Amouage Interlude Man, 2012

(image Robert Longo, Men in the Cities, 1979)

Perfumer Pierre Negrin.

God knows Amouage have done the ‘go big or go home’ style masculine fragrances before. In fact they are some of the line’s most successful perfumes. Hybrid vigor, Amouage’s implicit goal, has led to beautiful fragrances that highlight traditional Eastern materials and Western compositional methods.

The sensibility that results from this hybrid has seldom been timid and Interlude Man is a beast, but a lovely one. Contemporary men’s fragrances, niche and mainstream alike, often use a particular set of woody notes to imply masculinity. This limited vocabulary has drawbacks. Firstly, these notes are usually created from a range of aromachemicals that, when left alone, smell like chemicals. Secondly, without padding, without other notes to fill the empty spaces and round out the angles, men’s fragrances often smell alike and lack nuance. Interlude avoids this mistake and is aromatic, expensive, nuanced, complex and capital-B Beautiful.

Line up Interlude with Amouage’s other classic masculines (Dia, Ciel, Epic…) and the family resemblance, based largely in their use of incense, is easy to see. The real point of comparison for Interlude, though is the best of the men’s Power Fragrances from the 1980s. They’re sometimes referred to as knuckle dragging simpletons, but the best of them were simultaneously loud, beautiful and subtle. YSL Kouros was an orange-flower beauty.  Hermès Bel Ami wrapped leather in violet and gasoline. Chanel Antaeus had aromatic top notes and lunged at you like a coke-head on aldehydes. Dior Jules and Caron Third Man emphasized the ruggedness of the fougère by smothering it in aromatic and floral notes. Lauder for Men hid its gruffness behind a very pretty muguet note.

Interlude is most similar to the BFFs of the time, the Big Fucking Fougères. It doesn’t share the genres defining lavender/coumarin mix, but it balances bass and baritone notes with durable higher pitched notes. Like the BFFs it has a broad spectrum harmony that lasts from start to finish. You don’t just hear the high-pitched notes in the top notes, and you don’t get the lower register notes only in the bass notes. The harmony last from top to bottom. The similarity to the fougère genre lies in its aromatic quality. Where an aromatic fougère might use geranium or some other leafy green, Interlude uses oregano.

Oregano! Maybe not the greatest selling point points in a list of notes, but extremely successful in bringing a green expansive quality to a woody perfume. A bit of patchouli seems to integrate  the oregano, so that it doesn’t suggest pizza or a sore thumb. Incense jumps out from first sniff, but the rest of the woody tone is an interesting blend. Oud? Sandalwood? There is a warm, leathery, dusty quality in the basenotes that just purrs.

Interlude’s combination of boldness and complexity differentiates it from the dull crowd of most contemporary woody fragrances and links it to the best of the 1980s. Vive le power frag!