Today, we’ll take a quick look at White Amber, the latest addition to Creed‘s super-luxury collection, Les Royales Exclusives. White Amber is an eau de parfum that was created by Olivier Creed and released several months ago. On its website, Creed describes the fragrance as “a fruity-floral scent featuring a bouquet of fruit, jasmine and benzoin combined with rich amber and Indian sandalwood.” The official note list is:
Top note: Amber, Vanilla, Fruity accord
Middle note: Floral accord, Sandalwood, Benzoin
Base note: Floral accord, Absolute Jasmine, Sandalwood, Benzoin
Creed also elaborates a bit on the bottle, the details of which have some bearing on the fragrance price: “Designed, made and filtered by hand, each exclusive fragrance is presented in a hand-crafted glass bottle by centuries-old Parisian glassmaker, Pochet.” On top of that, the bottle is also accentuated with 24-karat gold spray. Consider this as my hint and advance warning to you that the perfume is not cheap.
White Amber opens on my skin with copious amounts of “jasmine” that smells nothing like a real, natural absolute but exactly like hedione. It’s an aroma that is intensely lemony, fresh, laundry clean, and soapy, and very much a faux “jasmine”-wannabe, in my opinion. If you’re unfamiliar with hedione (Methyl dihydrojasmonate), you can read Elena Vosnaki’s explanation of the IFF aromachemical at The Perfume Shrine. I don’t share her apparent adoration of the material. (Not at all.) She is correct, though, when she says that “it is often used in composition in substitution for jasmine absolute, but also for the sake of its own fresh-citrusy and green tonality.” It was one of Jean-Claude Ellena’s favourite ingredients because of its sheerness, radiance, and also its lemony-fresh cleanness. If you’ve ever had one of Ellena’s jasmine-based fragrances feel sharply lemony and then turn soapy on you at the end, you can blame it on the hedione. (I certainly do.)
Massive, whopping, heaping doses of hedione lie at the top, heart, and base of Creed’s White Amber, but it is not the only thing. It’s accompanied by gooey puddles of molasses-thick fruitchouli red berries. According to the Luckyscent note list, the official “fruity accord” consists of blackcurrant (cassis) and green apple. Well, perhaps, but I don’t experience either note in any apparent, perceptible form on my skin. What I smell is cloying fruitchouli goop. It lies plastered all over the hedione’s faux-jasmine petals in a way that just makes me sigh.
The relatively minor base consists of Ambroxan and slivers of dry sandalwood. Oh joy, Ambroxan. Since it’s one of the triad of ingredients around which White Amber is built, I think it’s worth taking a moment to explain what it is for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the note. Ambroxan (also known as Ambrox or Ambroxide) is an aromachemical intended to replicate certain facets of ambergris, like its salty, marshy, musky and lightly sweetened, caramel-scented tonalities. In addition, it also has a soft undertone of clean woodiness but, above all else, it is meant to bear a skin-like quality, an aura of almost tactile golden warmth. In a 2010 Perfume Shrine post on the aromachemical, Elena Vosnaki wrote:
Ambrox is typically used as one of the base notes of perfume compositions, due to its extremely lasting velvety effect which oscillates between an impression of ambergris (salty, smooth, skin-like), creamy musky & labdanum-like (read on labdanum on this link) and with “clean”/blond woody facets in the mix too. In short, a fascinating molecule that presents itself as a prism through which different facets can shine. Its reception is undoubtedly one of positive response: You’re hit with something that smells warm, oddly mineral and sweetly inviting, yet it doesn’t exactly smell like a perfumery or even culinary material. It’s perfectly abstract, approximating a person’s aura rather than a specific component, much like some of the more sophisticated musk components do. Fittingly, Ambrox solves some of the shortcomings of the latest IFRA restrictions on several musks and animal-like base notes.
Ambroxan crystals are relatively inexpensive, which is one reason why the material was once heralded as an affordable replacement to real ambergris, but I’ve noticed a major love/hate polarity in people’s responses. In fact, the intensity of the “hate” side seems to far surpass negative reactions to ISO E Super, in my opinion, perhaps because people aren’t quite as anosmic. On Basenotes, there are numerous Ambrox discussion threads (like this one, for example) but also ones entitled things like: “Ambroxan can we get it banned as a fragrance ingredient?” On Fragrantica, there is a similar split in reactions. (See e.g., “I can’t stand the smell of Ambroxan!!“)
There are quite a number of fragrances containing Ambroxan with which you may be familiar. Creed‘s Aventus uses it as the purported “ambergris” in the base. Escentric Molecules Escentric 02 is pure Ambroxan, nothing else. Dior‘s Sauvage apparently contains massive quantities of the note, which may be why I’ve seen some people describe its drydown as aggressively “needle sharp.” Other Ambroxan-heavy fragrances are: D&G‘s Light Blue, Prada‘s Luna Rossa, Byredo‘s M Mink, Le Labo‘s Another 13, and Armani‘s Si. The brand, Juliette Has a Gun, seems to use a lot of Ambrox or Ambrox-related kin materials in its fragrances. To give just two examples: Calamity J. and Not a Perfume (although, technically, the latter contains Cetalox, a similar and closely related aromachemical).
White Amber is a simple fragrance centered predominantly on these three key elements and its evolution basically consists of a reordering of the notes and variations in their level of emphasis. The opening is initially diaphanous in weight and feel but extremely forceful. However, the rather eye-opening quantities of hedione here quickly turn it thicker in feel.
In fact, the hedione rapidly takes over a mere 15 minutes in as the fragrance’s singular focus for much of the first half of its lifetime. Everything about it gives me a headache, perhaps because the hedione has such a white musk, laundry detergent quality to it. Or maybe the laundry detergent smell stems from the Ambroxan in the base, since that can be one of the by-products of its “musk” note. It’s difficult to tell because everything is melded together in a blur. All I can say is that when the laundry detergent cleanness interacts with the hedione’s soapiness and its extremely intense lemoniness, the end result repeatedly makes me think of lemon-scented Joy dishwashing liquid. It’s an association which has happened in the past with some Jean-Claude Ellena fragrances, but he rarely used hedione in such heavy quantities or in such an undiluted, ham-fisted fashion. There is so much hedione here that it completely bulldozers over the fruitchouli at the 45-minute point, kicking it to the background where it rattles around in minor wisps. What’s left behind is largely a simple flat line of hedione “jasmine” and Ambroxan “amber.” The latter is turning increasingly scratchy in feel. My headache is now joined by a sore throat. Even worse, I’m bored to death. It’s about as exciting as watching paint dry.
At the end of the second hour, White Amber shifts. The sandalwood rises from the base to join the jasmine and ambroxan as a central note. It really does not smell like real sandalwood to me, “Indian” or otherwise. At best, it’s a dry woodiness with a vague suggestion of something sandalwood-ish lurking at its corners. At the same time as the sandalwood appears, the ambroxan turns stronger and louder. It now imparts a scratchy quality to the bouquet and sears the inside of my nose whenever I smell my arm. Putting that aside, White Amber enters its third hour as a co-equal mix of lemony, soapy jasmine, ambroxan, and dry woodiness. Wisps of fruitchouli continue to weave around the background, but they’re increasingly muffled.
The next change occurs roughly 5.75 hours into White Amber’s evolution. Basically, the notes realign to now emphasize the Ambroxan. It now includes a golden muskiness within its clean musk. The “jasmine” and woods trail behind the Ambroxan, in that order and at a distance. The fragrance is quieter, softer, but sharper. It’s essentially a blur of golden muskiness infused with a lemony, clean, white floralcy and a dry woodiness. Now, it’s even less interesting than watching paint dry.
Between the physical effects of aromachemicals and the incredible apathy which this pile of banality engendered, my patience ran out and I scrubbed White Amber at the end of the 6th hour. I have no problems with simplicity in and of itself — if it’s done well and with luxurious richness. In fact, some of the most enjoyable fragrances I own are quite linear and simple. But I don’t think this is done well or a luxuriously rich scent. Even if we completely put aside the problem of aromachemicals used in a ham-fisted, inelegant fashion, there is something just so tedious about the way the scent drones on and on (and on); there is absolutely no nuance, no shading to its overly simplified and completely blurry, sweeping, monolithic brush strokes. The result is a fragrance with no personality and nothing to remember it by.
White Amber had good projection and initially big sillage. With several generous smears amounting to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 4-5 inches of projection and about 7-8 inches of sillage. At the start of the 3rd hour, White Amber’s sillage was around 4 inches, its projection roughly one inch. The fragrance grew soft about 5.75 hours in, and was almost a skin scent when I scrubbed at the end of the 6th hour, although it was still easy to detect up close if I brought my nose to my arm.
On Fragrantica, only three people have reviewed White Amber at the time of this post, and only one was a fan. Trapster wrote, in small part: “clean, sweet, fresh intoxicatingly natural every whiff[.] Has a creed Pure white vibe with white floral and fruits and less citrus…” The other two posters were singularly unimpressed. “Jhericurls” and “Calvini” wrote, respectively:
- Such a simple fragrance for an extortionate price. This is on par with Mugler cologne.
- I wasn’t impressed at all by this one; it’s like they watered down Pierre Balmain Ambre Gris and added some generic Creed juice.. Sure it’s nice, but top-of-the-line? Meh.
Speaking of extortionate prices, White Amber starts at $545 or £320 for 75 mls. If my eyes rolled any further, they’d fall out of my head.
I am simply at a loss for words at this point. So I’ll end this review here, and with great relief.
Details/Links: $545 or £320 for 75 ml/2.5 oz of EDP. $985 for 250 ml/8.4 oz. Creed, Creed UK, Creed Russia, Luckyscent, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf’s, Nordstrom, Holt Renfrew, Harvey Nichols, and NL’s Skins. First in Fragrance carries some of Creed’s Royales, but does not show this one on its website at the time of this post. Creed Australia does not show White Amber either. Samples: samples of White Amber are available at Luckyscent, Surrender to Chance, and Creed Perfume Samples UK.