What Is Amber? A Guide to Everyone’s Favorite Scent

What Is Amber? A Guide to Everyone’s Favorite Scent featured image

Whether you’re a human encyclopedia of every gourmand eau de parfum ever made or a just fragrance novice, there is one scent that everyone is familiar with: amber. It is found in nearly every viral perfume and best-seller out there, making it one of—if not the most—classic smells.

What is amber perfume?

But before diving into its staying power, both on the skin and in the market, it’s important to define what the scent actually is. Contrary to popular belief, amber is not actually a singular note that you can find in an organic natural state. In fact, experts call it an “olfactive construction” made up of many fragrance ingredients. “Amber is an abstract name used in perfumery to describe rich, voluptuous, and vanillic fragrances,” says Olivia Jan, Givudan senior perfumer. “[It is] historically built around an accord of bergamot, vanilla, patchouli, Tonk, and some resinous notes.”

Jan credits the popularity of the amber to Shalimar by Guerlain, which was created in 1925 and, according to Guerlain’s site, is known for being the “first ambery perfume in history.” Fast forward to more recent times with scents like Good Girl by Carolina Herrera ($122) and countless others, which have put their own modern spin to the classic smell and inspired a new generation to make amber their own.

“It gives a lot of texture to fragrances,” says Bérénice Watteau, DSM-Firmenich fine fragrance perfumer. “It brings a creamy, warm, and enveloping comfort. It also evokes sensuality, sophistication and luxury.”

What does amber perfume smell like?

Known to linger on skin longer than other accords, amber is often paired with other notes that also have warm facets, such as sandalwood, or used to enhance floral notes such as rose and jasmine. When paired with unexpected notes such as leather, you get that deep woody feel for a more intense scent, or it can be used to contrast greener notes and balance out rich gourmands. While there are no strict rules when it comes to pairing scents together, Watteau does caution against mixing amber with citruses such as lemon and orange as it might give off a creamsicle feel that many are opposed to (at least scent-wise). But even then, that combo can work as long as they’re mixed with the right proportions. “Everything is a matter of balance,” she says. “I like not having rules and challenging myself while creating fragrances with unexpected combinations.”

“Amber is the perfect scent for whenever I feel feminine and flirty,” adds Chriselle Lim, founder of PHLUR. “I think it’s become such a staple in many popular scents because it’s different from the heavily floral or sweet scents that we are so used to.”

When creating her own amber scent, Amber Haze, there was one goal: give people a scent that they’ll want to use every single day. “We wanted to create something with texture, but super addictive,” she says. “So Amber came to mind because [it’s] warm and powdery with a little bit of sweetness, which kind of hit the nail on the head.”

Amber also proves to be intimate, evoking closeness or skin to skin contact. For her amber fragrance, Super Amber, Ellis Brooklyn founder Bee Shapiro wanted to capture romantic attraction in a bottle. “[It] was inspired by the conversations I had with perfumer Pierre Negrin. For us it was [about] how do we create the pheromone-style fragrance that elicits a feeling of warmth, coziness, and sexiness all at once,” Shapiro says. “The goal was to imitate texture and skin—the whole ‘cashmere blanket on sun-warmed skin’ kind of thing.”

Top Amber Perfumes to Try

There is no single way to define amber and its versatility keeps us wanting more. With all that in mind, below are ten amber fragrances that the experts (and we even threw in some of our faves) are loving right now. Read on to find your new signature amber-based scent.

1 / 10

Ellis Brooklyn Super Amber Eau de Parfum ($110)

When creating Super Amber, Shapiro says that the goal was to find notes that would balance amber’s depth. “The vanilla adds the coziness and a hint of sweetness. Cedarwood gives amber another facet, and more dimension,” she says. The end result is a warm scent with a hint of musk that just feels like a comforting hug.

BUY NOW – $110

2 / 10

D.S. & Durga Amber Kiso ($210)

Though it contains the sweet warm note from the Japanese plant Asashi Zuru maple, D.S. & Durga’s Amber Kiso swings more into woody territory thanks to notes such as leather, incense, Hinoki wood, and patchouli. One spritz and you’re instantly enveloped by a rich and smokey leather scent that’s quite lovely (and lasts all day, which is always a plus).

BUY NOW – $210

3 / 10

Dior Ambre Nuit ($330)

Aptly named, Dior’s Ambre Nuit makes for the perfect night time fragrance for those night owls who love their adventures after dark. Amber is balanced with bright notes such as grapefruit and pink pepper and rounded out with cedar and patchouli to strike the perfect balance between deep warmth and airy softness.

BUY NOW – $330

4 / 10

Heretic Parfum Dirty Amber ($165)

Using resin from a 35-million-year-old Himalayan tree, Heretic Parfum’s Dirty Amber makes for a mesmerizing aromatic experience. This ancient amber oil is mixed with bergamot, frankincense, tonka bean, and vanilla to give you a classic gourmand scent with a touch of smokiness and spice.

BUY NOW – $165

5 / 10

Aerin Amber Musk Eau de Parfum ($150)

If you love florals, then Aerin’s Amber Musk was made for you. It’s a simple sweet smell (its three main notes are amber, rose centifolia, and musk) that leaves you just feeling warm and super cozy.

BUY NOW – $150

6 / 10

PHLUR Amber Haze Hair & Body Fragrance Mist ($35)

To get you obsessed with Amber Haze, perfumer Donna Ramanauskas mixed the hero scent with jasmine for floral accents and saffron to give it that decadent vibe. “[Ramanauskas] was amazing in pulling all these blends together to achieve exactly what we were looking for,” says Lim. The result is an intoxicating smell that’s sweet without being overbearing. Chances are high that you’ll be reaching for this everyday.

BUY NOW – $35

7 / 10

Nest Golden Nectar ($92)

Florals and amber continue to make for an unstoppable duo. Case in point: Nest’s Golden Nectar. It mixes golden orchid, amber and musk, to give you a creamy floral that just warms your heart.

BUY NOW – $92

8 / 10

Yves Saint Laurent Opium Eau de Toilette ($105)

When we say you smell chic, we mean you smell like YSL’s Opium. Jan loves this classic scent for its “blend of spicy and ambery notes.” Amber is mixed with mandarin, myrrh, and carnation for a scent that just smells expensive—in the best way possible.

BUY NOW – $105

9 / 10

Calvin Klein Obsession Eau de Parfum ($77)

Jan also loves Calvin Klein’s Obsession for its juxtaposition of a green top note with the sweetness of warm amber. It opens with mandarin and bergamot and dries down with lavender, spices, and musk to give the fragrance a more animalic feel that we can’t help but be—wait for it—obsessed with.

BUY NOW – $77

10 / 10

Ariana Grande Cloud Eau de Parfum ($65)

A personal pick from Watteau, Ariana Grande’s Cloud mixes lavender blossom, vanilla orchid, musks, and blonde woods for a creamy sweet scent that doesn’t overkill it in the sweet department. Bless.

BUY NOW – $65

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