Top marks to Amouage for continuing to embrace the stranger territories of olfactory art. After the somewhat underwhelming Sunshine, Creative Director Christopher Chong has returned to the brand's Library Collection of scents and released Opus IX, a weirdly woody, animalic floral composed by Pierre Negrin and Nathalie Lorson. In much the same manner as that adopted by Opus VIII - in which unforgiving sunlight bounced off the surface of a flinty jasmine - IX makes no attempt to present a naturalistic demeanour. In fact, it makes a virtue of its synthetic composition, putting together a bewildering array of lab-made materials to make a statement that is unabashedly abstract.
Fortunately, this links well with the fragrance's inspiration: the camellia flower, as featured in La Traviata. As it happens, the camellia doesn't really have a smell, which allows Negrin and Lorson to play fast and loose with scent symbolism. In their hands, the flower - seen as an emblem of devotion in some cultures - becomes a creature of world-weary carnality. Dry and peppery - like the air inside a chest that hasn't been opened for decades - it latches onto the wearer with a force that is as startling as it is insistent. But then it can't help revealing its more romantic soul: jasmine and a suggestion of sweetness (vanilla?) stop proceedings from becoming too parched.
Add a courageous dose of indole and an almost equally surprising quantity of civet and you get a piece of work which refuses to be pinned down. Is it chaste or is it brimming with full-blooded vitality? You'll have fun trying to decide.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Amouage in 2015.]