Are You Wearing Ambre? Yes, But Incorrectly

Ambre Blends
Ambre Blends essence oils in a pump bottle

Photo courtesy Ambre Blends

I’ve smelled Ambre Blends on the tennis court next to mine, wafting on the breeze. I’ve detected it in the backdraft of a biker on the Cultural Trail. I’ve noticed it coming from a male co-worker. I’ve whiffed the unmistakable scent perfuming the air in boutiques and salons all over town. And it’s not just me. Once, a scruffy young man stepped into an elevator with me and said, “Oh my god, who’s wearing Ambre?” On the company’s testimonials page, fans tell of someone tracing their scent at a football game and a stranger sniffing their neck.

Ambre has been putting a hold on people for more than 15 years. I call it the unofficial scent of Indianapolis and “are you wearing Ambre?” our 21st-century motto. The men and women who use it recognize the smell instantly and often ask who near them is wearing it. But despite its ubiquity, it’s almost impossible to describe. The closest I get is warm, deep, luxurious, sensual, golden (if that’s even possible). It’s sold around the country, but the most die-hard devotees are in Indianapolis, where it originated and is still made.

And, boy, are some of those fans mad.

Earlier this year, the company replaced the signature roll-on bottle with a pump. The new vial is taller and slimmer, too. It still comes in a sturdy brown-parchment tube (which I keep my bottle in until it’s empty), but I didn’t even recognize it on the shelf at Two Chicks District Co. I was so alarmed by the absence of the roll-on bottle, which has been around since 2004, that I began opening the cabinet drawers and shamelessly picking through the backstock—gauche behavior, but where was my Ambre? I didn’t even inspect the skinny tube. What was it, a spritz? No, thank you. I only buy the roll-on. An employee delivered the shattering news—Ambre replaced it, she said. Once the stun wore off, I reluctantly paid for the pump.

The roll-on was part of the appeal in the early Ambre days. You didn’t see roll-on perfume then, and it made so much sense. It was travel-friendly, replacing the flat perfume samples I tore out of magazines and packed. You could slip the little bottle in a purse or a pocket—not that I ever did, but I liked that I could. No spraying the air and walking through the mist, either. The roll-on seemed as smart as the scent was sexy, and I was smitten.

Ambre Blends
Ambre Blends essence oil in the roll-on bottle

But little did any of us know, the roll-on was flawed. The metal ball picks up other products on our skin and can taint the high-quality oil we pay dearly for. Founder Ambre Crockett realized it when she ran into one of her regulars—a guy who had his roll-on with him. He showed her that the oil was foggy and starting to calcify. She knew there was something else in the oil. As it turns out, he was regularly putting on a Johnson & Johnson body lotion before rolling on Ambre, and the roller ball picked up those chemicals. The same thing can happen with a spray tan, soap, or other non-premium products. “It really does mess with the integrity of the oil,” Crockett says. “A lot of people wear lotions before they put on the scent. If it’s Ambre [cream], great.” If it’s not, it could be tainting our sacred potion.

Another problem with the roll-on was that people often applied too much or too little. The industry calls that application “a controlled leak,” Crockett says, and eventually she wanted something better. The new bottle is specially designed to dispense the perfect amount for one application. One pump per day should make a bottle last three months—and if you use the stronger scents Solace, Ahnu, and Unmasque, you might be able to get by with half a pump.

The pump has another critical function—it gets you to wear Ambre correctly. All this time, we were supposed to be rubbing the oil to heat it up, which releases its full aroma; that’s why I tend to smell it on the tennis court and with my co-worker in the office gym—sweating intensifies the scent. Rubbing the oil in your palms does the same thing with friction. So take a moment to mourn the beloved roll-on and swipe the last drops on your wrists. With the pump, you’ll want to switch to Crockett’s method of Ambre’ing up: One press into your palms, rub your hands together, wipe them on the length of your inner forearms, then rub the back of your neck, and finally get some between your breasts (the warmest place on your body, Crockett says). She wipes any remainder on her jeans.

Crockett says you might notice the scent smells stronger now and that the logo is printed right on the vial, which looks sleeker than the old stick-on label. She knows fans will miss the roller style and have heard through store owners that some buyers had the same reaction I did. So let me encourage those fans to give the pump a try and stash your last Ambre roll-on bottle in your nostalgia drawer with your metallic iPod Mini.

Ambre Blends pure essence oils ($48 for 10 ml bottle) are sold at numerous Indianapolis locations.