Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Estee Lauder Youth Dew, introduced in 1953, was renowned for featuring 30% oil concentration, almost triple the usual amount. Its pairing of balsamic richness with a cloud of earthy patchouli renders the composition as dark, heavy and intriguingly languorous. At the same time, its dense and sonorous effect can be an olfactory challenge. Thus, for the winter of 2005, Estée Lauder revealed an Amber Nude collection designed by Tom Ford, with the Youth Dew interpretation joining the Lauder classic. Youth Dew Amber Nude promised to respect the character of the original composition, while unveiling its softer side.

The composition indeed is structured around the spicy floral heart and the balsamic base like the original Youth Dew; however, Amber Nude is sweeter and more luminous. Spices are gently folded into the main accord, in contrast to their liberal layering in the original. Where the sweetness of Youth Dew comes from dark rich notes of tolu balsam and benzoin, Amber Nude relies on gourmand vanilla, powdery chocolate and transparent amber. …

The initial impression of a vivid spicy burst is akin to biting into a piece of fresh ginger root. Sparkling spice is complemented by a dose of warm peppery dryness. This serves as an interesting counterpoint to the syrupy sweetness that seeps out of the top accord which is reminiscent of black cherry jam.

In the heart, dark, spicy carnations swell over indolic jasmine and heady rose accented by fruity damascones, which lend a luscious plumy note to the classical Youth Dew heart. The floral accord of the original is made fruity and abstract, a cross between a floral bouquet and a Turkish apricot leather. Nevertheless, the composition is not what I would deem as overly sweet at any point in its development.

The indolic facet lacing the flower petals of the heart grows more pronounced over time, lending an animalic quality to the composition. It is both disconcerting and appealing, however in the base, it seems to be veiled over by the winey effervescence of patchouli and the earthy notes of vetiver. Amber is present in the radiant warmth, dispelling the somber character of the patchouli-vetiver pairing.

The composition seems like an interesting take on the classical darkness of Youth Dew, although it lacks boldness of the original, which not only made Youth Dew memorable (and for some detestable), but also inspired a number of fragrances, from Yves Saint Laurent Opium to Calvin Klein Obsession. Youth Dew Amber Nude is a more subtle version of these fragrances, however one would not be mistaken in including it in the oriental family.

Notes include tea, ginger, magnolia, grapefruit, black rose, carnations, jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli, amber, vetiver, chocolate, musk, vanilla. Available from Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue, and other select retailers. It is also about to be released in Harrods and Harvey Nichols in the UK.

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34 Comments

  • Laura: Dear V, would you PLEASE STOP writing such compelling reviews and making me think I have to have EVERY PERFUME you feature!!! Gosh. November 17, 2005 at 8:50am Reply

  • Marina: Good morning! I just got a sample of YDAN yesterday and it was nothing like I expected it to be. No sweetness, no, as you say, richness. No indolic aspect either, on my skin, but instead there was a strange leather-rubber accord in the middle-base notes and, in the late drydown, lots of powder. It wasn’t unpleasant, just…not what I wanted it to be :-)

    PS and OT – thank you for the 76-82 site, V, I laughed and cried last night looking at that stuff, man, all my childhood is in there :-) November 17, 2005 at 8:53am Reply

    • Sharyl Morris: Marina, any chance you remember what site you were referring to (the “76-82 site”)? If it’s a directory of perfumes issued by year I would probably enjoy looking at it as well. I asked at the very end of the comment thread but remembered afterward that I could reply to individual comments.

      No problem if you don’t remember…I’m asking 8 years too late. :) July 20, 2013 at 11:46am Reply

  • Tania: Ah, thank you. It sounds unnecessary. I’ll skip it, but I do think I should probably at this point bother to smell the original Youth Dew. November 17, 2005 at 10:55am Reply

  • linda: Great review! But I have never been a fan of the original, so I might as well skip this reinterpretation. Or maybe I will take just one little sniff. :-) November 17, 2005 at 11:23am Reply

  • Christine: Wow! Sounds fabulous. Does anyone know where I can get a sample? Thanks! November 17, 2005 at 11:35am Reply

  • Helena: Your review is wonderful as always. However I just hate any reworkings of the classics. I avoid Shalimar Light on principle. So, I will past on Amber Nude too. November 17, 2005 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Diane: I tried this a couple of weekends ago and it wasn’t for moi. It morphed into this curious juxtaposition of adjectives: balsamic, heavy, syrupy. November 17, 2005 at 1:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, it should be sampled, if you have a chance. November 17, 2005 at 1:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, it is sweeter in comparison to the original, however the drydown is rather dense and spicy. Not exactly a sheer reinterpretation of Youth Dew. I think that we are noting the same aspect in the heart. It has a leathery, animalic note, which is what I smell in synthetic indole. I do not mind it, but it is somehow jarring nevertheless.

    Glad that you liked the site! I browsed through it for hours. November 17, 2005 at 1:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, yes, the original Youth Dew is so iconic, it must be smelled. It is also completely out of sync with the current trends, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your preferences. I admire it from a distance. November 17, 2005 at 1:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, take a sniff, if you are near the EL counter. If you do not like oriental genre, neither the new nor the old will please you. November 17, 2005 at 1:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christine, you can get a sample at any counter that would have it. Currently, Neiman Marcus and Saks carry the line. Check with your local EL counter. November 17, 2005 at 1:38pm Reply

  • linda: I just called Saks in New York and they have Amber Nude. I will stop by to try it. November 17, 2005 at 1:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helena, I do not mind reinterpretations as long as the original is not discontinued. However, often reinterpretations strike me poor compromises between current trends and traditional approaches. I admit that I like Shalimar Light though. November 17, 2005 at 1:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, please comment on what you think about it. November 17, 2005 at 1:47pm Reply

  • Robin: Lovely review, V, and so much nicer than my own feeble effort! November 17, 2005 at 2:06pm Reply

  • mreenymo: Sorry, darling, but I am so fixated on this Osmanthe Yunnan release, that I simply cannot think of one clear and reasonable thing to say about your lovely review.

    Hugs! November 17, 2005 at 2:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I still would agree with your assessment of the fragrance. And I, unlike you, love amber! November 17, 2005 at 3:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I am trying to decide whether to cave in or not. We shall see. It strikes me as a spring-summer fragrance, which is why I am reticent to order it now. November 17, 2005 at 3:15pm Reply

  • linda: I just found a mini of Youth Dew in my stash. It looks so oily and brown and I am almost afraid to try it. :D November 17, 2005 at 3:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, it is quite rich and dark. Have no fears! I am here to give you moral support. :) November 17, 2005 at 3:43pm Reply

  • linda: V, I am sorry to say this, but it is awful. I am being suffocated. I am not sure what I smell in Youth Dew, but it is rank on me. I need to wash it off right now. November 17, 2005 at 4:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, oh, I am sorry that it is not working out. Perhaps, it is the combination of balsamic darkness and resinous sweetness that made it so unpleasant. Didn’t you say that you never liked it in the past? You are a brave woman to revisit it! :) November 17, 2005 at 4:56pm Reply

  • kristen: I tested it on my arm and also sprayed it on a card to take to my mom. Unfortunately I left the card in the car, and now my interiors smell like YDAN. Not bad, but the color of the car is just all wrong for the fragrance! It’s silver. :) November 18, 2005 at 11:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, YDAN is the opposite of silver! Did you like it? November 18, 2005 at 12:19pm Reply

  • kristen: I did like it. I would catch a whiff of it every now and then and wonder what smelled so good, only to realize that it was indeed my wrist. November 23, 2005 at 2:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I love moments like those! :) November 23, 2005 at 5:34pm Reply

  • Alejandra: I wore the original Youth Dew all the time, back in high school. It was quite different from what the other girls were wearing at the time (Exclamation!, Baby Soft and the like) and I think it really shaped what kind of scents I prefered as an adult. November 30, 2006 at 10:04am Reply

  • twix: My grandmother gave me her bottle of Youth Dew back in the early 80s when I was a little girl. I remember it growing on me and I actually ADORED it after a few weeks of wearing it all over the house (lol…only at home. Never out! I was very young and anything more than “baby” cologne would garner attention, what more this?) Anyway I did have this habit of wearing perfume around the house ;) What is surprising is I grew up liking fruity florals and not so much the dark, spicy , sexy …which doesnt mean I didn’t collect both. ;)What is really interesting is I wear the latter only when I am alone at home. i’m sure thats saying something about me! August 21, 2007 at 7:59pm Reply

  • tekgirl: This reminded me of “Cinabar”. I wore that back in the day. I didn’t care for YDAN. I received it as a give away for buying some other fragrances. I wouldn’t buy this. December 25, 2007 at 7:33pm Reply

  • Lisa Nedelklo: I loved Youth Dew Amber Nude! My mother always wore the original Youth Dew and I always loved it because it reminded me of my mom. I adored the Amber Nude version and am so very sad it is no longer available! I loved it and have so many compliments when I wear it…it is more youthful than the original and I will cherish the last fews uses of it. May 8, 2012 at 10:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m with you. I still have a little bit left in my bottle. It’s too bad that they discontinued it. May 9, 2012 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Sharyl: I’m only several years late, but does anyone still remember what website (“the 76-82 site”) Marina references in the second comment above? It sounds intriguing.

    Thanks! July 20, 2013 at 11:41am Reply

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