If you give it a short philosophic thought you might realize that perfume and books have quite a lot in common. Both writer and perfumer need time to finish their work, and that should not be rushed. What’s probably most important is that both have a story to tell, each in their own, unique way. I like reading books and I love perfume but I have to admit that last year I didn’t dedicate enough time to that first activity. And because people’s tastes differ not every book is meant to be read, nor every perfume smelled. But the narrative presented in the latest Amouage creation is like a reading with couple of first chapters being scary but you’d be glad you didn’t give up and read it to the end.
The moment you apply it on your skin Opus XI leaves no doubt it’s a mighty perfume. Without any warning you get to experience its full potential right from the start. On my skin the opening is very dark and balsamic with oud accord stepping to the front. Its raw and dense aroma fills your nose with enigmatic and mysterious fragrance. The feeling it spreads around has an oily and viscous character and the smell itself is quite dirty, animalic and veering on the edge of something fecal and medicinal at the same time. What I’m also noticing is that there are moments when agarwood has a slightly synthetic, plastic-like vibe hiding somewhere deep, in the background of this composition.
Opus XI is like an inkwell that someone just knocked over on the table. Its perfumed juice emulates spilled ink in this metaphor. Puddle of the black liquid slowly spreads and becomes bigger but when you look closer it could as well be a shapeless creature, crawling towards its prey. That’s how I see this new Amouage at first. After some time the perfume becomes earthier, with a distinctive smell of damp soil. It’s kind of like the air after the storm, like petrichor but much more nocturnal. At some point styrax becomes more prominent, combining this earthiness with resinous, balmy facets that add some warmth to this fragrance. It smells like a mix of myrrh and benzoin on my skin.
As hours fly Opus XI doesn’t seem as beasty as it was before. It’s drying down to a woody element that feels very elegant on the skin. The wood has a darker color – this thing doesn’t change. It smells like untreated oud wood or like mahogany maybe. There’s quite a lot of dryness to this phase so it makes me think of an aged parchment (with ancient magic spells) with a lovely substantivity. It’s reminiscent of nutmeg as Opus XI develops some warm spiciness that makes the perfume more embracing, cuddly even. This dry oriental woody accord – stylish and sort of masculine, reminds me of Agar Ebene from Hermes. Amouage one is much more present compared to the other one.
After experiencing Amouage Opus XI for longer than a day I realized that it’s not as complex as an Amouage perfume can be. But that’s not a flaw! More like a praise for a perfumer to be able to create an intricate structure with not many ingredients. Although I’m certain it was made of more than 4 ingredients. In the drydown the scent becomes herbal and aromatic through a marjoram note. Isn’t it more popular for Mediterranean cuisine rather than fragrance? Opus XI features also a thing called leatherwood. It made me think that it’s probably another fancy and modern synthetic ingredient evoking smells of wood and leather. Turns out it’s actually a plant, Eucryphia lucida.
Eventually, after many hours you can smell a leathery aspect of Opus XI – more sour and acrid at first but then evolving into a softer and fuzzier suede with a hint of shoe wax. Inspired by a world of fake information, Amouage creative director Christopher Chong worked together with perfumer Pierre Negrin on a fragrance that would reflect the Orient in a sincere way through the use of real and fake (synthetic) materials. A majestic oud without compromise was born. Opus XI is housed in a signature flacon of Amouage Library Collection (50 or 100 ml), this time in a cobalt blue color. This initially intimidating scent becomes your good companion in the course of the day.