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.