November and December are the most valuable real estate for Colognoisseur. It is when I am trying to squeeze in all the perfume I have left to try for the year and must figure out when to write about it. I don’t consider it a problem it just forces some decisions to be made. For the first time I am going to spend some of that time on a single brand because I think it is important enough to do it. The brand is Amouage.
As we end the first twenty years of the 21st century I’ve been thinking about the brands which have helped define this new era of independent and niche perfumery. Right at the top of my list is Amouage. I would meet the brand in 2007 with the twin releases Jubilation 25 and Jubilation XXV. The latter has stood the test of time as one of my all-time favorites. This was the first year then creative director Christopher Chong began his time with the brand. Until last year he oversaw what I consider perfume for those who love perfume. Mr. Chong’s love of classical music and opera were translated into perfumes with a similar grand sweep. The perfumes he helped conceive were worth spending time with.
When he stepped down as creative director, I had some concerns. I had seen one of Amouage’s contemporaries, Clive Christian, fall to pieces after this kind of change. I waited for news of who was taking over. It took some time, but the announcement of Renaud Salmon had me happy there was going to be someone else. But would he live up to what I believe the brand stands for?
My first impression was Interlude Man Black Iris where he oversaw a flanker of one of Mr. Chong’s creations. My worry spiked again because if Amouage was going to become a line of flankers I was not going to be pleased with that choice. After I said that in my review, I received a few e-mails telling me M. Salmon was not going to do that. He chose to do a flanker as a figurative “get to know you” between new creative director and consumers.
In the waning days of 2020 I have an unprecedented opportunity to weigh in on Amouage past and present. I have samples of six new perfumes with which to illuminate all that Amouage hopes to be. I am going to spend the next three days reviewing two new releases each day. On Friday I will come back and give my conclusions in a single place although I suspect it will become obvious as the week moves along.
Tomorrow I will review Mr. Chong’s next to last release Rose Incense and M. Salmon’s Overture Woman which is the distaff counterpart to last year’s Overture Man. It gives me the chance to compare the style of both side-by-side.
The next day I will do the first half of the new Renaissance Collection; Crimson Rocks and Enclave.
This will be followed by the remaining two; Ashore and Meander.
Change is inevitable. When it happens to the great perfume brands it doesn’t mean the end of things it has often created an entirely new creative phase. When it is one of the seminal niche perfume brands where this is taking place the first new release attracts a lot of scrutiny. We are looking for hints of the future. This is where Amouage Interlude Man Black Iris falls.
Amouage became one of the premier artistic perfume brands under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. He left a little over a year ago. His replacement is Renaud Salmon. I will say when I was introduced to him via press release as the “Chief Experience Officer” I smirked at the concept. Really what the heck is that? Are you trying to avoid being compared to the past? Might as well call yourself Creative Director because you can call yourself Minister of Scent and you’re still gong to be compared. It might be unfair, but you are stepping into big shoes. My suggestion is for you to own it. Create your version of Amouage for better or worse. Stop hiding behind a silly fabricated sobriquet.
If I read M. Salmon’s words in that press release correctly, he is still learning the brand. He is looking for the space where his creative imprint can be seen. For his first release he decided to create a flanker of 2012’s Interlude Man. It is an interesting choice to take one of the more popular releases and make it over as your introduction. The original perfumer of Interlude Man, Pierre Negrin, was asked to work on Interlude Man Black Iris.
The name of the perfume pretty much says it all this is Interlude Man with iris added. It reminds me of the old 1960’s commercials when they would say “Same Great Taste! Now! With Mint Added!” This is the same thing as applied to Interlude Man.
Interlude Man Black Iris opens with the same herbal green top accord as rosemary replaces oregano and pimento. It moves into the classic incense and amber heart which is where the iris appears. It is a nice addition to this resinous heart. It is the promised “black iris” so many perfumes promise but fail to deliver. It ends in the same oud and sandalwood base as before with just a bit of vanilla amplifying the sweetness in sandalwood.
Interlude Man Black Iris has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
To use a music metaphor Interlude Man Black Iris is a Renaud Salmon remix of a Christopher Chong chart-topper. What does this say about the future? Hard to say. If M. Salmon is going to spend his time doing remixes of the past, ie. flankers, at least they are high quality versions. If that is the next phase at Amouage then maybe Chief Experience Officer will be apt. There will be no real creativity as he will choose to live off the past. I am more hopeful that M. Salmon will grow into a creative director with his own distinct aesthetic. For now while Interlude Man Black Iris is a nice flanker it is just a luxurious flanker with nothing new to say.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Amouage.