Unum Opus 1144: Divas & Powerhouse Classics

Source: Pinterest via Pierreherme.com pinterest.

Source: Pinterest Pierreherme.com

Fans of floriental powerhouses in the classical tradition, take note, Opus 1144 is one for you to try. It is a bold, complex fragrance with a divaesque character that harkens back to the great Guerlain legends, Shalimar and L’Heure Bleue, in their most concentrated vintage parfum form, as well as to modern creations by Mona di Orio and O’Drui. At its heart, it’s structured much like a millefeuille dessert where tart, lemon curd custard lies sandwiched between layers of dark, smoky styrax and balsamic-coated, musky leather, all dusted with vanillic powder in a haze of jasmine and iris floralcy.

Jean Patou couture, circa 1969. Source: pinterest.

Jean Patou couture, circa 1969. Source: pinterest.

Opus 1144 is many things, sometimes all at once. It is a lilting choral extravaganza where grand, bold opulence and monumental density dip into airiness and delicacy without ever losing strength. It’s a chiaroscuro of light and dark, masculinity and feminine, gourmand and oriental, hard and soft, acrid and sweet, cloying and beautiful — and I’m not completely sure what to make of all that, no matter how many times I wear it. In all honesty, there are many times in the first four hours when Opus 1144 leaves me simultaneously repelled and riveted, drawn in compulsively and with great admiration, but also put off and hesitant. One thing is undeniable: it’s something that any fan of the classics and of powerhouses in the floriental genre should try for themselves.

Opus 1144 via Twisted Lily.

Opus 1144 via Twisted Lily.

Opus 1144 is a new 2015 extrait de parfum from Unum. As I mentioned in my review of the High Church incense fragrance, Lavs, the perfume house was founded in 2013 by Filippo Sorcinelli, who is also the nose behind its three fragrances and who originally began by making vestments for Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. Unum’s long description on its website about Opus 1144’s inspiration and compositional structure is in Italian, but a translated English version is available on Neos1911, one of Unum’s handful of retailers. In a nutshell, “Opus 1144 is the celebrative outcome of the Gothic style,” with notes symbolically intended to underscore that aesthetic.

Based on that translated description and on the note list on Twisted Lily, Opus 1144 appears to contain:

Elemi, Jasmine, Bergamot, Mandarin Orange, Iris, Orchid, Cashmere Wood, Musk, Ambergris, Vanilla, Leather, Sandalwood, Benzoin, and Styrax [mentioned by Unum in its description but not included in other lists] .

Source: kaloria.dk

Source: kaloria.dk

Opus 1144 opens on my skin with thick waves of bergamot and syrupy vanilla, layered like a feuilleté with smoky, leathery styrax and a thinner slivers of actual leather, then dusted with vanillic benzoin powder, and placed within a slightly indolic jasmine cocoon. The citrus note is somewhat sharp and bitter, far closer to a lime for the first two hours than to actual bergamot. The mandarin orange takes a few moments to appear, then wafts in like tart, pithy pulp dabbed in minute amounts. It sits on the sidelines next to an indistinct woodiness that, once in a blue moon, takes on an aromatic elemi quality. Most of the time, however, it is simply faceless — mere abstract woodiness whose character and presence are overwhelmed by the heavy and occasionally acrid “lime.”

Painting: Mark Chadwick. Source: Flickr (direct website link embedded within image.) General site:  www.markchadwick.co.uk/

Painting: Mark Chadwick. Source: Flickr (direct website link embedded within image.) General site: www.markchadwick.co.uk/

The jasmine feels equally obscured, even though Opus 1144 is definitely, undeniably, and profoundly floral. Yet, the jasmine’s distinctive, personal character, especially its syrupy sweetness, are so submerged within the deluge of equally syrupy vanilla that they essentially become one. Above all else, Opus 1144 is so well-blended that its notes not only flow one into another, but it’s sometimes hard to know where one ends and the other begins. It may actually be too well-blended because, as with Lavs, a lot of the elements are either barely noticeable in any individually distinct manner, or never show up at all.

For the most part, though, Opus 1144’s opening bouquet is centered on a triptych of jasmine, vanilla, and bergamot/lime atop thick layers of darkly balsamic, leathery, smoky, resins, all dusted with vanillic powder. There is a grandness and boldness that evokes classical French Haute Couture, while the actual scent reminds me enormously of the vintage Shalimar extrait that I have from the late ’70s or early ’80s. Age has concentrated its notes into a thick, dark syrup, heightening the leathery underpinnings as much as the floralcy and the vanillic sweetness, but age has also given the citrus top notes a certain acrid quality. It’s much the same way here, though, given what happens later in Opus 1144’s drydown, the acridness may stem from the smoky, incense-like styrax in the base; as I said earlier, it’s hard to know where one note ends in Opus 1144 and the other begins.

Maria Callas via playbill.com

Maria Callas via playbill.com

What I do know for certain is that I find the opening to be simultaneously disagreeable and fascinating. I’m drawn in by the wonderfully ridiculous heft and intensity of a Shalimar on steroids, and by the sense of a Wagnerian crescendo during the Ride of the Valkyries. In fact, Opus 1144 would perfectly suit Maria Callas singing Wagner in one of her ball gowns and festooned with jewels, dramatic makeup, and full-on diva power. All those comparisons are my highest form of praise for a fragrance, and yet…. I’m also utterly repelled by the vanilla’s cloying sweetness, by the sharpness of the lime-like bergamot, and by an acrid quality that feels super-sonic in its dark pointedness. The latter stays for a long, long time, almost straight through to the end, and is one reason why I’m more ambivalent about Opus 1144 than I should be.

Source: iccoin.com

Source: iccoin.com

However, for the first 90 minutes, the vanilla is just as problematic. For someone like me with a very low threshold for sweetness, the vanilla skews well past the “cloying” category and sometimes — just sometimes — verges more on the “suffocating.” It’s a multi-faceted note that isn’t easy to pigeon-hole because it’s simultaneously: like dark vanilla syrup; as sugary as thick vanilla icing; but also as creamy as a custard, with a viscosity as thick and dense as molasses. Its power in conjunction with the bergamot and the rich, sweet, but sometimes faceless jasmine floralcy ends up reminding me of O’Drui‘s Eva Kant, only Opus 1144 has far less going on, is in no way herbal, and has more classical purity with its Shalimar resemblance.

Photo & source: Les Papotages de Nana blog. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Photo & source: Les Papotages de Nana blog. (Direct website link embedded within.)

For hours to come, Opus 1144 continues as a lemon curd custard millefeuille layered with smoky and leathery resins, changing only in its nuances. At the end of the first hour, the tiny splinters of woodiness in the background turn into larger streaks, weaving around quietly, in and out, but rarely feeling like a solid or constant force. Once in a blue moon, a tiny pop of a juniper gin-like note pops up in the distance, undoubtedly from the elemi. The smoky styrax and leather darkness of the base fluctuate in strength, as does the vanilla powderiness that is strewn over everything on top. As for the main trio of notes — the jasmine, vanilla, and bergamot — they are woven so tightly together, they’re essentially like a triple DNA spiral. That said, the vanilla and “lime”/bergamot frequently shine brightest and seem to have the greatest individual clarity. It’s the jasmine that is hardest to explain, because it shimmers like a mirage, present without a doubt and, yet, it often feels more abstract than concrete, if that makes any sense. It’s too strong to be an elusive note, but it often feels submerged into its partners.

Photo: Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe for lemon mousse embedded within photo.)

Photo: Mary Bergfeld on One Perfect Bite blogspot. (Link to website with recipe for lemon parfait embedded within photo.)

Roughly 90 minutes in, Opus 1144 starts to shift, turning smoother, softer, and with better modulated notes. The vanilla is slowly becoming more of an aerated fluffy custard or thick mousse, rather than a cloying syrup. The bergamot no longer seems quite so sharply pointed, though a vestige of lime-like tartness still remains. Even the acrid quality lessens to a degree, though every time I think I’m finally free of it, it surges back as strong as before. In the base, the smoky, leathery streaks are more rounded, their sharp edges smoothened out. To my surprise, Opus 1144 is changing in body as well. While it is still a significantly rich, strong scent, it feels airier as compared to the solid, opaque density of its start.

Rosalind Russell in "Auntie Mame." Source: film-actually.com

Rosalind Russell in “Auntie Mame.” Source: film-actually.com

These are all minor things and nuances, but a more radical shift occurs at the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd. The iris sweeps in like a haughty dame, ushering in a floral powderiness in her wake that grows more pronounced with every moment. It does not resemble make-up powder, has no orris-like lipstick aroma, and most certainly does not resemble scented baby powder on my skin, either. Instead, it’s sweet, slightly vanillic, with a cool, hushed floralcy to it.

What it does is to transform Opus 1144 into a total hybrid of vintage L’Heure Bleue extrait and vintage Shalimar extrait. At the same time, the styrax in the base starts to creep upwards, smudging the soft, airy petals of jasmine and iris with black smudges. All the notes are now interlocking and overlapping, creating a seamless mélange that oozes the regal sophistication of a Grande Dame in the most classical French way. It’s from this point forth that I start to sniff Opus 1144 with ever-growing appreciation and admiration, not only because vintage L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar parfums are old favorites of mine, but because image upon image of famous icons of the past are flashing through my brain, first and foremost, Rosalind Russell as the stylish, larger-than-life force of nature, “Auntie Mame.”

Some of Auntie Mame's wardrobe. Photo and source: frockflicks.com

Some of Auntie Mame’s wardrobe. Photo and source: frockflicks.com

And, yet, there are echoes of a modern fragrance reverberating loudly at the start of the 4th hour as well. As the vanilla turns ever more into a creamy custard mixed with mousse, as the “lime” finally softens into pure lemon, and as the iris powder flies over everything, Opus 1144 consistently calls to mind Mona di Orio‘s Vanille, except with vintage L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar blanketing it.

Taureg Moroccan Leather. Source: hamillgallery.com

Taureg Moroccan Leather. Source: hamillgallery.com

Opus 1144’s next major shift occurs about 5.5 hours into the perfume’s evolution. The leather suddenly charges up from the depths like an elephant, with the ambergris clinging onto its back like a blanket. It pushes the jasmine, bergamot, vanilla trio out of the way and onto the sidelines, as it trumpets a clarion call of Russian leather made from smoky birch tar and probably a good heaping of isobutyl quinoline to give it an ambery, woody undertone as well. The ambergris is not a concrete, individually pronounced note, but it lends a vague goldenness to the leather and, more importantly, an almost humid, earthy muskiness.

Like a charging bull elephant, the leather takes over this stage of Opus 1144, smelling often like rawhide covered with a humid thickness that is a little hard to describe. Styrax circles around it, adding to the quiet smokiness of the scent which is now darker, drier, and more masculine in nature. To my surprise, there is barely any floralcy except for small wisps in the background and an occasional (quite ghostly) suggestion of creamy orris butter. There is barely any vanilla either; all sense of fluffiness or gourmandise has quite vanished. Yet, the acrid streaks remains, along with splatters of bergamot.

Source: hdwallsource.com

Source: hdwallsource.com

It’s a short stage, perhaps an hour or 75 minutes at most, and then the old core of Opus 1144 returns. The leather’s rawness, intensity, and earthiness fade away, leaving something smoother and more golden. By the end of the 6th hour, Opus 1144 essentially smells of lemon mousse streaked with musky leather and dark, balsamic resins. Slowly, the leather melts into the resins, swallowed up by a golden warmth that starts to pervade the lemon-vanilla mousse, taking it over. The jasmine has completely disappeared.

Roughly 8.5 hours into the perfume’s evolution, the bergamot’s tenacious hold finally comes to an end as the amber conquers all, aided by a creamy orris butter that glides over the skin like satin. The vanilla custard has disappeared, too, replaced by a simple, bourbon sweetness that bears a quiet smokiness from the styrax. A light sprinkling of iris and vanillic powder remains for a short while, but the iris (perhaps orris butter?) is rapidly becoming simple textural smoothness and creamy butteriness. It transforms the amber into the most wonderful thing I’ve encountered in a while, though I suspect the sandalwood probably has something to do with that as well, at least indirectly since I never once detected it in any visible way.

Source: keywordpicture.com

Source: keywordpicture.com

The end result is gloriously golden, buttery, and creamy ambered satin, stroked by gentle fingers of slightly bourbon-ish sweetness, then wrapped with the thinnest ribbons of smoke and soft, musky leather. It’s seductive, cozy, and compulsively, addictively sniffable. If only it didn’t take almost 11 hours to get to this point! This wonderful stage lasts for while without change, until the scent finally dies away as a blur of golden warmth with a vestige of sweetness.

Opus 1144 has superb longevity, good projection, and enormous sillage during the first few hours of its life. Using 3 large smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance initially opens with 3 inches of projection and about 4 inches of sillage, but both soon balloon rapidly. As the fragrance is warmed by the skin, roughly 25 minutes, the projection grows to 5-6 inches, while the sillage wafts across the length of a room. On one occasion when I tested Opus 1144, I had dinner at my parents’ house, and was told that the scent trailed behind me from one room to the next. By the end of the 2nd hour, things settle down a little, with the projection dropping to between 2 to 2.5 inches, while the sillage is about 6 inches. When the 4th hour comes to a close, the projection is about 1.5 inches, the sillage is about 4 to 6. Opus 1144 only turns into a skin scent after 7.5 hours, but it’s still easy to smell up close until the middle of the 10th hour. All in all, the fragrance consistently lasts over 12 hours on me, ranging from 12.75 with a few light, tiny smears equal to 1 small spray, to just under 14.5 hours with the equivalent of 2 good sprays.

Opus 1144 is too new to have received a lot of reviews, but everything I’ve seen thus far has been enormously positive. On Fragrantica, there are only 3 comments at this time, all admiring. The one from “Alfarom” is the same text that is posted on his Nero Profumo blog. He calls Opus 1144 a “bold and complex fragrance” that was so “multi-faceted” it was hard to describe. He compared it to some of what he called Amouage‘s best women’s or oriental scents (Opus VI, Epic Woman, and Lyric Woman), and rated Opus 1144 a good 8-8.5 out of 10. I suspect those numbers would be higher if he, like me, hadn’t struggled with the sweetness of the opening which he called “challenging”: “so incredibly thick and powerful to the point to make yourself questioning your sanity.” I couldn’t agree more, just as I agree with his advice to “hang in there” and let the opening phase pass to get to the rest of Opus 1144 which he described, in part, as follows:

The overall sweetness of the opening is remarkably tamed down by a plush musky-leathery bone-structure that, together with smooth creamy / woody notes and resins starts lurking in the back to then slowly drive the fragrabce towards what is in my opinion its real essence: the majestic drydown. There’s definitely something classically french about Opus 1411, something familiarly comforting while all this is paired to a dark nature that gives this composition a brooding character. Like falling into an abyss of powdery decadence. An endless echo that gets lower and lower in tone as time goes by…and it goes on and on and on for hours…darker, more dusty, drier. It’s quintessentially gothic and agrees with red / purple velvet and black marble.

I’m less enthused by Opus 1144’s middle stage than he is (because of the continuing acridness on my skin), but I do agree that the very end is “majestic,” even if it didn’t skew gothic and dark for me, but golden, plush, and creamy like satin.

"Mimosa" ball gown created by Leonid Gurevich. Photo: Miss Aniela Photography. Source: leonidgurevich.blogspot.com

“Mimosa” ball gown created by Leonid Gurevich. Photo: Miss Aniela Photography. Source: leonidgurevich.blogspot.com

I think my experience may have been a touch closer to that of “Colin Maillard,” who provides the second, detailed analysis for Opus 1144 on Fragrantica. He says it is probably his personal favourite from Unum line, “despite the really bold opening which may be off-putting at first.” (God, it really is!) The rest of the fragrance he describes, in part, as follows:

The opening is triumphally bold and powerful: a thick, nearly overwhelming dusty-ambery blend (“ambery” à la Goutal’s Ambre Fetiche) with creamy candied-floral nuances (elemi and flowers) and a whole citric-astringent side of citrus and bergamot, perfectly opposing a warm and sweet vanillic base also comprising sandalwood (speaking decently-aged Shalimar here) … in turn juxtaposed to dirtier, almost skankier notes of benzoin, jasmine, salty ambergris (forget ambroxan, I mean salty, slightly animalic-aqueous ambergris), and something that reminds me of tonka – a sort of sweet-exotic almond touch. Thick, radiant and deep, gourmand-ish on one side (this even comprising a weird sort of balsamic vinaigre feel), almost chypre-sque on the other; slightly waxy – meaning both powdery-iris and leathery as in Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque – monolithic but somehow almost “lascivious” thanks to its softer-darker sides, slightly reminding me of the (few) best aspects of Mona di Orio style – that sort of dusty, antique vibe, just less baroque and more austere (and, ok, uncomparably better executed here).

The drydown is equally great, and for me is quite the key to get the whole beauty of this fragrance. After the citric-vanillic opening it enters a sweeter phase echoing tonka and resins (echoes of “guerlinades” again), then an un expected drift towards an incredibly beautiful powdery-dusty drydown with darker shades that is as much uplifting, peaceful and mesmerizing as looking at the dust floating in the light of a Middle-European cathedral. Complex but so fulfilling from the very first sniff to the very final drydown [….] [Emphasis to names added by me.]

I have the strong, strong feeling that Opus 1144 will be one of those polarizing Love It/Hate It fragrances. “Alfarom” mentioned at the end of his review: “If you’re drawn to bold and complex fragrances, Opus 1144 is a mandatory stop and, trust me, it won’t leave you indifferent.” And I couldn’t agree more. It won’t leave you indifferent. At all.

After four wearings, I still can’t make up my mind what I think about Opus 1144. There are parts I love, and there are parts that repel me, even as they simultaneously draw me in — albeit, sometimes I’m drawn in simply from confusion at what on earth is going with some of the individual notes. I’m completely torn on Opus 1144 for myself, though I would buy it in a heartbeat if the opening stage were brief, the acridness didn’t continue to the middle part, and if the final hours made up a major portion of the scent.

Vintage Shalimar ad. Sourc: caviardujour.com

Vintage Shalimar ad. Source: caviardujour.com

One thing I am quite clear on is that you should not go anywhere near Opus 1144 if you like airy, fresh, clean, light scents, or if you think any of the vintage Guerlain classics smell “old lady.” If that awful phrase is your reaction to big, heavy, opulent scents, you’ll be horrified by Opus 1144, so don’t even bother with it. On the other hand, if you think vintage Shalimar (parfum, not even the eau de toilette) is a thing of beauty right down to its styrax, animalic leathery heart, and if you think vintage L’Heure Bleue is majestically haunting despite its powderiness, then you should order a sample of Opus 1144 immediately. Same if you have a passionate love for Mona di Orio’s citrusy, powdered Vanille, the Ambre Fetiche mentioned by “Colin Maillard” up above, and/or ultra heavy, big, divaesque Valkyrie florientals with a very classical profile.

Whether or not you actually end up liking your sample of Opus 1144 may depend on two things: your tolerance for that challenging opening, and your patience. If you love or can tolerate gourmand sweetness, and if you don’t mind a lot of bergamot “lime,” I think you’ll have a much smoother path than someone like me who has a very low threshold. Even so, I have to repeat again, I think Opus 1144 will be one of those Love It/Hate It polarizing scents.

Maria Callas in "Medea" via wwwext.ansa.it

Maria Callas in “Medea” via wwwext.ansa.it

Then again, you may end up feeling completely torn, just like I am right now. Try as I might, I can’t shake a certain unease I feel whenever I wear Opus 1144, as well as a feeling of, “I should love this passionately, but I really don’t think I like it.” But, then, 20 minutes later, something happens, and I’m riveted all over again, before some other aspect (like the acridness) repels me once more. It’s an exhausting waltz that continues for far too long for my liking, all the way past the 9th or 10th hour, until that glorious finale appears to soothe my frazzled confusion. Would I actually want to go through all that if I owned a bottle? Would I even want to pay for one to begin with? Opus 1144 is technically great value for its price of $220 or €175 for 100 ml of hefty, dense, high voltage, high sillage, long-lasting parfum. I’m just not sure it’s really for me. It should be — Wagnerian, baroque fragrances with a vintage Guerlain bouquet that conjure up Maria Callas singing in jewels and an opulent gown have my name written all over them — but… no. I think I’m leaning towards, “No. No, I don’t like it.”

At the end of the day, my confusion and ambivalence is probably a testament to the power and complexity of Opus 1144. I’ve been wearing perfume for quite a few decades now, I cut my baby teeth on big, flamboyant powerhouse legends, and, at this point, I generally make up my mind very quickly how I feel about a scent. Generally. All I know for certain about Opus 1144 is that she’s a stand-out, a high-quality, full-throttle scent with character, and quite a diva to boot. Like all divas, that makes her a handful and a challenge. Sometimes, you can admire a diva, shout “Brava” at her, but you may not actually like her as a person or want to take her home with you. Still, Opus 1144, “Brava.”

Cost & Availability: Opus 1144 is a pure parfum that comes in a 100 ml bottle for $220 or €175. There is also an accompanying candle. In the U.S.: Twisted Lily seems to be Unum’s exclusive retailer in America. They sell the parfum, samples, the candle, and ship worldwide, but they are back-ordered on Opus 1144 at the time of this review. See below for the link to their customizable sample packs. Outside of the U.S.: Unum’s e-shop fragrance section only seems to have its Lavs incense parfum, not Opus 1144, and the main Unum Parfums site does not offer direct purchases. However, you can find Opus 1144 at Italy’s Neos1911 which I think may be part of Alla Violetta. The latter sells some samples, so you may want to see if Neos1911 does so for Opus 1144. The fragrance is also available at Italy’s Narcisse. Spain’s Tienda will get it soon, but sells it above retail at €275. Russia’s SpellSmell shows Opus 1144 on its site, but says it’s not available. I haven’t found any other retailers. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t have Opus 1144. Your best bet is Twisted Lily which sells a sample for $4, and ships worldwide. In general, Twisted Lily offers custom Sample Packs which costs $18 for 5 fragrances of your choice in 1 ml vials, or $36 for 10. Simply list the fragrances you want at checkout.

35 thoughts on “Unum Opus 1144: Divas & Powerhouse Classics

  1. Well, the comparisons to Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Eva Kant and MdO’s Vanille say I will love Opus 1144, but there is an equally good chance the powerful syrupy vanilla will spoil it for me.

    Look forward to trying it nevertheless.
    thanks for the great review!

    • Given your very similar issues with sweetness, James, I can’t stress enough that the opening is… tough, to say the least. But the vanilla is not the only thing that I think you need to brace yourself for, unfortunately. The bergamot/”lime” and that acrid quality are just as difficult. I’ll be very interested to hear how you fare, so do let me know once you’ve had the chance to wear it a time or two.

  2. I have a big problem with the acrid lime. Only once that simmers down do I sense the vanilla and get the resemblance to Shalimar. I love the dry down but the opening is indeed a challenge.

    • Really interesting that you didn’t get the vanilla right away. Gosh, the bergamot/”lime” must have been triple-fold on you in that case. (Ugh.) I wish I could figure out the source of the acrid note, since I don’t think it is purely from the bergamot/lime itself. I suspect it’s the combination of the lime and the styrax. Whatever the source, that was just as difficult a note for me as all the rest and, unfortunately, it stayed for ages. How long before the glorious drydown kicks on you, Rich?

      • After three hours I found it quite lovely. It also survived for many hours as a skin scent even after several hand washings.

  3. I’ve ordered a sample of the Unum Lavas. We’ll see how that goes. Great review as always. Hope the boy is doing better. I’m hobbling on my walker hopng to be able to put weight on the broken leg in a couple of weeks. have a great weekend, R

    • I was so, so incredibly sorry to hear about your ordeal upon your return, and I really had meant to reply to your comment in the May Grab Bag, as well as your kind thoughts regarding The Hairy German. Unfortunately, his medical situation was pretty rough then, and I got swept up for days in taking care of him. He’s a bit better now, which is why I’m able to do reviews. How has YOUR recovery been going (beyond the hobbling, that is)? And how are you feeling as a whole?

  4. i bought lavs immediately after smelling it. it’s the endpoint in liturgical depth and richness even while it wear with a certain austere purity. i truly love lavs! with 1144, the richness is completely over the top, and in the opening i smell a lot of ylang as well as super indolic jasmine, and i have big issues with ylang. the whole first hour of 1144 is pure bombast on me, and although it dries down to a complex amber accord it still maintains too much sweetness to want to wear again. i’ll stick with opis VI & ambre fetiche, both singular ambers with oodles of attitude & complexity. good call on ‘wagnerian’: it soars, but in an almost crude, brutal way….

    • I can see Lavs as being an instant love for you. In contrast, I would never think Opus 1144 would suit you or be up your alley, even before the issue of the ylang. That is really interesting to me, that you experience a huge amount of ylang-ylang. And let’s not start on the sweetness. *shudder* I think your word “bombast” is good for a large portion of the fragrance’s early hours, not just the first one. And I can completely see how, on the wrong skin, the bombast could skew into total brute crudeness. As I said, I think this is going to one very polarizing, Love It/Hate It scent.

      I’m curious about something: where did you get your samples? Did you participate in a split? I’m trying to figure out how I can help some international readers who may not wish to order from Twisted Lily. From what I can see thus far, the handful of European retailers that care Unum don’t seem to offer samples. I wish the line were more easily accessible.

  5. Fantastic report, I perfectly share your feeling “torn” about this – despite I got myself a split bottle of this, I feel that way too. Wearing it, it’s like walking arm in arm with a whimsical “diva” as you brilliantly defined it.

    • First, welcome to the blog, Colin. Second, I’m rather relieved to hear that I’m not the only one who feels conflicted or torn on Opus 1144. Even more relieved if you happen to be the “Colin Maillard” whom I so often quote. If you are, your experience and mine seemed to be quite similar in this case. (It isn’t always, lol, and our tastes are somewhat different in terms of genres or note preferences. 🙂 ) There is something compelling about Opus 1144, even in the midst of one’s revulsion towards a certain, overly powerful or intrusive element — and that is not something I frequently come across or experience with fragrances.

      Did you experience anything that you might classify as “acrid”? I don’t mean mere bitterness or something pungent, but something truly… well, acrid. I wish I could figure out the source, because styrax never turns that way on my skin to my memory, and it can’t simply be the bergamot.

  6. Just want to say that I really enjoy your reviews.Your impeccable writing mechanics and style are second-to-none. I truly appreciate the time and attention to detail it takes to do what is a clearly a labor of love. When I google a fragrance and see that Kafkaesque has done a review, that’s the first one I click on. I’m not nearly as sophisticated in my knowledge as you and some of your other commenters are, but I’m learning!

    While this may have nothing to do with this particular, very interesting review, I’ve noticed lately that I don’t like diva Orientals as much as I once thought I did and I’m wondering what that’s about. I still love and wear TF’s Noir de Noir, SMN’s Patchouli, CHANEL Coromandel and Speziali Fiorentini Black Tea, but I’m not sure if all those could be considered Orientals or even a relative of them.

    Isn’t it funny how your tastes can change/expand for no discernible reason? Has that ever happened to you? All of a sudden I think I’m liking florals, and I’ve never been a floral girl. But in exploring florals (and after reading your review) I ordered a sample of Fracas, and I know this is probably sacrilege, but I don’t think I like it. I keep smelling my wrist, wondering if Surrender to Chance got something mixed up, because to me it doesn’t smell like what I associate with tuberose—it smells like gardenia. Maybe I just have an impression of tuberose from inferior tuberose fragrances? I guess that’s the beauty/wisdom of ordering samples.

    Okay, that’s enough from me. I’ve been lurking for a while now and thought I’d pipe up, if only to say that I at long last tried Fracas. Who knows, maybe it will grow on me.

    Thank you for your great blog.

    • First, welcome to the blog, Malapert, and second, thank you for your very kind words on the reviews. 🙂

      With regard to your changing tastes, that can definitely happen and I don’t think you should feel at all strange in suddenly enjoying a totally new genre. Or even a different fragrance aesthetic. I have one reader whose taste has changed dramatically even in the last year, suddenly skewing totally dark, black, and smoky, whereas before she enjoyed very light, airy fragrances. The fragrances you mentioned like Coromandel and SMN’s Patchouli are definitely categorized as orientals, while I would say that TF’s Noir de Noir may be more a floral-oriental.

      With regard to Fracas, it sounds like I should make it much more clear and direct that I’m talking about vintage Fracas, because the reformulated modern version is quite a different fish, indeed. I don’t blame you one whit for not liking it very much, or even for smelling gardenia. Your nose isn’t wrong. It’s not a heavy tuberose scent at all — any more. It’s been really butchered, imo, not just in the last few years but perhaps going back a decade or so. The new management of Robert Piguet is, unfortunately, all about the synthetics and clean white musk, in my opinion, and I think they sacrifice the richness of the essential oils and core note to make a buck. (They’ve amped up the synthetics and clean musk to hide the dilution of core materials, like rich tuberose, imo, and I’m pretty pissed about it.)

      If you go to the later comments at the end of the Fracas review, you’ll see a few hardcore, longstanding Fracas admirers noting just how different Fracas smells now, especially recently it seems. Or, rather, more than even these days. And I’ve gotten quite a number of private emails to that effect over the last year. One poor woman was convinced she’d accidentally bought a fake, despite buying it from Nordstrom’s, I think, and was asking me how to spot phony Fracas. It simply never crossed her mind that reformulation would be the culprit, because the results were SO horribly severe and dramatic. My suggestion to you, if you have found a new love of florals, is to see if you can get a sample of VINTAGE Fracas, particularly in the parfum/extrait form. Just to see what all the fuss is all about, and why people consider it to be such a legend.

      I do hope you will stop lurking and feel comfortable in leaving a comment once in a while. Fragrance is always more fun when shared. 🙂

      • Hi Kafkaesque and thank you for your thoughtful reply!

        First of all, my bad for not re-reading your Fracas review (and comments) before I brought it up. I am usually a better fact checker. I assume the disclaimer in bold at the top of the review was the there the first time I read it, which was about three weeks ago. If so, it would have explained a lot to me—had I bothered to absorb it!

        You may cringe (or not), but the reason I got interested in tuberose is that I was killing time in a Target recently and sniffing Sonia Kashuk’s fragrance/bath and body line. I sniffed the body lotion with the scent called “Pink Innocencia” (an unfortunate name), which three main notes on the tube are “tuberose, amber and magnolia.” I just loved it and bought the lotion and have been bathing in it ever since. It’s similar, however, to Michael Kors’ original fragrance, which I do not care for. I wonder how that can be?

        Perhaps part of the reason I don’t like MK is because it is so brash and so many women were wearing it there for a while, kind of like how I feel about the ever-dreadful Flowerbomb and its current ubiquity. By the way, for any Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrian fans out there, one of Sonia’s other offerings, called “Yellow Alluriana”, is a near dead ringer (but richer somehow).

        Bath and Body Works also did a tuberose which I didn’t think was too bad.

        All this is what made me think “Oh, I’m just ignorant about what tuberose actually is” after I tried Fracas—it must be that I’ve been slumming it with the cheap stuff! (I do like all kinds of fragrance from high to low and try not to attach quality solely to price.) Also, I do not like musk (“clean white” is something I will have to investigate) very much, so that could explain my reaction to the apparently ghoulish whisper of the ghost of Fracas that I received.

        I did break down today and buy a bottle of the unjustifiably expensive rum raisin ice cream called Guerlain Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Mr. Turin can say, “Figures! Lady who likes Sonia Kashuk for Target would like Double Vanille! Geeeesh!” Hey, rum raisin ice cream was my favorite ice cream of all time. I don’t drink or eat boozy food anymore but at least I can douse myself in an imitation and hope the bees don’t mistake me for lunch.

        Finally, I will investigate ebay for vintage Fracas one of these days. I do fear it is a rabbit hole from which I will never emerge. I’ll go on it and calendar pages will be flying by like in an old movie. I’ll grow roots in my gluteus maximus and have cartoon spirals for eyes.

        Thank your for being open to my meandering dilettante thoughts and have a lovely rest of the weekend!

  7. Not an office scent, I take it? Despite that, this sounds so intriguing I will definitely have to try this when I visit Twisted Lily. Thanks for a wonderful review!

    • Ha, not remotely for the office. 😉 😀 I don’t know what you’d think about this one, Hajusuuri. In all honesty, I think I’d be surprised if you liked it.

  8. Even if Opus 1144 has its period of sweetness, I cannot resist sampling this one after reading your fantastic review. And I like a challenge and need something unique. I love [vintage] Shalimar and mom wore and loved it (almost as much as Opium). In fact I have a Guerlain box that my
    mom’s aunt had given her from sometime in the 50’s- still smells like perfume after all those years.

    So, I will certainly be sampling this as well as Lavs and Rose Nigra. Speaking of rose, I wore Papillon Tobacco Rose today. 🙂

    Anything interesting in the next few weeks you may be posting? Perfume that is. You know me. 😀

    Hope you have a nice weekend!

    • P.S. The deed is done: I’ve ordered samples of Lavs, Opus, Rose Nigra and for good measure threw in Euphorium Brooklyn’s Wald, Malbrum’s Tiger du Bengals, and Jardins d’ Ecrivain’s George. I’ve had an insomnia plagued weekend, although I managed to function from years of practice; so I accomplished quite a bit but not so extreme as mopping ceilings. Unfortunately my ceiling
      in my bedroom desperately needs painting and that’s going to be a pain because whomever
      did the plasterwork made it acoustically textured, which is aesthetically pleasing, but with so many nooks and peaks like a sea sponge. If only I could take a floor sander to it instead of a mop?? 😉

  9. Opus 1144 may not be for me since I do not like floraly vanillas nor do I like them sweet either, but the darkly balsamic resins always tempt me. I do something so bad to sweet vanillas: I turn them into the cheapest sugary water possible ( Aquolina Pink), including Tihota that I know you love and tried thinking I would adore as well. I turned Tihota into cotton candy :(. I think Opus 1144 will only work for me after 8.5 hours. You know my love for golden amber 😉
    ps: Maria Callas in Medea is just wonderful. That I love for sure.

    • I would never associate Opus 1144 with your tastes, but Unum’s LAVS might be more your speed with its High Church incense.

  10. Hello everyone’s fun comments in this particular post,
    And hello Kafka and Zola,

    First of all, half way through this post I found myself craving sweets. Lots of crème pâtissière before I even hit the millefeuille image. Craving brandy, and bourbon, and baileys along with rice pudding, baklava and…. You get my drift. I will have to skip ever trying this scent to avoid gaining weight 🙂 and also because power houses aren’t exactly my thing-with perhaps some exceptions. I had mohur extrait on today. It doesn’t clobber but it is an incredible floral. Might just have to dish out for the whole expensive bottle. I like my orientals more woods than Maria Callas I guess.

    Also: I want both those yellow dresses you have images of.

    Second: thank you for your response and clarification about Ambers on my last comment a few posts ago. Very very helpful. I have ordered an Ambre Aurea sample for my own learning none the less. I might consider a sample of its sister Fiore too, I’m hesitating. I have been trying to find Dior’s Ambre Nuit for a while now-so thanks for reminding me of that one….my mother in law will be in Paris next month and I was going to ask her, but I finally found a sample at Perfumed Court. This way I can decide between it and Ambre 114 and she can bring back a whole bottle if needed.

    I grew up with all the women around me wearing powerhouse scents, Opium and poison being primary culprits. Except my mother. She always erred towards just a slash of red lips (maybe green mascara if it was an occasion) and either Diorissimo or Rochas Femme- one spritz. White shirt. Flats. Navy or red accents. And I have always retained that sense of a perfume needing to be definitely present, but only to those who lean in (or make others lean in to get a bit more of ‘what do you have on’?)….so sillage or projection are not strengths for me, however longevity and complexity are requirements.,,, musings as I become more and more aware.

    Thank you for the ongoing mentoring through dialogue
    I go to forage for dark chocolate now… Perhaps halva….or caramel ice cream….

    • Hello Paskale- I hope Kafka doesn’t mind me jumping in, but I saw your
      mention of rice pudding and baklava; I could exist on those alone and be happy. 🙂 Also Ambre A urea is beautiful.

      • Nice to meet you Don! It appears other than sweets we also have Opium in the generation before us in common! I just sampled George last week. It’s a lovely scent except no orange blossom on me- which is what I was looking for. All masculine in a good way. Do let me know how you find it.

        • My mother wore Opium
          from the 80’s until it was reformulated. Back then I would bemoan the fact that women’s perfumes(like Opium) were more interesting than a lot of colognes for men and
          had there been no genderization of fragrances, I would’ve been wearing them! It wasn’t until joining Kafka’s blog that she made me realize anyone can where whatever they choose. I’ve
          learned so much from this blog, my favourite & best blog. I haven’t sampled George yet, but funny you mentioned it becauseI found it on Fragrancex last night while I was browsing that site. I do have 10 samples from Twisted Lily
          that I’ll be testing, but I’ve been waiting until K posts a new
          review:) Didn’t mean to go on so much! Nice meeting you too Paskale. Enjoy the weekend.

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  14. Another fantastic journey I’m taking because of this blog and posts. 1144 is very odd, sort of delightful limey-custard vanila with Guerlain accords. After my interesting, at times pleasant bludgeoning by Cadavre Ex, this Unum Opus wears light on me. Complex and cannot stop sniffing my arms, wrists. On me it is a light, airy Shalimar with a stronger lemon-lime note. I’m waiting for the other notes to kick in, though oddly the perfume is amping up its volume, not subsiding as time goes on. So far, it has not ventured into too sweet territory. Thank you for another insightful review! I could wear this a few times….

  15. Hi, everybody. I need you help. I just bought Opus 1144 Unum, and i really love this fragrance. Its first edition, not in black box and stone stopper cap. But one thing bothers me, its parfum extrait, but on the box label, its said 70% vol! Isnt it concentration of cologne? Am i wrong, that extrait suppose to be 90% vol? Btw, the juice looks great, its very dark and oily.

    • Hi there,

      I don’t think you have to worry. Usually, 70% volume refers to 70% alcohol content, thereby 30% natural raw essences and 30% extrait concentration. I have very old vintage Guerlain eau de colognes that are marked “90% alcoholique,” meaning 10% concentration of natural essences and 10% cologne strength. So, a 30% level is definitely extrait strength. An extrait shouldn’t be 90% alcohol. Most extraits are between 22% to 30% (sometimes higher) raw essences and natural materials, so you have to subtract those figure from the alcohol content. Put another way, if one starts at 100% alcohol dilution as flat-line baseline, then the lower the alcohol number that is listed, the more concentrated naturals and concentrated raw oils there are, so the higher the concentration and richness of the fragrance. Does that make sense? 🙂

      I hope that clarifies a few things for you and reassures you.

      • Thanks a lot for such fast reply! Now its make sense! I bought Opus 1144 because of you review, and i really love this fragrance! So, thanks for this too! Greeting from Russia!

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  17. Hello Kafkaesque, I had the chance to get a decant of Opus144 when I bought a bottle of Io non ho mani and I have to say that I really really love Opus1144. Maybe even more than Io non ho mani. I find it a very comforting scent. I myself am not bothered by the very sweet opening but I understand that it can be an issue. In my investigation on this kind of scents I came to have a sniff on the new rendition of Kismet by Lubin and even if the 2 perfumes are different, they are in the same range but Kismet does not have this sweetness overload in its opening that is more solar I would say. So I was just curious to know if you had the chance to smell it and what is your opinion about this new Kismet.

    • Hi David,
      No, I’m afraid I haven’t tried Kismet yet. Sorry I can’t be of more assistance.

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