Amouage wants you to take a Journey through a delicate concert in three parts. It begins with all the musicians tuning their instruments, all the notes appearing simultaneously for a very brief moment in a wave of honeyed sweetness with osmanthus and dark leather. Then, Act I launches its long journey into a soft, very restrained, modest floral bouquet dominated largely by jasmine musk. Act II introduces the first real hints of darker, more complex notes in a bridge to the finale or Act III. It is there that the Journey finally arrives in the Orient with dark, slightly smoky leather and osmanthus covered with sticky balsamic resins and a touch of spice.
Journey Woman accompanies Journey Man as Amouage’s latest fragrances. They are both eau de parfums that will be released in June 2014. According to Christopher Chong, Amouage’s Creative Director, the perfumers who worked under his direction were Alberto Morillas and Pierre Negrin. I don’t know if the two gentlemen worked together on each fragrance, or if they each took one of the duo, but I shall assume it is the former for now.
The inspiration behind Journey Woman (or “Journey” as I shall sometimes call it) seems to have been Shanghai in the 1920s. There are no official press release descriptions for the fragrance as of yet, but Mr. Chong provided a little background in an interview with Glass Magazine earlier this year:
I’m drawing on my Chinese heritage and culture — I’m really inspired by the underground society of Shanghai in the 1920s. I’ve set myself the challenge to create the type of osmanthus that people haven’t smelt before, blended with white florals, vanilla, and leather.
The official Amouage Facebook page describes Journey Woman as follows:
Floral, Fruity, Leather
Top: Apricot, Jasmine Tea, Osmanthus, Nutmeg, Cardamom
Heart: Jasmine Sambac, Mimosa, Honey, Cedarwood
Base: Pipe Tobacco, Saffron, Vanilla, Cypriol, Musk.
Journey Woman opens on my skin with honey, apricot, animalics and jasmine tea, followed by a quick burst of leather, a touch of abstract spices, and a whisper of dry cypriol that smells a bit oud-like. The latter is undoubtedly merely the result of my mental associations, as cypriol is often used as a base for oud fragrances. This opening with its plethora of nuanced notes is very short-lived on my skin, more akin to the brief moments before a concert starts when the musicians are tuning their instruments, and you hear a lot of notes at once. Some of the elements depart almost immediately, like the animalics and the tiny flicker of spices.
Within minutes, Act I of Journey Woman begins, as the honey softens into a rich honey-and-tea accord atop a base of slightly musky leather. The scent is also imbued with a delicate, very pale floralacy. It really smells like jasmine tea more than any actual flowers, per se. In fact, the floral aspect to the scent feels quite abstract and indistinct on my skin. So, too, is the fruited note which doesn’t really read as a distinct apricot note. Both elements feel more like muted, hazy suggestions amidst the sea of honey.
The latter is not particularly sticky or overly sweet. Rather, it is more like a watery honey nectar or agave than a really thick, gooey note. One reason why the sweetness is kept in check is the flicker of a dry, reedy, slightly aromachemical parchment-like note from the cypriol. It adds a tiny, quiet, very subtle touch of dryness that keeps the honeyed jasmine tea accord from tipping into cloying territory. The whole thing sits above a very thin smear of something vaguely leathered, with occasional touches of woody dryness and the fading hint of abstract spices.
It takes about 10 minutes for the osmanthus to appear, but like everything else in Journey’s opening act, it is muted, restrained, and very indistinct. To the extent that the flower smells of apricots, it’s rather a delicate, pale aroma. More noticeable is the osmanthus’ tea-like facets which take on a subtle smokiness like black Lapsang Souchong. It mixes well with the green jasmine, and that rather nebulous, vague, nondescript blend of spices in the background. The whole thing is blanketed with a strong layer of honey in a mix that feels extremely demure.
In fact, much of Journey’s opening phase on my skin feels like as though it’s been carefully calibrated to be as restrained as possible. I can’t decide if Mr. Chong wanted some sort of slow build-up, much like a musical movement, or if he intentionally wanted to soften such heavy, strong, very oriental elements as honey, jasmine sambac, bitter nutmeg, and fiery saffron. I have to admit, I find it all very disappointing. I tested Journey on both arms, just to see if there would be a substantial variation, as there sometimes is with my non-testing arm. No, there was no dramatic difference.
Journey continues to slowly shift. 30 minutes in, a lovely creamy softness starts to rise up from the base. It is warm, smooth, and very golden in feel. There is a light touch of powderiness, as if the mimosa’s yellow pollen had been sprinkled over everything, but the flower itself doesn’t appear on my skin. The leatheriness in the base softens further, but it is really more like an undercurrent of textural darkness than actual leather. It is very subtle, as is the cypriol’s oud-like touch which grows increasingly muted. For the most part, Journey Woman is a very honeyed fragrance with largely abstract fruity and floral notes, flecked very lightly by muted, muffled touches of black tea, “leather,” and vaguely woody dryness.
The creaminess grows stronger and stronger with every passing moment, and it is the nicest part of Journey’s first act. 45 minutes into the perfume’s development, it merges fully with the honey and the abstract fruity florals, turning into a smooth, very creamy sweetness. There is a fluctuating level of “leather” in the base, and an occasional, fleeting touch of smokiness, but the more noticeable event is the growing prominence of the jasmine.
At the 90-minute mark, the jasmine sambac fully takes over, turning Journey Woman into a scent that is primarily creamy jasmine musk. The fruity nuance feel even more abstract, amorphous and muffled, the “leathered” base ebbs away for the most part, and the honey steps into the shadows. Journey Woman is a very soft, slightly sheer fragrance with only the creamy texture giving it any weight. The sillage hovers an inch above the skin, and it all feels incredibly proper.
For the next 5 hours or so, Journey Woman is, by and large, primarily a simple, creamy, jasmine woody musk on my skin. The tea — both Jasmine green and Lapsang black — fades away entirely by the end of the 2nd hour. The “leather,” honey and the abstract hint of woodiness pop up only once in a while in the background, then flit away, before occasionally reappearing in a very minimalistic way. Meanwhile, the fruity note continues to be abstract, doesn’t translate as “apricot,” and is so muted that it often seems like it’s about to vanish away entirely. What I’m left with for hours and hour is a very generic, nondescript but refined, smooth jasmine musk with creaminess.
The overall effect reminds me of a Kilian fragrance in its polished, easy, refined smoothness, but also, in its uncomplicated simpleness. And this is where I have some serious problems. Journey Woman’s opening act doesn’t have the characteristic Amouage signature of very opulent, complex, heavy boldness with endless layers, twists, and turns. It doesn’t even feel particularly oriental in nature. It’s more like a very abstract scent, a creamy fruity-floral with woody musk aspects and some nebulous suggestions of other things once in a blue moon.
It’s pretty in its smooth, polished refinement, but it simply doesn’t feel like an Amouage scent. If you gave me a blind smell test, never in a million years would I ever suspect that what I was smelling in Journey’s first six hours was created by Amouage. I would think it was possibly a Chanel Exclusif, one of Kilian‘s smoothly simplistic Asian fragrances, or a new member of the largely unremarkable Tom Ford‘s Atelier d’Orient collection. Journey’s restraint, light airiness, and lack of heft are only a small part of the reasons why.
The main reason is that Journey Woman on my skin is incredibly safe and nondescript. It could easily be a creamier, fractionally deeper, minutely richer cousin to Chanel‘s 1932, only without the latter’s “bathtastic” aldehydes. They don’t smell the same, but the overall vibe and restraint are very similar. There is none of the boldness, richness, heavy opulence, spiciness and, more importantly, complex intensity that I associate with Amouage fragrances like the two Jubilations, Interlude Man, Fate Woman, Ubar, Epic Woman, or the like. (For what it’s worth, I thought the new Journey Man felt like a full-born Amouage from the start with a simply spectacular, stunning opening.)
For me, Journey Woman is a very approachable, easy, very light affair that feels like a church mouse librarian in a family of powerful divas and sheikhs, albeit a church mouse dressed in high-quality designer clothes. I have to admit, I found myself completely bewildered at times at the scent wafting off my skin. Then, I remembered Beloved Man which had a similar creaminess on my skin in a refined, pretty bouquet that was simultaneously rather nondescript and very un-Amouage-like in its simplicity. The full set of notes may differ, but the restrained vibe, lack of complexity, and creaminess are similar. So, perhaps Journey Woman isn’t a complete anomaly. Then again, Beloved Man has received a rather polarized reception for reasons similar to what I feel about Journey Woman, so perhaps that says something as well.
For any other brand, being compared to a Chanel Exclusif or Kilian wouldn’t be a bad thing. Yet, for me, Amouage is one of my favorite perfume houses precisely because it isn’t like those brands — neither of which are particular favorites of mine. (Chanel’s magnificent Coromandel excepted.) Amouage has a very different identity and aesthetic in my mind, so the disconnect that I feel for a good 6 hours with Journey Woman is difficult for me. (Even more so when I compare it to Journey Man’s superb, intoxicating opening.)
None of this is to say that Journey Woman is a bad fragrance. It’s not. In fact, I think women who are looking for a deeper, semi-oriental cousin to Chanel’s 1932, only with touches of nebulous “fruitiness” and “leather” instead of aldehydes, will probably adore Journey Woman. Same with anyone who enjoyed the light, airy floral orientals in Tom Ford‘s Atelier d’Orient Collection like Shanghai Lily and Fleur de Chine.
Like 1932, Journey Woman is completely unchallenging, uncomplicated, and easy in its polished simplicity. However, I was bored and unimpressed with Chanel’s 1932 for many of those precise reasons, not to mention its bland facelessness. I’m one of those people who needs more in a fragrance than mere refinement, especially when they are restrained, light floral musks. I don’t think elegant smoothness is the same as actual character, and I struggle when it comes with a certain price point. It is even harder for me when it comes from a perfume house whose fragrances I deeply respect and generally consider to be brilliant, innovative, opulent, complex, and distinctive. Like Amouage.
Journey Woman is saved for me by its genuinely lovely drydown. It appears after a brief bridge phase (or Act II) where the perfume transitions by taking parts of Act I and merging them with growing elements of oriental darkness that will be at the heart of the dénouement in Act III.
The second act slowly begins at the start of the 6th hour, when a resinous, almost balsamic streak first stirs in Journey’s base. The creamy jasmine musk takes on a goldenness that feels almost ambered, as if some labdanum and a touch of smoky styrax had been used. Tiny touches of osmanthus and honey return to the scene, while the leather in the base grows stronger. Next to it are the first suggestions of something tobacco’d, though it’s subtle and muted.
Slowly, very slowly, Journey Woman changes, until suddenly it turns into a very different fragrance at the start of the 9th hour. Now, Act III begins, and the perfume feels like what I had expected Journey to be at the start. The osmanthus bursts in, taking over, and tossing the jasmine to the side completely. To my surprise, the honey reappears. At the same time, the leather is out in full force, and the osmanthus wafts both its delicate floralacy and its more fruited, apricot characteristics. Subtle touches of smokiness weave in and out, though I can’t figure out whether they stem from the tobacco or from something else. To me, it resembles styrax in all its sticky, chewy, dense, and smoky darkness.
Journey Woman is now a very honeyed, lightly fruited, leathery osmanthus scent atop a darkly resinous base and cocooned in a soft golden warmth. Sometimes, the fruitiness feels more like an abstract, nebulous suggestion; on other occasions, there is a definite whiff of actual apricots in the mix. At the same time, the osmanthus emits tiny flickers of black Lapsang Souchong tea again. Equally tiny touches of spiciness are mixed into the rich bouquet, though they are generally muted, amorphous, and never read as “saffron” or “nutmeg” to my nose. Much more prominent, however, is the tobacco that lurks in base. It feels more dense and chewy than the more delicate pipe variety mentioned in the notes, and adds to Journey’s new oriental darkness and depth. The whole thing is finished off by a light coating of honey.
Act III feels like we’ve come full circle from Journey’s opening moments, and is much more of what I expected from the fragrance’s notes. It’s a sultry bouquet whose light touches of smokiness, leathery resins, and tobacco work wonderfully to transform the osmanthus away from its usual delicate floralacy and fruitiness. The only shame is that, at this point, Journey is a skin scent on me so I can’t enjoy its new richness unless I have my nose on my skin.
Journey Woman continues in this vein for several more hours, until it finally fades away in a blur of honeyed sweetness with a touch of something vaguely resembling osmanthus. All in all, Journey Woman lasted just under 14.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with the equivalent of 2 sprays from an actual bottle, and 12.75 hours with the equivalent of one.
The sillage was moderate at first, wafting about 3 inches above the skin with the larger dose, but the perfume felt very airy and light. Journey Woman gained a little more body and richness when the creaminess arrived, but the sillage generally hovered a modest inch above the skin at the start of the 3rd hour. It turned into a skin scent on me 4.5 hours in. As a whole, I would categorize Journey Woman as rather light, though tenacious in longevity. It is not one of Amouage’s powerhouse scents.
As you may have gathered by now, I was disappointed in Journey Woman. Perhaps my expectations were too high after reading all the rich notes listed in the description, many of which are favorites of mine. I had thought Journey Woman would be a bold, spicy, dark, oriental sibling to the fantastic Fate Woman or to the mesmerizing, complex Jubilation 25, but it’s more of its own creature with a simpler, quieter style. It doesn’t feel like an Amouage to me (except in terms of its quality and smoothness), but my reaction is ultimately one of subjective interpretations and tastes.
I think women who like florals with restrained, refined simplicity and uncomplicated easiness will appreciate Journey Woman. So will anyone who likes creamy jasmine musks that eventually turn into something more oriental, leathery and dark. If you enjoyed some of the florals in Tom Ford’s Atelier d’Orient collection, you should definitely give Journey Woman a sniff.
Disclosure: My sample of Journey Woman was courtesy of Christopher Chong and Amouage. That did not influence this review, I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.