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An escape to Masirah inspired a new odyssey of fragrance

We know it as one of the nesting sites of sea turtles where the thunderous roars of waves attract some of the world's popular water athletes using its windy shores and deep waters as a spot for windsurfing, parasailing and diving.

A seven-hour drive from Muscat that includes an hour of ferry ride, it is teeming with sea life, white sandy beaches and dreamy coastal villages.

While many look at Masirah through a visual lens, only a few look at this island as an olfactory muse.

Masirah is not known as a sensory destination, especially for perfume connoisseurs, but it is a scenic location with pristine beaches, lush green landscapes and abundant wildlife — natural features that create a rich and diverse sensory environment.

It's seldom that travellers head to Masirah for its scent. It has to take a connoisseur like Renaud Salmon to look at it from that perspective and the island did spark his imagination leading to a personal odyssey that he is now sharing with the world through a new fragrance collection.

"I don't know why Masirah attracted me," shared Renaud, a mindful traveller, a talent-extraordinaire and a perfumery magnate who has called Oman home for a few years now being the chief experience officer of high-perfumery house Amouage.

For his latest project, Renaud has decided to look at Oman from an even more sensitive sense, through an abstract angle, zooming in to Masirah to inspire a new generation of fragrances that usher perfume lovers to a new odyssey — one that explores beautifully the concept of Lineage, Search, Guidance and Purpose which became eponymous to the four offerings that encompass a new chapter in its new scents collection.

Breaking away from Lineage

Renaud explained that for anyone embarking on an escape, particularly for the one he decided to take on, "the first step is breaking my anchorage from the land, my lineage — what traps me."

Exploring Masirah, he shared, "I took the boat, I went on the deck of the boat, and I could really sense the strong smell of the sea. When I arrived in Masirah, the first thing I saw was a lot of driftwood and these local boats that were bleached by the sun and the waves. Seeing and smelling them, it was quite an experience," he shared, recollecting what it was like travelling to the island with heightened olfactory senses.

"Lineage, which is the beginning of this odyssey, as a scent, therefore, has very strong sea notes. The top notes are very mineral. You smell the sea then very quickly, you know there was something more like white flowers that almost smell like suntanning lotion," he shared.

Working with Karine Vinchon who is known for her sense of poetry in her work, they explored together the soul and identity of Oman in Lineage and finally locked down the first notion of Escape — a thrive of curiosity and breaking from the past.

The Search Begins

"The natural next step to an escape is the Search. When you escape and go somewhere, the first thing you do is wander. What am I searching for? What do I want? My visit to Masirah led me to these questions and at first, I thought there were not a lot of things to do on the island. When I started to look at the experience critically, I began to realize that upon my arrival, there were fishermen on the beach... people grilling," he said.

"The fishermen love cooking with dried black lemon called Lomi. It reminded me of my visit to the oasis and seeing lemons growing, I was fascinated by the presence of the lemon's presence in Oman. I didn't associate lemon with the country," he added.

In Search, Renaud wanted to capture the essence of one of the hardest scents to work with scouting far and wide to discover young and talented scent creator Alexis Grugeon who has masterfully captured the essence by collecting the best qualities of lemon, mixing it with other notes like mandarin, bergamot and tangerine infusing it with Omani frankincense and trapping them all together in wood and setting them on fire to create a burning and smoky sensation.

This would mark the characters of Search that aspires to embody the hunt for a new life, the drive to seek courage and the fight to become our ideal selves.

Capturing the strength of Omani women and the spirit of the pink lakes in Guidance

Renaud's odyssey has a side trip to the Pink Lakes that inspired Guidance.

"If you go to Masirah before you arrive at the port to take the boat, there are those beautiful pink lakes. I started being obsessed with them. I find them very interesting because every time I want to see them, they are not pink because it isn't the season," he said.

"At some point, when I was working with people and seeing drone shots of pink lakes, it became the inspiration for Guidance which was also inspired by strong femininity and emphasises the strength and the fragility of Omani women and what I can perceive from their very refined behaviours," he shared.

Working with the equally talented Quentin Bisch, Renaud said they tried to put together something refined and nuanced, very fruity but mixed with a lot of incense and the original scent that the house is known for. Because the journey is inspired by Masirah, the smell of wood found on the shores of the island yielded the use of sandalwood which created a blend that promises triumph and an ode to the inner strength needed for perseverance as one carries on the journey.

Wrapping it up with a clear Purpose

Renaud's Masirah journey ended with realizing what Purpose is all about.

As a nesting site for sea turtles, Renaud shared that Masirah inspired him to look at the imagery of wisdom for Purpose explaining that cultures from around the world associated turtles with this important value.

For Purpose, Renaud has to reexamine several things that he loves taking inspiration from the imagery of a frankincense tree at the National Museum and how a journey to Oman will not be complete without understanding the importance of frankincense's contribution to the country's reputation and place in history.

"The scent of Purpose is also inspired by the frankincense tree and how the peeling of the tree is an abstract of the olfactory journey. There are a lot of layers to this fragrance — the complexities mixing earthy, mineral and woody fragrances in a contemporary but memorable creation," he said.

Renaud said that together with Bisch, Purpose wrapped up an odyssey and through it, one finds a sense of awakening, a sense of feeling at peace and finding serenity in life empowered by one's roots.

For this chapter of Amouage's new Odyssey Collection, Masirah became a fitting muse bringing it to the attention of the world as an island, different from those in Greece, but worth a journey from an olfactory perspective.

Masirah now stands along proud destinations like France that inspired Chanel's No. 5, Greece that inspired Dior's "J'Adore", the flora and fauna of Italy that inspired Gucci's Bloom and the exotic and mysterious aura of Morocco that inspired Yves Saint Laurent's Opium.

We've never really looked at Masirah and its power to inspire creatives. Perhaps, that should change. And the world, with this odyssey, will finally take notice.

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