Possibly my favorite Amouage for men, out of the four or five masculines I’ve tried from the house. Amouage 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.