Oman, a country nestled in the southeastern quarter of the Arabian Peninsula is the birthplace of Amouage, a perfume house that blends tradition and culture of Oman with the best, French perfumery has to offer. And when the brand is commissioning perfumers such as Guy Robert, Jacques Cavalier- Belletrud and Maurice Roucel to create its perfumes, you know they are serious about their craft. The Library Collection is a set of perfumes devised by the house’s creative director Christopher Chong who was inspired by the idea of hidden treasures that are concealed inside a text or book. Each perfume or Opus is numbered and to date there is a total of six. The perfumes are seen as individual fragments or memories that make up a larger body of work or a journey. Amouage poetically describe the range as “the start of a pilgrimage in search of knowledge”. Aside from the marketing blurb that describes the Library Collection as a whole; little information is given as to the expected journey of each individual scent. The wearer is expected to find their own narrative, their own connection to the perfume. For me, the personal narrative I connected with most was Opus I and Opus III. Opus I is a cheerful white floral with spicy notes of cardamom and incense. It reminded me of an imported Indian incense called Yellow Rose I used to buy during my university days living in Auckland. The previous week I had smelled Grossmith’s Shem-el-Nessim, a type of perfume I felt connected with Opus III. It was a vintage story, filled with orris and rare woods; a type of perfume I would expect to be popular in Europe in the 1910s. I also love the textural journey the Library Collection takes you on. From the textile-covered box that resembles an antique book, to the frosted glass flask that has a silk-like hand; the presentation of the perfume has an artisanal quality. Inside the perfume’s drawer is a lacquered base that assists the flask to stand upright. The flask can stand alone however common sense tells me that without the stand, the glass flask will be less accident prone lying down flat. Even with male-sized hands I have trouble grasping the large concave flask securely, so application is a two-handed affair. Opus III was created for Amouage by perfumer Karine Vichon-Spehn in 2010.
I am beginning to see that a taste for perfume evolves just like a person’s palette for food matures with exposure to different foods. I wonder if I presented Opus III to the version of myself that existed 10 years ago, would I screw my nose up and say, “I think this is weird”. Perhaps so- but there is something about the scent that 2012 me loves. Opus III begins with mimosa, broom, carnation, nutmeg and thyme. These notes are swiftly augmented with a heart of violet, jasmine, ylang-ylang and orange blossom. My first impression is a confectionary waft of raspberry licorice. Methyl ionone, the woodiest and I would say harshest of the ionone molecules is a key contributor to the violet accord in this composition. Jasmine and ylang-ylang smooth off the jagged edges of this violet note to create a more amiable floral harmony. The base is filled with multi faceted resins and woods such as ambrette, musk, papyrus, cedarwood, sandalwood, guaiacwood and frankincense. These exotic notes bring forth an incense-like quality that is sweetened by notes of benzoin and vanilla.
Amouage, in particular The Library Collection is pure decadence and requires a decadent approach to wearing perfume. Of the collection, I think Opus II and V are the easiest for men to wear. My choice of III is perhaps a little more challenging for the conventional male but fans of fragrances such as Dior’s violet fueled Fahrenheit may find some distant link and be happy wearing Opus III. I recommend this perfume if you have a taste for rich florals. I have been enjoying wearing this scent during the past autumn-winter months. Entwined in a cashmere scarf it feels like olfactory protection from the cold.
Grossmith Shem-el-Nessim, Bvlgari Jasmin Noir, Tom Ford Black Violet.
Perfumer: Karine Vinchon-Spehn (Robertet)
Bottle designer: Bill Trigger
Release date: 2010
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Floral Oriental