Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serge Lutens- Ambre Sultan

Every once in a while I find a perfume that makes me stop in my tracks and realize that "this" is how things should smell. It's the scent equivalent of what Tim Gunn calls "Soul Stirrers" when he talks about clothes people should keep in their wardrobes (versus all those "meh" items that should never have been bought to begin with). In Serge Lutens collection of Soul Stirrers, Ambre Sultan manages to remain a major achievement.

On my skin, Ambre Sultan is very gourmand, from top to base. The spicy-herbal opening of coriander, bay leaf and oregano takes me straight to foreign markets and exotic kitchens (even though they are all staples in my own kitchen, so how exotic can it really be?). It goes greener and more resinous before settling into a sweet benzoin-vanilla base that still sparkles with amber and spice and completely lacks the powder quality that so often comes with the territory.

The rich and dark qualities make Ambre Sultan perfect for a cold day, though I loved the courage displayed by Tom, who reviewed it for Perfume Smellin' Things and braved it successfully on a July day in L.A..

Unlike another big amber (which I love and wear), Ambre Russe (Parfum d'Empire), this isn't boozey and only half as sweet. It also stays closer to my skin, and while long lasting (12 hours, easily), despite the assertive blast of the first spray it is not a sillage monster and can be used generously. I love having a significant amount of it on me. It feels like my favorite cashmere dress, warm and cozy, refined, well-made and incredibly flattering.

Ambre Sultan is available from top department stores (Neiman's, Barneys, Bergdorf in the US, Selfridges in the UK) as well as from Aedes in NYC and Scent Bar in Los Angeles. It can also be bought in a bell jar from the Salon du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris.

Art from The Vinings Gallery: Journey Inward II by Pamela Sukhum.


  1. One of the best perfumes ever. It is so focused on one thing, but so rich it's just spectacular.

  2. I so wish I could get out of AS what you are getting :-( Unfortunately all the herbs somehow ruin it for me: I love the herbs and their aroma (for my kitchen and in the wild) but somehow that oregano/bay thing I am getting doesn't help to make it behave on me. And that phase is so prolonged for me...
    But ambers usually present problems: I am on the spice, wood and incense end of the oriental spectrum.

  3. I do love this one, although I do have to write that on me it's a one-spritz-only one. Otherwise it feels overpowering to me and I am afraid I am going to gas people out. But it's great, especially in winter. Might just wear this tomorrow!

  4. I can't help it, but it still just smells like Pine-Sol to me. I love many of the other SL's including the potent ones (Arabie, Rousse) but just not this one. To me, MPG's amber is the ne plus ultra.

  5. Wonderful review! Makes me want to immediately try it.

  6. I adore your blog ... so sensuous on lots of levels ... can't wait to try this fragrance now!

  7. Dain- I agree, of course. It seems like those who love AS are totally taken with it.

    Helg- I'm sorry it doesn't work for you. Ambers can be tricky and I can't wear all of them, so I'm with you on the incense and woods. My problem is with many florals. Weird things happen to them on my skin...

    Tom- It's weird how AS behaves on some people. Smelling the bottle I thought it'd be a big BIG scent. Instead I get this warm and cuddly thing that prefers to stay inside my clothes. Not sure if it's a curse or a blessing.

    Calypso- I like the MPG amber. It's definitely beautiful and wearable.

    N- Please try it! I'd love to hear what you think.

    Roxy- Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy Ambre Sultan. It's a very special scent, and when it works for someone it is magnificent.

  8. A German Ebayer is selling Ambre, Cedre and Daim Blond $19 per 15ml, SL packaging, that's a great deal.


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