BLUE AMBER (pre-2007)
It has taken me a few wearings to wrap my nose around Blue Amber, which is quite a bit more complex than it seemed at first sniff. This is an excellent labdanum amber (not ambergris) perfume which tweaks the standard recipe by throwing some coriander, geranium, and patchouli into the mix. The coriander is the most marked deviation from the usual amber suspects, imparting an ever-so-slightly medicinal scent to this composition with the capacity even to clear my nasal passages a bit. It's not as dominant as the coriander in Fifi Chachnil, which I recently tested and consigned to my medicine chest for use only as a cold remedy or smelling salts surrogate, but the coriander is still strong enough to be detectable and to tinge this perfume just a smidgeon blue.
I must confess that the first couple of times I wore Blue Amber, I did not get it at all. I certainly liked it, but the composition seemed to be a straightforward and very smooth “amber for the sake of amber” perfume, leaving me somewhat mystified by the name. However, the puzzle was finally solved for me upon comparing Blue Amber side-by-side with Memo Manoa (see below). Suddenly the distinctive notes of Blue Amber leapt out to my nose, making me wonder how I had managed to miss them before. The patchouli base I had noticed, and a faint soupçon of geranium, but the coriander had escaped me entirely, so fixated was I on the rich, lustrous beauty of this labdanum amber.
It turns out that, like amber, blue amber, too, exists in nature and is in fact an apt metaphor for this perfume. No one is saying that Pierre Montale (or the committee acting behind the scenes and under the assumed name of Pierre Montale!!!!) isolated the essence of blue amber to make this perfume. No, he/they tweaked the standard labdanum-vanillin-benzoin recipe by tinting it slightly blue. Many reviewers have described the resultant scent as having a powdery quality, but I think that what they are perceiving is the combination of the coriander and the labdanum acting in tandem. The effect bears no resemblance to baby powder, to my nose.
After several testings, I have added Blue Amber to my wish list, as it does stand out from the labdanum amber crowd and deserves a place in my armoire among some of the other amber perfumes I've tested so far. This is another creation which, while sharing much with the many other perfumes of this category, still manages to carve out a distinct niche and stand apart from the rest. The differences are subtle but nonetheless important.
Perfumer(s): Pierre Montale (and/or ???)
Salient notes: bergamot, geranium, coriander, vetiver, amber, patchouli, and vanilla (from http://www.parfumo.net/)
Memo MANOA (2010)
It has been nearly two years since I set out on a quest to test the perfumes of the relatively obscure niche house Memo. The house was founded by Clara Molloy, who decided to commission the creation of perfumes to capture journeys to various exotic destinations, whether real or imaginary.
Journeys, like perfumes, she points out, have beginnings, middles, and ends. (I gather that this house does not produce linear perfumes...) I love to travel, and I love perfume, so naturally my interest was piqued. I ordered samples directly from the house's website and tested them all out one by one. Of the selection I tried, the one which really stood out from the rest turned out to be a gorgeous labdanum amber perfume, Manoa.
According to the house's literature, Manoa is the city of opoponax and gold, and judging by this perfume, that seems like somewhere I really should be! This perfume smells so wonderful, first, as an amber perfumer with a lustrous, viscous texture and, second, because of the way it has been spiced up with ginger, lemon, iris, and cypress. I cannot claim to be able to tease out those notes individually, but I can affirm that they are woven together in this perfume and hover over top of the amber like a beautiful shimmering veil floating on a cushion of air.
Manoa is a labdanum-amber perfume for those who are bored with the L'Artisan Parfumeur ambers and also with straight-up amber oils. This is really closer to an oriental perfume, given the spicy quality of the overall composition. I highly recommend this perfume for testing by not only amber lovers, but also those who prefer more complex oriental compositions. Manoa is spicy and unique, while still offering a big dose of labdanum, opoponax, and vanilla for those looking specifically for an amber fix. For the record, this perfume seems rather linear on my skin, but when a journey starts out so well, who really wants it to come to an end?
Salient notes: bergamot, ginger, lemon, iris, tonka bean, cypress absolute, labdanum, opoponax, and vanilla (from http://www.parfumo.net/)