Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles : Perfume Review

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One autumn afternoon as I was walking home through a park and wading slowly through the piles of golden leaves, I wondered if there is a perfume in my collection that could match this serene and yet exhilarating atmosphere. Of course, I have my beloved Guerlain Mitsouko and Chanel Bois des Iles, which are some of the most quintessentially autumnal scents, but Mitsouko is too damp and plush, while Bois des Iles is too austere and cool. I wanted a perfume that smelled sunlit and bright, warm and bracing, with a hint of nutty sweetness from burnished leaves.

When I smelled Hermès L’Ambre des Merveilles after one such walk, I discovered with a surprise that it captured part of my golden autumnal fantasy. It’s a fragrance of woods, amber and vanilla, but L’Ambre des Merveilles avoids heavy sweetness and instead has plenty of luminosity. You can almost see the sun glittering on the crimson maple leaves as you smell it.

At first, I was apprehensive about trying L’Ambre des Merveilles, a sequel perfume to the stunning Eau des Merveilles. The original was created by perfumers  and Nathalie Feisthauer, and to my mind, it’s still one of the best ambers on the market–salty and sweet, rich and effervescent. I don’t see how it’s possible to improve on it.

As it turns out, L’Ambre des Merveilles doesn’t really try to match Eau des Merveilles.  Jean-Claude Ellena, the current Hermès in-house perfumer, presents a variation on the original’s amber theme, but it has a completely different scent and character. While the original is salty, L’Ambre has a pronounced sweet edge. It’s less of a statement perfume, but it’s also easier to wear.

The vivid top notes of mandarin accent the sweet amber, which is prominent from top to bottom. Amber is a star note here, but layers of cedarwood give the fragrance a sharp, bright tone. Stripped of its familiar earthy tones, patchouli is rendered woody and dark–a perfect foil to the crisp amber notes. It takes you only a short while to realize that the closest fragrances to L’Ambre des Merveilles are not ambers, but rather woods. It reminded me of a smoother, more voluptuous Estée Lauder Sensuous, while its delicate violet note hinted at Serge Lutens Bois Oriental.

Like most woods, L’Ambre des Merveilles has an elegant character, and it would work well both as a daytime and an evening perfume. It has good tenacity on my skin, lasting for the entire day with 2 generous sprays, but Robin, who also enjoyed it, found it less long lasting. Therefore, definitely test thoroughly before buying. If it works on you, you will discover that it leaves a beautiful trail as it clings to your skin and clothes. A portable ray of sun, as it were.

Hermès L’Ambre des Merveilles Eau de Parfum includes notes of amber, labdanum, vanilla and patchouli. It’s available from all Hermès counters (Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Barney’s) and boutiques. 50 and 100 ml spray bottles.

Sample: my own acquisition

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73 Comments

  • Vic: Thank you for the wonderful review, Victoria. I’ve been thinking about the Eau de Marveilles series myself as the holiday season approaches. I have a question about the original Eau de Marveilles: in the opening it has a soapy/bubbly note. Is that aldehydes? It is very predominant, so I’m sure you’ve noticed it.

    Thank you
    Vic November 26, 2012 at 7:30am Reply

    • Victoria: There is definitely an aldehydic flourish in the top> It does so much to lift up the heavier woody and ambery accords. And you’re right, it can come across as reminiscent of soap bubbles. The classical scents for soap have often been the floral aldehydic ones. November 26, 2012 at 9:51am Reply

      • smellslikeroses: Maybe that’s why I can’t wear it. I don’t play well with aldehydes. November 26, 2012 at 12:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: EdM is stunning, but it can be challenging. I don’t know if aldehydes are the deal breaker for you, but my guess that it’s more than that, since aldehydes are really just an accent. November 26, 2012 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Ramona: LOVE the whole Merveilles line and when I sampled L’ambre, I knew I had to have a FB- an inclination I rarely have. Great review of a wonderful perfume! November 26, 2012 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the original, so I was a bit apprehensive when I tried L’Ambre. But it seduced within seconds! :) November 26, 2012 at 9:52am Reply

  • Jenna: Beautiful review! I tried L’Ambre finally at the Hermes boutique and it’s a beauty. I loved how you described the mood of this perfume. Sunlit and glowing is how I think of it too. November 26, 2012 at 8:43am Reply

    • Victoria: These kind of woods that are both sweet and dry at once are wonderfully addictive. L’Ambre des Merveilles is going to remind me of the beautiful golden days of fall when winter finally settles in. November 26, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

  • Barbara: I love the bottle! Who can resist Hermes orange? :) November 26, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Hermes package is impeccable, as always. November 26, 2012 at 9:55am Reply

      • Barbara: I have only 24 Faubourg and Jardin Sur le Toir in FB, and some others as decants. The etching on my 24 Faubourg bottle makes it look like a piece of jewelry. November 26, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s really a beautiful bottle. I have a smaller EDP bottle of 24 Faubourg, and it’s such a pleasure to pick it up. November 26, 2012 at 2:27pm Reply

    • annemariec: Funny, I don’t normally like orange but now you mention it, Hermes orange is lovely. I’ve just been on the perfume bit of the Hermes website admiring the many variations of this colour that Hermes explores: not just orange orange, bit all sorts of peaches, pinks and golds through to dramatic reds and coppers. Really great work. November 27, 2012 at 5:06am Reply

      • Victoria: I have an interesting story about Hermes orange. A friend who is an artist was looking for a particular orange shade for her art work, and she tried lots of swatches and nothing matched. And then one day she was visiting me when she noticed my bottle of Eau d’Hermes. Her eyes lit up and she asked me if I could give me a piece of the packaging. It was so close to color that she wanted. I normally don’t care for orange either, but this orange, with is so warm and alluring. At Hermes they say that the color was chosen out of necessity during the WWII. There was a pigmentation problem, and the only shade available was orange. But today it’s the most recognizable of all brand colors. November 27, 2012 at 6:14am Reply

        • annemariec: Great story. How awesome would it be to be the Hermes graphic designer?! November 28, 2012 at 5:03am Reply

          • Victoria: That sounds like a great job! November 28, 2012 at 5:56am Reply

      • Barbara: They do color combinations really well. Last year they had a great scarf design in blue, pale blue and navy blue. I don’t wear scarves so it made no sense for me to buy…but oh boy was I tempted! November 27, 2012 at 10:14am Reply

        • annemariec: Glad I missed that. I love scarves … November 28, 2012 at 5:04am Reply

  • Ines: Wonderful review. Now I have to try and get my hands on this one.
    Thank you. November 26, 2012 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you will enjoy it! If you like ambers and woods, it’s a great discovery. November 26, 2012 at 9:56am Reply

  • Annikky: I tried it last week at Brussels Airport, but need to try again – right after thinking “this is nice” I discovered Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue sitting on the bottom shelf and immediately forgot all about poor L’Ambre. I am quite annoyed with myself now, after reading your beautiful review. November 26, 2012 at 9:56am Reply

    • Victoria: To be honest, no, it doesn’t rival Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue. I don’t blame you for being swayed by them instead.
      I like Brussels Airport very much–a good thing, I guess, since I travel so much for work. It’s large, but well-organized, and there are many shops and bookstores. I also recently traveled through Stockholm, and I found that their airport looked more like a high-end mall than an airport, complete with organic food cafes and spas. November 26, 2012 at 10:00am Reply

      • Ann-Sofie: Ha ha! I did not know that there is a spa in Arlanda airport. How do people find time for spa during travelling? I am always totally stressed out, desperately trying to buy chocolates and cosmetics before I hear my name in the speaker: “Last call for….”.

        I actually never tried any Hermes, obviously it is high time. This one sounds to be perfect for me – I have been craving soft, lingering woods for a while. A lovely review – thanks! November 26, 2012 at 1:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: And all of the SAs looked as if they just did a photo shoot for a fashion magazine. Since at that point I got off a 12h flight and looked like a mess, the contrast was particularly obvious. :) I agree with you, I don’t know how people manage to find time for spas.

          If you like soft woods, you might also enjoy the woody fig of Hermes’s Un Jardin En Mediterranee. I know that it may not seem like a fall/winter choice, but it’s so comforting on rainy, cold days. It reminds me of summer. November 26, 2012 at 2:36pm Reply

          • Ann-Sofie: Will try Un Jardin as well, thanks for good advice! November 26, 2012 at 4:57pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Have you tried Schiphol airport already? It’s bigger than Zaventem and has even more shops. I only used Zaventem once and liked it, but I don’t fly very often. November 26, 2012 at 2:32pm Reply

        • Victoria: Not yet, but my husband uses it regularly for his work travels, and he liked it very much in terms of ease of navigation and layout. November 26, 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

  • smellslikeroses: I love Eau des Merveilles on paper but it’s too glamorous for me. This new one sounds great though. Easier to wear you say? I might have to try it. November 26, 2012 at 11:40am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s sweeter, so I find it easier to wear. But admittedly, it’s less distinctive. November 26, 2012 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Rachel: This kind of review is one of the reasons I keep coming back here. It’s balanced, evocative, descriptive. Is Ambre des Merveilles similar to Elixir des Merveilles? I had it on my wishlist for a while. November 26, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Rachel. :)
      I don’t find them that similar, because Elixir is much sweeter and more gourmand on me, and Ambre is woodier and thinner. If you liked Elixir, you might find Ambre too light. November 26, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Daisy: I think I smelled this in a mad rush and as a result, don’t remember it. Great review! This sounds really perfect for right now. And it also reminds me that I should always take my time :-) November 26, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not a statement perfume that grabs your attention, that’s true, it’s a bit more understated. But if you give it more skintime, you will find that it unfolds so beautifully. I’m wearing it right now, and it’s in its dark patchouli-vanilla stage. November 26, 2012 at 2:30pm Reply

  • AnneD: I was recently sniffing this at Nordstroms’ and two teenage girls came up and grabbed the Eau de Merveilles tester. I asked them gently so as not to scare them away “Excuse me, I am shopping for a young woman about your age and I was wondering if you really like this fragrance. ” “Oh yes, it’s my signature fragrance and I wear it everyday” one young lady replied. “and the body cream is to die for” she added. I nodded, stunned and thanked them both. There is hope. November 26, 2012 at 1:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank heavens! I smelled a green chypre on a young girl the other day and it was such a surprise. Even grandmothers around Brussels seem to be wearing Coco Mademoiselle and Angel. :) November 26, 2012 at 2:37pm Reply

      • Ann-Sofie: This gave me the biggest LOL today! November 26, 2012 at 4:54pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I haven’t tried this one yet, but I will. I love the original and like Eau Claire. I did do some sniffing today in Antwerp. I didn’t try any Hermès this time, though.
    I unfortunately sprayed some Truth or Dare on my fingers. ( while aiming for a test strip). It happened to be the perfume I was least pleased by and it is clinging to my skin for dear life. ( of course)

    Tried Baiser Volé for the umpteenth time; I adore the first 30 minutes but am not so fond of the drydown.

    How are you coping with all the rain and grey skies and short days? Only 4 more weeks of days getting shorter and then we will gradually start getting a bit more light. November 26, 2012 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: The ones we dislike are the perfumes that wear like iron! I like Baiser Volé on paper and I love it on a friend–I compliment her on it every single time before I realize what perfume she’s wearing, but on myself I find it a bit too straightforward. The parfum is much better though. If you have a chance, give it a try.

      I’ve been wearing Tom Ford Ombre de Hyacinth a lot. It got such mixed reviews, but I find that it’s an impeccably done green floral (of course, overpriced, but that’s Tom Ford for you).

      It’s been ok, but maybe it’s because I’ve been traveling for work almost every single week, and I haven’t spent much time in Brussels. :) Also I’ve done some decoration in our new place and used lots of white and cream furnishings to create an illusion of more light. I feel that it’s working. November 26, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Then Baiser Volé to you is like Coco Mademoiselle for me. I always compliment it on others but wouldn’t want to wear it myself.
        I have been on the lookout for the extrait. I noticed that Place Vendôme has it. I plan to visit there in the not so distant future. Not to buy BV but to sniff around.
        I have been wearing Goutal’s Sables quite a lot. It’s a wonderful comfort scent and unusual enough to not bore me.
        Is that Ford in the exclusive line? November 26, 2012 at 4:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: We also wanted to go back to Place Vendome–I for some sniffing, my husband for the proximity to the Westvleteren brewery. :)

          Ombre de Hyacinth is in the Private Blend line. It doesn’t smell remotely noir, mind you, but it’s really beautiful. Well-done green florals are few and far between, so it’s firmly on my wishlist. November 26, 2012 at 4:17pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Another reason to go there, might be that there is a Chagall exhibit in Roubaix. If you like Chagall that is, but I am guessing that you might.
            I enclose a link:http://www.roubaix-lapiscine.com/publications/191/marc-chagall-l-epaisseur-des-reves.html November 26, 2012 at 5:39pm Reply

            • Victoria: I love Chagall, so that’s a great reason to visit. Thank you very much. I sent the link to my husband., so we can plan a trip. Chagall is his favorite artist. November 27, 2012 at 6:03am Reply

              • solanace: Oh, I love Chagall too. His stained glass windows in Reims’ cathedral (along with the Champagne, of course) were such an experience for me, what a beautiful and strong way of dealing with the horror of war. Congrats on your new furniture, V! That’ a clever way of getting a bit more light. November 28, 2012 at 5:16am Reply

                • Victoria: I’ve been dreaming of visiting Reims since we’ve arrived here, and your mention of Chagall reminds me how much I want to see the cathedral.

                  My husband also just observed that most of the clothes I’ve purchased lately were in the cream, pale pink or pale mint. I guess, I’m craving more light. And you’re right, it’s amazing how much white furniture makes a difference. Thanks, Ikea! :) November 28, 2012 at 5:54am Reply

  • Lucas: I’m looking forward to trying this one. They have it at Douglad but Ive been so busy lately that I didn’t stand a chance to drop by and have a sniff. November 26, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it, Lucas! I think that you like ambers and woods, so you should enjoy it too. November 26, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Eva S: I actually bought a FB of this last week, it’s so comforting! And the bottle is very pretty… November 26, 2012 at 4:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely comforting. One of my favorite fall discoveries so far. November 27, 2012 at 6:00am Reply

  • Mirian: I love this perfume. Unfortunately all of Hermes fragrances trigger vomit inducing migraines for me. I don’t know why. I only realized halfway through work why i felt like keeling over :( November 26, 2012 at 5:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds awful, Mirian. I’m sorry to hear this. I wonder what’s in the perfume that triggers it. November 27, 2012 at 6:01am Reply

      • mirian: I will have to do an in depth research into the ingredients. Right now I will just steer clear. Such a shame for this fragrance is really beautiful. Same with 24 faubourg. November 27, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

  • Maria: My husband put it very simple: it’s a happy scent! I had a period when I could wear Elixir and it was really great and special but I can’t anymore since it’s quite demanding. This one feels a bit like Elixir de M but much easier. And joyful. November 27, 2012 at 2:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy, undemanding, comforting–sounds like many of us agree on its character and how easy it is to wear L’Ambre. I admit that I don’t care for Elixir that much, but I love Parfum des Merveilles (of course, it’s even more demanding than Eau des Merveilles). November 27, 2012 at 6:05am Reply

  • annemariec: I have been meaning to try the original Eau for ages but never seem to quite get to it. After reading your review of L’Ambre, and the discussion, it seems like the original might be best for me, as I am very attracted to the idea of its saltiness. But perhaps L’Ambre could be worth sampling too. Elixir definitely sounds too sweet. I have to buy a lot of my samples online, so this is something to be considered carefully!

    I am new to 24 Faubourg but I adore it. I have just replaced my sample of the EDP with a larger decant, due in the post any day (tomorrow? tomorrow??). If I drain that, I will go for a FB for sure. You make the bottle sound so pretty! November 27, 2012 at 4:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Elixir is way too sweet for me, L’Ambre is just right, but Eau des Merveilles is even more intriguing. I love salty accents in fragrances, especially in woods. Makes me think of pieces of driftwood on finds on the beach.

      Hope that your decant arrives soon! 24 Faubourg is the epitome of glamour for me, but it’s not a demanding, “I need to dress up for it” perfume. November 27, 2012 at 6:07am Reply

      • Merete: Thanks, Victoria, for yet another beautiful and tempting review.
        It may sound silly (and it certainly was), but I happened to buy Elixir by mistake some weeks ago, as I wanted to buy a bottle of Eau one very stressful day walking into the Hermes boutique. I agree, Elixir is way too sweet and gourmand for me, also, though it isn’t badly done and it’s candied orange peel and chocolate notes may work for Christmas, I suppose. If you have to make that kind of mistakes why not Amber instead, sounds much more me… November 28, 2012 at 6:18am Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve done sillier mistakes! Like putting Mitsouko on when I was already wearing Shalimar (not the best layering combo!) Yours sounds more innocuous.

          Your observation about Christmas and Elixir reminded me of a friend, who also finds Elixir very festive. She says that it reminds me of the holiday baking season around Christmas, when her grandmother makes candied orange peel and orange blossom scented breads. She’s from the South of France, just like Jean-Claude Ellena. November 28, 2012 at 7:04am Reply

          • Merete: Then I’m certainly in good company :-) November 28, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

      • Isis: I know I am VERY late to this conversation, but I just want to let you know that I am really happy to see someone feels about24 Faubourg the way I do! It is so lush and warm but I also could wear it every day. My husband hates it, and an AS here in Holland thought it was a stupid choice because it was for old ladies. Go figure. August 2, 2013 at 3:13pm Reply

        • Isis: (and yes, by as, I mean sa – it must be the heat) August 2, 2013 at 3:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, Isis! I’m always happy to meet other L’Ambre fans, since it seems somewhat underrated. I don’t find it old-fashioned in the slightest though, so I’m puzzled by the SA’s comment. August 3, 2013 at 3:34am Reply

  • Mikael: I recently sampled this and very quickly came to the conclusion that I have to get a bottle – and I did. I love how it conjures a complex saltwater taffy feeling, but not overly gourmand. I would love to see you review the Parfum des Merveilles as well! November 27, 2012 at 6:50am Reply

    • Mikael: Oh I just realized you already have reviewed PdM together with EdM, silly me! November 28, 2012 at 6:54am Reply

    • Victoria: No worries, I was going to update the link when you seem to have found it. I wear EdM more often, because I find that the heft of PdM obscures the seawater, briny note that I love so much about this perfume. But both fragrances are stunning. November 28, 2012 at 7:01am Reply

  • solanace: Thank’s for another lovely review. This one I must try, it has everything I like in it! November 28, 2012 at 5:01am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s elegant, but has some playful elements, so it feels like such a happy, joyful scent. November 28, 2012 at 5:55am Reply

  • Margo: I have added this to my ‘must try’ list as your beautiful review has conjured such a glorious picture! Thank you. November 28, 2012 at 10:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you like it, Margo. Please let me know what you think when you try it. November 28, 2012 at 10:29am Reply

  • Joy: I’ve been wanting this for a long time, and I think this review sealed the deal. (That and the $20 credit I have at Sephora.)

    There’s something about Hermes orange that’s so attractive–and I otherwise don’t like that color. November 28, 2012 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Sujaan: I had to give in to this one with my 20% off fragrancenet.com discount and free shipping. They were also selling great atomizers at a deep discount. I feel like I snagged a prize! November 28, 2012 at 2:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! That’s a great deal. Enjoy it! :) November 28, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Pam: I’ve been wearing Elixir des Merveilles, hugged someone who was wearing something wonderful that turned out to be Ambre, but on me it just reminds me of Opium and sends me back to the 1980s. I’m thinking about Eau Claire for the summer but this sample of Eau I have on my wrist is delicious. December 28, 2012 at 12:32am Reply

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