Special feature by: Shaly Pereira & Jaya Ramesh
Pics by: Chris Vaz (unless otherwise acknowledged)
"All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand of mine." So said Lady Macbeth at the height of her olfactory hallucinations in Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Macbeth.’ Lady Macbeth even in her somnambulistic state probably knew that the mystical perfumes of Arabia had the power to wash away almost anything, except perhaps her own guilt.
Undoubtedly, the perfumes that come from this region are deeply entrenched in the historical mystery of their times and are a constant reminder of their magnificent past. For centuries, they have been considered the best, yes, even by the French. And from just such a land of deserts and spring waters emerges a beautiful and extraordinary perfume called Amouage – a perfume so rare and fabulous that it has easily captured the acclaimed title of ‘The Most Valuable Perfume in the World.’ Yes, Amouage has its origins in the Sultanate of Oman and it would not be amiss to say that both Amouage and Oman are synonymous with each other. It is extremely difficult to appreciate one without understanding the other.
The Amouage factory is located in Rusayl, Muscat and the traditionally operated headquarters have a worldwide distribution network, inclusive of a tourist showroom, which welcomes every visitor with traditional Arabian hospitality.
The Amouage Team (Pic courtesy-Amouage)
Living in the country that hosts a precious and world famous perfume such as Amouage, it seemed a little strange that we were visiting the Amouage headquarters for the first time. But as they say, better late than never.
The visit to the perfumery provided new found knowledge of the history behind the success of Amouage which was an eye opener in itself. Surely it made us believe without a doubt, that the making of a perfume is never done in a hurry but rather is a culmination of years of patience and hard work.
This article attempts in a small way to bring to the attention of the readers, the splendor of Amouage and for this, one has to delve deep into the heart of Oman, the land that was the hub of the Frankincense trade in Biblical times. The three wise men who traveled to worship the newborn Christ with Myrrh, Incense and Gold are said to have begun their journey from here. And of course, who can forget that Oman was also the land of Sindbad the Sailor.
Guy Roberts, the Creator of the First Amouage Perfume, Gold (Pic courtesy-Amouage)
The House of Amouage was founded in 1983 by His Highness Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud Al Busaid, a senior member of the Omani Royal Family. The first Amouage fragrance ‘Amouage Gold’ was created by the legendary French parfumier, Guy Robert creator of timeless fragrance masterpieces such as Herm?s Caleche, Rochas Madame Rochas and Dior’s Dioressence. Incidentally, Guy Robert considers ‘Amouage Gold’ a symphony and the crowning glory of his career. Gold is still Amouage’s best selling fragrance 25 years later and so has become a true classic for the House.
Amouage Gold, the First Amouage Perfume
Core Ingredients from Oman – Silver Frankincense, Myrrh and Rock Rose
The special variety of Silver Frankincense that is used in the making of Amouage is found solely in the Dhofar mountains of Southern Oman and was at one time worth its weight in gold in far off regions like Mesopotamia, Persia and Rome. The reverence for the worth of this resin goes back to 1500 years. It is of no wonder then, that a perfume as mystical and exclusive as Amouage has its origin in a land that is just as mystical.
Frankincense Trees in Dhofar, Salalah (Pic courtesy-Amouage)
Today, as in ancient times, the precious resin from the very ordinary looking frankincense tree is harvested carefully by hand, by a select caste of tribal herders. The frankincense trees that line the Dhofar landscape in Salalah are protected and the mysterious allure of their scent is blended with a host of precious natural oils and essences to form the unmatched perfume that is Amouage.
The essence of an incredibly rare variety of rose called the Omani Rock Rose is extracted and also used in ‘Gold Amouage.’ This special variety of rose grows and flowers for the briefest period each year on the slopes of the remote Jebel Al Akhder mountains of Oman. Myrrh, another core ingredient in Amouage is also from the Jebel Al Akhder region.
Left: Getting ready to extract the oil; Right: Collecting the Rock Rose (Pic courtesy-Amouage)
Including Frankincense, Myrrh and Rock Rose, a total of 120 other ingredients are used, a few examples being, Blue Chamomile, Neroli Oil, Coriander Oil, Bergamont Oil, Tuberose, Ambergris, Orris, Labdanum, Jasmine, Vanilla, Lime, Vetyver, Geranium, Ylang, Ylang, Sandalwood and Patchouli.
How and where is Amouage prepared?
The initial process is started by a preliminary brief that is developed by Christopher Chong, Amouage’s Creative Director who is based in London. The brief is then sent to Grasse in the South of France, where the ‘noses’ develop the scent. (‘Noses’ are professionals who test the perfume by dipping long, slender bits of blotters, called mouillettes (pronounced moo-yets) into the solution and sniffing them at regular intervals to determine what should be added to perfect the composition and to round out the fragrance.)
The Rock Rose being handpicked in the mountains of Jebel Akhder (Pic courtesy-Amouage)
The perfume samples are then tested by the Creative Director and Amouage CEO, David Crickmore and the sample that best fits the brief is selected and fine tuned. Grasse in France is the perfume capital of the world, and by blending the perfume here, Amouage ensures the highest standards and the most internationally renowned facilities for the creation of the perfume.
Process of Maseration
Once it is created in Grasse, the perfume is sent to Oman where it is mixed with alcohol and goes through the maceration process which takes about eight weeks. It is then ready for bottling and this is where the finer details of the packaging and quality control are looked into. Amouage religiously follows the concept ‘Made with Love’ hence the use of machinery in the making of the perfume is minimal. The gold and silver plated embellishments on the beautiful crystal bottles are meticulously fixed by hand by a team of specially trained persons. In fact, almost all of the packaging is done by hand, as opposed to most fragrances whose production is automated. Recognizing the need for quality in the Perfumery Industry, the sales and technical staff of Amouage are regularly sent to International Centres for training.
Made with love and care
Every bottle that is ‘Made with Love’ in this way, gets an additional personal touch, that is, it has the individual sign of the person who has put it together. A unique concept indeed! Amouage incidentally is the only Arabian perfume which is sold in Harrods, London. It has its own in-store boutique there and is also currently sold in 30 countries around the world, using a network of distributors to market the fragrance. Amouage has had the distinction of winning the Frontier Award for "Star Product of the Year" in 1991.
Silver Jubilee of Amouage
Amouage celebrates its 25th anniversary this year on November 1st 2007 at the Amphitheatre in the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. The celebration will mark the re-launch of Amouage, positioning the Company as a 21st century global luxury brand with the unveiling of the new identity of the brand in front of the international and local Press. Along with the exciting new brands and a brand new logo, Amouage will also venture for the first time into launching product extensions. Innovative modern concepts in the packaging will be introduced and this will be a turning point of sorts for the world famous brand, in the sense that the company will be reintroducing the whole identity of Amouage, to suit a wider consumer market. The essence of Amouage will however remain the same.
Packaging ‘Reflections’ the latest scent from Amouage
Meanwhile, interim Amouage fragrances that have been recently launched are ‘Reflection Man’ and ‘Reflection Woman.’ The two fragrances celebrate the power of the individual and were created to inspire quiet introspection and a sense of one’s true self and inner inspiration. As a pair, the two fragrances are united by cool, vibrant florals in their top and heart notes, which are in turn balanced by the warm, rounded, woody notes in the base. The name of the fragrance also infers that Amouage as a company and as a brand is ‘Reflecting upon itself’ to see how they could bring the brand forward. Judging by its sleek looks and aroma, ‘Reflection’ is definitely an indication of far more superior things to come.
Crickmore places high importance on reflecting the true heritage and essence of Oman in all brands of Amouage, thus always seeking to preserve and pioneer the Arabian perfume industry.
The bottling process
Fifty of the most influential international press will be flown specially to Oman for the Silver Jubilee celebrations. The celebrations will truly be something that have never been seen before in Oman, and basically the cr?me de la cr?me of the Omani society and international community in addition to the who’s who of the fashion, lifestyle and consumer press will be present on the occasion. November 1st 2007 is going to be a day in history not only for brand Amouage but for the country as well. Following the anniversary celebrations, there will be follow-up activities in the GCC countries and Europe to compliment and support the re-launch of the brand.
A Perfume Fit for Kings
Amouage is often referred to as the "Gift of Kings" and the fragrance range extends from the exclusive Gold Flasks to the Gold, Dia, Ciel, Eau d’ Amouage, Silver Cologne, Arcus, Cirrus and Reflection. The crystal bottles ? designed for Amouage by Aspreys ? are plated in 18 carat gold and are regularly given to visiting dignitaries and heads of state, by members of the Omani Royal Family and government. Every fragrance has distinctive separate brands for Men and Women. The Men’s perfume bottle is shaped in the traditional Omani Khanjar or sword and the Women’s perfume bottle is fashioned in the shape of the Ruwi Mosque.
Amouage has a discerning and faithful international following that includes Royals and Celebrities in film, television, fashion, sport and music, including Terrence Howard, Marcia Cross, Randy Quaid, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Benjamin Bratt, Kate Moss, Kimora Simmons and Pierce Brosnan.
The prestigious award of 1991
Amouage customers are those who truly appreciate fragrance and perfumery. It is very obvious that so much attention to detail and craftsmanship is involved in making each of these perfumes and the Amouage customers evidently have an eye for the artistry that goes into its making.
We wanted to know if Amouage had any plans to launch and market the product in India, considering the strong cultural bond that Oman and India share and the tremendous market potential for branded perfumes among affluent Indians. It was explained that the company was in the process of assessing the market potential for India as well as Africa whereby the distributors for the product have to be carefully selected to ensure that the brand is presented in the best possible manner especially since Amouage is a high-end luxury and aspirational brand.
The experience of visiting this world famous Amouage Perfumery is one that should not be missed by those visiting Oman. Visitors are always welcome and conducted around the Perfumery by Omani hosts with a passion for the unique 2000 year perfumery heritage of Oman and its modern day manifestation, Amouage.
Visitors touring the Amouage Factory
Until then and always, Amouage will continue to be considered as the roving ambassador for the Sultanate of Oman and the country remains proud to showcase the Amouage heritage and origin to the rest of the world.