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Friday, January 27, 2006

Perfume Review: Hermes Ambre Narguile

Ambre Narguile is a part of Hermèssence collection, an exclusive line of fragrances created for Hermès by Jean-Claude Ellena. Meant to evoke cashmere, it does indeed envelope the wearer in a warm, soft, luxurious embrace. The Narguile part of the name refers to a traditional Middle Eastern device for smoking, also known as a water pipe, narghile/arghileh, shisha, hookah, hubble-bubble, or kalian. It is a pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water. The sweet, fruity and smoky shisha tobacco accord of Ambre Narguile is my favorite part of this wonderful scent.

Apart from shisha tobacco, there are so many facets to Ambre Narguile. It is a fragrance that never stops developing. Never abrupt, the changes it undergoes are constant; because they are so subtle and nuanced, the changes are also very hard to describe. To depict the development of Ambre Narguile briefly and simplistically, it starts as a sweet, honeyed amber, acquires a deliciously smoky and at the same time caramel-like accord, attains a somewhat drier woody note, gets sweeter yet again, smelling amazingly like the Gerber Dutch Apple dessert consisting of apples and cinnamon that both my three year old and I like so much… Finally, the scent reaches that incredible, almost edible (and smokeable) stage of shisha tobacco that I find absolutely irresistible. It is a mouthwatering accord of amber, apples and tobacco, still sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon.

I absolutely agree with Chandler Burr in his assessment of this scent when he says that ”it is not merely the best; there is simply nothing like it on the market, period. And no one will ever do it as well again.” Ambre Narguile is one of the most delicious fragrances ever created, it is gourmand but not foody, sweet but not cloying, smoky but not overly so, centered around amber but much more complex then simply an amber-based scent. To quote Mr. Burr yet again, Ambre Narguile “warms the air. It renders you mouthwatering.”

This delicious concoction can be purchased at Hermes boutiques either as a 100ml bottle (for, I believe, approximately $185.00), or as a part of a Discovery Set of four 15ml bottles (you can choose between Ambre Narguile, Poivre Samarcande, Vetiver Tonka, Rose Ikebana and Osmanthe Yunnan; the set costs about $125.00; correct me if I am wrong).

*The painting is Narguile by Alberto Vargas. I will leave you with some more paintings featuring water-pipes.

An Algerian and Her Slave by Ange Tissier

Algerian Women in Their Apartment by Delacroix

Caterpillar Smoking a Narguile by John Tenniel

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Blogger andy said...

Dear Colombina
Wonderful! When I think back to last year's Tunisia holiday with Shisha sessions in the evening... I have to get a hold of this scent. It sounds irresistible. I am especially curious to learn more about how the smoky tones are integrated (is it birchtar, tobacco ?) I have to try.

2:28 AM EST  
Blogger marlen said...

Oh more I'm gonna have to track down. Why, oh Why haven't I tried this yet? ugghhhh. Could you possibly make this sound more appealing? LOL! Thanks for another beautiful review C!

3:33 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

I don't normally like scents that are sweet or foody, so I initially assumed I would't care for this (that was because I hadn't read your illuminating review). But it instantly became one of my favorites. It is, indeed, "gourmand but not foody, sweet but not cloying, smoky but not overly so," and you capture its complexities perfectly. I find it perfect for both celebration and comfort, for holidays and for wearing to bed (it's like drinking a beautiful cognac with some caramel on the side, while wrapping oneself in that famous cashmere blanket). Note: the Hermes boutique in Boston is very generous; when I bought a travel set of this, the SA gave not only me but each of my 2 friends "samples" of all four Hermessences (OY wasn't out yet; those "samples" are 4ml. packaged vials).
Also--I bet that this is going to be the #1 pick in the MUA fragrance poll this year, knocking POTL off its perch (than goodness)!

8:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

My memories of Shisha sessions are much less romantic, but just as fond...I tried it several times while studying at Oxford...far away from Tunisia, huh? :-)

I am sure that if you decide to play with smoky notes, the result would be wonderful!

10:14 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am surprised that you haven't tried it yet. On secodn thought, I am not that surprised, samples are not that widely available after all.
Have you tried the other 4 in the line?

10:15 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

My husband has never commented on Ambre Narguile. But neither has he commented on any other scent, apart from Boucheron Trouble once...*sigh*

10:17 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I do like sweet and gourmand scents, and I do like amber, so I knew I was going to fall for AN. LOL
It's a wonderful way you describe it:"like drinking a beautiful cognac with some caramel on the side, while wrapping oneself in that famous cashmere blanket"...mmmm

10:20 AM EST  
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh M, you've really outdone yourself on this one - how could anyone resist trying it now??? This includes me, who's had a sample kicking around somewhere (somewhere, oh some-mysterious-where) in my various nooks around the house and in my purses. Dang - now I'm forced to go on an AN hunt this afternoon.

Really excellently written, M.

11:25 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Katie, thank you very much! You are too kind. I postponed writing about AN, because I love it so much, I felt like I actually don;t know what to say about it, if it makes any sense. :-)

1:04 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It is exactly as you say, disguised. Obviously delicious but somehow still subtle. Mr. Ellena is a genius.

1:06 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The only reason I can thnk of...are you a ring-bearer by any chance? LOL

Seriously though, I am sorry it doesn't agree with your chemistry. One less scent to spend money on though, right?

8:55 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh STOP! I cannot try everything, but this one just sounds too delicious for words! I only like tobacco before it ignites in most cases (nicotiana blossoms to be exact)but I do love the aroma of pipe tobacco and smoke. Must...find...this...perfume... :-)

3:18 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

This is wondrous scent for sure. I am afraid the samples are not easy to come upon, as it is only available in Hermes boutiques, but eBay would have some I am sure.

8:32 AM EST  
Blogger Caitlin Shortell said...

I like this one but people tend to have a prohibitive reaction to it. At work, people have said "Is somebody smoking a pipe?" and closed my door. Most irritating. The drydown is where it's at, with this one, I find. It attains the cashmere feel at that point.

12:11 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh wow! It has never been that smoky on me. I would have loved it even more, if that's possible, if it was smokier.

1:03 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, well, I absolutely adore AN. I usually don´t like foody scents, but it is not overtly sweet. I like the most its touch of tobacco. But..I am a huge fan of Jean-Claude Ellena, so, what is my opinion worth?

1:19 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

As you could probably tell from the post, I adore AN :-) And after AN, Ellena can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. He is a magician.

1:29 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Hummm I also bought the nice book "la monde du narguile" with (from
I'm dead. Beatrice

8:11 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That is a wonderful site, isn't it? I did not know they published a book, I will have to look for it!

9:05 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ambre Narguile is stunning. I was worried about it being too masculine, but not the case. It dried down caramel-esque.

Sadly, and I'm posting this in late 2008, you can only buy the Discovery set in the first four Hermessences.

I didn't really want Poivre Samarcande. The boutique (South Coast Plaza) would not substitute Osmanthe Yunnan for it. I am saving some money to buy the OY in either a 100ML or a four-bottle Discovery set.

10:48 PM EST  

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