Farmacia SS. Annunziata Ambra Nera: Punk Rock Amber

Billy Idol in his "White Wedding" days. Source:

Billy Idol in his “White Wedding” days. Source:

Sexy, smoky, and snarling, Ambra Nera is a gritty, punk rock amber that is simply gorgeous. It is a compulsively sniffable parfum from the ancient Italian house of Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561, and is far more than the “black amber” that its name implies. Rich woods, spicy patchouli, incense, sticky balsamic resins, animalic warmth, and earthiness are all cocooned in musky ambergris in a way that feels like amber with an edge. While its essence can be over-simplified down to patchouli-amber-woods, Ambra Nera leaves fragrances like Ambra Aurea or Jovoy‘s Psychedelique in the dust of their golden palaces, where aristocrats lounge near fireplaces sipping cognac. Instead, it chooses to get on its Harley-Davidson, snarling in black leather like Iggy Pop, Billy Idol, or the Ramones, and zooms off singing “with a rebel yell, more, more, more.” It’s a fantastic, unexpected surprise, and a fragrance that lovers of hardcore amber-patchoulis must try.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Farmacia SS. Annunziata dal 1561 is an Italian brand with a long history, and its unpretentious, high-quality, beautifully rich fragrances are hugely under-rated, in my opinion. Most are really extraits in concentration, and tend to focus on one note which is then amplified to great depth. Ambra Nera is a little different than others I’ve tried from the line, as it has more layers and complexity than some of its siblings, but it bears the overall Farmacia aesthetic and made me do a double-take from first sniff. If it weren’t for the size of the bottle, I would have bought Ambra Nera for myself right away.

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

Ambra Nera is a concentrated parfum or extrait that Farmacia SS. Annunziata describes in very simple terms:

Precious and rare aroma. A light and exotic fragrance, with the spirit warm and determinated. The mysterious charm adds a touch of elegance and class.


I suspect that there is a lot more going on than that. My feeling is that Ambra Nera includes a hefty dose of smoky styrax resin, some actual incense, and decent amounts of both Tolu balsam and animalic castoreum. I’ve noticed that some perfume houses, especially some Italian ones like Profumum, prefer to merely give a nutshell synopsis for their perfume lists, and I felt that the Farmacia’s note list for its Vaniglia del Madagascar was also incomplete. In short, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that were the case with Ambra Nera as well.

Photo: Lorraine Eaton. Source:

Photo: Lorraine Eaton. Source:

Ambra Nera opens on my skin with lightly boozy, honeyed woods enveloped in amber, but its nuances develop within seconds. There are the toffee’d, dark, dirty layers of labdanum, and the musky, marshy, slightly salty caramel of ambergris, both feeling a little wild and animalic. It is a mix that feels like it skews 80% ambergris, with only 20% comprised of labdanum. Heavy smokiness follows on their heels, along with the spicy woodiness of true, brown patchouli, and the aromatic, slightly green dryness of cedar. For the most part, though, Ambra Nera’s opening is wave upon wave of multi-faceted, woody goldenness which drenches your skin in a very potent cloud, though it is light in weight and almost sheer for such richness.

Ambra Nera’s smokiness grows stronger, but it doesn’t feel purely like incense. It is almost as though the vetiver were some sort of bourbonized relative to the tarry variety found in such fragrances as Oriza’s Vetiver Royal Bourbon. At the same time, the red-brown patchouli turns darker, slightly dirtier, and surges to the forefront next to the woods and amber. It adds a spiciness to the notes, but even more so, a dark, earthy grit that skews a little black, as well as a subtle earthiness.

"Gold Rush," by Artist Elizabeth Chapman. Source:

“Gold Rush,” by Artist Elizabeth Chapman. Source:

Less than 10 minutes in, other notes arrive on the scene. First there is the eucalyptus. It’s not really like the usual menthol or muscle rub tonality, though there is a tinge of camphor deep in its depths. Rather, its real job is to provide yet another layer of earthy, green woodiness that accentuates or amplifies the other notes. To a large extent, it feels more like a suggestion that wafts in and out of the edges, a sense of the actual eucalyptus tree as much as its fresh, herbal leaves. Even more subtle and muffled is the tiny, minute streak of a dark, bitter chocolate — almost more like expresso — that emanates from the patchouli.

It’s odd to me how that element is the final thing on the note list, because Ambra Nera feels wholly like an woody-patchouli duet to me, one which merely happens to sing in front of an accompanying chorus of amber and dark resins. Actually, the patchouli really feels like the star of the show quite a bit of the times, and it is something that comes as a little bit of a surprise given the perfume’s name. I’ve noticed that the note is often accompanied by vetiver, cedar, and amber in classic French perfumery, essentially amounting to a Holy Quad for patchouli soliflores. Here, the balance isn’t skewed quite so overtly towards any one element, but Ambra Nera often seems like a scent that is 35% patchouli, 30% woods, 20% smoky resins/incense, and only 15% amber.

Billy Idol. Photo: Kirk West/Getty images, via

Billy Idol. Photo: Kirk West/Getty images, via

The end result is a fragrance that feels like the unshaven, rock-n-roll biker cousin to Jovoy’s smooth, cognac-sipping aristocrat in Psychedelique, or a blackened, earthy, hippie version of the ambergris emperor in Profumum’s Ambra Aurea. This feisty wild-child isn’t exactly a dirty, 1970s Bohemian, but he’s definitely got grit and a snarling growl in a way that far exceeds both the traditional ambers and the usual boozy patchoulis. Its due to a strong sense of rawness and darkness underlying the supposed main ingredient, an earthy funk mixed with damn sexy muskiness — all wrapped up with hardcore hippie smokiness. The note list may not mention it, but I think there is definite frankincense in Ambra Nera, along with castoreum and hefty amounts of smoky styrax.

The various woody facets, including those from the patchouli, grow stronger after 30 minutes, overtaking the amber to become Ambra Nera’s dominant focus. The wood smells more like cedar than cypress to me, but I freely admit that I’m not an expert on the nuances of the later. All I know is that the combination of the woods with the patchouli smells simultaneously: spicy, smoky, lightly honeyed, lightly mentholated, brown, black, and earthy. Every single part of them is cocooned in musky, slightly dirty, animalic warmth. In the base, there is a growing streak of some black tarriness which profoundly resembles styrax mixed with Tolu balsam. As it grows more powerful, the incense, animalic nuances, and eucalyptus raise their voices higher in chorus, leading to a groundswell of golden-black darkness.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

And that’s when it hits me. That’s when I suddenly realized why I had such an immediate, visceral response to Ambra Nera in its opening hours: it has a definite (though temporary) resemblance to the magnificent O Hira from SHL 777, a fragrance I adore but whose $825 price tag for a mere 50 ml is enough to give one palpitations. There are substantial differences, however, differences which mean that Ambra Nera is not a close match for O Hira, but more like a second cousin, once removed. For example, Ambra Nera is dominated by woods, followed by patchouli, or vice-versa. In O Hira, the one-two punch comes from labdanum, followed by still more labdanum. To the extent that there is an ambered focus in the Farmacia SS. Annunziata scent, it feels primarily like ambergris which has a very different character than labdanum. In addition, the patchouli in Ambra Nera is a thousand times more prominent than anything in O Hira, to the point where it sometimes overshadows the other elements. That is never the case with the SHL 777 fragrance. Not once would I ever think to describe O Hira as a patchouli-woody scent, the way I sometimes would Ambra Nera. It is labdanum on steroids, above all else.



As a whole, O Hira feels more baroque, complex, and subtly nuanced. While it also has castoreum, styrax, and Tolu balsam, it is substantially more balsamic, heavily resinous, and animalic. All those aspects are quite subtle and soft in Ambra Nera, comparatively speaking. Finally, while both scents are essentially parfum extraits, O Hira has far greater density and opaqueness than the sheerer, lighter Italian fragrance. The greatest difference perhaps is that O Hira costs about $650 more than Ambra Nera, which is a rather staggering gap.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Yet, for all those differences, there is a strong, direct connection between these two scents that becomes even more noticeable as the first hour ends and the second begins. Ambra Nera turns even smokier, as the feisty, smoky styrax and the sticky blackened balsams surge past the amber to coat the patchouli and woods. An abstract spiciness, honeyed sweetness, medicinal hints of eucalyptus, and a subtle dusky, earthiness complete the picture. In addition, I would swear that there was also a light touch of castoreum in the base, in large part because of the musky, almost leathery streak that runs through the golden, velvety warmth.

Ambra Nera doesn’t really change from this point forth. Some of the notes fluctuate in their prominence or strength, and there is a constant race between the patchouli and the woods for first place, but the scent is generally a linear one on my skin. It essentially continues as a seamless blend of smoky woods and spicy, dirty patchouli atop blackened resins and then nestled within a cocoon of musky, animalic amber, all the way in one straight line until its very end. The only real change is that a layer of benzoin vanilla appears in the base, softening the dirtiness, and creating more of a cuddly, cozy feel. For the most part, though, it is a very subtle, thin touch which doesn’t really detract from the core notes.

Generally, Ambra Nera lasts between 12.5 and 14 hours on me, depending on amount. It is less than what I had expected in light of Vaniglia del Madagascar‘s monster longevity on my skin. As for the sillage, it starts off as soft, but then turns discreet with surprising rapidity. Using 2 large smears, Ambra Nera hovered just barely above the skin 1.75 hours into its development. It stayed there for hours on end, not turning into a true skin scent until the middle of the 8th hour, though it still didn’t take much effort to detect if you brought your nose right to your skin. Spraying and aerosolisation may increase the initial projection, but I have the sense that Farmacia SS. Annunziata seems to prefer more intimate sillage as a general aesthetic choice.



The odd thing is the contradiction between Ambra Nera’s feel versus its weight. This is a fragrance whose notes are enormously rich and lush, but simultaneously also sheer, even from the start. Ambra Nera isn’t gauzy, but for a scent with such heavy notes, it is extremely light. I don’t know how Farmacia SS. Annunziata has managed to come up with a scent that is so potent and concentrated, while also being airy, but it has. Ambra Nera feels like sort of oriental that would be perfect to wear in the heat of summer without feeling drenched in unctuous thickness. (Personally, I think rich orientals bloom in the heat and wear them all year round, but I know many people think I’m off my rocker.)

To be honest, the discreet lightness is one of my few issues with Ambra Nera. I am blown away by the beauty of its notes, both in the first hour when the ambergris is almost as prominent as the woods or patchouli, and later when the fragrance is more smoky and animalic. However, the sheerness and soft sillage happen a little too fast for my liking. Still, I would buy a bottle of Ambra Nera in a heartbeat if it weren’t for one thing and only one thing: the size of the bottle. I doubt I could live long enough to go through 100 ml of such a massively concentrated, rich fragrance. Not unless I had two lifetimes. Ambra Nera may not have the completely untrammeled, over-the-top ferocity of its hardcore brother, Patchouly Indonesiano, but it feels substantially more potent, concentrated, and intense than Vaniglia del Madagascar. (Oddly, though, Vaniglia proved to have completely monster longevity on my skin.) Still, I don’t know who on earth could possibly finish a full bottle of Ambra Nera, and I wish the company would offer more practical sizing. On the other hand, the price is wonderful at $160, so the fragrance is a perfect subject for friends to split.



For all that I love it, Ambra Nera is definitely not for everyone. I would recommend it only to a true patch-head or to those who don’t mind a little funk in their scents, because I think the Ambra Nera does skew a little dirty. From what I’ve read on a few places, that may be why some women think it is too masculine or earthy for their tastes. For example, on Fragrantica, one woman writes:

I like male perfumes a lot…but this one is too masculine; an old male hippy who had too much woman and drugs and pretend to know what love is ( for himself), maybe you know that kind of type.

On Luckyscent, a handful of people find Ambra Nera to be powdery in nature in its drydown, which came as quite a surprise to me, while one person struggled with the issue of the earthy woods, comparing Ambra Nera to the scent of an old souvenir shop in Aspen. I think his or her point is actually a fair one, because I can see how the patchouli-wood combination would lead to that impression. As I said before, I think you have to be a true patch-head to really love Ambra Nera because its underlying earthy muskiness may not be for everyone.

Photo: sitnica.

Photo: sitnica.

One Fragrantica reviewer, “Kain,” wrote an astute summation for Ambra Nera. He not only discusses the castoreum and the animalic undertones that you might expect, but also mentions that he found Ambra Nera to be a “beast” in terms of projection, which was good to hear. He writes, in part:

This is a great and very complex amber based fragrance. [¶] Right after first spray you will get hit by heavy blast of bitter resinous amber and honey! [¶] It’s a very warm, sweet and bitter resinous smell which is very sensual and yummy! [¶] I can smell a soft fruity scent, something like cherry in the background as well but it’s not up in front and easy to detect.

As time passes, that faint fruity cherry smell goes away and now I can smell a soft animalic feeling beside the sweetness of honey and amber. [¶] The animalic smell is mellow and I believe it’s because of castoreum note which isn’t listed here anyway! [¶] It’s a soft buttery and dirty animalic feeling that gives the scent a beautiful aroma. it’s not stinky and sweaty like musk and it’s not very heavy something like civet! very easy to wear and like animalic note.

In the base the sweet amber change more into vanilla type of sweetness. that animalic feeling still does exist and now I can smell some sort of bitter smoky aroma. I don’t know if there is leather note in this fragrance or it’s vetiver that gives us that smoky feeling but anyway it’s detectable in the scent. […][¶]

Projection is very heavy (beast mode!) and longevity is 10+ hours easy. with two sprays (max 3 sprays) you’re good all day long.



“Alfarom” is a commentator whom I quote often, as I think he’s very talented, and he describes Ambra Nera as “GORGEOUS stuff” (in all caps) with an ancient, nocturnal darkness:

This is GORGEOUS stuff if you like dark-green herbal ambers. Great balance between challenging vegetal notes (almost animalic) and resinous woody amber (as opposed to woodyamber). Thick but not heavy, moderately sweet, enveloping but not loud and, most of all, far from the typical head-shop vibe of many fragrances playng similar themes…Last but not least, it comes in Parfum strength.

Smells ancient, dark, mouldy, nocturnal and absolutely compelling. This is to amber-centered fragrances, what Mazzolari Lui is to patchouli.

Top quality stuff.

Rating: 8/10

The Gegherd Monastery. Source:

The Gegherd Monastery. Source:

One man said he was “hypnotized” by the “majestic” Ambra Nera which he called a “masterpiece,” but there was a “medieval” “moldiness” (again from the patchouli, if you ask me) that was ultimately too much for him:

Outstanding, non-sweet, herbal masculine amber, it smells Medieval and moldy in the best possible way: it is the most authentic smell of a very, very old library in an ancient Western European monastery.

The “mold” I am talking about smells like mushrooms, yes, I do mean it, but, surprisingly enough, it’s a wonderful smell and it blends lovely with the skin… No rot here, just big, old, musty folios all over.

Gosh, I feel hypnotized by this perfume. It has a a very “elevated”, almost majestic feel, it smells like history.

I would not wear it on my skin, it does not smell like a perfume, it’s just too charged with stories to wear it often. Definitely a masterpiece.



For The Scented Hound, Ambra Nera rated a 5 out of 5 bones, and his short review reads:

I love amber perfumes. I love their warmth, their other-worldliness and their ability to envelope. Ambra Nera is no exception. Upon application, this opens with a strong pop of cypress and eucalyptus and a slight sweetness. From the start, this is a scent that says, “here I am.” After a little while the vanilla comes out along with a light powdery finish. This is an elegant amber that transports your back in time to the Italian Renaissance. I have to say that my husband said that it makes me smell like someone’s grandmother. That comment had me worried that the scent was too feminine. I realize that everybody has their opinion, but from my end, I absolutely love this scent and the way it made me feel and how it wore on me. This is a unisex scent that has a light sweetness about it that could lean a bit feminine, but if you’re not afraid of unisex scents and embracing your feminine side, I highly recommend this perfume because it is truly a beautiful composition.

I found Ambra Nera to have too much of a punkish snarl on my skin to lean feminine or feel medieval, but I agree with Mr. Hound that it is a “beautiful” scent. Really and truly beautiful.

I appreciate its refined smoothness, unpretentious nature, and effortless fluidity, but, ultimately, what I like the most about Ambra Nera is how its warmth goes beyond mere amber. Yes, its multi-faceted richness is fantastic, but it’s that animalic growl and smokiness which really render the scent “hypnotic.” Forget medieval monasteries or the Renaissance. If you ask me, this is totally a punk rock, rebellious amber, and someone should get Billy Idol a bottle for the midnight hour.

Cost & Availability: Ambra Nera is a concentrated parfum that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs $160 or £103. The European price ranges from €110 to €129, but the actual retail cost seems to be €115. The Japanese and Russian prices are hard for me to figure out, but I did find sellers in those countries. Discount Price: you can find Ambra Nera discounted on eBay with prices starting at $125 (without a box) and with world-wide shipping. The main seller seems to be German, and has a range of Farmacia fragrances at a discount. In the U.S.: Luckyscent sells Ambra Nera for $160, along with a sample. It seems to be the sole U.S. distributor at the moment. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy Ambra Nera directly from Farmacia SS. Annunziata, along with the accompanying shower gel. In the U.K., Roullier White has some of the Farmacia line, but Ambra Nera is not shown on their website. Same story with Rich Perfumes in Buckinghamshire, so call both shops to see if they have Ambra Nera. Elsewhere, First in Fragrance and Essenza Nobile sell Ambra Nera for €121, and both ship world-wide. ParfuMaria in the Netherlands sells it for €129. In Italy, AllaVioletta has the whole Farmacia line along with samples, but they are sold out of Ambra Nera at this time. However, you can find Ambra Nera at Profumeria Manuela. In Switzerland, Beauty Flash sells the fragrance for CHF 175. In Russia, Farmacia fragrances are carried at Essenz & Parfume or Bum Parfum. In the Ukraine, Ambra Nera is sold at Parfumka. In Japan, there is a site called Propice which seems to sell a wide variety of niche fragrances, including the Farmacia line and Ambra Nera. I haven’t really figured it out, to be honest, but I think it might be a private individual seller who began with reviews and has now become a niche distributor. You can check it out for yourself. Samples: I obtained my sample from Luckyscent. Neither Surrender to Chance nor The Perfumed Court have Ambra Nera. In Europe, a number of the sites linked above sell samples.

44 thoughts on “Farmacia SS. Annunziata Ambra Nera: Punk Rock Amber

  1. Must try! O Hira was the best thing I’ve tried in years (unfortunately). I practically had palpitations when you compared the two favorably. Second cousin is close enough to have high hopes!! Now, I’m going to have a look at Ebay. . .

    • Second cousin, twice removed! The similarity is temporary and they’re different as a whole, Jules, so don’t get your hopes up too much. There is no way that Ambra Nera has O Hira’s endless body, depth, and richness. Plus, there is the whole issue of a primarily labdanum focus vs. a woody-patchouli one. I don’t want you to be disappointed, my dear.

      • I hear you loud and clear. And I do know it’s the labdanum that grabs me so. . .one day I hope someone else will do labdanum as well, or 80% as well or I’ll win the lottery or. . .oh never mind!

  2. I love Ambra Nera, only have a small decant but would love to have a full bottle.

    BTW, wearing Anubis today for the first time – great blind buy! I love it, and already got a compliment at work today on it. 🙂

    • Yay for more Ambra Nera love! But I’m wayyyyyyyyyyy more excited by your Anubis comment, so I will go respond to you in more detail in that thread. 🙂

  3. I am glad you reviewed this beauty!!! I think it is the best thing in the Farmacia SS Annunziata line. Currently I am obsessed with Nocturne Alchemy’s amazing amber body oils.

    • Oh, yay, you did put Ambra Nera on your Luckyscent list then! You’d mentioned you would following my comments in the Vaniglia thread, but I didn’t know that you’d gotten it and tried Ambra Nera since then. I’m so glad you liked it. As for Nocture Alchemy, you’ve mentioned that twice now, so I will definitely have to look into it. It sounds like a huge love for you, and that’s good enough for me! 🙂

  4. I adore Ambra Nera which on me behaves like a sexy woody smokey creature with little punk rock on its veins. There is some funkyness, certainly, but on me it smells a bit more moldy, like a dirty greenish grayish dusty oldy funk. I don’t know what I am talking about since I am speaking from memory now. I am a sucker for amber fragrances and last year I sampled all my nose could deal with. I adore Ambra Aurea; now I think I need to get some of that Psychédélique because I do, yes I do, love some boozy-ness.

    • LOL, I’m confused. So it has “little punk rock” meaning none, or meaning just a little? But you do get a smoky creature with woodiness, so it does sound like we’re talking about the same thing except for the moldy aspect you describe. That is definitely the patchouli, imo.

      Psychedelique is glorious, and a hugely refined, aristocratic version of patchouli with its booziness, amber, and vanilla. But it does have a slight hippie funk lurking underneath. Not enough to overcome the images in my mind of expensive libraries, booze, and a refined aristocrat, but there is some there. The problem with Psychedelique — and it’s a BIG one for me — is that the perfume takes discreet sillage to an extreme. I mean, REALLY! It’s so damn discreet, it feels like the perfume is evaporating off my skin and disappearing. In reality, it lasts for quite a while, but you have to stick your nose right into your arm and snuffle like a wild boar to detect it after just a few hours. That seems to be a Jovoy aesthetic, as I’ve noticed it in a number of their other scents. They don’t want perfumes to actually have a trail or be noticeable, imo. So keep that in mind.

      • You are right. I did sound confusing. I meant not a lot of punk rock just this mustyness which is probably not the right word either but there is some strangeness in it without being a punch to my face. Do I make better sense? I hope so 🙁
        I’ll write back to you once I get my sample of Psychedelique. I am missing a bit of warrior sillage these days so I may order a sample once I have satisfied the need for a bigger aura. I want a bubble of deliciousness and I have failed miserably with all my samples lately.
        Hugs to you, K.

        • I haven’t experienced anything with “Warrior Sillage” lately, at least nothing that was really good except perhaps the hugely priced but fabulous Nuwa from Roja Dove, and some in the SHL 777 line, particularly Black Gemstone. It’s at Osswald, and I think you might really like that one. There might be a few in the collection that would appeal to your love of darkness.

  5. Ambra Nera was one of a few ambers last “cold” season (which wasn’t actually cold) that smelled pleasant for me. I’m not sure I’ll go for more after my sample is gone especially since I do not like the bottle itself (and 100 ml!!!) but I think it’s a very interesting perfume.

    • Between this and Black Orchid, I’ve made a happy discovery: you may have a tiny, secret fondness for true, brown patchouli! Who knew!! 😀 I would never have associated you with patchouli (or smoky styrax resin), but I would be interested to see how you would respond to other perfumes with the note(s).

      As for the 100 ml sizing, there have been a few times over the last few months when I’ve grumbled about that, and often thought of you while doing so. There are some perfumes where it’s MUCH worse to only have 100 mls or nothing, because they’re not light enough to justify bathing yourself in it with endless sprays, so it’s really so unlikely one would ever finish a full bottle. This is definitely one of them. I’m hoping I’ll find one or two people to split a bottle with me, as 30 ml would be a perfect amount for this. As a whole, I wish companies would offer some smaller sizes, and that is something that I know you’ve been saying for years now.

    • You’re very welcome, my dearest Hound! I smiled at how your husband found Ambra Nera to smell like a grandmother on you, while I picture it as blond Billy Idol with a snarling lip curl. (As compared to the many aristocratic, very refined, boozy, palatial ambers out there, it certainly is the smoky, gritty, earthy punk version for me.) Next time your husband makes such a comment, tell him you’re really Billy Idol, and watch him blink in confusion. lol 😀

  6. This sounds right up my alley (amber! patch! smoky woods! eucalyptus! Billy Idol in his salad days!) as long as the powderiness doesn’t show up too much on my skin. Could be a perfect counterpart to my beloved Ambra Aurea (which tends to frighten people when I apply it to my own liking, i.e. spray with abandon).

    Got a sample of Anubis from Indigo the other day and it’s the most beautiful leather I’ve ever smelled – on me it’s a soft supple smoky leather with a drizzle of jasmine-scented honey. Incredible!

    Unfortunately my stupid ridiculous skin consumes it *completely* within about 30 minutes. Whoosh! and it’s gone. Tried it three times to make sure (sigh). I think I have topsy-turvy-world skin; on me, Osmanthe Yunnan is a high-sillage powerhouse that lasts for about 8 hours, but with Anubis I only get 30 minutes.

    This is why I can never ever blind-buy – a good thing in principle, I suppose, but frustrating for my inner perfumista “Want!”-monster.

    Am adding Ambra Nera to my sample list and crossing my fingers (and toes)…

    • 30 minutes???!! Anubis consistently dies away after 30 minutes on you??! Ugh, you poor, poor thing. How frustrating, especially as you love the notes. (I love the description of it on your skin. It’s utterly perfect!)

      I think I’m more astounded by the fact that Jean-Claude Ellena’s minmalistic Osmanthus Yunnan is a “high-sillage powerhouse” (!!!!!!) on your skin. My God, that made me blink. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe that scent that way. lol. I wonder if your skin clings onto and/or amplifies the synthetics which are often used in light floral scents to extend their life and give them more oooomph? Perhaps that’s why. Your skin may also be burning through the more natural essences and absolutes which tend to cling closer to the skin unless fixatives or synthetics are added in. But who really knows? Skin chemistry is one of those very weird things.

      In terms of Ambra Nera, I really hope it works out for you (and your skin) because it really does have all your favorite notes. You’ll have to let me know what happens, okay?

      • I think that’s it exactly – some natural isolates simply vanish on certain (unfortunate) skin types like mine. I loved Portrait of a Lady when I sniffed it straight from the decant, but on skin the rose element disappeared within about 10 minutes and all I was left with was a very rough and rocky patchouli that lasted forever.

        I remember reading somewhere that Malle had used rose oil processed by a certain type of molecular distillation (essentially a very high-quality natural isolate, as far as I can tell) in PoaL – so it makes sense that higher-end perfumes with loads of natural isolates will go wonky on my skin [sad panda face].

        Labdanum, ambergris, and vetiver all bloom beautifully on me, though… so those are my pretties. 🙂

        Will definitely let you know how Ambra Nera fares on my Jekyll-and-Hyde skin!

  7. Oh Kafka, I am jumping up and down and dancing in the perfume happy place. What did I tell you? I love this juice and I’ve had this for quite awhile. Its wonderful, sexy, fabulous, and so in your face in the beginning. It really ROCKS. Thanks for the great review. I’m so glad you liked it.

    • You’re so welcome, my dear Ellen! I had to grin at your “it really ROCKS” statement, not because of the potential punning reference to musical genres, but because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so excited as to use all caps. LOL 😀 Fantastic. It brought such a smile to my face.

  8. There are so many “nice” fragrances and so few that just say, “Here I am.” Its one of the reasons that I also love vintage Opium although in a different way. Neither is “nice” nor insipid. They are out there in a good way and that’s what I love.

  9. Must try now. Adore amber of all types. I do wish that perfume companies would offer a smaller option. I understand the economics of it. But, especially with niche firms, I’d be willing to bet that people would buy more of any given line. I know that I would. I’ve read that the larger bottles are a response to splitting bottles and the niche firms are really do people a favor. Not sure I see that.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure I see it that way either. I know some perfumers have gone on record to say that they aren’t happy with splitters, because it prevents people from having the full bottle experience with all the aesthetics that are involved. For companies like Farmacia SS. Annunziata, I think offering smaller bottles would make the line seem cheaper and less prestigious in their eyes because the prices would be so much lower. At $160 or so, they are coming in at a higher tier, at least visually, than if they offered a 30 ml bottle for $45 or so.

  10. Farmacia SS etc is one of my favourite houses. Ambra is superb Have you tried the shower gels? The ambra stays with you all day, no need for fragrance. Their patchouli has even knocked Borneo off its gloried pedestal :). It has that fabulously woody, dry mustiness that I love in my patchoulis. Although I do adore Psychedelique, that has a richness to it that Patchouly Indonesiano lacks. Great sprayed in the diffuser too :).

    • I haven’t tried the shower gels, no. I can’t use scented products due to my perfume testing, but I have to say that the thought of Ambra Nera in shower gel form intrigued me when I saw it on their website. Good to hear that it’s not only great, but that it actually LASTS! As for the Patchouly, it was the most difficult of the 3 Farmacia fragrances I reviewed, and I’m a pretty hardcore patch-head. On my skin, unfortunately, it went far beyond mere woody, dry mustiness. That I don’t mind (though it was unpleasant in Dior’s Patchouli Imperiale), but the Patchouly Indonesiano was like an oil slick of blackness on me with hardcore diesel, tarry notes, and medicinal oiliness. I’ve never experienced any patchouli like it.

  11. I just got a sample of this and really enjoy it.I like how the eucalyptus note gives the opening a menthol like coolness.The cypress also imparts a nice coniferous note.I’m working my way through the drydown.However the real reason I’m responding to this post is I received my bottle of Profumi del Forte’s Ambra Mediterrenea….have you tried this one????? My oh My what an amber!!! It’s like a combination of the best parts of Ambra Aurea and O’Hira.So thick and rich it makes Ambra Nera seem thin by comparison.The opening blast was so potent it made my eyes water…spicy,especially a beautiful coriander note, with a honeyed floral tone and a massive labdanum backbone and a smoky element weaving in and out.It dries down to a beautiful saline like ambergris note like in Ambra Aurea but with muted florals in the background and a stronger dry cedar note,definitely less sweet than Ambra Nera and O’Hira.It’s has massive longevity and a very strong sillage.It was done by Bertrand Duchaufour and it seems like his no holds barred take on amber.I haven’t spent much time with it yet but you’ve got to get your hands on some!On a side note I’ve enjoyed O’Hira immensely but I find it eerily similar to Winter Woods by Sonoma Scent Studio.Have you tried that one?Now that we are transitioning to fall here in NYC I’m beginning to crave these heavier scents and Ambra Mediterrenea will be at the top of my list.Enjoying your reviews immensely as always-Robert

    • I’ve heard a lot about Profumi’s Ambra Mediterrenea, always rave comments, but I haven’t tried it yet. Samples are not sold at STC where I usually buy my stuff, but I will eventually get around to ordering a vial from Luckyscent. Good to hear that it has a salty take on ambergris, as well as rich body and massive sillage, too.

      As for SSS Winter Woods, no, I haven’t tried that one either. Laurie Erickson suggested that much of her line wouldn’t be to my tastes, as she does include ISO E Super and other synthetics quite a bit.

          • Well I always have room for a good Amber in my collection and I find Ambra Nera especially unique.I think it’s the cool mentholated eucalyptus/cypress note combined with the warmer facets that’s a stroke of brilliance.And you add the slight animalic undertone and you’ve got cool,warm,and dark all swirling together.It’s intoxicating.There’s definitely a strong sweetness that develops but’s it’s tempered by the cool and dark facets.It’s almost like a subterranean room with a cold deep green emerald throwing off the warm tones of a flickering fire.I love it! It’s sweeter and softer than the Ambra Mediterrenea which has a sharper smoky cedar element but that animalic element keeps it pulsing along.And when I say animalic it’s more of an earthy/animalic element.Nothing like Montecristo here which by the way I’m absolutely loving.It turns all warm and cuddly on me with just the fangs of the hyrax lurking in the background.I’ve had people smell it without telling them what’s in it and letting others know about the hyrax .The reactions are decidedly different.Most when they approach it without knowledge of the ingredients are fascinated by it and when other smell it after I’ve explained about the origins of the hyrax invariably have a more negative reaction.Interesting food for thought as smell is the only sense which bypasses the cognitive cortex and goes straight to the limbic system i.e. the ancient reptillian part of the brain.We thus have an unavoidable immediate emotional response to smell.But with a preconception in mind that must be tempered or altered somehow.But that’s another discussion.On a side note I popped in to Osswald last weekend and chatted with Josie and Clement for a while.I brought Anubis with me which Clement had never smelled.He was quite impressed and said he could see where all the hype was coming from.They’ve been so kind to me so I gave him a decant.Ok sorry for the long winded reply.I’m breathlessly waiting for my Ambra Nera to arrive.As always thanks for your amazing in depth reviews and I think you’re now responsible for at least 5 full bottles in my collection…;) I love them all 🙂

          • Josie and Clement are both super, and I think it’s incredibly sweet that you gave Clement a decant of Anubis. Nice chap, RVB!!!

            As for your comments about Montecristo and people’s responses based on the level of information, I actually agree with you fully. I don’t think the limbic part of the brain is responsible but the issue of preconceptions that you noted. In fact, I’ve made a similar argument in the case of Secretions Magnifiques. Now, if EVER there were a scent where people are strongly swayed by the list of notes, I think it would be that one above all others. My review essentially argued as much. Preconceptions — along with the perfume’s terrible notoriety — impacts what people may process in terms of perceived notes, or at least largely influence their subconscious reactions to it. It’s not saying it’s an easy, pleasant, walk in the park but I don’t think Secretions Magnifiques is *AS* bad as some of the more extreme reactions have indicated. I think some of those are largely due to preconceptions influencing outcoming.

            Speaking of animalics, have you tried Bogue’s Maai thus far? I’d be very interested to see what you thought, and not just because it includes some hyrax as well. O’Driu’s Peety is another animalic scent, though more in the Absolue Pour Le Soir vein, imo, than the Montecristo one.

            Getting back to the topic at hand, I have found myself thinking of Ambra Nera quite a bit over the last 10 days. I wish they didn’t make such enormous bottles! With my reviewing schedule, I don’t have enough opportunities to wear perfume for myself, so 100 ml is even more ridiculous than it might be for others. I’m going to see if I can get a decant, I think, as that will solve my problem. Your comments are making me want to wear Ambra Nera even more!

          • I got samples of both Bogue scents coming in my Luckyscent order(at least I requested them…) so I’m excited to try them as well.Will report back!

  12. I thought I was crazy when I felt that Animalic undertone which to me read as a leathery musky thing same as for you plus a waxy vibe, a bit like an Iris scented Lipstick. Mesmerising, and it absolutely made the fragrance in my opinion. I want it for sure

    • I’m glad you experienced the musky and leathery undertones as well, because it really adds some lovely and unexpected depth to the amber. I think they must have used one of the darker types of ambergris, like a grey or black grade, because they do skew more animalic in nature, in my opinion. Regardless, I’m happy you liked the scent so much, Ana Maria. I think Ambra Nera is quite an under-appreciated little gem, and I wish more people knew about it. 🙂 xoxo

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  14. Am Amber lover and I found this one on the recommended list, so 1st thing I did is to read about in your blog, and after that I became very eager to buy one
    Thanks for review .

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  16. First, thank you, thank you and thank you for your spectacular reviews! For my iper analitic and critical self your reviews are the best, and I know that when I want a critical, well made review about a perfume your blog is the best in town. So, thank you.
    Second, I was browsing your guide to amber part II to find the perfect amber perfume (which is quite difficult, since my skin doesn’t react well to the powdery notes).
    I live in Italy, so imagine my surprise when I found Ambra Nera, a bombshell amber without the talc like note!
    So, I searched their web site and – surprise, again! – all their perfumes come also in a 30 ml format for 45 euro (on their official website So, if your main concern is the format, be aware that there is the 30 ml option.
    Next week I’m going to Florence (luckily just two hours away from my home town, Milan) to try this beauty.
    Thank you again!

    • I’m on a break from the blog but just wanted to quickly reply to thank you for your kind words on the reviews. I’m very touched, Cecilia, especially since my rather lengthy, verbose approach doesn’t suit the modern sensibility. lol. 😉 As for the 30 ml option, I believe they were introduced after the date of this review but they’re definitely a happy addition. I only wish they were available outside of Italy. Farmacia retailers on this side of the pond definitely don’t offer them, alas.

      So, have you already tried Ambra Nera, or will next week be your first opportunity to do so? If it’s the latter, I hope you love it. There are a number of other good amber options out there without the powdery component, but you have to make sure you’re going for fragrances without tonka or benzoin (or at least, without them in any significant quantity). Hopefully, you can find a few more that will work for you. 🙂

      • Oh thank you so much! Thank you for replying me even if you are formally off the blog and thank you for the wonderfully useful info about tonka and benzoin in amber fragrances, I ‘ve always wondered what is the component or accord responsible for the powderiness.
        Now I know the accord I’ve have to avoid. I’m going to test Ambra Nera very soon, but I have my eyes to Ambre Loup, thanks to your review
        Thank you!
        Hope to see you again very soon on the blog.
        Have a good day!

        • Part I of the Guide explains about the types or genres of ambers, the ingredients, what they smell like, and why certain genres won’t work for a person’s tastes. It explains the issue of powderiness, masculinity, darkness, or other aspects of the various genres because Part I is intended to guide you to the right type of amber genre that will work for a person’s tastes. Since you haven’t read it before now, I recommend that you do because “amber” is just a huge, overarching umbrella terms and you may have been trying the wrong types up until now. I don’t think Part II is truly useful or that it gives the best, most tailored recommendations if you haven’t read Part I first. 🙂

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