Amouage makes perfumes that are Arabian corollaries to how perfumes used to be made in the US up until the post-World War II era. By this I mean assertive, statement-making perfumes with incisive notes. Amouage Lyric Woman (2008) is a blueprint rose chypre for this type of perfume, using Middle Eastern motifs on a classical framework.
Lyric Woman is composed around a central floral scheme of rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. The particular rose used in Lyric Woman is not a Western-type dewy or jammy rose but one that has smoky elements, as if rose were a herbal, rather than a floral, component. This rose is scattered all over Lyric Woman, its dried petals offering a textural counterpoint to rich, rubbery ylang-ylang and honeyed jasmine.
The first whiff of Lyric Woman is a surprise—perfumes don’t smell like this any longer, and Lyric Woman’s notes surround in a rush of spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom) and citrus with bitterness from geranium leaf. From this one might assume that Lyric Woman is dizzying and that its effect might be nuclear. Instead, within a quarter hour it has dried down to skin-scent level, acquiring an interesting leather note along the way, so that it smells as if someone has tipped grilled flowers into a kidskin glove.
Frankincense plays an important role in the drydown of Lyric Woman. The note alternates between sweetness and smokiness, with notes of lemon, orange, and pine, plus dusty resin. This section of the perfume is where you will smell the shift from a spiced floral perfume to a musky animalic one, adding earthy mosses and vetiver to complete the leathery effect. It sounds and is complex, but the treatment is so soft and the sillage so gentle that one must press one’s nose to wrist in order to get the full idea.
As a general rule, I haven’t been able to appreciate the rose chypre category. Rose chypres seem to project anxiety onto my skin and I don’t feel right wearing them. So complex is Lyric Woman that at first I wasn’t fully convinced of its chypre status; lemony cardamom is a favorite note of mine and I noticed a good deal of it immediately, along with the silky jasmine and dried rose. This made Lyric Woman seem initially like a floral fragrance. The animalic note, quietly hot, teased and then disappeared, only to reappear as the leather in the base. By the time the base appeared, the sillage had become so quiet that I did not feel the usual scratch of moss.
It reminded me a bit of Hermes Rouge in its juxtaposition of the bitter with the sweet. The spice of the opening gets retracted, as does the rose, leaving a fadeout of jasmine against the deep brown frankincense and sandalwood. I was hooked, unfortunately. I will try as cordially as possible to say that there is a price point at which my interest stops and Amouage has reached it with their luxury items. However, this is a four-star fragrance and one which I will continue to seek out in decant or sample form, eking out pleasure drop by drop.
Amouage Lyric Woman includes the notes of bergamot, spicy cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, rose, angelica, jasmine, ylang-ylang, geranium, orris, oakmoss, musk, wood, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean, and frankincense.