How about a steaming pile of “crap amber” ?

One thing that many seem to find endearing about “Perfumes: The Guide” (by Turin and Sanchez) are the two word designations used for every scent reviewed in the book. By contrast, there are clear cases where three or four words, at least, would make a lot more sense. For example, isn’t calling Xeryus Rouge a “woody oriental” a bit misleading (I’ve only tried the vintage formulation)? Based upon LT’s review, wouldn’t “synthetic, fruity/woody, neo-oriental” be more helpful (though to be honest I’d still prefer a review that possesses specificity) ?

The note description for Ambre Baldessarini, taken from, is:

A distinctive note of whisky opens the composition harmonized with the notes mandarin orange and red apple. At its heart, the sharp leather note is blended with violet. Its amber-oriental character is sustained thanks to vanilla, oak moss and labdanum.

In any case, the two word designation for it in “The Guide” is “crap amber,” and the review is so short I’ll just quote it here:

This from the guys who did the wonderful Hugo Boss Baldessarini? A sad joke, indistinguishable from a hundred others.

A few reviews above this, on page 64, is a review for Ambra by Etro (“hippie amber”), which is also quite short:

A very sweet, Arab-market vegetable amber. Smells curiously like ripe persimmon. Completely unoriginal, and nicely done.

Do you see the glaring flaw here? What would someone who has never tried either one of these, but who has experienced a scent where amber dominates, think if he or she read these two reviews? I would think that both feature strong amber, though Ambra might have a bit of a “vegetal” quality (it doesn’t, at least to me). But the key question is, why are two scents that are both clearly said to be common in some major way, which in this case we must conclude relates to a strong amber note (because no other information is provided), given such different treatment (though the “nicely done” Ambra gets two stars whereas “crap amber” gets 1) ?

The “star system” used has been criticized elsewhere and is largely irrelevant to me, because it is not clear what one is supposed to take from it. For example, we are told that a five start scent is a “masterpiece,” but does that mean we should try and sample it if we want to think of ourselves as aficionados? Clearly, not only might we have a negative physical reaction to it, rendering it unwearable, but we also might simply detest it as a smell. Considering the thousands of options at our disposal, would anyone want to sicken themselves on a regular basis so that they could tell others that LT said it is a masterpiece? If there are people in the world who think this way, it is so foreign to me that I can only say it strikes me as about as absurd as anything I’ve ever heard !

Now, on to Ambre Baldessarini (and I’ll supply a review that tells you what I think it smells like). I obtained a bottle the other day and applied one spray to the chest. Longevity with at least reasonable projection (“sillage”) was five hours or more (I fell asleep at that point). At first, there is a harshness to it, though it’s not like the kind of sharpness one gets from some citrus notes, nor it is “metallic” or “chemical.” Perhaps it is the combination of apple, violet, and leather, since I don’t know what else it can be and I don’t get anything else one could call “leather” at any point. The whiskey note is also obvious, and that is well done. I didn’t think I’d like it but it didn’t bother me enough to wash it off and over time I found myself thinking that it was actually enjoyable (though it seemed to come in waves, as is common with scents that have some amber in them)! Over time it softens up a little and there’s a touch of powderiness, but it never develops that heavy, syrupy and/or vanillic quality that I associate with “amber fragrances.”

I didn’t smell it close up on the skin, but my guess is that this may be a mistake with this scent. Others that are “in the same ballpark” include Michael for Men by Kors, Tim McGraw, Southern Blend, and The One for Men. Calling this an “amber scent” makes no sense to me, even if it went in that direction after five hours (to me, after five hours one can speak to the essential character of a scent). However, in my experience, if a scent possesses strong amber you will know about it well before five hours have passed! Needless to say, this is not like Ambra by Etro at all, and at the very least I think LT should have pointed out that Ambre is not aptly named. Telling readers that it is very similar to many others but not mentioning even one of these others is very strange, and I have no idea why he didn’t feel obliged to mention at least one.

It’s clearly not aquatic, “fresh,” “sporty,” or “ozonic,” but it’s not what I’d call a traditional “masculine” oriental. There are a few scents that are somewhat similar, but I can certainly envision some people preferring this one to those. A “fresh” take on this would be Cereus #7. I can see enjoying this once very few months, which for me is almost “high praise.” The reason is that I’m looking for a certain amount of variety, so even if it is not a “masterpiece” it may be quite enjoyable if used this way. “Crap amber” implies that it was meant to be an amber-dominant scent, which we don’t know. It would have made more sense to me if LT had criticized the name of the scent, told the reader it is not amber-dominant, and concluded by saying that it is essentially an inferior version of one of the scents I mentioned above, if that is what he thought, of course.


Filed under Criticizing the critics., Fragrance Reviews.

2 responses to “How about a steaming pile of “crap amber” ?

  1. I decided a while back that attempting to parse the thousands of contradictions in The Holey[sic] Book is not worth my time. They aren’t serious critics, so what’s the point?

    Thanks for this post, which I enjoyed all the same! 😉

    • I’d guess one could write a book with more pages than “The Guide” on the subject of all the questionable claims in it, but in this case I thought it was worth pointing out this apparent issue because a lot of “newbies” might get confused and more experienced folk might think that Ambre is not worth sampling, though if they did sample it they might like it. I certainly like it more than 90% of more of the recent designer offerings I’ve sampled over the last few years!

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