I love reading about new perfume launches & I love to sample them even more but ever since I jumped through the rabbit hole I always had some reserve for the fragrance offerings from the brand names completely not related to a beauty industry sector. Fashion brands are a bit of a different story because most of them now have their in-house perfumers. Among brands that originally do something different from cosmetics or perfumes, Van Cleef & Arpels is usually on my fragrant radar ever since I fell for their Bois d’Iris. Learning about their novelties makes me want to try them.
Ambre Imperial is the latest installment to Collection Extraordinaire from Van Cleef & Arpels. It’s a composition that doesn’t like to play hide & seek but goes straight to the point. Immediately after spraying it on I could smell a generous dose of heavier, oriental vanilla. It starts off dark, kind of earthy and even a bit dirty on my skin but it softens after 5-10 minutes. It’s a rich and dense aroma that has something carnal and sensual within itself. After a few more minutes I start to notice that the composition is changing. After around 30 minute it reveals an ambery accord.
Amber note in new VC&A fragrance isn’t a stereotypical sticky and sweet element that melts together with vanilla. No. This one has some more animalic elements and it also combines some mineral qualities. Possibly this is only because of my skin but when amber accommodated on my wrist it started to smell salty, like a sea breeze. It’s junction with vanilla instantly made me think of creme brulee sprinkled with salt crystals on top. At some point vanilla in Ambre Imperial turns caramelized, even a bit smoky. One moment and the smoke impression becomes more intense.
Once tonka bean joins the composition, the fragrance gains a completely new facet. It’s aromatic and at the same time it feels really balsamic and resinous. To me it’s still quite dark fragrance and as the time goes by it becomes more and more sensual and erotic in its nature. Woody notes are undefined in Ambre Imperial, my guess would be that it’s a mix of cedarwood, sandalwood and cashmere wood. It has some roughness & at the same time my nose picks up the specific alcoholic note, something like rum… Then we have some benzoin. It’s the continuation of resinous part of the fragrance. Also thanks to that accord the woody part of Ambre Imperial feels smoother.
Over the next few hours this new fragrance didn’t change significantly. It was a pleasant mix of resinous, woody and ambery elements. But then, much later it develops a tingly sensation and behind it stands a handful of pink pepper. It introduces some spiciness that combines well with other notes of Ambre Imperial. The piquancy is mild, well-behaved and lacks the metallic edge that usually appears when we’re dealing with black pepper accord. Moving towards the drydown the composition loses its edges and becomes rounder. Vanilla dominates over the other notes. Right now it smells more sweet and gourmand than earlier but I would never say it smells like a dessert. Here we have a black vanilla pod, not the vanilla pudding.
To me Van Cleef & Arpels Ambre Imperial is an interesting fragrance mostly because of its dark side. Instead of being allowed to run wild, the perfumer created a darker amber fragrance that behaves very polite and elegant. Like black panther that has been domesticated and thinks it’s just a regular kitty. Moreover it’s seductive and embracing smell that I’m sure many of you would compare to a cashmere turtle-neck. It’s moderate sillage and decent lasting power make it a good companion to wear during colder months… And no, not only for dates. Composed by perfumer Quentin Bisch, Ambre Imperial arrived on the shop shelves in sleek, black glass bottle that attracts attention. It’s an eau de parfum in 75 ml size. Do you like these kind of fragrances, that carry some mystery?