I have had samples of the Amouage Opus series for quite a while. I acquired the first three way back when they were launched, then I requested IV and V, of which I have rather small samples--not the generous manufacturer-produced ones, which come in adorable little boxes and line up next to one another to look like books. Apparently there are some newer volumes as well, but I do not have samples of those. Anyway, for whatever arbitrary reason, I chose today, the last day of 2012, to open up Opus I.
To my great surprise, OPUS I smells like an old book in a centuries-old library! There is a mustiness and a bitterness and a dustiness to the opening which immediately calls to my mind the stacks in the basement at a university library--take your pick: they all smell pretty much this way!
My second big surprise was that in vague wafts, OPUS I reminds me Miller Harris L'AIR DE RIEN, which I vehemently denied smelled like a library, though that was what Jane Birkin apparently requested of Lyn Harris, back when the perfume was being designed. So now I'm faced with a contradiction: was I wrong then, or am I wrong now?????
Oh well, I was a different person back then. Today, OPUS I does smell like a library, and it does remind me a bit of L'AIR DE RIEN. The two perfumes are really quite different, but the je ne sais quoi musty-old-pages quality binds them together.
In contrast to L'AIR DE RIEN, the bitter, wood-splinter opening of OPUS I is rather off-putting, and it, too, reminds me just a bit of another perfume: Clinique AROMATICS ELIXIR, which I have fallen in love with despite the harsh chamomile-clary sage opening. My impression is that the people who hate that perfume have never waited it out to the drydown, which is truly divine.
Does the same thing happen with OPUS I? Yes, and no. Yes, the perfume becomes less bitter and stern, but, no, the depth and wonder of ELIXIR never really arrives. Instead, OPUS I becomes less pungent and more likeable as it develops, not really changing so much as it fades.
There are two diametrically opposed prejudices working simultaneously here: on the one hand, we all know that Amouage is an überluxury house, so we expect excellence. The ingredients are always top-notch, and OPUS I is no exception to the rule. On the other hand, for the same reason (the elevated price), we always expect more from a perfume of this type in terms of its composition.
Don't judge this book by its cover, just decide for yourself whether you like this odd assortment of notes which conspire to re-create the scent of an old library--or not. OPUS I is unique, and I am happy to have experienced this perfume, but I'll satisfy the craving to smell it again, if and when it ever arises, by spending a day in the stacks!