Ambre Russe: A Not So Near Miss
Prequel: Well, I learned a lot from this post. I'm pretty sloppy/lazy with the technical aspects of perfume description: the chemistry and tangible sources of the scent. What interests me about perfumery is the emotional evocation and I'm sticking to that from now on!
But the discussion was very interesting.
Clearing adds the following:
"Ambergris, once obtained from humble whale vomit (?) can be sort of replicated by a mixture of the following .... different forms of vanilla, several types of rose oils, sage and vetiver. (I believe DSH** makes this blend replication ...but I'm not sure) ... The whole amber/ambergris/precious resin discussion leads us in circles every time. Every amber or ambergris oil in my possession is synthetic, and I didn't know that until I spent a lot of time at mua. A useful place with lots of smart women and one man."
My second favorite fragrance note is amber ... wonderfully defined by Bairn (who also credits Clearing for the definition): "In its concentrated form, it smells very thick and sticky, like maple syrup or sugarcane molasses. In blends it can either give a fragrance a certain depth - it can bring out floral notes twice as potent as they'd appear otherwise - or it can become a bit appley, too, like sweet, dried apples. It's normally a very nostalgic scent."
Amber is solidified tree resin, once found mainly in the Baltic regions. I remember my parents-in-law bringing me the obligatory amber necklace when they visited the former USSR, and the illustration to this post is the original Amber Room (circa 1938, before it was destroyed by the Nazis and subsequently reconstructed after the war, as a matter of great national pride) of Tsarskoye Selo, the Catherine Palace.
Today I'm wearing Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe, with notes of vodka, cinnamon, coriander, tea, incense, leather on a base of amber. The vodka/cinnamon/coriander/ tea notes are too prominent, giving a perfume-y texture that I don't much care for. I'm hoping for reassertion of the incense, leather and actual amber notes, as they seem to in Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, a fragrance of which I'm much more fond.
The symbology of amber is that of time lost, a small being (dragonfly or other insect, as well as flowers and plant life) found encased in an amber capsule, transcending life and time.
As Bairn noted, nostalgia is somehow connected to this scent. As if sad for what has gone by, as one was suspended motionless, fully preserved and lifelike, although life long since had absented itself.
I don't think Ambre Russe is a good example of this fragrance genre. SL Ambre Sultan is, or even the unrefined Attar Bazaar Persian Amber ... but not this -- albeit beautifully perfumed -- amber fragrance-manqué.
*edit: please be sure to read the commentary below by winterwheat, bela and Bairn for clarification on amber-the-stone versus amber-the-scent versus ambergris-the-scent!
**interestingly, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz defines amber as " An earthy, warm resin note with an aroma that is reminiscent of brown sugar, vanilla and wood."