Thursday, 7 October 2010

Review: Memoir Man & Memoir Woman by Amouage (2010)

My experience of living in the Middle East taught me that Gulf Arab men tend to have no qualms about wearing scents that would be considered far too heady and overwhelming by many of the bravest perfume-loving males of the 'west'. This willingness to perceive masculine fragrance as lavish adornment has traditionally been adopted by the house of Amouage, which isn't surprising, given the firm's links with the royal family of Oman. Therefore, any new creation from the land of silver frankincense is an event eagerly anticipated by those of us who prefer, say, Antaeus to CKbe.

Memoir Man & Woman arrive hot on the heels of the Library Collection, which was notable for its departure from the usual blends of resins and thick ambers. With a core centred around the sharp, anisic sting of absinthe, the two new releases continue this trend, a fact that will come either as welcome or disappointing news, depending on how much Arabian sillage you like to project.

The presence of Memoir Man is announced with a sheer spice-and-lavender note which immediately takes on a grassy hue and leads to an evocation of the leaves and twigs of a fig tree. Hints of warm leather flit in and out of the picture before the Green Fairy herself arrives, fresh and bracing. At first, her company is welcome. But after a few hours of her high-pitched wheedling, you begin to see her less as the seductive queen of intoxication and more as an irritating Tinkerbell. She does eventually make way for a vetivert drydown - with a seamlessness that is genuinely admirable - but you end up quite glad to see her go, whereas she ought to leave you wanting more.

On paper, Memoir Woman fails to impress: its white floral opening seems frail and synthetic and its central accord of absinthe and tuberose is bilious. However, on skin, it pulls off a neat little feat of redemptive alchemy and turns out to be warmer and more finely tuned. Woody notes - which often benefit from the effects of body heat - rise up to support the heart and the mossy base, reducing their harshness without stripping them of their power. Subtle musks surround the whole with a soft embrace. The final result is by no means a masterpiece, but it's certainly a less frightening scent than the one that rises up from the blotter.

There is no doubt that artists should be permitted to change direction if they wish to explore new avenues of self-expression. However, it's naive to deny that if you turn your back on familiar routes, you need to work doubly hard to persuade your critics that you know what you're doing. Any alteration of style runs the risk of being faintly embarrassing unless it's pulled off with rock-solid confidence. So whilst these two Memoir scents are competent, they're nowhere near bold enough to convince this Amouage admirer that the decision to avoid incense and oud was a wise one.

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin.]



  1. I was trying the Nasomotto range today -and with the caveat that I had been smelling many fragrances that day- smelt China White on my skin. It smelt so familiar but I couldent quite work out what it was, and then I realised... Memoir Man which I tried also on skin at its stores launch... This was strange but I also became interested in how the two companies came to such similar results. I'm not sure I caught the head of China White, but certainly I felt the hearts to be very similar. I do remember the head of Memoir Man, which I really liked, very creamy and piquant.

  2. Persolaise, I still want to try these, but admit that your review disappoints me, although I find that with recent releases (Lyric and Epic) the woman's version is better than the man's. I do love Amouage and when I smelled Memoir Man on paper about a month ago I also felt that it signaled a departure for the house.

  3. Jason, thanks for writing. Did you try Nasomatto's Absinthe? You might have found it even more similar to Memoir.

  4. Hi Michael. As always, thanks for stopping by.

    First thing's first: I think Epic Man is just superb, and I don't actually like Epic Woman very much at all. It comes across as too sweet to me.

    But as for trying the Memoirs, yes, you absolutely must. You may well like them much more than I did.

  5. What did you think of the Opus trilogy? I was disappointed with one, hated one and thought one was nice, but not nice enough to buy.

  6. Kjanicki, thanks for writing. I wanted to post my reviews of the Opus scents a little while ago, but other things kept getting in the way. Hopefully, I'll make amends soon and you'll be able to read my detailed views.

  7. white floral?????? Are you sure you bought/received an authentic bottle? There is nothing about your description of memoir that vaguely resembles it in any form.
    "subtle musks, soft embrace"????? Surely White Floral and your description is WAY OFF anything about memoir.

    1. Anon, it's always great when two people read a perfume in a completely different way.


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