New Perfume Review Van Cleef & Arpels Ambre Imperial- Crème Brulee for the Soul

There is a popular series of books called “Chicken Soup for the Soul” where editors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen collect inspirational essays. The title is obvious as chicken soup is a well-known curative straight from a family recipe. In my family we had nobody who was adept at making chicken soup. What I had was dessert makers and when I needed something from the kitchen to pick me up it was a dessert. One of my favorites was, and is, crème brulee. It is still how I judge a great restaurant; if they can’t cap off my dinner with an exceptional version then it will always be lacking in my book. There are not a lot of perfume versions of the dessert but the new Van Cleef & Arpels Ambre Imperial might be the best.


Ambre Imperial is part of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire and is the tenth release for this exclusive collection. If I have had an issue with this collection it is that it has played it a bit too safe. The quality of ingredients has been there but they are often put to very standard uses. Orchidee Vanille was my favorite because it was a perfect evocation of freshly made vanilla ice cream straight from the churn. The sheer beauty of the vanilla matched with the floralcy of the orchid it comes from is what I wanted from a collection labeled extraordinary. Amber Imperial asks perfumer Quentin Bisch to create a different type of vanilla, something classic. Ambre Imperial is that crème brulee with a solid shell of amber lying on top of it.

Quentin Bisch

Quentin Bisch

M. Bisch opens Ambre Imperial with a typical flourish of bergamot made piquant by the presence of baie rose. It is nothing more than a momentary fillip towards the real business of Ambre Imperial which comes with a warm deeply satisfying amber accord. M. Bisch then uses benzoin to turn it into that hard fluid shell which coats the top of any good version of crème brulee. The vanilla comes to the foreground and while the amber and benzoin still have the floor it creates a caramel accord which eventually transitions into a solid vanilla base. The vanilla is supported by the toasty quality of tonka bean. The tonka reminds me of the black flecks of real vanilla pods I see in the best things featuring vanilla. It adds a sense of depth with its presence.

Ambre Imperial has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Amber Imperial is probably the most straight forward composition of M. Bisch’s career so far. Which is a good thing because while I appreciate his sense of adventure there is a point at the end of the day that I want my favorite sense-based artists to soothe me with something simple but rich. With Ambre Imperial M. Bisch has crafted crème brulee for my soul.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Neiman Marcus.

Mark Behnke