18 February 2011

On L'Eau Ambrée and the Duty-Free Doldrums

I’m sitting in LaGuardia airport (waiting for a flight to Atlanta) with a duty-free spray of Prada’s L’Eau Ambrée on my left wrist. This is an interesting coincidence because of two things: 1) My reluctance to take advantage of duty free airport shops as a legitimate point of purchase for fragrance, and 2) my mixed feelings about the work of Daniela Andrier, Prada’s go-to perfumer for the past several years.

Yes, I am a snob. Even while recognizing that, for most people, buying a bottle of perfume from a duty free shop wouldn’t be terribly different from buying the same bottle from Saks (or even, god forbid, Sephora), I’ll invariably choose the latter. To me at least, the difference between strolling among two thousand-dollar handbags and being constantly jostled by layover zombies in Juicy sweats is appreciable, if not earth-shattering.

Likewise, Daniela Andrier’s work for Prada bears a certain tension between the genuine artistic skill it takes to create a recognizable olfactory signature like that shared among Prada’s Infusion series on one hand, and the take-no-prisoners intention toward plain wearability -- or rather, sell-ability -- on the other. 

Case in point -- L’Eau Ambrée seems of a feather with Infusion d’Iris, Infusion d’Homme, et al in terms of its cool, translucent and silky texture. And the achievement of that texture is what impresses me most, given what constitutes the core on which it rests. What I smell is a simple powdery white floral accord, clean musk and synthetic ambergris, pretty much linear from start to finish. Or, in other words, salted caramel with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  

How do you make salted caramels smell cool, translucent and silky? That’s Daniela Andrier’s genius.

How do people react to the smell of caramel, whether or not they’re aware of the artifice that created it? That’s how Prada makes a killing.

Prada L’Eau Ambrée is not outrageously expensive and available in many, many places.