New Perfume Review Amouage Figment Woman- Aria in the Key of Tuberose

Tuberose has been having a moment in perfumery over the last eighteen months. Most of those fragrances have concentrated on reining in the most boisterous of the white flowers. Finding ways to make it less extroverted to appeal to a wider swath of fragrance consumers. Thankfully Amouage operates under a different set of principles. Under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, the perfumes under his guidance do not want to be introverted. The ethos of the brand has almost been, “Where’s the line? Okay let me take one step over it.” It makes Amouage near the top as a brand which stands for a specific aesthetic. Figment Woman displays this using tuberose.

Christopher Chong

I was surprised that Figment Woman is only the fourth Amouage perfume to contain tuberose. The others are: Ubar, Opus I, and Honour Woman. In those tuberose is but a contributor. Figment Woman is all about the tuberose. Collaborating with perfumers Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner; Mr. Chong has realized an aria in the key of tuberose.

Dorothee Piot

Using an opera term for known aficionado Mr. Chong is easy but when I wore Figment Woman it was the strong voice of tuberose which sings throughout the day. The perfumers have sourced a full spectrum tuberose allowing it all the room in the world to fill up. It is so overbearing if you spray it on paper that is all you will think is here. It isn’t until it was on my skin that I realized there were some supporting singers for that tuberose diva.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

Upon first applying Figment Woman it is another white flower which provides the warm-up; gardenia. The perfumers choose to take the strong green thread within the gardenia and bracket it with saffron and Szechuan pepper. It provides an entry point for the diva to take the stage and with a deep breath she begins to sing; right from the top of her range. This is a gorgeous tuberose absolute that ripples with indolic energy. An array of other florals tune the effect as jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang provide some background vocals. Then the sticky green blackcurrant bud latches on to the green of the tuberose and elevates it. What is waiting to meet it is iris and papyrus. The orris makes it earthier while the papyrus provides a veil of green in a higher octave. It all ends as patchouli and incense provide a foundation.

Figment Woman has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the unfettered power of tuberose mainly because everyone seems to be running away from it. Thankfully Mr. Chong’s Amouage would rather provide a stage for tuberose to perform upon.

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Figment Man- Studying Serenity

There are several inspirations which crop up again and again in fragrance. One of the more common ones is the fictional city of Shangri-La from the 1933 book by James Hilton and the movie of the same name by director Frank Capra four years later. It is suggested that it is somewhere in the area adjacent to Tibet in the Kunlun Mountains. That’s from the book. There are many other places which claim to be the inspiration for Mr. Hilton. I am happy that there is no one earthly place which can be pinned down as the definitive source of Shangri-La. Shangri-La should always be a concept embracing the ability to find true serenity which doesn’t require a physical presence; the idea is enough.

Christopher Chong

Amouage creative director Christopher Chong recently visited Bhutan coming away with the inspiration for the latest duo of releases; Figment Man and Figment Woman. Don’t read “figment” as containing fig read it as figment of imagination. Much as seeing Shangri-La would be. I’ll be reviewing both but I’m going to start with Figment Man.

Annick Menardo

Mr. Chong collaborates with perfumer Annick Menardo for Figment Man. Figment Man is part of the “second cycle” of Amouage. Now that we have a few releases in this group there is beginning to be a developing aesthetic which seems to delight in developing large themes on a broad canvas. Some of this is the brand aesthetic of Amouage. Most of it is Mr. Chong’s desire to create fragrance with an operatic wingspan. I have been enjoying this overt style through the first few releases of the “second cycle”. Mme Menardo is fluent in this kind of design making her a good partner.

The nucleus of Figment Man is sandalwood. Sandalwood is one of those smells which I associate with meditation. It is the clean slightly sweet woody scent I use as my olfactory mantra as I breathe in and out in search of center. Mr. Chong and Mme Menardo are looking to make that search a bit more challenging. Requiring an inward examination of the air, the earth, and the body.

Figment Man opens with a cleansing breath of lemon, baie rose, and geranium. This is that deep breath on a cool morning you feel it all the way to the base of your soul. The sandalwood then appears holding the center; focusing my attention. Vetiver covers it with a grassy veil which takes my focus elsewhere. Then Mme Menardo uses what is described as an “animalic note”. It is surely not a single note but a mixture of modern synthetic musks. It resolves into a clean skin accord which brings me inward. Next, I am drawn in the opposite direction as Mme Menardo creates an “earthy accord” this is a wet soil accord carrying the after the rain quality of geosmin. It intertwines with the animalic forming a duet of earth and soul on a sandalwood focal point. This is a fabulous point in the development and where Figment Man spends most of its time on my skin. After many hours guaiac wood comes along to allow me to re-establish the woody focus I started with.

Figment Man has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.

Figment Man is everything that I respect about the current version of Amouage. Mr. Chong directs his perfumer collaborators to push to the edges of what it means to design perfume. It means Amouage is nothing less than fascinating. Figment Man uses the idea of the fictional serenity of Shangri-La to ask a perfume lover to study their idea of what an olfactive version might entail. I might not find the mythical city but the reality of Figment Man will allow me to study serenity anytime I want.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Blossom Love- Come On In!

Amouage is one of my favorite perfume brands. Creative director Christopher Chong has made it the epitome of what artistic perfumery should aspire to. His visionary art direction has consistently taken risks. He has made Amouage stand for a particular exploratory place in the fragrance world. All that makes it a difficult brand to recommend because the collection is so unusual. Last year it seems like Mr. Chong also realized having a more welcoming entry point to the Amouage aesthetic would be helpful. The result was Lilac Love the first scent in the Secret Garden Collection. I thought Lilac Love succeeded in being a gentler version of the Amouage aesthetic more easily accessible. This has been borne out through the last year as I successfully recommended it many times with very positive feedback for doing so. Amouage has now expanded the Secret Garden Collection with Blossom Love.

Christopher Chong (photo: Ben Rayner)

As much as I complain about too many rose fragrance releases in the spring; in 2017 I received a few excellent cherry blossom focused new perfumes of which Blossom Love is one. Lilac Love was a floral gourmand composed of lilac accord, orris, and chocolate. The same perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, repeat the floral gourmand style for Blossom Love. This time the trio of notes are a cherry blossom accord, amaretto accord, and vanilla.

Elise Benat

Most cherry blossom fragrances start gently but the perfumers open Blossom Love with a bit more volume. Their cherry blossom has depth provided by a syrupy rose which elegantly supports the gentle blossoms. It gives the early moments the presence familiar to Amouage fans without also adding in the also typical complexity. This is why I see Blossom Love as something more easily accessible as any perfume lover can just sink in to the cherry blossom without complexity getting in the way. Next the amaretto accord appears and it is more almond and less boozy than I expected. There is a subtle hint of alcohol but it is the sweet almond which arises to meet the cherry blossom. It is a soothing duet of ingredients kept at a moderate level; anymore and it would become cloying but the perfumers have pitched it correctly. Comforting vanilla bolstered by toasty tonka are the final part of Blossom Love. In the last hours, it has firmly become a cherry almond vanilla dessert fragrance.

Nathalie Lorson

Blossom Love has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I was already excited at the prospects of being able to use Lilac Love to introduce Amouage to perfume lovers. Blossom Love will be just as affable an introductory experience. Step into the entryway to one of the best perfume brands out there.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Bracken Woman- Mud Season

We are in mud season here in Poodlesville. The rains are moving through on schedule the trees are nearly full of leaves while the dead wood is being broken up to be burned in the fire pit. There is a smell to this time of the year. Mud is sharper than moist soil. Conversely the green is softer. Breaking up damp wood releases this wet woodiness. It is an odd accord and it is one which you might not expect to make a fragrance around. Amouage Bracken Woman shows there is a perfume within.

Christopher Chong

One of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed Christopher Chong’s creative direction for Amouage is this ability to find beauty from things like mud season. Mr. Chong is one of the premiere perfume creative directors because he truly does think “out of the box” followed by working with perfumers who bring that vision to fruition. For Bracken Woman he works with two of his more recent collaborators as Dorothee Piot and Karine Vinchon-Spehner return as the perfumers.

Dorothee Piot

Bracken Man which came out previously was a Fougere, capitalization intentional. Bracken Woman pulls back on the intensity while still providing an alternative interpretation of green. From a very green opening Bracken Woman segues through leather which in conjunction with some florals form a wet mud accord to my nose. Before ending with my damp wood by the fire pit.

Karine Vinchon-Spehner

The perfumers open with a much softer green opening reminiscent of new leaves. Galbanum, violet leaves, and fern form the green which have a pinch of berries to remind one of the early fruit growing on runners underneath the green. Early in the transition to the heart a smoky slightly unrefined leather accord sets the stage for the mud. Narcissus provides an indolic modulation which begins the transition from animalic to sharp earthiness. Lily adds back the green while chamomile attenuates the overall effect. The base is my favorite part of Bracken Woman as the perfumers use birch, vetiver, and patchouli to form a damp wood accord. When I am breaking up the dead branches there is an expansive woodiness form the particles being captured in the air which is contrasted by the heavy dampness of the large pieces I’m stacking up. The perfumers capture this as the birch evokes the solid wood while the vetiver is the airier woods. Patchouli adds a lighter version of wet earth for this final phase of Bracken Woman.

Bracken Woman has 24 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ve had my sample of Bracken Woman for a couple of months. I was so intrigued by this “mud season” perfume I wanted to compare it to the actual thing. I also always enjoy spending extra time with an Amouage release; Bracken Woman was one which paid back that time. As for how close it is to the smells of my backyard right now; I am thrilled to have mud season all year round.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Lilac Love- Start Here!

It is always interesting to me to watch perfumers construct accords for that which they cannot extract from their real sources. As I’ve mentioned many times a leather accord can act almost as a signature as each perfumer will generate their own version slightly different than others. While I am a big fan of leather the other more common fragrance note which cannot be extracted easily, and in quantity, from nature is lilac. You might think that odd to hear since the tiny flowers have such projection and presence in nature. There have been many perfumers who have taken on creating a lilac accord for a perfume which would feature it. The most recent is Amouage Lilac Love.

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Christopher Chong

Amouage creative director Christopher Chong is usually a man who likes to probe the boundaries of what modern perfume can be. Lilac Love is not one of those fragrances. It is the most straightforward Amouage perfume, I think, ever. Lilac Love is a soft floral gourmand with nothing very surprising in the overall architecture. Despite saying this, it is undeniably an Amouage perfume but one which is also moving further towards a European aesthetic while leaving some of the Middle Eastern part of that equation behind.

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Nathalie Lorson

Mr. Chong worked with two perfumers, Elise Benat and Nathalie Lorson, on bringing Lilac Love to life. The lilac accord is fresh but with one key point of abstraction which is what gives it its brand identity. Chocolate and vanilla provide the gourmand part of the classification.

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Elise Benat

The perfumers choose a fascinating group of floral notes to construct their lilac accord: gardenia, heliotrope, jasmine, peony, and rose. This produces a slightly dewy version of lilac as all of these notes get into place over the first half an hour or so. Once they come together this is where you get the Amouage touch as a very powdery orris presents itself as it coats the lilac in a fine layer. While the powderiness is most apparent there is also a strong rhizomal nature also here and it is what connects to the chocolate which is now arriving. It adds an earthy element to the sweetness of the cocoa bean. That rootiness also connects to the patchouli in the base. Sandalwood and vanilla are the finishing notes and they work as expected; the vanilla adding more sweet to the chocolate while the sandalwood pulls the patchouli back from being quite as earthbound.

Lilac Love has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I have said it in previous reviews Amouage is a perfume brand which is best appreciated by those who love experiencing perfume. Mr. Chong has overseen a brand which has never shied away from taking multiple risks. Lilac Love feels like it should be the perfume which is in every Amouage display having a little red arrow pointing to it which says, “Start Here!” It is a fantastic introductory scent into what Mr. Chong has developed while being something a more casual perfume lover can access. I would also mention that this is a lilac that will do well in colder temperatures because it is supported by so many other powerful notes. In other words, if you need a reason to wear, or try, an Amouage, “Start Here!”

Disclosure: This review is based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Bracken Man- May I Have a Large Fougere?

I received my latest package from Amouage courtesy of creative director Christopher Chong with delight. I have been a long-time admirer of the way Mr. Chong has transformed Amouage into a perfume brand which excels in doing the unconventional. When I receive a new sample I generally give it some time all on its own without anything else I received in the mail getting in the way. This was the process as I opened my sample of the latest release Bracken Man. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a ginormous fougere although I should have known; it was right there in the name.

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Christopher Chong (Photo: Ben Rayner for Forbes)

Bracken is a huge ground covering fern, the basis of fougeres. Bracken Man is also a large ground covering fern as a perfume. Mr. Chong worked with perfumers Olivier Cresp and Fabrice Pellegrin. I am probably underselling this a bit because while it is a fougere through and through there are some recognizable Amouage aesthetics throughout.

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Olivier Cresp

The most Amouage-y thing about Bracken Man comes right at the beginning as the perfumers create a wet earth accord out of primarily lavandin, nutmeg and clove. Before this accord really takes hold a ray of citrus sunshine courtesy of lemon and bergamot take you down in to the earth. The sparkliness of the citrus grounds itself into the earth and gets swallowed up. This is a challenging beginning which is not going to be loved by all. I am fascinated with the way these notes form the accord as I can pick them out individually but when I stop analyzing it snaps right back to wet soil. A marvelous olfactory parlor trick. From here on we are in traditional fougere territory writ a bit larger than most of the contemporary versions. The perfumers use cypress, cedar and sandalwood to form the woody nucleus. A smidge of cinnamon. Some geranium. All leading to a patchouli and musk base. The patchouli and musk bring Bracken Man back full circle to a more traditional earthy quality.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

Bracken Man has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Of the many things I could have requested from Mr. Chong a large fougeres was not one I would have thought of. Which shows why he is a creative director and I am a reviewer because despite a structure which is typical I still found enough Amouage in there to make Bracken Man fun to wear.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Amouage Myths Man and Myths Woman- Real Surrealism

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As Amouage moves further into its “second cycle” creative director Christopher Chong is deliberately evolving the aesthetic of the brand. I believe this firmly began to take place with the pair of Fate releases which marked the end of the “first cycle”. Those perfumes felt like a capping of the aesthetic that had been built over the first six years of Mr. Chong’s oversight. Amouage had begun to move from a purely Middle Eastern aesthetic to a melding of European panache becoming a characteristic. The two Fates showed a brand in balance between the two. In the “second cycle” it seems as if the European is gaining the upper hand over the Middle Eastern. The pair of Journey releases from last year began the definition of this new formula. Now with the release of Myths Man and Myths Woman the evolution continues.

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Christopher Chong

Myths Man was composed by perfumers Daniel Visentin, Dorothee Piot, and Karine Vinchon-Spehner. This is perhaps the most morose perfume ever released by Amouage. There is a bit of a wag within me that wants to call this Mr. Chong’s Elegy. In the press materials both Myths are inspired by surrealism. If I can unmoor my association of the fresh florals which open Myths Man from the funereal I find it easier to see the surrealism underneath. I just found it very difficult to do that because the floral accord is so realistic I can almost smell the air conditioned air of the funeral parlor. The rest of the development does move away from that but not for an hour or two.

The perfumers use chrysanthemum, orris, and rose as their floral opening. It is so real as if it was a bouquet containing all three notes which I can move my nose from bloom to bloom. The chrysanthemum is the most prominent and that is what sets off the sad association in my head. Having smelled way too many chrysanthemums in too many funeral homes. It is enhanced a little more with the addition of a leather accord. This again imparts weightiness. It isn’t until the rum, elemi, and vetiver decide to break out into an old-fashioned Irish wake that the mood lifts making the last few hours a party instead of a funeral.

Myths Man has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am not sure others will retain the sad aspects I associate with the early development. It will be easy for many to home in on a fresh floral top accord leading to leather and rum. I think those people are going to like Myths Man a lot. I like it a lot but it also has such an emotional impact on me I’m not sure I’m going to wear it often.

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Nathalie Lorson

Myths Woman was composed by Nathalie Lorson. This is the promised surrealistic fragrance. It is a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces seemed forced together. Except the picture that is represented has an unexpected power for its discord. It has a kinetic resolution to it which can be wearying or exhilarating. I found it to be the kind of perfume thrill ride I want to take.

Mme Lorson begins with galbanum and violet leaf. This is a green scalpel honed sharp as it takes precise cuts throughout the early moments. It almost begs to be buried within an earthy matrix which Mme Lorson provides with a rich patchouli. Concurrent with that comes a leather accord. Here is one of those forced jigsaw pieces I am referring to. The leather and the green patchouli accord go together but there are places where they just don’t seem to mesh. This sets up that kaleidoscopic development which begins to try and resolve the differences without ever really achieving it. Carnation adds a fresh floral aspect to this perfume-in-motion making it even more unruly. Some order is retained as moss, ambergris, and musks present a more conventional finishing accord.

Myths Woman has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

This is the third perfume from Amouage which has contained this phase of moving parts that maybe grind their gears a bit. It is going to be too much for some and for others, like me, just right. Few brands would take this step. It speaks volumes that Mr. Chong does not step back from that challenge. Instead he leans in to it. Which is why Myths Man and Myths Woman provide real surrealism without compromise.

Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of each perfume provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus X- Rose Vibrato

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Spring is the time of year for roses. Happy blooming red flowers to signal winter is gone. Perfume follows this same trend. The parade of rose fragrances increases in the first part of the year. They also exhibit a sense of light-heartedness. There comes a point where one more pleasantly composed rose brings out my inner curmudgeon. I want to yell at my desk full of samples for these kids to get out of my sight. I was feeling extra salty about all of this when I received my sample of the new Amouage Opus X. I looked at the set of notes and saw rose. I sprayed some on a strip and the antidote to all my irritation was washed away in a deeply moving dark rose perfume.

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Christopher Chong

Christopher Chong the creative director at Amouage took the 1998 movie “The Red Violin” as his inspiration. The movie is the story of a red violin which is created in 1681 by a master violin maker. The red color comes from him mixing the blood of his wife, who dies in childbirth along with his child, in with the varnish. The movie then focuses on the violin as it shows up in 1793 Vienna, 1898 Oxford, 1968 Shanghai, and eventually present day Montreal. At each stop the violin plays a pivotal part as foretold by a tarot card reading at its creation. The Red Violin is a sweeping ambitious piece of storytelling and so is Opus X.

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Pierre Negrin

For Opus X Mr. Chong collaborated with perfumers Pierre Negrin and Annick Menardo. Their concept was to create an olfactory red violin. There would be four distinct strings of rose and rose accords. A “red varnish” accord followed by the wood which makes up the body. The creative team really worked out how to create the different rose accords. As I wore it I was reminded of the fingering technique used when playing a violin called vibrato. A musician by using their fingertip to rapidly lengthen and release the string provides a vibrating effect which allows a single note to resonate as if it was two different notes milliseconds apart. In the best violin players’ hands it is used to stunning effect. In the hands of this creative team for Opus X there is a real sense of vibrato among the different rose “strings”.

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Annick Menardo

Opus X opens with those rose strings right away. Rose de Mai represents one of the strings. This classic rose of Provence provides the beauty. The rosebud accord imparts a delicacy. The “bloody rose accord” is the deeply rooted rose. Rose oxide provides a metallic rose which also represents the blood in the varnish. In the early moments it is just a straight bow across all of these notes as the rose ebbs and flows as the perfumers add vibrato and they begin to meld together. The next phase is going to be the challenging part for some to get through as the varnish accord is leavened a bit by geranium. This is a very heady varnish accord and it takes its place underneath the continued vibrating strings of roses. I was completely taken in by the imagery and the early notes that the varnish just kept the story evolving for me. If it becomes too prominent on some I can see it jarring you out of the mood. For me I found it fascinatingly different. The wood of the violin is made up of Laotian oud and the warm ambergris quality of the synthetic aromachemical Ambrarome. It adds in an exotic otherworldly aspect to the base accord which feels like the right place to end Opus X.

Opus X has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage. This is one where you want to apply very conservatively.

I needed a rose fragrance which wasn’t willing to pander to the season. Opus X’s arrival gave me one. This is nothing like any of the other roses in the Amouage collection. It is as good as anything Amouage has produced.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Sunshine Man- Sparkling Corona

One of my favorite new perfume releases of 2014 was Amouage Sunshine Woman. I admired it so much because it was sunshine as only Amouage and Creative Director Christopher Chong could imagine it. Mr. Chong has made it one of the hallmarks of his tenure to have his perfumers find ways of expressing ideas in fascinating ways. I recently received my sample of the masculine counterpart to Sunshine Woman called Sunshine Man.

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Christopher Chong

For Sunshine Man Mr. Chong chose to work with perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Pierre Negrin. M. Negrin is becoming a consistent participant as he has participated in the composition of every Amouage perfume since 2013 except Sunshine Woman. As with those previous works he is part of a team to realize Mr. Chong’s vision.

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Fabrice Pellegrin

That vision for Sunshine Man was to try and evoke an eclipse as darkness and brightness come together. That is a familiar trope for perfume composition. I was not surprised to see Mr. Chong push for the same kind of surprising brightness out of notes you don’t normally think of as bright. This was the same process used to create Sunshine Woman. The biggest difference is each phase of development does have a point of light to be eclipsed by a couple of other traditionally darker notes. It makes for an experience where the light and the dark are constantly exchanging places on my skin.

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Pierre Negrin

The perfumers use lavender as the point of light in the opening of Sunshine Man. What comes next is citrus but in an unusual way as an orange brandy accord provides the first part of the shadow. This is a rich boozy citrus accord and it sort of invites the lavender in for a drink, too. The real eclipse of the top notes happens as immortelle slides across the face of the other two notes. I love immortelle for its rich maple syrup-like quality. The perfumers here also remind me that it is a bright yellow floral and beyond the sweeter depth there is a bit of sunny floralcy. By having gone from light to dark the immortelle unexpectedly provides the beginning of the light again. In the heart bergamot provides the sunlight. It actually breaks through the top notes like a sunbeam. Then almost as rapidly clary sage and juniper berry cloak it in a green herbal and astringent fruit shade. The movement of bergamot into the heart from its more traditional place right on top makes for a feeling of an introverted pyramid. I think the perfumers were working for that sunbeam effect and the bergamot provided it. In the base the clean lines of cedar are where the light is found. Vanilla and tonka provide the sweet darkness.

Sunshine Man has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

If you’ve ever witnessed a real solar eclipse, or seen a picture, there is that moment when the moon completely covers the sun itself but surrounding the moon is a brilliant ring of light called a corona. As I wore Sunshine Man there were many times I felt that it was the perfumed equivalent of that darkness surrounded by brilliance. Sunshine Man is a worthy partner to last year’s release it shines just as brightly but differently.

Disclosure: this review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Amouage Opus IX- The Ragged Edge of Control

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In music there is an elemental debate whether complete control and technical mastery is more important than a performance containing flaws but having more emotion. In jazz the mastery portion is represented by Wynton Marsalis and the emotion is exemplified by the late Dizzy Gillespie. One of my most treasured musical moments was seeing Wynton and Dizzy play at the Saratoga Jazz Festival together on Dizzy’s “A Night in Tunisia”. This was the two extremes brought into stark contrast as the technician and the emotive traded runs before coming together triumphantly. What I walked away from that night with was true emotion has to live on a ragged edge of control, unafraid to fall off. A recent perfume and its inspiration returned my thoughts to that as it pertains to perfume.

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Maria Callas as Violetta in "La Traviata" (1958)

Creative Director Christopher Chong of Amouage is a man of many passions but one of his most long-lived ones is that of opera. For the latest release in the Library Collection, Opus IX, he drew on that. Opus IX is inspired by one of the great opera singers of all-time, Maria Callas. Mme Callas was a top coloratura soprano in the first part of the Twentieth Century. She was more Dizzy than Wynton. Her performances were so imbued with visible emotions it would cause a fraying of some of the notes as she would reach for them. Derided by the traditionalists she was loved by audiences because of that primal connection which was made. Mr. Chong has chosen a specific performance by Mme Callas of La Traviata in Lisbon during 1958 to inspire Opus IX. The perfume is composed by Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin. I use the word composed a lot when referring to a perfume but in the case of Opus IX this does feel like something which has three very distinctive phases, or acts, as the press material maintain.

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Christopher Chong

La Traviata is the opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi which tells the story of Violetta, the titular "fallen woman”. When we meet her in Act 1 she is one of the most famed courtesans in Paris. She throws a regular salon where the brightest lights of society attend. During the one depicted in La Traviata it is her first back after an illness. It is a room full of beautiful people harboring deep emotions. There is a duet between the young Alfredo and Violetta as he can for the first time try and show her the depth of his devotion. This song is called in English “Let’s drink from the joyful chalices”. The First Act of Opus IX feels very much like this duet to me. As Violetta represented by camellia is met on even terms by black pepper representing Alfredo. The camellia is also bolstered by jasmine to make it an incredibly heady floral. The perfumers have to use an equally intense amount of black pepper to find contrast. It is right up to the edge of being too much. Like Alfredo it runs the risk of taking its emotions too far. The perfumers are sure in their precision and it all stays brightly balanced like an operatic duet.nathalie lorson

 

Nathalie Lorson

Act 2 of the opera opens with Violetta and Alfredo happy living in the country outside of Paris. When Alfredo finds out Violetta is selling off her possessions to fund their country idyll. Events of the kind of missed communications rampant in most tragedies cause our lovers to end up at a party in Paris where their relationship is put to the figurative sword because of familial and societal pressures. It ends with Alfredo angrily throwing money at her feet in payment for her services. The early moments of idyll are shattered with naked emotions. The Second Act of Opus IX is a beautiful cacophony of notes delivered with all the messiness real emotions evoke. The perfumers employ gaiac wood, beeswax, and leather. These notes never seem to find a place to mesh appropriately. This kind of dynamism is going to be tough for some to take. It is very similar to the miscommunication of our protagonists. The smoke of the gaiac battles with a rich beeswax over a refined leather accord. The beeswax is the disruptor keeping apart the more easily paired gaiac and leather. It is the beeswax which maintains the separation.

PierreNegrin

Pierre Negrin

In Act 3 of the opera Violetta is dying and Alfredo has been given the missing information he needs to understand all of her actions were because of her love for him. He rushes to her deathbed and arrives before it is too late. They sing another duet mourning the death of Violetta so young. For a moment it seems as if love, and song, has saved the day, only for Violetta to abruptly pass away. The Third Act of Opus IX has dispensed with the discord of the Second Act and now looks for new found harmony. The perfumers use ambergris and civet to represent our lovers at the end. The civet is full of deep animalic emotion and it overwhelms the leather and beeswax of the heart to bring the deeper aspects of the base into something more harmonious. The ambergris provides a fragile partner sometimes reviving only to falter under the civet. It is a deeply emotional place to finish our olfactory opera.

Opus IX has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

If you can bring yourself to get lost in the emotion on display in Opus IX you will have a unique perfume experience. There are very few fragrances on the market that would dare this. It is not going to be universally loved, for this open sentimentality is not for everyone. As one who loves living on the ragged edge of emotion I can add Mr. Chong to Dizzy and Mme Callas as artists unafraid to fall only so that they can soar.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke