To spin an old maxim, there are two kinds of people in the world: minimalists and maximalists. (You also might say the two types of people in the world are those who think there are two types of people and those who don’t.) Minimalists cleave to the simple and pure. Minimalists keep a tidy house, have matching coffee mugs, and tend closets with white, button-down shirts hanging in the same direction. This doesn’t mean a minimalist is boring. Beautiful things stem from a few, synergistic ingredients. Think of a green apple on a white plate. Or Jean-Claude Ellena.
Maximalists, on the other hand, walk around with pet hair adhered to their hind ends. They sing with Maria Callas on the stereo while pushing away wine glasses on the counter from two nights ago to make room for the mango they are massacring for a recipe they jotted down from a seafood vendor they met on the bus. Maximalists hang taxidermied trout on the wall next to a tiny 19th-century oil painting they bought at auction, all looking down on a collection of swirling Murano glass ashtrays blown in Elvis’s heyday.
Amouage traditionally appeals to the maximalist, and with good reason. Amouage fragrances are often baroque meanderings through One Thousand and One Nights, complete with drunken fields of flowers, urns of spices, and enough incense to choke the pope. Amouage Jubilation 25 is one of my favorite fragrances, a flurry of elegance and sex, and to me Amouage Lyric Woman is a all about frankincense, roses, and power.
Amouage Memoir Woman continues the maximalist trend, but adds leather, wormwood, and moss to the mix. Perfumers Daniel Maurel and Dorothée Piot created Memoir Woman. Amouage classifies it as a “leather animalic chypre” and lists its notes as mandarin, cardamom, absinthe, pink pepper, pepper, clove, white flowers, rose, jasmine, wood, frankincense, styrax, oakmoss, castoreum, leather, labdanum, fenugreek, and musk. It is a maximalist’s dream — a panoply of ingredients to navigate, from sweet, tart citrus to spice to pepper to cloud-like leather.
But here’s the thing about maximalism. You’d think minimalism requires a lot of discipline, but I believe maximalism requires even more. For a maximalist to create a successful aesthetic experience, she must hold within her the crazy bits she’s gathered, from the ends of pungent cheeses in her produce drawer to the collection of 1940s home economics textbooks on her shelf to the Guerlain Shalimar-scented handkerchief she tucks in her purse — all to create the rich, complex world she loves. It’s a tornado of pattern only she knows. And there are so many ways the tornado can go haywire.
On my skin, Memoir Woman goes haywire about half an hour into its wearing. Memoir starts with a syrupy mandarin orange and sweet, cloud-like leather. Its pepper is just as soft as the leather and starts me thinking of marketing a new liqueur made of leather and pepper and orange, and how genius that would be. Memoir’s wormwood and cardamom are subtle. At this point, I’m sold. I’m calculating which books I could sell to buy a bottle, or who I could pester for a decant.
Then, the tornado swallows the trailer. A dense, fruity note develops. It’s probably some olfactory illusion stemming from a collision of fragrance molecules that aren’t dissipating on my skin in the order the perfumers envisioned. The sticky clash smells like an old leather glove smeared with jam, sharpened with jasmine, and moistened with the dank water scent of incense. Instead of radiating from my skin like it’s a part of me, Memoir Woman begins to feel put on, like I’m wearing an unbecoming hat. I’m out of balance. The vague, fruity whine persists right up until Memoir dies on my skin. I don’t get much moss or even too much of a chypre feel.
Maybe it’s just me. I’d love to hear from those of you on whom Memoir Woman has been more successful. For now, I’ll rely on last night’s Comme des Garçon Avignon layered with a morning spritz of Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme to give me exotic, yet sweet, pillowy leather, at a fraction of the price.
Amouage Memoir Woman Eau de Parfum comes in a 50 or 100 ml bottle for $250 and $280 respectively. For information on where to buy Memoir, see Amouage under Perfume Houses.