It's a good thing that I didn't read the press release that accompanied Opus VIII, the latest installment in Amouage Library Collection, until the second or third time I've worn the perfume on skin. I'm usually highly suspicious of this kind of prose, no matter how much I actually admire Christopher Chong and the way he leads Amouage brilliantly, keeping it relevant and interesting --
"...an evocative exploration of the subconscious dialogue between illusion and reality. Paying meticulous attention to detail, Amouage Creative Director, Christopher Chong, masterfully composed the fragrance to linger amongst the parallels of truth and perception."
The thing is that Amouage Opus VIII is really about perception. It's a "what exactly am I smelling?" thing. As well as a "where am I?", because the perfume takes you by surprise and leaves you a bit disoriented in a large and well-lit space, with a ceiling so high you can almost imagine it's not there. The light is so bright that for the longest time you cannot make the details of your surroundings (were you abducted by aliens? is there gravity around you?) until you manage to focus on form and texture, recognizing colors and movement, and all of a sudden you're in a museum, standing in front of an artwork that starts to take shape right there.
Have I mentioned it's disorienting? It really is.
Back to the press release and the official note list from Amouage:
jasmine, ylang-ylang, orange flower, frankincense, saffron, ginger, vetiver, gaiac wood, balsam, benzoin, Jamaican bay.This could have gone anywhere, but the impression is of a white floral over a balsamic woody base, right? A friend who saw this description (without smelling the juice) immediately said that it made him think of Séville à l'Aube (L'Artisan). While I smell no similarities whatsoever, the Husband's first reaction was along the lines of "Wow! It's like a refined and very upscale take on Séville à l'Aube.
It must be the orange blossom.
What I'm getting is a slightly dirty marriage between jasmine and orange blossom. Oddly enough, it doesn't make me think of a hot summer night, but of that aforementioned space in the museum, where the light is artificial and the windows open into an indoors courtyard. The outside is inside-- again that game of perceptions. But it's more than just about these slightly weird flowers. Musette wrote in her Posse review that she smells an aquatic/calone note, and I know exactly what she's talking about, because I was instantly reminded of the opening in Musc Tonkin (Parfum d'Empire). It's that note I called "turd on the water", and find disturbingly appealing. The Husband, naturally, disagrees (both about Musc Tonkin and about Opus VIII). He's taken by the refinement and smooth edges of the transition from heady florals to a very suave woody-balsamic base.
This is where the artwork emerges and reveals itself out of (not so) thin air: light and shade, wood and marble, curves and straight edges. It's an abstract work of modern art, yet as the hours pass (and Opus VIII lingers for the better part of the day and night), the perfume becomes incredibly intimate and personal. Sniffing between dress and skin, it's a balsamic fantasy where glimmering resins (how is that even a thing? but it is), burn ever so slowly. And passionately.
I can tell you that over the last week I've spent every moment I possibly could wearing Opus VIII. It's fascinating on an intellectual level and satisfying on the "I want to smell really really really good" front. While the perfume embeds itself beautifully in my cashmere clothes, I'm anticipating the days where real heat and skin can make it soar high, into that invisible sky and ceiling of summer.
Amouage Opus VIII will make its arrival at all the usual suspects (Luckyscent, MiN NY, Bergdorf) in the coming weeks. A press sample was sent by Amouage for consideration.
Photo: “Art Critics” by Kenneth Heilbron, 1960.