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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Perfume Review: Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe, Eau Suave, Eau de Gloire, Iskander and Cuir Ottoman

Review by Tom

Luckyscent was nice enough to give me samples of the new (to them) Parfum d'Empire scents to try out, lovely fragrance pushers that they are. Since I am nothing if not an enabler, here are my impressions of the five(with links to Colombina's reviews)

Ambre Russe

Colombina reviewed this as a "a nostalgic but humorous olfactory portrait of Imperial Russia" While I would usually roll my eyes at the obviousness of notes of vodka, leather and tea in a scent named Anything Russe, I have to write that I loved this: The spikey vodka opening is quickly joined by wonderful black tea, becoming more honeyed as the scent develops. There is a very interesting middle of cumin sweetened by a slight winey note (perhaps that's the champagne), along with a wonderful smokey leather in the drydown. Oh, and the amber, you ask? Oh yes, the amber: it's pervasive and delightful, it's resinous heat weaves in and out in the wearing of it. Reading this, you might think that this is a heavy scent: it's not, at least not in the way that Ambre Sultan can be. This doesn't have the Lutens heat, this is the amber of the Tsars, not the amber of the Souks. If you have a dislike for the heaviness of the Lutens, this will definately be your cup of tea. If you're an amber junkie like me, this needs to be on your list.

Eau Suave

Colombina wrote of this as a rose scent, but to me, it never really gets to really rosy: the saffron and fruits conspire to keep the roses from becoming overwhelming. I know, usually fruit and floral in the same perfume make me want to hurt someone, but this is done so well and, well, feminine that although I can't see me wearing it I can certainly see why someone else would

Eau de Gloire

Colombina wrote of this as being substantial to the point of being at one stage cloying. I find its opening rather similar to Guerlain Imperiale (well, since it's inspired by Napoleons love of colognes, that's not surprising), before it takes off in its own rather odd direction: anise and immortelle are in there, as well as tobacco, tea and rosemary. It reads as if it should be totally overwhelming, but it's strangely subdued on me. It's "masculine" in that way that some older colognes are; it's complex, but you have to get right up into someones serious personal space to smell it. Ladies (and gents, let's not be sexist) this is the one to get your husband who says he doesn't like cologne. He'll like it, and more important you'll like it on him.


Colombina wrote of this as bracing and fresh. My first whiff of this made me do my version of Columbina's squeal of delight: a happy Spicoli-like "whoooooah". A wonderful grapefruit peel note opens it, ever so slightly candied. Tarragon joins the party as the grapefruit fades a bit, like late afternoon shadows in a citrus grove. Then a wonderful ambered musk comes in at the drydown making my credit card start to literally levitate. That is until I tried...

Cuir Ottoman

Colombina wrote that "Quite frankly, all I want to do is sit with my nose glued to my wrist, whimpering happily". I can't help but agree. This is to me everything that Santa Maria Novello's Nostalgia should have been and wasn't: it has the indolent leather and slightly brittle metallic tang that makes me think of a vintage sports car, along with a really great animal note, that along with benzoin and a slightly sweet resinousness that makes me imagine the hottie mechanic that keeps it running.

It's my fantasy, k?

All of these are available at Luckyscent for $110 for a decently-sized 100ml bottle. I doubt I will be able to stop myself from getting Cuir Ottoman by the end of the week...


Blogger Marina said...

"This is the amber of the Tsars, not the amber of the Souks" - too right! :-) I don't whether I am conditioned by the Russe in the title, but it DOES smell Russian to me. I thought about it and I think what makes it Russian is not vodka (don't really smell it there, frankly), it's honey. Mixed with incense, it somehow brings upon the scent a certain Russian-ness. :-)

11:20 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Not that I would have any first-hand knowlege of it, but for me it's that and the intensity of the amber: Ambre Sultan is amber with those particular spices, but mostly that gooey resinous heat that is almost palpable. The amber in Ambre Russe is more veiled (if I can use that phrase): it's an amber imported to and enjoyed by a lusty people who happen to live in a cold climate.

okay, time to get out the anti-hyberbole syrum

11:33 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great reviews, Tom! I have tried all of these except for Iskander, and they are certainly beautiful fragrances, none of them overpowering or too loud. The Ambre Russe, Cuir Ottoman and Eau de Gloire are my favorites. Did you get that very distinct rubber note in the opening of Cuir Ottoman too?

3:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't smelled Iskander, but I've had a gander at the others. I can't like AR, in spite of its raves, because I think I've developed an amber issue (too much time with hippies as a kid? But theat doesn't explain my patchouli love...) but I will join you in worship of CO, whether the hottie mechanic is there or not...

I hope he turns up...

*checks watch*

*feels deflated*


4:00 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Tom, couldn't sleep so I had to check out today's review. I vowed that this year I wouldn't buy anything unsniffed. However, after your review of CO, I am feeling very week and like I am losing control! Where is FA (Fragrance Anonymous) when you need it?

I was mentioning this scent a few weeks ago to a friend and she asked why they named it what they named it? I had to think for a minute and then said it out loud again. I explained that not everyone speaks English She pointed out that it sounded literally like this fragrance was named "strange couch" (at least she didn't say gay couch!). I guess no one pays attention in history anymore!

5:52 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

Hey, isn't an ottoman also a footstool? It isn't a couch! Hah!

5:54 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Tom--great reviews! I was moved by your comments to wear Cuir Ottoman today--and yes, guus, I do get a distinct rubber note at the beginning. I must stand up, though, for my beloved Notstalgia, which is quite different and a lot softer, but does, in fact, remind me of the inside of a vintage car (not a sports car, however).
Kelley--I love the strange footstool. Many here have heard this (I tend to repeat my stories), but 2 of my husband's favorite scents are Oud Cuir d'Arabie and Le Labo Vetiver. I asked him once about his favorite perfume, and he (neither a French speaker nor a perfume maven) replied, "You mean that Vetiqueer?" (I'm sure this is how he was spelling it in his head). I have been wanting that perfume ever since.

7:27 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silly me. I didn't realize that's how you pronounce "cuir". I always thought it was pronounced "cure".
Anyway, wonderful reviews, Tom. I love Ambre Russe and really like Eau Suave. I must try the strange footstool soon. I am still a novice when it comes to leather.

8:02 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Wonderful reviews! I'm a fellow amber junkie and AR makes me weak in the knees. I swear it really does remind me of Russia. And, resistence is useless, Tom - you will just have to fork over for the strange footstool by the end of the week. Oh, and I hope the hottie mechanic delivers it. To you too, Leo. :-) And Judith and Guus, I also get the rubber note at the opening of the strange footstool. Kelley, that just cracks me up! Would never have thought of that.

8:38 AM EST  
Blogger priscilla said...

Tom, you're making me wish I had worn Ambre Russe today...but wait! I *can't* wear Ambre Russe because my sample is *empty*. Hrm. I think that means I should be allowed to buy a full bottle, don't you? If people are going to talk about how wonderful this is and I can't enjoy it, I think it's grounds for spending a little cash to ease my pain.

9:38 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

I also have a set of samps from Lucky; you've reminded me I need to get busy and smell them. Great review.

9:58 AM EST  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

Awwww... Spicoli! I love Spicoli!

Amber freak that I am, I really wanted to Ambre Russe to work, but something in it -- the vodka note, I think -- went sour & sharp on me. Perhaps I should give it another try. I do love the look of those bottles -- they look like something that would have been on my Gram's dressing table.

10:58 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked Eau Suave. In fact, it's my first full bottle purchase of 2007. Although I'm pretty much a fool for any well-done rose scent, there is something about this one that is more polished than many of the others out there.

I enjoyed sampling the others in the line as well. All extremely well done in my opinion, albeit a bit more masculine than what I'd ordinarily wear.

Lovely review. It's so nice to get a sense of the fragrances from a 'he said, she said' approach.

11:03 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh gees... here we go a-gushing again... fawning over variations of cheap powders... can we say my nana's bathroom (depending on the temperature or humidity)... that's what these five rendered up for me

11:07 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


As a matter of fact I did, it was light but present. I think that's what put it over into "sports car" for me.

11:13 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


If you don't like amber, then no, AR is not for you.

I'm still waiting for him too...

11:23 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Steady on, now!

I did sort of think "Queer Ottoman" as well, but that's just where my dirty little mind wanders..

11:25 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I really liked Nostalgia, but it had the cheese-steak effect for me- it was talked up so much that it couldn't help but not live up. Also, it was extrememly fleeting on me. I did love it while it was there, though. CO was more definite, and I liked that.

11:27 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

BTW- Lily

Is BP Black Point?

11:28 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


This is a very nice leather to start with. But I'd sample first: 100 ml is a lot to get if you're not really in love in the first place.

11:29 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I might just have to. I'm in love with a strange footstool!?!

11:30 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I can see where it could put some people off: amber is tricky. I like mine a little over-the-top (the hell you say, Tom!?!). This one is only a little over for me.

11:32 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think you are not only allowed to, but compelled to.

11:33 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I would try one of the others, there might be a "whoa" moment in one of them for you.

11:35 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I liked Eau Suave: it is very well done and isn't too rosy for the rose-phobic. Every line should have one like it: the word that comes to mind is "pleasant" but that has negative associations. I do think personally that it's a little too feminine for me to wear, but if I could get people around me to wear it I'd be very happy.

11:39 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

oh dear- someone's late for their liver cleanse again...

11:41 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Um, do you mean Black Point the place, the movie, the music, or. . .? In any case, no. It's a nickname for DH. I am in the Boston area.
And I love the fact that "the cheesesteak effect" is becoming a permanent part of our vocab. I guess I'm lucky: Nostalgia is not strong on me, but it does last (and in any case, I don't mind respraying it); for some reason I find it very addictive--no clue why.

11:59 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I meant the place- for some reason I thought you were in Connecticut.

I'm really enamored with the whole cheesesteak thing. Although it is making me hungry...

If Nostalgia had lasted on me it would be on heavy rotation. It came thisclose to an instant purchase, but I decided to think about it. Then I got distraced by something shiny...

I am going to the LA Sniffa next week and one of the stores we are hitting is the one that carries it, so I will have to revisit..

12:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ambre Russe sounded so stunning, but when I tried it...ugh. Let's just say I went to a lot of frat parties in college, and I'm too familiar with the smell of vomiting students who drank bizarre mixtures of beer and spiked punch. That's what it smelled like on me.

12:17 PM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Sorry, but I am trying to figure out if the 2 Anons are the same person, and if so, why his Nana's bathroom smelled of vomiting students. . . .
I guess I'm lucky here, too; I adore Ambre Russe.

1:01 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I'd turn the "only registered users" function on, but that would prevent lovely commenters who just have no use for Blogger accounts from commenting.

Ambre Russe is a kind of scent that I think, when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong on one's skin, so the vomit association does not surprise me, even though AR works better than great for me.

However, the comparison of the 5 Empire scents to powders of all things makes me wonder if the first anonymous commenter was actually talking about the same perfumes as Tom. I just think it's Tom's admirer signing in and saying hi in his peculiar way :-)

1:08 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Anon #2-

I can almost see where that could happen with skin chemistry that doesn't work with this one. That vodka/cumin/amber bit could go os-so tragically wrong.

1:24 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think it's two different people.

Or one with a really rockin' Nana!

1:25 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I sort of eye-rolled at the powder comment as well.

But I am seriously enjoying the visual of the enabler Nana, though: "C'mon Sonny, just one more little drinkie-poo"

1:27 PM EST  
Blogger Solander said...

I adore Ambre russe and Cuir ottoman too! Haven't tried Iskander and the two Eaus were just meh. I very much doubt someone who doesn't normally like cologne will like Eau de gloire. I think a better place to start is somewhere less, uh, cologney? If someone doesn't wear perfume I say show them something recognizable, something with few notes, like a nice citrus scent or something (*cough*paulsmithstory*cough*)

1:29 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I found Iskander to be really a delight and not at all what I was expecting after trying the 3 before it.

Eau de Gloir I reccommend in a "here, honey, wear this" in the same vein as you would hand him a decent sweater or shoes that make you willing to be seen with him. In that sexist "If you look and smell nice, you will reap rewards, but in that old sweatshirt and flip-flops you ain't getting any" kind of way.

Shockingly, that is not just a female/male dynamic.

2:04 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Thanks! I try to find new things, but I have come to the conclusion that the only way that is going to happen is if Columbina really didn't care for it. (she seems not to write about ones that are meh for her, which is likely good karma)

I am resigned to the fact that I will always be behind her (and several others) on that sweetly-scented curve

2:09 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

..."If you look and smell nice, you will reap rewards, but in that old sweatshirt and flip-flops you ain't getting any" kind of way."...

- somewhere Mr. C. is reading this and nodding his head sadly...

2:16 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


But really, what is that about? I've had girlfriends SigOthers bitc5 high and low to me about this and I just have to ask: are you happier in flip-flops and not getting any? It's not like you have to wear a pair of Jimmy Choos!

2:43 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes... i'm a different anon... and yes they smelled of powders to me... ALL of them... and worse were those uncompromising associations which were totally off putting... so yeah i despised that line... in particular eau de gloire (the scent of freshly mopped tiles!)... i'm quite antioxidant saavy so a "liver cleanse" seems a bit much... sorry to strip the bride bare but i call 'em as i see 'em (as do you)... so again - essential "memories" of my nana's bathroom !

4:45 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am sorry. It was a grumpy morning (aren't they all?). And I can actually relate to "the scent of freshly mopped tiles" in regards to Gloire. On a good day, the first 2/3rds of it are tolerable on me, on a bad day it smells like you described.

4:49 PM EST  
Blogger carmencanada said...

I'm so sorry I can't get the Parfums d'Empire... Like Lee, I have amber issues and that's what Ambre Russe becomes after its initial, boozy spicy blast: amber. Cuir Ottoman, which I only tried once, was a wonderfully complex scent but a little too directly evocative of a stable for me to consider wearing it. I shall, however, give it another go at some point, to see if it was just a case of sniffing confusion day.

4:58 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Mopped tile I can sort of see (smell). Still don't get the powder, though.

What lines do you like? You have the descriptive chops, clearly. I'd like to read some reviews of things you do like. Really.

I do a cleanse once a year. Amazing how much better I feel afterwards.

4:59 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Like I wrote, I can see how these can go wrong on someone. That's why I like Luckyscent's sampling program. I'd hate to pop $110 for 100 mls of one of these and get vomit-flecked frat boy.. (shudder)

5:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eep, sorry, I'm the anonymous with the frat party associations. I guess I wasn't fully caffeinated when I posted and didn't notice that I had selected "anonymous" instead of my usual "other." I really just need to stop being lazy and sign up for a Blogger account.

But yeah, Ambre Russe + Amy = BAD. I'm so jealous of the people it works on.

5:09 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

don't be sorry, blogger is a bugger and a bother. I wish that, like many other blogging platforms, it just allowed to post comments if one simply entered an email address.
As for AR, as I said above, I can see how it would go very, very wrong if it clashes with one's chemistry.

5:21 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

T and M -- the reason I hate blogger is it hates me -- I SWEAR, it gives me verifications like "dummasx" or "yurstupd" in almost illegible type, before I've even had my coffee.

I would prefer "skankhorr"


6:55 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The blogger is so immature, and in teen-speak it means it luuurves you. If it could, it would pull at your hair :-)

7:01 PM EST  
Blogger Gaia said...

I'm wearing Eau Suave today, and funny enough not only does it not smell rosy on my skin, the saffron and spice are so dominant that they beat the fruit into submission. So much so, that my husband expressed interest in trying it himself.

I loved both Ambre and Cuir. I'm so going to buy both. I should just have a direct deposit for Luckyscent. It would make things simpler.

10:14 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think blogger has directly insulted me more than once. Like now- crckvhl. Whatchu talking bout Willis?!?

10:29 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Luckyscent. Luckyscent. I love them, I hate them. Worse for me, they are only a little more than a mile away, and on my home from work.

10:33 PM EST  
Blogger Solander said...

Tom - Ah yes, but for that purpose I'd try to find something he'd (or in my case she) really appreciate, not just wear for my sake or for the benefits... I'd start out with something simple and likeable, the kind of scent that makes a person say "It smells just like a freshly squeezed lemon/apple pie/cut grass/a pine forest!" From there, I'd move to the heavier stuff, like cologney colognes (provided I liked them, I guess I'm biased)

It seems I have to try Iskander... After trying 4 out of 5 it's more or less a must...

11:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I confess I'm an Eau de Gloire gal. Love the stuff. It reminds me of a vacation on Corsica, bathing in the buff in ice-cold rivers (if you stood under the mini-waterfall, the icy water bubbled back up around you like an Arctic jacuzzi), camping among the smells of the macchia with all it's spicy-smelling plant-life, and so on and so forth. Evocative, different, plain weird, and lovely. The others - nice, but I haven't come to love them. Yet.

11:36 AM EST  

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