Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens

Amber as a perfume category is difficult to distinguish. Amber is one of those illusionary accords that expresses itself well in isolation. Take an amber with its spicy, herbal, sweet oscillations, bitter crunchiness and malted smoothness and you have a complexity done simply. An amber perfume is a perfume with a natural beauty: the benzoin, incense, cistus, and vanilla accord that forms the default amber note is a given. The job of the perfumer is to engineer its facets to place emphasis on certain ones and exalt what is naturally beautiful.

An amber accord is immensely multifaceted. For instance, L’Artisan’s L’Eau d’Ambre treats amber as a textural entity, imparting cashmere like softness upon waves of patchouli and vanilla. This creates a spiced amber which uniquely contains an immense ambiance of luxury and a slow languid pace. Dior’s discontinued gem Mitzah instead takes a more crystalline form of the accord, almost as if the amber coloured resinoid was fussed with fragile gossamer silk. Notice the parallels to texture in description. Ambre Russe from Parfum d’Empire moves immediately in a baroque direction with ideas of Russian Nobility and its vivid depth of colours. To achieve this, the amber accord is rendered dry with a surge of spices: cumin, coriander seed, cinnamon – and then austerity is added by the way of further dryness through boozy champagne, tannic tea, and sharp vodka. Its captivating depth retracts infinitely as a perfumed work on skin. Ambre Russe is a dry amber, with a beguiling and complex texture – velvet cut like lace.

Ambre Sultan contains a textural impression – it is a piece of tapestry with inclusions of gold and tussah silk. As an artwork, it is a grand narrative. It is an evocative amber.

Ambre Sultan © 2014 Liam Sardea

© 2014 Liam Sardea


Ambre Sultan is a fragrance that moves in a narrative direction – like finding oneself in a Moroccan bazaar or an Arabian desert with its dry air and summer heat. That’s what this Sultan does: it challenges as it begins and tempers as it evolves further. Like smelling sand scorched by the sun dotted with resistant herbs and weeds, Ambre Sultan is a resinous herbaceous blast of tar like stickiness and a freshness through spice. With a blast of dry heat and a sour earthy-green herbal melange from additions of oregano, bay leaf, cedar wood, and a urinous note of honey and beeswax in the opening juncture – the oriental theme is immediately elucidated in its overloaded maximalism evocative of luxury and of location. It is like walking into a market and being assaulted from all directions with its barrage of spice and smoke; a movement into culinary that reads as boozy and syrup like. A concoction of tinctures and macerated herbs with an unctuous texture.

Ambre Sultan is a dusky perfume, described as an “outdoors” scent by Turin which moves it away from the mistakingly static descriptor of being just a ‘perfume’. This is a bizarre fragrance, yet beautiful from the very beginning. It captures similar feelings to the stampede of animals as found in Muscs Khoublai Khan (Serge Lutens), the slow pace of a camel driver in Yatagan (Caron), and the haunting liturgical starkness of Interlude Man (Amouage). Such narrative resemblances would almost make Ambre Sultan a terrifying fragrance – in its narrative function and its structure, but this redolence retracts as it calms on the skin. The delicious tinge of cistus adds balance, the vanilla adds light, albeit moody, in a sea of shadows, and the spices mellow amongst a translucent floral touch. As Ambre Sultan calms, the cedar’s dryness asserts itself, paralleled with the dry and pure smoke of frankincense and myrrh. A touch of fire with no hints of smoke.

Ambre Sultan is an amber where the herbs are reengineered and the narrative is exalted. Complex yet simple – all notes are presented from top to bottom, and the evolution is apparent.

Evocative Herbal Amber

Subjective rating : 5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

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