Perfume Review: Amouage Interlude (Man)

Source: Stock image. footage.shutterstock.com

Source: Stock image. footage.shutterstock.com

Imagine a kaleidoscope where, every time you turn the knob, the plates shift and change. Sometimes, it’s just in the colours and their order: red, yellow, green and black, turning into yellow, green, black and red. Sometimes, the shapes themselves change, creating a whole new vision. And, sometimes, it’s both things, with the overlapping plates changing in both formation and colour.

Source: Vogue.ru

Source: Vogue.ru

That was my experience with Interlude for Men (hereinafter just “Interlude“) from the royal Omani perfume house of Amouage. It’s a triumph of technical mastery with notes put together like the bricks in an Egyptian pyramid, in a vision of intricate, olfactory complexity. Yet, Interlude is also an incredibly changing fragrance that will throw off different colours and shapes like a kaleidoscope. The broad strokes occasionally remain the same, but the details differ each time. 

I tried Interlude twice with two different results, and am currently at the end of a third day, with still further variations in the nuances. Interlude is a perfume that I could test for 30 days in a row and I suspect that I’d have about 10 different, subtle variations, at the very least, during that time. That’s the sign of a spectacularly well-crafted, well-blended fragrance with more intricacies than a Swiss watch, a fragrance that will reveal different facets each time like a perfectly cut diamond. And some of those facets are simply stunning. In fact, I’m not sure what has left a greater impact on me: Interlude’s complex intricacy, or the intriguing, forceful, and often beautiful scent of some of its stages. Yet, for all that, I experienced some rough patches which make me a little uncertain that this brilliant creation is ultimately for me. All of that means that this is going to be a very long review, I’m afraid. Interlude is simply too complex a scent to avoid it.

Interlude Man is an eau de parfum that was created by Pierre Negrin and released in 2012. Fragrantica classifies it as a woody Oriental, and says that Interlude was intended “to evoke an air of disorder while maintaining a sense of balance and tranquility through the inventive use of incense and myrrh.” The Amouage website elaborates on that point a little:

Interlude for Man is a spicy and woody fragrance inspired by chaos and disorder masquerading an interlude moment of harmony in its heart.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Oregano, Pimento Berry Oil.

Heart Notes: Amber, Frankincense, Cistus [Labdanum], Opoponax.

Base Notes: Leather, Agarwood Smoke, Patchouli, Sandalwood.

Opoponax. Source: Basenotes.

Opoponax. Source: Basenotes.

For once, the PR and marketing descriptions are quite accurate. Interlude does have a rather chaotic, difficult, intense, and disordered opening which soon gives way to plush, comforting, gorgeously rich harmony. Part of it stems from the oregano on the list, and part of it has to do with the opoponax. Opoponax is another name for Sweet Myrrh, a resin which has a very honeyed, balsamic, sweet aroma. In that way, it differs from regular myrrh which can be more churchy, cold, soapy, or medicinal. Opoponax runs like an aorta through the heart of Interlude, combining first with the oregano, incense, and pimento in the opening, before later melting into the sandalwood and amber. 

I tested Interlude in full twice, and, for the most part, the openings were largely the same in their broad strokes. There is always an initial blast of sweetness from the honeyed opoponax, mixed with incense smoke and green herbs atop subtle hints of leather and amber. That’s where the similarities end, however, because the notes, their order, their strength, and their feel varied quite a bit in each tests.

FIRST TEST:

In my first test, Interlude opened with honey, caramel, nutty amber, and sweet incense followed quickly by mentholated green notes, touches of camphor, leather, and chili pepper pimento. There is a huge blast of dried green herbs but — thanks to the strength of the pimento berries and the powerfully sweet, balsamic, honeyed opoponax — it feels almost as if the dried leaves have been transformed into something sticky, spicy, and caramelized. In fact, the honeyed nuances of the opoponax are so rich, it really does have the nutty feel of caramel. Underneath, there are subtle leather tones, and an intense, dirty, slightly goaty labdanum.

The overall bouquet is of a very medicinal, dried, green, herbal concoction covered with honeyed caramel, sweet resins, sweet smoke, and dark, warmed, animalic, slightly dirty leather. There is a somewhat dusty feel to the combination, too. The fragrance strongly evokes one of the old, dusty, Asian, herbal, homeopathic medicine shops that I visited in China, mixed perhaps with the dusty parts of an ancient Moroccan souk. The aroma is exactly what I thought Serge LutensAmbre Sultan would be like with its reportedly strong, medicinal, herbal opening. That wasn’t my experience with Ambre Sultan, but it is very much how Interlude starts for me in my first test. Medicinal, herbal amber with sweetness, incense, and a hint of ancient dustiness. The golden amber is stunningly beautiful, though extremely sweet, and it creates a visual kaleidoscope whose shifting colours center on gold, dappled with specks of dark green and fiery, peppery red.

Model of an old Shanghai medicine shop. Source: arekusu.de http://www.arekusu.de/?p=292

Model of an old, 19th-century, Shanghai medicine shop. Source: arekusu.de http://www.arekusu.de/?p=292

As time passes, the herbal pungency of the oregano feels less dry and medicinal. The camphorated notes vanished within minutes, but even the pungency has been tamed by the honeyed caramel richness. The subtle flickers of ancient dust are similarly overtaken, only now it’s by the warm, slightly animalic musk seeping out of the labdanum. Throughout it all, however, is the gorgeous incense whose smokiness infuses all the other elements and ties them together like glue. It’s sweet from the opoponax, but it’s also dark like frankincense. Fifteen minutes into Interlude’s development, the oud smoke joins the festivities. It never feels like pure, actual oud, but, rather, more like the dry, woody aroma that would ensue if agarwood were burnt. It’s very subtle at first, and limited to a mere flickering, woody shadow in the background, but it’s very pretty. Together, the oud smoke and incense help cut through some of the opoponax’s caramel richness, ensuring that Interlude is perfectly balanced and never so sweet that it verges on the cloying.

In that first test, I applied 4 really big sprays of Interlude but, to my surprise, the sillage wasn’t monstrous. It created the perfect small cloud around me, as golden as a halo. The richness of the caramel-honey was so intense, it feels as though one were swimming in liquid gold flecked with herbs. Again, I’m reminded of how this is what I thought Ambre Sultan would be like, except the latter was sheer, thin and mild on my skin instead. Another perfume comes to mind as well. The way Interlude softens to a dreamy, billowing, intensely rich, golden cloud makes me think of Xerjoff‘s Mamluk. It has some of the same rich sweetness as Interlude, though Mamluk is primarily a gourmand caramel-honey-lemon bouquet, and not a dry caramel-honey-oregano-smoke one. Still, the degree of both perfumes’ opulence and that honeyed caramel accord makes them feel like distant cousins in the same wealthy clan. 

Source: layoutsparks.com

Source: layoutsparks.com

Forty-five minutes in, Interlude starts to shift a little. The leather, dust, and medicinal undertones have largely faded to a muted whisper. Only the sweet musk and the subtle fieriness of the pimento spice remain as supporting players on Interlude’s stage. They stand quietly on the sidelines, watching as, under the spotlights, like a giant Valkyrie out of Wagner’s Ring opus, the darkly green, dried, herbal, smoky, caramel amber sings her heart out. She ends her song around the 90-minute mark, at which time Interlude changes course fully and drastically. The perfume has suddenly become extremely dry and woody. It’s as though the oud smoke and woody notes have pushed the singing, caramel-opoponax Valkyrie off center stage, and taken its place next to the dried, green, herbal and spice mix.

Pimento berries. Source: spiceryshop.com.ua

Pimento berries. Source: spiceryshop.com.ua

Something new has also appeared. There is an unexpected fruitness swirling around Interlude, as if the red pepper pimentos were truly in berry form. Actually, the note feels distinctly like raspberries! It’s quite perplexing. It probably means the patchouli is at play and of the slightly fruited variety; when mixed with the pimento berries, the patchouli must have sweetened them to a fruited, almost syrupy degree. On occasion, the raspberry note balances Interlude’s new smoky aridness and woody flavour, but generally, it feels discordant and out-of-place. It doesn’t help that the musty dust specks have returned, adding yet another strange layer to Interlude’s background notes.

Source: healthysupplies.co.uk

Source: healthysupplies.co.uk

I’m not crazy about the overall combination, truth be told. And I become distinctly less enthused around the 3.75 hour mark when Interlude’s strange raspberry note takes on a somewhat powdered and vanillic feel. A sheer veil of oud lurks right behind it.The herbal notes are now distant figures in the horizon, something for which I’m quite thankful as it would simply be too odd of a combination. The honeyed caramel has similarly retreated. Now, Interlude is primarily a dry, woody, raspberry fragrance. It’s light in weight, gauzy and soft in feel, and hovers just an inch or so above the skin.

Interlude continues to change. By the middle of the fourth hour, the fragrance is primarily a powdered raspberry wood fragrance with oud and incense atop an abstract, vague sweetness. A new element starts to stir in the base: sandalwood. It doesn’t feel like Mysore sandalwood, but it’s extremely pretty with creamy richness that is delicately sweetened and warmed. It blooms with every passing minute until, at the start of the sixth hour, it really dominates the scent, turning Interlude into the harmonious, beautiful, comforting luxury that the PR ad copy talked about. The raspberries are still there to a small extent, but the sandalwood is at the heart of the drydown. It’s infinitely creamy, sweet, rich, and thick, with an almost nutty undertone. The latter may stem, in part, from the labdanum amber with its rich, sweet, honeyed nuances. The two new stars — the amber and the sandalwood — are both infused with oud smoke, creating a layered triptych of creamy woods, smoke, and sweetened amber.

Sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Interludes remains that way, in this first test, largely until its final moments. The oud smoke fluctuates in strength, sometimes seeming as though it’s about to take over, sometimes sharing the stage with the sandalwood and amber. The raspberry, alas, remains in place. At its very end, Interlude turns into an abstract, woody dryness mixed with a hint of fruity powder. All in all, with 4 large sprays, Interlude lasted a whopping, astronomical 14.75 hours on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin. The sillage was good, though it was less powerful in projection than what I had expected. Still, Interlude was a small, soft, billowing cloud around me for about 3 hours, then shrinking in size to hover just an inch above the skin for another few hours. It became a true skin scent around the end of the seventh hour. Excellent times, all in all, but I did apply a substantial amount.

SECOND AND THIRD TESTS:

Given the amount that I initially applied, and the characteristic complexity of Amouage’s fragrances, I decided to test Interlude a second time. This time I used half the amount, about 2 good sprays, and I was surprised to have a very different outcome. Now, Interlude was primarily a fruited, but dry, woody scent with a lot of incense smoke.

Photo: Nicole Resseguie-Snyder, "Cracked Moon," on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Nicole Resseguie-Snyder, “Cracked Moon,” on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

In my second test, Interlude opened with honeyed herbs that had a harshly medicinal, camphorated edge mixed in with leather. The latter feels raw, uncured, rough, harsh, and very dirty. The oregano smells concentrated, and somewhat off-putting. It’s simultaneously like the dried variety, like a massive bunch of the fresh kind, and a third sort where both forms of oregano have been burnt to an acrid, smoky edge. Interlude evokes more than ever an old Chinese spice, herbalist medicine shop that is lightly covered by the dust of ages. This time, however, some of those herbs have been set on fire and mixed with sharp frankincense smoke. A sweet but animalic muskiness adds to the pugnacious mix which is joined, within a matter of mere minutes, by the raspberry note. It feels like both the concentrated, dried fruit, and the candied variety infused with sugar, but never like fresh raspberries. The honeyed myrrh is very subtle this time around, taking a back seat to the other notes, and adding just a hint of sweet caramel. Fifteen minutes in, the oud appears as well, feeling a little like agarwood as well as its smoke.

I’ll spare you the hour-by-hour fluctuations, but the bottom line this time around is that Interlude has an extremely different focus for its first 7 hours. The primary bouquet is of fruited, raspberry woods covered by a thick veil of sharp, black frankincense smoke with oud and some peppered spicy notes. The powerful oregano accord with its varied nuances remains for a good portion of the first two hours, until it eventually fades away. I don’t mind it, but I can’t stand it in conjunction with that fruited, raspberry note. Actually, to be precise, I can’t stand the raspberries. Not one bit, and especially not when they take on a vanillic, powdered characteristic.

Starting at the middle of the eighth hour, Interlude shifts into the gorgeous, glorious sandalwood stage that I loved so much the first time around. The infinitely creamy, slightly spiced woods are supplemented by cozy, comforting, rich amber, along with smoke and the merest hint of aged leather doused in a fine layer of caramel. It’s truly beautiful, and quite addictive to sniff. Flickers of dry oud smoke and, unfortunately, raspberries dance around the edges, but they are subtle. Nine and a half hours in, Interlude is all toasty, nutty, sweet, sandalwood with caramel and hints of smoke. By its very end, 12.5 hours from Interlude’s start with just 2 sprays, the perfume is nebulous, amorphous sweetness with a hint of some vague, lightly powdered fruitness mixed in.

I’m actually writing this review towards the end of my third test of the fragrance in as many days, and there is a third version of Interlude that has emerged. As you can tell, the layers in Interlude show themselves very differently upon each wearing. The overall brush strokes this time around are not wholly the same, though the fragrance begins with the same herbal notes as in all the other tests. The nature of the oregano falls somewhere between the opening of the first two times, but, unfortunately for me, the raspberry is as heavy from the start as it was during the second test.

Source: 123rf.com photos.

Source: 123rf.com photos.

This third time, however, the frankincense has truly dominated everything else, even the oregano, and it is incredibly powerful. Its sharpness and strength call to mind one of the Chinese Buddhist temples that I saw in Beijing during a religious festival, where incense smoke billowed out from seemingly every nook and cranny. In the third test, the leather seems significantly more noticeable, too, right from the start, but the oud is much more insubstantial than it was the second time around. And, as a whole, this 3rd version of Interlude bears very little resemblance to the first version. At best, you could say it’s like a combination of Test 1 and Test 2 (particularly since the bloody raspberry is there again), except that comparison wouldn’t be wholly accurate given the intensity of the incense.

OVERALL:

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

In short, Interlude is a bit of a kaleidoscope where all the gears shift and change depending on wearing. Both the strength and the order of Interlude’s notes vary in the perfume’s first seven or eight hours, such that the primary focus seems different each time. On me, depending on test, Interlude was primarily a herbal-caramel amber scent, then a dry fruited-woody-oud one, and finally, an incense smoke one subtly backed by leather. All the remaining, additional elements or nuances varied each time in terms of strength and when they appeared. Yet, in each test, the final stage was always that gorgeous “harmony” period of sandalwood, amber and sweetness. And it’s truly beautiful.

A few other things about Interlude. I personally think this is a fragrance that smells better from afar sometimes than sniffed up close, at least during the first stage. Some people loved the overall scent that was wafting from me one night from a distance but, when I gave them my arm to sniff Interlude up close, they wrinkled their nose. I suspect it’s the pungency of the oregano, or perhaps it’s the combination of the oregano with the incense. Another thing to pay heed to is the strength of the fragrance. On Fragrantica, commentator after commentator talks about how Interlude is positively “nuclear” in its forcefulness, both in terms of sillage and longevity. On a few people, the fragrance can last up to 24 hours; one person said they could detect the aroma wafting just from the bottle alone on the other side of the room.

As a whole, Interlude Man seems to be one of men’s favorite Amouage scents and a cult hit. The majority of reviews on Basenotes and Fragrantica are overwhelmingly positive. On Basenotes, out of 23 reviews, 48% (or 11 commentators) give it the full 5 stars, with 9% giving it 4 stars. However, 26% give it 3, and 17% (or 4 people) give it 1 star. Interestingly, one of those raving 5-star reviews comes from a person who was wholly unimpressed by Interlude when he dabbed it on, but who fell head over heels for the fragrance when it was sprayed. It makes sense to me because I think this is a very complicated scent, and both the act of spraying and the quantity can impact Interlude’s character. The 4 Basenotes posters who hated the fragrance and rated it one star seemed to have sharply different reasons for doing so. For one, Interlude had too much of a “kitchen spice” accord, while another found it to be extremely cloying. A third found Interlude to be all amber mixed with a synthetic oud, and, thus, to be “seriously over-priced.” In contrast, the fourth found Interlude to be mainly sour fruit in aroma:

SOUR! Not a slight animalic or medicinal note but sour like ramming tamarind paste up my nostrils. This continued for hours without the slightest of evolution. Definitely not dry woods or incense or leather or even astringent bergamot. It was soggy wet rotten fruit for hours.

Over on Fragrantica, the reviews are even more positive in number than they are at Basenotes. The majority view is best summed up by the chap who described Interlude as a “fantastic, in-your-face spice/incense MONSTER that grabs you by the neck and throws your face into it’s scent full-throttle.” To my relief, one person detected the raspberry note, another thought it was strawberry, and a third picked up the Ambre Sultan resemblance, writing “Reminds me Ambre Sultan by Lutens, but with less spicy notes and more incense.” Perhaps my favorite assessment came from “kochy7058” who found Interlude to be an initially harsh scent that was redeemed by its drydown, but whose overall  “testosterone” forcefulness made it suited only for bosses in upper management. To be specific, “Gordon Gecko,” Michael Douglas’ ruthless corporate raider from the movie Wall Street. It’s hilarious, but it really does fit. Interlude is like a battleship and a boss, steamrolling its way through most things with the arrogant confidence of supreme dominance.

However, I think the negative reviews of Interlude can be quite instructive on how that forcefulness, mixed with Interlude’s harsh opening, can make the fragrance go terribly wrong on some people. To wit:

  • This reeks of an old, dusty attic with an odd “something smells sweet and sticky in the corner” odor. [¶] I have a sample of this and have to say that it’s absolutely horrid. [¶] This stuff is like napalm. It sticks to you and tortures you and no matter what you do, you can’t wash it off or scrape it off your body.
  • I like it, but it cause dizziness seriously! maybe it is the insence.
  • I’m not really liking this as the “kitchen spice accord” really overwhelms everthing else. And it smells like something that should be on a pizza or put into a curry. And its something I do not want to smell like.
  •  it is a different story when it is sprayed out of a bottle. It dried down to a very harsh, herbal mess mixed with body odor and I literally had to convince myself that it smelled “good.” [¶] The final straw was when I had a friend over to my place. He sniffed the air a couple times and gave a repulsed look. “Something smells like fucking ass.” I blamed it on my dog farting, and excused myself to the bathroom and scrubbed it off. I sold the bottle 3 days later.

Oh dear. “Napalm,” dusty attics, pizza toppings, and herbal body aroma. Clearly, how Interlude manifests itself on your skin will depend not only on chemistry, but also, on how your brain processes the chaotic, odd, harsh, sometimes discordant opening. The oregano, in particular, seems to be an insurmountable obstacle for some. My own varied experiences with the fragrance should underscore the obvious fact that Interlude is a fragrance that you need to test a number of times. Quantity, method of application (i.e., spraying versus dabbing), and the perfume’s innate complexity mean you can have slightly different results each time.

For me, personally, Interlude is a lovely scent, but I’m not driven wild with madness for two reasons. First, I hated that damn raspberry note. Second, I don’t trust which version I will get from one day to the next. I didn’t mind the oregano opening, and I enjoyed it when combined with the opoponax’s honeyed caramel, especially once the more bitter, medicinal nuances faded away about twenty minutes in. The second time around, it was very different, and wasn’t so appealing. Plus, the raspberry — especially when powdered and vanillic — was far from my personal cup of tea. I wasn’t too crazy about the rawness of the leather in the opening moments of one test, either. At all times, however, I absolutely adored the sandalwood stage at the end. 

Despite the difficult bits, whenever I would catch wafts of Interlude in the air a few hours in, I always thought it to be truly lovely. There was something mysterious about its intriguingly different complexities when smelt from afar, and something smolderingly intoxicating about the overall bouquet. I would absolutely wear Interlude if a bottle accidentally fell into my lap, though I would probably make sure that I sprayed on enough to get the honeyed caramel/Ambre Sultan version, and I would try not to smell it up close until at least a few hours had passed. It is a scent that I think is really spectacular on a technical level, but I’m not sure I like — or trust — Interlude enough to ever contemplate spending so much money buying it.

At the end of the day, perhaps the best way to describe Interlude is, indeed, that original Amouage PR copy about chaos and disorder as a prelude to beautiful harmony. The issue for you will be how well you manage with that first stage…. 

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, & Sales: Interlude Man in an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes: a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that retails for $240 or €180, or a 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum that costs $290 or €220. You can buy Interlude in both sizes directly from Amouage. However, Interlude Man in discounted online at a few sites. The small 1.7 oz size is on sale at Beauty Encounter for a discounted price of $210 instead of $240. There is free domestic shipping (with international shipping for a fee). You can find Interlude Man discounted in both sizes at OnlineShoppingX for $216.60 and $261.73, depending on size, with free global shipping. I don’t know how long these special discount prices will last. I should add that I’ve ordered from BeautyEncounter in the past with no problem, as have many of my friends, and they are a very reputable dealer. Universal Perfumes, which I think is a Middle Eastern perfume retailer, sells the large 100 ml bottle of Interlude Man on sale for $249.99 instead of $290.
In the U.S.: the authorized Amouage dealer is Parfums Raffy which sells Interlude Man for a sale price right now of $225 or $275, depending on size. There is free domestic shipping and free Amouage samples with order. Luckyscent carries both sizes of Interlude Man. The larger size of Interlude Man can also be purchased online at MinNYAedes, or Parfum1.
Outside the US: In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe offers the 100 ml size of Interlude Man, along with sample sets and more. There is free worldwide shipping, I think. The perfume is priced below retail at $275 for 100 ml, despite the fact the CAD prices are usually higher, so you may want to drop them an email to inquire. In the UK, Harrods carries Amouage, but I don’t see Interlude Man listed on their website. It is, however, available at Les Senteurs where it costs £145 or £175, depending on size, along with samples for purchase. There is also an Amouage boutique in London. In France, Interlude Man is available in the large size for €196 from Premiere Avenue, or from Jovoy in Paris for €215. In Germany, Interlude Man is available at First in Fragrance where it costs €185 or €255 (depending on size) with free shipping within the EU and shipping elsewhere for a fee. In Italy, with worldwide shipping, Interlude Man is carried at Essenza Nobile for €185 or €255, along with a sample for sale. In Australia, Interlude Man is available at Libertine for AUD$326 for the large size. For other countries, the Amouage website has a “Store Finder” which should, hopefully, help you find the perfume somewhere close to you.
Samples: You can buy samples of Interlude Man from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. The site also sells a Sampler Set for 7 Amouage men’s fragrances, including Interlude Man, which starts at $22.99 for 1/2 ml vials.

Perfume Review: Amouage Lyric (Man)

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. 

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

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.

Lyric Man. Source: Fragrantica.

Lyric Man. Source: Fragrantica.

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

Galbanum

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 [6][7][8] 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.[9][10][11] 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.[12]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.

Bergamot. Source: a1.ro

Bergamot. Source: a1.ro

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.

"Flower Power" by Etsy store, MatamuaArt. (Link to site embedded within photo.)

“Flower Power” by Etsy store, MatamuaArt. (Link to site embedded within photo.)

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.

"Celery Forest." Photo: Carl Warner. Source: npr.com

“Celery Forest.” Photo: Carl Warner. Source: npr.com

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.

Abstract Rose by James-Chesnick via kootation.com

Abstract Rose by James-Chesnick via kootation.com

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.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, Sales & Sets: Lyric Man in an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes: a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that retails for $255 or €180, or a 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum that costs $300 or €220. You can buy Lyric in both sizes directly from Amouage. There is also a Miniature Men’s Set available which contains 6 x 7.5 ml bottles of different fragrances, including Lyric Man, available at the Amouage site for €180. However, Lyric Man in the small 1.7 oz size is on sale at Beauty Encounter for a discounted price of $201.30 instead of $255. There is free domestic shipping (with international shipping for a fee). I don’t know how long these special discount prices will last. I should add that I’ve ordered from BeautyEncounter in the past with no problem, as have many of my friends, and they are a very reputable dealer. The large 3.4 oz/100 ml size is also currently on sale at StrawberryNet for $255 instead of $300.
In the U.S.: the authorized Amouage dealer is Parfums Raffy which sells Lyric Man for a sale price right now of $245 or $290, depending on size. There is free domestic shipping and free Amouage samples with order. Parfums Raffy also sells a 6 Piece Men’s Sampler Set of different Amouage fragrances for $50, and the vials look like they are 2 ml each, but there is no indication of actual size. Luckyscent carries both sizes of Lyric Man. The larger size of Lyric Man can also be purchased online at MinNYAedes, Parfum1, or the Four Seasons. MinNY also sells the Miniature Men’s Set (which includes Lyric man and 5 other fragrances in 7.5ml size) and which it is selling for $240.
Outside the US: In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe offers both sizes of Lyric Man, along with sample sets and more. There is free worldwide shipping, I think. The perfumes are listed at the same price as in the U.S., despite the fact the CAD prices are usually higher, so you may want to drop them an email to inquire. In the UK, Lyric Man is available from Harrods or Les Senteurs where it costs £145 or £175, depending on size. Samples are available for purchase from Les Senteurs. There is also an Amouage boutique in London. In France, Lyric Man is available in the large size for €215 from Premiere Avenue, or from Jovoy in Paris. In Germany, Lyric Man is available at First in Fragrance where it costs €185 or €205 (depending on size) with free shipping within the EU and shipping elsewhere for a fee. In Italy, with worldwide shipping, Lyric Man is carried in both sizes at Essenza Nobile for €185 or €255, along with a sample for sale. In the Netherlands, the large size is carried at Babassu. In Australia, both sizes are available at Libertine for AUD$266 or AUD$326, depending on size, as well as the Mini Men’s Gift Set described above for AUD$280.  For other countries, the Amouage website has a “Store Finder” which should, hopefully, help you find the perfume somewhere close to you.
Samples: You can buy samples of Lyric Man from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. The site also sells samples of the Lyric body lotion, and a Sampler Set for 7 Amouage men’s fragrances which starts at $29.99 for 1/2 ml vials. The Parfums Raffy sampler set may be a better deal for some, given the 2ml size of those vials, even if it is $50 for just six (instead of 7) fragrances.

Perfume Review – Amouage Fate (Woman)

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source:  Glamscheck.com

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Paris Vogue, September 2010 issue. Source: Glamscheck.com

She stared at the rumpled bed which bore the traces of their scent. As the light streamed through the windows of their hotel room at the George V, she saw the trail of clothes leading to the scene of their final tryst. She recalled how crisp, aloof and controlled she had been at the start in her sleek, sculptured, black, couture dress, smelling of citruses, oakmoss and cool daffodils. The notes were as sparkling and cool as lemonade, or the champagne that chilled by the window nook, until he began kissing her neck…

She remembered how her limbs melted when he unzipped her dress, warming the daffodil scent until the roses and jasmine came out, infused by a musk that softly mimicked that of her own body. Flecks of rich, warm, smooth castoreum flickered like the flame of the candles that he had lit around their bed. Subtle touches of leather stirred like the trim on the expensive lingerie that he admired with a gleam in his eye — lingerie as black as the trails of sweetened incense that ran through her fragrance.

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source: bkrw.com

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source: bkrw.com

She thought of how he had gently placed soft, lush, velvety, pink roses around her body, framing her with their heady scent. He kissed her with all the spiciness of chili pepper and cinnamon, the scent of his soap mixing with their fire, with her musk, with the tendrils of incense and smoke, with the honey that he drizzled on her trembling stomach. She thought of their passion and how, when it was over, he had gently covered her body with the sheer, silky sheet that smelled of creamy vanilla and powder. She had been fated to meet him, she had been fated to succumb, she had been fated to have the affair end in the apex of passionate heat, and she was fated to forever remember him when she put on her fragrance. Fate.

Fate (Woman) is the latest release from the royal perfume house of Amouage and will be released worldwide in July. I received a sample thanks to one of my readers, “Dubaiscents,” who generously sent me a sample of both the men and women’s versions. Yesterday, I reviewed Fate for Men which is a very sophisticated, dry, woody fragrance centered on the immortelle flower. Fate for Women (hereinafter just “Fate” for the purposes of this review) is very different, but equally elegant and sophisticated. It is a chypre-oriental hybrid created by Dorothée Piot and which Amouage describes as follows: 

Amouage Fate Woman with BoxFate for Woman is a chypre oriental with a rich floral heart intensified by a dark and destructive accord resonating with the tumultuous unknown.

Top notes: bergamot, cinnamon, chilli, pepper.

Heart notes: rose, narcissus [daffodil], jasmine, frankincense, labdanum.

Base notes: vanilla bean, frankincense, benzoin, castoreum, patchouli, oakmoss, leather.

Field of NarcissusFate opens on my skin with a burst of yellow: fresh, crisp citrus notes, and the sunniest of daffodils. There is a momentary flicker of something sour that is soon replaced by spiciness, rose infused with patchouli, oakmoss, stirrings of a quiet, soft leather note, and a touch of musk. The oakmoss is a subtle swirl of nuances: fresh, green, slightly mineralized, and grey. The castoreum is smooth, warm, ever so slightly animalic, and sweet.

The true stars, however, are the yellow notes. The bergamot starts off crisply but, within minutes, turns softer, warmer and spicier, evoking the scent of lemonade that has been sweetened by the sun and by honey. At the same time, a subtle hint of vanillic powder at its base also makes me think of powdered lemonade crystals. Swirling all around it is the daffodil note that starts off being fresh and cool, but, like everything else in Fate, soon turns warmer, spicier, richer. In its footsteps is a delicate rose that is never as sweet as a tea rose, but also never as jammy, fruited, or liqueured as a dark damask rose. It feels like the headiest of pink roses, except it has the crisp, fresh zestiness of lemon. Both flowers are flecked by a mossy patchouli which works from the background to turn Fate into a very smooth, lush, velvety chypre fragrance.

Source: freehdwalls.net

Source: freehdwalls.net

Slowly, slowly, the base notes turn Fate into something warmer, richer, and spicier. As the rose note gains in strength, stepping on the center stage to share the spotlight with the daffodil, jasmine takes its place in the wings. Lurking further in the shadows is a subtle layer of soapiness. About twenty minutes in, like a brash understudy late to a rehearsal, chili stumbles in. Red, spicy, and adding a perfect touch of subtle heat, the red pepper bumps into the floral notes, warming them even further. In its wake is a shy incense note. It is far from the usual sharp, powerful frankincense so prevalent in many Amouage scents. Instead, the smoke is sweetened, soft, subtle, and verging on sunny.

Source: Kootation.com

Source: Kootation.com

Forty minutes in, Fate starts to slowly strip off its formal, crisp, citric-oakmoss, chypre veneer to bring out its oriental underwear. Like passionate kisses warming a lover’s body, the daffodil-rose bouquet turn more and more sensual, dancing on slightly musked skin. Infused by bergamot, trailed by jasmine, flecked by spicy chili pepper along with sweetened smoke and a shiver of vanilla, Fate is lushly heady, potent, incredibly elegant, and slightly haughty, but reeking of sensuous stirrings. The oakmoss and patchouli are still highly evident in the base, but the other notes feel alive with an oriental silkiness that evokes the most seductive of lingerie peeking out from underneath an elegant black dress. 

"Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract" by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within, click on photo.)

“Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract” by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

At the two-hour mark, Fate shifts a little. The florals turn red with warmth and sweetness. Cinnamon replaces the chili on their velvety petals. But, to my slight disappointment, the underlying soapiness becomes much more pronounced. On a more positive note, Fate also begins to take on quite an ambered hue. The labdanum starts to rise to the surface, emitting a lightly honeyed aroma that mixes beautifully with the amber, the plushly sensuous castoreum, the musk, and the patchouli. The incense is still subtle, light and sweetened, and it still remains largely in the background.

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Three and a half hours in, the base notes fully rise to the surface. Fate becomes a labdanum, oakmoss, and patchouli amber fragrance infused with rich, sweet, velvety, floral nuances, along with musk and a quiet tinge of soapiness. The labdanum’s honeyed characteristics have been largely replaced by a nutty, almost chestnut-like undertone that is a perfect counterpoint to the dry, but plush, oakmoss-patchouli.

Source: Superstock.com

Source: Superstock.com

Slowly, slowly, like a flower unfurling its petals over the span of hours in the sun, Fate turns softer, more ambered, more golden. The barely animalic musk underlying the scent melts even further into the skin, the labdanum glows like bronzed gold, and the vanillic benzoin adds a radiating shimmer to the now muted, very abstract, gauzy florals.  By the start of the ninth hour, the final stage has begun, and Fate is a sensuous skin veil of rich vanilla cream flecked with powder, golden amber, and a light, heated, sweetened muskiness.

All in all, Fate lasted an astronomical 13.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. The sillage was monstrous at first, wafting several feet across the room. It was heady, narcotic, sweet, but also very dry and crisp initially, before slowly turning more languorous, more sensuous, more oriental. Fate’s projection is powerful, even if it isn’t nuclear-tipped in the way of some Amouage floral scents (like Ubar, for example), but it did soften by the start of the third hour. My sample was a spray (and aerosolization adds to a fragrance’s power), but I think Fate would be forceful even if dabbed on. It didn’t become a skin scent on me until the start of the sixth hour, though it was still very noticeable when I brought my arm close to my nose. Fate only became hard to detect and somewhat abstract towards the end of the eighth hour, though it lingered on for almost another five hours in a very silken, muted, sheer form.

I think Fate Woman is an astoundingly beautiful, complex, refined fragrance — a sophisticated chypre-oriental which combines the best elements of both categories. It is perfectly balanced: never too sweet or too dry, never too indolent or spiced, never too charged by patchouli, musk, or castoreum. I was a little surprised by the softness of the frankincense smoke, especially as my skin normally tends to amplify the note, but I’m also glad that Amouage chose to mute its signature base accord. Fate doesn’t need it; the beauty of the fragrance lies, in part, in how pitch-perfect it is across the wide spectrum of its notes. (As a side note, the perfume stunned The Ultimate Perfume Snob, a.k.a my mother, who interrupted a conversation to ask “what is that smell?”, then shook her head and blinked in disbelief at Fate’s beauty, asked to smell it several more times, wanted to know where to buy it, and finally lost all reserved, British aloofness to become practically passionate in her raves. Trust me, it rarely happens.)

Something about Fate draws you in for another sniff, again and again, especially when its sensuous, warm heart starts to bloom. Yet, there is also a refined, cool sophistication in its opening which makes it very much one of those scents that feels like protective armor, if that makes any sense. Again and again, I have the vision of a cool, confident, wealthy woman, perfectly groomed and sophisticated in the elegantly cut, structured, designer black dress that is the uniform of choice for some Parisienne women. And I see her stripping off her armor to reveal the seductive satin and black lace lingerie below which she then peels off entirely to reveal her smooth, softly musked, lightly powdered, silky, amber skin. Control and abandon, French style.

Yet, for all that imagery and despite the gender classification in the perfume’s name, I happen to think Fate Woman is quite unisex in nature, and a scent which would be very seductive on a man as well. The same visual would apply to a man, only he’s cloaked in a dark Armani suit with a crisp white shirt, and looks a little like Hugh Jackman…. Regardless of gender, Fate is a very wearable fragrance, though I think its powerful projection may make it a little too much for the office unless you’re very careful with amount you spray. It would, however, be perfect to wear on a date or to seduce.

Lest any of this was even remotely ambiguous, let me put it plainly: you need to try Fate Woman. Like its male counterpart (Fate Man), it shows why Amouage is one of the leaders of the perfume pack. With its sophisticated, nuanced, complex, often innovative and intellectual, but always luxurious and opulent fragrances, Amouage is really one of the best perfume houses out there. And, under the deft, brilliant direction of Christopher Chong, I doubt that’s going to change any time soon. 

 

DETAILS:
Availability & Stores: Fate (Woman) is an eau de parfum and is available in two sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml which costs $310 or €240; or 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum which costs $375 or €290. As of the time of this post, the perfume is not yet officially released beyond the Amouage website and boutiques, but it will be widely available as of July 2013, according to CaFleureBon. At the present time, the perfume is unfortunately sold out on Amouage online, but I’m sure that will be remedied soon. I will update this post with retail links much later when the perfume is officially released and becomes widely available. 

Perfume Review – Amouage Fate (Man)

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.

Corsica. Photo by: Rolling Thunder. Source: Trailjournals.com http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=393192

Corsica. Photo by: Rolling Thunder. Source: Trailjournals.com
http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=393192

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.

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

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.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

Ginger. iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

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.

Artemisia Absinthe or Wormwood. Source: Esacademic.com

Artemisia Absinthe or Wormwood. Source: Esacademic.com

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.  

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

Incense stick. Source: Stock footage and Shutterstock.com.

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.

Fate Man with box.

Fate Man with box.

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.

 

DETAILS:
Availability & Stores: Fate (Man) is an eau de parfum and is available in two sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml which costs $280 or €220; or 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum which costs $340 or €270. As of the time of this post, the perfume is not yet officially released beyond the Amouage website and boutiques, but it will be widely available as of July 2013. Unfortunately, the perfume is currently sold out on Amouage online, but I’m sure that will be remedied soon. I will update this post with retail links much later when the perfume is officially released and becomes widely available.