Corsica is usually associated with its rocky cliffs, Napoleon, and the Mediterranean sea, but I think Corsica has a special smell, especially inland: slightly dusty, dry, very woody, and sweetly floral. In parts (namely those where I was clambering up rocky mountains like a dying billy-goat), it smelled strongly of immortelle, a flower which is very common to the island, sweet woods, dried greens, and dustiness. So it is Corsica which comes to mind when I tried Fate (Man), the dry, woody, immortelle-based fragrance that is the latest release from the royal perfume house of Amouage.
Fate — in a dual Men and Women’s versions — was launched just last week in Oman, and will be officially released worldwide in July. A reader of the blog, “Dubaiscents,” whose generosity is only surpassed by her thoughtfulness, sweetness and kindness sent me a sample of both fragrances. I thought I would start with Fate for Men (hereinafter just “Fate”) which was created by Karine Vinchon-Spehner, and which Amouage describes as follows:
Fate for Man is a spicy and woody construction parodying the force and power of the inevitable.
Top notes: mandarin, saffron, absinth [wormwood], ginger, cumin.
Heart notes: everlasting flower [Immortelle], rose, frankincense, lavandin, cistus, copahu.
Base notes: labdanum, cedarwood, liquorice, tonka bean, sandalwood, musk.
There is a detailed backstory in the official description of the fragrance about how the “Book of Fate is opened by the mysterious puppetmaster and the carousel, symbolising the wheel of fortune, is set in motion.” There is also talk about how “’Fate’ for man and woman explores the uncertainty of the future and the universal principal [sic] by which the order of things is inescapably prescribed. In his latest conquest, Amouage Creative Director Christopher Chong proclaims a finale that parodies the force of the inevitable, veiled in the mysticism of the unknown.” It’s lovely prose, but it’s not what comes to mind when I wear the perfume. I simply see sunny Corsica.
I tested Fate twice and, while the openings were largely the same, the nuances were slightly different. The first time, Fate opened on my skin with a split second burst of citrus that was quickly replaces by loads of ginger and flickers of dry cumin powder. The scent was simultaneously sweet, pungent, sharp, and slightly dusty in a dried, herbal, powdered sort of way. Immortelle soon followed, and it was my favorite manifestation of the note: the dry, floral aspect where you can smell the flowers as well as the slightly herbal stem. Underlying the whole thing was an amorphous woody base that smelled sweet but dry. The focal point of the opening minutes, however, was the ginger which felt pungent, spicy, biting and a little sharp.
The second time I tried Fate, it opened with that same fleeting citrus element, but the main thrust was immortelle. There were flickers of abstract woodiness, ginger, sweetness, and the same subtle hint of cumin powder, but it was the immortelle that really dominated the show. This time, it was beautifully infused with a honey nuance which I assume stemmed from the labdanum in the base. The ginger was much less powerful, and it had different undertones. It was simultaneously like sharp, fresh ginger, but also a little more like dry, ginger powder, and lightly sugared, crystallized ginger as well. This time, the herbal element was also different. Instead of some nebulous “dry green” note, I smelled something that was just like dried tarragon with its anise-like undertones. I know licorice is one of the elements in Fate, but, to me, that has the aroma of the chewy, black candy with its sharper, darker characteristics. What I smell in Fate in the opening hour is something much more like herbal anisic facets of dried tarragon.
Despite these subtle differences, the rest of the perfume’s development remained largely the same in both tests. Five minutes in, the wormwood (also known as absinthe or Artemisia absinthium) starts to rise to the surface. It’s sweet, but has a faintly medicinal nuance that smells a little rotten and that strongly evokes the “noble rot” of agarwood (oud). Flickering in the background is a light, muted incense. The cumin has completely vanished from sight — something that will undoubtedly be a relief to the many cumin-phobes out there. I’ve read a few accounts where people have said that they experienced quite a bit of cumin at the start, but the note seems to be a dry, powdered one on their skin, too, and nothing reminiscent of stale, fetid sweat or Indian curries.
As time passes, Fate settles down into its primary essence in this first stage: a dry floral arrangement of immortelle with ginger, sweetened but slightly medicinal wormwood, and frankincense. In the background, there are muted, ghostly flickers of a dry vanilla and warm, sweet muskiness that pop up every now and then. The interesting thing about the scent is the wormwood. It has a slightly oud-like nuance, but it is also sweetened and honeyed. The primary notes fluctuate in intensity, but the overall bouquet remains largely unchanged.
The odd thing about Fate was that the dominant facet seemed to depend largely on temperature. Given where I live, I have the air-conditioning set at very chilly temperatures, and the wormwood in Fate seemed to take on a slightly biting, sharp, bracing tone in the opening hours. However, whenever I went outside into the warm, humid air, the note immediately turned soft, rounded, smooth, almost creamy, and definitely sweet. All medicinal elements retreated, until I re-entered the house and was exposed again to the arctic air. I tried it a few times to see and, each and every time, Fate bloomed in the humid, night air to become significantly more floral and with a sweeter, less oud-like version of wormwood.
Two hours into Fate’s development, the whole thing changes quite dramatically. Indoors or outdoors, Fate has suddenly become a very ambered, sandalwood fragrance that is smoother, warmer, and better rounded. The wormwood’s medicinal veneer has been replaced by a lovely coating of honey from the labdanum, while a lightly peppered cedar stirs in the base. My favorite part, however, is the sandalwood which is rich, creamy, and warmly spiced. It’s absolutely beautiful. Furthermore, to my surprise, the immortelle has remained as a floral element, and hasn’t turned into the maple syrup that I dread so much. The dried, green, anisic herbal note still lurks underneath, but now, it is also joined by black licorice that is lightly salted and sweet. A hint of creamy, slightly vanillic lavender wafts daintily about, while a sweet muskiness dances at the edges like a golden light. The entire thing is intertwined by tendrils of frankincense smoke which tie the elements together like a ribbon does a bouquet.
Fate remains that way for many more hours. The bouquet of notes softens and becomes a skin scent around the start of the fourth hour, but the scent lingers for much longer. Around the sixth hour, Fate turns quite abstract and nebulous: it’s now simply immortelle woodiness infused by a light, sweet muskiness. It’s so sheer, you may think it’s gone, but Fate hangs on tenaciously. In its dying moment, a little over 10.25 hours from its start, Fate is nothing more than a vague, sweet woodiness. Both the middle phase with its beautiful sandalwood amber and the abstract drydown stage are absolutely lovely. Fate’s longevity was good on my voracious skin, but the sillage was moderate to soft. I sprayed, not dabbed, so I actually expected something much more powerful from Fate (especially given Amouage’s usual full-throttled nature), but the furthest it projected was in its first hour when it wafted about 3 inches above the skin.
Fate is a phenomenally complex, extremely unusual, refined, sophisticated scent that initially takes a little adjustment, but which definitely grows on you. The first time, I was very intrigued, but not wowed. I have a tendency to prefer the Women’s versions of Amouage fragrances as they are generally sweeter and not as dry, but the second time I tried Fate, I definitely sat up a little straighter. There is something fascinating about the notes, and the heat definitely improved the scent, in my opinion, by smoothing out some of the more bracing elements of the opening. It also rendered the perfume slightly sweeter which is something you may want to consider when testing Fate.
I think men will go quite crazy for Fate (Man), but I think a number of women will, too. Even though women will have their own version of the scent, Fate (Man) has such perfectly balanced sweetness in its undertones that it renders the fragrance quite unisex, in my opinion. If you like dry, spiced, woody fragrances or oud ones, and if you’re intrigued by the thought of Amouage’s signature frankincense combined with an unusual floral like immortelle, then I think you should definitely seek out a sample.
With Fate, Amouage continues its distinction of being at the forefront of original fragrances that abound with depth, nuance, layers and complexity. Honestly, this is not a perfume that you may adore at first sniff, but it will keep you thinking, sniffing, and trying to pull apart all those beautifully crafted, well-blended layers. And the more you sniff it, the more it seems to sink its elegant, little floral-woody-smoky talons into you. By the time you’re finished, and you set eyes on that simply spectacular iridescent bottle, I fear you may be quite hooked. Even if, at the end, it turns out that you’re not fated for true love, I think you’ll concede that it’s a perfume worthy of huge respect. Try it, and see what your Fate will be.