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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Le Labo Thé Noir 29 (2015)

Le Labo Thé Noir 29 © Victor Wong
Le Labo Thé Noir 29 © Victor Wong

I walked in the shop, and pretended that I wanted to take a sniff of Thé Noir 29 (Black Tea) and acted hesitant for one second. The shop owner, a beautiful woman, still recognized me after almost more than a year since my last visit and knew that I would buy a bottle. “What else would you do?”, she smiled in a half-joking way and turned around to open the fridge door to reach for the bottle of concentrate for dilution.

Yes, I bought a bottle because I collect Le Labo perfumes. They were one of the reasons why I started my own business. I will continue to follow them even if  one day they have a perfume called Donald Trump 100.

Some people said, “Just like any other Le Labo scents, you don’t smell what the title says it is!”

Actually I could detect the black tea note the very first time I smelled it in the shop. It was freshly sprayed on a card, but the card itself already had been sprayed on quite a few times before. It’s not bad.

“And It is all about figs.”

Well, yes, there’s fig in this perfume, but I don’t think it’s very dominant. This is actually a disappointment, not that I think the perfume needs more figs; it’s just that I thought Le Labo actually listened to my plea that I wanted a full fig perfume. (I wrote them an email for a different matter, but I mentioned that I wanted a fig perfume in the postscript.) The bergamot, fig and black tea note complement each other quite nicely. Not heavy-handed.

By Kilian has a perfume titled “Imperial Tea” and it smells like a tea canister filled with great dry jasmine tea leaves and nothing else. Laser-focused concept and execution. I was very tempted to get a bottle, but I thought, maybe I should try hanging two jasmine tea bags under my armpits first and I probably would smell the same (except it’s very bad for my white undershirt). Le Labo’s Thé Noir 29 on the other hand, is the opposite of Imperial Tea and very typical of their style: it’s a rather ambiguous scent, and you can’t exactly pinpoint its genre. I think oriental, in this case?

I have been very busy recently, I didn’t have a chance to give Thé Noir 29 some proper wearing. Just when I was about to write this review, I took a sniff of the cap, and all of a sudden, I realize something. Oh my god, Thé Noir 29, you’ve slept with Baie Rose 26!

In a dramatic moment, Thé Noir 29 became emotionally volatile and unstable, and he pulled his black tea wig off and said, “I am actually Baie Rose 26!”

“No, come on, you don’t have to do this. Tootsie already did that.”

That’s right, the heart and base notes section of Thé Noir 29 reminds me of Baie Rose 26. I don’t know what to think… Is this a flanker?