The Varieties of Amber Experience, Part 1:
Bond no 9 Harrods Amber and New York Amber
Well, it's neither an accident nor a clerical or p.r. error: Bond no 9 Harrods Amber and New York Amber have the very same notes because they are the very same perfume, only in different concentrations. The incessant proliferation of Bond no 9 perfumes is apparently a strategy of sorts, so why simply keep the same name, slap “parfum” on the label, and increase the price, when you can pour the same perfume—with a bit less solvent—into an entirely different bottle and get credit for a brand new launch!
I suspect that the story probably had more to do with wanting to be able to sell the Harrods Amber perfume at, say, Saks Fifth Avenue. Based on some of my earlier experiences with this house, it seems quite clear that they are not at all averse to double dipping. It's not easy to get one's nose on the more obscure special “city” releases, as they are not even available in the New York City shops. However, I called up Saks Fifth Avenue in New Orleans and managed to procure samples of New Orleans for Her and for Him—yes, there are two.
What I discovered was that New Orleans for Her smelled remarkably similar to Chinatown, while New Orleans for Him smelled an awful lot like one of this house's less impressive (and memorable) masculine-leaning colognes. None of this is very surprising, given what is evidently Bond no 9's master plan for total olfactory global domination, with targeted strategies for winning over everyone from the neophyte perfume lover to the sophisticated niche-nose perfumista and every other random category in between—those 42 oz gold-spigoted amphora bottles encrusted with 17,500 Swarovski crystals are surely being purchased by someone!
Even fragrance tourists—literally and figuratively—are able to commemorate their visit to the not-so-fair city of New York by purchasing souvenir bottles of Bond no 9—the self-proclaimed twenty-first century perfumers of New York—above all, with the recent launch of the I Love NY trio, the bottles of which feature the famous t-shirt design logo. But wait, there's more: tourists can also buy commemorative bottles during their visits to New Orleans, Boca Raton, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and...the Great State of Texas! Only a New Yorker could regard such places as boroughs of the Big Apple, but I digress...
Returning to the ostensible topic of this review, Harrods Amber and New York Amber, the bottles are both gorgeous, and the perfume is definitely a new take on amber. This is bound to be the basis of all manner of carping about this not being “really” amber, blah, blah, blah. If Bond no 9 put out a straightforward, orthodox—done thousands of times before—unadorned labdanum amber, then of course they would be accused of plagiarism or lack of creativity. Let's face it: they're damned if they do, and damned if they don't.
My initial testings of Harrods Amber and New York Amber were less positive than my most recent ones, mainly because I was so taken aback by the strong spirits-type opening that I found myself in a sort of daze which rendered me unable to pay much attention to anything else, including the later stages of the perfume's development. The problem of dashed expectations when testing literally named perfumes is not unique to these amber perfumes, of course. New York Oud has the same problem: it smells quite nice, but it seems more like a saffron-rose than an oud perfume to me.
It was helpful to return to these amber perfumes once again, prepared for the opening and also aware that these are not at all typical amber compositions. I recall rolling my eyes and muttering “Oh brother” upon reading the marketing phrase, “Bond no 9 breaks the rules on amber,” which struck me as nearly as risible as their “take no prisoners peony,” used to market I Love NY for Her. Peony???
But I must concede that Bond no 9 did break the rules on amber in the sense that they have produced an amber composition which really does not smell very much like the usual amber suspect. What does it smell like? There is a significant overlap, to my nose, between Harrods Amber and New York Amber and New York Oud. The notes certainly overlap, and my distinct impression is that some of the key accords, especially rose, oud and saffron, are identical, albeit dosed in different proportions.
Bond no 9, like any number of other niche perfume houses which launch dozens of new perfumes in a short period of time, appears to engage in a fair amount of modular perfuming, putting distinctive and well-formed pieces (accords) together in different combinations and proportions to produce new perfumes. There are overlapping accords between Chinatown, Bryant Park, and Lexington Avenue, for example. And it goes without saying that the Bond no 9 "generic masculine cologne" accord has been frequently incorporated throughout the house's ever-augmenting collection.
As of today, there appear to be sixty-two Bond no 9 perfumes, and they have already announced the imminent launch of Central Park West. It looks as though Bond no 9 is vying with Montale to be the house with the greatest number of perfumes launched in the third millennium. Actually Boadicea the Victorious seems to be in the running as well...
Do I like Harrods Amber and New York Amber? I have to say that I do. Not as amber perfumes, but as complex, well-blended, nice-smelling unisex perfumes. But, honestly, how many straight-up amber perfumes does a gal or guy need? I know that there are those perfumistas who love L'Artisan Parfumeur Ambre Extrême, but to me it smells more like a base than a full-fledged perfume. The last time I wore it, I found myself reaching for my bottle of Bal à Versailles to liven it up a bit.
That I like Harrods Amber and New York Amber can hardly be surprising, given the notes. I happen to love all of these notes: nutmeg, saffron, jasmine, osmanthus, rose, amber, benzoin, and oud. I am not the biggest fan of musk or myrrh, but each of the components of this perfume is carefully measured into what together forms a pleasing blend. I do not know what accounts for the boozy quality of this composition, especially in the opening, but it also has its appeal and has really grown on me over multiple wearings. The longevity is already excellent in the eau de parfum, Harrods Amber, and even better in the parfum, New York Amber.
I have to confess, when all is said and sniffed, that I'd love to have a bottle of this creation, under either name!