Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang ~ perfume review

Estee Lauder Amber Ylang Ylang fragrance

A few weeks ago I wrote about "cashmere sweater" scents — fragrances that are cozy and uncomplicated and warm their wearer like cashmere. A few days later, thanks to Robin, a sample of Estée Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang appeared in my mailbox. If I've ever smelled a cashmere sweater scent, this is it.

Amber Ylang Ylang is as close to a pale gold cashmere sweater as you can get in smell. It's a simple cardigan with a jewel neck and small, mother of pearl buttons, and it hugs the body. It's silkily warm, well made, and goes with just about anything in the closet. For some people, the functional simplicity of a cardigan like this is enough. But for others, it lacks panache.

On its website, Estée Lauder describes Amber Ylang Ylang as an "oriental amber" and lists its top notes as ylang absolute, Italian bergamot, and geranium oil; its heart as Bulgarian rose absolute, cinnamon Ceylon, and incense; and its base notes as vanilla bean, sandalwood, and amber. Dabbed on, Amber Ylang Ylang is a smooth blend of, yes, amber and ylang ylang fading to amber and vanilla. The fragrance is a little brighter when it first goes on and sweeter as it fades, but amber and ylang ylang are pretty much the scent's whole story. Any cinnamon, rose, and incense are too subtle for me to pick out from the whole. Amber Ylang Ylang has decent lasting power and stays close to the skin.

I was worried that maybe by dabbing from a sample vial I wasn't smelling everything Amber Ylang Ylang had to offer, so I went to the mall where I could spray from a tester. Sure enough, for the first few minutes of wearing the sprayed scent I was excited to smell the sophisticated kick of geranium, but soon it settled into the amber-ylang ylang scent of my sample vial. (I also sprayed some Chanel No. 5 Eau Première and smelled a tingly burst of aldehydes I didn't get from my flat-as-dead-champagne sample vial.)

Amber Ylang Ylang's amber is sheer and nicely balanced with the fresh green floral aroma of ylang ylang. At first, I was worried that the amber and ylang ylang combination might be loud, because I remembered the strident one-two punch of Guerlain Samsara's jasmine/ylang ylang and sandalwood. Luckily, Amber Ylang Ylang is understated and versatile, more like a cashmere cardigan (if I may flog that simile again). If you don't have an amber fragrance, Amber Ylang Ylang would be a good one to consider. After all, everyone needs a cashmere cardigan, right?

On the other hand, Amber Ylang Ylang might get boring after a while to someone used to more adventurous perfume. While I like cashmere as much as the next person, I like it with a string of gumball-sized 1960s beads or a slash of scarlet lipstick, and Amber Ylang Ylang doesn't have that kind of verve. That said, I have a hunch that Amber Ylang Ylang is going to be a big seller, maybe even more so than Estée Lauder Sensuous. In fact, they have a lot in common. They're both warm, easy to like, and nicely crafted, and they're both a little dull.

Estée Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang is available as an Eau de Parfum in 30 ml and 100 ml bottles and as Parfum in a 30 ml bottle. It is at select Estée Lauder cosmetics counters.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I started to read your review and after few sentences I wanted to ask you – isn't this scent too polite? And then you wrote the word “boring”. It is probably a better word. I like more adventurous perfumes. Do you like Tuberose Gardenia? Can you compare them from this point of view?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I surprised myself as much as anyone when I fell head over heels (well maybe flats) for this one. Something about the opening is just wonderful and yet comforting to me. Maybe it's my stressed out life, but amber ylang ylang just works for me. I mostly have bolder orientals & ambers that I crave, especially this time of year – Coco, Bal a Versailles, Prada, Vol de Nuit, SSS Rose Musc. I don't have any vanilla frags except Shalimar, and that's not even what I consider a standard vanilla frag. Maybe it was a scent gap that needed filled. But I've been wearing Amber YY almost non-stop the past week. It is so nice. Yes, nice. Maybe boring. I like to think of it as pure simplicity – soft lines, a clutter free fragrance – and these days my nose & mind need a little space & simplicity. I only wish it had more sillage. But I happliy wake up the next morning still smelling a sublte amount of labdanum on my skin. I think this one will be a staple for me, just like my favorite pair of jeans, my favorite white shirt, my favorite suede jacket. Thank goodness EL doesn't have a track record for discontinuing their scents!

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Polite” is a great way to describe it. (Maybe as a sort of anti-polite after so much Amber Ylang, I'm wearing PG Corps et Ames today.)

    I'm happy to have a sample of Tuberose Gardenia, but I probably would never buy a bottle because that kind of garden party style of tuberose doesn't appeal to me too much. But then again, I like Tuberose Criminelle, a lot because of its strange opening and gasoline-like feel. So maybe the Private Collections do have an MO of being well made and not obviously complicated.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Exactly–a cashmere sweater! Sometimes a person doesn't want to wear a complicated, adventurous scent. Sometimes, nicely made, warm comfort scent is perfect. If I didn't already have a few calming, vanilla-amber-patchouli perfumes I'd probably buy a bottle of Amber Ylang.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Angela, I was so excited to try this because I loved wearing Tuberose Gardenia this summer and think it is very well done.

    But since perfume parallels life, and much in life never really lives up to the hype, I was sorely let down. I love amber and ylang-ylang and sandalwood and vanilla and cinnamon and incense and rose. This had my name on it, dagnabit! But sadly I found it…boring…flat…not bad, but not great. Sigh!!

    I have my spray sample, and maybe I will test it again when the weather gets cooler, as it is still quite warm down here.


  6. Anonymous says:

    I think you nailed the cashmere sweater analogy right on its soft head! It is the vanilla comfort scent I'd been looking for. It will never replace my other amber orientals that I love, but it's nice to have.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I made a special trip to Harrods at the weekend to try this, and while I agree about its cashmere sweater appeal, it wasn't as complex or seductive as I was hoping for. I seemed to get amber and sandalwood first, then more vanilla in the drydown. I was convinced this was going to be the niche successor to EL Intuition, the amber in which is rather well done, and though it felt classier than Intuition, it didn't have the wow factor I was expecting. Which perhaps is not possible with a cashmere cardy anyway, so maybe I shouldn't ask it to be a slinky evening dress at the same time…If someone gave me this I would be very happy, but am not sure I will be shelling out £50 for 30ml just yet.

    Meanwhile, on my other arm I was testing Rose Alexandrie layered with Eclat de Jasmin (as recommended by the Harvey Nicks Armani SA), and the friend I was with thought that was the classier scent out of the two, and that the EL was a tad sweet. Mind you, I am even less likely to shell out £140 for the Armani combo, that is for sure!

  8. Anonymous says:

    It's always nice to find a fragrance you like that doesn't cost $150, too.

  9. Anonymous says:

    R, I know what you mean–I like ylang and amber, too, and although I liked the scent and can imagine wearing it when I just need a “background” scent, I know I would get tired of it. Besides, I already have plenty of background scents.

    I love the word “dagnabit”!

  10. Anonymous says:

    V, I kind of feel like Eclat de Jasmin has some of the “nice basic but not very interesting on its own” vibe happening, too. But layering two hideously expensive perfumes like that! Somehow it seems like one good one should do the trick.

    I think that people who aren't as into perfume as we are will probably love Amber Ylang.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Tack hammer to the forehead! Yikes. It sounds like it will definitely serve you best to stick to Daim Blonde (makes me crave a little Daim Blonde now, in fact).

  12. Anonymous says:

    I don't think there could be too many amber perfumes for me, but I was offput by the idea of ylang ylang, which always smells like bubble gum to me. But I absolutely loved EL AYY, I get a lovely, soft anise note from it, along with the amber and vanilla. I was a bit reluctant to cough up £50 for 30ml, like Vanessa…but then EL online offered free shipping for orders over £75, which is the price of 75ml. A bargain! The presentation is superb, with the fold-down box. I think it's a 'quiet' scent – nothing challenging, but nothing irritating either. So many ambers get thin and grumpy and after a while, but this stays warm and comforting all the way through.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Encouraging the customer to layer two hideously expensive perfumes was a masterly sales ploy I thought, as the SA definitely made me feel that was the smart choice. Actually, the smart choice was to cut loose and go upstairs to the fourth floor where I was showered with free Rosines samples! Going back to the Armani incident, why don't perfume houses make it their strategy only to develop individual perfumes that smell insubstantial on their own, but wonderful together, so the customer always upgrades to a combo? Jo Malone is part way there, but the potential for aggressive marketing along such lines is largely untapped, I would say! : – )

  14. Anonymous says:

    It is nice to have the choice – I got the 30 ml size – nice to be able to buy a little, esp. for something I will only wear sometimes, without having to go to the decanters. Sad or good to say, $65 isn't much for me to consider when buying a frag I like. I'll save the big $$ for my Vol de Nuit parfum or Lyric savings account!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hey Angela, I tried this one a week or so ago and I was surprised at how nice it was. Rightly put- simple and nicely done and I think it should definitely be a hit. (a hit I would not mind smelling on many an lady in the elevator)- And now that you have said it comes in 30ml, I just might just be tempted into it…BTW, I am not big on Big Ambers, so I think it would definitely dissappoint the Big Amber Lovers =)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I love love love Vol de Nuit parfum and wouldn't mind some Lyric, either! You must smell terrific.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Free Rosine samples! Now that sounds nice.

    You have a great marketing idea there, V. I've seen a few things like that (Jo Malone and Stella in Two come to mind), but not so much as a person would think. I'd rebel, though. If you can't do it right in one bottle, I don't need it.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I feel like both the amber and the ylang ylang are gentle are sheer here, and while the amber stays sweet, it doesn't have the “burn” that some amber does. Amber and ylang ylang smell pretty good together, too!

  19. Anonymous says:

    It's true. It's not knock-you-down amber like Ambre Sultan or Ambre Fetiche. It's a much more sheer amber–but that can be a plus.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I'd rebel too for that reason and should really have deployed my newly coined “ironic smilie” to indicate my disapproval of such a cynical moneyspinning venture. : – i

  21. Anonymous says:

    To me it looks like a guy smoking a cigarette!

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is going to be added to my collection – more likely sooner rather than later. No it's definitely not a complex or eye-poppingly unique fragrance, nor a holy grail. It does however embrace one in that familiar gentle hug of comfort. I've read on other sites that the Parfum version far more lovely than the EDP. Anyone try both? If so, your thoughts? I'm rather hoping the difference is minimal…the $300 pricetag for the parfum is rather steep, even if the bottle cap is a tad more decorative.

  23. Anonymous says:

    “Gentle hug of comfort” sums it up really well!

    I haven't tried the parfum, and I'd love to know what people think of it, too.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I would probably go for this if it weren't for the vanilla note. I will probably sample it anyway, just to make sure I'm not missing something. I could use a nice cashmere cardigan for fall.

  25. Anonymous says:

    To me, the amber is stronger than the vanilla–but it's worth trying to see!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Or a glum teenager with a big zit. :->

    But I get it Vanessa – it's rather clever, the “i” for ironic!

    I don't want to layer either. Same as I don't shampoo twice or buy five products for a fancy skin regimen when one or two well-chosen things will do.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Oh, skin care products! Don't even get me started. A person could easily have to take out another mortgage to finance the La Mer regime.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I haven't tried both, but I can tell you the EDP had great staying power, 10-11 hours later, it was still there. Thankfully, it didn't have the HUGE sillage that the PC TG had.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the review on this one! I have been looking for an amber fragrance. I have the other release of Private Collection. I love it and wear it quite often but regard it as more of a spring scent. I was looking for something warmer and less tropical. It sounds like this would fit into my collection quite nicely. I never buy without smelling but this is at the top of my list!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I agree, the Amber Ylang EdP does have decent lasting power.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Amber Ylang Ylang might be perfect for you! It's definitely different than the Tuberose Gardenia, but it fits your description of warm and not particularly tropical. I hope you get to try it.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I've tries this one again today. It is not as bad today as it looked when I tried it the first times. I feel strong vanilla & amber rather than amber & ylang ylang. Your description matches my impressions. It is not outstanding but its not bad either. As someone said. this is a perfume when you want to pass your day with nice but yet quiet perfume.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for a great review, Angela!

    I don't have (and don't think I need) a cashmere cardigan, even though I live in a cooler part of the world. Similarly, I don't think I need Amber Ylang Ylang either, precisely because of what you said – it's too polite, boring, predictable… Maybe if it was the first amber I've ever smelled I would be blown away by it. But it obviously isn't.

    I smell mostly amber in it, the kind you can get in vials or crystals in “headshop” stores. It's very mouthwatering but very persistently the same thing all along.

    For this kind of amber, I would much rather wear Eden Botanical's proprietary Amber Essence Oil, which is not only swoon-worthy, but also all-natural. Simply the best of its kind if you ask me.

  34. Anonymous says:

    That's just how I felt about it, too. It's pretty and it's simple, and sometimes that's perfect, but often it's not enough.

  35. Anonymous says:

    One of the problems with this blog is that I learn about so many fragrances I want to try! I'll have to put the Eden Botanical amber on my list.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I decided to give up my fancy face stuff – which didn't work that much better than most drug store products anyway – so that I could spend the difference on perfumes. A good frag makes me feel much more beautiful than a good face cream may actually make me look!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Great point!

  38. Anonymous says:

    And it's not enough for me either… and why not? Perfume was created to make you smell good, right? Why is that never enough for some? I have to be honest this hobby of mine is feeling sillier and sillier. I kid you not, I was at a funeral recently and the priest started asking why we work so hard on attaining so many material things when all we'll be remembered for is who we were on the inside. Then he went on to mention Coco Chanel perfume, how expensive it was and how people have 10- 20 bottles of perfume and still feel the need to buy the latest and greatest out there . When all perfume was really made for was to make you smell a little better. You can imagine my horror! This really hit home hard with me. I have been obsessed with perfume for a good 5 years and now am stating to wonder why? And for what?

    Maybe smelling “Nice” could be enough finally?!!! I'M OUT!

  39. Anonymous says:

    No way! The priest specifically mentioned perfume? Horrifying!

    Well, I believe that, first of all, people are remembered for who they are as a whole–and perfume is a part of that. Think of who you know who has died: you probably describe that wonderful woman who always had fresh pie for you. Material good. Or that man who always knew had to fashion the best airplanes from scrap paper. Material. All these things reflect who they are. And who are you? Someone with a deep sensitivity to how things smell! Your imagination and sensitivity to beauty will be remember.

    Next, I believe that we have senses for a reason, and failing to make the most of them is slapping God in the face. Hey, we can smell things–why aren't we making the most of it? Aren't we born with an appreciation for beauty? Shouldn't we make the most of it? Beauty connects people to life. I think appreciating beauty, olfactorally or otherwise, is a virtue.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Yay Corps et Ames! Coming in late as usual to say, great review, but why do I not want to buy this? I am an EL loyalist, and yet… I would rather spend the money on another grand old chypre.

  41. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Angela on this. In the sense that we as perfumistas appreciate perfume for its aesthetic qualities we are engaged with the material world, just as those of us who love the natural world and revel in a beautiful landscape are engaging with the material world. This is not the same as being “materialistic”, where people acquire things for the sake of acquiring things, or for power or status, which is perhaps where the priest was going. So I would not beat yourself up about your love of perfume if it pleases you and you are not harming yourself financially. Remember that not everyone appreciates scent, so it is hard for the non-perfumista to see this thing that we love as more than a decadent pastime.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Angela. I am SO with you on that! I am convinced that God wants us to be happy and enjoy the world in all its beauty. And for me, that includes so-called “indulgences” like good food, wine, music, dance, literature, pets, and – yes – perfume. Hey – even appreciating the name and color of a new lipstick is better than not appreciating at all!

  43. Anonymous says:

    “Head over flats”! I am so using that as soon as possible.

  44. Anonymous says:

    It's worth smelling, but I'm with you: give me a grand old chypre any day!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Ex and Hau, I remember a friend recently saying that “beauty is piety”, and I agree. Sure, appreciating beauty can become a form of narcissism, an appreciating the senses should be balanced with our responsibility for our families and selves, but ignoring the beauty of scent, or a good story, or a crisp apples, or a gorgeous song is sacrilege.

  46. Anonymous says:

    That is a good one.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I'm still with you. Appreciate your thoughts. :-)

  48. Anonymous says:


    Speaking of grand old chypres, have you noticed that Paloma Picasso's Mon Parfum is getting press again? I've been seeing ads and scent strips in mags lately…. Yeah!

  49. Anonymous says:

    I've been lurking around for a while, just wanted to thank everybody for your inspiring comments! and: I've just bought Annick Goutal's musc nomade, maybe you might want to try this as a “cashmere cardigan perfume” alternative before buying anything else (but yes, it also lacks an edgy note)

  50. Anonymous says:

    Really! I love that one. I'm glad to see they're getting it out there again.

  51. Anonymous says:


    I've been longing to try Musc Nomade, and I'm glad to hear you say you like it. It's so darned expensive, though. I really like Myrrhe Ardente and Ambre Fetiche, too (darn it).

  52. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Existentialism and Religion in a fragrance post! This absolutely confirms my belief that perfume is indeed a legitimate form of art. That being said, any hobby regardless of what it is, should be tempered by good judgement. If you were out there collecting Star Wars figures, fancy shoes, bumper stickers, bottles of wine, or first edition best-sellers, the thing is when it begins to impact your ability to pay for bills or live reasonably, then you have a problem. Gluttony applies to all things, not just perfume. Any “hobby” can be exercised with moderation.

  53. Anonymous says:

    The AG orientals were definitely large decant candidates for me. I found myself sadly anosmic to Myrrhe Ardente. In the end I thought it better to go for the re-release of Black Cashmere, which I think is more wearable. Also, those smokey Sonoma Scent Studio frags are, I think, a little richer than the AG orientals — and a much better deal. SSS Ambre Noir kind of kicks perfume bottom as far as rich amber.

  54. Anonymous says:

    True. And “moderation” is, of course, somewhere north of 100 bottles….(just kidding).

  55. Anonymous says:

    I really must try some of the SSS fragrances!

  56. Anonymous says:

    Yep, I've seen scent strips in the latest O Mag.

  57. Anonymous says:

    You really should! She really is carving out a niche of specialized incense and smoke frags that are not like others out there. And her florals and body scents are beautiful. She uses such high quality materials too. She really cares about what she develops. Honestly, and to get back to the review of Amber Ylang Ylang, I think her Sienna Musk or Opal give AYY a run for its money (neither of which have amber btw, but are warm “cashmere” comfort scents).

  58. Anonymous says:

    It's so hard to keep up with all the great fragrances out there. I'll definitely check her out. Thanks!

  59. Anonymous says:

    I concur on all points. I always mean to start collecting bottles of wine, but every time I manage to accumulate a few, I drink them. Go figure. Seriously, perfume is art, not fashion, at least once one gets past the most superficial aspects of it, which presumably everyone reading this blog has.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Then I guess it just gets down to your feelings about the morality of art. For me, it's essential, even morally desirable. I suppose if it came down to penicillin versus perfume I'd feel differently.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I sampled Amber and Ylang Ylang yesterday at Harrods and less than an hour later I was purchasing a 30ml edp bottle. I love it. After the first 5min I get this wonderful tanka bean/ Play- Doh note. After that it reminds me of a softer Ambre Sultan. Even if I don't care of such things, I find that it's rather unisex. On me at least I don't really smell any Ylang Ylang. After Sensuous, yet another more wearable Serge Lutens inspired creation. Well done Estée Lauder!

  62. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you like it. Isn't it nice to be able to buy a 30-ml bottle, too, instead of having to pay out for a full 100-ml?

  63. Anonymous says:

    The parfum is wonderful. It's my Christmas present this year.

    I could smell it the next morning and it just got better as I wore it.

    Soft, luminous and silky. I feel like it was made just for me.

  64. Anonymous says:

    That's marvelous! I haven't tried the parfum, but everyone says it's wonderful. Well, Merry Christmas!

  65. jonr951 says:

    I finally went out and tried Amber Ylang Yland & Jasmine White Moss at nordstrom yesterday. They didnt have Tuberose Gardenia? Of the 2, i liked Amber Ylang Ylang more. Its just more me. I love warm fragrances and i love amber so it was a perfect match for me! Still, i think i adore my Sensuous a little more! Wouldnt mind having it though! Jasmine White Moss was very nice too but i wont be needing a bottle. So sad i didnt get to try Tuberose Gardenia!

    • Angela says:

      I hope you get to try the Tuberose Gardenia soon–although it sounds like you like the Amber Ylang pretty well. You know, I bet Sensuous is a good layering fragrance. Have you tried that?

      • DoryCubana says:

        Dear Angela, thanks for a thorough review. I find it helpgul, though I’ve bought the bottle before reading it. 30 ml is good bevcause it’s not too heavy to carry it all day in your bag. A 100 ml would look nice on my dresser… :-)

        • Angela says:

          It’s getting to be perfect weather–at least where I live–to wear Amber Ylang. Enjoy it!

  66. jonr951 says:

    No. But good idea!

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