A sonata of perfectly modulated notes that tinkle like Chopin. An idyllic Post-Impressionistic landscape worthy of Cezanne which combines an almost brooding, dark solidity with flickers of light, softness, warmth and sweetness. The illusion of a single, sweet rose in the midst a dry hay-field, bracketed by piercingly dark, strong, green notes, but planted in sweet, dark earth and festooned with creeping tendrils of smoke. And, yet, also, the illusion of a green tunnel of light leading to a glowing, hidden rose in a peppery, woody world that is lightly tinged with vanilla and musk.
Lyric Man is a paradox of simplicity and complication, a fragrance that isn’t enormously layered at all, but which creates a flurry of different, competing images in one’s mind. I can’t quite figure out what I feel when I wear it — and it is a scent that doesn’t suit my personal tastes — but it is a fragrance that I admire and think would be damn sexy on the right guy (or gal). Lyric Man (hereinafter simply just “Lyric“) is an eau de parfum from Amouage that was created by Daniel Vasentin and released in 2008. It is supposed to be a predominantly spicy rose fragrance but, on me, Lyric Man was primarily a very woody one, infused with galbanum and angelica green, and with only a subtle, almost abstract rose.
The Amouage website describes Lyric Man and its notes as follows:
Evoking the sombre sound of eternity this spicy oriental fragrance is a dedication to the rose infused with angelica. Created for the confident gentleman who dares to desire.
Top: Bergamot, Lime
Heart: Rose, Angelica, Orange Blossom, Green Galbanum, Spicy Ginger, Nutmeg, Saffron
Base: Pine, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Musk, Frankincense.
A few words about the notes. Angelica, for those who may not be familiar with the note, comes from a plant whose oil was often used in making liqueurs or in flavouring gin. It often has a strong aroma of celery with a peppery nuance. As for galbanum, it is the resin of a Persian plant, and has a sharp, pungent, acrid, very green smell. It’s a significant part of Lyric, so it’s worth exploring the full range of its character a little further. As Wikipedia explains:
Galbanum was highly treasured as a sacred substance by the ancient Egyptians. The “green” incense of Egyptian antiquity is believed to have been galbanum. Galbanum resin has a very intense green scent accompanied by a turpentine odor. The initial notes are a very bitter, acrid, and peculiar scent  followed by a complex green, spicy, woody, balsamlike fragrance. When diluted the scent of galbanum has variously been described as reminiscent of pine (due to the pinene and limonene content), evergreen, green bamboo, parsley, green apples, musk, or simply intense green. The oil has a pine like topnote which is less pronounced in the odor of the resinoid. The latter, in turn, has a more woody balsamic, conifer resinous character.Galbanum is frequently adulterated with pine oil.
Lastly, oud is not listed as one of Lyric’s official elements and, yet, on both occasions when I wore it, I detected what felt like a dry agarwood with a strong hay overtone. The note was nothing like pine, but something in the woody base of Lyric definitely felt like very peppery oud to me. I chalk it up to the combined effect of the galbanum with the angelica, though I truly think there must be a drop of agarwood in Lyric Man somewhere.
I wore Lyric on three different occasions, and in different temperatures throughout the course of its development. It was always the same scent, though different notes did feel a little more prominent in the humidity than in cold air-conditioning and vice-versa. The opening was, however, the same in each case: citrus and hay. Lyric opens with crisply fresh, zesty, almost bitter lime, and slightly warmer bergamot. The coolness of the citruses disappears in less than a minute, turning sweeter and softer. All around, a note of what definitely smells like hay circulates; it’s dry, lightly peppered, and with an undertone of agarwood. Lurking at the very edges is the rose which feels almost like a tea-rose in its sweet, soft pinkness.
It, too, is infused with the dry hay, but the main influence on it is galbanum. I’m not a huge fan of galbanum with its sharp, pungent edge, and it was a powerful part of Lyric’s opening during two of my three tests. So much so that it creates a visual blanket of dark green. It’s got an earthy, moist undertone, much like newly hoed, fresh, loamy soil that’s been rendered a little damp by the morning dew. There is also a nuance of slightly mossy, mineralized greyness to it, though that may just be how my nose interprets galbanum’s pungent intensity.
Ten minutes into Lyric’s development, there are some changes in focus. The lime note recedes to the background; the rose feels even softer and more muted; and the dry woodsy and green notes take over. It’s as if they form a tunnel which will lead you to the rose at the heart of the fragrance. The angelica adds to the visual greenness of the tunnel with its dry, dusty nuances and a definite aroma of celery. It also seems to accentuate the hay-like impression of the woodsy elements. Dry and peppered, the hay-oud note is sometimes sweet and sometimes a little smoky. Trails of frankincense bind the floral and wood notes together like a ribbon.
Dancing at the very edges are some spices. I don’t smell any nutmeg but, instead, something that feels like a combination of saffron, coriander and cardamom. There is a subtle whiff of ginger but, like much of the rose note, it’s delicate and subtle on my skin. I don’t detect orange blossom in any concrete, noticeably distinct form, but there is something that seems a little like dried orange peel which showed up in one of my tests. It didn’t return on the subsequent times I tried Lyric. Instead, what showed up was a slight soapiness underlying the perfume. It was subtle, and felt almost more like aldehydes with their occasionally waxy characteristics than actual, true soapiness.
At the end of the first hour, Lyric turns even greener. The rose note which was always very soft seems to retreat to the side, while the galbanum and angelica take over. The galbanum loses its earthy, wet soil base, and turns into something that is slightly piney with evergreen, musky accords. Combined with angelica’s noticeable celery and pepper tonalities, they bracket the muted rose, turning it a little drier and less sweet. 90 minutes in, the incense grows in strength and starts to infuse with the rose which is now a fully peppered rose. There is still some sweetness, but the beautifully balanced incense and subtle spices, in conjunction with the peppered oud-y, piney wood, have ended any similarities to a tea-rose.
Lyric becomes softer and simpler with every hour. By the end of the third hour, it loses its greenness, turns much more woody in nature, and begins to hover only an inch or two above the skin. A quiet, diffused muskiness stirs at the base along with a whiff of sweet vanilla, but the fragrance’s primary characteristic becomes more and more that of a peppered cedar with an oud-like nuance followed by muted rose and equally muted incense. The vanilla, however, becomes more noticeable as time goes on, taking on a creamy richness, but always in an airy, light manner. Around the eighth hour, like a symphony winding down, Lyric begins its final stage: fluctuating levels of peppery, smoky wood with sweet, musky rose over the gauziest of vanilla bases. It’s odd to me that Lyric became a more rose-y scent towards the end, almost as if all the other notes had to be stripped off to let it really show.
Whatever the notes, Lyric is now even simpler, softer, and closer to the skin, until it finally fades away as a woody sweetness that is faintly redolent of rose and musk. When worn primarily in temperatures of great humidity interspersed with occasional bouts of air-conditioning, Lyric lasted just a little over 9 hours on my skin. When worn mostly in the air-conditioning with only occasional bouts of the great, humid outdoors, it lasted approximately 11.25 hours. At all times, its sillage was moderate at the start, then soft — much more so than many Amouage scents on my skin, especially the female versions.
During all three of my tests, the rose never felt like the primary focus of the scent until quite a few hours into the perfume’s development and, even then, I was surprised by how muted it was on my skin. To me, Lyric varies from being a woody-green-rose scent to being a green-woody-rose scent, with the “green” in this case always representing galbanum and angelica as opposed to a green flower. Sometimes, the incense was more apparent, sometimes there was a flicker of vanilla more at the start instead of just towards the end, and once, there was that soapy, waxy aldehydic feel to the perfume in its early hours. But, at no point was Lyric a primarily rose-rose-rose fragrance that had the other notes trailing behind in secondary or tertiary positions. In truth, it’s not a massively complicated scent at the end of the day, but it is a pretty one and so well-blended that I suspect it will reflect different facets at different times.
Lyric doesn’t suit my personal tastes (I much prefer Jubilation XXV amongst Amouage’s men’s fragrances), but I might recommend it for those who like dry, woody, peppery rose scents. Interestingly, a large number of men in places like Basenotes or Fragrantica say that Lyric Man is far too feminine for them; in contrast, a lot of the men I know in perfume groups or elsewhere absolutely adore it. It obviously depends on your spectrum of tastes, and your views on what constitutes a “feminine” fragrance. For me, personally, I usually end up preferring the women’s versions of Amouage fragrances because they are not as dry, while being bolder, more potent, and powerful. In the case of Lyric, however, I had such an atypical experience with the women’s version (where it was not really a rose scent on me at all, but a ylang-ylang one), that I think The Non-Blonde‘s discussion of the two scents will prove helpful:
Amouage Lyric Man opens quite green and almost zesty. It adopts a tree bark quality as the fragrance folds and becomes sweeter, while the angelica note takes center stage. I can’t get enough of it as I adore angelica in just about any form– herbal, syrupy or rooty. It’s my catnip. [...][¶]
But what about the rose?!
Amouage Lyric Man deserves its own place in my list of rose perfumes for anti-rose people. The rose is obviously there, and I can smell it in every stage of the development. But it’s almost abstract, or at least doesn’t try to imitate a live flower. Instead, perfumer Daniel Visentin who created Lyric used the beautiful rose note to support and even contrast the other things that are happening there. The velvet feel of the petals against the harder edges of bergamot and galbanum or the sharpness of the spices. The rose is almost low-key but not quite: just when you think that Lyric Man is a wood, spice, and frankincense perfume you breathe it in and realize just how refined and elegantly woven is the olfactory fabric that makes up this complex scent.
Some men prefer to wear Lyric Woman because it’s bolder and darker. The frankincense in the base of Amouage Lyric Man is gentler than in Woman, where I find that it can be a bit too much at times. Perhaps that’s why my very personal preference is for Man and why now I’m intensely coveting a bottle– I know that I’ll wear it a lot more than the diva Woman.
My tastes usually align very closely with that of the Non-Blonde, but I really don’t share her obsession with galbanum. (The mere word alone makes me frown and wince a little. And I’m not so keen on angelica, either, by the way.) Plus, I prefer more frankincense, along with bolder “diva” aspects in my personal scents. “Low-key” and muted really aren’t my thing. That said, I think her assessment of the notes in Lyric Man is spot-on, especially about the nature of the roses and incense.
Lyric Man generally seems to be well-liked, even amongst some women, but there are also a large number of very vocal dissenters. In various Basenotes threads, such as this one, the main thing that keeps coming up is how Lyric Man is too feminine. On Fragrantica, the primary criticisms seem to be, in a nutshell, that it’s too muted, soft and lacking in intensity. People simply don’t think that Lyric has a hell of a lot of rose, let alone incense or woodsy notes. A number of commentators on Fragrantica also bring up the soapiness issue. As noted earlier, it only popped up briefly on my skin in one of the three tests, and always in the most muted manner. Plus, it felt more like waxy aldehydes than pure soap, but there was so little of it lurking in the base that it’s hard to be sure either way. Yet, enough posters detected varying degrees of soapiness — culminating with one poor chap who said Lyric Man was exactly like Yardley’s English Rose soap after 20 minutes — that it is clearly something to be aware of.
If I’m to be perfectly candid and really honest with you about Lyric, I have to confess a few things. I wouldn’t give Lyric a passionate, glowing recommendation. It took me 3 tests and an equal number of days to write this review because Lyric simply didn’t inspire much positive emotion. In fact, writing all this has felt a lot like being subjected to a root canal. Although I admired Lyric at times and could appreciate its quality, the perfume left me really and truly unmoved — verging on the apathetic and uninspired. It damn well gave me writer’s block. At the end of the day, I feel as though I should like Lyric, but the truth is, I don’t — and I don’t know if it’s just me. I keep blaming my own personal tastes. Maybe I just am not hugely enthused about the dryness of some of Amouage’s masculine fragrances, though clearly that wasn’t a problem for Jubilation XXV. Maybe I should blame it all on the fact that I don’t like galbanum or angelica, let alone together at once. (Shudder.) Or, maybe, Lyric Man truly and objectively isn’t the cat’s meow. I don’t know. However, I genuinely and truly do think that it’s a fragrance that would be incredibly sexy on the right skin. On a man with muskier, sweeter skin, it could be downright addictive to sniff. But it’s not my cup of tea.