I've had a little box of samples from Histoires de Parfums for over a year now. This is a funny line - they all sound really great on paper, yet when I tested them, most didn't translate onto skin. This line flies a little beneath the radar I think. I know they've recently released their tuberose trilogy, and Marquis de Sade seems to garner some praise, but overall they seem to languish a bit in the perfume twilight zone, no?
Ambre 114 has the following notes (spelling from package insert): Thym, Noix de Muscale, Rose, Geranium, Patchouli, Santal, Cedre, Vetiver, Ambre, Vanille, Feves Tonka, Benzoin, Musc. Wow, that took me about two minutes just to type out. Must be a scent bomb. If you're wondering (or your French is crap like mine is), Noix de Muscale is nutmeg. This fragrance opens spicy and slightly herbal. Thyme and nutmeg seem like a slightly unusual pairing for top notes to me. The opening reminds me a little of Serge Luten's Ambre Sultan, which I think contains quite a lot of thyme too, but Ambre 114 is not quite as powerfully intense and herby. The rose and geranium temper the spices and I can detect quite early the patchouli and sandalwood, which add a slightly creamy accord. Amber comes to the fore quite quickly, but it is not a sickly sweet amber; rather it is quite dry and mild. I can pick out a bit of vetiver that grounds the fragrance. Ambre 114 softens considerably thereafter. The amber is definitely the focus, sweetened a little by the sandalwood and vanilla. I like this fragrance, I really do, but I can't help feeling slightly underwhelmed, especially after reading this list of notes longer than my arm; I thought it would translate into something a bit more complex and with oomph. I think it's worth sampling, but hey, I'll stick to my gold standard of ambers thank you very much, so its still Ambre Sultan all the way for me.
So on to probably the most talked-about fragrance in the line, 1740 Marquis de Sade. Notes are: Bergamot, Davan Sensualis, Patchouli, Coriander, Cardamom, Cedre, Cistus, Bouleau, Cuir, Vanilla, Immortelle. Oh heck, I've just read immortelle; we don't get along very well. This opens with a brief bergamot blast and then turns spicy and thick. I don't know exactly what Davana smells like, but I can detect a spicy piquancy which I think is the coriander and cardamom and the patchouli is very much there, but luckily not too overpowering. There's something about this at this point that reminds me a little of Arabie by Serge Lutens, but sans the stewed fruit accord. I can already detect the dreaded immortelle. This scent never develops into a full-on leather fragrance to me. I find that it is increasingly all about immortelle, sadly. I do get a bit of vanilla and cistus in the mix and what smells like birch tar, which may be the cuir, but this is all drowned out by immortelle. Have I mentioned that word yet? Ok, this isn't Sables, in case you're wondering, but I do find this note quite heavy here. I do sort of like it, but I wish they had amped up the leather and spices and chucked the immortelle. In case you're wondering, I don't really find this a leathery, kinky or outrageous scent, as might befit some nut-job like the Marquis, so I wonder just how much of a marketing ploy this was. Then again, this house flies under the radar, so I am not sure how much of a role marketing plays.
In summary, neither of these is a poor fragrance, and like I often say, try them yourself; they're at least worth sampling. Incidentally, (or at least this time last year, when I made a purchase) this sample set is very reasonably priced and they all come in a nice plastic case with a leaflet that lists all the notes.
Image from mitoloji.info: Juliette by the Marquis de Sade