Jubilation XXV: Fit for a king, they say – and in this case, they mean it quite literally, because the Sultan of Oman frequently gifts bottles of Jubilation and Gold to other monarchs when they pay official state visits to his sultanate. And if I were a visiting monarch, I too would be delighted to find a bottle of this resting on my pillow.
Jubilation is a richly spiced oriental that has the best of everything in it – an opulent Frankincense, jammy fruit (orange and blackberries), warm pie spices, a hot, smoking oud, and a superbly salty musk and ambergris reconstruction extending it all at the tailbone. The opening, in particular, has a berry and dark chocolate effect going on that’s interesting (I assume it’s the patchouli interacting with the fruit and incense). It’s very balsamic, from the myrrh, opoponax, and Frankincense, smoky thanks to the labdanum and guaiacum, and very sweet – almost syrupy sweet actually – thanks to the big dollops of honey. Sweet enough for a woman (this woman included). I love it.
Opulent, rich, oriental, smoldering……I’m thinking Omar Sharif with those bedroom eyes of his. But it’s classy, too. Although Jubilation is rich, it wears quite lightly and is a teeny bit famous for sillage that comes and goes all day, making you wonder if you’ve put on enough (you have). A couple of sprays under a shirt will provide subtle wafts of gorgeousness all day.
Funnily enough, I never would have thought of trying this for myself but for a mistake someone made while filling a sample for me. I had requested a sample of Jubilation 25, the woman’s version because I wanted to see if it was much different from the sample of the extrait I have. The sample came marked “Jubilation 25”, so I sprayed it on one wrist and a bit of the Jubilation 25 extrait on the other wrist. Immediately, I knew that it couldn’t be the same perfume at all – this one was far sweeter, softer, and more affable than the Jubilation 25 I was familiar with. I put two and two together, and interested, began looking into the reviews of Jubilation XXV.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love Jubilation 25, and as a piece of “art”, I still believe it to be greater than XXV. But Jubilation XXV is a much easier wear. It has a sweet juiciness to it that just comes off as more friendly and approachable. Jubilation XXV is a dopey Labrador to Jubilation 25’s sly cat.
I’m a fan of many Amouage fragrances, but I really feel that the Jubilation brother and sister pair represent the pinnacle of the house’s artistic achievement to date. Released to celebrate Amouage’s 25th birthday in 2007, the Jubilations kicked off a new era for the company. And out of the house’s “couple” scents, the Jubilations are also the most different from each other. Unlike the pairings that followed (Lyric, Epic, Memoir, and Journey), the Jubilations are utterly different in feel and texture to each other, and even the notes that do connect them (fruit and Frankincense) are treated so differently as to render any similarity between them on a purely technical basis moot.
Memoir Man: Possibly my favorite Amouage for men, out of the four or five masculines I’ve tried from the house. Memoir Man is quite a sparse perfume – basically a mix of bitter herbs providing a layer of green crunch over dark and smoky Frankincense and a bone-dry, papery cedar. I like its austerity, and unlike the more opulently decorated Amouages, its stretched-out form allows room for each of the materials to “breathe”.
In its treatment of the famous Omani silver frankincense, Memoir is the dramatic inverse of Jubilation XXV: in Memoir, it strips the material back to a smoky, parched, and ashy skeleton, whereas the more affable Jubilation XXV piles on the honey and candied berries to counter the citric bitterness of Frankincense. If Jubilation XXV is Omar Sheriff exploding in fulsome Technicolor on our TV screens, then Memoir Man is Cary Grant in a black and white movie, smoking a cigarette and smiling wryly at poor Jimmy Stewart’s pathetic attempts to steal his woman. He doesn’t speak much, but then, he doesn’t have to.
The opening notes are a vivid one-two punch of minty basil leaf (with its hints of licorice root) and bitterish artemisia (wormwood). Artemisia is a silvery-green Mediterranean shrub that the French use to make absinthe. Absinthe, which until quite recently was illegal because of its reputation for making you hallucinate (or simply die), kind of tastes like Pernod, which is to say like aniseed, but far more bitter.
I see that both artemisia and absinthe are listed in the notes, and really, the opening does have a very pronounced “herbal bitters” flavor to it. To my nose, it is also somehow similar to the snapped-stalk astringency of fresh angelica and rhubarb. This wet, lush botanical greenness is much needed – soon after the opening, in rides this dry, smoky Frankincense and bone-dry woods combo that nearly sucks the moisture out of my airways. The dryness of the woods/incense actually reminds me of Naomi Goodsir’s Bois d’Ascese, which has a similar kind of pitch-black, charred, sooty aroma.
I’m not going to lie – there is also something fairly chemical about this phase, and something about it hurts my nostrils. But the green herbs and stalks from the opening notes are still there, in the background, offering a little flash of cool wetness here and there to relieve my nose. The dry-down is a beautifully smoky cedar, dry and papery, and wholly reminiscent of Dior’s Eau Noire’s dry-down, with its Finnish sauna and hot stones steaminess.
Mysterious, dry as a bone, and smoky as hell – I find myself thinking about Memoir Man long after I’ve finished my sample. I would drape myself over any man debonair enough to wear this.
Journey Man: The first time I tried this, I was bowled over by the opening – a massive fist of dark tobacco leaves, bullied on both sides by a phenomenally bitter bergamot and a mean, biting Sichuan pepper note. It’s an almost opaque wall of smell coming at you – strong and bitter and tannic, like chewing on the Lapsang Souchong tea leaves left in your cup. It dries down into a slightly less bitter tannery leather, but overall the impression is ALL MALE.
The more I wear my sample, though, the less impressed I am. The opening is very distinctive, but the perfume gets pretty thin and boring towards the end. Plus, something about it reminds me of the old-fashioned fougeres that men wore in the 1970’s, all leather and ferns and tobacco and dry woods. No cream or sugar please! It seems to me that when the fougere was born, the notes that defined masculinity – that old-fashioned, hairy-chested masculinity I mean – were also locked down. So from that moment on, perfumes that featured any one of those notes up front and center, without providing anything to soften them (like vanilla or sugar or amber), spell out “men only” to me.
I know that Journey Man is technically a woody-spicy perfume, but it reads as an all-male fougere to my brain, and I can’t handle it. If Journey Man was a person, it would be hairy-chested 70’s idol such as Sean Connery, or better yet, Burt Reynolds, lying back in bed and fingering his gold medallion.