Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Serge Lutens - Ambre Sultan
In 2008, I became a perfumista. I had worn perfume since I was a girl, but I wore it in the way my mother did, one bottle at a time; usually the same scent for five years or more. In the fall of 2008, I started to grow restless again with my signature scent and began to look for a new one. While doing some research, I discovered perfume blogs and niche fragrances. The name Serge Lutens was used often, and reverentially on these blogs, so I sought out the line, which at the time was carried by The Bay. Just one small spritz of Ambre Sultan changed everything.
I remember thinking "Oh, this is so spicy, and too masculine for me" but all the way home I kept sneaking whiffs of my wrist. Ambre Sultan was so interesting; it was layered and complicated. It smelled like a mysterious and exotic landscape. It was sweet but had something herbal or medicinal in it too. And later, I thought "Whoa, this stuff smells like pure sex." It was addictive.
Ambre Sultan opened a whole new world of scent for me. For the first time I started to appreciate perfume, not just as something pretty to attract the opposite sex, but as a personal pleasure. And I was free of the idea that I had to choose one "signature" fragrance - I could have more, one for every mood, as many as I wanted. Perfume was more than an accessory; it was an accessible art form. It inspired and entertained me. It created visions in my mind of places, people, moods and emotions.
Through perfume, I rediscovered my love of art history. Like paintings, perfumes could be abstract or realistic representations. There were styles, modern and classic schools, new stars and old masters, commercial mass products and exclusive hard to find items. Unlike painting, the price range for most of these fragrant art pieces was exactly what I could afford. Although I know it's a stretch to call perfume practical, something in my basic nature liked that the art I was buying was usable. I would rather buy something that will walk around with me all day, than something that will hang on a wall.
It was all over for me from there. Soon, I bought a full bottle of Ambre Sultan, then more bottles, from Frederic Malle, Ormonde Jayne, L'Artisan Parfumeur, Eau d'Italie and more. I went through phases, first addicted to heavy ambers and spices, then woods, incenses, then later discovering I could love flowers too, like roses, gardenias, jasmine, and orange blossoms. Chypres rocked my world. I disdained vintage, I loved vintage. I continue to change and grow in my perfume choices, and I hope I always do.
Enough about you, what does it smell like?
To those of you who scanned everything above to get to this part, Hello! (I do that too.)
Ambre Sultan is linear but multi-layered. It has a sweet, heavy, amber base, like thick, dark vanilla-scented syrup. Floating over this resiny amber is an aromatic smoke of warm spice. There's a medicinal note, which comes from the angelica root, also used in herbal cough remedies like Ricola pastilles. A warm woodiness lies underneath, and a personal smell, like a lover, that may be the myrhh*.
Ambre Sultan is a must try for all perfume lovers. And if you do try it, let me know if it blew your mind.
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
Notes: coriander, sandalwood, bay leaf, patchouli, angelica, resins and myrrh
Photo: Amber Fort, Jaipur, Wikimedia
* A recent post by Katie Puckrik called myrrh "scalpy." Maybe that contributes to the afterglow, cuddling in bed, feeling I get from Ambre Sultan. What do you think?