Amouage Epic (Woman): Turandot at The Forbidden City

Source: parter.ua

Turandot opera. Source: parter.ua

The legends of the ancient Silk Road that wove its way from the Middle East to China, Puccini’s Turandot princess, the grandeur of the Forbidden City and the Dragon Empress’ Summer Palace, a veil of frankincense, and a dry desert wind that swirls spices around the lushness of a velvet red rose — those are a few of the things at the heart of Epic for Women from Amouage. Oh, and pickles as well. Yes, I said pickles….

Original poster for Turandot. Source: Wikipedia.

Original poster for Turandot. Source: Wikipedia.

Epic Woman (hereinafter just “Epic”) is an eau de parfum that was released in 2009. It was created by Daniel Maurel (who also did Lyric Woman for Amouage) under the direction of Christopher Chong. The inspiration was Puccini’s Turandot opera which is set in China, but which was based on an ancient tale involving a Persian princess and a deadly riddle. China had once banned the opera, but welcomed it with open arms in 1998 when it permitted a massive $15 million film production of the opera to be set in the 500-year old Forbidden City under the direction of the showman, Zhang Yimou (who later did the Beijing Olympics), with the opera conducted by the famed Zubin Mehta. I own the DVD, and the production is one of the most spectacular, extravagant, unbelievably opulent things you can imagine, so I sat up a little when I heard about the Turandot connection to Amouage’s Epic.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

First in Fragrance has the company’s official PR description: 

Legends of the Silk Road

A woman in the dusk. The desert wind tears at the delicate veil that covers her face. In the distance she sees a light that guides the way in her search for the fatal missing aria – from Arabia to China along the Silk Road…

The theme of this latest Amouage fragrance is the legendary aria from Puccini´s unfinished opera, Turandot. The legend says that one day the composer Puccini completed the opera and then buried the completed work somewhere in the sands along the Silk Road. The last act of the opera, it is said, was an incomparable aria, which could not possibly be sung by a human voice…

A damask rose.

A damask rose.

Epic’s notes, as listed on the Amouage‘s website and Luckyscentinclude:

cumin, pink pepper, cinnamon, damascene rose, geranium, jasmine, tea, amber, musk, frankincense, oud, sandalwood, guaiac wood, patchouli, vanilla and orris.

Epic opens on my skin with a sour, sweet rose that instantly turns velvety, rich, and spiced. Alas, there is definitely the smell of pickles wafting about which is wholly disconcerting. I suspect it stems from the guaiac wood which, in my opinion, often has a very sour undertone, but the pink peppercorns here probably don’t help either. The latter soon arrives to join the festivities, along with a whisper of jasmine and a much stronger note of lemony tea. Little flecks of frankincense, patchouli, and vanilla dart about.

Guaiac Wood - one of the hardest woods in the world. Source: waynesword.palomar.edu

Guaiac Wood – one of the hardest woods in the world. Source: waynesword.palomar.edu

The whole thing is very elaborate, opulent, and infused with a complexity that really is very beautiful. The pickle aroma fades from its massive opening wallop within minutes, but it never fully leaves for the next six hours. Instead, it weaves its way throughout all the top notes, along with a certain sourness. It is always accompanied by the particular type of dryness and smoked leaves accord that is characteristic of guaiac. The guaiac is a major player in Epic’s development on my skin, and I quite like it at first, right down to that light pickle aroma. The various facets of the note cut through the incredibly rich, heady rose, thereby ensuring that its sweetness never turns into cloying, patchouli-infused syrup. Instead, thanks to the pink peppers, spices, and guaiac, the rose is fiery and spicy, while the growing note of frankincense adds a lovely blackness to its edges.

I don’t usually fall for marketing copy and rarely do I think their descriptions are accurate, but Luckyscent has a description for Epic Woman that really seems to hit the nail on the head for me, at least in terms of the perfume’s opening stage. They write:

Inspired by Puccini’s Turandot, Amouage’s Epic Woman is a masterful fusion of the smoldering opulence and sensuality of Arabia and the lyrical intensity of China. The luxurious feel of the fragrance brings to mind the precious essences carried along the ancient trading routes. One breath of Epic’s rich top notes of fiery cinnamon and languid cumin, and the image of Aladdin’s cave filled with gold, pearls, tea, silks, jade, spices and frankincense unfolds in front of our spellbound eyes. The sensuous, honeyed and dark blend of rose, tea and geranium in the heart of Epic evokes Turandot herself, the femme fatale beauty who lured love-stuck princes to their death. We would willingly die for this amazingly lush mix of rose, oud and frankincense. It is the inclusion of the latter that, to us, lends the time-honored union of the flower and oud such uniqueness; and the presence of the delicately smoky tea, ethereal jasmine and velvety-soft orris make the composition all the more special— a harmonious, melodious synthesis of the two enchanting points of the Orient.

Turandot at the Forbidden City. Source: forum.tntvillage.scambioetico.org -

Turandot at night in the Forbidden City. Source: forum.tntvillage.scambioetico.org

I can see everything that they write. Their description really captures the feel of Epic in its opening hour, though I think things go downhill by the end. But for the opening hours, Epic is really…. well, epic. And it definitely conveys China to me, right down to the Turandot production in the Forbidden City.

One of the lesser palaces or pavilions in the Forbidden City. Photo: Duncan Toms. (Website link embedded within.)

One of the lesser palaces or pavilions in the Forbidden City. Photo: Duncan Toms. (Website link embedded within.)

I may be unfairly susceptible because I’ve been to China, spending about a month going from North to South, but in all seriousness, Epic’s opening somehow takes me right back to Beijing. Something about the combination of the incense, the guaiac, and the pink peppercorns really and truly smells like the dusty, faintly sour, old, wooden rooms in lesser palaces of the Forbidden City.

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (Click on the photo for the Oze page showing the photo in full, amazing size.)

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (Website link for the Oze page embedded within photo.)

It also takes me back to the ancient monastery north of Beijing called the Lama or Yonghe Temple which I visited on Buddha’s birthday. There, the air was replete with smoking incense sticks carried by hundreds of worshippers, as bald, red-robed monks stood by smiling. The smell of the Lama Temple with its spicy, dry wood, its faintly sour dustiness, and the lingering traces of the heady floral offerings at the feet of the Buddha statues is really the smell of Epic. The same sort of spicy, peppered dustiness and smoke seemed to linger in the much more floral environs of the spectacular Summer Palace outside Beijing where the notorious (and, in my opinion, unfairly maligned) “Dragon Empress,” Tzu Hsi or Cixi, lived in splendour and lushness.

"A Western Portrait of China's Empress Dowager Cixi" by Katherine Carl, 1903. Source: Wikipedia

“A Western Portrait of China’s Empress Dowager Cixi” by Katherine Carl, 1903. Source: Wikipedia

For the first hour, Epic Woman is a complex mélange of sour-sweet roses, dominated by an incredibly luxurious, velvety richness and infused with spice, fire, dust, dry woods, and incense. The pickle note is subtle and remains at the edges, but the smoky Lapsang Souchong aroma grows. You can almost see the Empress dressed in silks and curling her long, vermillion talons around a cup of tea infused with lemons.

The overall bouquet is increasingly flecked by an orris note that is blackened and smoky the way Ormonde Jayne‘s Orris Noir sought to effect without the same success. At the end of the first hour, spices join the mix. There is cinnamon that is lightly dusted on the roses, then a much stronger note of cumin. It never smells of body odor or curry, but merely feels dusty and dry, like the powder you’d find in a spice market in the Orient. Everything about Epic reeks of an Orientalist fantasy, in the best way possible.

Source: wallpaper-source.com

Source: wallpaper-source.com

The sillage is moderate, and the fragrance blooms about 2 inches above the skin. Little tendrils follow you in the air when you move, but Epic doesn’t feel as powerful or heavy as some other Amouage perfumes. To my surprise, it is lighter in weight than its heavy notes or the richness of the rose would lead you to think. Epic is strong, but it is far from opaque or dense in feel. For the next two hours, the only massive change to Epic is in terms of its sillage. It keeps dropping, and Epic feels thinner, airier, after 90 minutes. By the end of the second hour, the perfume hovers an inch above the skin. It is primarily a bold, strongly spiced rose with frankincense, black tea, pickles, the guaiac’s sour woodiness, patchouli sweetness, and iris. There is the first lingering whisper of powderiness, no doubt from the iris, but the dominant undertone to the rose is dusty spice, then incense.  

At the end of the 3rd hour, Epic’s notes lose shape and clear distinction. The fragrance becomes a soft blur of rose dusted by amorphous spices, then infused with dry-sour guaiac and a light veil of frankincense, all atop a warm, vaguely ambered base with some patchouli sweetness and a hint of vanilla. It remains this way largely unchanged for the next few hours except for the prominence and strength of certain notes. The main one that varies is the guaiac wood. Sometimes, the pickle aroma returns and feels distinct, but at other times, there is only the wood’s other characteristic of burning leaves, extreme dryness, and general sourness. In the base, there is the faintest flicker of something soapy, but it’s quite muted.

Vanilla Custard. Source: Sacchef's Blog.

Vanilla Custard.
Source: Sacchef’s Blog.

Much more noticeable, however, is the patchouli. There is a phase where Epic turns much sweeter and more jammy, less dry, dusty and spiced as the fruited aspect of the patchouli impacts the top notes. It starts about 6.25 hours in and lasts roughly 90 minutes. During this time, the vanilla in the base becomes quite pronounced, and suddenly feels very custardy and rich. The overall effect of both things is quite disconcerting, especially next to the pickle. Epic feels like a jarring set of contradictions from powdered orris, dry-sour wood, jammy patchouli, black smoke, a touch of pickles, and rich vanilla custard. Even if those are the undertones and not the dominant bouquet, it’s really not my thing. Honestly, I blame a lot of it on the guaiac wood. A small touch of sourness is one thing, even if it borders on pickles. But pickles mixed with the arid, singed feel of burnt leaves and sourness, combined with the richness of the vanilla custard and the jamminess of purple fruit-chouli… it’s too much for my personal tastes.

Source: Stockfresh.

Source: Stockfresh.

The weird phase thankfully ends by the start of the 8th hour, but Epic simply turns into a desiccated rose. The fragrance somehow feels more dusty and smoky than before. Not even the lingering, now thin, layer of dried vanilla in the base can fix it. In fact, the rose takes on a faintly ashy facet, along with some powderiness as if from makeup powder. The guaiac loses its pickled touches, but now, the dry wood has taken on a staleness to join its sourness undertones. It’s hard to explain, but I’m not thrilled by any of it. I’m even less enthused when Epic devolves into a simple, rather nebulous blur of dry, dusty, woody roses with a soapy undertone and touches of smokiness. Soapiness is really the final straw for me, no matter how minor it might be.

There, it remains until its very end when Epic dies away as a smear of woody dryness. All in all, Epic lasted just short of 13.5 hours, with initially moderate sillage that soon turned to soft. As a whole, it lingered just an inch above the skin for the first 6 hours, but was always concentrated when smelled up close. It only turned into a skin scent at the start of the 7th hour. I really enjoyed the first few hours, but the rest of it was much more of a struggle. In all fairness, however, I’m not particularly passionate about rose scents in general.

I felt rather crazy for smelling pickes (of all things!) in an Amouage fragrance, but, apparently, there are a few of us loons out there. I was hugely relieved to see two comments on Luckyscent saying the same thing:

  • Its not terrible, it just smells a bit like pickles.
  • ….it smels a little bit like pickles to me…. yay!  [That was a sarcastic “yay,” as the person gave it 2 stars out of 5]
Caraway seeds.

Caraway seeds.

On Fragrantica, the reviews are all over the place, to the point that I’m not sure I could find quotes representing a consensus. For some people, Epic is a primarily vanilla-centered fragrance, while for others, it is nothing more than a spice cabinet focusing on dry caraway (cumin) with frankincense. One person mentioned pickles, yet again. (I’m so glad I’m not crazy!) Three or four people found Epic to have a medicinal start, while others compare Epic to its sister, Lyric. There doesn’t seem to be any agreement on that comparison either. Some find Epic to be spicier, perhaps the spiciest of all Amouage fragrances, while one person calls it icier with a powdery hauteur (that she loves). For a few Fragrantica commentators, Epic is floral soap, while others talk of a powdery element. Almost everyone thinks Epic has monumental longevity, while a few disagree and said it only lasted a few hours on their skin.

Despite these differences, however, the majority of people seems to really love Epic Woman. I think the issue is going to come down to how much spice and dryness you can handle. One or two people mentioned Andy Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain; I can see similarities in terms of the fragrance’s dryness and spiciness, but only vaguely. Very vaguely, as I think Epic is significantly more floral in nature, more lush, and rich. On my skin, the caraway or cumin that others mention was not as dispositive as the guaiac, and the spices were fully enfolded into the velvety rose, but it’s all going to depend on skin chemistry.

Lyric Woman. Source: Fragrantica

Lyric Woman. Source: Fragrantica

I think a greater point of comparison might be to Amouage’s Lyric Woman. Now, granted, on my skin, Lyric was primarily about the ylang-ylang and not quite so much about the roses, but it’s generally considered a spicy rose fragrance. And it is certainly what came to my mind when wearing Epic. So, how do the two compare? Angela at Now Smell This reviewed Epic Woman, and offered her thoughts on the two rose sisters:

Epic is warm, thick, and fuzzy with smooth edges. Rose and sweet sandalwood balance Epic’s sour oud and frankincense, and a dusting of peppery spices makes sure the fragrance never strays into olfactory tranquilizer territory. Epic starts not with perfume’s traditional tickle of citrus, but with pepper and geranium, before settling into a rose-inflected blend of frankincense and rose, tinged with oud. Over time, the sandalwood steps forward. I can’t pick out the cumin at all.

If this sounds like a description of Lyric Woman, the two fragrances do share common ground. To me, though, Lyric feels brighter, colder, and more distinct than Epic. Epic, on the other hand, is so silkily blended that when smelling it I visualize all its components woven together into a fragrant blanket. Lyric focuses more on rose and incense, while Epic favors spice and sandalwood. Lyric feels like a stained glass window, while Epic feels like a chunky but formfitting sweater knit from Italian merino wool the color of dark honey. Lyric broods, and Epic comforts.

Perfume-Smellin’ Things also found similarities, but thought Epic was more lush and grandiose. For those who are cumin-phobes, I would like to emphasize that she too did not find cumin to be a major part of the scent. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

Speaking of Lyric, to me, Epic picks up its ripe, honeyed rose theme and carries it on, embellishing the star note further, and sort of giving the idea its logical closure by making the composition darker and even more extravagantly lush. No, the two are not the same fragrances, but of all Amouage siblings these are probably the closest in spirit.

The embellishments in question are oud and frankincense. The funny thing is that, at the very first sniff from a vial or a on scent strip, the scent is undeniably an oud-rose blend. As soon as it is applied to the skin, however, incense takes center stage, and I like that. There are plenty rose-ouds and not that many rose-incenses. The nocturnal, resinous frankincense note delights me with its presence for a good long while, sort of covering the rose like a black curtain. Eventually the curtain is lifted and there is the flower, sweet, over-ripe, spicy with cinnamon and geranium, brewed with black tea and vanilla into a seductive potion. It is a delicious, edible, sensual and yet appropriately regal rose.

If you are looking for more oud, you will find more in the base, along with some dirt from patchouli and some more nectareousness from amber and sandalwood. Those afraid of the sweetness, note that it is well balanced by the drier, stark notes of frankincense, gaiac and oud. Cuminophobiacs, to you I can only say that there was no cumin on my skin (not that I would have minded some). All fans of the Big Perfumes in general and Amouage’s decadent oeuvre in particular, Epic is a must-sniff and, as far as I am concerned, a must-have.

I agree with her that Epic Woman is a must sniff for those who love extremely big, bold, spicy orientals. Same thing if you love roses, though I think there are enough spices, dry woodiness and incense to ensure that Epic is not merely about the flowers. Those elements also render Epic Woman quite unisex, in my opinion.

The perfume is not cheap by any means, but I have found a whole slew of discounted prices from retailers around the world. Epic Woman retails for $265, €215 or £175 for the smallest size (50 ml), but there is one reputable discount site that sells a large 100 ml bottle for as low as $170, if you’re willing to accept the lack of a box. (See, the Details section at the very end.) For those who love their boxes, the perfume is also available for a little bit more at $199, which is still $100 below the $310 retail cost for the 100 ml size. It’s a great deal, either way.

So, don’t be shy about testing Epic Woman if the notes intrigue you and if you love very spicy, bold, rich scents . Hopefully, on your skin, it won’t turn up with a heavy pickle aroma and the guaiac will be more pleasant in its other manifestations as well. For me personally, Epic Woman is too much of a struggle when taken as a whole and I’m simply not that much of a rose fiend to ignore it. That said, I have to repeat that I truly enjoyed its opening hours. Epic is lush, grandiose, and thoroughly suited to Princess Turandot.

Turandot by the San Francisco Opera. Photo: Robert Kusel. Source: hauteliving.com

Turandot by the San Francisco Opera. Photo: Robert Kusel. Source: hauteliving.com

DETAILS:
Cost, Discounted Price & Travel Sets: Epic Woman in an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes: a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that retails for $265, €215 or £175; or a 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum that costs $310, €250, or £205. You can buy Epic Woman directly from Amouage’s website which also offers a Travel Set of four 10ml bottles for €170. However, you can buy the fragrance for much cheaper than the $265 or $310 retail price. On FragranceNet, the large 100 ml bottle of Epic Woman costs $170.16 if you buy it without the box and if you use the coupon they list directly on the page. If you want the boxed version, it costs $199.06 instead of the $310 retail price. There is also an Extrait or Pure Parfum version available. There is free domestic shipping on all orders. FragranceNet has a variety of international sites, and you can find the one for your country by changing the flag shown on the grey border at the top of square box which encases the perfume price. Thus, the Canadian cost for the unboxed Epic would be around CAD$188, the UK price would be GBP£103.82, the Australian price would be AUD$194, and the Euro price would be €125.95. They have similar pricing options for a variety of countries, from Brazil to South Africa, a few Scandanavian ones and more, as FragranceNet seems to ship all over. The perfume is also on sale at Rakuten which offers the 50 ml bottle for $200 and the 100 ml bottle for $260. Epic Woman is priced higher (but still discounted) at LilyDirect which sells the large 3.4 oz bottle for $272.80. Netherlands’ Oz Cosmetics sells the 50 ml bottle of Epic Woman for €183.90. In the Middle East, Kuwait’s Universal Fragrances sells a sealed 100 ml bottle of Epic Woman for $239.99, or a 100 ml Tester bottle of Epic for $199.99.
In the U.S., the authorized Amouage dealer is Parfums Raffy which both sizes of Epic Woman, the Travel Size Set for $240, and offers free domestic shipping. Luckyscent carries both sizes of Epic Woman, but not the travel set. The 100 ml size of Epic can also be purchased at MinNY (along with the Extrait version and body products like lotion), or at the Four Seasons. Finally, Parfums Raffy sells a Ten Sample Set of Men and Women’s Amouage fragrances in 2 ml vials for $75.
Outside the US: In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe offers both sizes of Epic Woman, along with sampler sets, mini travel sets and body lotions. There is free worldwide shipping, I think. The perfumes are listed at the same price as in the U.S., since they are an American-based company which has a Vancouver branch, so you may want to drop them an email to inquire as to the Canadian pricing. In the UK, Epic Woman is available at Les Senteurs where it costs £175 for the 50 ml size. Samples are available for purchase. There is also an Amouage boutique in London. If you don’t want to go the discounted route with FragranceNet’s Euro price, then you can order Epic Woman from Germany’s First in Fragrance where it costs €205 or €295 (depending on size) with free shipping within the EU and shipping elsewhere for a fee. The entire Amouage line is also offered at Harrods, SelfridgesEssenza Nobile, Paris’ Jovoy, and France’s Premiere Avenue. For other countries, the Amouage website has a “Store Finder” which should, hopefully, help you find the perfume somewhere close to you.
Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Epic starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. The site also sells samples of the Lyric body lotion, and a Sampler Set for 9 Amouage women’s fragrances which starts at $34.99 for 1/2 ml vials.
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Amouage Beloved Man (Special Limited Edition)

Lemon chiffon mousse with smoky dryness and woods. I don’t think I’ve ever summed up an Amouage fragrance in one short sentence, but there is a first time for everything. An even shorter synopsis might be “elemi creaminess.” That is the essence of Beloved Man, a wholly unisex fragrance that is quite lovely but extremely simple. In many ways, it feels like the anti-Amouage, or an Amouage for those who normally struggle with the perfume house’s complicated, complex creations.

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Beloved Man (hereinafter just “Beloved“) was released in 2013 as either a limited edition or limited distribution eau de parfum that is only available in Amouage boutiques, and a handful of department stores or online vendors. Since the fragrance is no longer listed on Amouage’s own website, it’s hard to know how they describe the scent. The PR copy quoted by First in Fragrance and also summarized by sites like CaFleureBon states:

The special edition Beloved for Men by Amouage is a woody Oriental fragrance with spicy top notes accentuated by an opulent heart of floral notes. Created in Grasse under the guidance of Amouage’s Creative Director Christopher Chong, he explains “that everyone has a remembrance of a loved one and the fragrance is a nod to the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. This intimate fragrance with its selection of rich woods and resins in the base enrapture the wearer in a comforting sensation of warmth that these treasured memories bring”.

Beloved was created by Bernard Ellena, though Fragrantica mistakenly credits Alexandra Carlin and Emilie (Bevierre) Coppermann. Regardless, everyone agrees that Beloved’s notes are:

orange, grapefruit, elemi, geranium, jasmine, orris, saffron, cedar wood, guaiac wood, leather, patchouli, musk, and vetiver.

Canarium Commune tree. Source: gallery.trip.sk

Canarium Commune tree. Source: gallery.trip.sk

Elemi is a main part of Beloved on my skin, so I’m going to take a minute to go over what it is. According to The Perfume Shrine‘s wonderfully detailed explanation, elemi has a long history. It was used by ancient Egyptians in embalming, and its remnants have been found in sarcophogii. Nowadays, “elemi” apparently refers to the harvested secretions from the Canarium Commune tree in the Phillipines, and its smell can best be summed up as: lemony, clean freshness that is also peppered and smoky. Elemi shares some characteristics with frankincense, but it can also take on a green, piney aroma like that of fresh pine needles. Elemi oil can be deep, clean and citrusy in profile, while the resin version can be peppered, woody, and a little bit spicy. Like the two faces of Janus, Beloved reflects both sides of the elemi coin on my skin.

Source: hdwpapers.com

Source: hdwpapers.com

Beloved opens with a crisp, cool, chilled lemon aroma infused with elemi smokiness, as well as what also smells like actual frankincense. It is followed by a dry, faintly leathered aromachemical, then pepper, a hint of clean soapiness, and the tart, sweet freshness of a grapefruit. There are glimpses of something creamy and warm underneath, as well a hint of sweetness from patchouli. It’s all rather light in feel, and evokes very yellowed, Italianate images, as if Beloved were made for a warm summer’s night in Capri.

Lemon Mousse Parfait by  Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe embedded within photo.)

Lemon Mousse Parfait by Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe embedded within photo.)

As a whole, Beloved’s opening is a mix of opposites: crisp, chilled citruses with warm, creamy sweetness; dark smokiness with light, fresh cleanness; and, later, dryness with almost custardy smooth richness. It takes hardly any time for Beloved’s citruses to lose their crisp, aromatic zestiness and to turn warmer, richer, deeper, as if hanging off a tree in the warm summer sun. The aromachemical tinge departs within minutes, and the leather nuance fades to a blip on the sidelines.

What is left is primarily an extremely creamy citrus scent that is as smooth as custard, but as airy as a mousse. The faintest trace of smokiness from the elemi is diffused throughout, adding a chiaroscuro effect of darkness to dapple the yellow warmth. Beloved never seems like a smoky or incense fragrance, though. That aspect of the elemi is too muffled on my skin; it merely works indirectly from the sidelines to add subtle touches to the wood’s fresher, lemony characteristics.

10 minutes in, Beloved starts to shift. The increasing warmth takes on the faintest trace of saffron and an abstract floralacy. I don’t smell iris, jasmine, or geranium in any individual way, though something vaguely “iris-like” seems strongest. By the same token, there is no vetiver on my skin at all, and the leather never reappeared again after its initial blip. What there is, however, is a nondescript, nebulous woodiness that darts in and out of the creamy lemon mousse in the top notes. There is also the faintest trace of a musky sweetness.

Source: Polyvore.com

Source: Polyvore.com

There really isn’t a hell of a lot more to the core essence of Beloved on my skin. There are only variations in the strength of the elemi’s woody, smoky, and dry sides over the course of the next few hours, along with fluctuating degrees of ISO E-like aromachemical pepperiness. As a whole, though, Beloved is a seamless blend of the two faces of elemi, and the fragrance’s main characteristic for a good portion of its opening hours is creaminess. It’s absolutely beautiful in that way, feeling as rich, smooth, and effortless as the silkiest creation from a chef in a restaurant devoted to lemony desserts.

It takes less than an hour for Beloved to lose every distinct, clearly delineated trace of something other than lemon mousse with dry, woody smokiness. The abstract floral element vanishes, and the saffron turns into a vague suggestion of something vaguely spicy that hovers at the edges. Beloved’s sillage drops 75 minutes in. It had opened with moderate projection, but the fragrance now hovers 2 inches, at best, above the skin. It feels very gauzy, though simultaneously, very creamy and smooth. The sillage becomes increasingly discreet, while the perfume itself grows more subtle, abstract and hazy in its notes. I’m very impressed by how beautifully balanced it is. For a mousse-y, lemon cream trifle, it has a wonderful balance of dryness and woodiness that prevent Beloved from ever verging on a gourmand or dessert scent. And don’t mistake me, it isn’t one by any means, but the creaminess is terrific.

Source: burkedecor.com

Source: burkedecor.com

By the end of the third hour, Beloved is basically locked into its profile for the remainder of its lifespan: creamy woodiness that is infused with dryness, muted hints of smokiness, and something vaguely citrusy in nature. The ISO E Super peppered touch is speckled throughout, but it is subtle and primarily in the background. As a whole, Beloved feels almost more like a texture than a set of notes, as the latter are mostly amorphous, blurry, and hard to pick out. The fragrance is wispy, light, and a total skin scent by this point as well, though you can detect it easily for another 6 hours if you smell it up close. Beloved lingers on as a gauzy, discreet whisper until it finally dies away as a hint of dry creaminess. All in all, Beloved lasted 12.75 hours on my skin.

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for lemon mousse embedded within photo.)

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for lemon mousse embedded within photo.)

As I’ll discuss shortly, I don’t think my experience with Beloved Man was representative or the norm, beyond the basic commonality of citruses and woodiness. I haven’t seen anyone else describe the scent as citric creaminess, but I can only tell you how it was on my skin. Lest it was not clear by now, I really liked the lemon chiffon aspect of Beloved. As a whole, I find the perfume to be a well-balanced, easy, uncomplicated fragrance that is very enjoyable as a tame, extremely safe, very basic, approachable Amouage. I also think it is thoroughly and completely unisex.

In fact, the way Beloved Man was on my skin reminded me of Amouage‘s beautiful Ubar for Women, a fragrance that had an equally beautiful lemon custard facet to it. Ubar is a stunner that is much more complex, nuanced, floral, and rich (not to mention nuclear in projection), but Beloved Man felt like a riff on one of Ubar’s prettiest features. In essence, a drier, woodier, smokier, simpler and lighter version of Ubar’s lemon custard. I see no reason at all why women who prefer woodier scents couldn’t wear Beloved. In all cases, Beloved would work really well as a discrete fragrance that is practical and versatile for every day use. You could wear it to the office, but it also feels like an elegant, rich take on citruses that is suited for the summer.

Yet, for all that, Beloved is also linear, simplistic, and lacking much flair or ooomph. And it really needs some profound distinctiveness for the price that Amouage is asking. As a “special edition” or limited-edition fragrance, Beloved seems to have the retail cost of $425. That is a lot of money for an unobtrusive citrus scent with some smoke and woodiness! You might argue that it is an Amouage, but the problem is that Beloved seems like an anti-Amouage to a large extent. Yes, its simplicity has some definite benefits in terms of ease and versatility, but do you want to pay $425 or €340 for it? I wouldn’t.

Speaking of price, it seems to vary all over the place. I’ve never encountered a fragrance where each retailer seems to set a different figure on the same bottle. It’s not listed on the Amouage website at this time, so I have no idea what price they once gave for it. CaFleureBon mentions $425, but I’ve also read $450 and one Fragrantica commentator (probably hyperbolically) said $500. I’ve found Beloved selling for $360 in the U.S., and as low as £265 or €320 in Europe, but I repeat again: woody, citrus mousse!

As you may gather, I’m quite torn on Beloved. If I’m to be honest, it was rather disappointing for an Amouage. It has little to do with the price, but with the fact that I expect more from them. If Beloved were issued by Maison Francis Kurkdjian as a counterbalance to his tendency to create very commercial, safe, often fresh and clean scents (with the fantastic, rich, opulent Absolue Pour Le Soir as being the lone exception to the rule), then I would undoubtedly praise Beloved. It would still be simplistic, safe, and lacking much flair, but, generally speaking, I no longer expect much more than that from MFK.

However, I do expect something different from Amouage which I think is one of the best, most innovative, interesting perfume houses around. Its creations stand out and are admired because they’re complicated, complex, nuanced, and different. Should one judge Beloved in a vacuum, or by the standard of the house? Well, perhaps by both, but I suppose it depends on price as well, which brings us back full circle to that $425. I find it mind-boggling, simply mind-boggling.

Amusingly enough, a commentator on Fragrantica has a preemptive response to my criticisms, presumably because he has heard numerous other people saying the same thing. “Johnnybr0801” argues:

The more I use it, the more I love it!! 🙂 Don’t hate this because of the “lack of uniqueness” or simply because of the price tag! Yes, it is overpriced, as this is a limited edition! I don’t say that this automatically validates the price tag , however I have to tell that whenever I smell an Amouage frag, I always feel like I would pay whatever price they ask for!
Not because Im a fan of the house, but the quality, the creative process, the ingredients, etc. Everything speaks value here! I think they are one of the only houses with a clear concept what they want, and what they want to tell with their fragrances. No bullshit here. You get what you paid for. Period.
This little pricy bastard meant to light up those moments in your life when you feel like you wanna remember forever for that moment. It could be a date, a girl, a man, whatever. It still can be an everyday scent, but I feel like in heaven wearing this every time I put on! This is true ART!!! 

Well, I’m a fan of the house, too, and I agree that its fragrances are of superior quality, but that doesn’t mean that Beloved is a specific case of “true ART!!!” Blind worship is not my thing, and I don’t do it for any perfume brand. I simply cannot fathom what he’s experiencing with Beloved that makes him think it is unique enough to light up his life or to remember a special occasion forever. All the more power to him, though.

What was interesting in reading the largely critical reviews on Fragrantica was seeing the different ways Beloved can manifest itself on one’s skin. To wit:

  • This is a light fragrance that smells a bit like baby powder when applied but man o man have I receive so many compliments in just the two times I’ve worn it this far. It also lasts a while on my skin but does not seem to project that far.
  • At the start I’m smelling the grapefruit and geranium then
    I’m mainly picking up a soft sweet powdery peppery spice with jasmine, musk with a hint of leather. [¶] I don’t know what to make of this scent as all the notes seem to come at you all at once.
  • its the sweatest [sweetest?] and softest manly smell you ever can wear, deep mix and hard to describe, you cant describe it as spicy or woody, or even floral, its nicely mixed to a level where nothing truely dominate.
  • a gentleman perfume for men, with burst of citrus smells, then woodsy pencil shaving smell[.]

Though Beloved has some admirers, most assessments are quite disparaging. One person wrote that Beloved was “a concoction of nothingness not worth its price.” Another said: Beloved is “[u]nworthy of the Amouage name, tested it twice and found it so unremarkable and forgettable[.]” A handful find Beloved to be so “generic” that they couldn’t even be bothered to describe what they smelled, while many others compare it to a whole slew of commercial, department store fragrances. There are several statements to the effect of, “Oh man this is somehow what Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million tries to be.” Other perfumes mentioned are: original, vintage Gucci HommeDior Homme Sport 2012; and Escada‘s Casual Friday.

The blogger, Persolaise, brings up elements of other fragrances as well in a review that calls Beloved “less than spectacular”:

It’s not often I’m relieved to discover that a perfume is less than spectacular. I’ve got so many ‘must buy’ Amouages on my list, that … perversely, I am grateful that Beloved Man won’t tempt me to part with my cash. When compared to last year’s Beloved Woman – a far-reaching chypre composed by Bernard Ellena – it feels like something of a let-down. But taken on its own terms, it’s a solid, competent, ambery-wood masculine.

Fans of Guerlain‘s Heritage and Cartier‘s Declaration will recognise several elements of those scents here, but Beloved Man adds an ‘exotic’ twist, mainly through the use of pepper (always warm; never sneeze-inducing) and a strange, grapefruit-inflected, melting plastic note, not unlike that displayed by Interlude Woman. In combination with cardamom, the aforementioned amber and a disappointingly prominent dose of abrasive wood materials, this curious facet unsettles the wearer and diminishes the romantic effect implied by the scent’s name. But it settles down before too long and makes room for an innocuous, musky drydown. [Emphasis and bolding of names added by me.]

As you can see, his synthetic woody blend is quite different from my own experience. In fact, I seem to be the only one who had an elemi-centric cocktail of mousse-y citruses with smoke and dry woodiness.

Yet, regardless of the different manifestations of Beloved — from baby powder to sweet floral woodiness, leathered woods, or “grapefruit-inflected melting plastic” with “abrasive woods” — there seems to be a common theme in many of these assessments: disappointment. (I’ve even seen “disappointing” as a headline on a YouTube vlog review!) I think it boils down to two things: Beloved feels like quite the anti-Amouage; and it’s bloody expensive for such simplicity. I expect more than just high-quality from Amouage, especially for $425. Beloved’s citrus-woody mousse falls short of the mark, alas.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Beloved Man is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size. It is a limited distribution scent, and isn’t listed on Amouage’s website. I can’t figure out the retail price, and I’ve seen numbers that vary all over the place: $360, $425, $450, £265, £285, €320, €325, or €340. What I’ve read on CaFleureBon is that “Beloved Man is sold exclusively in Amouage standalone stores and a select number of department stores such as Bergdorf-Goodman in New York City and retails for $425.00.” However, I don’t see it listed on the Bergdorf website anymore. Perhaps it is merely an in-store item? In the U.S.: I found Beloved for $360 on Amazon U.S. from a vendor listed as “Amouage,” but the page also puts “Rare Perfume” as the seller name on the right. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, I found Beloved at The Perfume Shoppe for what appears to be US $425. In Europe, I found Beloved Man at Essenza Nobile for €320, at Premiere Avenue and First in Fragrance for €325, at the Netherland’s ParfuMaria for €330, at Italy’s Al Sacro Cuore for €335, and at Jovoy Paris for €340. I know both FiF and Essenza Nobile sell samples, and ship world-wide, as does Premiere Avenue. In the U.K., Beloved is available at Selfridge’s for £285. It’s slightly cheaper at Fascination Perfumery at £265. Harrod’s and Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie normally carry all the Amouage scents, but Beloved was not listed in Harrod’s Amouage for Men page. In Australia, David Jones sells Beloved for AUD$490, while Libertine sells it for AUD$495. In Russia, you can find it at Original ParfumSamples: you can try Beloved from Surrender to Chance which sells vials starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Amouage Sandal Attar

Some of the most luxurious creations in the perfume world are rich Middle Eastern attars, and few people do it as well as the royal perfume house, Amouage. I recently had the chance to try Sandal, an lesser-known Amouage attar, thanks to the kindness of a reader of the blog, “Dubaiscents,” who generously sent me a sample. Sandal is a soliflore centered around one ingredient, and one ingredient alone: sandalwood. 

Sandal attar, via Fragrantica.

Sandal attar, via Fragrantica.

Sandal‘s press description is provided by one EU retailer, Profumeria Pepos, and reads:

Unique and therefore absolute. Only one player dominates the heart of this attar, Sandalwood. Mystic wood celebrating the oriental cults. Aphrodisiac wood smelling the nights of love. Lonely lover’s skin is often sought to sublimate the Asian touch with its dry and velvety touce. Here, a maximum concentration of itself, was left alone to be admired in its absolute beauty.

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Mysore sandalwood cross-section. Source: http://vk.com/wall172858112_51

Sandal is supposedly nothing but pure Indian sandalwood. It is one of my favorite notes, and I grew up in an age where all the fragrances I wore had copious amounts of the glorious Mysore wood. Rich, red, spicy, often a little smoky, creamy, and with a touch of sweetness, it was beautiful. Unfortunately, nowadays, true Mysore sandalwood is so rare and so astronomically priced in even the smallest quantities that it might as well be extinct for the purposes of perfumery. As regular readers of the blog know well, I’m a huge sandalwood snob, and I find the Australian kind to be significantly different. I can count the modern fragrances that include genuine Mysore sandalwood on one hand, as the smell is truly distinctive for me.

Australian "santalum spicatum," via alibaba.com .

Australian “Santalum Spicatum,” via alibaba.com .

To my nose, Amouage’s Sandal attar smells like Australian sandalwood, and nothing like the Mysore variety that I grew up wearing in fragrances and oils. Sandal opens on my skin as green creaminess that smells exactly like buttermilk with the slightest, faintest tinge of sourness. The wood smells young and green, and doesn’t evoke the visuals of true Mysore sandalwood with its red-gold hues, rich spiciness, light smokiness, and sweetness. I recently received some oil from an Australian sandalwood plantation, and Amouage’s Sandal is almost identical to that on my skin. The only difference is that the Sandal lacks the occasionally medicinal touches, and is infinitely creamier. It’s beautifully soft and smooth, but it still smells green to me.

As a single-note oil, Sandal doesn’t change much on my skin. After a few hours, a lovely, extremely delicate, and light floral element creeps into the creamy woody smoothness. It has an almost a lemony undertone to it and, on occasion, smells a little like lemongrass. At no time is any of it spicy or smoked in feel. The attar wears very close to the skin, hovering perhaps an inch above at best in initial projection in the opening hour. It becomes a skin scent after about 5.5 hours, then fades away entirely at the start of the 9th hour.

Australian sandalwood or "Santalum Spicatum." Source: rarewoodsandveneers.com

Australian sandalwood or “Santalum Spicatum.” Source: rarewoodsandveneers.com

I couldn’t find any blog reviews for Sandal, but there are brief assessments in some very old Basenotes threads. In one discussion dating back to 2010, a commentator found the sandalwood in the attar to be genuine Mysore sandalwood and described the smell like “coconut water.” He thought it was exactly like the old Mysore scents he used to wear in the 1970s. However, in an earlier thread from 2009, the two olfactory descriptions of the Sandal attar were different.

  • I’ve sniffed Al Andalous and Sandalwood and both seemed to be very similar to other typical Middle Eastern attars of the same respective genres, with a fair dose of clearly synthetic ingredients.  […] The Sandalwood attar was not unpleasant but not anywhere near the pure sandalwood oil.
  • The Sandal is very medicinal, like a cough crop. That sounds strange but it’s gorgeous.

Amouage’s attars are not immune from reformulation or weakening, so I don’t know if the 2013 version that I tested has changed from the 2010 version of the Basenotes commentator who detected “genuine” Mysore sandalwood. All I can say is that, to my nose, Sandal has creamy buttermilk greenness, not the red Mysore spiciness, sweetness and smoke.

Sandal is pretty in its creaminess and, if one were not a sandalwood snob, would probably be very enjoyable to wear. For me, personally, however, I could not justify spending the amount of money asked by Amouage for such a green, buttermilk version of my favorite note, especially given the sillage. I tested the attar a few times and, on one occasion, asked a family member who loves Mysore sandalwood what they thought. It was only an hour after application, but they could barely detect the scent on my skin. I said, “it’s sandalwood,” to which they replied, “doesn’t smell like it to me.”

Sandal is cheaper than Amouage’s better known attars like Tribute and Homage, but they’re still not giving away. You can find the smallest size (12 ml) starting at $250 or €168, which is better than Tribute’s opening price of $370. It’s still quite a hefty outlay for a mere 12 ml of a soliflore with weak sillage. For me, personally, the glorious, fantastic Tribute blows it out of the water, but Tribute is a much more complicated beast and definitely not a soliflore. I also prefer the interesting, nuanced Al Mas and Asrar attars, but, again, it probably isn’t fair to judge a single-note fragrance by the standards of scents with more layers.

At the end of the day, price is always a subjective matter, as is probably the aromatic impression of Mysore wood in general. So if you’re looking for a creamy and pretty take on sandalwood, then you may want to consider Sandal. It’s not the easiest thing to find, but it’s not impossible either. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sandal is a concentrated perfume oil, and comes in two sizes: 12 ml and 30 ml. Amouage has stopped carrying its attars outside the Middle East. Sandal is not sold in the U.S. nor available directly from the Amouage website, but you can find it on a few online retailers. Before I get to that, however, your best bet in finding the attar is in perfume groups. One is “Facebook Fragrance Friends” on Facebook, in which decants or samples of all the Amouage attars are currently being offered by the kind reader who provided me with Sandal. She paid the lower Oman and Dubai price for the bottles, so you may save a little over buying them at the higher Western price. Outside of Facebook, both sizes of Sandal are available at Zahras, a US online site specializing in Middle Eastern fragrances. You will have to scroll down that PDF link to page 19 to find the listing. The prices are $250 and $469 respectively for the 12 and 30 ml bottles. In the EU, I found Sandal at Profumeria Pepos which sells 12 ml of Sandal for €168. Same thing with Al Sacro Cuore, another Italian site. I could not find Sandal on the Dubai perfume site, ASF-Dubaishop, which normally carries a few of the Amouage attars at a good price, but not this one. Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes also doesn’t carry Sandal, but Italy’s Alla Violetta has numerous Amouage attars listed, including the Sandal at €168. However, none of them seem to be in stock, as they all carry the comment, “notify me when available” and you can’t put anything into a shopping cart. In terms of other vendors, Sandal is sold by Russia’s ry7. I don’t think the Amouage boutique in London carries the attars any more, as they’ve been limited to the Middle East by now, but you can always check. Samples: I haven’t found samples of the Sandal to be available on any of the decanting sites.

Amouage Al Mas & Asrar Attars

Source: free wallpapers at antemortemarts.com.

Source: free wallpapers at antemortemarts.com.

Red, yellow, orange, and gold. An explosion of vibrantly bright colours that are infused with tendrils of smoke, and which soon turns into the browns of smoky oud. The beauty that is saffron showcased in two ways: sweet and dry, gourmand and woody. And the richness of an ancient attar as a common thread between the two. They are Al Mas and Asrar, “The Diamond” and “The Secret,” from the royal perfume house, Amouage.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try these two, lesser known Amouage attars, thanks to the kindness of a reader of the blog, “Dubaiscents,” who generously sent me a sample of each. I was surprised by how the two attars seemed to be mirror opposites of each other, showing two differing approaches to the traditional Middle Eastern combination of saffron and oud. (Attars are concentrated perfume oils, and if you’d like to know more about the millenium-old process by which they are created and how they differ from essential oils, you can read the brief explanation in my review of the glorious Tribute attar.) Both Al Mas and Asrar are simple attars that are well-done, and which I thoroughly enjoyed testing, but neither one really sings loudly to me. 

AL MAS:

Al Mas. Source: straightrazorplace.com

Al Mas. Source: straightrazorplace.com

On Valentine’s Day, 2010, Amouage released Al Mas, which apparently means “diamond” in Arabic. It opens as a delicious gourmand attar centered on saffron and rose, atop a subtle base of woods. Unlike some modern attars which use paraffin to compensate for the lack of real sandalwood oil as a base, Al Mas includes some of that precious oil, in addition to oud. The notes, according to Surrender to Chance, include:

roses, oriental spices, saffron, amber, musk, sandalwood oil, oudh wood oil and cedarwood.

Source: ForATasteofPersia.co.uk

Source: ForATasteofPersia.co.uk

The first few seconds of Al Mas on my skin are a little similar to the glorious Tribute attar, only without the tarry birch and its loads of dark smoke. The impression of a gourmand version of Tribute lasts but for a few moments, however, as the fragrance quickly turns into every delicious Middle Eastern saffron dessert imaginable. There are gallons and gallons of sweet, syrupy saffron and rose, followed by amber, musk, and the most delicate hints of oud.

Zoolbia. Source:  Biblechef.com

Zoolbia. Source: Biblechef.com

The saffron dominates, turning everything in its path into visions of fiery red, gold, orange, and bright custard yellow. The syrupy, sweet rose follows suit, combining with the saffron to add to the overall impression of a rich Middle Eastern pastry or dessert. If you’ve ever had Persian Sholeh Zard or Zoolbia, Indian Phirni or Kheer, Lebanese Riz B Haleeb with saffron, or any variety of syrupy, saffron and/or rose-infused pastry from Egypt to Turkey, you’ll have some idea of both the visuals and the feel of Al Mas. Yet, the attar isn’t completely and wholly a foodie’s saffron fantasy. There are delicate whiffs of a very nutty, warm, mellow sandalwood and sweetened oud which flicker at the edges, along with the merest hints of a peppery cedary and musk. A subtle smokiness curls its tendrils around the far edges, sometimes feeling more like the suggestion of frankincense than anything sharply concrete.

Usbu Al-Zainab via TheCookingDoctor.co.uk (recipe & link within. Click on the photo.)

Usbu Al-Zainab via TheCookingDoctor.co.uk (recipe & link within. Click on the photo.)

Five minutes in, Al Mas turns profoundly nutty and honeyed. I almost expect to see pistachios and nuts sprinkled on top of the saffron rose. A powerful layer of treacly, gooey, thick honey quickly infuses the duo, overwhelming the hints of smoky incense and adding to the impression of Middle Eastern desserts. Whatever mild, momentary resemblance there may have been to the Tribute attar in the opening minute is long obliterated under the tidal wave of sweetness. The sweetness in Al Mas impacts the rose, turning it deeper, sweeter, and quite fruity in its syrupy heart. The fruitedness really makes me wonder if there is a very dark, purple patchouli at play in Al Mas as well. I would swear that there is the subtlest, tiniest hint of raspberries underlying the scent, and it’s hard to shake off for much of the first hour.

Around the 90-minute mark, Al Mas shifts and changes. It suddenly turns much drier, and starts to hover closer to the skin. The smoke has increased, as has the oud, countering the sweetness in the fragrance with an equal amount of smoky woodiness. With every passing hour, the syrupy, gourmand elements in Al Mas weaken, and the oud-frankincense combination grows in strength.

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

Source: samsunggalaxy.co

The fragrance turns into a skin scent about 3.5 hours in, wafting a sheer, delicate gauzy veil of oud smoke with nutty, sweet saffron and a touch of rose. Al Mas feels quite thin in comparison to that extremely heavy, rich, almost unctuous start. I actually applied far more of Al Mas than I did of Tribute, but the latter was a profoundly richer, deeper, stronger, and more nuanced scent with far less. Al Mas, in contrast, is much simpler in nature, and primarily limited to a smoky oud-with-saffron combination despite using almost double the amount (4 small drops). I’m a little surprised by how quickly the rose element faded away on my skin; by the start of the fourth hour, it’s largely disappeared. Soon, Al Mas is nothing more than wispy oud with saffron and, 7.5 hours into its development, it dies completely.

Al Mas isn’t listed on the Fragrantica site, and I can’t find any blog reviews for it except for one. Over at The Perfume Posse, a reviewer called Musette writes about the attar but I find myself somewhat confused by her assessment. She talks about the fragrance’s lightheartedness with geranium, clary sage, and lily of the valley! She also says: “The notes (courtesy Surrender to Chance) are counterintuitive to what I deemed ‘attar’ : orange blossom, lemon and rosemary; middle notes of lily of the valley, geranium and clary sage; and base notes of sandalwood, oak moss and musk.” None of those notes are what are commonly attributed to Al Mas or, even, what is currently listed on Surrender to Chance’s entry for the perfume oil. There must be some sort of mix-up in attars, and in the sample she obtained. Either that, or my nose is completely wonky because I swear I don’t smell a whiff of anything remotely “light-hearted,” green, and white in Al Mas. On me, the attar is primarily saffron and rose, and then, later, smoky oud and saffron.

ASRAR:

Asrar. Source:  via profumeriapepos.eu

Asrar. Source: via profumeriapepos.eu

When Amouage had its 25th Anniversary celebrations in 2007, they released a special attar called Asrar (also, sometimes written as “Asrer“). According to Fragrantica, Asrar means “secrets” in Arabic, and the tale associated with the attar is as follows:

Interwoven with golden hints of, the plot of Asrar, whose name in Arabic means “Secrets”, is decorated with notes, as if by magic, they appear under the nose an oriental garden nestled between Dream and Reality. […] A touch of saffron, a handful of spices, four drops of amber, musk, and then a puff of a distillate of Oudh, the bark of an infusion of exotic wood and sandalwood.

The full notes in Asrar, as compiled from Fragrantica, Surrender to Chance, and the ASF-Dubaishop perfume retailer, includes:

oud, oudh distillate, rose, amber, frankincense, musk, saffron, orange blossom, sandalwood oil, and moss.

Saffron OrangeAsrar opens on my skin with a powerful blast of fiery saffron that is so rich, it feels almost buttered. It’s so buttered and hot, in fact, so hot and buttered, that I almost expect a plate of Basmati rice to ensue. Moments later, other elements appear. There are subtle whiffs of burnt orange, smoky orange, and sweet, buttered orange with saffron, but they are very brief. Equally light and muted are the flickers of rose and frankincense which lurk below. The main, primary focus, however, is that strong blast of saffron. It differs from the note in Al Mas where it is wholly gourmand in feel, because, here, the saffron is a little bit smoky, a touch woody, and infused with a burnt element.

There is also something oddly chilly about the bouquet, a flicker of something almost mentholated that perplexes me. It’s not like eucalyptus or like medicine, but just barely floral in suggestion. My guess is that the indoles in the orange blossoms have been concentrated to such an extent that they’ve taken on a vaguely icy feel. It’s hard to explain, but there is a surprising, subtle coolness to Asrar that sharply counters the hot butteriness of the saffron. Yet, on my skin, it never translates at any point to orange blossoms — and I tested Asrar twice. The attar also doesn’t feel even remotely orange-y, despite the initial, disappearing whiffs in the first minute, so my skin obviously muted the note for the most part.

Source: RGPeixoto on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: RGPeixoto on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

It is another flower, instead, which dominates the first hour of Asrar on my skin: the rose. It makes its debut about five minutes in, and it’s another syrupy, sweet, slightly jammy rose that feels a little bit fruited in its richness. Like everything else, it is flecked by the fiery, heavy saffron, and the two notes dance a solitary tango for most of the first hour.

Thirty minutes in, the chilly nuance vanishes, and is replaced on the sidelines by a hint of smoke that has a slightly burnt undertone. At times, the smokiness smells like burnt woods, but, at other times, it resembles the pungent, acrid sharpness that you’d get from blackened caramel. At the 90-minute mark, the note coalesces and takes shape as noticeable, distinct oud. It adds a more concrete woodiness to the scent, but it retains its slightly smoky undercurrents as well, perhaps from what Amouage terms of “oudh distillate.”

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

The agarwood and its smoke slowly become more and more prominent, taking over the buttery heaviness of the saffron and cutting it with dryness. Around 2.75 hours into Asrar’s development, the fragrance is primarily smoky oud with saffron. The rose has retreated a little to the periphery, and there is the start of a slightly medicinal edge to the wood notes. By the end of the fourth hour and the start of the fifth, Asrar is primarily an oud scent that is simultaneously dry, a little smoky, and a little medicinal. There are quiet undercurrents of saffron underlying it, and the whole thing sits right on the skin. Asrar remains that way until its very end when it’s nothing more than dry, somewhat medicinal oud with smoke. All in all, the attar lasted just short of 8 hours on my skin, and had generally soft sillage.

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

I couldn’t find any blog reviews for Asrar, but there are short assessments at some of the perfume groups. On Fragrantica, one person found the attar to be very similar to Tribute, while another thought Asrar was a herbal, floral garden ruled by saffron but with an undertone of “freshly applied rubbing alcohol,” no doubt from the oud. The third found Asrar to be simultaneously “very, very sweet,” and discordantly harsh. On Basenotes, there are also three reviews of Asrar, all of which give the fragrance 5-stars. For the most part, the commentators seem to detect much more orange blossom than I did. For example, one person wrote:

The combination of orange blossom and rose smells very familiar and friendly, but the oud and the saffron give a medicinal edge to it. It’s also very spicy, it almost feels “hot” in the nose! Absolutely unisex and in my humble opinion better than Homage or Tribute. The combination of warm top-notes and a mysterious, almost fierce base is totally stunning!

The second commentator also noted the floral elements in Asrar, adding: “It shares a little something with APOM by MFK, but with several additional notes. Everything anyone could want in a feminine attar.” The last found Asrar to be far better suited for her than Amouage’s Ubar, Lyric, or Gold perfumes, and as warmly comforting as a bath:

a rare scent, sweet and yet a little bit pungent through the massively overpowering effect of the saffron. Asrar is mainly a *saffron* scent. Thus, it has a slight reminiscence of a Tibetan temple, of Iranian saffrani chai (saffron tea) of the brand “Zanbagh”. But, then, it is infinitely sweeter than a temple, it is sweet and warm like a warm warm bath, like a lovely embrace… […] After a while, a new smell develops on my skin, like a slight reminiscence of Indian paan, the stuff they eat after dinner there, which lifts the scent up through it’s zest from the mere warmy nicey lovely bath idea[.]

The fact that all six Fragrantica and Basenotes commentators had such widely divergent experiences is interesting to me. Obviously, skin chemistry plays a key role, but I think it’s also a question of the personal experiences through which one’s nose filters the powerful saffron note. For some, it will translate as too sweet, for others, it will be a comforting scent with some foodie associations. Ultimately, how you feel about Asrar may depend on the extent to which the florals and the oud (with its medicinal undertones) come out to counter the warm, fiery, buttery richness of the saffron.

ALL IN ALL:

I enjoyed parts of Al Mas. I thought the opening was delicious, perhaps because I love saffron enough to counter my usual issues with foodie or dessert fragrances. The rose and the subtle, brief hints of sandalwood were very nice, too, but at the end of the day, the fragrance isn’t really me. On the plus side, however, Al Mas is significantly and substantially cheaper than Amouage’s better known attars like Tribute and Homage. You can find the smallest size starting at $151, which is a few hundred dollars off Tribute’s opening price of $370. If you love saffron, gourmand fragrances, or ouds that eventually turn dry and smoky, Al Mas is definitely worth checking out.

As for Asrar, I didn’t fancy it quite as much. On my skin, the saffron felt like a woodier, drier, less gourmand, but significantly more buttery-hot version of the note in Al Mas. I wish I had experienced the orange blossoms, but instead, there was the oddly medicinal edge to the fragrance that isn’t my favorite aspect of agarwood. As a whole, I don’t think my skin chemistry highlighted the prettier aspects or nuances of Asrar, since it seems quite lovely on others.

As a whole, both perfumes are well done, though quite simple and uncomplicated in nature. They’re also on the more affordable end of the scale for an Amouage attar, relatively speaking. Though they share some overlap in notes, Al Mas and Asrar feel very much like mirror opposite interpretations on saffron and oud, with one starting on a gourmand note before turning woody and smoke, while the other is more fiery and buttered before engaging in a similar transformation. The oud accord is different in each, as is the floral undertone, so both Al Mas and Asrar may be worth a sniff for different reasons.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability & Stores: Al Mas and Asrar are concentrate perfume oils, and come in two sizes: 12 ml and 30 ml. Neither one is sold in the U.S. nor available directly from the Amouage website, but you can find them easily from various online retailers. The cheapest price comes from the Dubai perfume site, ASF-Dubaishop. Al Mas costs $151 for the 12 ml bottle, and $226 for 30 ml. Asrar or Asrer costs $207 or $307, depending on bottle size. The prices for Al Mas are higher at Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes which sells a 12 ml bottle of the “new version” (whatever that means) for $259.99. The Amouage attars are also sold at a slightly higher price at Zahras Perfumes, with Al Mas costing $175 and $325 respectively, and Asrar priced at $190 and $350. I found Asrar at a European online vendor called Profumeria Pepos which sells the attar for €168 for a 12 ml size. Italy’s All Violette sells several Amouage attars. Asrar is priced at €169 for 12 ml, though I’m not sure if it is currently in stock, along with a sample of Asrar for €20. Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes sells Asrar for $299 for a 30 ml bottle. In terms of other vendors, I assume you can also find the attars at the Amouage boutique in London, and possibly at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods, but that is just a hopeful guess. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells samples of Al Mas starting at $10.99 for a 1/4 ml vial, while Asrar starts at $13.99 for a 1/4 ml vial.

Amouage Tribute Attar: The Devil’s Elixir

Amouage TributeWhat sorcery is this?! What dark magic created such a devil’s elixir? It’s simply cruel to make something that smells this good, and make it so expensive. It really verges on the sadistic.

Those were a few of my thoughts as I tried Tribute, an attar from Amouage. A reader of the blog, “Dubaiscents,” whose generosity is only surpassed by her thoughtfulness, sweetness, and kindness sent me a sample of the divine scent. Tribute seemed to by-pass most of my normal analytical skills, going straight for the jugular, and triggering an atavistic, primal, wholly incoherent desire to dive headlong into a pile of old leather jackets topped by a blanket of roses in a tarry birch woodshed filled with frankincense smoke. Honestly, the thought that hit me from the start was that Tribute was Darth Vader’s perfect rose — and I mean that in the absolute best way possible.

Source: all-wallpapers.net

Source: all-wallpapers.net

One can’t explain Tribute without first taking a small detour into what constitutes an “attar.” Attars (or ittars) are concentrated perfume oils made from natural botanicals and without using an alcohol as a base. As Wikipedia explains, the process goes back thousands of years in the Middle East and India, whereby the essential oils left from distilling flower petals, woods, and herbs are often distilled down further into a base, then aged. The site, Broken Earth Naturals, explains the difference between attars and essential oils:

Source: Broken Earth Naturals.

Source: Broken Earth Naturals.

Traditionally Attars are similar to essential oils in that they are distilled using water or steam and are the pure oils taken from the distillation of botanical material. Attars are different from essential oils because Attars are usually herbs and flowers, or even woods and resins which are being distilled into a base oil such as sandalwood. These distillates are then allowed to age for varying amounts of time. Some attars are aged for only 20 days while others may be aged for many years. Like fine wines, when properly stored, attars grow in perfection.

An even more technical, detailed explanation of the process is available at Bio-Bytes, which seems to imply that paraffin is used nowadays to compensate for the lack of real sandalwood oil as a base.

Amouage’s Tribute attar does not have the traditional sandalwood base, but the process which has been followed is the ancient one and seems to include the aging process as well. In a press release quoted by Now Smell This, Amouage describes Tribute as follows: 

Combining with frankincense in graceful accord, the subtle majesty of saffron forms with it the top chord of the fragrance, and heralds the transition into an elaborate and powerful range of floral heart notes, chief among which are Jasmine and Rose Taifi.

Once it reaches full maturity, warm, richly spiced base notes such as leather, tobacco, cedarwood, patchouli and vetiver emerge to round out the fragrance, creating a gentle but powerfully intriguing finish that harks back to the traditional use of attars by ancient healers and prophets, who employed them to enhance moods, and uplift the soul.

Tribute was released in 2009, and Fragrantica says that it was made with the help of perfumers from Grasse, France. According to Luckyscent, its notes include:

Rose Taifi, Jasmine, Saffron, Frankincense, Cedarwood, Tobacco, Leather, Patchouli, Vetiver.

Elsewhere, I’ve seen other ingredients mentioned as a part of the scent, from Cade and Juniper (which is where cade oil comes from) to Birch Tar. As the Perfume Shrine explains, all three notes are common sources in perfumery for a certain kind of leather aroma. To me, Tribute is all about the birch tar and not about the more piney nuance that I associate with juniper, so I strongly agree with Mark Behnke who, in an article for Fragrantica, talked repeatedly about the birch tar aspect to the attar’s leather facade.

The concentrated nature of attars — and those from Amouage in specific — lends to some caution in application. I’d read repeated reports that a mere drop of Tribute could last well over 24 hours in duration, a fact commonly pointed to as a justification for the perfume’s incredibly high price for an incredibly tiny bottle. Given my wonky skin, I decided to go a little wild, live on the edge, and apply two mediumish drops. By the end of the day, I had wished I had doused myself in the oil, as Tribute simply gets better, and better, and better….

Source: wallpaperfo.com

Source: wallpaperfo.com

Tribute opens on my skin with a burst of birch tar, cedar, rose, frankincense smoke, saffron, leather and patchouli. Each note is crystal clear for a second, hanging in the air like a bell, and, yet, part of a greater, gloriously well-blended sum total at the same time. Within seconds, however, certain notes converge to dominate, and to create the impression of a rose taken to the woodshed where it is surrounded by black leather set on fire with tar and dark incense. It’s all done in the best, darkest, dirtiest, smokiest way possible. As those two, small, satiny drops of dark, thick oil melt further into the skin, the birch tar rises like Darth Vader breathing blackly from the bowels of frankincense and leather. You can almost hear him heavy-breathing in the corner as the rose turns into smoky leather. Swirls of blackness abound all around, from the incense to the phenolic, tarry birch so beloved by the Russian cossacks of old for their leather. Cedar circles around the vortex, adding a woody touch to the smoky elements. And, behind the dark clouds, lies the shining ruby light of the rose.

Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

Like black-garbed knights, the notes in Tribute follow in a definite progression of strength in those early moments. General Birchtar leads the troops, carrying the leather banner loudly and proudly, with frankincense as his roaring second in command. Lieutenant Cedar follows, then the Sargeant Taif. The rose is beefy, concentrated, and blackened, but a touch spicy, too, thanks to the fiery saffron. The remaining elements bring up the rear in a much more indistinct form, though the patchouli occasionally pops up to make his voice heard. Only the jasmine is a no-show at this point.

Source: wallpaper-source.com

Source: wallpaper-source.com

I love the rose in Tribute, simply love it, especially at the end of twenty minutes when it becomes much more pronounced. I’m generally not one to go crazy about rose notes, but this one is simply beautiful. If flowers were meat, the Taif rose in Tribute would have the refinement of Filet Mignon, but the large, thick feel of a Porterhouse or a mammoth slab of Prime Rib. At all times, it’s done rare, dripping its juices as dark as blood. It’s spicy, syrupy, smoky, leathery, beefy, woody, and jammy, all at once, and its growing prominence makes Tribute the most fascinating blend of tarry blackness and sweet crimson. Forty minutes in, the Taif rose takes its place as the star of the show. Infused with the tarry leather and frankincense, it’s a tough, butch rose that is well-suited for those men who think rose scents are girly things that they can’t wear. Yet, there is more to Darth Vader’s rose than just leather and smoke. The spicy saffron lends it a touch of fieriness, while the patchouli adds a subtle undertone of beautifully balanced sweetness.

Lara Stone, the dutch model, photographed by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine.

Lara Stone, the Dutch model, photographed by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine.

Slowly, very slowly, Tribute shifts a little. At the end of the second hour, it mellows, deepens, and softens, turning into a well-blended bouquet whose tough, sharp edges have been smoothed out. It’s still a dark fragrance, but Darth Vader has left the building and Lara Stone has taken his place. The fragrance wafts about in a mellower, deeper, richer cloud of leather, rose, tarry woods, and smoke. Tribute stays on this course for hours to come, with the leather becoming more aged, oiled, burnished, and smooth with every moment. At the start of the fourth hour, the fragrance finally drops in projection, no longer radiating out across the room.

The sillage is a point worth explaining in detail. Tribute doesn’t start as a nuclear-tipped perfume which can knock out someone across the room, but it definitely creates a small cloud around one. While walking around my house, I was surprised to detect little wafts of a smoky, dark rose lingering in a tiny, faint way in the air in a place I had been about ten minutes earlier. Tribute definitely sends little tendrils of scent out in a soft wave, but this is a naturally made fragrance oil, not a conventional perfume with its synthetic elements or alcohol base. As such, the scent never feels powerful or overwhelming in quite the same way a normal fragrance — even one of Amouage’s regular, powerful perfumes — does. The best way I can explain it is that there is a softness to its presence, no matter how strong it might be. Tribute doesn’t pulsate out like a tidal wave the way something like a Tom Ford Private Blend or a 1980s powerhouse like Poison might, but, then again, I only put on two small drops. What might happen if you went overboard, and put on the true equivalent of a spray of perfume, heaven only knows.

Aged, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

Aged, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

There are other changes to the fragrance, too. About 3.75 hours in, the leather is no longer so tarry and smoky, but, instead, has turned into a smoother, richer, oiled leather. In addition, the rose is not quite so dominant, though it is still wholly intertwined with the leather. The frankincense has been smoothed over and softened. Faint traces of the saffron, cedar, and patchouli remain in differing degrees, but the vetiver vanished long ago on my skin. As a whole, Darth Vader has been left well behind, and Tribute now feels like a very beloved, well-worn, warm leather jacket whose inner collar and neck carry the lingering traces of a deep, dark rose. At the 4.5 hour mark, the fragrance starts becoming closer to the skin, and the rose has retreated somewhat, leaving a scent that is primarily smoky, incense leather at its core.

Source: saab92x.com

Source: saab92x.com

I thought Tribute was a sexy scent from the start, but the fragrance ramps it up in its middle and final stages. About 5.25 hours in, Tribute is an intoxicating swirl of smoky woods and rich, aged leather that is faintly infused with sweetness and a lingering trace of rose. Quiet, muted flickers of saffron have popped back up at the edges, but they’re nutty rather than spicy or fiery. Towards the end of the 6th hour, Tribute turns into a skin scent, but it’s one that is so warm, rich, and sweet, it’s positively addictive. Something about the scent makes me feel like diving headlong into a pile of aged, burnished leather, burrowing my nose deeper and deeper into its multi-layered richness. If you’ve ever worn your boyfriend or partner’s old leather jacket, it’s that smell, only infused with some floral sweetness and incense.

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

Source: Hdwallpaperes.com

It just gets better with time, as Tribute’s final stage takes that beautiful leather richness and mixes it with jasmine. Midway during the 7th hour, the jasmine finally comes out to play, and its addition lends a touch of feminine softness to the leather. Tribute is now sweet, warm, jasmine leather with a touch of frankincense smoke and nutty saffron. Even as a skin scent, the intoxicating aroma is still somewhat potent when you put your nose right on your skin. Despite the thinner, lighter feel at the end of 8 hours, the scent itself remains rich, deep and smooth. It’s utterly sexy, and stays that way until its final moments when Tribute is nothing more than a soft blur of sweetened leather. All in all, two tiny drops lasted just short of 10.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It’s not the 24 hours of legend with a single drop, but then, my skin is wonky and doesn’t retain fragrances like other people. It certainly doesn’t hold onto natural perfume oils for such a long period of time, so I’m still very impressed.

As you can tell, I loved Tribute, but it is not a scent that I would recommend for everyone. I think men who love dark, smoky, slightly tarry, and very masculine leather fragrances should run to try it, especially those who normally find rose scents to be too feminine. On the other hand, women who are used to traditional feminine fragrances, delicate florals, and soft, sweet, dainty rose scents will want to stay far away. Tribute’s Darth Vader opening and the focus on tarry leather make it a scent that will skew very masculine for some women. Yet, those who like very dark, smoky, leathery fragrances may well fall in love with Tribute’s multi-faceted richness. If you can handle something like Bandit or Black Afghano, Tribute will be your cup of tea.

Tribute is enormously beloved by men (and some women), but out of the many positive reviews out there, my favorite may come from The Perfume Posse who raves about it in two separate, humourous posts. In the first, Patty writes, in part:

I barely dotted a drop on a wrist, went downstairs to talk to my son, and his first comment was, “what smells so good?”  That drop was permeating the room and wafting like  a pig farm in the summer.  Of course I mean that in a good way.  I went to the movies about 30 minutes later, and I was filling the theater with this magical scent — all Amouage Tribute Attar. […][¶]

This thing comes out of the bottlle like the fiercest, smokiest rose covered in leather and tobacco you have ever smelled.  Think Hell’s Angel Rose.  Put your nose down to it, and it’s floral dipped in diesel, mostly diesel, not so much floral.  I say that with love because I’m fairly fond of that.  But  if that’s not really your thing – diesel, I mean –  just wait a while, put it on in a location far from your nose and wait for it to perfume the air with saffron and spices.  This thing spins and whirls and changes in the drydown, leaning more to the leather, then the rose comes back through, and then it feels like almost all spice and saffron, then it starts huffing smoky vetiver like a coal-fired locomotive.  I don’t know that I’d say it’s a rose perfume.  It is, but it’s so much more than that. […] I’m bewitched.  

In the second review (for another Amouage attar, Al Mas), another Perfume Posse reviewer, Musette, talks about her experience with Tribute:

My first introduction to Amouage attars came in the form of  Amouage Tribute.  I was immediately smitten but it’s one of those attars I can only wear …..where?  There are so few comfortable places.  I mean, it’s so gorgeous!!!  But it’s so smoky, so complex, so…..foreign…that it …well, after a few nervous glances towards nearby fire extinguishers  I now tend to wear it At Home.  Lounging around in a silk caftan, on a silk divan, fanning myself (with a silk fan, scented with Amouage Tribute Attar).   Or tucked up in bed, apres-bain, with the Really Good Sheets.  Or at the opera.  Seriously.  It’s perfect for the opera.  Or a gallery opening, where you want to make a Statement.   One drop of  Amouage Tribute will scent your 3/4 length leather gloves for a month!  It lasts for a day and shimmers and glows through all its smoky-deep facets to an incredible drydown but, make no mistake – it’s deep.  

Source: The Telegraph newspaper.

“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Source: The Telegraph newspaper.

As you can see, women love Tribute, too, though they aren’t always sure where to wear it. While I can easily envision a woman wearing Tribute while lounging in a silk caftan at home, a better image for me personally would be a young Hugh Hefner in his silk pajamas, with a velvet robe, smoking a pipe in his leather-filled study, and being caressed by beautiful women who can’t stop sniffing his neck. I don’t see Tribute fitting in even remotely at the opera, but I can easily imagine Clint Eastwood wearing Tribute in his Sergio Leone western days to go with his cheroot cigar and squinty-eyed toughness. Or Darth Vader rising from the smoke. Tribute reflects all their different, contrasting sides. It is every forceful, tough, macho, dark, aggressive, but very sexy, man imaginable — concentrated into one or two silky, unctuous drops.

There seems to be one big problem with Tribute, beyond that of its astronomical price: batch numbers. On Fragrantica, there are a few references to differences in scent from one batch of attars to another, though it seems to be less of an issue for Tribute than it is for Amouage’s sister attar, Homage. Homage’s Luckyscent page is filled with talk about how the attar’s aroma can vary from one bottle to another, so it’s something I wanted to mention. As one Fragrantica commentator wrote with regard to Tribute:

I went to Amouage’s factory. The truth is that Amouage produces its attars with varying quality. I am not sure why this is happening but they have some problems controlling quality of the end-product, probably because they have different inputs for each batch. I personally got my hands on 3 different qualities of the Tribute. Only one of them was as good as it was supposed to be. The other two batches had either too much tobacco or too much vetiver or too little rose etc in the final bouquet. So please try the bottle before you buy it, don’t rely on the tester, try THAT VERY BOTTLE. The same problem is with other, originally excellent, attars – Al Mulook, Al Mas, Eidyya, Bard al Budur, Al Andaluz. The way to correct the Tribute that has too much tobacco is to add further 5-15% of Ajmal’s rose oil – the spicy and zesty Kashmiri rose that they widely sell in their shops in the arabic countries (they also call it Ruh al Ward). After mixing wait for 2-3 months keeping the bottle in the dark cool cabinet. The result exceeded my expectations! Good luck.

The issue that he references may explain one of the few, persistent complaints regarding Tribute: some people think the fragrance smells too strongly of tobacco and, in specific, of cigarette smoke. As one Fragrantica commentator put it, she smelled like “a smoky camel”:

Not a single waft of rose, jasmine, or any lighter essence. On me, the scent became thickly redolent of tobacco and leather, and for some reason I kept thinking about camel hide. I grew up in parts of the Middle East, and know what camels smell like. I’m very fond of camels, and defend them against their nasty reputation. I’d be crabby too if I had to carry loads on my back through baking hot terrain.

I just don’t want to smell like a smoky camel now. And I did all day.  

Obviously, all of this is a problem at $370 (without tax) for the smallest, tiniest bottle. Not everyone can visit the Amouage factory in Oman to test the fragrance and to choose their own bottle to minimize the risk of getting an excessively smoky, tobacco version. Amouage is charging too high a price for there to be such discrepancies, but the simple fact of the matter is that the very process of attar creation may make such variations an unfortunate part of the process. I’m not trying to minimize the problem, but it does seem to be somewhat unavoidable.

Yet, despite the occasional off batch, the majority of people seem wholly enamoured with Tribute. Take, for example, Basenotes, where the fragrance has an overall 93% positive rating with 79% giving it five stars, and 14% giving it four. If the fragrance were cheaper, I think those numbers would be even higher, because the issue of cost does come up repeatedly. Only one person gave Tribute a single star, and that seems to be because, four bottles of Tribute later, he claims the fragrance in 2012 was reformulated from its original 2009 version. There may have been reformulation or maybe it was a batch issue, I don’t know.

All I can say is that I would absolutely buy Tribute if I had a spare $370 lying around for a bottle a little larger than Visine or Tic-Tacs — risky batch issues be damned. I would buy it, try to suppress the urge to slather it on all over, then burrow into its rich, fiery, smoky depths, and sigh with pure contentment. Unfortunately, neither my wallet nor my somewhat cheap-skate side (which really mentally struggles with that 12 ml size, no matter how much I try to rationalise the longevity of single drops) will put up $370. So, I’ll simply treasure my remaining droplets, and wear it on those days when I would like Darth Vader’s strength mixed with the sweetest flowers of the East. Tribute is dark magic of the very best kind, and its smoky lure has bewitched me, too.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability & Stores: Tribute is a concentrate perfume oil, an attar, and is available in three sizes: 12 ml which costs $370, €265 or £225; 15 ml which costs $420; or 30 ml which costs $665, or £400.00. The perfume is not sold directly through the Amouage website, but is available through a number of different online vendors. In the U.S.: Tribute is available in all three sizes from Luckyscent, along with a sample for $14. It is available in the smallest and largest sizes from Parfums Raffy, Amouage’s authorized distributor in the U.S., along with Parfum1, and MinNY, all of which also sell samples. The small $350 bottle is also offered by ZGO.  Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can get Tribute from The Perfume Shoppe which sells the perfume oil in the small 12 ml size for US$350. In the UK, Tribute Attar is available at Harrods which sells the large 30 ml size for £400, but they are sold out at the time of this post. London’s Les Senteurs also carries Tribute which it sells in the small 12 ml size for £225. In the Netherlands, I found Tribute at Parfumerie.nl for €265 for 12 ml. In Italy, Tribute seems to be available from Alla Violetta for €266 for 12 ml, but it’s unclear to me whether they are currently sold out. In Germany, Tribute is available from Parfumerie Brueckner for €267 for 12 ml. Germany’s First in Fragrance also carries Tribute which it sells for €265 for 12 ml, but they are currently sold out. In Russia, I found Tribute at Eleven7ru. Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes sells the 30 ml bottles of Tribute at discounted prices, but I’m not sure what they mean by discontinued batch and “new version.” The prices, respectively, are $499 and $599 for 30 ml, which is lower than retail cost. Samples: Vials of Tribute are available from many of the retailers linked above, but also from Surrender to Chance which sells Tribute starting at $14.99 for a 1/4 ml vial.

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.