Meander is one of four Renaissance Collection fragrances that marked the debut of Renaud Salmon as, essentially, Amouage‘s new perfume director. Though it lacks the Amouage DNA, in my opinion, it is an appealing, pretty, ethereal, and smooth fragrance.
Meander is an eau de parfum that was created by Mackenzie Reilly under the direction of Renaud Salmon and released in 2020 as part of quartet of fragrances called the Renaissance Collection.
The original Amouage description for Meander is no longer on its site, but Luckyscent appears to have it:
Meander explores the exhilarating feeling of happiness in a land of fog, lush green mountains and running streams. Drawing inspiration from the Sultanate’s southernmost Governorate during the monsoon (Khareef) season, Amouage creatively translated the surreal fog using frankincense and smoky vetiver, the rich greens with cypriol and jonquille, while its caramel-colored mud is brought to life with earthy sandalwood, carrot heart and orris root notes.
According to Amouage, Meander’s notes are:
- Top Notes: Olibanum Oil, Carrot Heart, Pink Pepper CO² & Black Pepper Oil.
- Heart Notes: Orris, Rose Absolute, Cypriol Heart & Jonquille Absolute.
- Base Notes: Olibanum Resinoid, Vetiver Oil, & Sandalwood Oil.
Meander is, by and large and when taken as a whole, a simple and linear fragrance on my skin that is centered primarily on orris, frankincense, and sandalwood. The first hour to two hours is my favourite part, thanks to a great carrot note, and I wish it would last much longer.
Meander opens on my skin with shimmering, ethereal clouds of silver and green. There is a reason why Omani silver frankincense is revered as the best in the world and that reason is on full display here. The incense is highly refined, pure, clean, silvery, and imbued with an innate whisper of lemon. Its partner is a diaphanous greenness that mostly smells amorphous, though there is a muted vegetal quality and a touch of grassiness when I smell my arm up close. A flurry of other notes appear on their heels. First and foremost is a gorgeous aroma of sweet, fresh carrot. After that, there is a beautifully rooty, sweet, and floral orris and a pale pink, quietly honeyed rose.
Meander changes in extremely incremental degrees. About 5-10 minutes in, the carrot grows pronounced, adding a delectable but naturalistic, non-gourmand sweetness to the scent. It changes the colour palette by adding an orange trim to the clouds of silver and green. More importantly, it works wonderfully with the orris that has tinges of rooty and vanillic make-up undertones. Smatterings of bright, semi-spicy, semi-fruity flecks weave in and out from the pink pepper. And, every once in a while, there is a pop of woodiness from the sandalwood. 25 minutes in, the rose grows fractionally stronger, giving Meander’s bouquet more of a concretely floral quality.
40 minutes in, other small changes occur. The vetiver oozes a soft, green plushness that feels almost, just a wee bit, moss-like, while the orris begins to grow creamy and buttery in addition to its other aromas.
At the end of the first hour, the narcissus (or jonquil to be exact) arrives, smelling floral, green-tinged, earthy, soft, and redolent of meadows in Spring. I believe Ms. Reilly used an LMR narcissus natural, one of the top, most expensive, and purest olfactory kinds, and it shows through the smoothness and refinement of the note. Further, the narcissus here exudes a muted and impressionistic whiff of something vaguely jasmine-ish instead of diesel fuel, wet soil, smokiness, or dank, crushed leaves which are narcissus facets that I have sometimes encountered in past fragrances.
Throughout it all, the frankincense remains, casting shimmering rays of clean-scented silver light upon the proceedings, blending harmoniously with the veil of increasingly abstract pale green, both floating above the bucolic flowering (and carrot-infused) meadows below.
Roughly 1.75 hours in, all the notes overlap in a bouquet that is given a creamy, suede-like plushness from the combination of orris butter and sandalwood. The latter has now risen from the base to join the other notes on center stage. The floral component varies in scent between something rose-like and something more complex: a quasi-rose-like note with a narcissus that is both jasmine-ish at times and a much drier, green-tinged, subtly earthy floralcy typical of regular narcissus. The carrot that I love so much is now, alas, merely a background note, while the frankincense and cypriol remain like a mist overhanging everything.
Meander begins its long heart stage in the third hour. In essence, it turns into a duet of sandalwood and orris, woven together with lesser amounts of silver frankincense, pink rose, fragrant yellow narcissus, and abstract, gauzy greenery. There is practically a tactile quality to the fragrance’s plush, soft, suede-like butteriness. When combined with the delicacy of the floral notes and the beautifully smooth quality of the raw materials as a whole, the cumulative effect is soothing, inviting, and refined. (If the sweet carrot remained, then it would be perfect for me.)
Meander doesn’t change on my skin until the drydown stage begins late in the 8th hour. At this point, it’s an even simpler bouquet: soft, creamy, plush sandalwood imbued with a small amount of frankincense (which sometimes has a resinous undertone when I sniff my arm up close) and occasional hints of either a quasi-vanillic orris-y sweetness or something green buried deep below.
These secondary and tertiary notes are too quiet, thin, and buried for me to pull them out until I dig my nose into my arm. I’d estimate that at least 75% of the bouquet is simply sandalwood-orris woody creaminess; 20% consists of silvery (and occasionally darker, resinous) incense; and the remaining 5% is random pop of something green or vaguely orris-ish.
Meander remains this way until its final hours when it is nothing more than woody-ish softness.
Meander had good longevity on my skin. With 2-3 smears from a vial equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, the scent lasted just under 14 hours. Quite frankly, that was a surprise because Meander felt as though it were about to die away any minute after the 11th hour.
In terms of sillage, Meander’s was low on my skin. To me, that underscores just how many naturals were used in the composition. The fragrance opened on me with about 4-5 inches of scent trail. Meander became more discreet about 3.25 hours in, then hovered just above the skin in the 6th hour. I had to bring my nose to my arm to detect it then, but it didn’t require much effort. Meander became a skin scent on me 8 to 8.25 hours into its development. It required effort to detect towards the end of the 10th hour. As noted up above, it lingered tenaciously on my skin against expectations from the 11th hour to just a bit before the 14th hour.
To read other opinions on Meander, you can turn to Fragrantica. There, and elsewhere, the fragrance seems to be exceedingly popular. I’d like to note that men and women alike are fans, and I’d argue that the fragrance is unisex.
I want to step back from the olfactory details of Meander’s development to broach a few broader issues. First, Meander has a lot in common with Masque Milano‘s Lost Alice, a scent that was also created by Mackenzie Reilly, though it was after she did Meander. Both share carrot, orris, rose, sandalwood, creamy, and green elements. However, there are a few differences. Meander’s quality is unquestionably on a higher level thanks to the use of real sandalwood; Lost Alice’s clearly synthetic and occasionally rasping sandalwood was one of my issues with the scent. Meander’s roses are also more refined, I’d argue, because they lack the cheapening effects of fruited jamminess. Meander lacks Lost Alice’s steamed milk accord that is a pretty big part of the latter’s bouquet and replaces it with silvered frankincense and, frankly, a lot more greenness (that also lasts a lot longer). By and large, though, these are small differences that don’t change the larger olfactory commonalities between Ms. Reilly’s two creations.
The second broader point that I wish to discuss are purely subjective thoughts on the difference in drydowns between Meander and a number of releases during the late stages of Christopher Chong’s tenure. In my opinion, a number of the latter’s creations stacked all the good stuff – the hook, if you will – of the bouquet up front during the first 15 to 30 minutes, then had a blurry middle stage (as here and as in many fragrances), before ending in a drydown that was typically an afterthought of white musk or other synthetics. (I’m thinking of Amouage’s 2017 Figment Man, in particular, here.)
I really hate when niche houses treat the drydown as insignificant, particularly as that’s the point one often tends to experience the longest. I also dislike it when a brand puts all its appealing parts in a short-lived opening with less and less care, quality of materials, or complexity during the subsequent stages because it makes me feel as though they’re viewing me as a fool.
I can’t foresee where the Renaud Salmon era of Amouage will go in terms of focusing meticulous care on parts of the fragrance other than the hook or opening, but Meander and a few other Renaud Salmon-directed fragrances that I’ve tried so far have given me some hope. Okay, yes, I didn’t like the drydown in a few cases and not all avoided strong synths, but my point is that there seems to have been some thought given to a stage that far too many houses, in my opinion, blithely dismiss as unimportant.
A third thought relates to the Amouage DNA. Yes, Meander unquestionably lacks the brand’s aesthetic as that aesthetic once was years ago. However, in my fervent personal opinion, neither did the vast majority of Christopher Chong releases in the late years of his tenure. Yes, I know Mr. Chong is worshipped as God Emperor in certain quarters, but I believe that Amouage’s veering off-course began under him. If you put Lilac Love or the absolutely wretched and overhyped Sunshine Woman next to Gold, Ubar, Jubilation XXV (Man), or Epic Woman, I don’t think you’d find a whole lot in common. The Amouage signature of certain Omani materials, like the famed silver frankincense, and its aesthetic of Middle Eastern or Franco-Arabic scent profiles gave way in the late Chong years to purely Western style perfumery with few or none of the signature Omani Amouage materials. So, yes, Meander lacks the old Amouage DNA but, let’s be fair, so did many Christopher Chong fragrances.
I met in person with Renaud Salmon the other day; it was an illuminating conversation that covered a lot. To name just a few things: the problems imposed by IFRA restrictions (and attendant legal liability issues) on attars and other fragrances; whether true attars are even possible in the age of IFRA; the need and plan to return Amouage to using signature Omani raw materials; returning to the old Amouage aesthetic that was, in large part, Middle Eastern to Franco-Arabic; fixing poor reformulations of legends (like Gold) to replace the many synths later added to the base; using independent noses who weren’t beholden to the large aromachemical giants’ stable of materials; the royal family’s indifference to cost or sales versus their primary interest in having the house of Amouage be a global ambassador for Oman; non-IFRA-compliant rogue perfumery; and much, much more.
The conversation gave me a lot of hope with regard to where Amouage will go, though I think that it will take a while to gradually right the ship and also that the increasingly draconian IFRA/EU/liability issues will continue to be a major problem that will prevent a complete return to the glory of the old or original Amouage aesthetic.
The IFRA issue will be a key point when I cover several of Amouage’s new attars in the upcoming week or so. You can be sure I bewailed to Monsieur Salmon their sheerness not to mention their lack of true Middle Eastern DNA and, more importantly, lack of attar DNA, oomph, and heft.
Until next time, stay fragrant and stay well.