The Amber Odyssey of Hermès

The Amber Odyssey of Hermès

Handsome and romantic, bold and soft, dry and lush: The new L’Ambre des Merveilles perfume from Hermès is a beautiful meld of contradictions.
The fifth fragrance in the Merveilles lineage, L’Ambre continues with the amber theme but takes a more sensual turn. “For this new chapter, I wanted to relate one of the mysteries of amber,” says in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, “hovering between a delicious treat and sensuality, where vanilla meets the warmth of labdanum, and the moist quality of patchouli.”

Today’s amber has evolved from natural amber or ambergris, that intestinal secretion of Sperm whales known for its musky, animal-like smell. It derives from more vegetal forms, having been inspired by that golden, sunny substance—a mix of white vanillin and the plant resisn labdanum, brainstormed in the nineteenth century—that can preserve all that is encased within it. “Its warm, enveloping, almost aphrodisiac and narcotic smell” captured that era’s passion for “all things oriental,” Ellena explains.

The Merveilles fragrance quintet debuted with L’Eau des Merveilles, a “woody, non-floral femininity” in 2004, followed by the Parfum in the following year. L’Elixir launched in 2006 (a more mouth-watering take on the original with citrus and sugared zest), and then came L’Eau Claire in 2010 (a lighter, more transparent mix of amber with powdery vanilla and floral notes).

No doubt the elegance of Ellena’s latest concoction has contributed to this year’s double-digit growth at Hermès: WWD daily reported this week that the house’s third quarter sales were up 24.2 percent, and within that its fragrance sales had spiked 14.1 percent.
Hermès L’Ambre des Merveilles, $120 (50 ml),
—Deborah Fulsang


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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.