For those of us who love perfume there was a significant bit of news earlier this month; Christopher Chong was leaving his post as Creative Director at Amouage. Over this past decade of top tier perfumery Amouage was right at the top of the list because of the artistic direction of Mr. Chong. His vision also helped to establish the ultra-luxe perfume sector. Amouage was worth the extra expense because there was extra effort going into making the perfumes. I’ve always thought Amouage was perfume made for those who really want to find artistry within smelling good. I will have more to say about Mr. Chong when I review his last (?) duo of perfumes for Amouage next week. What this column is about is what comes next at Amouage.
As of the end of June 2019 there has been no official announcement of a replacement for Mr. Chong at Amouage. We talk about the difficulty of replacing in-house perfumers but there are only a few brands where the vision was so strongly communicated from the creative director as at Amouage. Whomever would be asked to step into this post would find it very challenging to follow the decade of perfume Mr. Chong oversaw. Which means we might not see a replacement at all. Maybe Amouage stays with the collection they have and continue on. I think that would be fine.
My concern comes from another well-known ultra-luxe brand which went the cynical route; Clive Christian. For those who don’t know Clive Christian was purchased by EME Investments in 2016. They then proceeded to flood the market with new Clive Christian releases at the same price point. They dumped a torrent of mediocre to poor product with tenuous connections to the previous perfumes under the old regime. It killed everything Clive Christian represented as a brand. It would be a crime if the same thing happened to Amouage. If we had inflicted upon us Jubilation XXV Intense or Opus V Legere. It would do what happened to Clive Christian and destroy what Amouage stands for.
I have no special insight to know anything about the decisions made at Amouage. Which means everything above is pure speculation. What has me worried most is when a true artist leaves without any mention of what comes next. That’s where we are right now. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will hear what Amouage plans to do.
Amouage is an ultra-luxe perfume brand which was founded in 1983, in Oman, to create modern perfumes in the Omani tradition. The original two perfumes created for the brand by perfumer Guy Robert, Gold Man and Gold Woman, would set the brand DNA for the next thirty years. Amouage really transformed itself in 2006 when it hired Christopher Chong as creative director. Mr. Chong has made Amouage into one of the most consistently artistic of any perfume house you can name. The fact that Amouage doesn’t make perfume for the lowest common denominator is something to be commended. I often refer to many Amouage releases as graduate level perfumery. Even though I believe Amouage puts out some of the most spectacularly intricate fragrances it doesn’t mean there aren’t some good introductory courses in Amouage perfume before taking on the more advanced offerings. Here are the five I would suggest starting with.
Jubilation XXV by Bertrand Duchaufour was one of Mr. Chong’s first releases in 2007. It is in my estimation one of the finest incense perfumes ever made. M. Duchaufour takes everything he had learned about making incense perfumes and creates a modern masterpiece. Jubilation XXV caresses you with a swirl of resinous smoke that comforts.
Reflection Woman by Maurice Roucel is fresh the Amouage way. Most fruity florals which can also be described as fresh are light. Reflection Woman is not light but it also not as powerful as most of the other Amouage perfumes. M. Roucel takes an aquatic green accord and mixes it with violet and watermelon. The notes complement each other quite nicely.
Memoir Man by Karine Vinchon-Spehner was the pine fragrance I had been waiting for. Mme Vinchon-Spehner starts with an absinthe top surrounded by herbal notes. A fabulous camphor laden heart carries into a mix of vetiver, oakmoss, and sandalwood. This is all kept surprisingly light like walking through the woods on a winter’s day.
Opus V by Jacques Cavallier is part of the Amouage Library Collection it replaces rose with orris as the partner of oud. It works so seamlessly you wonder why it isn’t used more. M. Cavallier also uses a very boozy rum accord with the orris early on before letting ambroxan turn it austere and dry by the end.
Homage Attar is one of the easier to find attars by Amouage. This is what Amouage stood for when they were founded to revive the Omani tradition of perfumery. Amouage has a selection of incredible attars which are straight distillations of an essential oil into an existing woody base. In the case of Homage Attar it is rose distilled into a base of oud and sandalwood. Attars are among the most concentrated forms of perfume there are and a drop or two goes a long way. Attars also wear very close to the skin making this a perfume that exists for you and those you allow to get close. If you’ve ever been curious about attars this is the best place you could start to explore them.
These are the introductory perfumes but if you find you like these great pleasures await you in the advanced levels.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I own.