Perfume Review: Amouage Fate Woman

(Yikes. It’s been so long since I did a full fragrance review that I can’t even remember the last time. That’s embarrassing.)

I finally got around to testing Amouage Fate Woman. It’s now been more than five years since this one hit the market, garnering praise from Luca Turin and Kafkaesque, and I’m just now giving it a sniff. (Probably because on occasion, I have violently differing opinions from those two respected fragophiles.)

I still have mixed feelings about Amouage fragrances. They’re all rich and complex, which is awfully nice in these days when department store frags seem one-dimensional. But they’re expensive. And given that they’re so strongly art-directed and tend to have strong characters, you really have to appreciate the concept. My feeling on them is, if you make the choice to buy an Amouage, you’d durn well better wear the thing, or you’ve wasted your cash. Generally, too, the lasting power tends to be good, and I put that down to quality materials in adequate concentration — which is important to me, given the twice-aforementioned high price point.

I’ve enjoyed several of them without feeling the urge to buy: Jubilation XXV (the men’s version), Bracken Woman, Myths Woman, Dia Woman. I do own a cherished decant of Lyric Woman from 2010, before they amped the ylang-ylang and muted the rose in it. But Gold Woman was seriously filthy on me. And I hated both Epic Woman (sour ashes) and Jubilation 25, the women’s version (curdled fruit, as most fruity chypres go on me). Beloved Woman was a greasy powder-monster, Honour Woman had this weird brackish pondwater thing (Bertrand Duchaufour’s favorite vetiver, I’m pretty sure) that ruined the pretty florals, and Interlude Woman was simply a hot mess. I thought the chemical flatness of Sunshine Woman had to be a joke. Frankly, Interlude and Sunshine put me off trying another Amouage for a couple of years, and I have never managed to get my nose on any of the Library/Opus series.

Memoir Woman blew my mind for a good couple of weeks before I fell in love with it; it took me four years of scraping by on tiny decants before I found a tester bottle and snapped that sucker up. I still adore the stuff, though I admit it is oddball and definitely not to everyone’s taste. I don’t wear it often, though, because the weather has to be cold enough or it will smother me. I mean, c’mon, a leather-herbal Big White Floral? Freaky, and a monster in summer. Plus, the thang has beastly sillage and you can smell me coming around the corner. But I lurve it when the weather is right, and in our current low-30sF temps, I’ve been craving it like nobody’s business.

Ahem. Back to Fate Woman . . . I bought my sample so long ago that I discovered I’d actually purchased two samples from different decant services: one splash 1ml vial, and one 2ml spray. Last week I decided to combine them, and in doing so, managed to spill a bit on the top of my (paper-and-cardboard) Hatbox of Current Rotation. It beaded up, and I wiped up the excess with a tissue, leaving the tissue on the dresser before going on to something else I wanted to wear. But ever since, I keep entering my bedroom and getting whiffs of something deliciously old-skool perfumery: rich florals, plus resinous woods and, as the French might say, un peu de gousset (a hint of gusset, because so many classic perfumes smell a bit naughty).

(I can’t find an attribution for this image; I found it on Pinterest, which is so awful about linking to the original source. If you know where it came from, please share.)

Fragrantica classifies Fate Woman as Oriental Chypre Floral and describes it as a “spicy floral.” I’ve already said that it comes across to me as a floral on a rich, retro base, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone given its gigantic notes list: bergamot, chili, cinnamon, pepper, rose, jasmine, daffodil, incense, labdanum, vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, leather, oakmoss.

Angela at Now Smell This was underimpressed, mentioning that on her, Fate Woman was primarily a narcissus floral with an overwhelmingly powdery cast. I don’t get huge powder out of Fate W at all, especially on paper (that tissue I blotted the spill with is still sitting on the dresser, radiating boudoir smells). I also don’t get the oakmoss/chypre angle. It’s a tiny bit spicy, but mostly a rich incense-floral on my skin, faintly dirty with castoreum and narcissus. It has moderate sillage and lasts for several hours on my scent-eating skin. Quite nice stuff. I’ve really been enjoying the waft of that tissue on my dresser.

Am I impressed? Do I want to buy it? Nope. If a bottle fell out of the sky, I’d probably sell it. But then, I’m not much of an oriental-chypre fan; it’s just not my style. And then, too, I think it seems very 1950s-elegant-dressing-table to me. If I wanted a fragrance like that, I could pick up something considerably cheaper on eBay. It’s good; it’s not to my taste.

Carry on.


The Return of Mini-Review Roundup!! June 4, 2013

YAY! I finally feel like writing mini-reviews.

Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu'Parfums d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite – Sadly, I cannot remember who sent me this lovely decant (scatterbrain!), but I am enjoying it in this warm weather.  I have only smelled live osmanthus/tea olive blossoms once, and that was briefly, when we visited South Carolina a few years ago, in swellllltering heat.  I only recall that they smelled wonderful.  Osmanthus Interdite contains a good slug of rose as well as apricotty osmanthus, and it is primarily floral with a fruity overtone.  Fragrantica says the notes are : Fruity accord, apricot, tea, osmanthus, jasmine, rose, leather and musk. There’s nothing of Luca Turin’s vaunted “apricot/suede/soap/tea” accord here – well, maybe a hint of tea, but no soap (and I get soap out of a lot of fragrances, many more than I’d like) and no leather.  Oh well. Because this is very beautiful, and lasts several hours on me.  I’m still trying to find something that smelled like a shower gel I had in the late 80s called “Peach Rose Hyacinth” – and this is not quite it, but it’s close.

Isn't this a delightful montage?
Isn’t this a delightful montage?

Vero Profumo Mito – this is my first foray into the world of Vero Kern’s highly personal and well-regarded fragrances. Bloggers and fumeheads of my acquaintance raved about this scent when it was first released, and I thought, “Hey, good for Vero, everybody loves it, doesn’t sound like my cuppa.” I heard “woody” and “citrusy” and “mossy,” and I knew that didn’t even vaguely resemble something I’d wear.  But here’s the full notes list: Citruses, galbanum, champaca, jasmine, magnolia, hyacinth, cypress, moss.  Toss the galbanum and all those white flowers in, and you come closer to something I find compatible – and thank goodness, that’s what I get. Yes, there is citrus, but it burns off pretty quickly for me. Lots of white florals, lots of moss, some galbanum and a resiny fir thing, and the entire scent seems so very retro-1970s in such a lovely way. The scent seems to call for white gloves and a sheath dress, and it isn’t something I’d be terribly comfortable in, but it really is wonderful. Calls up the ghost of Miss Dior and just smells so nice. Would be great on men as well.

(Image from "This Means War." Stolen from somewhere online, can't find it now, sorry.)
(Image from “This Means War.” Stolen from somewhere online and cropped, can’t find it now, sorry.)

Amouage Memoir Woman EXTRAIT – Yes, they make some Amouages in extrait, be still my beating heart. My wallet is running and hiding now – I think they go for something like $700 per 50ml, way way way out of my budget. Whoa. Y’all know I love Memoir W in edp (see my original long-winded review here), and when Dear Daisy the Queen Enabler sent me a bit of the extrait and I put a dab on my thumb, it put paid to my getting anything productive done the rest of the day. Because this thing damps down the Serge-Noire-y herbal stuff and the gorgeous white florals (which I do love, really) in favor of the rugged basenotes, like leather and moss and styrax and labdanum. And leather. Did I say leather? Honey, this thang is like Tom Hardy in a leather jacket.  I mean, stop the horses.  Overall I prefer the edp, but the extrait is another beast entirely.

Okay, Rose de Siwa smells like rose. But it also smells like the Sarah Bernhardt peonies I love. I have a huge bouquet on my table right NOW.
Okay, Rose de Siwa smells like rose. But it also smells like the Sarah Bernhardt peonies I love. I have a huge bouquet on my table right NOW.

Parfums MDCI Rose de Siwa – Ahhh, pink roses. Pink dewy roses and peonies, in the morning, so fresh and pretty that you can’t help falling a little bit in love.  I have steadfastly ignored every MDCI that’s come down the pike – I originally said Amouage was too rich for my blood, and now I own a bottle of Memoir, a hefty decant of Lyric, and a small one of Ubar, having fallen hard, so I have insisted that I don’t need any more spendy loves. But this one could change my mind. For one thing, it’s composed by Francis Kurkdjian, and I generally have very good luck with his output. For another, this smells in spirit very much like my beloved Sarah Bernhardt peonies (I think all peonies should be light pink, because I am prejudiced!), which happen to be huuuuuge this year, blooms seven inches across and I’m not joking. They are gorgeous.  Peonies remind me of my grandmother Nell, who grew them, my grandmother Sarah Lou, who loved them and called them “pinies,” my sister, who used them in her wedding, and my daughter, whose birthday coincides with their blooming.  The notes list for Rose de Siwa includes, yes, peony, litchi, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk.  I repeat, gorgeous. If a bottle of this fell from the sky I would give a bit of it to every woman in my family, so we could smell realistic peonies and sigh together.


Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman

Memoir Woman was designed as part of a pair of fragrances, as is common with Amouage, and the two fragrances were meant to explore the “timeless narrative of man and woman.” Released in 2010, the scent was composed by Daniel Maurel and Dorothée Piot, and categorized as a “spicy leather-animalic chypre.”

Topnotes: cardamom, mandarin orange, pink pepper, wormwood (absinthe). Heart notes: clove, incense, pepper, woody notes, jasmine, rose, white flowers. Basenotes: musk, French labdanum, oakmoss, styrax, leather.

A kind friend sent me some of this wonderful fragrance. Earlier, I’d read the words “animalic chypre” and raised my eyebrows, thinking, “Well, I can write this one off the test list.” Animalic chypre is so not my style. In fact, it still isn’t, and may never be – but I’ve come to understand that Memoir Woman is very difficult to classify. Like another morpher, Chamade, Memoir Woman smells very different from top to bottom. Unlike Chamade, which can be classified as a green floral with an oriental base, Memoir is tougher to pin down. You think it’s going one way, and then you hang a hairpin turn and find yourself somewhere completely different.

Upon first spritz, my nose crinkled up and I jerked my head back. Such a strange smell! So weird – and yet so oddly appealing. I sniffed more. I kept coming back to my wrist, tracking each facet in turn. “I can’t figure this out,” I said to myself. “It isn’t a chypre. It isn’t particularly animalic. I smell a little bit of leather, but it’s not A Leather Scent, either. Is it a floral? Not really. So what is it?” Continue reading Perfume Review: Amouage Memoir Woman


Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman

Perfume Review: Amouage Honour Woman

Date released: 2011

Perfumer: Alexandra Carlin and Violaine Collas

Sample provenance: sample purchased from, 2012

Sub-category: Summer-weight white floral with tuberose

The following never happened. But it could have…

Mals was having an amazing day. She was walking down a city street, the heels of her new brown leather boots tapping on the sidewalk, shopping bags swinging by her side. She was musing to herself that the cashmere sweater she’d found on sale was just perfect – simple, classic, a lovely soft shade of gray-blue. And the boots! Will wonders never cease? The boots were perfect, too. Butter-soft, the right heel, they fit her ankles, and they didn’t make her feet ache. She’d worn them out of the store. And that tablecloth, that was a wonderful find for $10… White linen with drawn-thread work, just the size for her harvest maple table, guaranteed resistant to the tiniest food stain, machine washable. Perfect.

A storefront caught her eye: The Dream Perfumery, lettered in a clean but flowing script above the door. Her eyebrows went up, and she dodged across the lanes of oncoming walkers to have a closer look. The building itself seemed to be made of marble, and the interior was softly lit. The heavy glass door swung open when she put her hand up to it, and then she realized that someone inside had opened it for her.

Thank you,” she said in faint surprise to the young woman holding the door.

Oh, do come in,” the young woman said. “Lovely day, isn’t it? I’m Graciela, and we’re so pleased you stopped by.”

Mals blinked. This was not what the kind of treatment to which she was accustomed. And the inside of the shop was absolutely luxe, with a whisper-soft carpet and walls hung with fabric in rich colors. It smelled of many mingled scents, as a perfume shop should.

Continue reading Tuberose Series Perfume Review #21: Amouage Honour Woman


Perfume Review: Amouage Lyric Woman

I first read a review of Lyric Woman over at Now Smell This. It was Angela’s review, and a lovely, singing review it is. I immediately ordered a sample from Aedes de Venustas. It sent me into transports of joy. I had to have some. I managed to join a bottle split, and now Lyric graces the most stellar of my days.

Lyric Woman, released in 2008, is described as an oriental floral. The list of notes, according to Fragrantica:

Top: bergamot, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron

Heart: rose, angelica, jasmine, ylang-ylang, geranium, orris root

Base: oakmoss, musk, woody notes, patchouli, vetiver, tonka bean, sandalwood, incense.

Right up top, I do get a small burst of citrus, followed by a spicy melange that seems to me dominated by cardamom and saffron. This is beautifully blended and refreshing, not the Christmasy spiced-cider thing that it could have been. After that, the rose comes up, and it’s that beautiful deep rich rose note that rests on a base of woods, the kind of thing I think of as being a Middle-Eastern sort of rose, translucent and seamless. If you’re looking for the same rose as in Perfumers’ Workshop Tea Rose, or in Stella, here, you won’t find it: it doesn’t smell like that rose. If I sniff very hard I can pick out the ylang-ylang, and the iris, but mostly it’s rose rose rose, with a dry, smooth frankincense and sandalwood. Eventually, the rich vanilla-cream of tonka bean surfaces, but always with that dry, almost-smoky frankincense – which, in Lyric, lacks the astringent, lime-pine character it often has in other scents. (Mind you, I frequently like that characteristic of frankincense, but it would detract from the silken rose-petal quality of Lyric.)

In the Perfumes: The Guide review of Amouage Homage, Luca Turin states that Omani frankincense is “the best and most expensive stuff around.” Clearly Amouage has access to really top-notch materials, because there isn’t a whiff of cheapness about Lyric at all. It smells solid, rich, elegant, with plenty of body but no fluff. Its eyes are deep and mysterious; they promise but do not flirt. The entire effect of the scent is that of rose petals and spices smoldering on a wood fire, an intoxicating waft. LT mentions an “overripe, plangent fruity note” that I never get, and I’m wondering what he smells that I don’t, because I’m typically disturbed by overripe fruit (as in Badgley Mischka, Diorella, and Calyx).

I have sometimes seen Lyric Woman compared to Caron Parfum Sacre, and on the surface I understand why. Both are opulent and rich and romantic, and share some points of congruence: that beautiful woody rose, the spices, the woods and incense and vanilla/tonka bean. However, to me, Parfum Sacre is much more focused on woods and vanilla under the rose, while Lyric’s rose and incense hold hands. Lyric is far dryer, austere yet sumptuous; Parfum Sacre always strikes me as being as maternal as it is sensual. Parfum Sacre sings to me in rounder, softer, comforting tones, while Lyric is dramatic and demanding of my attention. Parfum Sacre, to me, shifts from stage to stage in its development, from lemon-pepper to pepper-rose to rose-incense-wood to incense-wood-vanilla. Lyric smells not linear, but consistent throughout. I can smell spices and rose and incense all the way through, with only the bergamot and tonka bean dancing onto and off the stage. I love both scents, very much, but for different reasons.

Another spicy-rose-incense scent is the dramatic Chanel Coco. However, I have never liked Coco, due to the Youth-Dew accord in its backbone. I was also disappointed in Tauer Incense Rose, which based on the notes should have been something I loved. It just wasn’t, for some reason. Several of the Tauer scents do that citrus-incense-spice combination, and it’s very pleasant, but it doesn’t move me.

Lyric glows for me like a dark jewel, like a faceted garnet holding wine-red flashes in its heart. It has the weight and elegance and sheen of heavy satin. It is noble and lofty and graceful, and I think of it as the dark-eyed beauty I often wished to be, when I was growing up with freckles and skinned knees.

Other reviews: Angela at NST. Marina at PST. Abigail at ISTIA. Patty at Perfume Posse (brief). Donna at PST. The Non-Blonde. Suzanne of Eiderdown Press. Chandler Burr at the NY Times. Another Perfume Blog.  And Tarleisio at Scent Less Sensibilities gives us a Lyric-inspired story that knocks my socks off (go read it – if you don’t know Lyric yet, you will after you read, and if you do know Lyric, you’ll be moved).

Image of Lyric Man and Woman from Fragrantica.  Image of Black Baccara rose from Heirloom Roses. Image of polished garnets from Flickr.