Post by Anne-Marie
For some time I have wanted to tackle a review of Givenchy’s 1991 powerhouse fragrance Amarige but in thinking about Amarige, one of the most divisive fragrances on the counter today, I began browsing not just the online reviews, but some perfume books in my collection. I don’t have an extensive library on perfume but I have a few works, and very interesting they can be, especially the older ones.
So today I thought I would bring you a taste of these diverse published opinions on a fragrance upon which no-one seems to be neutral. Everyone has an opinion on Amarige!
Amarige by Dominic Ropion for Givenchy 1991
A review of reviews
Photo Stolen Fragrantica
Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Mandarin, Neroli, Peach, Plum, Rosewood, Violet Heart
Heart: Gardenia, Carnation, Jasmine, Cassia, Mimosa, Orchid, Black locust, Rose, Red berries, Black currant, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang
Base: Amber, Woody notes, Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Cedar
Released in 1991, Amarige is a colossal white floral which somehow missed the memo that the 90s would be the era of clean, simple fragrances.
Amarige is a romantic floral creation, youthful and fresh, lightened by sparkling notes of mandarin and neroli, followed by rich white flowers embedded in a sensual musk, wood and vanilla base. A delicately feminine fragrance.
Jan Moran, Fabulous Fragrances: how to select your perfume wardrobe (Crescent House Publishing, 1994)
Fresh? Delicate? Ye Gods and Little Fishes Jan! I know your book came out in 1994 and that the 1980sa were not far behind you, but really! Even then you must have known that Amarige is about as delicate as the water tumbling over the Hoover Dam. Sheesh!
Sultry is probably the word to describe this strong, elaborate and passionate perfume … Its unconventionality and breeding place it well above the usual shriek and clamour of reckless ‘moderns’. A woman will either fall immediately in love with it or avoid its uncompromising demands. It is a lusciously exotic perfume – mesmerising and sophisticated. It is Givenchy’s most daring adventure.
John Oakes, The New Book of Perfumes (Prion Books, 2000)
Considering that Oakes’ declared favourite perfume is Balmain’s Vent Vert (‘green wind’), which is stratospherically different from Amarige, his review is a masterpiece of diplomacy. I wonder what were the ‘reckless “moderns” ‘ he was thinking of in 2000?
This is the review that put Amarige on the map for innocents like me who had until encountering his book had never tried it. Many of us probably recite this one by heart, can’t we? Here we go:
We nearly gave it four stars: the soapy-green tobacco tuberose accord Dominique Ropion designed for Amarige is unmissable, unmistakable, and unforgettable. However, it is also truly loathsome, perceptible even at parts-per-billion levels, and at all times incompatible with others’ enjoyment of food, music, sex and travel. If you are reading this because it’s your darling fragrance, please wear it at home exclusively, and tape the windows shut. LT
Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, Perfumes: the guide (Penguin, 2008)
Equal parts amusing and insulting, like so many Turin-Sanchez reviews. Only one star was actually awarded, meaning I suppose that while he and TS find Amarige technically accomplished, LT personally loathes it. Fair enough.
With a jumble of synthetic-smelling fruit notes that smell as jarring as spandex shorts with headbands and fanny packs now look, Amarige’s predictable progression in a tuberose-sweet floral heart and vanilla/amber woody base makes it hard to separate from its sisters (Cabotine, Giorgio, Animale, etc). … Amarige’s sandalwood and cedar base at least helps redeem it by providing depth and texture to the chemical stew that bubbles at its heart. … It’s hard to imagine this style of sweetness will ever come back into perfume, even ironically.
Barbara Herman, Scent & Subversion: decoding a century of provocative perfume (Lyon Press, 2013)
So, what in 1994 was ‘fresh’ and ‘delicate’ is now a ‘chemical stew’ which should only be worn in privacy among consenting adults. What a difference 20 years makes!
Have you worn Amarige?