Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe : Fragrance Review

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Russe

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

Vodka, caviar, golden onion shaped church domes, horse pulled sleighs running into the snowy night… What other Russian stereotypes might Parfum d’Empire have missed in their description of Ambre Russe? Though I might gripe about the clichés, one thing is without any doubt—among the excellent modern ambers, Ambre Russe is one of the most opulent and luxurious. Its character is enveloping and rich, while the spicy and leathery accents give it a sensual, smoldering aura. At the same time, the dryness of incense makes Ambre Russe elegant and polished by dispelling the usual resinous heft of sweet amber.

Created by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, the founder of the Parfum d’Empire line, Ambre Russe is both his tribute to Russia and to the classical labdanum based amber. As I smell Ambre Russe, I glimpse the baroque elements from classical Guerlain fragrances, such as Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and L’Heure Bleue. For this reason, Ambre Russe seems to me as an exercise in nostalgia; just as it captures the opulent Tsarist past that vanished overnight in the 1917 Russian revolution, so does it evoke the grand parfum glory that is available today in only a muted form. Inhale the dark, smoky sweetness of Ambre Russe, and all of it appears before you—the gilded ballrooms, the perfumed shoulders, and the champagne fountains.

Like many amber centered niche creations, Ambre Russe is a monolithic fragrance that reveals all of its elements in rapid succession. Though lacking in surprising twists, it makes up for it with its opulence. It is built around a sweet amber note, but unlike Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan or Tom Ford Amber Absolute, the main accent here is not the resinous, bittersweet labdanum, but rather benzoin with its cherry and vanilla liqueur character. The amber that results out of these notes is sweet, luscious and spicy, with a gourmand edge. The overtones of tobacco and incense deepen the impression and enhance the complexity of Ambre Russe.

Although the sweetness is much more pronounced in Ambre Russe than in other ambers I mentioned, it is nevertheless mild. Compared to another stellar amber, Hermès Ambre Narguilé, it is drier and smokier. It is quite tenacious, even though its sillage is moderate and the fragrance stays close to the skin and creates a pleasant aura. As the days turn colder, I reach more and more often for my Ambre Russe bottle, hoping as much for a glimpse of a fantasy world as for its delicious, warm caress.

Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe Eau de Parfum includes notes of tea, incense, vodka, champagne, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ambergris, vanilla, leather. Available at Beautyhabit, Luckyscent and First in Fragrance. $75, 50ml; $110, 100ml

Sample: my own acquisition

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26 Comments

  • Cristine: I have a sample of this and was enjoying it’s lovely sweet amber goodness until after about 15 or 20 minutes when I couldn’t figure out WHO was smoking cigarettes near by. Not lovely pipe smoke, but cigarette smoke or an ashtray (distantly). It was the Ambre Russe. For that reason, I could only imagine wearing it out clubbing or something like that– which is a pretty specialized use, since I rarely do that. However, I’m going test it again and see if I experience the same phenomenon. Everything else about it was wonderful, though! October 5, 2011 at 6:32am Reply

  • Victoria: It does have that strong tobacco note! I do not mind it, as it does not make think of cigarette smoke, but I can see how it might, esp in combination with smoky incense notes.

    You know, I recently wore Serge Lutens Chergui, and after a while, I had to wash it off, because I felt the same way you did about Ambre Russe. I was haunted by that smoking cigarette impression! 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile October 5, 2011 at 9:10am Reply

  • Suzanna: I had this one and swapped it while predicting that somewhere down the line (now)I would want it again. I do not care for wet or sweet ambers and I like dry and smoky ones; I may have the spring for another bottle or at least a decant.

    I scrubbed Chergui twice recently because of the hay sweetness tossed over smoke. I live in an area of Florida that is often dense with smoke from wildfire in the Okeefenokee Swamp and I have become intolerant of the smell. I don’t mind tobacco smell (ex. Botrytis), but the curls of smoke rising off Chergui were unpleasant. October 5, 2011 at 9:48am Reply

  • rosarita: Ambre Russe is my favorite amber by far; it works much better for me than Ambre Sultan. I love it by itself and also find that it layers nicely. I’ve been wearing it a lot lately. So nice to have autumn return! All my favorite scents that practically beg for crisp days are being applied with abandon 🙂 October 5, 2011 at 10:12am Reply

  • Nikki: love the bottle and the description, now i have to try it. i do like ambre sultan but it is a little dry, so this sounds much more luscious! October 5, 2011 at 11:35am Reply

  • Cristine: I’m kind of relieved to hear you smelled smoke in Chergui because I own it and love it–so perhaps the cigarette smell in AR is not something that will ultimately bother me. I’ll try it again when it gets colder here, in California. Also, I agree that though Ambre Sultan smells great, it can be difficult to wear. Like a big amber bear sitting on my chest.

    Ambre Russe is the only PdE scent I’ve tried, any recommendations on which ones I shouldn’t miss? October 5, 2011 at 12:50pm Reply

  • OperaFan: I got a sample of this in the spring and it’s instant love! That doesn’t happen often with amber perfumes but AR was exceptional, IMO. Thanks for writing about it, V. October 5, 2011 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Parfumista: In my opinion the PdE perfumes are quality scents to a reasonable price. I have tried most of them and my favorite over all is the antiseptic smelling, pink-rosy chypre Eau Suave. The latest PdE fragance Azemour is a lovely orangeblossom-green blend with some mossy notes. What a coincidence,tomorrow I will review Azemour in my perfumeblog. I have also tried Cuir Ottoman, 3 Fleurs, Azeyade and Wazamba and like them all. Seems like I can recommend the whole line. October 5, 2011 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: I usually prefer drier ambers, so a bottle of Ambre Russe which I received as a gift was languishing unused. However, since it was a birthday gift from my cousin, I kept it. These days I am developing a taste for sweeter blender, so Ambre Russe fits the bill perfectly. October 5, 2011 at 2:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also really much prefer the fall fragrances as well as the fall fashions! 🙂 October 5, 2011 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ambre Russe is easier to wear, that’s for sure. Ambre Sultan can be quite imposing! October 5, 2011 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: My favorite is Eau Suave, a rose chypre (it has a beautiful, honeyed rose note.) Also, I like Osmanthus Interdite (apricot-jasmine) and Fougere Bengale (lavander and immortelle, dark, complex, but a bit tricky if you do not like the maple syrup like notes of immortelle.) October 5, 2011 at 2:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: There was a period of lots of love for AR on blogs, and then it kind of vanished. So, I am glad to see that it still has some fans. October 5, 2011 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree, the price to quality is great! I cannot say that I like all of the fragrances, mostly because the musk base Parfums d’Empire uses sometimes bothers me (it feels too clean laudry, powdery to me,) and in some fragrances, it is more so than in others.
    I look forward to reading your review of Azemour. I have not tried it yet. October 5, 2011 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love Ambre Russe. It might be my favourite amber. Ambre Sultan is another one I really like, as are Ambre Précieux, Ambre 114 and Ambre Fétiche.
    AR seems very boozy, which I like. The Précieux I find very elegant, as if it has lighter feet than the AR. They are great comfort scents and I actually enjoy wearing them in the heat of summer. October 5, 2011 at 4:31pm Reply

  • minette: another one that took years to weave its magic – but yes, a lovely amber. can’t wear it unless it’s cold out, though, as it is very persistent and tenacious. but it sets the scene the copy claims it does. October 5, 2011 at 7:44pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: Haven’t tried this one, but my”sweeter amber”(after asultans drieness) that I enjoy is amber fetiche! I love all amber notes and recently purchased attache moi. It is a mixed amber scent which wears lighter than the usual ambers! October 6, 2011 at 2:30am Reply

  • civava: Should really try this, especially because cold weather is coming and I like to warm myself with ambers. October 6, 2011 at 5:43am Reply

  • Victoria: Ambre Précieux, Ambre 114 and Ambre Fétiche are my other favorite ambers. I also like the new MPG amber version that has a layer of oud in the drydown. Such a nice contrast. October 6, 2011 at 11:47am Reply

  • Victoria: It also took its time to grow on me. I also love how it ages in the bottle! October 6, 2011 at 11:48am Reply

  • Victoria: I need to try it too then. I like ambers in all of their interpretations, and it is nice to have something lighter to wear on days when one craves a warm, but not too heavy of a fragrance. I guess, Mitzah has been serving this role for me. October 6, 2011 at 11:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I gravitated to ambers when it starts to get cold. It is such a pleasant sensation to be wrapped into their warmth on a cold, rainy day. October 6, 2011 at 11:51am Reply

  • sweetlife: How funny, V! I used to love, love, love this one and I remember your telling me you didn’t care for it–you mentioned a “dull leather note” that overwhelmed the blend, I believe. Now I too find it overwhelming and rarely wear it but you have come around. No doubt when I pick it up again you’ll be heartily sick of it.

    I do love to smell what’s left of it on a blotter the next day in my office. With that leather and tobacco it’s like an instant English library! October 6, 2011 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I know! It is a constant back and forth, isn’t it. As I replied to Suzanna, the only reason I kept a bottle was because it was a gift from a family member. I am glad that I did.
    I still get that leather note, but it is somehow not as dominant as it seemed before. Either the juice has aged, or else my tastes have changed. October 6, 2011 at 7:03pm Reply

  • Lizzie: I’m soooo tempted to blind buy this. I have been for ages, actually, but have managed to resist so far. But with this review, I have a credit card burning a hole in my pocket… October 6, 2011 at 11:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hmm, I never recommend blind purchases. 🙂 Why not get a sample from Luckyscent first? October 7, 2011 at 8:38am Reply

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