Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Amouage Opus I: Hearts in Motion (Its and Mine)

February 3, 2012:

Amouage Opus I was created by perfumer Daniel Maurel and can be purchased at, and; 100 ml (3.4 oz) for $325.

Photo of Indian bride is from a photographer/contribuer named Rehka at a travel site called
Bottle image is from

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I will admit I’m the kind of person who uses, and perhaps overuses, the word love. It probably seems like I toss it around rather casually: “Ooh, I love this! Wow, I love that, too!” The truth of the matter is that I really am the type of person who enjoys being besotted, and being of that state of mind, it’s easy to fall in love with a mad assortment of people, places and things—and to do so sincerely. That said, there is still much weighing, measuring and deciding going on in my mind, because I am that type of person, too—the analytic type—and as such, when I wax rhapsodic about someone or something, it’s truly a considered assessment. However free and breezy my love proclamations might seem, I’m actually quite selective, and the objects of my desire are those that have met well with my quiet and often times prolonged observation. No more so has this been the case than with the perfume I’m finally writing about today: Amouage Opus I. It’s a perfume I started to fall in love with in late 2010, and considering that for much of the year I didn’t have so much as a drop of this perfume on hand (I used up my spray sample sometime last spring), I don’t know how it stayed on my mind so strongly, but it did. When over the summer a friend sent me a sample of Mary Greenwell Plum—a fragrance similar to Opus I in profile and in spirit (which is to say they share certain similarities but don’t smell alike)—all it did was fuel my thinking about Opus I. I told myself I would order another sample or decant, but kept delaying for various reasons: for one, I received an amazing number of perfume packages from friends last year and found it difficult to justify ordering more stuff when I had so many things on hand. But after going back to sniff and re-sniff the residue of my empty vial, last week I finally ordered a new sample to see if this was the real deal—and it is. I’m in love with Opus I, and though at this moment I can’t afford a bottle, as soon as I finish writing this review, I’m ordering the biggest decant of it I can get. There will be no more waiting; I’m in love!

Rather appropriately, last June I had left a comment at perfume blogger Dee Howe’s post about the Opus series of fragrances, in which I described Opus I as “a plummy rose at its most hyper-beautiful state. When I wear it, I feel like I’m a bride in India, having been beautifully decorated in henna tattoos and wearing gold bangles up and down my arms.” Now having been reunited with this perfume, I can say that this description still accurately sums up my feelings about it. I’ll elaborate further, but first I’ll give you the list of notes:

Top: Bigarade, Plum, Cardamom
Heart: Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Tuberose, Lily-of-the-Valley
Base: Papyrus, Cedarwood, Guaiacwood, Incense, Tonka Bean, Sandalwood, Vetiver

Opus I is a rich floral chypre that, to my nose, presents a central motif—a rose so plummy, it assumes the guise of a purple rose in terms of its scent color—ensconced within a whirl of other accords that create an excited hum around it. As an analogy, think of an Indian bridal sari, with its main pattern, and then think of the dizzying array of other, smaller patterns around it. There’s usually a mix of smaller patterns on the sari itself in the form of embroidery, and then there is often an entire undulation of jewelry (whole columns of bracelets, jewels for the brow, ears and nose), and last but not least, there is mehndi, the skin decorations achieved with henna that are so fine and filigreed they almost remind one of lace. Do all of these patterns compete with one another, or do they complement each other? To my mind, they do both: overall they complement each other, but it is their mix—the way they also compete and make the eye bounce all around to take them in—that gives the ensemble its feeling of energy, excitement, and richness. No wonder Hindu wedding celebrations last for days!

Sometimes less is more, but sometimes more really is more. It all depends on how it’s done, and while I’ve read a number of comments about Opus I stating that there is too much going on in this fragrance, I have to completely disagree. This is definitely not a sheer fragrance, but neither is it cloying or overweight; the competing accords create a sense of kinetic energy. I smell a plummy-rose that seems to vibrate—it’s difficult to put in words, but I feel like there is an olfactory buzz around this central column of plum and rose, thanks to these other accords with which it is gilded and bejeweled. Is it the piquant combination of bitter orange (bigarade) and cardamom—the sequin-like sparkle of lily-of-the-valley—playing against the deeper, sweeter notes of plum and rose that are cause for this olfactory pulsation? Obviously, I’m not a perfumer and can only guess at these things. What I can say is that this is a perfume to wear when you want to feel dazzling in the very best sense of that word; dazzling not in the fashion of an over-the-top Hollywood premiere, but in an exotic, sophisticated and inwardly happy kind of way.

(A friend once told me that he always knew when something really good was about to happen to him, because it was preceded by a buzzing sensation—some kind of fizzy vibration—in his head for days. I know exactly what he means; it has happened to me now and again, bringing with it a feeling of serene happiness.)The base accord of Opus I is a mix of rich wood notes and vanillic tonka bean that makes its presence known every time I step outside and the breeze catches my fragrance, volleying these rich molecules up to my nose. One of the most marked things about Amouage perfumes are their base notes, which smell expensive and have outstanding longevity. Some six to eight hours after application, Opus I’s exciting hum is gone, naturally, but its creamy sandalwood remains are still keeping me company—and that’s what keeps me humming, “Ahhh, isn’t this beautiful? Ohhhh, I’m in love!”