Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Amber Absolute

Some perfumes just announce their presence. Tom Ford’s Private Blend Amber tom-ford-amber-absoluteAbsolute is one of those perfumes. While his entire line of fragrances — Private Blend or not — seems to have a very brash, forceful attitude, I think Amber Absolute takes it to new levels. It is known to be the most concentrated and the strongest amber perfume on the market, but it’s far more than just that: it’s also a frankincense monster. To be honest, it reminds me of one of the aggressive, giant gorillas in Planet of the Apes — complete with chest-thumping machoism. I am not a fan.

Amber Absolute is categorized as a unisex oriental eau de parfum. On his website, Tom Ford describes it as follows:

AMBER ABSOLUTE is a honey-colored scent infused with the purest form of Amber, joined by a tenacious refrain of African Incense, Labdanum, Rich Woods and a touch of Vanilla Bean.

There are no further details about the ingredients and no further elaboration of what kind of “rich woods.” Amber Absolute is intended to be a simple scent; it is meant to be little more than pure, concentrated amber with a “tenacious” hint of those other things. To that extent, you could argue that Tom Ford succeeded in his goal. It really depends on how you interpret the “tenacious refrain” part, and the extent to which the amber was meant to dominate.

Bois de Jasmin has an extremely useful discussion of amber in perfume, and I think it would be helpful to share it here:

While amber commonly tends to refer to the semi-precious fossilized resin, in perfumery, the word refers to an abstraction of the complex odors of ambergris. Rich, animalic, warm and salty, this substance regurgitated by the sperm whale, has been sought after since antiquity for its unique scent. Given its scarcity and high price, amber

accords have been devised using materials like labdanum, which approximate the fragrance of ambergris, particularly since purified labdanum contains ambrein, one of the materials that gives ambergris its scent. The classical amber accord in perfumery tends to be sweet and vanillic. The best examples I can offer include Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, L’Artisan Parfumeur L’Eau d’Ambre and Annick Goutal Ambre candle .

Ambergris

Ambergris

I find it unlikely that Tom Ford used pure ambergris in his perfume, so I’m guessing the infusion of “the purest form of Amber” must be synthetic ambergris (or ambroxan) with a healthy, if not enormous, chunk of labdanum. In my Glossary,

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

I elaborate on labdanum which is the distillation of the cistus plant and which imparts a dry, resinous, faintly woody smell. To me, labdanum is generally similar to ambergris (or to its synthetic form, Ambroxan) and to ambery resins. However, I think it has more of a masculine toughness as compared to amber’s sweetness, a touch more edge and a bit of a dirty, animalic spice.

Labdanum

Labdanum

Tom Ford doesn’t explain if his “African incense” is frankincense or what comprises his “Rich Woods.” The former must be Olbanum, and I’ve read some guesses that the latter consists of Guaiac Wood. I suspect that’s true. Descriptions of guaiac wood’s smell range from burning leaves and pepper, to rubbery rosy-sweet honey, to smoky, rubbery, tar-like asphalt. (See Glossary for more details.) All the descriptions apply here.

The reason why I’m spending perhaps a little more time than usual going over the notes is because I don’t find Amber Absolute to be a predominantly amber scent. To me, it’s smoky, peppery, almost asphalt-like frankincense fragrance first and foremost, and only then amber. Amber is merely the context and cocooning wrap, frankincense is the head and heart. And there is way too damn much frankincense!

Amber Absolute opens with a lovely note of spiced rum. It’s all Chinese Five Spice, headed by star anise. I cook with star anise, and was surprised by just how redolent the smell is here. The amber is rich and so boozy, I immediately thought of Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and his love of rum. Here, the rum note is so concentrated, a mere whiff might make the mighty pirate drunk.

The frankincense is visible too and, initially, it isn’t quite the star player, though it is jostling for the center stage. It’s strong, smoky and has the sharp bite of black pepper. It’s faintly acrid; I can smell it at the back of my nose. There is also a definite burnt asphalt smell which can stem from either the possible Guaiac wood element or from the incense alone. Whatever the cause, the incense or frankincense notes become stronger and stronger. And stronger. It ends up becoming the olfactory equivalent to assault and battery, a most intentional tort.

It is such an aggressive assault that I should point out the need to be extremely careful in how much Amber Absolute you apply. Be careful for your own sake, never mind others. I thought I had been careful, but apparently, not enough. As I repeatedly state, my body consumes perfume. Consequently, for any sort of accurate test, I always use about 3-4 dabs from the small sample vial, smeared up and down each arm. That is the baseline. However, with Amber Absolute, I used far less. I know from prior experience the strength of Tom Ford scents — especially in their opening salvo — but I had also read enough about how Amber Absolute was the strongest amber on the market to know I had to be careful. So, I only put on 1-2 dabs on each arm. Oh boy!

It was absolutely tolerable — nay, lovely — in the opening 15 minutes or so. There, it was a mix of boozy amber (verging on seriously concentrated rum), star anise and spices with an element of frankincense. But the frankincense muscled the supporting players off the stage, took over, and then set up a chest-thumping rhythm of increasing shrillness. What happened to a mere “refrain of African incense”? Oh, right. “Tenacious.” Mr. Ford, I think you’ve confused “tenacious” with obnoxious.

As my prior reviews show, I’m a huge fan of frankincense, so it should tell you something that I found it really too much here. Isn’t this supposed to be an amber scent first and foremost? Frankincense and amber are a lovely combination but, here, there is nothing to really dilute, soften and tame the hard, extremely smoky, almost acrid (and verging on painfully sharp) edges.

Which brings me to my real problem with Amber Absolute: it is not well-rounded for a large portion of its lifespan. It’s too top-heavy on one key note. It’s unbalanced and, unbalanced to such an extent, it clearly must be intentional. I can’t fault Amber Absolute for being a simple, even linear scent; that was what they wanted it to be. But I can absolutely fault it for being painfully unbalanced.

Speaking of linearity, it’s not always a bad thing. I certainly don’t use “linear” as a constant negative. Nor do I need for my scents to always morph and transform like Cinderella. In fact, comfort scents like rich, warm, cozy ambers are one category where I can very much enjoy linearity. It’s akin to having the lovely basenotes (sometimes, the best part of a perfume!) there from the onset but just in different degrees of concentration. But I don’t like this linear perfume.

After three hours of being assaulted and beaten up by frankincense, the charging gorilla decides he’s got better things to do and goes to sit in the corner. The dry-down starts, and it’s a relief. There is salty caramel, vanilla and more of what I consider to be real amber. Soft, nutty, sweet and delicious. The salt of the caramel is balanced by the sweetness, and the whole thing has a lovely touch of smoke. The frankincense is still there, but it’s glowering from the corner and shackled. It’s been tamed enough to almost smell a bit like dirty patchouli, but not quite. The combination is lovely but it’s faint. Like most Tom Ford scents on me, the opening salvo is loud and intense, but when it fades into softness, it’s almost too soft.

Which brings me to something that I often wonder about when it comes to Tom Ford fragrances: olfactory fatigue. I don’t think I experience it with other lines, but I often suspect it is a factor with Tom Ford scents. Most of them open with such an enormous (if not overwhelming) blast that I wouldn’t be shocked if my nose tuned things out after a few hours. I’ve read mentions of olfactory fatigue when it comes to Amber Absolute in particular, so I suspect my assessment of the length or power of the dry-down phase may be strongly influenced by fatigue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a linear scent even then, and there really isn’t a hell of a lot to write about how it unfurls at this stage. I simply am not sure of how strong it is at this point because my nose has been barraged in the preceeding hours.

All in all, Amber Absolute lasted about 8 hours on me with the projection being very good for the first 3 hours, then closer to the skin for the remainder of the time. Given how quickly my body consumes perfume, 8 hours is a long time. On others, however, I have read reports of Tom Ford scents lasting 12-18 hours, and I suspect that Amber Absolute would push things to the higher or highest end of that range.

All in all, I didn’t hate Amber Absolute, but I certainly didn’t love it. I had really expected that I would. In fact, from all that I had read about it and from a friend’s experience with it, I had expected it might be “The One” as far as amber scents go. I have thought long and hard about whether disappointment and very high expectations have contributed to my negative impressions of the scent. I don’t think they have. I’m not judging this as an amber perfume because, on me, it wasn’t one. At least, not a real amber. I’m judging this as a predominantly frankincense perfume in the cocoon of amber. And, even as a frankincense monster, it is not a thing of beauty. For a large portion of its run, it’s not even a thing of comfort. It feels slightly insolent in its extremely aggressive, chest-thumping swagger as it announces: “I’m here! I’m the strongest amber around. And I am absolute!”

So, my hunt for the perfect amber goes on. Maybe it will be Hermès’ Ambre Narguilé from its Hermessence collection, or maybe you can suggest something that I should try. Have you found your perfect amber? If so, what is it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on either Amber Absolute or the best amber that you’ve encountered thus far.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: $205 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle or $495 for a 200 ml/8.45 oz bottle. In doing a search today for all sites selling Amber Absolute, I came across a claim that it was just discontinued two months ago, in October 2012. I can’t seem to ascertain the accuracy of that comment. Certainly, Tom Ford’s website has the perfume listed as part of his Private Blend collection. However, I can no longer find it listed on the Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus websites. Neiman Marcus has it listed, but the category is empty and without a picture of the bottle. Barney’s does not appear to carry any of the Private Blend line, so that’s no help. I’m extremely surprised given the enormous popularity of Amber Absolute, but I’m starting to suspect that chap was right and maybe the scent has been discontinued. If you’re eager to try it, though, there is always eBay where Amber Absolute is plentiful. And, of course, Tom Ford’s website, for now at least. If you like amber, I suggest trying out a sample which can be found for $3 on Surrender to Chance, or on other decant/sample sites like The Perfumed Court.

70 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Tom Ford Private Blend Amber Absolute

  1. When a frankincense lover thinks its too much that is saying something. I love frankincense but I can’t say I’ve had much luck with Tom Ford scents. If the rumor mill says it’s discontinued then I’m less inclined to try it. Although if it has the tenacity you say it does, a bottle would probably last a lifetime. I haven’t really explored many ambers yet so I have yet to find my perfect amber too.

    • Hi Poodle! So nice of you to stop by. 🙂 I can’t seem to find any official statement indicating that it has been discontinued and it is still being sold on Tom Ford’s website, but I think it must have been quietly ended. After posting my review, I dug through various Basenote threads and elsewhere. Yep, the rumour mill definitely seems to think it has been axed, along with Bois Marocain. If one is a frankincense lover, then this still might be the scent to try. After all, it might be solely my skin chemistry, you know? Plus, I hear so many gushing, adoring comments about Amber Absolute from those who love the amber genre itself. I wouldn’t let the availability issue concern you too, too much, unless you don’t trust eBay. Since many of my favorites perfumes are good only in vintage formulation, I rely heavily on eBay and have always had a great experience. Of course, if amber isn’t generally your cup of tea, then it’s a totally different matter. Do you have a particular favorite category or categories of perfumes that you gravitate towards?

      • I’m glad I stopped by too. I’ve got some reading to do here. I tend to gravitate towards almost anything depending on my mood really. I’m not a fan of most of the mass market fruity florals because they all smell the same to me. I do like well done fruity scents though. I’m on an incense kick lately so this caught my eye.

        • You may want to look at my review of Chanel’s Coromandel. I think that was incense done well, and without the touch of oud that a lot of incense perfumes seem to be incorporating more and more these days. If you like boozy amberous, rich orientals, I would suggest Teo Cabanel’s Alahine which has labdanum/cistus done in sane degrees along with lots of sandalwood, musk and benzoin. The latter is a scent I really, really liked. (As a point of reference, my favorite category of perfumes is spicy orientals.)

          I share your views on mass-market fruity florals. Or mass-market anything, actually. Not only have they little real independent character but they’re usually so bloody synthetic. Ugh. But they’re still better than my ultimate pet peeve: “clean and soapy” scents. God, just typing that out sent a shiver down my spine! 😉 LOL.

          • Oh yeah, I am not fond of clean and soapy either. A little soapy or a little clean, maybe, but if it immediately reminds me of doing the laundry, no thank you. If I want to smell like fabric softener I can stick a sheet of it in my bra and get the same effect for less money. 🙂 Alahine sounds worth a look and Coromandel has a lot of fans so I’ll check that out too. Thanks!

  2. Hmmmm, I feel I may have to try this one, since it’s one I didn’t get the chance to try at the TF counter at Nordstrom. I have to say, I sort of fell head over heels with basically everything I tried. Ok, maybe not that far, but I would love to own a bottle of every single thing I tried at the counter, and some I would consider “high priority” in terms of adding them to my collection.

    Thankfully, his stuff is pretty readily available on eBay for a discounted price, which makes it slightly more tolerable/justifiable, price-wise, since $205 for 1.7 ounces is a bitter pill to swallow! Having smelled 5 or 6, I can see your point about linearity and olfactory fatigue. I didn’t see a lot of development or change in the ones I’ve tried so far, but I don’t necessarily need to because I love them so much as is. I’ve tended to regard linearity as a negative, but his stuff has changed my mind about that. At any rate, thanks for another great review! Love reading your thoughts on the TF stuff having just tried and fallen in love with too many of them. Heh!

    • I’m struggling right now myself with the linearity issue in scents one likes or loves for an upcoming Hermès review that I’ll publish later today. I fear I’m going to get tired of repeating how there is nothing wrong with linearity if one loves the scent but, honestly, that feels completely hypocritical. I mean, isn’t it? To pan something for being linear unless one loves the category of scent seems a little unfair. So, my compromise is to flatly admit from the start that something is linear but I love it anyway.

      As for this TF, I suspect you may not find it to sniff it. Try to ask your lady at Nordstrom’s if she has any samples left but I doubt it. It seems this was discontinued. And not as recently as I had thought, either. No, it wasn’t in October as I had initially believed but back at the end of July. As I wrote to someone else, I’m extremely surprised by that. Amber Absolute is one of the most popular ones, or so I had thought. I think you definitely need to get a sample of it to see if you like it because one of my good friends ADORES IT and smells little frankincense. Me, I felt clobbered with it. (And you know how much I like frankincense!). I know you’re a bit iffy on the note, so you need to see if it will be too much for you.

      • Perhaps it’s hypocritical, but I think there’s boring linear, there’s oppressive linear, and there can be well-done linear. At least that’s my justification! I’m really trying to remember if she had it, but now I can’t remember at all. I want to go back and smell more, but unfortunately I fear I can’t show my face at the same Nordstrom because though the sales lady was great (amazing, actually), I can’t justify spending the full price on any of them, and I don’t her to think I’m just trying to get samples out of her! Sigh. Unrelated to Amber Absolute, but the more I smell Noir de Noir the more I fall in love with it. When I did a paper test I quickly moved on, but when I tried it on my skin it was a different story. Ug, I really need to move to a permanently cool climate so I can wear the rich, heavy stuff I love the most all the time! Some of the fragrances I own will have to be put away in the summer, and the thought makes me depressed! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess.

        I forget if I told you, but I finally smelled some Creeds and I’m not sure I totally get the hype. They were nice enough, but I’d never in a million years think they were worth full retail price. I’m a little surprised at how popular it is. I also briefly smelled Eau des Merveilles (not on my skin) and it was nice, but I didn’t immediately love it. Of course, a spray on a paper isn’t nearly enough to go on. I’ll eventually be getting a StC sample of that. I definitely did not like Spicebomb based on the paper test, but I’d be willing to try it on my skin to see if my judgment was too harsh.

        • I have a feeling that I will love Noir de Noir. Is the oud in it very medicinal or does it have a leather-like, woody smoothness? I know some ouds can smell quite harsh and camphorous (like medicine or antiseptic band-aids). Which is awful to my nose at least.

          • I personally don’t smell anything medicinal in Noir de Noir, but I know others do. As a point of reference, I definitely smell the antiseptic band-aid smell on M7, but I actually like it. But Noir de Noir has nothing remotely like that, so if it’s there, it’s toned down by a factor of a million. Again, it’s all so subjective. I mainly smell rich, dark, dusty roses and not a whole lot more (but I’m sort of a simpleton in terms of what notes I’m able to pick out of a fragrance) – but it’s done so well that I am in love with it.

          • You know, Kevin, the last time I heard you so in love with a scent, you went out and bought the big bottle of Sycomore….. I just KNOW you’re looking at eBay for Noir de Noir right now, aren’t you??! 😛 Heh. You really have me intrigued. You really do!

          • Well, if I must be honest, I’ll admit there is a bottle coming my way via eBay right now (along with a few other Tom Fords…oops. Damn my trigger-happy fingers!). I did buy a small bottle, though! I figured at this point I have enough that it will take me a few years, at least, to work through it given that it’s more of a special occasion scent (unless my obsession continues, in which case I’ll be wearing it around the house and grocery shopping. LOL).

          • ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know you so damn well!!!! And, honey, I suspect you will soon be wearing it around the house and going grocery shopping. 😉 But good for you. Seriously, good for you!

        • Good for me, perhaps. Not so good for my checking account. Oh well! My mom has always said one should enjoy what little money they may have, because you can’t bury it with you. Clearly, I’m embracing that philosophy. Never you mind what my father would say about spending on such unnecessary luxury. I just push his words to the back of my brain when I click the “purchase” button. LOL.

          • P.S. That was very poor grammar, because it makes it sound like my mother’s words were that one should enjoy my parents’ money! Believe me, that is most assuredly NOT their philosophy (but one can dream…). Haha. Indeed, one should enjoy what little one has of his/her own money!

  3. I find Amber Absolute to be very a harsh amber. It had an animalic note that came out on me and I just couldn’t get over it. A friend of mine absolutely adores it though and he got 2 of the big bottles before they discontinued it.

    I think you’ll like Ambre Narquile. It is a much more polite and tempered amber. I don’t know if you’ve tried Ambrarem by Histoires de Parfums. I’ve heard good things about it but never smelled. it.

    • You know, in writing my review, I wanted to use “animalic” a number of times but, technically, animalic doesn’t refer to frankincense — and the latter was what was predominant and beating me over the head for most of the time. Like you, I have a friend who absolutely ADORES it. She smells little of the frankincense beast and her raves over the scent were what led me to think that it may be the one. I was utterly crushed to have such a bad reaction to Amber Absolute. So far, I haven’t been crazy about any of the Tom Ford scents I’ve tried, though I have hopes for the Lys Fumé and Oud Wood from the Private Blend collection. We’ll see.

      And I did end up liking Ambre Narguilé. Perhaps because that actually smelled like amber and not an 800-lb frankincense gorilla! I shall look into Ambrarem, Mr. Bound, so thank you for the suggestion. I pay heed to what you say, you know. A sample of Anima Dulcis should be in my mailbox any day now! 🙂

      • I’m glad you liked Ambre Narguile. It is a much more polite and versatile amber built in a very much Ellena style. Speaking of ambers, Amouage would have some really good ones.

        I’ve smelled Lys Fume once in the total chaos of tourists at the Lafayette Galleries. Considering the craziness of the place, I am in no position to give a fair opinion but it made a moderate impression on me. It was the one that stood out among all the other ones from the Jardin Noir collection. Sales assistants have told me Cafe Rose is another popular one but I’m not big on rose, so I didn’t explore further.

        My favourites of the Private Blend are:

        Tuscan Leather (I know, it’s a cliche and Luca Turin thinks it smells like a car interior but I haven’t found a better raspberry-leather combo)
        Noir de Noir
        Oud Wood
        Tobacco Vanille
        Italian Cypress (it is so masculine, this perfume can grow hair on its own)
        Honourable mention: Santal Blush – I like the sandalwood part but when it gets to the suede notes, I’m not feeling it very much)
        Please let me know what you think of Anima Dulcis once you try it.

        • Heh, my first comment to the sales rep. when I smelled Italian Cypress was “Woah, this is a manly scent!” Definitely the most masculine of anything I own, I think. Tuscan Leather was lovely, it smelled a little like brand new money to me. Well, brand new money and leather. I liked it quite a lot. But I loved all the ones you mentioned, except Santal Blush (haven’t smelled it…yet).

          Does anyone know how any of these ambers mentioned compare to Prada Amber for Men? I realize that Prada Amber may be a bit pedestrian for the purposes of a lot of scent bloggers, but I bought that one a long time ago and really don’t like it much at all, so it makes me hesitant to try other ambers in the future.

          • Oh yeah, I won’t be surprised in they’ve put testosterone extract in Italian Cypress haha. The problem I have with it is that it punches a lot of people right in the nose,so I have to be selective who I wear it around. Some of my friends can’t stand it – it makes them sneeze.

            If I recall correctly, Prada Amber is nothing impressive and definitely not a poster child of amber fragrances. Many of the mid-level designer fragrances use cheaper amber synthetics to keep cost low. The result is a marketable product but nothing to measure by other fragrances in the same class.

          • That is helpful re: Prada, and I figured the answer would be something similar. Indeed, the cost is palatable, but the scent is not. 🙂 Glad to hear it’s not like other stuff, it definitely gives me hope for the future. I’ll wait until Kafka finds the “perfect” amber and then I’ll try more – we tend to have similar taste (her dislike of Cuir de Russie notwithstanding). Or rather, she knows my taste well and has offered great recommendations in the past.

            Heh, I could see Italian Cypress irritating people. I’ll have to wear it with a gentle hand!

        • have to try all those Scent Hound. I hear amazing things about Noir de Noir and Italian Cypress. i have a decant of Tuscan leather and I wasnt impressed. This is probably due to the fact that I dabbed it on from my 4 ml vial. I will try again once I transfer to an atomizer. I purchased it on on ebay for $19. Not bad huh? I think Tobacco Vanille would be great as well, but Im trying to be adventurous and try things I never would have worn. Its funny you mention Santal Blush. I just tried Xerjoff Richwood, myosere sandalwood based fragrance, and I was a little dissappointed. I was expecting it to shoot off my skin like a rocket. But it was a fantastic opening, then settles very quickly into a skin scent, thats wonderful(very creamy, dreamy vanilla and sandalwood), but I dont think its worth the high price tag of $700. I purchased a small decant of this and not a full bottle, thank goodness!!

          • My experience with Sandal wood is that it stays close to the skin. It has some projection but it’s not a monster. My all time favourite sandal wood is Tam Dao – it’s my reference sandal wood fragrance. If you have a choice between trying Noir de Noir or Tobacco Vanille, go with Noir de Noir. It’s a lot more complex and refined. Some say it is on the feminine side and compared to Tobacco Vanille, it is, but still a man can definitely pull it off.
            $700 for a Xerjoff? It must come in those special boxes. It’s a silly price to pay for a fragrance.
            If you want to try something interesting, go for A Lab on Fire Liquidnight. Here’s a link to a review I did some time ago:
            http://scentbound.com/2012/12/22/liquidnight-by-a-lab-on-fire-review/

          • My opinion wasn’t asked for, but I agree that if you have to choose between trying Tobacco Vanille or Noir de Noir, to try the latter. I absolutely adore it, and I fall in love with it more each time I smell it. I liked Tobacco Vanille, but I didn’t find it particularly inspiring. In fact, if I had to choose a “must try” from TF’s Private Blends, it would be NdD. I’ve read mixed reviews on it’s wearability by a man, but there is something decidedly masculine about it to me, especially compared to other rose scents. I think it can easily be worn by men and women. Tobacco Vanille is more versatile, though, in terms of when and wear to wear it. Noir de Noir isn’t an every single day scent to me (and definitely not a daytime scent), but Tobacco Vanille could be.

          • Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy, you’re all talking to each other! Ferris, $700?! Good lord, is this like one of those $885 Clive Christian fragrances?!

            You raise an interesting point about the dabbing vs. atomizer. There seems to be such a split as to which one is better. I think it was Chandler Burr who said that atomizers were a total waste unless you wanted a portion of your fragrance on the carpet, and that dabbing was a better way to go. Others feel differently. Perhaps you need to dab on more to get a feel for Tuscan Leather? I was talking with a friend the other day about how little she uses in general when applying perfume because there is no other explanation for why she gets the same, miniscule sillage for some of the strongest scents on the market. I think her extremely minimal amount made it harder for her to detect the full range of notes. How much do you dab on?

        • Car interior with raspberry??? It sounds fascinating!

          I laughed — out loud — at “this perfume can grow hair on its own.” Heh.

          I’m actually going to review one of the ultimate 5-star leather perfumes next: Bandit by Robert Piguet. We’ll see if I agree with Luca Turin and the world’s love for it. It’s supposed to be in lists for the best feminines for men, best chypre and best leathers, and up there with Knize Ten and Cuir de Russie. Given how the latter smelled on me, I’m going to try to lower my expectations for “legendary leather” scents, this time around.

          • I went through a leather phase last year around this time. Try Montale’s Oud Cuir d’Arabie – very raw leather- and Parfumerie General Cuir D’Iris – more tempered but still raw leather. Cuir de Russie is brutal in my opinion. I had a sample and for me it was unwearable. Knize Ten was nice though – I like the raspberry accord in the opening. To me it smells a little 1920’s (which makes sense since that’s when it was released).

          • Heh, I just received Montale’s Oud Cuir d’Arabie yesterday. It is my attempt to give one last shot at Montale. My attempt at fairness, if you will, before I write them off forever as a personal disaster that consistently results in Chernobyl on my arms. I will get around to testing it one of these days, but I rather live in fear of the Montale name at this point…..

          • Oh, I think you’ll be disappointed at first sniff. Cuir d’Arabie is a fragrance you gotta let grow on you. It took me at least 2 or 3 wears to start getting it. Otherwise, it is the smell of a raw skinned animal. Haha, not to turn you off or anything.

          • *pales and goes white* Oh, dear. *gulp* I don’t know if I can take several days worth of testing a Montale. I really don’t. Every experience that I’ve had with the line thus far has left me shuddering with horror. There is scientific dedication and then, there is pure masochistic torture. If Montale smells like a raw-skinned animal on me from the start, I may not last a few hours, let alone several days.

            Again, I think this is where the issue of men-vs-women comes in. I think men may possibly find harsher or discordant scents a bit more tolerable to put up with repeatedly in the hopes of having it “grown on you.” (That said, I was quite proud of not only surviving Robert Piguet’s Bandit but liking much of its odd brutality.) Either way, I set out to give Montale another chance and I will. But I won’t torture myself in that endeavour.

          • BTW, I’m extremely relieved that someone else found Cuir de Russie to be “brutal.” When you get the chance to read my review and comment, I’d love to hear about the details of your experiences with it. I’ve felt a little like the lone crazy person when it comes to that scent. 😉

          • Yes, very expensive and I don’t think I could pay that much for a fragrance ever. LOL I think it does come in a very beautiful box/ presentation.But who cares about that? All I want is the fragrance on my skin. LOL That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to get in on a split from Mike Mickers on YouTube. Very reasonable price. I got 5 ml for about $35, which isn’t bad. I will continue to enjoy it, at least the great opening. LOL. It is so effervescent on the skin, and the creamy sandalwood drydown to follow. Smells delicious, but not $700 delicious. I usually tab on 10 tabs of Tuscan Leather. 4 tabs on the neck
            , 2 tabs on chest,1 on each wrist, and 1 on each elbow crease. Is that a lot? LOL Even though I dab on that much, it is never overwhelming, very close to the skin.

          • That sounds like a great deal, Ferris!! I would have done exactly the same thing. I never understand about splits, at least when it comes to splitting a bottle that is in atomizer form. How the hell do they manage it? It would take forever to use a funnel and just spray it in, which is what some people seem to do.

            As for the amount you put on, it doesn’t seem excessive to me if they’re small dabs. I mean, it’s going all over and under clothing too, so it’s not like you’re putting 10 splashes (or even dabs) just on your wrist! Dabs are way, way less than sprays anyway. I always think you should do what makes you happy – in ANYTHING that pertains to perfume!! 😀

    • What animalistic note you find in Amber Absolute Scent Hound? Could it be civet or castereoum? I know sometimes perfumers use those notes to enhance the amber/ ambergris notes. I agree with you about Histories de Parfums 114. I hear it is the queen of all ambers. Another sample run to the perfumed court. LOL

      • dcchocoman, I wish I could tell you what animalic note they used. As Kafka mentioned, an animalic note may not be present at all, it may be something else that creates the impression of an animalic note.

        Now that you asked this though, I just remembered, NY Oud by Bond No 9 has the same raw animalic nuance to it. It could be frankincense even though, it’s never smelled animalic to me.
        Let me know if you find out what that note is.

  4. So you think this one is better than Parfums D’Empire’s Ambre Russe?Ambre Russe is a boozy amber with champagne, rum, russian tea, russian leather , coriander and other spices. Has major sillage and projection. I would have thought Amber Absolute by Tom Ford was an amber BOMB and not the smoke and boozy concoction that it is. People rave about it saying it is so intense, thick and sweet, so sweet in fact that it gets cloying. This is one I have to sample or get a decant very soon before it becomes vintage and crazy expensive since it was been discontinued. Great review as always!

    • Ferris, I haven’t tried Ambre Russe yet but it’s on my list. I have a vague memory of reading that Ambre Russe, like Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, were all more….. something than the TF. More herbal notes, more leather or spice additions — always something in addition to amber. In contrast,the TF is supposed to be the more pure, concentrated amber around. Which is why it surprised me to have so much frankincense. I definitely think it is one that you should try — and try soon — because if you like it, you will want to snap it up on eBay before the prices become outrageous.

  5. I seem to have a problem with most ambers as they don’t last long unless they have leather or deep resin in the base, otherwise it disappears on me. Hopefully when I try TF’s version or Histories de Parfums 114, I will be impressed

  6. Kaf,
    I think the people who do splits often buy the flacons which come with a stopper top, well at least the very large flacons (800 ml or larger) I know the Creed and Tom Ford flacons do. That way they can pipet the desired amount. That’s the preferred method over spraying that amount into a bottle or atomizer. Talk about trigger finger pains. LOL

    • Oh, that’s great to know. Thank you so much for explaining! I couldn’t figure out how they were doing it! It’s something I’ve always wondered about but especially recently when a lady told me she’s gotten a new Chanel Exclusif scent that is barely out on the markey (and, in fact, officially not even available at all) in a split. I know those bottles are only about 200 ml at most and I’m pretty damn sure there is no stopper top! It’s just a pure spray, and I’ve read of some people being able to unscrew them with plyers but that seems so damn risky. I must say, I can’t ever seeing an 800 ml flacon available for sale. LOL Anyway, thanks again for explaining. I love how we can all learn from each other! *hugs*

  7. About two or three years ago a natural perfumeur I know told me that there had been a big find of real ambergris. Surely everyone can’t still be claiming to use that batch though? (I’ve seen a lot of claims to real ambergris in commercial fragrances lately.)

    • Nancy,
      Sadly some people will say anything and make all types of claims in order to sell their products. Sad but very true. But there could have been a “BIG” colossal find of ambergris that was discovered during that time period you mentioned. I’ve never heard of it though.

  8. Since we were talking about dabbing vs spraying, I should note that pure parfums are meant to be dabbed on versus spraying. If you note many of the Parfum versions of Chanel and the like come with glass stoppers (well they used to anyways) A lady would turn the bottle upside down, getting some of the parfum of the stopper and dab to where she wanted the scent. With the perfume being ultra concentrated it didn’t take much. Don’t know if that holds true today. When I see the words pure parfum today, I liken it to a slightly higher concentrated form of a eau de parfum, not a true “parfum”in the true sense of the word.

    • They still come with those sorts of crystal tops and, you’re absolutely right, one is supposed to dab those. Of course, I can’t afford the pure parfum versions of things, so it rarely comes up as an issue amongst any of the full bottles I own. LOL. But I dab away plenty with my little decant samples. 🙂

  9. It took me some time to fall in love with Amber Absolute. But I really adore it now. Its very dense, resinous and longlasting. I`ve noticed that when the body warms up the amber becomes more promiment. Love to blend it with Bois Marocain or Oud Wood.
    Great review!

    • Thank you for stopping by, Ross, and for your kind words. Combining it with those other two sounds like a wonderful idea. I wanted to love Amber Absolute and have numerous friends who adore it above all other ambers. Unfortunately, my body chemistry seems to have emphasized the incense notes. I’ve started to realise that it does that often, so unfortunately, it wasn’t my perfect amber. I’m so glad it was for you, though! 🙂 I haven’t tried Bois Marocain and, alas, I heard it was quietly discontinued about six months ago. I hope you have a big bottle of it!

      • Unfortunately I have about 20 ml left of Bois Marocain. The scent is a hidden gem in Private Blend collection. It’s said that they discontinued it, but it look like they are discontinuing the best ones from the line: Japon Noir, Velvet Gardenia, Purple Patchouli and my absolute fav Moss Breches 🙁

        • Ross, I have heard nothing but glowing praise for Moss Breches! I know a lot of people were very crushed that it was discontinued. I have a small sample of Japon Noir but, as you said, that one is discontinued too. Can you try to stock up on eBay? I see Moss Breches and Bois Marocain there from time to time.

          • I came insanely close to ordering a bottle of Moss Breches on eBay (for a VERY reasonable price) but decided against it because I hadn’t smelled it. But people seem to love it and I’m dying of curiosity. I’m almost kicking myself over it as much as I am that damned bottle of Egoiste Concentree. LOL.

          • From what I’ve read of Moss Breches and from what I know of your perfume tastes, Kevin, I think you would like it. A lot. But it *is* hard to buy something blind and unsniffed. Clearly, you need to order a sample from Surrender to Chance soon, to decide for yourself. 😉

          • I have two bottles of Moss Breches in my collection, so it will last me for some time. It’s just doesn’t make any sense to me why it has been chopped. I hope Tom Ford will replace those with some other great quality scents, but considering his last Jardin Noir collection the chances are slim.

          • Ross, I’m so glad you have enough. I know what it’s like to have one’s favorite scents be drastically changed or no longer available at all.

            I’m not as au courant with TF’s line as some others (probably because there are SO damn many! lol) but I have the vague impression that he’s transitioning into more floral or less edgy scents. You seem to know the line very well. Do you think that’s a completely off perception? Yes, he still has the Italian Cypress, Oud Wood, and Tuscan Leather scents, but the ones he’s discontinued seem to be more woody or unusual fragrances. And then, as you mentioned, there is the Jardin Noir line….

          • The Private Blend collection is definitely shifting towards more floral side starting with Jasmin Rouge and Jardin Noir series(although I’m a big fan of Ombré de Hyacinth). I’m familiar with all of them and own the entire collection(minus two or three scents) but the initial 12 were indeed edgy, innovative and unique. But I guess they are trying to attract more young female generation these days with all the floral compositions.

          • Heh. I was just trying to decide if I should test out Ombré de Hyacinth today or go with Chanel’s Sycomore or Guerlain’s Cuir Beluga.

            Thank you for confirming my initial impression regarding the shift in TF’s focus for his perfumes. Let’s just hope the trend towards more floral scents doesn’t turn into the gourmand. With the power and intensity of most TF scents, that might be a bit too much for me to handle. 😉

          • Sycomore! Sycomore! Actually, I’d be interested in reading either since I wasn’t a huge fan of Ombre de Hyacinth (in fact I barely remember it, which I can’t say of many scents). Hmmm, although perhaps I could use a review of it as an opportunity to try it again!

  10. I hope TF won’t dive into gourmands. Although you never know how would that turned out lol. @Kevin my friend on Facebook is selling MB decants. The price is 5ml-$13 which I think is pretty reasonable. But he only ships in the US. Let me know if you’d like to contact him.

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