Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alien Sunessence 2011: Edition Or D'Ambre

I don't know why--because they've largely been disappointing--but every year I look forward to all the various Thierry Mugler seasonal, limited edition flankers with the kind of excitement I imagine a teen feels waiting for the next installment of the Twilight franchise.  The flankers for A*men have been more consistently promising, and I don't have many complaints there, but, aside from the astonishingly good Alien and Angel Liqueur duo (2009), the results over at the lady counter have often left me disappointed.

For the most part, the Angel Sunessence fragrances have half the lifespan of their original inspiration and seem very nakedly to be attempts to modify for the few who dislike or hate Angel the things which make the rest of us love it so maniacally.  "Angel toothpaste!" as Luca Turin remarked enthusiastically about one of these flankers, is good for a whirl, I guess, but it doesn't exactly leave you feeling sated, or particularly clean for that matter.  As toothpastes go, it left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.  Innocent and its rather jaded follow-ups have consistently failed to even marginally interest me.  The Alien Sunessence fragrances have, on the other hand, smelled so much like the original Alien, that I had a hard time seeing the point, let alone the difference.

I approached Or D'Ambre without much hope, and at first I thought, "same old, same old".  It was only later, when it persisted much longer than even the original Alien seems to, and seemed more interesting than any of its sister flankers by far, hours in, that I came around to what should have been its very obvious appeal.

Thierry Mugler's ad copy tends to delight or grate with its fanciful silliness, depending on your mood, and I'm not sure I smell the promised "trio of wealth" at the top of the fragrance: "the wealth of vitamins, the wealth of the exotic, and the enchanting wealth of warmth."  We all love the French and admit that they are superior in the art of fragrance.  Is all this wealth not enough to buy them an English speaking think tank?  Upon first spraying Ambre, what I get is something very refreshing; if calling that a wealth of refreshment makes more sense of things to you, I invite you to do so.  For me, it's a little more specific.  Ambre offers a weird citrus sheen or zest which is not only unusual for an Alien flanker but engineered in such an unusual way that it compliments the fragrance's weird synthetic sensibility perfectly.  This metallic hesperide lasts all of ten minutes, tops, and flows seamlessly into the heart of the fragrance, a practically teeming virtual reality of impressions.

For something as openly synthetic as Alien, Ambre has a remarkable series of moods and transitions; many more than your average, supposedly superior, more allegedly natural fragrance, which typically purports to use only the highest quality raw materials.  I've always loved the synthetic qualities of Alien, the way it feels super saturated and weirdly succulent without losing that unique cyborgian effect, like something Sean Young's character might have smelled of to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, a simulation of memories combining childhood sunsets, his mother's jasmine perfume, and the new patented Sumolinoline Vinyl upholstery of his hovercraft.  Alien absolutely feels half human, half mechanical to me, and I love that, and what made the liqueur version so compelling, aside from the fact it smelled like a million bucks, was the sense it gave of taking those synthetically engineered qualities and aging them like a fine liquor, giving them a richness that screwed around with your mind the way someone implanting memories might.

Ambre takes those pastoral-domestic fantasies, those memories of things you might or might never have experienced, and carries them in a tote bag to the beach.  Distinctly summery, it smells, somewhere in there, of sun and suntan oil on skin and the heat bearing down on your closed eyelids.  The fragrance shifts over time on your skin, sticking with you the way the experience of the beach does by the end of the afternoon, when the salt of your sweat has mingled with the oil you applied throughout the day, and your feel somewhat crunchy and sated from the effects of the wind, heat, and sand.  It's an interesting take on amber, applying the Alien sensibility to it, and conceptually it is far stronger than any of the Sunessence flankers have been.  It feels very much in keeping with the original Alien's creative agenda and yet extends it in an interesting direction, exploring slightly different territory.

Ambre is credited to Dominique Ropion, and like much of what he does it has remarkable longevity.  For an Eau de toilette Legere (all the Sunessence flankers are) it has tremendous staying power and feels exceptionally rich, long after application.  While it becomes increasingly subtle as it wears on, it never feels weak, nor watery, as many eau legeres do on me, particularly those which feature some kind of citrus aspect.  And despite the silliness of the ad copy, Ambre does indeed retain an unusual warmth throughout its development, matching the bottle's solar design in execution.  The notes listed include vanilla, orchid, amber, woods, and the wealthy trifecta of tonics up top, including kiwi, which is lost on me.  Ambre unmistakably resembles original Alien but is quite different in many respects.  Spray them side by side and you won't mistake them again.  I would argue that Ambre outlasts Alien, as well.  As for liking Ambre more than Alien, for those who didn't care much for the original, I can't say.  I love both without reservations.


Elisa said...

I'm indifferent to the original Alien (reminds me of grape soda) but this sounds like a must-try.

Marko said...

Hey Brian -

I bought this on Monday (an unexpected day off from school - the electricity at the college went out! - found me with enough time in my schedule to stop off at the Mall). I think it's really quite nice, although the "zesty" top notes REALLY through for a loop the first time I sprayed it!

The only other Alien product I own is the Liqueur, and between the 2, I think I have enough Alien for this lifetime........

indieperfumes said...

That Dominique Ropion, I think I always want to know about everything he does. Amber at the beach, what more can you ask?

Old Money Savoir Faire said...

Brian - your writing is stunningly good. I hope there are enough manufacturers worthy of such craft as you exhibit. Right now you are more entertaining than a lot of full-length movies currently being made for a lot of money!



Brian said...

Elisa, I do wonder if you'd like this. I also wonder what you and Marko both will think of the new A*Men flanker, Pure Havane. I tried it yesterday and was pretty bummed. It seemed like a bit of a disaster to me. Granted, my nose was beyond fatigued from mixing oils all day (look at me, ma; I'm a perfumer!!), so maybe I was immune to Havane's more...subtle...charms? I'm interested to see what you all think. I know you love Pure Malt, Elisa, and though the two have been compared I saw zero relation. In fact, Havane is the first A*Men flanker which to me bears no resemblance to its ancestors.

Brian said...

Hi Lucy. I know, right? I do love Ropion. I had a rocky start with Portrait of a Lady but I came around. If not exactly love it's like a lot at least. I tend to like most everything he does, though some I don't really go nutty for.

Brian said...

Thanks, Old Money! My dog likes me. Everyone else rolls their eyes.