(picture from the Bond No.9 blog)
This review is long overdue.
Bond No.9 Harrods Amber came out the week of my birthday, nearly two months ago. I am admittedly dealing with a decidedly large backlog of products I need to review, so I suppose I can forgive myself for being so late with this write-up.
Also, I had some trouble formulating an opinion on Harrods Amber. It’s not that I don’t like it. I quite enjoy it. I just...don’t like it on me. This is one of the first times I wear a decidedly unisex, totally ‘Joey-esque’ fragrance and decide that it would actually be better on a man than on me.
Where do I start? Harrods Amber is a chypre, and a strange one at that.
(An aside: For those that don’t know, a chypre is a fragrance structure composed of a citrusy top, a floral middle, and an earthy/animalic/mossy base.)
Staring at the ever-handy Bond pyramid of notes, I know that this fragrance should be categorized as a woody-aromatic chypre.
I just don’t smell that on me. Can I invent a new chypre? The “scrubby-clean” chypre. That’s Harrods Amber.
The initial spray brings forth a very sharp, icy bergamot. There is none of the spices Bond No.9 says I should be smelling: none of that baked warmth of nutmeg, none of the bazaar-bright saffron, and only maybe the smallest hint of peppercorn. I’ll give it that - there is an ever-so-slight pep to the top notes that doesn’t come from the bergamot. The mid-notes are evident on first spritz as well: a wildly blooming rose and osmanthus. I never quite reach the jasmine that I read is there. As the dry down approaches the osmanthus keeps blooming, a trail of bergamot behind it. That gardenia-ish, sweet smell never dissipates.
Now, for the base notes - musk, myrrh, oud, sandalwood, amber, and benzoin tears usually make for something very sultry, very sexy, very skin-like. I adore amber for the powdery warmth it lends fragrance, and I can never get enough musk.
I’m wondering what kind of musk was used in Harrods Amber; I’m guessing it was a more floral, fresh musk (as opposed to my much beloved, more animalic musk). There’s nothing animalic about the drydown of this fragrance: the drydown is fresh. The only other base note that really stands out to my nose is the sandalwood - the drydown is as bright as the top notes, just in a slightly tempered down way. There is only the barest woodiness, but none of the resinous quality I’d expect from something with oud and benzoin tears. There’s also none of that luscious powderiness I get from amber and myrrh.
Bizarre, right? I honestly did not know what to make of Harrods Amber. I wore it for a few days and couldn’t make sense of it...and then, I went out one night with my Texan.
My Texan is a dear male friend of mine who looks as ruggedly handsome as you could imagine a man from Texas to be. Standing next to him in a packed bar, I couldn’t help but notice how nice he smelled. He didn’t smell like anything specific; he just smelled good. As the night progressed, I realized that he smelled inherently familiar. It wasn’t just one of those perceptual memories, an “Ah, this smell reminds me of this night” sort of deal. This was a “This smells like an actual object that if I wasn’t so full of gin, I would be able to place.”
Eventually, it hit me. He smelled like Harrods Amber! Could it be that Bond No.9 manage to bottle the scent of one of my closest friends, one responsible for many cherished memories? I decided, then, that Harrods Amber was a winner if only for that reason. Yes, I don’t think it’s suitable on me as a fragrance, but as a memory marker, oh yes, it works quite well.
It gets trickier, though: the Texan does not wear cologne. So, what the hell made him smell so good? I actually thought at one point that maybe I had leaned into him too much, and my scent rubbed off on him. I wasn’t wearing Harrods Amber, though. The smell was uniquely his.
Fast forward to the next morning: I am asleep on the Texan’s couch (a good friend is one who will let you sleep in his apartment). When I woke up, my first thought was “Search his medicine cabinets!” - I had to figure out what made him smell like Harrods Amber.
As soon as I opened his shower, I saw it.
I should have known: the bracing, biting, citrusy-fresh smell that mellows out into a fresher, but slightly warmer fragrance - the smell of Harrods Amber - came from the Texan’s bar of Irish Spring soap.
I giggled all the way home. And sprayed myself silly with Harrods Amber as soon as I walked into my bedroom.
Ah, to smell the memories of a ridiculous night out!
Can I recommend this? Well, like I said - I don’t like this on me per se, but I like the smell, if that makes sense. It smells like my friend and that’s enough to win a seal of approval. However, if I didn’t have that emotional connotation with the fragrance I don’t think I would wear it. The fragrance is just too inherently masculine and too clean for my preferences - something I never really thought I’d ever say. The right woman might be able to pull this off, but any man could make this work.
Bond No.9 Harrods Amber retails for $230USD for a 1.7oz bottle and $310USD for a 3.4oz bottle, and is available at Harrods and at Bond No.9s NYC boutiques (and their respective websites).