Balmain: Ambre Gris

Balmain ambre gris

This perfume took me awhile to track down, partly because I only know of three places in Norway that currently sells it. So it was a big surprise for me when a store in Tromsø that i had visited before suddenly had it. Finally I could get my hands on a scent I had been searching for the last two years.

Of course I knew of sites online that stocked it but I had hesitated ordering since the price for the perfume+shipping+customs would be too expensive for me and also the risks of transport damage made it unappealing.

This perfume was released in march 2008 by Pierre Balmain and was composed by Guillame Flavigny.

It comes in two sizes: 75 ml or 100 ml.

Prices ranges depending if you order it online or in store. I bought 75 ml and the price was around 700-800 norwegian kroner or 82,85-94,69 us dollar. Of course prices will also differ between countries, in Norway cosmetics has a tendency to be expensive and that goes for drugstore variants too. But even thoug this was a splurge in my budget, when I divided the price for the amount of perfume and compared it to my other perfumes whom I had done the same with, the price is actually not that bad.

Some of my other perfumes might have had a lower price tag but for the amount I got in those compared to Ambre gris, some ended up costing more.

In other words this perfume is what I would consider good value.


Now here is what confuses me and many others with this perfume.


The official page lists the following notes:

Top notes are pink berries and sage.

Heart notes are tuberose, frangipani, myrrh essence and incense.

Base notes are grey amber infusion, benzoin, tonka beans and cedarwood. lists the following notes:

Top notes are pink pepper, benzoin, cinnamon and myrrh.

Heart notes are tuberose and immortelle.

Base notes are benzoin, guaiac wood, white musk and amber gris.


Personally I trust the manufacturer and I feel that those notes describe the scent better.


The packaging

The bottle is formed as a cube, feels sturdy and heavy, bonus for that the glass is slightly grey coloured as it provides a bit of protection from light but also adds someting to the concept.

The label on the bottle has a vintage feel to it, it is simple and does not take too much of the overrall impression.

The top is a golden ball with small inwards “cuts” to it. Some has described it as a disco ball and hated it but I’m more neutral to it. But the other day the sun shone on it and there were small golden flecks of light everywhere, I’d really wish I had taken a photo of it so I could post it here.

The box it comes in is plain and with the same label as that on the bottle.

All in all I think this understated elegance and sophistication combined with a sense of nostalgia, perfectly helps with the overall  concept of  Ambre gris and it will look good on your beauty desk.


The fragrance itself

One thing I’ve noticed with Ambre gris is that people are very divided on what to think of it. Some absolutely love it and others despise it entirely, very few are neutral to it or thinks it is an average perfume.

Of course as always with scents there are individual tendencies such as skin chemistry and personal taste, then there are always some scents which suits most and others which is perhaps for the more specific kind of people.

My advice is to get a sample of it and try it out. This is a perfume that really smells different on people who wear it, not something to blind buy in other words but something you have to spritz on and experience  before making a decision.

Therefore I will put a disclaimer here and say that I will describe how Ambre Gris is on my skin and how it was on my friends skin. On you it might be completely different but I just want to showcase how this perfume transforms on people.


On my skin:

The first spritz give a very spicy and herbalistic scent which lasts for around five minutes, after this Amber Gris starts the dry down where it becomes more complex as more and more of the notes starts to show and mix.

On me it is an animalistic scent with marine undertones, both warm and cold at the same time but also having both feminine and masculine qualities. Neither of these contradicting characteristics clash with each other but rather builds each other up.

During the dry down, the smoky notes such as the myrrh and incense creates a beautiful background for the florals and the amber gris infusion. Some bits of the sage stays but the pink berries fades away.

For me it is very nostalgic since it reminds me of my childhood living by the coast. There is something very comfortable with it while also being far from what normally would be considered as a comfortable scent.

It also feels very intimate as the sillage of it on me is soft, it sort of wraps itself close to my skin like a blanket. This can either be a good or bad thing depending on the setting, for me this means I can use Amber Gris on most occasions but not on days where I really want to get noticed. Of course it is a good thing that people won’t still be smelling me two hours after I’ve left or get a headache. My boyfriend said that he had to lean in close to smell any definite scent.

But again Ambre Gris is contradicting, because even after nine hours some friends told me they noticed it on me.

So the sillage does not bother me at all because I think that might have been what the perfumer thought of when concocting Amber Gris, that it is first and foremost an intimate, elegant but contradicting scent.

It is difficult to determine it’s longevity because it is very different from every time I try it on. Sometimes it lasts for hours and other times only two hours.


On my friends skin:

Cheap soap and more soap with a sickly sweetness to it. Those were the first words both of us said after she spritzed it on.

The drydown turned into a putrid mess mixed with wood.

It was on her skin for  fifteen minutes before she had to take a cloth and wash it off, it was not pleasant and I was a bit dissapointed that a perfume I had raved about did not suit her. Especially since she had loved how it smelled from the bottle and on me.



I can’t repeat it enough but please try a sample of this before you buy it. I’ve heard of many people who bought it based on the notes online or when they smelled it out of the bottle at a store, ending up severely disappointed and feeling that they have wasted money.

But if it suits you and you like it then it is worth the splurge.

It is a very versatile perfume in my opinion since it is suitable to most ages, most occasions and  it is also not that dependent on season, perhaps better when the weather is on the colder side, but then again I live in Tromsø and I know that even the summer up here can be freezing.

But I feel that Amber Gris could be migraine inducing in humid hot weather.

This might sound strange but I have a feeling that Amber Gris is more of a unisex perfume than a feminine. It is leaning towards feminine but I think that there are men out there that could pull it off.

I also feel that it could work for layering.

I feel that for me this was worth the money and I will buy it again.


I would love to hear your opinion, if you do layering I’m very interested to hear what you layer it with.