The joys of chocolate and sandalwood, encased in golden amber. That is only one aspect of Amber Extrait which merges the wonders of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with the luxury version of a Starbucks line-up: Earl Grey tea, hot chocolate, a white chocolate chai, and a vanilla latte sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts, all enveloped in multi-faceted amber velvet. Yet, at its heart, Roja Dove’s Amber is almost as much about sandalwood as it is about chocolate or its namesake note. There is a Mysore-like bouquet that is, at first, milky, then creamy and spiced, before finally turning smoky. It is a significant part of the fragrance, and one reason why Amber is hardly the simple soliflore that its name suggests.
Amber (sometimes called “Amber Extrait”) was released in 2014. On his website, Roja Dove describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:
“Seductive Enveloping Opulence”
RICH, SOFT, VERY SWEET, & WARM
“Amber, a blend of exotic materials, crafted to give us a glimpse of the mysterious Orient. I blended a rich, velvety note of black chocolate with the soft sweetness of an amber accord to create an edible olfactive delight”. Roja Dove
TOP: Bergamot, Geranium, Lavender, Orange
HEART: Cocoa, Rose
BASE: Amber, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Coumarin, Labdanum, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla.
Amber opens on my skin with crisp bergamot, orange, and amber, laced with streaks of cedar and vanilla, sprinkled with fresh lavender, then blanketed with a thick layer of semi-sweetened cocoa powder. The bergamot smells like Earl Grey tea; the orange is lightly candied or comfit; and the cedar is dry but aromatic.
Yet, the primary sense one has in sniffing Amber in the opening moments is of heavy cocoa. It is almost like the smell of hot (milk) chocolate, only this is far less sweet and much more complex. Something about its interaction with the benzoin and toffee’d labdanum creates a beautiful nutty aroma, like toasted hazelnuts. At the same time, the impact of the vanilla on the chocolate creates a frothy, white chocolate chai quality. If it sounds as though I’m describing a Starbucks line-up, there is a little of that happening here but Amber feels wholly like perfume, not a plethora of sweet drinks.
What is impressive, though, is that nothing about Amber feels like heavy-handed gourmand excess. The cedar’s dryness, the lavender’s aromatic freshness, and the bergamot’s whisper of crispness all ensure that the scent never skews into cloying saccharine sugariness or gooey syrup. Instead, they mix with the amber in a way that reminds me of a cocoa-blanketed cousin to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier‘s Ambre Precieux, only in much richer form. The lavender plays the same role here as it did in that fragrance, while the cedar acts almost like the myrtle. (As a side note, I don’t think Amber resembles Ambre Precieux Ultime because the aromatic elements are milder here than they are in that fragrance.) In both Amber and regular Ambre Precieux, the balance skews towards an identical mixed amber accord of labdanum balanced with heavy benzoin and vanilla. The result is a quasi-gourmand centered on golden warmth and balanced sweetness, only the Roja scent has citrus, candied orange, and chocolate components piled on as well. It is a heavier fragrance than Ambre Precieux, though not substantially so because Amber isn’t as chewy, dense, or hefty as I had expected. It’s airier in feel than, say, Profumum‘s Ambre Aurea, to give one example, and definitely lighter than Roja Dove‘s own Amber Aoud (which is also sweeter in nature).
One thing I don’t like is the synthetic twinge from the woods. Initially, I thought the cedar was to blame, but it takes only 30 minutes for the sandalwood to emerge as the culprit. It smells like something aromachemical with a smoky undertone that feels harsh in the face of the rest of the notes, all of which are uniformly smooth. It also stands out from the creaminess of the scent as a whole. My guess is that something like Javanol has been used, either by itself or in conjunction with Ebanol. The Perfumer’s Apprentice describes javanol as “a new-generation sandalwood molecule with unprecedented power and substantivity. It has a rich, natural, creamy sandalwood note like beta santanol.” To me, it always smells smokier and more intense than the greener, blander Ebanol. Whatever the exact source or ingredient in Amber, the woody note has a nuance of chemical harshness right from the start, and it only grows stronger in the perfume’s heart phase.
On the other hand, what is truly intoxicating and thoroughly addictive is the rest of the opening bouquet. Half of Amber is a decadent chocolate lava cake with zesty but candied orange, while the rest smells like the frothy milkiness of a vanilla-amber chai latte tinged with Earl Grey, festooned with extravagant, hefty dollops of milk chocolate, white chocolate, darker cocoa, and toasted hazelnuts. It swirls and dips all around you, rich but sultry, golden and warm, an enveloping mass that feels as heavy as velvet but as light as luxury cashmere. With 3 small sprays from an atomizer, roughly equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottler, Amber projected 4 to 5 inches at first, but the scent trail was much more, approximately twice that amount, sending out tendrils whether I moved or stayed still.
In a way, Amber would almost be comparable to a Russian nesting doll or to an onion with all its layers, each of which peels back to reveal something else, except each note interlocks here, laced together side by side in perfect harmony. You can pick them out individually, but none of them are hazy or ill-defined. However, not all notes are created equal, and some stand out more than others, especially after 30 minutes when Amber begins to shift its focus. The aromatic lavender, bergamot, and orange retreat to the sidelines where they weave in and out of the top notes, working indirectly to great effect but no longer a strong presence on center stage. Joining them is a caramel-nuanced ambergris that is just barely salty, marshy, and musky. It adds yet another subtle layer of richness, complexity, and depth to the scent which continues to be dominated by the cocoa. In the base, the synthetic sandalwood grows smokier and starts to trickle upwards. From afar, though, Amber’s scent trail is primarily a golden, sweet blend of creamy chai cocoa and mixed, benzoin-heavy amber, laced with woodiness, nuttiness, and a streak of vanilla.
Amber’s second stage begins roughly 90 minutes into the perfume’s development and is essentially a transitional bridge. The fragrance is turning woodier, as the sandalwood arrives on center stage, wafting synthetic smokiness but also a quiet touch of spiciness. The amber continues to be quite obviously a mix of labdanum and benzoin with a small touch of ambergris. The latter now takes on a caramel undertone, while the benzoin emits a touch of cinnamon. By the start of the 2nd hour, the amber’s individual parts start to overlap and become harder to pick out.
Amber’s main stage begins in the middle of the third hour, and marks a fundamental charge in the focus and balance of notes. Amber is now centered on spicy, smoky, Mysore-like sandalwood lightly covered by creamy cocoa and then enveloped within an amber cocoon instead of cocoa-amber with only tiny streaks of woodiness and a hint of smokiness. The milky chai, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon-dusted benzoin, and toasted hazelnut elements still remain, but they’re quieter now, more like small fireflies darting about the periphery instead of strong, central chords. The aromatic lavender, citrus and candied orange have essentially vanished.
The sandalwood’s smokiness increases significantly by the start of the 5th hour, with a concomitant rise in the perfume’s dryness. Amber feels thinner in body, as well as less gourmand, ambered, warm, and sweet. The cocoa is much weaker as well, while the amber accord is hazy but for a subtle booziness that has appeared within its midst. Amber Extrait is now primarily a very smoky, quietly spiced sandalwood, dusted with a thin layer of cocoa and lightly splashed with boozy cognac. If it weren’t for the very synthetic nature of the main note, I’d be quite happy about this new development. But I’m a Mysore snob who isn’t enthused by sandalwood substitutes or chemical smokiness, and I find the perfume to smell rather synthetic at this point. Still, since most people don’t share my issues, I suspect many will find Amber’s middle stage to be as enjoyable as the gourmand opening.
Amber Extrait’s drydown begins near the end of the 8th hour. The vanilla re-emerges to alleviate the sandalwood’s smokiness and the perfume’s slight dryness. The result is a creamy, smoky sandalwood laced with equal parts vanilla and cocoa, much like a soft-serve ice-cream swirl. In the base, the first hints of spicy patchouli start to appear, but the perfume is becoming increasingly abstract and it’s difficult to pull out the individual elements. Amber is slowly turning into simple creamy woods infused with spicy patchouli, quiet smokiness, and a hint of cocoa. Once in a while, I think there is a light dusting of cinnamon from the benzoin, but it feels ghostly and everything is quite indistinct. In its final hours, Amber is merely a wisp of sweet woodiness and warmth with a vestige of spicy goldenness about it.
Amber has great longevity, moderate projection, and good sillage. With 3 small spritzes from an atomizer equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the perfume lasted just short of 15.5 hours. The perfume’s initial projection of 4-5 inches dropped to about 2 inches after 2.5 hours, but the scent trail was still at least half a foot. Extraits generally cling to the skin more than eau de parfums and turn soft sooner, but Amber took 7.25 hours to turn to a skin scent and, even then, required little effort to detect it up close until the end of the 10th hour.
On Fragrantica, there are only three reviews for Amber, but they are all very positive. The most detailed account comes from “Houdini4” who writes in relevant part:
I’d describe this as a musky, gourmand amber like the kind of wonderfully light accord you’d find in a designer fragrance but very natural and of much higher quality. [¶] IF you’re expecting the typical, hot, sticky orange elixir or the dry, dusty old library then prepare to be shocked and amazed by this. [¶] I absolutely love this fragrance and if I could afford it, even at half the price… I would consider getting it for sure. [¶] The opening is fresh with orange and citrus notes then the powdery gourmand wave of chocolatey cacao, soft vanilla and spices then a very good base of amber. [¶] Just because it’s called Amber do not make the mistake of thinking its linear or like something you have in your collection…it more than likely isn’t.
On Basenotes, reviews are more mixed. In one thread, two people found Amber to be nice but disappointing. The first wrote: “nothing reall[y] stuck out about it to me.” The second said: “The Extrait disappointed me overall. The drydown is nice but getting there takes a while and it’s a rather boring journey. Longevity is excellent, it really does last for ages. Not for me though.” In another thread, though, “Amberflash” wrote very highly about the scent: “I am very picky about Ambers. This is the very best. Warm, milky, sweet but with muscle and sophistication.”
I think Amber is pretty original if you consider it as a chocolate and sandalwood take on the namesake note. There aren’t a lot of those around. It certainly isn’t a pure amber soliflore, and it’s more complex than the simple name would lead you to think. This is one of the instances where I really wish I were less bothered by aromachemicals, because I really loved (loved!) the many facets of the chocolate. I wasn’t the only one who found the scent to have a synthetic component, though. A family member noted it before I even said a word. Still, if you love chocolate gourmands, Ambre Precieux-style ambers, the white chocolate note in Coromandel, and Mysore sandalwood recreations, I think you should give Amber Extrait a sniff. I think a number of you would find it utterly delicious.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Osswald NYC. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.