My Reviews En Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — don’t seem to merit a full, exhaustive discussion. In the case of Opus IX, the newest Library scent from Amouage, the reason is dislike that is slowly replaced by boredom and disinterest.
Opus IX is an eau de parfum that was inspired by the opera, La Traviata, as performed by the great diva, Maria Callas. La Traviata was based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, called La Dame aux Camelias, which is why Amouage ultimately describes Opus IX as the “soulful interpretation of the camellia flower.” The perfume’s notes are:
Camelia accord, jasmine, black pepper, guaiac, leather, beeswax, vetiver, ambergris, civet
I tried Opus IX a few times on my holiday in Italy, and my reaction to the opening on all 3 occasions was the fervent desire to find the nearest café bathroom and scrub it off. The fragrance opens with a blast of aromachemicals, the first of which is a bizarre, thin, sharp concoction that initially smells like something resembling the disinfectant, rubbing alcohol tonalities of ISO E Super but which rapidly turns into the scent of bug spray mixed with plasticity and waxiness. It has to come from the “Camelia accord,” which I suspect is a fantasy concoction of synthetics since nothing I’ve read in Arctander’s Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, on Fragrantica, or elsewhere indicates that the camellia flower is an easily extracted material or a common essential oil.
The synthetic trio of bug spray, plasticity, and waxiness lasts for hours on my skin, albeit at various degrees of strength, but it is not the only unpleasant part of the opening. It is accompanied by waves of thin, sheer jasmine that is laced with a slightly smoky, scratchy, synthetic leather note and a faint gasp of equally synthetic, wholly thin civet. The entire bouquet is then lightly splattered with tiny dribbles of caramel sweetness from the ambergris (which also feels synthetic), and then cocooned within a heavy, unbalanced cloud of pepperiness.
It’s all very peculiar. The driving floral note is first and foremost the jasmine, but that strange, synthetic trio of plasticity-waxiness-bug spray is fully intertwined within it. The black pepper seems to come out of nowhere to serve no purpose that I can see intellectually or thematically, and feels like a discordant, unwanted extra who has stomped and pushed their way onto center stage to bellow in a loud baritone at the watery jasmine, lying fainting like the Dame aux Camelias under a blanket of waxy greyness. And, yet, the word that keeps coming to my mind in the first 30 minutes is “disembodied.” Somehow, Opus IX’s opening bouquet is, simultaneously, overly thin and sheer in body (and weight), but loudly abrasive and strong in reach, no doubt from the array of aromachemicals within.
The harsh, discordant, overly peppered, watery melange improves after 15 minutes, though it’s a relative matter. The scratchy leather and tremulous gasp of civet are replaced by an unctuous creaminess coated with soft beeswax. Hints of something dark appear at the edges, a dark green-black akin to foliage around a flower, and they slowly unfurl into fronds of vetiver. The ambergris grows stronger, its caramel-ish sweetness now occasionally taking on a honeyed veneer. Yet, as a whole, Opus IX doesn’t trigger visions of goldenness or warmth. To me, its colour skews to a dirty grey, a velvety cream turned muddy through dark stains.
The cream is the one and only thing I like in the entire fragrance. That’s it, period. It starts out as just a thin layer, then grows in body and richness over the next 90 minutes, sometimes evoking images of clotted cream, sometimes feeling as thick as velvet or plush suede. It slowly transforms that thin, excessively sheer opening bouquet into something with a bit more substance, one that truly evokes the velvety texture of camellia petals. It’s so genuinely pretty, it results in a moment of (short-lived) appreciation for at least one aspect of the scent on my part.
It’s a pity the rest of Opus IX isn’t as interesting or appealing. After 30 minutes, the black pepper starts slowly to slink to the sidelines while the amber’s caramel sweetness vanishes, replaced by an amorphous, faceless woodiness that seeps up from the base. The vetiver grows stronger, and smells equally woody. Around the same time, a strange sourness appears at the edges. I think it stems from the mix of civet with the bug spray plasticity of the “camellia accord.” Whatever the source, I’m not a fan, but at least the unbalanced blast of pepper is slowly disappearing.
At the end of the first hour and the start of the second, Opus IX has turned into a jasmine scent that is an obvious relative of Opus VIII. The vetiver and amorphous woodiness weave around the jasmine, turning it drier and more unisex in a way that is feels thematically identical to Opus VIII’s yin-yang, black-white contrasts. As the scent turns drier and woodier, the thickness of the cream thins out and weakens. The grey waxiness retreats, replaced by a thin sheen of sweet powderiness, though it doesn’t smell like tonka or a vanillic benzoin.
By the 3rd hour, Opus IX is a simple jasmine floral whose underlying layer of creaminess is contrasted by amorphous woody dryness, before the whole thing is dusted with sweet powderiness. It remains that way for a few hours without major change to its central core, except for a gradual erosion of the creaminess and a growing shapelessness of the notes. That’s particularly true of the jasmine which is starting to feel utterly disembodied, as though it were a translucent abstraction of “jasmine” rather than a solid, concrete entity.
The end of the 5th hour ushers in Opus IX’s long drydown. There are now occasional flickers of lightly smoky leather at the edges, but they feel similarly abstract, mere shadows of symbolic, nebulous darkness. The even more overtly synthetic civet is evident primarily as a sharp sourness that sometimes feels acidic and only rarely hints at being animalic. In the corners, that waxy plasticity-bug spray accord lurks sans cesse. It’s no longer accompanied by the enjoyable “clotted cream” velvetiness; that dried up long ago in the face of the endless woody dryness. The whole thing drones on and on, another terribly boring and banal woody floral jasmine laced with dark and dry facets, until it finally fades away many hours lately as a vaguely floral blur with powderiness.
Opus IX had very good longevity and average projection, but sillage that was initially very strong before it eventually turned more moderate after several hours. Using 2 very large smears equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, Opus IX opened with roughly 3 inches of projection but a bit more than half a foot of sillage. After 90 minutes, the projection was about 2 inches; the scent trail about 4 inches. At the start of the 4th hour, the projection dropped to less than an inch. Opus IX turned into a skin scent on me roughly 5.75 hours into its development, though it was still easy to detect up close without enormous effort for quite a while. All in all, it lasted just a bit over 12 hours. As a side note, I’ve tested Opus IX using quantities both less and more than the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle; in all cases, the longevity is above 11 hours on my skin. I must emphasize that my skin not only retains heavily synthetic scents for longer than most, but also amplifies their bouquet. That said, on Fragrantica, Opus IX get top marks for longevity and good scores for sillage.
Opus IX has generally received positive reviews, though there are some exceptions. I don’t provide in-depth comparative analysis and quotes in my Reviews en Bref, but I’ll give you links for you to see what others have to say. On Fragrantica, the majority of posters seem to love it, using words like “beautiful,” or “intriguing,” though a few call it merely “nice” and seem more lukewarm. On Basenotes, people who have tried it are significantly less enthused and many are quite negative. One wrote: “It sucks. Very feminine and run of the mill smelling. A big disappointment.” A second tried to “stomach it” as long as he could before he “scrubbed madly” because it found it smelt like “a grandmothers-closet-mothball bomb with some waxy stickiness.” A third wrote it was “nothing special,” and felt watery weak.
Many bloggers seem to really like Opus IX, though I find some of them have rather mixed feelings when you read their reviews closely. The Candy Perfume Boy calls it “flamboyant” and “a thoroughly enjoyable fragrance to wear.” Persolaise talks about Opus IX’s romantic soul, but only after describing it as: “a weirdly woody, animalic floral… [that] 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.” The Non-Blonde grew to really enjoy Opus IX, but says it took a few months of “conflicting emotions.” She writes that it has the “potential to also be a stunningly beautiful perfume, depending on skin chemistry (and perhaps one’s imagination).” At the same time, she said she understood precisely why The Black Narcissus found Opus IX to be “troubling” and “disturbing.” His review states, “We are in the realm of melancholically dense, pepper-downed camellias,” and he comments that “the scent smells quite wrong on me, like a puttyish, grey jasmine clay.”
For me, nothing about Opus IX is luxurious, grandly operatic, evocative of Maria Callas, distinctive, or remotely compelling. The only thing it continuously made me think of was Opus VIII, because they both present jasmine with a black-white, yin-yang duality, though Opus IX blasts you with synthetics in a way that Opus VIII did not. Putting the issue of the aromachemicals aside, Opus IX is simply not interesting to me and I’ve seen this “jasmine contrasted with dark or dry facets” many times before, including from Amouage itself.
That led me to wonder, just how many jasmine or white floral scents is Christopher Chong going to throw at us, almost in a row? Opus VIII was followed by Journey Woman and now Opus IX. On my skin, they were all largely jasmine-centric fragrances with a creamy side that is contrasted with dark elements and/or dry woodiness. Even Sunshine (Woman) fits the model if you view it as yet another white floral bouquet (that also includes jasmine) whose blurry floralcy is infused with dark notes and woodiness. Sunshine certainly resembled Opus IX in terms of having a heavily chemical character and a generic profile. Is this the new Amouage style, obviously synthetic fragrances matched by rising prices but without their previous distinctiveness and originality? At these prices, particularly the higher ones for the Opus/Library line and the new Midnight Flower Collection, I expect something compelling, different, and luxuriously high quality — not another exhausted variation on a commonplace theme. (And I really don’t expect lab chemicals to be the most notable, distinctive trait in that scent.)
To be clear, I don’t think Opus IX is a hideous or terrible scent, despite its unpleasant sides. I’ve smelt far worse things. Opus IX is simply mediocre, tired, and dreadfully boring.