Journey Man is Amouage’s latest perfume in the house’s Main Collection. It syncs harmoniously with the collection’s existing perfumes, having many hallmarks of an Amouage men’s fragrance. Yet from the point of storytelling, Journey Man is unique. It marks the beginning of a new era in the brand’s evolution. Last month when I met Amouage’s Creative Director, Christopher Chong, we talked about where he wanted to take his audience, having directed one of niche perfumery’s most successful brands for the past 8 years. In his interview he said, “When I first started, people didn’t know who I was. It took customers and the press some years to get to know me. Now I think we have reached a stage where they know more about me than I know about myself. So I decided that in the next cycle, it is much more direct. I want to have a more intimate dialogue with the world, rather than telling my story behind a narrative.” The narrative for Journey Man comes from Christopher’s interest in Chinese film noir, especially films that portray the underworld of 1920s Shanghai. It was a vibrant period in modern Chinese history, and during the early 20th century, Shanghai was often referred to as the Paris of the East. As eloquent as that sounds, beneath the surface, Shanghai was a chaotic city thriving with organized crime, opium dens and vice – a perfect setting for Film Noir, a genre of filmmaking characterised by its “particularly dark venomous view of existence” – Filmnoir Foundation. For the Journey perfumes, these two references come in multiple forms. The gold bottles are decorated in red, China’s national colour symbolizing fortune and happiness. Chinese pepper gives the fragrance an eastern spiciness and darker tones of tobacco and leather provide the cinematic lens, which dramatizes 1920s Shanghai gangland. To create his olfactive story, Christopher Chong worked with perfumer Pierre Negrin, who has collaborated on numerous Amouage projects and Alberto Morillas, Firmenich’s Master Perfumer who received 2013’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Fragrance Foundation.
As the fragrance is released from its bottle, Journey Man traverses forgotten trade routes, which transported spices through the ancient world. Brightened by bergamot and neroli bigarade, the coolness of green cardamom pulls back the fiery temperament of Sichuan pepper. As the cardamom note begins to expire, its camphorous facet is pushed further with juniper berry and incense. Geraniol, a major component of geranium oil, washes the background of the fragrance in a muted pink colour that is both rosy and metallic. The base notes of Journey Man bring out the fragrance’s shadowy character. The tobacco note is complex and seductive. Tobacco’s natural hay-like quality pairs perfectly with tonka bean extract, creating sweetness and density. Cypriol’s woody transparency is lifted and made more radiant with the addition of beachy ambrox. Journey Man’s leather note is distinctive and has retro appeal. The bitter nuttiness of isobutyl quinolene has a dry quality, which pulls the composition in another direction and creates an appealing contrast. Like all Amouage fragrances, which are more concentrated compared with other eau de parfums, Journey Man has excellent longevity on skin. It fades away to become a dry tobacco, leather scent with a ghost of peppered geranium.
Journey Man makes me hum with nostalgia. It takes me back to a time when I first started exploring fragrances, when men’s fragrances still had a rugged masculinity about them – remember Chanel Antaeus and Yves Saint Laurent Kouros? Amouage’s maximalist style caters well to those who lament the current trend of water-coloured scents that use manmade molecules to wash out the intensity of some of nature’s more tenacious odours. Journey Man is a superb evening fragrance but I also have no hesitation wearing it during the day. Like most tobacco fragrances, I enjoy wearing Journey Man in the heat. On a hot and humid day, the sweetness of tobacco absolute really comes alive on skin.
Creative Direction: Christopher Chong
Perfumer: Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin
Bottle Designer: Bill Trigger
Release Date: 2014
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Dry Woods