The surrealist artist, René Magritte, gives the world one of his final pieces of work: The Art Of Living. Characteristically surprising and whimsical, it depicts a man wearing an unremarkable blue suit. But the figure has no head. Instead, floating a short distance above the neck, is a giant, orange ball, featuring a face with an unreadable expression. Has the figure lost its mind to the pressures of conformity? Or does the ball represent the man’s consciousness, drifting freely through the elements, not tied down to reality?
In the same year, Havana, Cuba, hosts the Salon De Mayo. A gathering of some of the most influential artists on the planet – with a showcase of works by Magritte and Picasso, amongst many others – it aims to bring the world of high art to a wider audience. It culminates in the creation of Cuba Colectiva, a huge mural produced in a single, frenetic night, through a collaboration between local artists and those who have travelled to the country from abroad. The work is a true collective of creative souls, sharing with each other not just the knowledge of their respective crafts, but also of their own cultures and backgrounds.
Decades later, and thousands of miles away in Oman, Amouage’s Chief Creative Officer, Renaud Salmon, muses on the concepts of uncertainty and unpredictability. He is struck by the power of surrealism to thwart our expectations – to make us believe we are going to be presented with one thing and then offer us something entirely different, to twist reality in order to reveal deeper truths about it. It is no surprise that Salmon’s research leads him to The Art Of Living. But what he doesn’t anticipate is that when he searches for an image of Magritte’s work, he finds a picture of it in the form of a stamp which was released to commemorate Havana’s Salon De Mayo. The connection with Cuba feels fortuitous. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that the country provided the inspiration for Opus XIV – Royal Tobacco.
The pieces fall into place… and an idea begins to form in his mind…
Opus XV – King Blue
Since its creation in 2010, Amouage’s Library Collection has been the territory where the revered, Omani High Perfumery house has presented some of its most daring compositions, featuring adventurous ideas, fearless innovation and bold contrasts. Running through all the scents has been the very concept of knowledge itself, whether it be the forms it takes in an increasingly virtual world (as in the case of Opus V – Woods Symphony), its potential for seduction (Opus VII – Reckless Leather), or its ability to bring power to those who have lacked it (Opus XIV – Royal Tobacco).
Salmon immediately realises the Library Collection will be the ideal setting in which to explore his fascination with surrealism. As his starting point, he takes the core intention of surrealist art to thwart expectations. He connects this with the Salon De Mayo’s desire to break the boundaries around high art and share the knowledge and practice of it with others. He takes these ideas to perfumers Alexis Grugeon and Hamid Merati-Kashani.
“I asked the perfumers to compose a scent with an opening that would not reveal anything about its conclusion – a scent that would develop as a complete surprise – but would also feel totally right and correct coming from a perfume house that is so proud of its Omani heritage. In other words, a perfume that would feel unexpected and yet entirely comfortable in its setting and surroundings. Alexis and Hamid rose to the challenge brilliantly.”
The perfumers present him with an oud: one of the most traditional, most precious and most authentically Middle Eastern styles of fragrance. But this is an oud unlike any that Amouage has released before. It is almost ferociously animalic, and when linked to the patchouli, incense and sandalwood in the composition, it growls on the wearer’s skin with untamed, primordial passion.
At the same time, it exudes smooth, tailored sophistication, its edges contoured and refined with breathtaking finesse. More importantly, it is an oud that doesn’t begin like an oud at all, because what comes before it is a seemingly innocuous citrus fruit.
Irreverently playing with the idea of ‘blue’ scents – perfumes with decidedly conventional personalities, much like the suit-wearing figure in The Art Of Living – Opus XV opens with a bright, vibrant mandarin. Pink pepper adds an attention-grabbing sparkle, while blackcurrant accentuates its sharpness. But soon, a different tune begins to play. The sensual tones of amber link to the mandarin. Oakwood introduces woodiness. And before we know where we are, the oud has pounced – and holds us in its mesmerising spell.
Bringing together the perception-bending uniqueness of surrealism and the open-spirited ethos of the Salon De Mayo, Opus XV – King Blue is a perfume of endless questions, of curious detours and unforeseen revelations. Is it of the earth: rooted to the ground and connected to its surroundings? Or does it float on a different plane, like an orb casting an unreadable gaze on everything beneath it? The answers will be different for everyone. But they will all be unexpected and unpredictable. And they will arrive… out of the blue.
A note on the oud used in the scent
In order to capture the concepts and emotions Salmon wished to convey in Opus XV, the perfumers decided to make use of an exceptional quality of oud oil. Produced by Ajmal, one of the most respected suppliers of perfume materials in the world, this particular grade of the oil is known by the name Oud Silver. Grugeon and Merati-Kashani decided that this ingredient’s contrasts between animalic forcefulness and suave elegance would play a crucial role in forming the distinctive, authoritative personality of King Blue.
In keeping with the recent re-design of the Library Collection, Opus XV – King Blue is presented in Amouage’s iconic khanjar flacon, in the elegantly seductive truffle shade. The packaging features suitably subversive, blue-tinged artwork by Louise Mertens.
The visual campaign – under the direction of Alexandra Reghioua – makes use of sculptures by Juliette Zakowetz to create an organic landscape in which the Opus bottles assert their own striking identity. Mertens’ artwork is seamlessly woven into the photographs by Valentin Abad.
Key fragrance information
Amouage Opus XV – King Blue
An opening of vibrant mandarin leads unexpectedly to a bold, animalic and effortlessly sophisticated base of oud.
Perfumers: Alexis Grugeon and Hamid Merati-Kashani
Olfactive family: Fruity ambery woody
Ageing: 10 weeks (5 weeks maturation + 5 weeks maceration)
Concentration: Eau de Parfum containing 35% pure perfume oils
Top notes: Mandarin, Blackcurrant, Pink Pepper
Heart notes: Frankincense, Amber
Base notes: Sandalwood, Oakwood, Patchouli, Oud Silver, Leather