Amber fragrances often recall the rich warmth of resins, balsams, and spices and built around the classic accord of labdanum and vanilla. Edible notes of chocolate and foodie accords take them into “Gourmande” territory or they can be exotic and spicy with floral notes. They are warm, rich, and sensual, often seen as evening or winter fragrances. There are two distinct types of classical amber fragrance from which most modern interpretations stem. The first is based on the relationship between bergamot, vanillin (or the much more potent ethyl vanillin), coumarin, and civet. It is known as the “Ambreine” accord and is represented in the 1925 Guerlain fragrance – Shalimar. Ambers of this type are the least floral of any fragrance and are based around a small amount of rose at the heart. Modern fragrances that owe more than a passing nod to Shalimar include Obsession by Calvin Klein and more recently Musc Ravageur by Editions de Frederic Malle.
The second starting point for an amber lineage is the “Mellis” accord from which Opium by YSL and Youth Dew by Estee Lauder stem. The Mellis accord is based on the relationship between benzyl salicylate and eugenol which gives the impression of clove or carnation (as seen in the floral L’air du Temps) along with patchouli, lily of the valley in the form of hydroxycitronellal and coumarin. Balsamic notes are added along with woods and spices. This type of fragrance can be classified as spicy amber.