Since taking the helm as chief experience officer at Oman-based luxury fragrance house Amouage, Renaud Salmon has made it his business to not just develop new offerings but also refine the Amouage experience.
This has meant several things: releasing more intense formulations of existing, best-selling scents in extrait form such as Interlude 53 Man and Honour 43 Woman. It has also meant re-releasing their beloved line of attars.
Towards the end of 2022, Salmon turned his attention to perhaps the house’s most elusive line of fragrances and best kept secret: The Library Collection.
The original Library Collection, 11 scents that were “a poetic homage to the art of living”, existed within the Amouage family in a similar way that luxury fashion brands have ready-to-wear versus couture.
More daring in their olfactive offering – a feat considering that the entire Amouage output is defined by fragrances that are generous and bold, according to Salmon – the Library Collection was like a secret room within an already VIP club.
“I think my main intention was that The Library Collection was a little bit invisible compared to other Amouage fragrances,” explains Salmon.
Speaking to ICON from the Amouage offices in Oman, Salmon explains that the reason for the relaunch of The Library Collection was a chance to kickstart their presence in the awareness for a new Amouage audience.
“My role as a creative director, sometimes is about curating in order to shine the light back on something,” says Salmon. “It might look like stepping back to build again but this is important. From what I’ve seen, people are reacting to it. Mostly people who aren’t familiar with the Library Collection at all.”
Achieving this meant bringing the visual elements of the Library Collection into synchronicity with the current aesthetic of the brand. “For me, there was also a little bit of a disconnect between the depth and opulence of the fragrances and the bottles that were quite simple and somehow minimalistic in comparison to the other iconic bottles that we have,” says Salmon.
Originally a broad, curved bottle with simple gold lids, the release now comes in the familiar Amouage rectangle and gem-embedded caps. Marking as separate from the main line is a matte, velvety textured bottle, in a shade that Salmon describes as cashmere, that is plush to the touch and speaks to the richness of the fragrance within.
“There was also a little bit of a disconnect between the depth and opulence of the fragrances and the original bottles,” explains Salmon. “These were quite simple and somehow minimalistic in comparison to the other iconic bottles that we have.
“So in a way, in a way these new bottles are quite a bold statement and they have a lot of things to say despite their apparent simplicity.”
Packing is one thing. So how did Salmon consider the most important detail – the fragrances themselves? Especially the decision to audit the collection down to less than half the original line-up.
The question is one that has clearly been put to Salmon multiple times, as he chuckles when we bring it up. “In my mind, first of all, nothing is definite,” he says.
“Basically I asked myself, what’s a good number of fragrances to reintroduce the collection with. Then I asked myself, what is the story behind that collection? What is the reason for that collection to exist within the Amouage portfolio? All Amouage fragrances have something in common which is generosity with a lot of nuances and complexity; complex evolution and beautiful ingredients, some kind of classicism – this defines most of Amouage’s fragrances. With the Library Collection, these should explore bolder ideas and they should explore bolder accords.”
The lucky four of the original line up to make the cut – for this stage, anyway – perfectly sum up the complex opulence and elegant simplicity that Salmon talks of: Opus V Woods Symphony, Opus VII Reckless Leather, Opus XII Incense Rose and Opus XIII Silver Oud. The latter also contained in its own unique bottle, reversing the colourway.
To truly mark the occasion, however, Salmon introduced a brand new scent to the Library Collection: Opus XIV Royal Tobacco.
Inspired by the world of cigars and the detailed manner in which fans of the vice spoke about the experience of smoking them (“How they describe the first burn, the second burn and the end of the cigar; how they could perceive notes – I had no clue you could perceive these smoking a cigar,” exclaims Salmon), Salmon collaborated with Cécile Zarokian to develop the new chapter of the Library Collection.
“The first discussion we had was kind of a sarcastic look at the market of fragrances that claim tobacco,” says Salmon. “Particularly in light of the past. We were kind of nostalgic about the good old days of tobacco fragrances.”
The duo – who had previously worked together on Silver Oud, Material and Rose Aqor among others – began the conversation by sharing individual memories linked to the aromas of tobacco. For Zarokian, this was time spent travelling Cuba. For Salmon, it was the smell of his grandfather’s cigar box.
The result is a fragrance that takes you to the complex heart of tobacco essence: something sweet, yet bitter; dry yet almost fruity with a finish that catches in your throat with a surprising intensity.
“We had a few ideas for the core accord, which is actually tobacco and incense,” he adds.
“This is quite an unusual accord but its two ingredients that are experienced through smoke. But that accord is very dry and I wanted something generous so that’s why the core accord is tobacco, incense and frankincense and then very quickly it turned into tobacco, incense and a big amount of licorice. That’s what became, I would say, the big accord of Royal Tobacco.”