Citrus may not be a word you associate with amber. If you don’t I won’t blame you. The word amber itself is complicated since in the perfume world it can mean one of three things 1) the sea soaked upchuck of whales who have eaten too many tiny shrimp 2) the fossilized tree amber from long dead forests or 3) a mixture of labdanum and vanilla.
It is the third of these definitions that most of us come into contact with since definitions nos 1& 2 are either outrageously expensive or hard to source or both at once. So for our purposes amber = labdanum + vanilla and the proportions vary. Generally it is a lot more labdanum and not too much vanilla or else your amber becomes stickily sweet. I think there are so many ambers in commerce, that each amber enthusiast ends up finding their own preferred brand.
You can add amber to all sorts of things to get all sorts of effects, but the one I am concerned with this time is citrus, because it makes amber wearable even in August. Because I am a dreadful cheapskate, I make my own which features a great deal of bergamot, but for people with a high quality standards, the best choices are classics namely: KL Homme, Habit Rouge, Mouchoir de Monsieur or else if you like this genre and insist on greater femininity, Agnes B’s Courant d’Air, which actually translates as a breath of fresh air. OK, a draft, but the first translation is the more flattering one.
This particular subset of ambers is one that many people forget about because amber is supposed to be such a wintertime thing. You put on a an overcoat and you put on an amber perfume, but infact, this little subset exists and just like citrus chypres, they lighten up what would otherwise be quite a heavy genre.
Of all of these my own preference is still for Habit Rouge. If you are a Guerlainophile, HR will smell like Shalimar for men to you, and that is not such a bad thing. I find Habit Rouge wearable year round, but think it is a touch better on women. Come to think of it HR is one of the very best of the unisex Guerlains, but until you wear it for yourself, this can be a bit counter intuitive. Trust me, Habit Rouge is not heavily masculine, even if Keith Richards wore it.
Mouchoir de Monsieur (which I wore for a couple of years) is great good fun, but you must love civet. If you balked at Joy because of the civet content, you will soon do the same with this scent. I had to let it go because of that feature. Still, if you love amber, look for
one of these old chestnuts, or if you are adventurous, seek out one of the niche brands that blends amber with a citrus accord. There are several out there, but one of the more reliable is Intitut Tres Bien’s Cologne a la Russe. If you are more rose and grapefruit centric, then the better choice is Lubin’s Grisette, though that is weighed down in its midsection by a heavy amber synthetic. Both have sprightly top notes and rather floral hearts though Grisette is all about the rose, and A la Russe is more about tonka bean. The surprising point here is that you really cannot go far wrong.