March 1, 2017
Two female perfumers worked with Christopher Chong on Bracken Woman: Karine Vinchon-Spenher, Christopher Chong of Amouage and Dorothee Piot
Amouage fragrances, under the creative direction of Christopher Chong, are orchestrations rather than melodies: complex, layered, many components meshing and clashing like cymbals and violins before finding harmony.
Donyale Luna, Jardin des Plantes, Getty Images, 1960s ©
Bracken Woman, from the Midnight Flower Collection, is no exception. Inspired by the Flower Power of the 1960s, Bracken Woman, named for the prolific fern that carpets forests, has a wildness and unconventionality that fits with its hippie genesis.
Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 1981 ©
But it is also complicated and not easy to categorize. When I first smelled it, I thought of Sarah Woodruff from the French Lieutenant’s Woman, willfully assuming the title of ruined woman and both the social exclusion and freedom that entailed. Elusive, changeable Bracken Woman, with its strange, sensual beauty, would be her scent. This perfume starts as more opaque and off beat than its hippie inspiration would suggest and then takes the opposite route of most perfumes by becoming more lighthearted and playful in its dry down.
Eva Green, Rankin Portraits Exclusive, Vogue UK, Aug 2012 ©
A note I can describe only as candied herbal – ashy-sweet, grassy-tart – opens Bracken Woman like a puff of chartreuse smoke. Shortly after, piquant berry juice, like redcurrant squeezed with pineapple, trickles through an emerging dense, loamy herbaceous note, which I take to be the bracken accord. This is an intricate fusion of aromas suggesting tarragon, soil, juniper and galbanum. Its dense, earthy verdancy echoes the saturated animalic green of Amouage’s Jubilation 25 (a CaFleureBon Modern Masterpiece)
Twiggy, photo by Richard Avedon, Vogue, July 1967©
In the middle stage, leather, in the form of birch tar, comes out and the smoky note of the opening becomes more pronounced. But where the feral aspect of Jubilation 25 intensifies as it develops, the second half of Bracken Woman is less growl and more peacenik. The leather never takes over but rather quickly recedes as patchouli and floral notes expand, giving an impression of moist tobacco and crushed blossoms.
Rooney Mara, photo by Mert Atlas and Marcus Piggott, Vogue, Nov 2011
In its dry down, Bracken Woman softens into a woodsy green floral. But its hints of dark ground and thicket of herbs never fully dissipates. Like the enigmatic French Lieutenant’s Woman, Bracken Woman is indefinable, perhaps unknowable. Its defiant originality makes it one of Amouage’s most fascinating releases in recent years.
Alison Chaplin, High Beech Bracken, oil on canvas, 2013 ©
“Some days dance in the bracken. Some days go out
wide and warm on bad roads to collect the dispossessed
and offer them homes. Some days celebrate addicts
sweet in their dreams and hope to share with them
a personal spectrum. The loch here’s only a pond,
the monster is in it small as a wren.” – from Glen Uig, by Richard Hugo
Notes: bracken accord, wild berries, lily, narcissus, chamomile, smoky leather, patchouli, vetiver and birch. Sillage and longevity are moderate.
Disclaimer: Perfume sample provided by Amouage – many thanks. Opinions are my own.
— Lauryn Beer, Editor
Photo courtesy of Amouage ©
Thanks to the generosity of Amouage Perfumes, we have a 30 ml atomizer for 1 registered reader of Bracken Woman in the EU, Canada and the U.S. To be eligible please leave a comment with what appeals to you about Bracken Woman based on Lauryn’s review, where you live, if you have seen the movie or read the book “The French Lieutentant’s Woman” and if you have a favorite Amouage perfume. Draw closes 3/5/2017.