Amber Flash is the latest release from Andy Tauer‘s Tauerville line, a smoky take on amber that is redolent of the leathery creosote tar he uses so often in his Tauerade base. It’s an eau de parfum that was released around October of this year, and that Mr. Tauer describes as the “perfect amber scent.” Well, that may be the case for him, but it certainly is not for me.
On his Tauerville website, Andy Tauer describes Amber Flash and its notes as follows:
The perfect amber scent[.] [¶] It is smooth and wild at the same time, rich and warm.
Amber, this wonderful combination of labdanum and vanilla, is brought to perfection. Paired with benzoin, sandalwood, a good of rose, hints of patchouli; Amber flash is just gorgeous.
On Luckyscent, neither the note list nor the descriptive text mentions rose, and I don’t smell any on my skin either. Their version of the note list is:
amber, labdanum, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, cashmeran.
Amber Flash opens on my skin with the richly toffee’d aroma of labdanum that’s been layered with vanilla, benzoin cinnamon, and the leathery, intensely tarry creosote that is in the “Tauerade” base of so many Tauer fragrances. For those of you unfamiliar with creosote it is, in a nutshell, a sort of black goo that is derived from coal-tar distillation or from the smoky remnants of burnt wood, like the thick black coating you’d find in the inside of a chimney. It is used to coat railroad ties, or to preserve wood.
Creosote was a noticeable and strong component of the earlier Incense Flash as well, but I think it’s at a whole new level here. In fact, it is the labdanum’s main dance partner on my skin right from the start. Trailing it are lesser amounts of cinnamon (from the benzoin), then the vanilla. On the sidelines is a synthetic, smoky sandalwood, and a smidgeon of spicy patchouli. I smell no rose whatsoever at any point in Amber Flash. For the most part, the opening is centered primarily on a mix of darkly ambered resins, cinnamon, and vanilla, all glued together by a leathery, intensely smoky creosote tar. It’s simultaneously sweet, smoky, and spicy, if you’ll forgive the excessive alliteration, and it’s initially rather enjoyable in the early moments, even with the creosote.
To my surprise, though, Amber Flash is a rather soft and quiet bouquet for a fragrance with such rich, heavy notes. I wouldn’t call it an “airy” scent or “thin” in body, but it’s much lighter than I expected and never feels chewy like some other amber soliflores. For example, I think it falls closer to the Ambre Precieux side of the weight/body/sillage scale than Ambre Loup or Ambre Aurea. The former is a strong eau de toilette, the latter two are both essentially parfums or extraits.
Ambre Flash quickly changes, although it’s limited to the nuances or strength of its existing notes. Roughly 15 minutes in, the tar grows stronger but, another 15 minutes after that, it suddenly seems to double even further, becoming a thick blanket that coats the amber. The creosote not only smells rough, scratchy, and sharp, but it also now has an undertone of both nicotine and cigarette-like ashiness. Unlike the creosote in other Tauers like Incense Flash, something about the interaction with the notes here creates an aroma that smells like nicotine gunk to me. It goes far beyond a mere whiff of tobacco resulting from a possible side-effect of the labdanum and patchouli. Take for example, Ambre Loup, a labdanum fragrance with a powerful tobacco, spicy, smoky, and resinous character, despite never the fact that tobacco is not actually part of its note list. Perhaps the profound “tobacco” aroma resulted from an unlisted note or perhaps it is the same labdanum-patchouli combination that is present here, but it never once evoked nicotine residue to me with Ambre Loup. Amber Flash does, and I think the reason is the creosote tar.
In other ways, though, Amber Flash is slowly growing closer in scent in Ambre Loup, at least for the rest of the first hour. It has the same Opium-like quality in its base as Ambre Loup — that mix of dark amber and chewy patchouli, wrapped up with spices and various forms of resinous smoke from tolu balsam and styrax — resulting in the sense of something vaguely approximating opium (the drug). From a distance, Amber Flash also wafts the same sort of heavily spiced, tobacco-labdanum bouquet on the scent wind as Ambre Loup. Yet, there are differences between the two scents. Amber Flash is significantly lighter, softer, and quieter than Ambre Loup which feels like an extrait in the Slumberhouse vein. It’s also more vanillic and tarrier in the opening hour as well.
The overlap between the two fragrances is short-lived because Amber Flash changes direction 90 minutes into its development. The fragrance grows even smokier, tarrier, and, to my surprise, a little bit sweeter as well. The vanilla folds into the labdanum, while the dry, strongly smoky sandalwood aromachemical slowly begin to seep onto center stage. The streaks of leatheriness in the base grow more pronounced, while the sense of tobacco weakens along with the nicotine, thankfully. Unfortunately, Amber Flash is now starting to conjure up images of the tar-coated insides of a chimney instead.
It only gets worse. Near the end of the 3rd hour, the order of notes changes significantly, as the creosote takes the lead. Close on its heels is the sandalwood, smelling almost as smoky as the creosote and now resembling Javanol, one of the darkest, driest sandalwood aromachemicals. It beats out the labdanum which now falls to third place with the spicy patchouli lagging behind by a nose. There is little sweetness left in the fragrance; the bouquet is too heavily dominated by the various smoky, leathery, tarry, and smoky woody elements for that.
Over the course of the next five hours, Amber Flash would be more aptly named as Creosote Amber Flash. The tarry smokiness is not only louder and coarser than it was in Incense Flash, but in-your-face aggressive. The addition of the ultra-smoky Javanol woods simply adds to the effect. The cumulative result basically smells like a simpler version of a Montale fragrance, and that is not a compliment in my book. About 5.5 hours into its development, the nicotine tar returns, joining the mix of regularly smoky tar and smoky sandalwood, laced with thin streaks of labdanum amber and spicy patchouli. It is an unpleasant and unbalanced mix that gives me a sore throat whenever I smell the fragrance up close for too long. By the 7th hour, Amber Flash’s chemical twang becomes quite distinct, and I was starting to feel physically ill from the scent.
Putting aside my physical reaction, nothing about the fragrance feels elegant, polished, or smooth to me. I wouldn’t even call it “wild,” as Mr. Tauer does. Again, the word that comes to my mind is “aggressive.” It feels unedited and like a rough cut, the olfactory version of Metallica or Black Sabbath that was hastily slopped together by some head-banging enthusiast in a garage who tossed in all his favorite smoky aromachemicals into a beaker with some labdanum and vanilla. Mr. Tauer has shown a masterful hand when he wants to in the past, and I even liked parts of his very evocative, bold Incense Flash a great deal despite the creosote there, but this… no, just no. I’ve actually enjoyed one or two Montale fragrances more.
It isn’t until the 9th hour that the creosote tar finally quietens on my skin, suddenly and drastically dropping about ten decibel points to feel more balanced. The amber regains its place as the lead note, wafting a subtle boozy sweetness. The Javanol sandalwood fades away but, in the base, the cashmeran awakes, sending out ripples of a lovely Shea butter-like creaminess that is further accentuated by the return of the vanilla.
The cumulative effect renders Amber Flash into a harmonious composition, a pool of dark, toffee’d labdanum whose tendrils of creosote smokiness are counterbalanced by a supple, creamy, vanillic plushness and a subtle boozy sweetness. Over time, the vanilla, booze, and cashmeran cream fade away, replaced by a subtle note of honeyed beeswax from the labdanum. In the final hours, all that’s left is a pleasant mix of toffee’d amber with a lingering whisper of smokiness.
Amber Flash had very good longevity, low projection, and moderate sillage that took time to turn soft. Using several large, generous smears equal to 2 solid sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 2-3 inches of projection and around 4 inches of a scent trail that quickly expanded to about 6-7 inches. After 90 minutes, the projection was roughly about 1.5 inches, the sillage about 4. After 3 hours, Amber Flash hovered just above the skin, while the sillage was close to the body unless I moved my arms. The fragrance became a skin scent after 6 hours, but it was easily detectable up close without any effort until the 9th hour. All in all, it lasted just a little over 12.25 hours.
Reactions to Amber Flash appear to be mixed so far. On Fragrantica, there are only two comments at the time of this review, and they’re split. “Nichemaster29” described it as an “earthy Amber with a rotten fruit accord to it” but without “the tauer incense dna” that he had expected and wanted. He said he preferred Amber Absolute, Ambre Sultan, and Ambre Loup instead. For “Mr CG White,” however, Amber Flash was not only “perfect” but his “favorite from the line.” He describes the scent as “a dry woody Amber” that was “Sweet slightly boozy, animalic and dense.”
The same split is noticeable on Luckyscent, as evidenced by the two comments posted there:
- This stuff is great. Reminds me so much of Absolue Pour Le Soir but without going over the top. I get overwhelmed with that one but this one has just a touch of the animalic without burying you in it. LOVE IT!
- Andy’s Tauer’s base always has that underlying creosote scent. You like it? Great. To me, it reminds me of the coating on fenceposts so they wouldn’t rot in the ground. And in Amber Flash, you get that flash of creosote, too. It’s compelling, no doubt, but just not for me. If you are a Tauer fan, this will certainly be another one you’ll love.
That last comment was written by “Sniff Q from Phoenix” and I very much agree, even though the creosote was more than a mere “flash” on my skin. The critical part is his or her point on the Tauerade: if you’re an amber lover who likes that signature accord and if you don’t mind its creosote component being heightened to a great degree here, then you’ll probably like Amber Flash. Men in particular seem to absolutely relish the smoky and dry aspects of Tauer fragrances, so I think a number of them will really love Amber Flash. Plus, I think the fragrance skews quite masculine as a whole. Regardless of gender, though, I would suggest sampling Amber Flash first and not buying blindly. For me, as a hardcore amber lover, it’s a total pass and a big disappointment.