Balmain Ambre Gris, 2008

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Perfumer Guillame Flavigny

In its favor, Ambre Gris tells you all about itself up front. It’s plainspoken, there are no surprises and it doesn’t take much concentration. Against it, Ambre Gris has the feel not so much of synthetic perfumery as fake food. It’s a twinkie instead of shortcake. It’s margarine and cornstarch syrup on your pancakes.

That said, I kind of like it. There’s something about it that’s just off, not quite right. It’s like the background hum of industrial fluorescent lighting that recedes in your mind to a dull hum until you turn it off and realize that what you perceived as a quiet hum or buzz was in fact low-volume disharmony. In filtering it you had just unconsciously redefined it so as to tolerate it. Honestly though, I do like Ambre Gris a bit. But here’s how: one spritz. One spritz is comfortable. Two is queasy. Three is so far over the line that, in the manner of the instant conditioning that you experience vomiting a particular food that you then never want to eat again, you’ll never want to smell it again.

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