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’.
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.
There are so many niche perfume houses out there it’s a struggle for your friendly neighbourhood perfume blogger to keep up. There are niche lines within designer houses, niche lines within niche houses, private collections and exclusives – the mind boggles.
To cope I have to tell myself that I simply cannot sniff everything and there are niche lines that I will ignore completely, purely because my brain cannot handle adding them to the pile of things I need to try stacked somewhere at the back of my mind, behind all the stuff I don’t use anymore; like algebra, the steps to the Macarena and the ability to resist cake.
One niche house that will always receive my attention however is Amouage. I still haven’t managed to try everything in the Amouage stable (I’m taking my time and enjoying it thank you very much) but what I have tried, whether to my tastes or not has been interesting, high quality and worthy of the praise it receives.
The Library Collection is Amouage’s capsule collection of unique fragrance “works”. The collection is described as being “a poetic homage to the art of living”  and it offers a break from the house’s tradition of grandiose, opulent fragrances. After falling truly, madly and deeply for the mind-blowing amber of Opus VI I couldn’t wait to poke my nose through the rest of the collection, and on a recent shopping trip that is exactly what I did. It was on that shopping trip that I discovered Opus III…