– a review of Amouage Opus VII
Among all my many moods and frequent fancies, one moves me more than nearly any other and sets my imagination alight, the delicious, delirious champagne bubbles of …anticipation. That timeless moment when anything and everything is possibility, when hopes and dreams and wishes slither inside to fuel the fires of your imagination, assert themselves and remind you that anything can and will likely happen, that you might know and experience what you never did before, go places you never knew you could.
Even now, even today, even as it seems in this endless dreary winter that sent Spring straight to an icy fevered limbo, anticipation takes hold and bubbles away in my mind, even as I have a slight hint that my anticipation might be just warranted enough, justified enough to make these fragrant hopes and ephemeral dreams a little more real, a little less dream to catch as it flies.
This day, this instant, my anticipation has a name, a prosaic name from an anything but prosaic house, the house of Amouage, and the name is nothing more and nowhere less than… Opus VII.
Once upon a time, the Library Collection line of Amouage seemed to be a counterpoint to their main line, scented sonatas as opposed to symphonies, Schubert lieder rather than full-blown Wagner operas, or novellas as opposed to doorstopper novels.
So I even believed at the time, until an inkling that arrived as the same time as Opus VI became a definite suspicion, if not a proven fact with the arrival of Opus VII.
You see, I suspect that the Library Collection is where Creative Director Christopher Chong gets to play with ideas and concepts that somehow fall outside the scope of the main line, where he might want to do things and say things on a different scale and to a different end.
Here is Opus VII at last after months of speculation, here is another concept and another idea. I have no press release to cling to nor any reviews to eye at a distance, no list of notes, nothing to go on. I am simply flying blind by my nose, walking that tightrope walk between my words, my emotions and my impressions without a safety net, and all I can hope for is not to fall flat on either my words or my face.
It is like nothing I expected, nothing I thought it would be. Nevertheless, it is an Amouage, and therefore, nothing if not surprising.
What would it be, so many of us wondered, would it be an iris, asked some people, would it be a leather, would it be anything at all like its predecessor?
I could answer all of those questions, but that’s no way to review an Amouage.
Opus VII is an iris, an iris apparent to my questionable nose from start to finish, an iris that refracts and shimmers and sparkles not with intimations of a light and airy, chilly spring, not at all like any famous irises you might think you know. Instead of light, it gives you a decadent, delectable and nearly Gothic twilit dark, instead of repeating all those famous orris commonplaces, it delivers something else, something unexpected – it gives you an iris with a haunting, slightly foreboding edge. Not ominous so much as arresting, compelling your attention in an instant.
Orris butter has so many facets on its own, far more than the flower its rhizomes sustain. With Opus VII, you will find in the opening alone not a few of them, interlaced with each other in compelling ways I can’t recall ever having encountered before. An earthy, spicy jolt to my senses of black pepper, an opening sunburst song of bergamot and maybe a touch of grapefruit that winks on your skin and is gone before that most regal, midnight purple iris steps forward to command your attention, as it surely will. Not a cold, chilly iris, not even so haughty as many irises are, but still a touch…imperious, as all irises should be.
This iris – borne up by a supporting cast that might include davana, a note that always, always haunts me and stops me cold, glows with a whisper of dark chocolate which could be patchouli, a basso profondo, poised pulse of labdanum and frankincense (that glorious frankincense Amouage uses like no other brand I know), and another arresting note that also always compels me like few others, a note I think might be a supple, silky smooth myrrh.
If that were all Opus VII were, I’d be beyond thrilled.
Understand, all these disparate elements take hours to show themselves in the spotlight. They wend and weave and dance their separate measures throughout, sometimes appearing clear as day, clear as a key light shone upon them, before they imperceptibly recede and retreat, only to reemerge from the shadows when you least expect them.
Now you smell them. Then, you don’t.
Suddenly with a shock of awareness, they appear again.
Then comes another thread, another ribbon of dark, refracted light that spirals from top to bottom, from start to finish and back again, and this is called leather in still another midnight shade and hue. As soft and as pliant as a flawlessly fitted glove, as luxurious and dense as suede, it seems neither one nor the other, but the hide of some otherworldly animal, caught and tanned if never tamed by some sleight-of-hand, arcane secret we mortals may not know, but only have the privilege to breathe in.
Call it hyperbole, call me out on my exaggerations and verbal excess, yet I tell you…this is what Opus VII is and these words are the story it tells me.
Since my sample arrived, I’ve spent not a little time with its wonders. I’ve sprayed my skin, I’ve sniffed the bottle, I’ve immersed myself by spraying not just myself, but my pillows and my Tibetan prayer flag, too. I’ve been more than a little obsessed with it in a way I’m not normally accustomed to. Through not a few days and the nights that followed those days. I’ve tried to capture the djinn as they flew and listen to the story they told, wondering where that story began and how it ended.
When my own realization hit, it hit through music, as happens often in this musically obsessed household. I sat and listened last night to Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rites of Spring’, and as I did, the djinn within Opus VII began to dance with far more abandon than even the great Nijinsky could manage, dance as they told a story of emerging from the depths of an endless, icy winter, of springing forth from the shadows and next, running back to the twilight gloaming that conceals them.
They laughed at my pretensions and my anticipation, only to wrap me snug and warm against the sudden, shocking chill of early spring with that otherwordly, chiaroscuro silk velvet pelt of amethyst and onyx, of iris and pepper, frankincense and labdanum and a deft touch of patchouli, of leather and myrrh.
An emergence, a story, a dance, anticipation, a plush, velvet olfactory pelt of an otherworldly animal the world will soon know as…Opus VII.
Amouage Opus VII was created by perfumers Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin in collaboration with Amouage Creative Director Christopher Chong. It will be available from Amouage boutiques and Amouage retailers from mid-April.
Image 1: A black iris bud, via Wikimedia Commons, adapted by me.
Image 2: Opus VII presentation, courtesy of Amouage. Used by permission.
Disclosure: A sample of Opus VII was provided for review by Amouage. The Alembicated Genie is never endorsed by any perfume house or company, all reviews are original, I’m never compensated for reviews and all stated opinions are my own.
Since writing this review yesterday, I’ve been informed by a reliable source that Opus VII does not, in fact, contain iris at all. So I’ll proclaim the Humpty Dumpty rule of (terrible) perfume analysis and say…Your Mileage (and sillage) May Vary. But such were and are my definite impressions, and as it is, my review remains.