Tag Archives: Christopher Chong

Voice of Freedom, Amouage Portrayal Duet

Probably in every era of a modern world there was a person or a group of people longing for a change. Their act of not following the crowd and going against society conventions was often considered rebellious. From the perspective of today they were right in their actions – today we know that everyone should live in their own frame instead of frying to fit into a standarized one. When such rebellious attitude is being transformed into perfume it’s like a reflection of one’s soul, when you know who you are and what you want from the world. That’s what new Amouage story is about.

Portrayal Woman starts with a luscious bouquet of big white flowers among which jasmine is an ultimate centerpiece. Its heady and intoxicating aura is overflowing with narcotic molecules of indole that introduce this somewhat oily and animalic quality. It’s a bold floral accord that makes a statement from the very beginning. For a considerable amount of time Portrayal Woman is like a soliflore, not letting anything else to take off properly. But later on there’s something tobacco-ish that starts to mingle in the background but it’s not strong enough to break through the floral wall. After some time the smell of vanilla pods becomes more pronounced that adds an oriental impression of dusted sweetness to the composition. Drydown is still very jasmine-y and balsamic thanks to elemi. This perfume is not my cup of tea but should you search for jasmine-centric scent, here it is.

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Portrayal Man is completely different. At first whiff I could easily pick violet leaf which opens this composition. This fresh note feels rather ozonic, almost aquatic and at the same time it’s aromatic and crispy green like an actual leaf of violet rubbed between your palms. After a couple of minutes the perfume develops a dry woodiness with traits of something citrusy but parched at the same time. Such impression is provided by vetiver. With time Portrayal Man gradually darkens, revealing a leathery facet that comes to the front smoothly. It’s polished, lacquered and slightly acrid – reminiscent of the smell of a raw leather that is about to become a new pair of leather shoes. It’s fuzzy in a tiny bit and when juniper appears it lends some of its own metallic smokiness to the leather. From this point the perfume was quite linear on my skin and it didn’t change much.

Both fragrances in Amouage Portrayal duet were inspired by 1920s. Masculine version by the bohemian culture of those times, feminine edition embodies liberation of that era. I didn’t hate any of the 2 but neither did I love them. To me they are ok. After testing both I can surely say that none of Portrayal fragrances bring something new, exciting or innovative to the perfume scene. Both perfumes come in Amouage style opalescent bottles. Perfumers who worked with Christopher Chong are Pierre Negrin and Annick Menardo for Portrayal Man and Woman respectively.

[note] Picture borrowed from Obsentum on Instagram

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Heart of the Void, Amouage Opus XI

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.

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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.

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