Her Serene Empress of Rose


A review – and a long-ago tale – of Amouage “Epic Woman”

Very many sunsets ago in the fabled city of Samarkand lived a widow who had grown rich from the many rivers of treasure that flowed through like water from all ends of the great Silk Road. Silks, samite and ebony from faraway Cathay, spices and perfumes and gems from India to the far south, rare and costly incense from distant, mysterious desert trees, woods and essences from Chenla of the many wondrous stories the merchants exchanged like their goods in the teahouses by the riverside on breathless, hot afternoons.

The widow herself was of indeterminate age, not quite old and wizened by her years, but not so young she was an easy prey for the traders out to make a profit. Once, so the local gossips said, she had been a slave girl brought from a mountain kingdom to the south and west, but this slave girl had somehow managed to marry into a trading house, and when her husband died, she had continued his business, handling merchants and caravans and all manner of goods and trade with equal and admirable ease. No merchant was ever short-shifted in a trade, no caravan mistreated, and even the camels she knew to make happy in her care.

Like all women in any age and indeed all traders, this widow had a secret. In a private, locked room in her apartments grew her most prized possession. Not a huge Indian diamond sparkling in the sunlight, not any bauble or trinket of any empire north, west or south.

It was a rosebush. No more, no less, nothing else. One small, perfect rosebush, easy to overlook on its ebony tray in a sunlit spot were it not that it flourished in a priceless, ornate vessel of jade the green of the riverbank willows. It was a rose bush, yet no rose bush ever held such velvety blooms of such a ruby hue, and no rose along the Silk Road east or west ever held such a scent. To breathe it in was to know the true significance of the word ‘rose’, to know this rose was to know the secrets of all roses who ever bloomed, and any woman who loved roses. To know this rose was to know the very soul of a flower beloved of the world entire.

Yet today, this day like any other in the still heat of a Samarkand afternoon, the time had come for the rose bush to move on. The widow, her black eyes smiling through the fragrant steam of the silver tea tray, leaned forward on her pillow. This man, she knew to tell, had not come from Samarkand. He could have been from anywhere further west along the Great Road, from Persia, perhaps, or further south and west still, from Damascus of the many marvels, or the storied Bagdad where the great Harun ar Raschid ruled still, so it was said.

He was a tall, upright man in his late thirties, with the watchful, guarded eyes of a desert hawk, and as any hawk would, he never looked away from the widow. “You have cared for your secret well these twenty years, and you have prospered because of it. I was told to bring it on, many, many leagues away to where the incense trees grow beneath the desert stars, and to give you this…” he reached in his robe and laid a small object on the costly carpet – “as a reminder of your pledge.”

It was a carved rose in a singular hue of jade, the cloudy pink of a fading sunset, and the widow had not seen it for over twenty years. It was indeed a reminder of a promise she had made so many years ago, a promise that this rose bush would never wither, never die, and so long as she held faithful to her pledge, her care should be rewarded. Indeed it had, and yet, as the widow saw the sunlight through the screen sparkle on the jade, she felt a pang deep within her soul to realize she would never breathe its scent again, never know such a heartfelt, visceral joy. There would be other pangs, other joys, this much she knew, but none like this little rose bush.

The sun streaming through the latticework of the window onto the carpet was not enough to comfort her. Nevertheless she had promised, and she never made a promise she would not keep. It was time. That jade rose before her was proof. She sighed, clapped her hands to summon a servant, and sent for the rose.

“You will tend it with care?” She grabbed the man’s sleeve as he prepared to leave with his little treasure. “You will make certain this rose will not perish on its journey?” In her eyes, the man read a fervent plea, as earnest and as passionate as any mother’s for a beloved child.

“This, lady, is a rose that will never die so long as my people tend it,” he simply said, before he wrapped it with the utmost care and bowed before her. “As you gave your pledge, I give you my promise.”

He was gone in an instant down the teeming Samarkand street, golden in the late afternoon.

All along the wide and winding Silk Road the little rosebush traveled, and as it did, it seemed to absorb the many scents of the goods it met. Spices in a pouch on a passing camel, rare woods from Chenla and India on a merchant’s laden wagon, the jasmine and geraniums blooming in the courtyard of a Persian caravanserai. At last the rosebush came to grow in a secret oasis in a hidden mountain pass, where the Bedouin stood guard beneath the stars by their own costly treasures of myrrh and frankincense, and those, too, the rose absorbed and enriched with its presence.

For over a thousand years and many more the rose bush grew in its hidden valley oasis, grew and bloomed and thrived, forgotten by all but one family who kept their secret well, until the day came, as it had so long before, when it was time for the rose bush and its secrets to move on through time and out into a wider, wilder world.

One day, a perfumer in an Omani teahouse heard a rumor of a rose in a remote oasis, a rose unlike any other, a rose that knew all secrets and held all its history and all its long journey within the velvet folds of its blooms. As the perfumer stared into the depths of his peppermint tea, he thought to himself; “Such a rose is like a fairy tale. It never existed as anything but a rumor. But if it doesn’t yet, then I shall create it.”

So he did.

Yet in a remote and hidden oasis in the mountains, a deathless rosebush blooms still, for so long as one heart, one soul can truly love a rose, it will never die.

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

Amouage Epic Woman is available at Luckyscent, Aedes and First in Fragrance, and from the Amouage website.

17 thoughts on “Her Serene Empress of Rose

  1. You are very, very welcome.

    I don't know what bother me the most – that Amouage is so (insert dark-blue, very un-PC streak here) expensive, that I've only tried two (!) or that whenever I try to do a straightforward, right-out-of-bottle review of Amouage, magenta prose and a story follow…;)

  2. Oh how lovely! A tale told by someone who is obviously a master of storytelling. Beautiful, Miss T. 🙂

    I have not been able to wear any Amouage perfumes as of yet, they are too heady for me, unfortunately.

  3. My god. An epic in every paragraph, a lifetime in one story. I have never sampled this perfume, but having sampled your prose, I feel so much closer to the eternal rose than I ever did before. Thank you.

  4. Since Amouage is out of my budget, I'll just print out your beautiful story and pin it to my shirt. I'm sure anyone who gets close enough to read will smell that immortal rose.

    By the way, I am really enjoying Quantum Demonology!

  5. Carrie: How I wrote this blog…a true story. I had all plans to sit down and do it straight. Really, I did. After spending a day with Epic, I had ideas swirling around. So I sat down with my first glass of peppermint tea, iPod on and instead of “right out of the bottle…” I wrote “Very many sunsets ago in the fabled city of Samarkand”… That's just how it is with Amouage.

    I can understand what you mean about “heady”. So far as I have been able to tell, the entire Amouage line has an aesthetic sensibility that is very different than many other lines. Epic is a bit like that guy who brings up the subject of Big White Weddings on a third date. You commit to it – or else! 😉

  6. Olenska – I take that as high praise indeed from someone who enthralls me with her reviews! You are most welcome! And as I am sure you know, so long as one heart, one soul can truly love a rose… 😉

  7. JoanElaine..if it's any consolation, Amouage is out of my budget, too! 😉 Not that that's ever stopped me! Thank you. If I have evoked the Rose of All Roses, Her Serene Empress of Rose, even, then I did something right!

    And BTW…I'm glad you're enjoying QD. I rather suspected you would…

  8. Ah, T, my dear friend. You enchant me again. I love Epic so much as well and you captured it so masterfully. I think I have an idea where your blog is going to lead, but I won't blurt it out here, maybe I am wrong, but if I am right I don't want to spoil anything.:)
    I think Amouage should do the smart thing and put your stories to use somehow in exchange for a lifetime supply of perfume for you! 😉

  9. Ines…goosebumps, even! :-O I'll take that as a very large compliment, so thank you for that! If my story made your morning and gave you pleasure, then it did precisely what it was supposed to!

  10. B, that's a lovely thought! All the maroon prose Amouage could possibly ask for – in return for a lifetime supply! (“Just give me one of everything, dahling!” 😉 ) As for your idea, well, you do know where to find me!

    Now, if only I could somehow summon up the nerve to email the PR department of Amouage…;)

  11. Epic in every sense of the word — your beautiful homage to the flower of all flowers and to this breathtaking perfume. I do believe you're my long-lost scent twin, Tarlesio. So glad I found you!

  12. Suzanne, I am so so sorry not to reply to you before now – it's been a very, very busy week! You and I share a lot of fellow perfumes loves, that's for certain! The best thing about Amouage, apart from the 'spare no expense' mentality, so refreshing for a change! – is that I have an entire line to discover. I've tried all of two…and there's still…Lyric, Reflections, Gold, Dia and…oh, boy! Enough for a whole collection of short stories – or at least one very luxe little booklet…;)

    Maybe I should inform the marketing department at Amouage about that idea…;)

    1. Thank you! Well, it just so happens I have a few long overdue Amouages to review that I’ve felt guilty about for months…. Stay tuned! Ah, but Epic Woman…I loved it at the start, then suddenly not so much, and then…that moment…that moment when I just knew… I’ll die if I don’t own it!

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