A Guide to Amber – Part I: Types, Definitions, Materials & Scent

“Amber” is a glorious genre of perfumery, a showcase for all that is decadent, inviting, resinous, and golden in scent, with facets that range across a broad spectrum from the musky, sultry, smoky, and spicy to the deliciously cozy with sweetened aromas of toffee, caramel, or vanilla. But “amber” is a word that needs to be in quotation marks because it is, in reality, an umbrella catch-all term that encompasses many varieties of materials and, as a result, a slew of different aromas or styles.

I’d like to go over the basics of those genres or, to be more precise, sub-genres in what will be a two-part series, starting today with the history, definitions, basics, and scent profile of the materials in each group. In the next post, Part II, I’ll list fragrances that I love and recommend within each category, as well as a few famous ones beloved by others, even if they don’t strike the same chord with me.

Fossilized amber. Source: amberpieces.com

Fossilized amber. Source: amberpieces.com

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The Life of a “Nose”: One Perfumer’s Story

Viktoria Minya. Photo possibly by Cseh Gabriella. Source: Viktoria Minya FB page.

Viktoria Minya. Photo possibly by Cseh Gabriella. Source: Viktoria Minya FB page.

What’s it like to be a professional nose? How difficult is it to become one? How does one deal with the restrictions inherent in perfume creation, whether IFRA/EU-related, a client’s brief, or basic price constraints? And why do so many perfumes smell the same?!

Those are a few of the questions I posed to Viktoria Minya, the award-winning perfumer and owner of Parfums Viktoria Minya. She’s a rare creature in the industry for a few reasons. First, she’s one of the few professionally trained female noses who also runs her own perfume house. Second, she’s both an insider and, in many ways, an outsider as well. She’s not part of the stable of perfumers hired by the big companies like Givaudan, IFF, or Robertet, but she was one once. Now, she’s independent but, unlike Bertrand Duchaufour, she’s not a nose for hire in the typical sense and she works primarily on her own creations. Her closest counterpart might be Patricia de Nicolai, but the latter is arguably a part of the establishment, whether through her presidency of Osmothèque or her membership in the Guerlain family.

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The New Nicolai Era: An Interview with Patricia & Axel de Nicolaï

Source: Pnicolai.com

Source: Pnicolai.com

A new era is dawning at Parfums de Nicolai, the venerable brand that was one of the pioneers of niche perfumery. Founded and led by the legendary Patricia de Nicolaï, the company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, changed its name to NICOLAÏ: PARFUMEUR-CRÉATEUR (hereinafter simply referred to as “Nicolai“), and brought in Axel de Nicolaï, Patricia de Nicolaï’s son, as both the General Manager and her collaborator in the perfume-creation process.

It’s a significant step for a few reasons. Axel de Nicolaï was raised in the Nicolai perfume and family tradition, but he also brings a different perspective to the mix after working in the larger mainstream fragrance industry with the big perfume conglomerates of LVMH and InterParfums, and spending time in the Middle East. It was his idea that Nicolai should explore the oud genre, resulting in last year’s Rose Oud and Amber Oud, and his influence also helped to shape the direction of Nicolai’s newest release, Ambre Cashmere Intense. In his main role as the new General Manager, he’s made changes to the company’s marketing direction and sales strategy, but he’s equally determined that marketing should never impact or alter the Nicolai olfactory “DNA.”

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Interview: Filippo Sorcinelli of UNUM & LAVS

Filippo Sorcinelli has been called “a Renaissance man,” and the term seems fitting. He is not only the force behind Unum Parfums and the LAVS Atelier that makes vestments for the popes, but he is also a painter, photographer, musician, and conceptual post-modernist artist whose work has been praised by the Louvre.

Photo: Rita Francia for Unum and Mr. Sorcinelli. Source: UNUM.

Photo: Rita Francia for Unum and Mr. Sorcinelli. Source: UNUM.

Unum 5

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