Slumbering my way down the line of modern Amouage releases, I tripped over Opus X and was jolted awake. Not rose, I thought, but rhubarb and custard sweets, with a green note so acid that it could strip the enamel from my teeth and the protective lining from my tongue. Amazing – superb! A metallic, oxidized rose that will either slit you or crumble away into dried blood flakes.
The convoluted Amouage back story makes sense this time – a 1681 violin maker loses his wife in childbirth, and sobbing, he rubs her blood into the rosin of the violin he is making so as to allow some part of her to live on forever. The story, told in the 1998 film, “Red Violin,” has the violin passing from generation to generation, causing sorrow wherever it goes.
The perfume contains four rose oils and accords – cabbage rose, a “bloody rose” accord, rosebud, and rose oxide – perhaps representing the different emotions the violin has paid witness to over the years. Most startling is that rose oxide note, which drenches the heart in a noxious, metallic bitterness that smells like heartbreak and spilled blood. The fragrance turns on a geranium axis, its peculiar blue-green rosiness providing a petroleum-on-a-puddle gleam that snaps your head to attention. There is possibly some oud in this, but I can really only smell the metallic rose and green leaves.
And it’s oddly familiar, in a comforting way. It is perhaps the rusty blood and geranium sheen from Rossy de Palma (Etat Libre d’Orange), or the faint rhubarb-and-custard creaminess from Tocade (Rochas) – maybe even a bit of that bitterness of the rose oxide from Dom Rosa (Les Liquides Imaginaires). All these fragrances share an ability to needle you and rub your tongue raw with sharp, metallic accents while beguiling you with a softer, milkier side that makes you forgive it its jarring sharpness. The overall effect is truly very striking.
It’s brave of Amouage (and Christopher Chong) to put out another rose-centric fragrance so close to the orbit of the almighty Lyric Woman. But Opus X is so different from Lyric’s smoky, rubied orientalism that these two roses might pass each other by in a dark alley one night, blissfully unaware that they are of the same species. It’s also amazing to me that Amouage found a new angle on the rose-oud theme, even if I don’t really get the oud component here (no loss, believe me).
Opus X is so unlike what I expect from Amouage, actually, and I suspect that most people would struggle to fit Opus X into their expectations and picture of Amouage. Maybe that’s why Opus X has flown so low under the radar. Well, it’s on mine now.