Histoires de Parfums Edition Rare Ambrarem ~ fragrance review

Histoires de Parfums Edition Rare Ambrarem

Amber fragrances are the buttercream frosting of the perfume world. They’re easy to like and easy to get sick of. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine not having a little amber in your perfume collection to reach for when you’re cold and cranky and need the perfume equivalent of sweet comfort food.

The thing with amber fragrances, though, is that they've been done over and over. How do you make them new? When I saw the tome-shaped bottle for Histoires de Parfums Edition Rare Ambrarem, I wondered what the spin on amber would be this time. Citrus? Spice, maybe? No. I should have guessed: oud.

Histoires de Parfums nose Gérald Ghislain created Edition Rare Ambrarem, released in 2011. It includes top notes of pink peppercorn and elemi; heart notes of iris absolute and saffron; and base notes of castoreum absolute, Bourbon vanilla, sandalwood and amber.

Just after it's sprayed on skin, Ambrarem's amber-oud combination is cool and almost herbal. Ambrarem's oud isn't the peaty, bandaid-smelling oud, but oud boosted by saffron — it smells like oysters and the ocean. The amber is soft, not sticky-sweet at all. Rooty iris ties it all together in an intriguing fresh-warm combination. (Here the iris is just a bit player and not as vivid or fruity as in Amouage Opus V's iris-oud mix.) At this point, Ambrarem smells promising for an amber fragrance, but don't pull out your wallet yet.

Soon, like a garbage freighter chugging into the bay, Ambrarem's castoreum appears. At first, the castoreum wafts gently above the fragrance's sweet sea air. But over half an hour or so, the funk builds until you wonder if a water buffalo died under the house. If you love Guerlain Jicky's fetid squirrel aspect, you'll adore Ambrarem at this point. If you wrinkle your nose at civet and other notes with a hint of the derrière, back off from the tester. 

After a few hours, the ocean and funk melt away leaving nothing but amber. Plain old head shop amber. The amber shimmers sweetly, but you can get that in Pacifica Spanish Amber, too. During Ambrarem's final throes, vanilla jumps in. Ambrarem has rich sillage and lasts all day on my skin. 

For the amber lover with no fear of intense animalic notes, Ambrarem is definitely worth a try. I love an animalic edge to a complex perfume — for instance, the whiff of trash in vintage Christian Dior Dioressence is the dash of salt that makes the fragrance for me. But Ambrarem's amber-funk feels out of balance. You might like it better.

Histoires de Parfums Ambrarem is is $175 for 60 ml Absolu de Parfum; for buying information see the listing for Histoires de Parfums under Perfume Houses.

What perfumes do you reach for when you need a hit of amber?

Other ambers reviewed at Now Smell This include: Armani Privé Ambre Soie, Aroma M Geisha Amber Rouge, Atelier Cologne Ambre Nue, Estée Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang, Hermès Ambre Narguile, I Profumi di Firenze Ambra del Nepale, Laura Mercier Ambre Passion Velvet, Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe, and although we haven’t reviewed this one I’d be remiss not to include it, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. 

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32 Comments

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  1. austenfan says:

    Mmm that is a pity. I didn’t try this one while in Paris. I did try the Petrol one, which was interesting.
    I love HdP’s Ambre 114, a very elegant easy to wear amber.

    • Angela says:

      I wondered how Ambre 114 compared to Ambrarem–it sounds worth a try.

  2. pyramus says:

    Ambre Narguilé doesn’t read as an amber to me at all, but a tobacco.

    My top amber is probably Farmacia Annunciata Ambra Nera, followed by in no particular order MPG Ambre Précieux, Luten’s Ambre Sultan, and Yves Rocher’s Voile d’Ambre.

    • Angela says:

      I totally agree on the Ambre Narguile. It had “ambre” in the title, so I popped it in! I forgot about Voile d’Ambre, too–a good one at a great price.

  3. austenfan says:

    I will try this one as well, as I generally really like this line.
    Ambre 114 reminds me of MPG’ s Ambre Précieux. Not as bold or as heavy as Ambre Sultan or Ambre Russe, but as I said, very elegant and easy to wear.

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for the mini-review! Ambre Precieux is another good one. I seem to remember it carrying some orange.

  4. SuddenlyInexplicably says:

    Love the buttercream frosting metaphor! The ambers I actually wear are Theorema (was lucky to get a bottle at a reasonable price) and Tolu by Ormonde Jayne. I love Ambre Sultan and some other hardcore ambers, but don’t actually wear them much (for the reasons you stated).

    • Angela says:

      I LOVE Tolu. As soon as my Mitsouko wears down, I’ll go spray some on.

  5. sergelutencio says:

    My actual favorite amber is Andy Tauer’s L’air du Desert Marocain.

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes! A classic.

    • SuddenlyInexplicably says:

      For some reason, I didn’t think of this as an amber, but it’s truly great. I love it.

      • Angela says:

        It definitely has some amber in it. But I know what you mean–it always reminds me of the mountains and the time I spent in a tribal community doing interviews (when I was wearing L’Air).

  6. Cybele says:

    I have not found my amber yet, I usually find them to linear, somehow boring. I really disliked Anne Pliska, find it bland and not sexy at all. Tried L’Eau Ambre liked it but not enough. I am really curious about HdP’s Ambre 114 and MPG Ambre Précieux, I wonder how do they compare?

    • Angela says:

      I remember Ambre Precieux having a nice orange note, but I could be remembering wrong. I hope you find that perfect amber! I wish I would have bought the Laura Mercier Amber before it disappeared.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Buttercream frosting of the perfume world! That is the most accurate description of amber perfumes that I have ever read. Today I gave Dior’s Mitzah a test run, and while it smelled great, it very quickly became monotonous. I needed a little something else to provide a counterpoint to the amber-amber-amber melody. That’s why my favorite amber perfume is actually an amber-patchouli perfume: Coromandel.

    • Angela says:

      Good point. Maybe the best ambers aren’t ambers at all. Yesterday I wore XJ Richwood and had a gigantic hit of amber, but it wouldn’t have been anything without that winey rose tossed in.

  8. jirish says:

    I’ve never gotten fetid squirrel out of Jicky, but then again, I’ve only smelled it in the edt. I wonder what they’d say if I went to the counter and asked for the fetid squirrel concentration of it?

    After reading this review I think I really need to try Ambrarem. I do tend to like animalics. Could you compare the animalic level in this to something like Absolue pour Soir? That I absolutely love. Oh, and my favorite amber is Ambre Russe. Some people find that one kind of rough, but for me it’s a pussycat, an amber with a lot of tea in it.

    • Angela says:

      I think you should definitely try Ambrarem. To me, it’s more rotting flesh while Absolue le Soir is more B.O., but if you adore animalics it’s worth a try.

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      :D
      Love the idea of asking for the fetid squirrel concentration! I didn’t get that from Jicky, either. I might have liked it better, if I did!

      • Angela says:

        I smell a little dead squirrel mostly in the EdT and extrait. I smell the same thing in Mouchoir de Monsieur. I think it’s the civet, but maybe it’s just me…

  9. Aparatchick says:

    Ambre Russe is still my favorite amber, but others I own and love are Andy Tauer’s L’air du Desert Marocain, MPG Ambre Precieux, Ava Luxe Bois Exotique, I Profumi Ambra del Nepal, and Esteban Sensuelle Russie (unfortunately d/c’d, I believe). Oh, and an inexpensive delight from CJScents called Amber Incense, which is just that.

    I can’t believe I’ve never tried the Pacifica Amber. I need to do that, especially since their FB page says they’ll be starting a sample program soon.

    • Angela says:

      The Pacifica line is pretty great, really. I’ve never bought their straight-on fragrances, but I’ve used their scented lotions and burned scores of their candles, including Spanish Amber.

  10. nozknoz says:

    I have a decant of Nobile 1942 Ambra Nobile that I got after The Non-Blond reviewed it; reminds me a lot of vintage Habanita, with very good synthetics in place of some of the naturals. I think I love it and probably would have ordered up a bottle immediately in my more profligate days. Now, there are a lot of perfumes that I want, including some really expensive ones (e.g., Puredistance), so I’m still testing the decant and thinking, oh, I should try Ambra Nera before I decide on an amber, etc.

    Your buttercream frosting analogy is so perfect! Instead of ambers, tend to wear some of the sweeter leathers, such as Pd’E Cuir Ottoman, or orientals like Shalimar and La Myrrhe, because they’re more complex and interesting. But I keep trying to find “my” amber.

    • Angela says:

      That’s exactly how I feel–surely somewhere out there is “my” amber, too. Right now for comfort I often turn to orientals, which are essentially often amber blends. It sounds like you do the same thing. Sometimes I want the toothache, powdery amber blends (and a hot bath and a trashy novel and a bowl of mac and cheese) and sometimes I can temper it, but there you have it.

      • ggperfume says:

        Now I’m hungry for macaroni and cheese.

        • Angela says:

          I just ate some! Homemade, too.

  11. lucasai says:

    Histoires de Parfums is one of my favourite niche perfume brands but I’m not sure if I want to try Ambrarem. I definitely don’t want to sample Petroleum but maybe I should try Rosam?

    • Angela says:

      I haven’t tried Rosam yet, but I’m curious. Of course, rose-oud has been done more than once.

  12. mals86 says:

    WATER BUFFALO!!

    I’m not much of an amber fan. I do really love Alahine, which is a floral amber (for that matter, I also think of 31 Rue Cambon as being a floral amber), but straight-up amber, ehhhh. I thoroughly enjoyed Kilian’s Amber Oud – it’s so silky and light! – but not enough to shell out for any. And yesterday, I tested PdE Cuir Ottoman, which struck me as being an ambery-floral-leather, very nice stuff.

    • Angela says:

      Alahine is beautiful, and I like Cuir Ottoman a lot, too. It sounds like there are some amber-ish fragrances out there that work for you.

  13. Merlin says:

    L’Occitaine’s Eau de Beaux is a nice amber – the notes are supposed to be incense and cypress – I think. Sometimes though I find it a little flat and I add a spritz of P.W. Tea Rose to it. I love the effect!

    • Angela says:

      I’ve been hearing a lot of recommendations to try Eau de Beaux lately. I need to get down to L’Occitane soon.

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