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An old De Laire base (much probably reformulated today).

This base was created in the 20’s (1915-1926?) by the French company De Laire. In the 1939 de Laire’s ‘Notice des produits pour la parfumerie’ (a perfumery products catalog for their customers) the Amber 83 is described as follows:

“Produit de choix pour les notes orientales et parfums ambrés très aimés aujourd’hui.

Sa finesse, alliée à beaucoup de puissance et de ténacité, explique aisément le succès qu’il a rencontré dans des genres très différents d’emplois, en France comme à l’Etranger.
[…]
Son point de ramollissement assez bas nous permet cependant de le mouler en petits morceaux d’égales dimensions, et de couleur relativement claire […]”

Translation: “The best product for oriental notes and ambery perfumes, very much enjoyed today.

Its subtlety, combined with much power and tenacity, easily explains the success it has achieved in many and very different uses, in France and abroad.
[…]
Nevertheless, its quite low softening point allows us moulding in small pieces of the same size, quite light in colour […]

It is interesting to notice how the original amber was sold in a solid form, pale in colour.
This may suggest that much of the formula were nitromusks, vanillin and maybe resinoids (like benzoin).

The sample I have is physically different.

Appearance: pale yellow, pourable liquid (DPG’s like viscosity). May form a crystallin precipitate in the cold. This is sort of a diluted version of the original base that I suppose was a yellowish solid.

This is the archetypal “amber” of perfumery. Nothing in common with the ambergris, the sperm whale secretion.
This one is based on vanillin or similar products (a heavy dose), powdery musks, some patchouli (but not earthy and terpy), sandalwoodbalms (Tolu) and resins (labdanum, benzoin and styrax), plus a rosey, geranic note in the heart. Nutmeg and maybe cardamom lend some spiciness.
Everything is wrapped and smoothed out by the vanillin overdose. I also detect a civetty facet.
Long lasting and musky, powdery, vanilla absolute-like in the drydown, The sharp, incensey labdanum signature is still alive till the very end, discreetly.

A masterwork of balance, good structure, fine details, simplicity. Easy to recognize.

As almost any bases do, it needs incorporating into a fragrance, to give some boost and projection, especially in the very beginning. The high vanilla-musk dose is something that won’t come out easily, laying down close to the skin.

Here is a (solid) amber type formula from a 1931 book (Le livre du parfumeur – Félix Cola, chimiste-parfumeur), to give us an idea of the composition of such bases:

AMBRE SYNTHETIQUE N°3      
 
Musk Kétone     425 grammes
Muscambrette     100
Héliotropine     75
Vanilline       225
Résinoïde de Benjoin   100
Baume de Tolu     75
Ambréine absolue     50
Résinoïde d’encens     50
Vétyvert Bourbon     10
Patchouly     10
Acétylisoeugénol     110
Stéarine       170
        1400 grammes

Musk ambrette is now forbidden, but could be replaced by the flowery-type musk: ambrettolide, galaxolide or Romandolide (not powdery, but more ‘vegetal’ and clean in comparison to ancient musks, Romandolide in particular).
The ‘ambréine absolue’ is sort of a purified labdanum.
I don’t really know why stearin appears in the formula.

The composition in this photo was inspired by the Ambre 83 base. You can notice Tonka seeds, vanilla pods and geranium leafs. Photo: perfumechemicals.com

The still life in this photo was inspired by the Ambre 83 base. You can notice Tonka seeds, vanilla pods and geranium leafs. Photo: perfumechemicals.com

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Pale yellow, ambery mobile liquid (denser than the redistilled quality).

Soft, sweetsawdust-like, patchouliy odour. Drier and more powdery than the redistilled one. Almost no trace of terpenic, mouldy, “cooked vegetable” notes.

In the opening it starts very softly, it has a very poor impact (if kept in cold you barely could tell you are smelling patchouli at all). Then, it opens up and blooms in a beautiful, well refined, cedary, dusty, camphory, clean patchouli. Fruity plum-like nuances. It’s less green-floral than the redistilled quality, but woodier. It does smell a little earthy, but in a clean way: without any mouldy effect.

I like to think this smells like a summery walk in the woods by night: you can detect dead leafs, wet wood and an earthy odour, while a cold humidity arising from the dark chills you to the bones. It also recalls me the smell of rain.

Modern (linear) and interesting. It is well-faceted and complex. I think it is special and different from a simply redistilled oil because here’s the intelligence of some mind that picked-up some fractions and put them together shaping a new character, different from any other patchouli oil.

I can also perceive an ambery (ambrox-like) captivating facet: woody, dry, musky and addicting. Do I detect an animal whiff? Maybe, or simply this oil recalls me some 70’s 80’s animalic bases (like the Animalis, Synarome) used not infrequently in those years in perfumes like Yatagan (Caron, 1976), Antaeus (Chanel, 1981) or Kouros (YSL, 1981): a patchouli-cedar theme, enriched by costus root castoreum and civetty notes, completed by fatty, incensey aldehydes (c12 MNA-like).

Long lasting and beautiful in the dry down. Dry and cedary, ambroxy, orris-like.

A 3D (sort of) gif I made. Photos taken in the woods near Versailles.

A 3D (sort of) gif. Photos were taken in the woods near Versailles.

Pale yellow, mobile liquid.

A very fine, smooth, silky patchouli oil. The terpy, mushroomy, earthy notes: erased in this redistilled quality.
It starts a little softer than the regular one: there’s only some distant green, leafy suggestion. It is velvety and rich in the heart. It dries out in a cedary, woody, dusty, ambery very patchouliy odour. It is indeed very long lasting.
I can smell some resemblance to narcisse absolute: its vegetable greenness, soft floralness (powdery and pollen-like) does suggest me an interesting and unexpected facet. Somehow hedione-like.

This is an intermediate quality between a regularly distilled oil and a fractioned one. Here the bouquet is lighter than the regular but finer. It is quite similar to the fractioned patchouli oil (see: Patchouli Coeur n.3 – IFF).

Very modern and linear. The most useful quality in my opinion: not too much chaotic or dirty in the top notes, ambery and velvety, elegant and simple all throughout the evaporation.

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