One of the most popular fragrances from the royal perfume house of Amouage is Lyric Woman (hereinafter just “Lyric”). It is a chypre-oriental eau de parfum that is centered on a dark, dusky rose atop Amouage’s usual base of beautiful, smoky, Omani frankincense. It is a lovely perfume that I enjoyed but, on me, it was actually primarily a ylang-ylang fragrance with rich, custard-y vanilla infused with smoke.
Lyric was released in 2008, the creation of perfumer, Daniel Maurel. The inspiration was music and, more specifically, the “lyric-spinto voice.” As the Amouage website explains,
Creative Director Christopher Chong has carefully crafted Lyric Woman to continue the music-inspired narrative that started with the launch of Amouage’s Jubilation last year. He explains, “Beyond the transient beauty and purity of Lyric lingers a poignant song without beginning or end.” During the creative process, Chong found inspiration in the beauty and drama of the lyric-spinto voice. From this, the story of Lyric Woman was born: a fragile beauty with a rare, other-worldly talent and her quest for perfection and immortality. Through this story, we are reminded that there is a subliminal beauty in every imperfection.
The fragrance has a complex and sophisticated structure, in which deep, smoky rose takes center-stage in the heart, complimented by dry, floral notes of geranium, jasmine and orris. The spiciness of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger in the top notes lifts the fragrance, while depth is provided by frankincense and wood notes in the base.
In its structure, Lyric is a floral fragrance, but one that introduces a dark intensity and modernity not normally associated with this genre – a perfect illustration of femininity, strength and passion.
The notes as listed on the Amouage‘s website are as follows:
top: Bergamot, Spicy Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger
heart: Rose, Angelica, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Geramnium, Orris
base: Oakmoss, Musk, Wood, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Frankincense
Lyric opens on my skin with dry citruses infused with oakmoss. There are touches of geranium, spicy cardamom, ginger and the smallest hint of vanilla-infused smoke in the back. The geranium evokes the scent of the fuzzy, furry green leaves, while ginger feels almost pickled, like that in a Japanese sushi restaurant, as opposed to fresh and zesty, or crystallized and candied. The whispers of vanilla smoke are utterly entrancing, especially in their lightness. The note is never sweet or cloying, but airy. It helps counter any dryness from the oakmoss which feels grey like lichen, not brightly green and mossy.
Throughout it all, swirling like a specter in the background is the gauzy, sheer, airy red rose which initially feels dry, desiccated, dark, sweet and smoked all at once. It’s never the primary focus of the scent in those opening minutes but its form grows more and more substantial with the passing moments. From the merest translucent shadow, it gains body, swirling with the green, almost herbaceous geranium, the dry citruses, the oakmoss, cardamom, and that lovely, delicate vanilla incense. The perfume is beautifully blended, so Lyric Woman feels very much like a harmonious sum total of its individual elements, and the final result is a lovely, floral chypre that is simultaneously dry and a little bit sweet.
My skin generally seems to cycle quickly through notes, always emphasizing those at the heart and base, but, even so, it’s a little bit of a surprise when the ylang-ylang turns up less than five minutes into the perfume’s development and takes over from there. It starts slowly, flickering in the background like a gleam of bright yellow and feeling incredibly buttery, banana-y, custard-y and rich. By the thirty minute mark, the ylang-ylang turns so unctuous that it feels almost a little like coconut at times in its buttered richness. It mixes with the vanilla of the base to create a very rich custard that is almost yolk-like in its richness, but always flecked by the dark, airy smoke of the frankincense.
At first, the ylang-ylang mixes with the subtle rose notes but, soon, it takes the lead completely, becoming the dominant note. Lyric loses its dry citruses. More importantly, the oakmoss recedes to the background where it has an indirect, quiet effect on the fragrance, helping to counter a bit of the richness of the vanilla and ylang-ylang. It is no longer wholly distinctive in its own right and, to be frank, I miss it. Soon, Lyric turns slightly indolic in its rich headiness. Though it’s never sour or plastic-y on me, those who suffer from indoles may want to take heed. (If you’re unfamiliar with Indoles and Indolic fragrances, you can read more about them in the Glossary that is always linked at the top of the page.)
By the start of the second hour, Lyric is almost entirely ylang-ylang infused with light frankincense smoke atop a base of rich, custardy vanilla. The latter is creamy, luxurious and very comforting. Hints of light roses, creamy woods, oakmoss, and patchouli lurk at the edges. The woody note never feels like the bronzed spiciness of sandalwood, though it does share its creaminess. Instead, it feels more like general, amorphous, almost abstract, beige woods. Yet, none of those supporting players have the slightest chance of countering the ylang-ylang; it just grows deeper as Lyric develops and its indolic nature starts to feel almost vegetal in its richness.
Lyric remains that way on me for most of its development. I even tried Lyric a second time this morning; it’s on me currently as I write this and it is always the same, ylang-ylang dominant story. I would have far preferred the dusky, smoked chypre rose of the opening, but my skin chemistry clearly has other ideas. During that first, full test, Lyric’s drydown began a little after the sixth hour. It turned into a very traditional vanilla accord with some light powder and lingering touches of that airy, light, frankincense smoke. It was a skin scent and seemed, at times, so subtle that I kept thinking it was going to die entirely. But Amouage fragrances are renowned for their longevity and Lyric Woman is no exception. It lasted as a sheer, skin scent for another six hours. All in all, Lyric lasted just over 12.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, though only about 4.5 of those hours entailed a strong, noticeable fragrance with projection. On someone with normal skin, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lyric Woman lasted almost a full day.
As with all Amouage fragrances, Lyric is profoundly potent in its opening hours. The perfume wafted around me in a medium-sized cloud at first, projecting a few feet, before softening. By the start of the second hour, the sillage was tamer and Lyric swirled just half a foot beyond my arm. It remained that way for a while, though it weakened with time, especially by the fourth hour. Finally, by the sixth hour, it became the merest gauzy touch right on the skin. As I said earlier, there were moments thereafter where I thought it had died, but its fragrant touch lingered for hours.
My experience with Lyric is absolutely not representative in any way (except perhaps the sillage and longevity). I feel like a completely freakish loon because, almost across the board, everyone has found the perfume to be primarily a rose-centered one with great spiciness. On a rare occasion, someone at Fragrantica will mention ylang-ylang and jasmine, but it is always in the context of the rose.
Only Luca Turin‘s four-star review of Lyric has a brief reference to that vegetal quality that I believe stems from the ylang-ylang. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, the perfume critic wrote:
Great fragrances move me (and, I imagine, many others) to a sort of musical resonance. And in perfume as in music, progress largely consists of getting used to one novel dissonance after another. In this context, I can safely say that I have never smelled anything like the chord at Lyric’s chore. It is a rose, to be sure, cleverly extended at one end by a dry, dusty, woody accord in the manner of Lyric’s land of origin, Oman. What happens at the other end if a complete surprise. Where one expects a spicy, earthy uplift in the contemporary manner, there comes instead a plangent, overripe note, the exhalation of forgotten fruit in a sealed room. The effect is initially almost unpleasant but soon becomes celestial. Thelonius Monk would have understood this fragrance instantly.
On me, with my skin that always seems to emphasize the base notes in a perfume, that “plangent, overripe note, the exhalation of forgotten fruit” was clearly from the ylang-ylang. The over-ripeness and vegetal aspects that stem from its heavy indoles took over and dominated over the rose accord, though I never thought it was unpleasant, thanks to the countering effects of the smoky frankincense. And I actually loved that custardy, vanilla base with its flecks of black smoke, even when it turned a little powdery. A few others, however, on Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance seem to find the powdery drydown evocative of an “old lady” scent. I don’t share that impression, but I suppose it depends on your age or on your mental associations.
There is a beautiful review of Lyric Woman from Now Smell This which calls the perfume a “modern classic” and which also helpfully discusses Andy Tauer‘s Incense Rosé as a point of comparison:
[I]f I passed my Lyric-drenched wrist under your nose right now, you would smell the frankincense, spices, and cream, but rose might not be the first note that comes to mind. As for whether or not Lyric is “entirely unprecedented”, I think of Tauer Perfumes Incense Rosé, which is not as creamy and warm as Lyric, but to me is its kissing cousin for sure.
I see Lyric less as music than as the tactile experience of scarlet red silk velvet covered by geranium and cardamom chiffon, dug out of an oak chest long forgotten in the attic. It is the sort of fragrance that would make a good signature scent: it is rich and striking enough to be a brilliant evening scent but, worn judiciously, would work during the day, too. With its bright top, spicy, floral heart, and creamy, woody base it spans the seasons except for the hottest days of summer. It feels lush and original, but not overly edgy. Wearing Lyric, you stand apart, but not too much so. In short, it’s a modern classic.
How I would have loved to experience all that! Despite my very different experience, I thought Lyric Woman was very nice and beautifully crafted. I genuinely enjoyed what I smelled, and I suspect that Lyric could turn quite addictive with repeated wearing because what appeared on my skin was rich, beautifully luxurious, heady, narcotic and very comforting. If Amouage’s prices were less steep, I might almost be tempted, but, at the end of the day, I’m not enough of a ylang-ylang enthusiast for that. However, those who love Amouage and roses may be happy to hear that I found Lyric being sold a great discount this week at one online retailer. (See, Details section, below.)
Have you tried Lyric Woman? If so, how did it manifest itself on your skin? Was it love at first sniff?