Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Thierry Mugler's Angel: Les Parfums de Cuir
There are those who despise Thierry Mugler's wildly successful Angel so much that they appraise its many flankers solely by their ability to mitigate that contempt. Others - I'm one of them - look forward to each successive October, when the best of these special flankers are typically released, not as another opportunity to hate the fragrance more or less, but as another form of Christmas, where Angel will be slightly reinvented, seen through yet another conceptual prism.
This year, the flankers to Angel, Alien, A*Men, and Womanity, collectively called Les Parfums de Cuir, are truly gifts that keep giving. There are many things to admire about the Mugler line, not least of which is its packaging, a big part of its gifts to give. With the exception of Womanity, arguably a misstep in the direction of excessive ornamentation, the bottles have been endlessly entertaining, if not exactly practical - interesting not just as vessels but as objets d'art. Unlike most flankers, and despite the expectations imposed on these new fragrances by detractors of the original fragrances, those produced by Mugler don't seem too preoccupied with "improvement". Again, with the exception of Womanity, which has not quite been the hot cake that Angel and Alien have been, there's nothing, from a sales point of view, to improve. These aren't apologias.
With Mugler, a flanker often brings the best of both worlds - a wonderful new fragrance not too terribly removed from the one you love, reenacting the crush all over again. The Liqueur versions from 2009 were my favorites so far. For me, Angel Liqueur is even better than the original, while Alien is a deeper, richer more of same, forcing me to look at the Alien I fell in love with in a different way. A*Men Pure Coffee was fantastic, and Pure Malt was beyond that, and the only real bummer for me has been Pure Havane, which smelled on me a little too much like death by vinyl, side of maraschino cherry.
There are Mugler fragrances I practically ignore, like most of the summertime flankers, all of them single-mindedly bent on balancing toothpaste with caramel, and while I admired last year's Taste of Fragrance editions, I never felt, no matter how hard I tried, that I neeeeeded them. The whole Innocent range seems superfluous to me, unless you simply must have a Mugler and can't stomach anything more interesting the line has to offer. But those Liqueur versions. Those were really something - so good that each September I start thinking obsessively about what the brand will come up with next.
I'm not as crazy about the leather Angel as I am about her liqueur kin, but I don't like it too much less. Certainly enough to buy it. If it's good enough to bring the guys at Peredepierre out of semi-retirement, you know it must be pretty decent. Peredepierre described an apricot quality to leather Angel that puts it somewhere near Daim Blond. I do get peach, but not with anything like the brightness of that Lutens suede. This is definitely leather for me, not suede, dark brown in color, and the sweetness of most Angel versions, including the original, is tempered here. Liqueur Angel smells recognizably of Angel throughout. Leather Angel doesn't always or often remind me of any Angel I've smelled. If I had to find a correlate I would look to Cuir de Lancome or Heeley Cuir Pleine Fleur. Leather Angel, unlike Cuir Pleine Fleur, isn't quite barnyard-adjacent, but not so far away the wind doesn't catch up with it. As for Cuir de Lancome, what I think it shares with leather Angel is a rich, creamy leather feel, with none of the arch sharpness involved in, say, Knize Ten or Chanel Cuir de Russie.
It's most recognizable as "Angel" up top. Once it dries down to the leather, which is not skanky but plush (more leather bag or seat than saddle), it becomes something almost entirely new for me. The marketing says these flankers were marinated in leather. I can't answer to that, though I find it hard to believe. Still, smelling leather Angel, this is an apt image, and as far as PR talk goes, I'll take this kind of snake oil over the stuff Dior's writing, bottling, and peddling any day. Leather Angel, like the other two "feminines", is housed in a great bottle, which is housed in a great little leather bag, which is all kind of the icing on the cake for what turns out to be a refreshingly gratifying fragrance. By dry down, you have, for once, or a change, a contemporary mainstream fragrance which not only promises but delivers the leather, with a punch. This is truly a successful conceptual exercise, wrapping Angel in layers of rich leather, and the measure of that success is how good it smells.