The Perfume Lovers London events organised by Lila Das Gupta as part of Olfactory Events are a fabulous opportunity to learn about perfume, to talk to and meet with like minded perfumeophiles and discover a plethora of new, exciting perfumes. It’s safe to say that every event is a joy to attend so the news that one of my favourite bloggers, Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels, was going to be holding her very own event was very exciting indeed!
I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir here, but Olfactoria’s Travels has become a go-to blog for many perfume lovers and it’s teeming with beautifully written reviews, informed discussion and passion from Birgit and Tara, who have both changed the face of the perfume blogosphere.
For her event, Birgit promised to take us on a journey through the world of amber, a sensible subject choice seeing as she has rightfully earned the title of “Queen of Amber” through her love for the genre. Now, I’ve made it no secret that amber isn’t my favourite genre of perfumes, but that’s not to say that I don’t like it either, I simply haven’t had the right amount of exposure to it, but now thanks to Birgit and Perfume Lovers London I feels as if I am well-versed on the subject!
The evening kicked off with an introduction from Lila, who emphasised just how popular Olfactoria’s Travels has become in such a short period of time (18 months), a fact which is a testament to the quality of the blog. Birgit followed up with background on herself, her career (a psychotherapist by trade – “as is customary in Vienna”) and how she fell down the perfumed rabbit hole.
In the beginning Birgit (hereafter referred to as B) was content with her bottle of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, that was until she stumbled across Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle in a department store, and it was then that she found the perfume that started it all, the catalyst that birthed the travels of Olfactoria. That perfume was Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant, and this beautiful, fresh, green lilac was the perfume that kick-started B’s love for perfume – “it was new because it captured nature”.
After trying the perfume that started it all we were treated to an overview of amber, what it is (the basic accord being labdanum, benzoin and vanilla) and what it isn’t (ambergris or fossilised tree resin – although it is inspired by the latter.
We even got to smell the three raw materials that make up the accord in isolation; labdanum – spicy, woody and sticky smelling; benzoin – fuzzy, soft caramel; and vanilla – sweet, salty, spicy and smooth. I always enjoy smelling perfume ingredients, it’s an invaluable exercise aquatinting yourself with the individual puzzle pieces that make up the smells we are so familiar with, and I wish I could just douse myself in pure benzoin – that stuff is delicious.
After our overview it was time to meet the ambers…
The Starter Ambers
L’Artisan Parfumeur – L’Eau d’Ambre
Etro – Amber
Agent Provocateur – Strip
Christian Dior La Collection Privée – Ambre Nuit
B’s first foray into amber was with “the amber for people who don’t like amber” also known as L’Eau d’Ambre by L’Artisan Parfumeur. L’Eau d’Ambre is an amber that emphasises the accord’s spicier facets and it showcases a wonderful dusting of cinnamon that makes it easy to love. Another thing acting in its favour is the fact that it is the perfume that L’Artisan Parfumeur uses to scent their awesome amber balls – who wouldn’t want to smell like those?
Serge Lutens – Ambre Sultan
Annick Goutal – Ambre Fétiche
Parfum d’Empire – Ambre Russe
At this point B started to take us into full-blown amber territory. We moved on from the namby-pamby starter ambers on to the proper amber perfumes, the most amber-y and famous of which was Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan. B explained that she has a “back and forth” relationship with Serge Lutens, regularly falling in and out of love with his perfumes, but Ambre Sultan is the “exception to the evil cycle” and it’s easy to see why, it is a beautifully furry amber with a large dose of herbal notes and a strange, anisic quality.
We also tried Ambre Fétiche by Annick Goutal, a house that I don’t have a great track record with, but I think AF could go a long way to change that, it’s a strong amber with an unusual nutty character that is a little unsettling but definitely interesting. One member of the group described it as smelling “like going to a male temple”.
American Male Superheroes
Tom Ford Private Blend – Amber Absolute
Armani Privé – Ambre d’Orient
Histoires de Parfums – Ambre 114
These ambers, as described by B, are the “square jawed, good men, but not necessarily intelligent” members of the posse. Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute very much seemed like an amber-by-numbers, like Mr. Ford himself it was impeccably turned out and tried its hardest to push all the right buttons. B said that Amber Absolute smelled much better on skin than paper, so a few of us (myself included) offered our arms up as human tester strips, and it’s true, it is much better on skin.
The second amber of the superhero-bunch was Armani Privé’s Ambre d’Orient, which turned out to be a relatively sweet amber in comparison to the Tom Ford, and despite a light liquorice vibe it sat very nicely in this category of handsome, wholesome ambers.
Coudray – Amber et Vanille
Mona di Orio – Ambre
Mona di Orio’s Ambre doesn’t follow her usual “takes no prisoners” vibe, a vibe that can easily be applied to her Cuir if you ask me, but that’s beside the point. This one is very powdery, soft and feminine. I would liken it to baby powder for grown-ups because it feels like a fleshed and spiced up version of Mona di Orio’s other powdery scent Musc, a perfume that B insisted that we all try. *
Dead Center Ambers
Christian Dior La Collection Privée – Mitzah
Maître Parfumeur et Gantier – Ambre Précieux
The Dead Centre Ambers represented the middle ground of the amber world and none are more dead centre than Dior’s Mitzah. Mitzah, which was named after Christian Dior’s muse Mitzah Bricard, “represents the geographical centre – not to sweet, not to smoky, not to spicy, not to loud and not to quiet”. For me Mitzah was the surprise of the night, firstly because in my brain I had thought it was one the florals in La Collection Privée, and secondly because it really is very well balanced. Mitzah certainly was intriguing and I assured that it was my sample-of-choice to take home.
Amouage – Opus VI
B described the final amber (on the evening and in her review), Amouage’s latest addition to their Library Collection as the “Star Trek Amber” because of its “holographic” quality. This description is very interesting because Opus VI is VERY different from the heavy, spice-laden ambers that made up most of B’s entourage and I don’t think it can be more perfectly summed up than being “see-through, weightless but still perfectly formed”
80s Vintage Ambers
Calvin Klein – Obsession
Estée Lauder – Youth Dew Amber Nude
Amber and Friends
Caron – Pour un Homme
Armani Privé – Ambre Soie
Shiloh – X
The two final ‘bonus categories’ were left for us to explore at the very end of the event and contained vintage ambers of perfumes associated with the genre but not quite within it. The highlight of these categories was the vintage scents and It was good fun to try vintage Obsession, I do like my 80s powerhouses after all!
An evening with Olfactoria “Queen of Amber” was a fabulous induction into the world of amber. Just like the Perfume Lovers London Evening of Leather, I walked away with a new-found appreciation of a perfume genre that I hadn’t really paid a huge amount of attention to before, as well as having discovered some very interesting perfumes that require further investigation.
It was also incredibly lovely to finally meet Birgit, who is just as wonderful and engaging as I imagined her to be, she did a fabulous job with the evening and successfully managed to impart a good deal of her perfume knowledge on those who attended. She really knows her stuff and it was clear throughout that perfume really is her passion, and amber is her poison! Here’s hoping that we’ll have the opportunity to join Olfactoria on her travels again some time in the future.
For other accounts of the evening please head over to Olfactoria’s Travels to read Tara’s fabulous write up and to Bonkers About Perfume to read Vanessa’s also-fabulous write up.
Image 1 & 2 my own, Image 3 theendofhistoryshop.blogspot.com, Image 4 spitfiregirl.com, Image 5 butik-paris.com, Image 6 polyvore.com, Image 7 vanitypolygon.com, Image 8 lenoma.ru, Image 9 mparis.ru, Image 10 fashionls.com, Image 11 selfridges.com
* updated 21 May – misread my notes.