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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.

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1,000 Roses for Zweibrücken (2012) by Ottmar Hörl
1,000 Roses for Zweibrücken (2012) by Ottmar Hörl

Under the direction of Christopher Chong, Amouage has positioned itself as a renegade perfumery that creates daring yet luxurious perfumes. Where many perfume houses at the top end of the scale are content putting any old juice in a fancy bottle, or just a juice that is likely to please many, Amouage seek to drive the face of perfumery forward, always developing fascinating, novel and unique fragrances. Of course, not everything they do is going to appeal to everybody, but that’s exactly the point and being divisive is always a key element in being truly great. So with Amouage it’s not guaranteed that one is going to fall in love with a fragrance however, what can be relied upon is that whatever they create will never, ever be boring.

The Library Collection is where Christopher Chong really stretches his legs. The collection now consists of ten fragrance, with this tenth edition, ‘Opus X‘, entering the fray as yet again, something entirely different. So far we’ve fallen asleep in a wistful dream of mimosa and violet in Opus III, reimagined our memory of amber in Opus VI, donned a cracked leather jacket of emerald green in Opus VII and inhaled huge waves of jasmine silk in Opus VIII. To say the journey of the Library Collection has been incredible is an understatement and with this tenth instalment in the series, one is treated to something incredibly special.

Opus X was created by Pierre Negrin, a familiar nose for Amouage’s most recent creations and Annick Menardo, the legend behind Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, Lolita Lempicka and YSL’s Body Kouros, to name just a few. I’m just going to say it: this is a dream team of perfumers and it shows in the results. Opus X is an intelligent take on rose that is not afraid to be evocative of unconventional things, specifically; blood, varnish and metal. It’s a rose like no other, one that is awe-inspiring in both its size and its uniqueness. As Persolaise says in his review, Opus X is ‘striking’.

Iris in Neon
Iris in Neon

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m rather fond of Jo Malone London. There is nothing more fun to me than untying the handsome black ribbon off the top of those beautiful yellow-cream boxes and pulling apart waves of tissue paper to reveal a gorgeously-scented treat for me or my home.  There’s joy in those boxes, whether it be a bottle of Cologne or Cologne Intense, a scented candle or a bath oil, or all of the above (if the box is big enough, of course). They do what they do very well and their fragrances, which are odes to perfumery’s most famous and beautiful ingredients, present traditional themes with an eccentrically British twist. They’re often fun, sometimes striking and always eminently wearable. That’s Jo Malone London.

In their Cologne Intense Collection, the brand steps away from their lighter and more ephemeral sensibilities to explore richer notes in higher concentrations. These are often more opulent and exotic fragrances that have a bit more heft to them (but not too much, mind you). This is the collection where you will find ingredients such as oud, tuberose, incense and rose, all in their full, fragrant glory, and presented in Jo Malone London’s unfussy and relatable style. In January, the brand added the next chapter to the Cologne Intense Collection and two more ingredients to their ever-expanding list of notes explored: Orris & Sandalwood.

“This scent was about framing the orris to bring out its unique duality; it is both woody and powdery, floral and deep. We did this by using other woods as well as waiting a picture of the iris flower itself.”

– Pierre Negrin

Orris & Sandalwood, the latest instalment in Jo Malone London’s exploration of intensity was created by Pierre Negrin, the perfumer behind such masterpieces as Amouage’s Interlude Man and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. Working with one of his favourite materials within the perfumer’s palette, Negrin states that he loves the complexity of orris, describing the note as a “perfume in itself” due to its varied odour profile which is “warm, sensual, feminine, masculine, violety, woody, powdery”. It’s no surprise then, that Negrin was excited to “create something new with such a classic ingredient”, and that is exactly what he managed to do. Orris & Sandalwood is billed as the next journey within the Cologne Intense Collection, one set in Tuscany during the iris harvest. It’s an exploration of perfumery’s most beautiful and expensive ingredient, all served in the contemporary manner that Jo Malone London is famous for, all with a touch of Pierre Negrin’s signature flair. It’s sounding good already, isn’t it?

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.

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.