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Sometimes I smell a perfume and I just don’t know what to make of it. Whilst many fragrances I smell can provoke an immediate reaction – filing themselves neatly in to piles of ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘ew’, and ‘oooooh’, some take time, and some forever remain in a purgatory land where an opinion is the absolution never to arrive. OK, so I’m being a bit dramatic (just a tad, mind) and this is all a very longwinded way of saying that sometimes, it takes me a while to make up my mind about a fragrance.

Aaaaaand you can probably guess where this is going, right? Yes, when it came to Opus XI from Amouage, the 11th instalment in the brand’s Library Collection (where Amouage does its most unusual and often challenging work), I found myself unsure what I thought, even after spending a considerable amount of time with it. Opus XI was created by perfumer Pierre Negrin – it takes inspiration from the Orient and presents oud, one of perfumery’s most popular materials, in an entirely new guise. It’s a singular perfume that brings nuances to a material that could easily be described as tired, forging something that really is fascinating.

Painted in Red - Christopher Chong, Creative Director of Amouage
Christopher Chong, Creative Director of Amouage

Amouage has put out some great work under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. With his innate ability to pair the traditions of classic French perfumery with artistic inspirations from the worlds of opera and dance (amongst many others), he has a flair for bringing out the best in the perfumers he works with, drilling down into their talent to create symphonically beautiful fragrances that range from the staggering to the bizarre. Amouage may have started as a house steeped in Middle Eastern tradition, but Chong has made it an international brand that absorbs a multitude of cultures from a wide variety of places.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the brand is the Library Collection, which houses a number of ‘opuses’ (now nine in total) that present compositions that celebrate ingenuity, the search for knowledge and the arts. The range from the wispy and ethereal violet of Opus III, to the harsh cracked, black leather of Opus VII, with a whole world in between. The collection strikes me as a space where all that matters is the composition and the inspiration behind it. The scents don’t need to find a huge audience and can therefore, be as unique and challenging as they need to be. It’s a refreshing direction from such an established house.

This year, Amouage is adding Opus IX to the collection. Inspired by La Traviata, the fragrance is described as a “soulful interpretation of the camellia flower”¹. In all honestly (and I could be being totally ignorant – stranger things have happened), I’ve not known camellias to have much of a fragrance however, they do have a wonderfully showy and flamboyant appearance, and Opus IX captures this bravado in a brightly coloured fragrance that utilises unusual ingredients.

The Candy Perfume Boy's Guide to Jasmine
The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Jasmine

The Candy Perfume Boy’s ‘Guide to…‘ series is a Jasmine award winning fragrant exploration of the individual notes that make up the vast and multi-dimensional spectrum that is the world of perfume. In each episode, we take a detailed look at a particular ingredient, analysing its odour profile and the ‘must sniff’ perfumes that serve as reference examples within the genre.

The many fragrant trips in the series have seen us make stops at Planet Tuberose, Chocolate World and Lavender Moon. We’ve also taken journeys to discover the notes of Oud, Orange Blossom, Violet and Lily. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Vanilla – we’ve been there too (and it was particularly delicious, I must say). All-in-all, we’ve traversed some delectably smelly places, learning more and more about the world of perfume on the way. I for one have found it to be great fun, and I hope you, dear reader, have too.

In this instalment we take a look at one of perfumery’s most important, prominent and prolific ingredients – jasmine. This stuff is a vital building block in our perfumes and iconic fragrances such as Chanel’s Nº5 (a true legend) simply would be the same without it. So, without further ado, I have put together my selection of ‘reference’ jasmine fragrances – seven of the very best, to be precise – to help you guide yourself through the must sniffs of the jasmine world. Let’s go scent-trekking.

Expect the Unexpected: Opus VIII by Amouage
Expect the Unexpected: Opus VIII by Amouage

I never know what to expect when a new Amouage lands on my doorstep. The entire output from the industry’s most luxurious of houses is complex, intricate and grand beyond much else found in perfume stores. This complexity means that they’re not always the easiest perfumes to pin down and I personally find that one has to spend a fair bit of time with an Amouage before they can truly say they know it.

Amouage’s latest edition to their experimental Library Collection, ‘Opus VIII‘, is no exception and much like the wickedly dangerous, galbanum-soaked leather jacket of Opus VII and the delectably intense, salty amber of Opus VI that have preceded it, this beguiling perfume created by perfumers Pierre Negrin and Richard Herpin in conjunction with Creative Director Christopher Chong, is perhaps the most labyrinthine composition to have ever exited Amouage’s doors.

The Candies 2013: The Very Best and the Very Worst Perfumes of the Year
The Candies 2013: The Very Best and the Very Worst Perfumes of the Year

Can you believe that 2013 is coming to a close already? I certainly can’t! It only feels like yesterday that I was sat at my laptop, tapping away at the first reviews of the year and looking forward to the exciting new smells that next 365 days would bring. It has, all-in-all, been a very good year, with lots of interesting new perfumes launched, and on a more personal note too, as this year I took on the exciting role of Fragrance Expert for Escentual.com.

The perfumes have come thick and fast over the year, and once again the industry has seen an increase in the overall number of perfumes launched. Over the year we’ve seen our fair share of masterpieces, duds, flankers and celebrity money makers in, and as with any other year it has been a roller coaster ride of an experience sifting through just a tiny portion of what has been released.

In this post – my annual perfume awards (‘The Candies’) – I’m taking a look at my fragrant highlights of the year and those perfumes that have impressed, moved and surprised me. I’m also highlighting the specific scents that have failed to meet the mark this year and are disappointing enough to warrant naming and shaming. So sit back, don your red carpet gown (or suit), pop the champagne and enjoy The Candies 2013.

[Please also head over to my fragrant brothers and sisters who are sharing their very best perfumes of 2013; Persolaise, Olfactoria’s Travels, Eyeliner on a Cat, Fragrant Moments, Perfume Shrine, I Smell Therefore I Am, SmellyBlog and The Fragrant Man.]

The Sin of Pride
The Sin of Pride

My lovely perfume sisters and brothers – Persolaise, Eyeliner on a Cat, Fragrant Moments and Olfactoria’s Travels – and I, have yet again clubbed together to bring you  an olfactory group project. This time we’re focusing on the seven deadly sins and have cooked up our very best selections of the most sinful perfumes.

“A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”

The Oxford English Dictionary’s
Definition of ‘Pride’

When given the choice of picking a sin for my article I opted for ‘Pride’. The sin of pride focuses on self-adoration and vanity – taking pleasure and satisfaction from our own achievements, looks and attractive qualities. Pride intrigues me because I think it’s the sin that nearly everybody is guilty of at some time in their lives and it can be a key driver for us to continue to succeed in our professional and personal lives.

The perfumes I have picked for this article all display an element of pride – each in a slight different way. Whether it’s vanity, pride in artistry, the pride that precedes a fall or even a faceless pride, these perfumes are subtly sinful in a subversive and utterly compelling way

Amouage Opus VII
Amouage Opus VII

There should be a club for those that consider themselves as ‘Amouage Addicts’. We could all sit around discussing our adoration for the Omani house, pouring over our favourites and consoling each other over the fact that we’ll never be able to own them all. One matter that definitely would not be up for discussion however, is the idea of giving the house up any time soon. It’s simply not on the table.

We are truly helpless really, what with the annual masculine and feminine pairings. Not to mention special editions such as Beloved and the highly artistic and fascinating Library Collection. The truth is that we are mere lemmings for Amouage and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year’s addition to the Library Collection is Opus VII. Created by perfumers Pierre Negrin and Alberto Morillas it “arouses the juxtaposition of harmon with the intensity of reasoning between conflicting ideas and beliefs” [1]. Much like the chaos of the Interlude duo from last year, Opus VII appears to take a slightly more abstract approach with its dark black flacon serving as a small hint for the wild ride that’s unleashed upon the very first spritz.