5/28/13

Memoir Man (Amouage)



According to the company website, Amouage's Middle Eastern-styled perfumes are currently made in Grasse under the direction of Christopher Chong. Is Grasse where Amouage ended up? Or is Grasse where Amouage has always been? I'm inclined to believe the official history of the brand, which states that Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said greenlit the perfumery project in 1983 as a nationalist endeavor, presumably to be representative of his country's many exotic olfactory pleasures. One could question the legitimacy of once again tying royalty to niche perfumes, but when you read the Sultan's biography, you find that he received an upper-crust English education and joined the Queen's Royal Infantry battalion. The guy's been around. He's an interesting person who probably favors the finer things in life. That he applied an understanding of whatever shapes the air in European bedrooms to his homeland's traditions of using incense, rose absolutes, and spices isn't such a stretch. It's not like he created the perfumes himself - Guy Robert was behind the first. They say Amouage Gold was once the most expensive perfume in the world, and judging from its quality, and that of every fragrance from this brand, I wouldn't be surprised if that were also true. Amouage's perfumes are, quite simply, amazing.

Still, there's something odd about them, and that strangeness stems from Gold Man, which smells like a powdery, Scandinavian-barbershop oriental of the sixties, and in no way evokes the mysticism of the desert. Memoir Man doesn't smell particularly Omani to me either, although I am ignorant of the specific nature of Oman's cultural styles. What Memoir does smell like is one of the many woody fougères and chypres of the seventies, eighties, and nineties, full of crisply-minty herbs, aromatic tobacco, heady artemisia and cedar (ala Balenciaga Pour Homme and Venezia Uomo), and precious woods, with a generous animalic twist of musk and ambergris. The ambergris note is subtle, and tucked behind silvery frankincense. It smells natural, but so does everything else in Memoir's pyramid. This is a throwback fragrance, an ode to classics in the French tradition of woody ferns perched atop earthy bases of sandalwood and moss, and it isn't hard for me to forget that it's from 2010. Nose Karine Vinchon Spehner, who also made Interlude Woman and Opus III, seems to know wormwood better than anyone else these days, as the artemisia note in here is really lovely. Framing it with all the other elements - including lavender, spearmint, basil, vanilla, vetiver, and carnation - brings out its otherwise-untapped freshness, and maintains its piney sharpness without ever becoming Yatagan.

My familiarity with Memoir's structure, via a handful of inexpensive designer masculines, makes it something utterly unnecessary to own. I won't drop big bucks on something that, when dissected, resembles in even fashion various parts of Balenciaga, Venezia, Yatagan, and even Tsar and Zino. It's true, Memoir is made of good quality naturals, and feels tangibly rich, its glistening oiliness on skin suggestive of high concentrations of premium, high-viscosity essences. I get a three-dimensional depth and realism from Amouage that I don't get from Malle or Lutens. Yet I notice a similar oiliness, and smell a similar richness whenever I wear Venezia Uomo, and I think there's a parity of quality between Venezia and Memoir. Still, if you enjoy woody fragrances from days gone by, I recommend Memoir Man. Even if you don't wish to purchase it, you'll enjoy a classic structure that was made using the utmost skill with the finest quality materials. Smelling it is an exercise in nostalgia; if you're like me, Memoir will have you perusing your back-catalog of oldies until you locate at least one fragrance that matches its temperament and radiance, at one-tenth its price.










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