What is an amber/oriental fragrance?
When the summer months draw to a close and the cold weather begins to settle in, oriental or amber scents tend to be perfect fall and winter colognes. “Amber” fragrances, also referred to as “oriental” fragrances, blend sensuality and warmth to deliver intoxicating colognes. Even though this is a pretty large and varied fragrance class, all ambers have an aura that’s unmistakable.
What’s the history of amber fragrances?
The history of amber scents is as old as the history of fragrance itself. Incense, one of the earliest fragrance vehicles, qualifies as an amber scent. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Romans all made incense using resins, balsams, and spices. This combination of ingredients created scents that were very similar to some of the amber fragrances we have today.
Guerlain gets credit for the releasing the first modern amber perfume, Shalimar, in 1921. To create the amber scent, Guerlain used vanillin, a synthetic molecule. The molecule hadn’t been used widely before, and its unique scent made waves in the fragrance world. With the introduction of vanillin, amber officially became an established fragrance family.
What notes do amber fragrances use?
Amber fragrances combine scents of vanilla, animals, and florals. To bring in the animalic fragrances, parfumiers use ambergris or labdanum, while the vanilla scent comes from vanilla or tonka bean. Flowers or woodsy scents provide the floral dimension. Oftentimes, amber fragrances also contain camphorous oils and incense resins reminiscent of the Middle East and the Far East.
The subgroups within amber fragrances are fougere, spicy and woody. “Fougere orientals,” as they’re generally referred to, contain a top note of fern, typically composed of lavender, coumarin, and oak moss. Spicy orientals use nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, or cardamom to add spice and another dimension of warmth to a traditional amber. In woody orientals, patchouli, sandalwood, or vetiver emphasize the fragrance’s vanilla notes.
This is a deep, rich fragrance family that’s definitely worth your time, especially if you’re looking to build out your cold weather fragrance collection. See some our favorite amber colognes below to get you started. Please note, by the nature of the scent, most of these run more towards evening usage.
5 Best Smelling Oriental Colognes for Men
Best Casual Oriental:
YSL's Opium for Men EDT is a Oriental Spicy fragrance. It's got a relatively clean and sweet scent. If you're new to this type of fragrance, it's a good starter as it doesn't feel as heavy as some in this category do. It could also be used during the day. It was launched in 1995 and created by Jacques Cavalier. Fragrance notes include vanilla, ginger, pepper, and cedar. Great longevity and projection — lasts about 7 hours, good for the cooler months. Comes in a 3.3oz spray.
Best Classic Oriental:
Jaipur Homme is revered for its evolutionary nature and its versatility. This is one of those rare fragrances where you can smell almost every note. Jaipur opens with a citrus freshness, with notes of lime, bergamot, lemon, and cardamom. It then evolves to a floral middle, with notes of cinnamon, jasmine, rose, and – the star of the show – carnation. Its base of tonka bean, patchouli, benzoin, and cedar give it a base of warm spiciness. Jaipur is surprisingly light for an amber fragrance. It also comes in an EDP version that sits slightly heavier on the skin.
Best Night Out Oriental:
Launched in 1986, Obsession for Men is a classic amber fragrance that exudes warmth. Imagine the feeling of wrapping a scarf around your neck or sitting next to a roaring fireplace on a cold day, and that’s the feeling you get when you wear this cologne. Obsession has a subtle burst of citrus notes at the top, which then gives way to a warm spiciness that dominates the rest of the scent. The citrus burst comes from top notes of tangerine, grapefruit, lime, and bergamot; the middle becomes much spicier, with notes of lavender, nut, coriander, and warm cinnamon; the base includes carnation, warm patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, benzoin, vanilla, and amber.
Best Date Night Oriental:
Pi combines the soft scents of vanilla, honey, and almond to create a warm, sensual fragrance. At first, Pi gives off an overly powdery scent, but wait thirty minutes and you’ll get a perfectly harmonized blend of subtle sweetness and warmth. The most dominant notes in this fragrance are vanilla, almond, benzoin, and tonka bean, but subtler notes of tarragon, mandarin, rosemary, and basil give this scent a softer touch than your typical amber. Actually, its softness encourages many people to use it as a unisex fragrance. But, don’t think about wearing Pi with a jeans and t-shirt — this scent deserves a more formal occasion.