with half a spray, and not everyday.

Christian Dior’s Ambre Nuit (2009)

Christian Dior Ambre Nuit © Victor Wong
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit © Victor Wong

In 2014 I was in Hong Kong briefly for two weeks and finally had a chance to smell the Christian Dior’s exclusive line. (Toronto, where I live, still doesn’t have a flagship store as of 2015.) I knew I would bring home a bottle, but it was hard – they had about 15 bottles available and I did not know which one to get. (And in Hong Kong, sales people usually don’t give out samples casually unless you are John Woo walking into the stores in slow-mo with pigeons flying behind you.) I smelled each fragrance for a few seconds, and had decided to get the one that smelled most attractive and unique to me (basically I was choosing attractive top notes), and I picked Grand Bal, a jasmine fragrance. The sales also gave me a few samples, because I had bought something, and when I tested them back home I knew I had made a wrong decision. I should have gotten Ambre Nuit, because while its top notes were not unique, overall the perfume was great.

In fact, carpet-riding awesome. It’s rich, sensual, sweet, but not too sweet, smells a bit roasted, but not smokey, dark… essentially intoxicating. If you look dashing already (that’s very important), and are wearing Ambre Nuit while standing by the railing of the pier as the sun sets, really, everyone wants a piece of you – the joggers, the mosquitoes, the sea gulls and the whale. However…

However, one day Ambre Nuit reminded of a perfume that I already have in my collection. A lot of people hate it, and that’s Dior Homme Parfum. I literally laughed out loud when I had made that connection. Of course, they don’t smell the same, but if you have both perfumes, spray some on each hand and compare. I think they have the same mood, or “perfume colours” (I am not talking about the colour of the juice,) and even similar base notes. To me, Dior Homme Parfum is actually more sophisticated than Ambre Nuit because of the iris and leather. Ambre Nuit is perhaps “cleaner”, less floral and heavy, or younger, that’s why it’s so loved. Now all of a sudden the magic carpet no longer flies.