Columns Addicted: Modern Mugler Angels

Addicted: Modern Mugler Angels

06/30/16 12:49:37 (18 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) (1985)

Please do enjoy the great Annie Lennox as a soundtrack to this week's column! Last year around this time, I wrote a Gender Bender article about Angel explaining:

One of the biggest game-changers in modern perfumery was undoubtedly 1992’s ice cream sundae in a bottle, Angel by Quest/Clarins for Thierry Mugler. Still going strong with too many flankers and variations to keep track of, the coumarin-heavy Angel has proven as divisive as it is popular with many a guy opting for the original version over the men’s counterpart, A*Men.

You can read my article to learn all about my initial encounter and subsequent love affair with Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chirin's Angel HERE.

However, a number of you commented that you were no longer as enamored with the groundbreaking aroma as you felt that the reformulations had not done the original composition justice. For example, Fragrantica member FruitDiet wrote:

Angel blew my mind years ago and I went through tons of it. With each subsequent refill, it got weaker and thinner and, frankly, nastier. I was complimented all the time with my first bottle and it took years to admit to myself that my favorite scent was no longer itself. The 2015 reformulation rolled out with the new "3-D" bottle was the end for me. It's more expensive than ever and it's hideous. It has the strength of a Wal-Mart body spray and dries down to a cheap, urinous synthetic amber. I've tried to spread the word about this, cause it is the most devastating reformulation in my years as a perfumista, but it's not yet common knowledge. With bloggers there's such snark about Angel that no one gives it the attention of whatever Guerlain reformulation is endlessly discussed. I seriously regret my embarrassing years of wearing bad late-era Angel. I should've moved on sooner.

I was dismayed and disgruntled...angry and yet curious: Could my Angel really be that bad?

Off to Macy's I marched to see/sniff if indeed my dear Angel had really died.

And sadly...

Disappointment.

It was true. Something had gone amiss. This was no longer the powerhouse I remembered; the rich, multi-faceted elixir was no more.

You see, I had taken a bit of an Angel vacation over the past few years, opting to explore and enjoy flankers instead of the original aromas.

"It's a multitude of angels, and they're playing with my heart...yeah"

Annie Lennox

But I will say that when I re-visited Angel for Men (A*Men) in summer of 2015 from a new bottle purchased online, I just didn't feel the love; it didn't wear on my skin the way I had remembered it. But memory can be fallible and our skin chemistry can change, so I chalked it up to me rather than a change in the composition (or ingredients).

My favorite Angel flanker for the past few years has been Le Goût du Parfum/The Taste of Fragrance from 2011:

Le Goût retains the character of the original Angel but adds a wonderful, powdery cacao note that lingers throughout the development. Each time I wear it I'm reminded of this:

And for me that's a good thing! I gifted this one to a friend who fell in love with it and I've been considering splurging for another bottle ever since.

I also tried a summer flanker, Angel Aqua Chic (2013) with its rose water, apple sorbet and raspberry blossom notes. It's nice but just doesn't have the rich depth of the original and so I rarely reach for it. I call this one "Diet Angel".

So it was with a great amount of enthusiasm and some anxious trepidation that I approached the newest star in the Angel-verse: Muse.

Thank you, Clarins, for sending me a bottle of both this and Pure Tonka to test-drive. The only thing I hate about Muse is the ridiculous ad campaign (#hatetolove), but then again I rarely think kindly of modern fragrance advertising/marketing. I'd have been happier if they emphasized the yummy hazelnut cream accord with something like this:

Or, let's be honest, even this:

So, hate to love. Could it be that Angel Muse will turn the haters to lovers? I really don't find Muse all that different from the original in its overall vibe. If I blindly smelled this I would likely respond, "Smells like Angel." Or maybe it smells more like the kinder, softer Innocent with its praline and almond?

According to the press info about the notes for Muse, gone is the fruit basket of berries (though on my skin they are immediately evident) and replacing it is vetiver (uh-oh) and hazelnut cream. Patchouli is still listed but this isn't the 1990's sweaty patchouli note that sends the haters running (and that I completely love).

First, let me say that I do love the bottle - it's easy to hold although still a pain in the butt to keep on a crowded fragrance shelf or in a crowded fragrance drawer.

When my Muse arrived, I sprayed it once on the back of my hand and immediately received compliments from both women in the room with me. I should add that neither of them are really fans of the original and didn't know what I was spraying. Ok, so it received a positive reception. And why not? Muse is a soft, fluffy, gourmand cloud with fruity nuances. I don't really get the nutty vibes that so many describe, but I wouldn't mind if at some point I do notice this. The sillage is apparent and the longevity is also excellent.

I will admit to loving Muse despite the inclusion of evil vetiver, my fragrance nemesis. The perfumer, Quentin Bisch, describes it as a gourmand and sensual vetiver however, so I don't get the typical bitter, root-like, smoky nuances.

Overall, Muse is a gourmand-lover's dream and a welcome addition to the Angel-verse. At $90 USD for a one ounce bottle though, it certainly isn't inexpensive.

I'm looking forward to draining my 1oz bottle, especially in the cooler months. It will be interesting (amusing?) to see what comes next. Will there be a men's Muse? AquaMuse? Dark Muse?

And in terms of the men's flankers, I can't say that I started as a fan. I know so many of you are dedicated to Pure Malt and Pure Havane, but both of these had something that bothered me and prevented me from loving them. Pure Coffee, however, had me doing a Homer Simpson:

Mmmmmmmmm, coffee. But did anyone else find the longevity problematic?

Recently I discovered Pure Wood (2014) and Pure Tonka (2015) and these rank as my first and second favorite versions of A*Men.

The moment I smelled Pure Wood at Nordstrom in Boca Town Centre, I immediately loved it. "Why have I not sampled this before?" I pondered. I somehow completely missed this one when it launched. I'm a HUGE fan of woody aromas, especially synthetic sandalwood and cedar. For example, Diptyque's Tam Dao is probably my favorite woody fragrance.

I made a couple of samples from the Nordstrom tester (THANK YOU, Nordstrom, for allowing customers to do this...now please, provide us with labels and pens so we know what the heck it is we're taking home with us), and after one wearing while at home, immediately went online to purchase a bottle. I'm considering buying a back-up bottle...or five (like I don't have so much already that I'll ever actually use a back-up of anything).

Pure Wood is not quite as sweet but instead is much creamier than other versions of A*Men. There is a prominent (though somewhat indistinct) "wood" note right from the opening. I wouldn't have known this was oak, and frankly, I'm not really sure what oak wood smells like. But wow, talk about comfort in a bottle: Wood? Check. Vanilla? Check. Coffee? Check. Patchouli? Just enough to keep things interesting. It's almost as if this was made just for me. It's my new favorite version of any of the Angels, for men or for women (like those distinctions actually mean anything to us fragrance addicts).

And with all of these flankers, what could Clarins really do next that would be just as interesting or attractive? Enter Pure Tonka.

 

Do you remember back at the start of the 2000's when the patchouli-coffee/cacao/licorice-lavender accord was all the rage in the wake of the original A*Men? Think of aromas such as Rochas Man, Yohji Homme, New Haarlem, etc. Well, Pure Tonka re-visits this genre and turns the sweetness way up!

And wow, Pure Tonka is strong, syrupy, and totally addictive. What's most interesting is that I can perceive many of the notes as the scent develops. I absolutely detect the lavender; I can smell a warm, roasted coffee bean; I even get hints of licorice (which I usually hate as much as vetiver but here I'm not bothered). And Pure Tonka is immediately recognizable as an A*Men flanker. In fact, this is more like an A*Men Intense or A*Men Eau de Parfum than a flanker with a noticeable addition.

Those who are suggesting this one is soft and not long-lasting, I have one word for you: anosmia. I think it might be so strong that your noses are preserving their livelihood and turning off to Pure Tonka. I put on three sprays of this and 30 minutes later got a "Wow, that's strong" comment from a family member...the one who usually bathes in Obsession for Women, I might add.

So, as we approach the 25th anniversary of the iconic Angel fragrance, I celebrate the modern Angels of today and look forward to 25 more years of creative, gourmand fragrances. Thank you Mr. Mugler! Thank you, Clarins! Thank you, dear perfumers who keep my craving for coffee, chocolate and vanilla constantly fulfilled.

 

 

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Managing Editor & Columnist

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison’s journalism in the fragrance industry has appeared in international print and online publications such as PlayboyMen’s JournalMen’s Health and the New York Times. Marlen also works as a graduate professor, thesis advisor and faculty supervisor for MA programs in TESOL, Education, Writing and Literature. Learn more about Marlen by visiting  www.MarlenHarrison.com.

 

MEH



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Kayse
Kayse

My new Heavenly Star Angel smells great, the bottle is absolutely gorgeous. I'm so pleased it's refillable. Thank for writing great articles!

Jan
07
2017
allie kat
allie kat

I live in hope of something comparable to the original Angel, if I'd known how much it would change I would have started stockpiling years ago. It's among my top two of all times along with original Opium, another one I neglected to stockpile. My advice would be if you are lucky enough to find a fragrance you'd happily wear for the rest of your life, stock up before it gets reformulated. Otherwise you'll find yourself on a quest for a new signature. Almost 200 bottles later, I'm still searching.

Jan
06
2017
MrsLetterO
MrsLetterO

I love reading your stuff Marlen.. you crack me up. I'm not an Angel fan but I had high hopes for Muse and a Debenhams gift card with free perfume written all over it. Sadly on me, Muse is a wall of super strong citrus and killer sweet patch. No nuts and no cream, no clouds whatsoever. It's death defying... you could use it to restore consciousness it's so strong. Another Marmite fragrance gets the better of me. Not fair.

Jan
06
2017
iamoir
iamoir

Too pity that in my country there are no Angel flankers. Angel muse is not a flanker of Angel, it is considered a totally different perfume. So i can talk only about Angel and Angel Muse.

I know women who would swear by Angel. They keep one bottle but they rarely wear it, because it's not sweet enough. In my opinion, Angel would be the definition of sweet back in '90s; the groundbreaking use of ethyl maltol in perfume. But, seems like every other perfume wanted to become as sweet as Angel, or to be more accurate, to become sweeter than Angel in order to surpass it.

Not only did they not surpass Angel, but they made it wearable. People who always avoided Angel, I m pointing at myself, a person who loves balsamic perfumes, actually felt relieved that Angel is not the heart attack that La Vie Est Belle is by Lancôme, or the dizzying sweetness that Si by Giorgio Armani represents. Even La nuit tresor and tresor midnight rose both by Lancôme seem simplistically sweet and boring. Pink sugar Aquolina distorted young women's and men's perception of sweet fragrance for ever, yes I dare say for ever. Plus almost all the celebrity fragrances that different interpretations of sweet.

Personally Angel, reformulated or not, seems to work with my skin chemistry, whilst in the past, when i was a teen and would spray it on my wrists just for fun in Sephora, i would hate it; it was disgusting. Now, it's just enough sweet, the patchouli is the one that i like: herbal, dirty, hippyish, and the caramel vanilla chocolate notes do not linger for more than two hours; then my skin enhances amber, so basically it's amber+patchouli(and some light flowers). Why wouldn't i like it?

Angel has transformed into a perfume and no longer is a confection.

Jan
06
2017
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

update: I smelled a new bottle of original Angel this week in a department store and was happy to find it more similar to what I remember the vintage smelling like than bottles from two and three years ago. Has anyone else noticed a difference as of late?

Dec
21
2016
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

@mattchartier - Matt, thanks for letting me know, that does indeed happen so perhaps I should re-visit a newer bottle. Although, with all of the flankers I'm collecting, I'm not sure I *need* the original, lol.

Jul
01
2016
lulu169
lulu169

"like I don't have so much already that I'll ever actually use a back-up of anything" lol. I know what you mean! haha

Jul
01
2016
Wathgwen
Wathgwen

I'm wearing Angel Muse today! I normally do NOT like gourmands because I kind of hate vanilla when it's apparent. This is like getting accidentally doused in hazelnut coffee creamer while trying to make a Starbucks knockoff drink at home; I say that with as much love as I can.

this one, since it cuts down on the sweaty patchouli in Angel prime, is much more appealing to me. I'm pretty sensitive about body odor and don't like smelling anything that reminds me of it. So this, surprisingly, is right up my alley.

I only have a tiny sample and will be sad when it's gone, but Thierry Mugler frags aren't sold anywhere in my country, at least anywhere I can get to.

Jul
01
2016
cherryglass
cherryglass

Thank you for this topic! I enjoy every one of your articles. Angel will have a special place in my heart, always. My mom's glamorous, cultured and beautiful friend used it as her signature and I was mesmerized. It was the early 90's and I was about 12 or 13 and completely captivated by the bottle, the scent, and the idea of a "grown up" woman who would allow herself the luxury of spraying it without care. It's the fantasy of supermodels, French Elle magazines, expensive foreign cars zooming by on a street, George Michael and (strangely) Ace of Base. Years later I have my own little star and while most of the associations did not remain, the beauty and glamour emerge every time I envelope myself in its unforgettable cloud. My cloud is from 2010, btw. And while it's hard to tell if that's exactly how it smelled back in the day without actually owning it in the past, I'm glad I have that little treasure which kicked off my perfume appreciation. (Followed by Dune and later Obsession that I wore to high school as a sophomore.)

Jun
30
2016
ChouliGaloria
ChouliGaloria

Who's hungry? I am!

Jun
30
2016
SuzanneS
SuzanneS

I bought it in 1992. It was a dark, rich powerhouse scent and agree over the years it is a shadow of its former self. I found solace in the leather flanker of angel which is richer like the 1992 version.

Muse is lighter inline with the times. Its ok, but doesnt have the depth/richness that Angel used to have.

ill always be an angel fan, but someone over at Mugler needs to keep Angel 1992 version somewhere for us loyal lovers since it came out.

Would like to try Tonka someday.

Jun
30
2016
qazasd
qazasd

Angel is Angel !!!

Jun
30
2016
MattChartier
MattChartier

Marlen, I was toiling over Angel reformulations over the past few years, it's actually what drove me to Fragrantica. From what I can tell, Angel had a rough patch between 2014-2015, and I couldn't find any two bottles that consistently smelled the same. They were all rather sour and the patchouli was tamed down. However, I think they finally got things back to where they should be, as I bought the Heavenly Star bottle in January 2016 (replaces the old rising star 100ml) and it smells just as it should. It is every bit the Angel I have worn for years. I still have a bottle I bought in 2014 that cannot compare, and that I will probably never use up. Just my $0.02!

Jun
30
2016
smellagent
smellagent

I bought Angel the week it came out and was in love. Wore it for years till my boyfriend/now hubby told me it was strong, I am a heavy sprayer, and to give it a rest. Fast forward 15 years I go to get a bottle cause I have been married forever and I love him but I care less what he likes now. Anyway I wanted my old Angel but it is no longer. I had to go on Evilbay and get a vintage bottle. I also have the Winter Star extrait, which is perfect. My fave flankers are the Angel violette and the leather Angel. I will be getting Muse and other flankers too.

Jun
30
2016
Kalitera
Kalitera

I also know that it's not always the perfume. We change, our perception changes. I'm not the same I was in 1992. I used to hate it, now I love it.

Jun
30
2016
deb.martinez
deb.martinez

Ive only known the newer...LOVE it!

Jun
30
2016
LoreleiBluebird
LoreleiBluebird

Sad to hear Angel has been reformulated so much, it was my signature in my single clubbing years in the 90s, and I had thought about getting it again as a trip down memory lane. Sounds like that won't happen, I still have a little original left for a sniff though. Still loyal to Mugler's immense vision through flankers, and my husband is a big fan too, currently loving Pure Malt.

Muse to me is a hazelnut bomb, and I find it slightly irritating in the way it doesn't seem to settle on me at least. I think it's the vetiver, not a note I'm particularly fond of.

Jun
30
2016
Vegas Pauli
Vegas Pauli

I launched Angel back in 1992. At the training I was the only sales rep that liked it, all my fellow co-workers thought it would never sell...guess who had the last laugh. I have to smell a new bottle to see how much it has changed. The reformulation can't be as bad as Alfred Sung, Obsession, Carolina Herrera, Kenzo Homme and Tsar. Those are all sadly beyond recognition.

Jun
30
2016

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