Like the others in the Hermessence line of fragrances (see Rose Ikebana and Poivre Samarcande), Ambre Narguile was created by Hermès house nose Jean Claude Ellena and released in 2004. Ambre Narguile is meant to evoke cashmere, and features notes of benzoin, labdanum, musk, vanilla, caramel, honey, sugared tonka bean, grilled sesame seeds, cinnamon, rum, coumarine and white orchids.
All of the Hermessence perfumes are foody to one degree or another; Ambre Narguile is the dessert course of the quartet. It starts out as a thin but sharp mixture of resins and sweet, vanillic notes. It stays far too sweet for my taste for the first 30 minutes, but it deepens over a period of some hours to a rich, warm amber with smoky and spicy undertones.
There is a nice dusting of cinnamon, and a dash of honey and caramel. I don’t catch the rum or anything floral. I have seen it compared to everything from flan to apple strudel to cinnamon buns, but the dry down is not as sweet as those references might imply, and it is considerably more sophisticated and interesting than your average foody-comfort fragrance.
The lasting power is excellent, and it continues to improve over a period of some hours. It is beautifully done, but amber is not among my favorite fragrance notes. It is therefore no surprise that this was not a purchase for me, but if I had to guess, I would say that this is probably the top selling perfume in the Hermessence collection.
It is also the only Hermessence that really seems to fit with its fabric (cashmere). As that suggests, it is probably better suited to fall/winter, although on a cool summer day like we are having here, it is not at all overwhelming.
Kudos, by the way, to Hermès for the lovely and very generous (they look like they hold at least 4 ml) sample vials. On my last visit to the New York boutique, they were handing out two per customer on request.
For buying information, see the listing for Hermès under Perfume Houses.