Hermes Hermessence Ambre Narguile : Perfume Review



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

Sweet, warm and delicately animalic aroma of amber is not the only reason why this note is such a popular presence in the modern perfumery. It has an ability to round out other notes, smoothing the progression from one accord to another and fixing more delicate aspects of the composition in place. Its sensuality has a soft quality, which means that amber laden fragrances have a seductive subtlety.

The most beautiful aspects of amber shine in Hermès Ambre Narguilé, which was created in 2004 by Jean-Claude Ellena as a part of Hermèssence range. Like his other amber focused L’Artisan L’Eau d’Ambre, Ambre Narguilé does not merely hint at the idea of amber, but develops it fully. Yet, while being a rich voluptuous note, amber in Ambre Narguilé does not obscure other notes layered over it. It provides a beautiful backdrop against which the radiant and smoky facets of the composition unfold. It is strong, yet delicate, like carved marble screens of Mogul palaces.  …

Sheer layers of smoke swirling over a honeyed undercurrent set the stage for the sensation of dark richness, which very much reminds me of cutting into a caramel cake and watching the burned sugar redolent cream drip slowly from the edge. It pairs the dark translucence of honey seeping through the tobacco leaf with a fruity note that lies between a brandied cherry and a baked apple. The composition almost becomes gourmand given the prevalence of dessert associations, from hot apple strudel to besan halwah, Indian roasted chickpea and raisin sweet, however with a brilliant touch of amber, Ambre Narguilé gains an abstract quality. Wooded balsamic tonality of amber both lightens and harmonizes the composition, revealing its seductive side by warming up and softening the final result. Ambre Narguilé conjures visions of wrapping oneself in a cashmere blanket on a cold winter night, while watching the snow fall in the darkness.

Notes include labdanum, benzoin, vanilla, tonka beans, roasted sesame seeds, cinnamon, coumarin, orchid. Hermèssence collection also includes Vétiver Tonka, Rose Ikebana, and Poivre Samarcande. Osmanthe Yunnan with notes of osmanthus, apricot, freesia and tea will be available this month. Available from the New York Hermès boutique located at 691 Madison Ave.

Persian miniature: Nobleman Enjoying Quiet Time With Friends. From



  • Sisonne: Dear V, I absolutly love Ambre Narguilé!
    First I was afraid that it might be too foody for me, but thankfully it isn´t! It´s one of the most stunning amber compositions I know.
    I especially like that it´s so warm, soft & cosy. Sometimes I find amber to be a bit too harsh & overwhelming on my skin. But Ambre Narguilé really has a cashmere-quality. As you already pointed out, when wearing it one feels like being wrapped in an expensive banket.
    A wonderful scent for colder weather!
    I´d like to know what you think of L´Artisan Eau d l´Ambre & Ambre Extrême. Which one do you prefer? November 2, 2005 at 6:38am Reply

  • Judith (lilybp): Beautiful review of a wonderful scent! I don’t usually like very sweet fragrances, so despite hearing raves about AN, I assumed it wasn’t for me. But it really is intoxicating and irresistible–like a wonderful cognac with some caramel and cinnamon on the side. Your comments on the interplay between the “foody” scents and the amber seem just right. I loved this from first sniff, although during my initial wearings, I questioned whether it would become too sweet for me over time. Apparently not! I am almost done with my decant, and will certainly buy either the travel set or a full bottle. It’s a particularly great bedtime scent in this cold weather. November 2, 2005 at 8:00am Reply

  • lachezanne: Lovely description as always, V! This is a marvelous fragrance, and I agree with you that the amber works magically with the other notes. I admire its composition and wish I could wear it, but on me the gourmand notes are overpowering. I think my skin chemistry tends to bring out the sweetness of a fragrance, and in this case, that tendency was fatal. Wearing this, I felt like a giant candied apple on legs! I’m in the minority here, I know, and I am exploring other amber scents. If you have any recommendations for a less-sweet one, I would be glad to hear it! Thanks! November 2, 2005 at 10:25am Reply

  • kaie: I used up my first bottle of Ambre Narguilé within a month! I love its sweet note that you say is between a brandied cherry and a baked apple. It’s even more special combined with amber. November 2, 2005 at 10:25am Reply

  • Evan: You’re right, the amber notes do form a subtle bulwark against the dessert/gourmand notes that is nice, though I’m not sure if the amber can hold its ground against the waves of cinnamon and caramel. I’ve put some on my hand because I don’t remember the drydown from my quick sample of this last week. Do you know if these come in other concentrations than the EDT? The Hermessences call to mind my standard complaints about contemporary perfumery- too light, too weak, though I actually think this one works very nicely as an EDT so far.

    Tania and I went to Hermès a couple of weeks ago on our perfume afternoon, and I got samples of all of them (save the rose, which I wish I had gotten). I was surprised at how generous the samples are, each in a nice little orange package. November 2, 2005 at 5:44am Reply

  • julien: It is a very interesting amber.
    Gourmand but also with tobacco and a smokey aspect.

    I prefer it than AMBRE SULTAN(which i find too agressive),it is more masculine than AMBRE PRECIEUX from MPG,less sexy than MONTALE AMBRE,well it is quite equilibrated.

    On me it just dosen’t last that much,and it is a pity,because as you all said,the drydown is beautiful but not “powerful” enough,on my opinion.

    Have you tested l’AMBRE RUSSE des PARFUMS D’EMPIRE?
    It is an ambre sultan like but more easy to wear and even more elegant.

    Thanks for the post.
    Kisses dear.

    😉 November 2, 2005 at 11:08am Reply

  • mreenymo: V, you nailed it!

    I love to wear cashmere or some other soft cuddly fabric when I spritz on AN. Then I get all comfy cozy and snuggle down into the soft warmth of the fragrance.

    Just a spritz around the clavicle area lasts all day into the evening. If I spritz more than once, its intoxicating scent becomes a wee bit suffocating. :):)

    Do we have a date of release for Osmanthe Yunnan?

    Hugs! November 2, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • Sisonne: V, please let me know when you had the time to revisit L´Eau d´Ambre & Ambre Extrême´! I just know L´Eau d´Ambre & like it, but haven´t had a chance to try the extreme version.
    I must admit I´m a bit jealous;) when I read that Julien had the chance to try Ambre Russe – I´m really longing to test it, but I doubt it´ll come to Germany very soon… November 2, 2005 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Marina: One of my Holy Grails, V! LOVE this scent, so warm and comforting and undergoes such development on my skin…Incredible creation by Mr. Ellena. And wonderful review by Miss V. 🙂 November 2, 2005 at 10:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, the samples were definitely very generous (about 3-4ml). I find that Hermessence fragrances last rather well, however they are composed in a minimalist fashion. This I find rather interesting in JCE’s compositions. In fact, I put your Monclin to good use here, because AN is a panoramic, rather than a sequential construction. In Monclin, the sweet honeyed notes predominate, while on the skin I notice a little bit more amber.

    As far as I know, they come only in the EDT. At least, for now. November 2, 2005 at 10:53am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, that was exactly my worry at first, however I felt that it dried down so beatifully, with all of honeyed, candied elements being fairly subdued. On the other hand, I am noticing that my tolerance for certain sweet notes is increasing, so perhaps that might explain why I do not find AN as sweet as I thought it might be.

    I love L’Eau d’Ambre, which is a warm gentle amber. Ambre Extreme is richer. I need to revisit them, and I will report back. November 2, 2005 at 10:59am Reply

  • linda: Loved this review! Ambre Narguille is too sweet on my skin. Sigh… I will have to try it again in the cooler weather. November 2, 2005 at 4:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, I loved your comment on “a wonderful cognac with some caramel and cinnamon on the side.” So beautifully put! I have been similarly reticent when approaching AN, however the end result was not as gourmand as I thought. I am almost done with my 15ml bottle, and I think that I now need a full sized one. November 2, 2005 at 11:14am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, Marinochka! It is a beautiful comforting scent, and I almost wish we had snow so that I can recreate the vision I have of AN.

    Ok, scratch the snow part, as my state has absolutely no capacity to deal with snow, and more often than not, it just means no access to anything for days, no (or sporadic) mail and sometimes even a lack of power. November 2, 2005 at 11:24am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: A, I can completely understand what you mean about overly sweet, as the honeyed note is quite strong. In fact, I was certain that it might bother me, yet a sample and a 15ml bottle later, I do not mind it.

    As for less sweet amber fragances, I would highly recommend Hermes Eau des Merveilles, and especially Parfum des Merveilles. The latter is especially beautiful–rich, elegant, but treating amber without rich sweetness.

    I also like L’Artisan L’Eau d’Ambre–soft, glowing amber, but it might strike one as a bit powdery (a quality I do not mind).

    New Paco Rabanne BlackXS is a drier composition, with a great amber note.

    I see that Julien makes other recommendations below. Hope that this helps a little. November 2, 2005 at 11:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaie, I find it almost addictive in the cooler times of the year. The cherry note came up as I was drinking tea with black cherry preserves made by my grandmother. The candied/brandied cherry was just it! November 2, 2005 at 11:30am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, you are an amber specialist indeed! I am very curious to try l’Ambre Russe des Parfums D’Empire, and I am sure that I will have a chance to do so very soon. Sounds absolutely fascinating! Thank you for mentioning. November 2, 2005 at 11:32am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, you are so right about it needing a small doze. I find one spray to be enough, and it lasts really well. Just when I think that it is gone, I notice a wave of it rising again.

    It is a cashmere worthy scent, for sure. As for Osmanthe Yunnan, the official line is mid-November, which is coming up quickly! November 2, 2005 at 11:34am Reply

  • Marina: I am wearing it today in honor V, and it is sunny and not *that* cold and is still extremely enjoyable. Such an incredible scent! November 2, 2005 at 12:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I am very happy to have AN be worn in my honour! 🙂 I was wearing it yesterday, and despite the typical November weather down here, it was beautiful and perfect. It was in fact the ultimate scent to wear during Diwali, which took place yesterday (Indian holiday with similar connotations as New Year–approach of winter, renewal of life, prosperity). November 2, 2005 at 1:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, I want to try both fragrances from Parfums d’Empire, and they are on my list of perfumes to test. They sound wonderful!

    BTW, I recently tried Montale Oud Ambre, and thought that it was rather nice, especially in the drydown. Are you familiar with that one? I thought that you would like it, since you do not care for overly sweet notes. The initial stages are a bit too medicinal though. November 2, 2005 at 1:32pm Reply

  • parislondres: Lovely review dear V! I am wearing some today after my trip to Hermes this afternoon. I now love it – it took me a while.

    Hope you received my emails. Merci mille fois. November 2, 2005 at 2:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, dear N! I am happy that you are enjoying it, because I recall that you were not very thrilled with it at first.

    De rien! 🙂 Off to answer your email. November 2, 2005 at 6:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you. It is on a sweet side, but perhaps in the cooler weather it might work better. Please let me know what you think when you revisit it. November 2, 2005 at 6:48pm Reply

  • Sisonne: V, I don´t know Montale Oud Ambre up to now. (But I added it to my list ;D )They release a lot of new fragrances – at least it looks like that to me! You´re right, it seems as I may like it.
    I agree with you, sometimes especially the Oud fragrances have something rather medicinal, sharp to them. That makes them not easy to wear – though the drydown often is much better. November 3, 2005 at 6:23am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, yes, you are right–there is a neverending stream of releases. Almost too many! I do not remember which ones you preferred, but I think that Aoud Roses Petale is my favourite so far. November 3, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: We had our first ‘proper’ snow here today so I thought that it’s finally time to test this one on me. As I knew already that this can be cloying if applied in large amounts, I only dabbed a small amount on my chest. It’s really warming (love the booziness) and beautifully done but it’s a tad bit sweeter than what I usually feel comfortable with. On the positive side, it seems to bring my appetite down! 🙂 With other Hermessence perfumes, I wished that they could speak a bit louder and stay longer but this actually has a bigger sillage and longevity than I expected. November 26, 2013 at 7:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I know, it’s unexpected when you anticipate another wistful and ethereal scent. 🙂 But now that I’ve tried Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb, I keep thinking that Ambre Narguile reminds me of its lighter version. They don’t smell identical, of course, but the characters are similar. If you haven’t tried Spicebomb, I highly recommend it. November 26, 2013 at 10:30am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the Spicebomb suggestion. I just read your review and I’m especially intrigued to try it as I never got a chance to try L’Artisan Tea for Two. November 27, 2013 at 6:57am Reply

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