STAR RATING *****
HOUSE Sonoma Scent Studio
STYLE/FLAVOUR amber/ unisex.
DATE OF ISSUE Aug 2008
LISTED NOTES labdanum absolute, amber, rose, olibanum, myrrh, vetiver codistilled with mitti, oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli, Texas cedarwood, sandalwood, clove, castoreum.
ENVIRONMENTAL & ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS Recycled packaging elements, synthetic instead of animal musks/civet/castoreum, no sunscreens, preservatives, colourants, parabens. Sources sustainably grown ingredients where possible. Close attention to batch freshness.
Like many of the best things in life, I discovered Sonoma Scent Studio at random via a sample of Ambre Noir, bought stone-cold online. I've been getting into niche-ish fumes for a few years now, gorging on Lutens' epic back catalogue and snuffling around various other houses largely without prejudice, having known nothing of their reputations or the degree to which they were esteemed or execrated, and not really caring about those things anyway.
I do remember gazing at that little gold vial of Ambre Noir and thinking it looked special. But haven't we all thought that as a prelude to disappointment? In my native cynicism I expected something… polite, if not pedestrian, another of the many homely MOR ambers milling about of late, possessing neither the lofty, piercing austerity of Serge Luten's Ambre Sultan nor the lolling, open-robe cornucopia of Parfum d'Empire's Ambre Russe, or even the bitchy smokers' croak of that hoary ashtray amber still padding the shoulders of good old Opium.
Instead it was amber, but not as I knew it, and I was more than happy to be slapped out of my preconceptions. AN's point of difference is both positive and negative; the convex mass of its strengths and its judicious exclusions. I adore it for both. It is polite; it has the perfect manners of a heavily-replete tiger lying with its head in the shade. Always a good thing.
To my nose, labdanum and a dense contralto rose step out together in almost chivalric mutuality. They float patiently over your wrist while you ponder their balance; visually I find them merged into a limpid golden orb, and sliding past this full-blown lustre come the first reports of smoke, muslin-white and humming notes learned in the spice isles, arranging them in the same low key instead of barking them into your face. I was charmed by this restraint; there is something about amber that seems to prompt such shrill excesses from those attempting to kick it in some new direction at the expense of its inherent values. Thankfully AN does not suffer this unlovely syndrome.
At this point I instinctively brace for the banality of synth vanilla, that gloopy moderator, that dimwitted olfactory debutante smothering development with her triple spanx and polyester. (Full disclosure- I love vanilla as it really is, that parasol flower smiling over a twisty, sticky gack that shares its roots with vinegar or cyanide. I own a jar full of primo island pods and I huff it on the regular. But I do not love the 'soft serve curdling in a rum puddle on a hot footpath' accord of say, Spiriteuse Double Vanille. That stuff is whack.) Never mind about the vanille horreur; she never really shows. Instead we are treated to a waft of myrrh and arid cedar, their sere assurance ushering us past the prospect of vulgarity.
Next come a small detachment of those green and bitter creatures crowding A Sultan, turned way down so that they merely twist about your ankles instead of fuming round your ears. Forest-floor allusions, a small black taste of broken marigold and the stringent end of sandalwood. For me, the ride ends here; the tail goes on in the same alluring vein.
Beauty should never pander and AN does not; from unfolding and revealing, it persists without apology or meaningful degradation for the best part of the day- expect 6 hours intact, 12 hours of residual goodness, a good month on your clothing. Presentation is tasteful and utile; a black embossed box and heavy, stable bottle that has so far resisted all my fumblings. If like me you shudder at the fiscal prospect of your next acquisition and wonder how much longer you can defer those boring essential domestic repairs or elective surgeries, you may be pleasantly surprised by AN's price tag.
I will be reviewing Incense Pure from the same house in the near future. Another stunner.
Get it- online outside the US. See site link below for retail outlets.
Sonoma Scent Studio