When my sample of Opus VII was delivered, Madame Persolaise's parents were chez nous for tea and cakes. Such cross-generational, bi-gender opportunities are not to be missed: I immediately extricated the bottle from its packaging, procured a few blotters and began to spray. We all experienced the scent with absolutely no preconceptions about its composition... although Madame Persolaise couldn't resist a low moan of anticipation when I told her it was by Amouage.
All of our reactions were extreme. Madame Persolaise Senior instantly declared, "Wow! That's different!" Her husband took one sniff and said, "Goodness me, it certainly doesn't hold back!" Madame Persolaise shut her eyes and whispered, "Ooh... that's good... that's really good." And as for me... well, I was knocked into speechlessness by the sheer complexity of what was unfurling beneath my nose.
The first word that came into my head was 'galbanum': Pierre Negrin and Alberto Morillas’ Opus VII presents what is easily the greenest opening of any Amouage scent released thus far. But this isn’t the green of cut grass or chopped herbs. This is the very particular and very peculiar green that shares an allegiance with peas and peppers: a curious odour that is both glass-like and entirely natural smelling. Its verdant facets make room for a gentle lily of the valley note - another surprise - which then ushers in a wok-ful of spices, including cardamom, nutmeg and lots of pepper. Finally, all this is woven to a woody, leathery, amber base, crackling with near-edible savouriness.
Intrigued? You should be. I’ve now worn the scent several times, and I still don’t know how it works. But I do know that it has piqued my interest in a way few other recent releases have managed. In terms of structure, it resembles Andy Tauer’s Carillon Pour Un Ange - green floral atop brown leather - although there’s no way you could mistake the two scents for each other. Andy’s resides in a European garden which frequently receives the attention of rain clouds. Amouage’s belongs, appropriately enough, to the desert, where the heat of the sun sucks moisture out of anything that dares to emerge from the shadows. In terms of texture, Opus VII is both furry and abrasive, offering cushioned softness one moment and standoffish spikiness the next. And in terms of overall effect... well... it’s like walking past a sev puri seller in Mumbai right after buying a bunch of flowers from a hawker burning joss sticks.
If that sounds like an impossible array of contrasts, then so be it, because extreme tension is the defining characteristic of this intriguing, unfathomable piece of work. There are moments when its amber drydown resembles that of Opus VI a little too closely (could this be the influence of Negrin, who co-authored VI as well?), but by and large, it displays a striking distinctiveness quite unlike anything else Creative Director Christopher Chong has placed within the Library Collection. A perplexing triumph.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Amouage in 2013.]