DIRTY WEEKEND : COBALT AMBER by ABEL (2016)

Heavy rain puts a beautiful barrier between you and the outside world. Curtained off by sheets of water and winds as the typhoon passes over but doesn’t actually hit, you are lagooned in your home with an extra layer of protection from what lies beyond, the most perfect feeling after a week of physical and psychological exertion. Lost in the cinema room, shutters on the windows – the air outside dark and livid green grey, we had an afternoon matinee of England Is Mine; a biographical film based on the life of Morrissey, miserabilist poet and singer of The Smiths; more rain and gloom down the Victorian canals of Manchester as the icon barely just survived his depressed pre-fame days stuck in jobs at the Inland Revenue and as a cleaner at the local hospital; a double compounding of dankness and rain that equated a positive – a blocking out of filth; a purification.


We started following this with a film from Ireland, ‘Cured’, about the partial rehabilitation of zombies after a psychosis-causing and murderous plague (sound familiar?); these still nightmare-stricken individuals’ attempts -re-introduction into society after the discovery of a vaccine, but it was a little too grim; a tad too close to the bone; so we switched to a romantic coming-of-age film by Francis Ford Coppola – The Outsiders, from 1983, based on the novel by S.E Hinton; pomaded, jacketed young hoods in Oklahoma trouble, straight from a Smiths cover. Stark, beautiful, the looming, figures in their bleak town at night desperately trying to stir up a reason for living, this segued perfectly with England Is Mine. Drinking red wine in the dark, we both felt that we had been beautifully dipped into a dream.

I was, and am wearing, a pure vetiver essential oil as I write this; one I discovered in a local aromatherapy shop, and a scent I now consider to be my perfect perfume. Viscous and rough at first (for the first minute or so), it then melds with my body in the most pleasingly natural way imaginable – cool, mysterious, earthy and woody, but constantly changing; a natural adaptogen. These last few weekends I have actually not washed nor showered – sometimes for two or three days in a row; very unlike me. Instead, I have just applied vetiver oil all over, in carefully orchestrated measures and places, and then worn the same clothes for days and just relaxed and luxuriated into myself; sensing the smell rise up now and then (D really loves it on me) in all its deep-grassed greenness and cool sagacity. During the week I am always meticulously clean; I enjoy the procedures; the lemon soap, the right shampoos, the carefully chosen washing powders for my clothes, but sometimes I sense an abrasion, that my skin and my organism needs a break. And filthy I may be (in some people’s eyes) – but smelling into my undershirt right now I am liking what I smell ; we have melded. The vetiver oil is present and has become part of me.

Is it possible that wholly natural perfumes and preparations have an edge sometimes, when you are feeling overloaded? Sometimes I do feel so. A lot of things that I get sent to smell are unpleasantly chemical; alien, and when I am in home-mode I instinctively recoil from them as fashionist intrusions. Sometimes I want to return to something more organic. Finishing the Coppola after dinner, I felt like an addition to my scent, a top-up, and reached for Dutch all-natural perfumery Abel’s Cobalt Amber. A fresh, spritzy opening aside (pink pepper, cardamom and juniper berries), the part that I am less keen on, the perfume quickly subsides into a eminently wearable, simple, and gorgeous skin amber; all labdanum, tonka bean, peru balsam and a touch of cacao that is not heavy, not too sweet, but has a persistent gossamer lightness to it that lingers pleasingly on the skin. Ambers can be very ‘involved’; I feel that you must be committed to wearing one for the day (or let’s just admit it – the perfume wears you); the additional conceptual additions – Ambre Russe, by Parfums D’Empire, say, all caviar and vodka and Trans-Siberian Express and fitted train carriages; the glinting, extra ingredients much more suited to dressing up, going out; displaying yourself for the sake of other people. For staying in, and the much needed interiorizing and containment of privacy, sometimes just skin and natural essences are good. With vetiver surrounding and soothing me with its quiet masculinity, the ambered textures of this perfume; gentle, fluffed; contented and innocent, took me to the necessary, soft-padded edges of my own cocoon.

33 Comments

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33 responses to “DIRTY WEEKEND : COBALT AMBER by ABEL (2016)

  1. Z

    What a cozy and beloved feeling you’ve captured here, so simply. That kind of cloistered peace is enviable. Ambers are my first love.

    • It doesn’t come without a fight. But I do feel lucky to have access to this kind of feeling – and not rarely.

      I love ambers too, but can’t always ‘deal’ with them, if you know what I mean. Do you know this one? It is not ‘stunning’, but is PERFECT if you just want to have that cosy warmth without all the drama.

      • Z

        I don’t know this one, yet. You’re definitely onto something regarding ambers wearing the wearer, I sought out them out at a time I wanted to seem more mysterious and beyond my years; intentionally fabricating some different personality.

        I finally ordered your book!! Cannot wait.

      • Oh good. I hope you find it absorbing !

  2. Tara C

    That perfume sounds wonderful. I smelled a few of the line but not that one. I would love to crawl into a cocoon and emerge in 10 days at home in San Diego. Not looking forward to what I actually have to face.

    • Oh god. Please do feel free to vent here if it is the right thing for you to do, and I will try to help you!

      This perfume might ACTUALLY be a good scent though for traumatic occasions. I only have a sample, but wouldn’t mind a full bottle – I love the EASE of it; the peppered bullshit disappears almost immediately, and then you just have a dependable niceness. Sometimes you just need that softness, post-bath, near to bedtime etc – when the scent quickly goes where you need it to go to.

    • Plus: are you really going from Canada to San Diego?

      • Tara C

        We are still packing, tomorrow we start loading the car, then the packers come Tuesday to pack all the dishes, art & fragile items, Wednesday the truck gets loaded and I clean the flat, Thursday we start on the 52 hour drive from Montréal to California. We are going to San Francisco for 4 days to visit my parents, then south to San Diego where we spend the winter every year at my husband’s house. Then in April we drive north to British Columbia to look for a new flat, hoping at some point the place in Montréal sells, so we have the money to buy a house in BC. The next year will be filled with uncertainty.

        I checked the local shop here in Montréal, it says $195 CAD for 50mls. However the stockist in San Diego is showing $70 USD, but mls are not specified, I am wondering if it’s a smaller bottle? The Abel US site is showing $195 USD, making the Canadian price actually cheaper.

      • You like the sound of this? It is definitely soothing – if nothing avant-garde.

        It sounds like you might need some calming scents though – none of what you are describing here sounds very relaxing !

        I really hope it goes well for you and that the sun in San Diego does you some good.

  3. Bastet

    It’s raining here in VA as well and I’ve been cocooning all weekend in Kenzo Flower- your Kenzo post inspired me to bring it out of storage (haven’t worn it for several years) and it’s been a perfect powdery comfort so I thank you.

  4. Robin

    That atmosphere is palpable.

    Just what I needed to read. I like the idea of a cozy withdrawal into other worlds, others’ experiences, wrapped up in your own very personal blanket of scent that is you together with a kind of idealized you. I can imagine those days of vetiver layers, then the amber melding. I feel the same about amber and its involved aspect and I can see it working as the ultimate single layer on top of that compressed torte of body scent and vetiver oil. Comfortable.

    I haven’t yet met an amber I love unreservedly. An ambercentric composition on its own is a bit leaden, fat, dull yet intrusive. I think the closest to an amber love isn’t a full-fledged amber: Vol de Nuit, where the impression of golden brown amber (in vintage), of rich vanilla over dry labdanum in its depths, is tempered by the fresher, upper layers of earth and green. Now I think of it, earth and green can describe vetiver too, so there really is a strong parallel between these two experiences.

    It is pouring rain here this morning and your post feels perfectly attuned.

    • So glad it matched your own atmosphere.

      And about ambers :

      Vol De Nuit – yes yes yes ; the base note IS amber on me, in the most divinely way imaginable ; like 19, one of the few perfumes ( for anyone else reading this, categorically only in vintage, and in the extrait), that keeps getting better as the day goes on. So good it’s almost too much to handle.

      • Robin

        Yes, isn’t it? I wish there were gallons and gallons of vintage Vol de Nuit parfum around for dirt cheap. Instead, it’s discouragingly rare and getting rarer, and anything but cheap. No 19 too now. Why must I fall in love with these things and not, say, Chance Eau Tendre or whatever. Cruel world!

      • Chance…. Can you imagine the roboticizing, lobotomizing effect ?

      • Chance…. Can you imagine the roboticizing, lobotomizing effect ?

        I know many people enjoy Coco Mademoiselle etc, and the scents are perfectly targeted for consumers, but for me personally, Modern Chanel is in some ways the very worst. Unstomachable.

      • Robin

        Too bloody clearly. Eek!!!! Perfect description.

        It’s kind of sad that popular things can be so mediocre. That people sort of begin and end with something so mind-numbing. Same with all sorts of things.

      • Robin

        True confession. Call me crazy (or lobotomized) but I do love many of the original Chanels and modern Les Exclusifs. C’est la vie, I guess.

      • Les Exclusifs — no probs; and even current Nos are pleasing – I actually actively prefer current No 5 for example.

        It’s that Chanel ‘patchouli’ I despise. DESPISE! I would rather die than wear a single drop of Coronandel : Mademoiselle makes me feel physically uncomfortable, made worse by the unfathomable gurning of Keira Knightley

      • Robin

        The lower end popular Chanels set my teeth on edge. I remember having Chance years and years ago when it first came out. When a young friend said she loved it, I was delighted to be able to give it away. I also had Allure Sensuelle at one point. Again, I had to give it away. As you say, that Chanel patchouli just made me queasy. It’s the one I think that’s in Coco Mademoiselle, especially the Intense version. It makes me want to run in the opposite direction. Very, very popular, so we’re in the (righteous) minority.

        And yet, although I don’t like the original Coromandel EdT — cloying and sweet in the way Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur is — I find the new Coromandel EdP a whole different ball game. It’s a different patchouli, is all I can say. I love it and it’s one of Ric’s favourites on me, and there aren’t a whole ton relative to my collection, so I can’t argue with that. It’s much leaner, drier, more balanced. I think you’ve probably been so turned off Chanel patchouli that you haven’t sniffed it . . . ?

      • I think you might be right. I mean I do sometimes cursorily sniff them in the department store near where I work,but without spraying it on, which I would never do, I would never get to find out what the base note is actually like.

      • Robin

        Well then I dare ya.

  5. I thought I was the only one who found modern Chanel banal & loathsome. Not only the rank patchouli but there’s a musk Chanel uses that is obnoxious and cloying.
    Abel’s Cobalt Amber sounds faulous for Fall.

  6. Katy

    So let me ask a what may seem a silly question. What distillation is your beloved vetiver oil? The regular steam distillation EO is the consistency of molasses and it does not really work well in my diffuser or when I try to add it to unscented moisturizer. So are you just dabbing it around or diluting it with a carrier oil? I am almost thinking of investing in a vetiver hydrasol and seeing if that works better in the diffuser and in moisturizers? I bet you smell heavenly…..

    • This one is just a simple Indonesian vetiver straight essential oil from a Japanese chain aromatherapist, it is a little thick, but nothing like molasses – I don’t like carrier oils

      The initial impression is a little ‘rough’, but much less so than many I have tried, but I do literally just wear it straight as a perfume : very light dabs on facial hair is particularly nice ( so you might have to grow a beard). I think it smells better than any niche vetiver, though I don’t mind topping it up with some Ermenegildo Zegna Haitian Vetiver if I am going out

  7. Cocooning is a glorious thing, and ambers are just perfect for it. I have never smelt the Able one, but I do have quite a milieu of ambers to choose from; Miitzah from Christian Dior being a favorite.
    I have to agree with everyone on the more modern Chanel creations, they just dont do it for me. I like some of Les Exclusifs, but enjoyed them more before the tinkered with them and made them all EdP concentrations.
    This is why I am continuously stocking my backup bottles with vintage finds, I just can’t run down to the stockist and replace my beloved scents. Some have been discontinued for over half a decade at least. What’s a vintage perfume lover to do?

    • Do exactly what you are doing and amass a collection of divinity. It really is a spiritually healthy thing to be doing considering the bombastic vulgarity and ugly brutality of the times.

      I PRAY that after election day you will wake up and the nightmare will be over; take a shower, survey thy collection, breathe a delicious sigh of pleasure, and gravitate towards the best beauty possible.

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