An homage to a rose, one portrayed first in shimmering light and with richness beyond imagination, then in smokiness with silver incense. A spicy, sweetly nectared, fresh rose that glows like a mix of yellow diamonds and pink rubies, before darkness sweeps over it and dries its petals. It’s a rose with a few thorny flaws as well, from sour lemon to a sharply pointed clean musk and a lathering of soap, but it is still one of the most famous, critically lauded, and beloved roses around. It is Homage from Amouage.
There are further developments in the situation involving the Amouage attars. I’ve just been informed that the Amouage factory in Oman has ceased all production of the attars entirely.
As some of you who kept up with the comments in my earlier post on this matter may know, it appears likely that the IFRA/EU perfume regulations are going to be adopted in some form in the United Arab Emirates. To be clear, these are Oman’s neighboring states, and their regulations to do not apply to Amouage’s home nation of Oman.
A reader called Taleb wrote that he’d read in his local (presumably Emirati) papers:
that the emirates standards and metrology authorization (ESMA) is going to enforce strict regulations on standardizing the perfume industry in the U.A.E. starting from July 2014. Of course part of the standardization is to comply with IFRA regulations.
Another reader, Dubaiscents, provided a link to a brief article in English on the subject of perfume conformity in the UAE and the plans of the Emirates Standards agency called ESMA. It was a confusing article that focused primarily on the contraband and fraud aspects of perfume regulation, but it mentioned one thing that caught my eye. It mentioned that ESMA had something called The Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS).
I did some digging and it appears that the ECAS is where all the trouble lies. According to the ECAS mission statement:
per the Ministerial Decision No. 114/2 of 2004, ESMA is mandated to adopt International Standards, other Regional and National Standards relevant to the environmental conditions in the UAE in the absence of a UAE or Gulf Standards.
As part of ESMA’s commitment to support the effective implementation of the UAE Standards, the Conformity Assessment Department is implementing a Product Certification Program called the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (ECAS) wherein products that affects the public life, health and safety, products that have an impact with the environment and the UAE economy shall fall under this Scheme. Moreover, ECAS shall identify locally manufactured product to be included in this Scheme to ensure the quality of these products so that these products can be competitive in the global market. [Emphasis in bolding added by me.]
In a nutshell, the UAE plans on regulating all products — including those that have an impact on the public health — in order to be competitive in the global marketplace, and they plan to achieve this goal via the adoption of international standards.
Perfume is an item that international or foreign law (namely, the EU’s law) has deemed to have an impact on public health and safety. As a result, the UAE is likely to classify it in the same way, and to adopt the international standards that other countries have chosen to regulate that product. Ergo, IFRA/EU laws. Whether they will be adopted whole-sale or in piecemeal fashion that is tailored to the particular needs of the Emirates’ market and culture remains to be seen. However, it’s pretty clear that some form of international perfume regulation is coming to the Emirate Gulf States in three months time.
It seemed that Amouage preferred to move all its attars to its home country of Oman rather than run the risk of potentially violating future UAE ingredient levels, or diluting its attars. That was laudable and understandable, though also somewhat frustrating in light of early reports that Amouage was restricting even its Oman sales to long-time, established, local customers.
This latest news, however, feels quite grim. It comes to me from a good friend who is closely involved with the Amouage attars, and whose reliable, local source actually visited the Amouage factory in Muscat, Oman. There, he was told directly that they have completely ceased production of any kind. All that is left is remaining stock, which is virtually nothing. (To be precise, he was told a mere 2 bottles of Homage were available, though he thinks that there may be a few more bottles in general, based upon what he personally observed. All of them, however, would be limited for sale to very established Omani customers. And, after that, nothing.)
It’s mystifying to me. Oman is a sovereign nation outside of the Emirates, and what it does at home under its own laws is completely separate from whatever its neighbors in the Gulf may choose to do. Oman has no laws on perfume regulation that I know of, and I’ve heard nothing to indicate that they are planning on following in their neighbor’s footsteps. So, why halt factory production of something that is already restricted to its own people and outside the jurisdiction of third-party regulation? My feeble hope is that this is a temporary issue while Amouage re-groups and decides what its future course of action may be.
However, if, by some miserable chance, this turns out to be a final decision, then I will be irate beyond belief. Not because of the attars themselves, but because of what all this symbolizes: that the EU’s insane neuroses have spread like an airborne Ebola virus to contaminate a whole other continent, one whose tradition of perfumery predates anything in Europe by at least a thousand years. There seems to be no escape from the bloody, sodding EU, their Quisling bedmate, IFRA, and their infection of the perfume industry. It’s all turning into some strange, twisted perfume version of Lebensraum: territorial expansion by dominion and the imposing of “superior” law to ensure the health of a certain group of people. That may be an unfair comparison, I grant you, especially given the loaded connotations of that term, but I’m not feeling particularly charitable or objective at this moment. I simply cannot believe that IFRA and the EU are impacting Middle Eastern perfumery.
[UPDATE: It turns out that the issue is one of insurance stemming from the new UAE law and its indirect incorporation of EU standards. At least, insurance is the explanation provided by Amouage’s Christopher Chong. You can read the details in my review for Homage attar.]
As many of you know, Amouage pulled its line of attars from circulation in the West last year, but continued to offer them in Amouage stores in the Gulf States. There is a chance that situation might have changed and that the attars will be even further restricted in terms of availability. [Update: That situation has now happened with a total cessation of all attar production at the Amouage factory in Muscat. The possible legal reasons why are discussed in this post here from April 7th.]
Yesterday, Wednesday night, I was privately informed by a reader that all the attars were pulled from the store in Dubai. Ruby gave me permission to share what she learnt and to quote her. First, you should know that she is a big Amouage customer, and someone who knows both the store and the staff quite well. She wrote to me:
I buy a lot of special orders from Amouage and I was asking about Lyric ltd edition 100 ml what was the stock the shop still had… and I meantioned I was going to buy Ajwad and tiaf rose and the last sandalwood that was at the shop. That is how I came to know, yesterday evening. It was done suddenly with no forwarning to staff.
THEY PULLED “ALL” the ATTARS off the shelves from ALL the amouage shops. Something about when they decided not to go by ifra they agreed not to sell outside Gulf Countries. But people were sellliing on Ebay and what ever. Anyhow they decided with out forwarning to staff to pull all the Attars. Oman will continue to carry and sell at discretion to whom. They have not yet implemented a final conclusion but they say the Ifra standards were not good.
The explanation was weak. I heard because people are selling them on Ebay and other places and false amouage attar etc. Also that the non IFRA attars were being bought and sold in Europe and so on. I said every company has a problem with knock offs and such. Also what does that have to do with the majority of attars that are IFRA ok’de. : ( No comment. Also They are looking to focus more on western style fragrance and expanding to 26 countries …
Last I discovered Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales in Dubai has stock still.. Only about 4 bottles in Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales about the same quantiy. The department stores have only Homage and Tribute. Harvey Nichols also has Asrar.
I don’t like to post rumours, but perfume houses never put out official releases when they discontinue a scent, and they certainly don’t when they change their plans drastically in terms of availability. The only way one ever hears of these things is from sales associates who tell valued customers.
Ruby is one of those, but I also trust her completely as she has never steered me wrong in terms of her information on any of the Arabian or Middle Eastern brands. She is also enough of a die-hard, hardcore Amouage customer that the boutique would tell her if the three attars she wished to purchase were unavailable merely on a temporary basis. Instead, they told her that they had been ordered to pull everything from the shelves. [Update 3/30 — The news has been confirmed by the manager of the Amouage Dubai boutique in an email to another reader, as talked about below in the comment section. Several other people have received confirmation as well. In the comments, you will see that one person has already been told by the main Oman store that the attars have been reserved for their “regular customers” there.]
[UPDATE 4/7/14 — Another friend of mine reached out to a contact in Oman who went to the Amouage factory. ALL PRODUCTION ON THE ATTARS HAS CEASED ENTIRELY. No more attars are being made, period.]
So, if all of this turns out to be a permanent situation, what does that mean for you? A large number of you in the West currently obtain decants or full bottles of the attars from splits or reputable sellers in the Gulf States. I myself recently ordered samples from a friend (and one of my readers, Dubaiscents) who is hosting splits of almost the entire Amouage attar line in the Facebook Fragrance Friends groups. I know there was a Basenotes split a short while ago, though I don’t know if it filled up and if any attars are still left. One reason why I am posting about this situation is so those of you who have been mulling over a purchase can make up your mind before it’s too late. That doesn’t apply only to people in such groups, but also to those who want to buy full bottles for themselves. There are still online vendors in the Middle East who carry the attars, as well as one or two European stores throughout Europe. (Most just have Homage and Tribute, but Russia’s ry7 perfume site has a much broader selection.)
Unfortunately, it’s a question of supply and demand. Those bottles already in private hands can only go so far, and what happens once they are completely divided up? How many bottles can there be on sites like Universal Fragrances or ASF-Dubaishop? Demand far outweighs the already limited supply. If it is true that only the Oman flagship Amouage store will offer the attars — and perhaps only to select customers at their discretion — that provides one recourse, but how many people visit Oman frequently?
Which brings me to the issue of eBay. First, if this news is confirmed (or as “confirmed” as such things ever are), then I have no doubt that prices will soar even more from eBay sellers with a precious quantity left on their hands. Second, if it is true that eBay played a role in Amouage’s decision, then I find myself baffled. People will sell Amouage on eBay whether an item is in stock, discontinued, or in extremely limited quantities. However, if Amouage’s attars are only available in one store in the entire world, at their discretion, then both the eBay market and the possibility of fraud will skyrocket. How does this help with any concerns regarding authenticity?
As for IFRA, I’m even more perplexed. Ruby says only 4 of the attars had ingredients that were potentially subject to IFRA regulation, but, as she noted, so what? Even if they all were, what does IFRA or the EU laws have to do with perfumes sold in the Gulf States? There is no jurisdiction, so how can it possibly matter? If the argument is a circular loop back to eBay, well, the last time I checked, neither IFRA nor EU laws on what companies can put into a perfume have any bearing on individuals selling items that they have previously acquired.
[Update 3/30 — It appears that the Emirate Gulf States will be adopting international standards (e.g., IFRA) in a few months. That is the explanation for this situation. You can read my findings on the EMSA‘s ECAS goal of standardization via international standards for global competitiveness in the comment section below. Or go to the updated post from April 7th.]
I reached out this morning to Amouage’s Creative Director, Christopher Chong, on Twitter to see if he could shed light on the situation or confirm it. He said he had no answer for me, because it is a management decision. The implication is that the company is still deliberating on the situation and that a final decision has not yet been reached. That confirms what the Amouage sales assistant told Ruby: “They have not yet implemented a final conclusion[.]” Nonetheless, since they ordered that all the attars be pulled immediately and without warning from the shelves of their stores, I think it is pretty clear which way they are leaning.
[UPDATE 4/7/14 — It seems clear from the EMSA/ECAS situation that all perfumes within the Emirates will probably be subject to IFRA/EU standards soon, and, as a result, Amouage decided it was better to have the attars be outside UAE jurisdiction in Oman. However, the news I received today is that they have ceased ALL production of the attars in their Oman factory. If the concern was not to weaken, alter, or reformulate the attars within UAE jurisdiction but keep them pure, I don’t understand why they have stopped producing all attars as a whole even in Oman. It has seemed as though the plan were to sell the attars to their long-time, established Omani customers, at Amouage’s discretion, but a complete cessation to production of any kind makes that impossible. From what I’ve heard, existing stock even in Oman and even for long-time Omani clients is virtually nil. Let’s hope this factory issue is a temporary issue while Amouage re-groups and decides what its future course of action may be.]
For those of you who have an Amouage attar on your wish list but who don’t want to wait to see what unfolds, here are some links to online retailers that still have quite a few in stock:
I personally have never ordered from any of these sites, but I’ve heard good things about Universal Fragrances. I have linked to them for almost a year now, and people who have purchased items from them have always been pleased. Transit times can be quite slow on occasion (2 weeks) since they are located in Kuwait, but the shipping price is very reasonable.
I doubt we’ll ever see a press release or an official company statement on the issue of the attars, regardless of what their final decision may be. We may never know what exactly prompted this latest and rather drastic move. Frankly, I find it all quite mystifying, particularly given that the oils are best-sellers amongst Amouage’s Gulf/UAE clientele. Even if Amouage wants to expand in the West, or to shift away from “Franco Arabian perfume” (as Ruby puts it), why not keep items that are already limited to their home base?
What are your thoughts on the situation?