Amouage, the Oman-based luxury perfume house, is known for their opulent fragrance offerings but their new scent of men, Overture, somehow manages to up the stakes.

It also offers something that the brand has never done before – an olfactive sleight of hand between the name, a term suggesting prelude, or beginning – and the scent itself.

Amouage, Overture
Overture relies heavily on realism – right down the intimate smell of bodies. Image: Agence de Parfum.

A spicy, boozy fragrance, Amouage Overture for men smells more like the end of the night where a good – a very good – time has been had.

Created by Karine Vinchon Spehner, Overture is in fact a complete act. In the first seconds it hits the nose with an opening blast of resinous myrrh, fizzy cinnamon and delicious cognac, like an arrival cocktail in a private salon before the music starts, while ginger and grapefruit brighten the mood with eager zest.

Vegetal and floral carry the melody in the middle with sweet cardamom and clary sage, mingling with geranium to create the slightest dandifying effect.

Eventually, the coda or drydown smoothes itself into an aria saffron and cumin. This is where the perfume hits its most corporeal stride, underpinned by animalic and leather notes that resemble the smell of bodies pressed together.

With such a complete score, why the decision to call it a beginning? To unravel this mystery, ICON spoke to Spehner about the creative process behind Overture.

Overture, Amouage
Nose Karine Spehner-Vinchon who created Overture. Image: Agence de Parfum.

Was there a particular man – celebrity, actor, artist – you had in mind when you were creating Overture?

The secret name of the brief was “First Night”. It’s about the strong emotions that an audience at the opera felt when hearing the opening of a particular performance, and the debut of a young opera singer.

She was not supposed to sing that night, but at the last minute she had to replace the famous singer they had all come to see. The audience expected to be disappointed but in fact, it was the reverse. Though it was her first step on stage, her performance was amazing and they were all surprised and fascinated!

It was this moment when everything changes that I had to interpret into a fragrance.

How did you choose the particular notes that make up the fragrance?

I knew from the beginning that I was searching for a very strong and charismatic fragrance with sensual tension to evoke the force of emotions that we feel when we attend an opera. That explains the use of spices, the leather note, the balsams and the animalic tones.

Is there a particular note in the fragrance you’re most fond of?

A perfume is always a good balance between each of its raw materials. So, all of them are necessary. But if I had to pick a single one, I would say cumin. It brings the sensuality to it. I like to use it (sometimes too much for those who are very sensitive) for its sweaty effect that suggests a carnal dimension and the scent of skin.

Amouage, Overture
Brava! Image: Agence de Parfum.

The setting of Overture is incredibly clear – the Opera, the music, the crush of bodies close together as they watch the performance. What was the decision to capture this particular scene?

It’s true, it’s particularly vivid. That explains my choice of sensual notes that evoke the proximity of bodies – the spectators and the actors too.

This is also an important detail of Amouage – they’re never just a perfume. It’s an entire story. Does this approach allow you to be more creative with your approach?

Correct! With a story to tell, your perfume is built step by step. Each element of the story translated using a specific raw material or accord. But each perfumer will have different images in mind, and a different interpretation of the story. It allows us to be very creative.

There’s a clear demarcation of creative aesthetic since Renaud Salmon started at Amouage – how does Overture fit into this new chapter?

My first perfume for Amouage was launched in 2010. And you know, I always work with the same heart, the same desire. Renaud is very creative and he is surrounded by a very creative team that he has specially chosen, from the packaging to the perfume, the music, the design. He likes to orchestrate the interactions between each player. We always keep in mind the DNA and the patina of Amouage, so, the lovers of this signature and those who like the previous creations, are sure to like the present and future creations too.

Something I particularly enjoyed is the realism of the scent via cumin – the opera is hot. It can be a bit sweaty. Mainstream perfume would have focused on the “fantasy” of opera. Was there a conversation prior about which direction Overture should take?

Once you know the beginning of the story of Overture, I think that this choice becomes clearer. A “fantasy” interpretation wouldn’t have truthfully revealed how I perceive a show at the opera. I’m not really passive during a performance. I feel many strong emotions: joy, laughter, sadness, anger, fear. All these feelings had to be displayed in the perfume.

What’s your creative process when creating a perfume?

Mostly, the story inspires me through images, colors or textures that I translate into accords or raw materials. By each choice of ingredient and the dosage, I re-transcribe my story to the person who wears the perfume. I begin with the stronger ideas of the story and step by step I add details, to be as close as possible to the images that I have in mind and to achieve the most aesthetic fragrance that I can.