Thierry Mugler’s Angel and why it’s the filthiest perfume out there
I hated Angel when I first tried it.
I remember it distinctly, spraying it on the little blotter because I was already wearing something else (Thierry Mugler’s Alien, in fact), wincing away from the instant rush of sugarsugarsweet, cautiously putting the paper to my nose and rearing back in horror. I threw the blotter down, and then used up another few trying to scrub the smell off my hands. “This is awful,” I thought. “This is like dipping my fingers in a vat of fairy floss (cotton candy for you American plebs). How do people stand this?”
Oh, how things change.
At the time, I was a rookie when it came to perfume. I’d just started reading perfume blogs like crazy, just started putting together the tools I’d need to know what I was actually doing. And I made one of the first mistakes a budding perfumista will ever make - I sniffed on paper and left it at that. I almost never do that, these days. I’ve learned my lessons well.
Angel is a masterpiece of perfumery, but it doesn’t work on paper. Angel needs skin.
On the tester, Angel is overwhelmingly sweet and sticky, glossy like melted sugar, empty and high pitched. There’s nothing to it. And I couldn’t understand why so many blogs raved about it. I honestly thought it just wasn’t for me. For anyone, really.
I can’t remember what convinced me to give it another try, but for some reason - months later, maybe years - one day I decided to spritz some on my wrist and see how it went down.
Damn, it went down nice.
Angel is sweet on paper, but coming off skin it’s like the olfactory version of candy flavoured porn. Angel, in a word, is filthy. There is something lurking under the sugar, something deep and wet and musty, almost jarring. It’s kind of earthy, definitely warm, somewhat like sweat, a lot like sex. The sweetness is still there on top - chocolate and caramel and melted sugar, yes - but even that’s deceptive, tempered by a huge, deep whack of patchouli. It’s not a high, screechy sweetness, and it’s definitely not pretty. There’s nothing delicate about this scent, it hits you over the head and says ‘HEY, here I am, sit down and shut up.’
And then it gives you a lap dance.
I’ve noticed that a lot of strippers - an unusual amount, really - wear Angel. It works in a strip club, under the red lights and pumping music. When I catch a sniff of it out in public - brushing past someone in a bookstore, whipping my head around as I cross the street - it almost makes me blush. It seems too intimate, too vulgar for those kinds of settings. It’s like abruptly having your nose pressed against the nape of a woman’s neck. If you smell someone wearing Gucci’s Rush, you wanna give them a high five, you smell an obscure Chanel you want to give them a sly wink. But smelling Angel wafting off someone’s clothes is startling, not exactly erotic but certainly…evocative.
I, being obnoxious, wear it to work all the time. It’s nice having it there, under your clothes, like wearing fishnet stockings under a prim pencil skirt. I get a lot of compliments when I wear Angel, but people always seem surprised when I tell them what it is. They know it as that sweet little foody scent, they’ve only tried it on the tester. Their loss.
A little goes a long way with Angel. I pumped on two sprays this morning, and I can still smell it now. The dry down is calmer, less overt, but it’s also dustier, the loud, mulchy sweetness turning into a soft musk. The vanilla starts standing out above the patchouli, the chocolate wafts back in from a distance. The earthiness is still there, but it’s not as wet. And just describing that now, just the last traces of the scent, reminds me of how complicated this perfume is. It’s honestly masterful.
Perfume is art, and Angel is proof that art isn’t just pretty. It has layers and depth. Sure, you could take a sniff of Angel and say ‘oh, that’s sweet, that’s girly, that’s gourmand.’ But you would be missing the point.
Don’t buy Angel for your little sister or your mother. Wear it to bed in a cheap lace negligee, wear it under your most conservative work suit, wear it and watch people blush.
DID YOU KNOW that tuberose in perfume has a smell that’s a little bit fecal and a little bit like blood? I have a sample of By Killian’s Beyond Love, which is a tuberose soliflore, essentially, and it’s so intense that sometimes I hate it and sometimes I adore it. But yeah, definitely has notes of warm blood in there, and sometimes, just a whiff of something really off. Just underneath all the sweetness. And even though, obviously, in a soliflore it’s gonna be all amped up, most scents with tuberose in them are gonna have those characteristics.
~THE MORE YOU KNOW
reblogging to my perfume tumblr, sorry about the double double to anyone who follows both!
camshaft22 asked: I was wondering what you thought about Lady Gaga's perfume. I find I really, really love the scent but I wasn't sure if it was kinda considered a joke like most 'famous' perfumes or not. Thanks.
I haven’t had a good sniff yet! I keep meaning to, but I never got around to it. But here’s the thing with celeb fragrances - they’re made by perfumers and focus groups and marketing execs just like any other perfume. They tend to be skewed to have more mass appeal and less experimentation, but so do most of the major scents coming out of the major houses these days. So really, if you like it, like it, famous face or not. For example, the Hilary Duff perfume? With Love? One of my all time favourites. Yeah. HILARY DUFF. The people she was working with put together a damn good scent, and it wouldn’t matter if they slapped her name on it or anyone else’s.
With Gaga, I’d kind of been hoping she’d work with Thierry Mugler, because I’m pretty sure they’ve worked together for other stuff, and she helped promote his Womanity scent. I think she’s done runway work for him as well? They would have been a great fit, but I guess he’s a fashion designer not an actual perfume house, so.
Anyway, here’s a review for it I just found on my favourite perfume blog. Hope that helps!
I wore some Oud Cuir d’Arabie by Montale today. It’s for men, technically, but it’s one of the few masculine fragrances that I feel really great wearing. The notes are oud, obviously, and leather and…leather, and some more leather, and then a dry-down of leather. I love it. The best way I can describe this is…imagine there’s a man you’re really, really into. And he always smells really good - kind of sweet and spicy and warm at the same time. And then one night you have really hot sex, and when he leaves in the morning he forgets his leather belt. This perfume smells like that belt. I am pretty much always actively turned on when I smell this scent.
I wore my sample of By Kilian’s Beyond Love today. It’s such a weird perfume. Every time I put it on, I can’t decide if I love it to bits or if I want to go and scrub it off my body - it’s not a particularly subtle scent, and it’s hard to ignore. So if I’m wearing it, I’m THINKING about it, and like…is that what I want from my perfume? Hmm. Also, it’s not a pretty scent. It’s interesting, but it’s essentially a tuberose soliflore, and tuberose has such an odd smell. When you first dab it on, there’s this almost overwhelmingly sweet blood scent. Yeah. Blood. But without the coppery, metallic tinge. Really warm and sweet and flowery and kind of really dirty. Not a fresh floral! Also a bit of coconut and jasmine, but mostly just big, waxy white tuberose. I dunno. I don’t wear it for months and months and then I’ll get all !!!!! about it and put it on and spend the rest of the day deciding if I even like it. Weird.
Perfume Wishlist (my birthday is in October, just putting that out there)
*Pretty much any Guerlain except Samsara or Champs Elysees. Seriously, I’ve liked just about every Guerlain I’ve ever smelled, even the ones I’m not supposed to, like Mahora and L’Instant and Insolence. Give me all of the Guerlain!
*Womanity, Angel and Cologne by Thierry Mugler. And some B*Men for my fiance, too.
*Hypnotic Poison by Dior, but not any of the other Poisons, none of which I like. Also - Miss Dior Cherie (which I thought I didn’t like, but today I realised I was getting it mixed up with Chloe, which a co-worker used to wear and which I find sickening. Maybe it was the little bow on the bottle), but not Miss Dior.
*Parisienne by YSL. But definitely not Paris.
*Chanel No 19 or Chanel No 19 Poudre.
*Prada Hard Candy (I haven’t actually smelled this yet, though, so it’s subject to change. It just sounds like something I’d like).
*Bvlgari Black. Which - okay, I legitimately like this, but also it’s what Angelina Jolie wears (or wore, once, at some point in her life) and that’s mostly why I covet it.
*Zen by Shiseido, except there are like a million and I don’t know which one I want yet. I just smelled it on someone the other day and they were like ‘Oh, it’s Zen!’ and then I went by the Shiseido counter but I didn’t have time to sniff them all to figure out which was the RIGHT Zen.
*By Killian’s Beyond Love. Sort of. It kind of smells like blood and rubber and something horrible, and it also kind of smells amazing and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it.
*A selection of L’Artisan Parfumeurs including Havana Vanille and Mimosa Pour Moi, but not Mure et Musc, because it smells like cough syrup.
…I could go on and on but that’s a good start for now!
I got four samples from luckyscent yesterday, and it was so exciting that I almost cried a little. I haven’t bought a perfume sample in aaaaages, I’ve been satisfying myself with a spray here and there (or, like, every day for three weeks) at the department store next to where I work. But they don’t have anything niche or even a little exotic, so I finally just said screw it, I’m getting some samples because I can. And I did. And yesterday .they arrived, like an early Christmas present - I got Black Jade, By Killian’s Beyong Love, Montale’s Oud Cuir d’Arabie and Tauer Perfume’s L’Air du Desert Marocain. This morning before work I dabbed on the Black Jade and set off.
Let’s be honest. The media copy on this scent is all absolute bollocks (read the luckyscent.com write-up for a taste), but the notes DID sound great, and I was kind of dying to give it a try.
It starts off smelling like cough syrup. Just for an instant, just as it’s coming out of the sample vial, you get a tiny little bit of eye-watering intensity, and then it settles down straight away into a bright, spicy, floral that you think is lovely but not the greatest thing ever. It doesn’t really come into its own until the long, smooth dry-down, which is sweeeet and vanilic and still spicy, but mostly sweet. Almost an edible sweet. It has almost no sillage (or maybe I just didn’t put enough on), it stays very close to the skin, but what was there lasted almost all day. I just had to keep shoving my nose into my wrist to catch that lovely sweetness. I put on some more when I got home, and now I’m enjoying the journey all over again - it really is quite spicy to start with, sandlewood and cinnamon incense. I can’t wait for the sweetness to hit again, though, I want that vanilla back.
I would never buy this. It’s too expensive and I like it but I don’t LOVE it. But I still want it. If someone gave it to me, I would probably wear it to work a lot. It’s a kind of soft day scent, clingy and romantic, not at all overbearing. It’s not spectacular, but it IS very pretty.
And it It probably doesn’t live up to the hype, but hey, what does.
Aw, so pretty! So fresh and pink and pretty and natural! It’s oleander, and a cup of tea made from its leaves would kill you.
Other toxic plants include sweet pea, daffodil/narcissus, wisteria, crocus, angel’s trumpet, monkshood, castor bean, nightshade, water hemlock, and daphne, whose blossoms possess one of my favorite scents.
“Natural” has nothing to do with “safe” and “synthetic” does not mean “dangerous.” Natural ingredients can be deadly and synthetic ingredients are usually benign.
But synthetics trigger allergies more, right? Absolutely not. An essential oil or absolute derived from a natural source contains dozens or sometimes hundreds of molecules. A synthetic fragrance ingredient contains one. Which is more likely to contain an allergen? Which is easier to test as an allergen?
Modern perfumery began with synthetics. Synthesized coumarin enabled the creation of Houbigant’s Fougère Royale (1882, Paul Parquet), which established the famous fougère accord. Synthesized vanilla led to Guerlain’s Jicky (1889, Aimé Guerlain), which in turn led to Shalimar (1925, Jacques Guerlain) and its hundreds of imitators and derivatives.
As long as ingredients must be taken from nature, they remain expensive, elusive, and inconsistent. When they are synthesized, they become democratized. Why did oud become such a prevalent trend in perfume over the past few years? Because a synthetic oud note became available midway through the last decade.
Natural perfumery also has environmental costs. The musk deer is endangered partially because for centuries it was killed for its musk pods. Santalum trees, the source of sandalwood, grow for eighty years to reach the peak of their fragrant oil production. Entire forests of sandalwood have been harvested to oblivion and as a result India has banned export of santal timber.
Think of the trees. Don’t vilify synthetics.
When I first started writing about perfume, the only thing I could think to say about Shalimar was this “Shalimar. Is. PERFECT.” Couple years later, I am still in the same boat, struggling to come up with ways to explain how much I love this scent.
It’s not just about what something smells like. I can tell you - to an extent - what Shalimar smells like, tell you the notes (bergamot, iris, vanilla), tell you that it’s sweet and powdery and deep. But that’s useless, that doesn’t tell you how Shalimar makes me feel.
When I first sniffed it in it’s little sample vial, I couldn’t really believe what I was smelling - I’d never come across another perfume exactly like it. It starts out bright and citrusy, kind of fuzzy in your nose, big and bold. And then the smell envelopes you in a soft, warm blanket of sweet bergamot-vanilla, still a little fizzy and fluffy, like sherbert or creaming soda - but at the same time, nothing like that, because it has a depth and a darkness that keeps it from being overwhelmingly sweet. That would be the earthiness of the musk and iris, hanging around quietly in the background toning everything down. And then the drydown is powdery vanilla incense for days, with the musk coming forward to make everything deep and rich and sweet.
But even THAT isn’t doing it, isn’t it?
Shalimar is a comfort scent. It’s soothing. In fact, the only way a smell could possibly be more comforting for me would be if I found a cheap bottle of Tabu (what am I saying, it’s all cheap), spritzed it on a giant pink knitted sweater from the 80’s and carried that around like a security blanket all day - why yes my mother DID wear Tabu when I was a kid. I hear a lot about Shalimar being sexy, and I guess it is, but in a subdued, intimate kind of way - sexy like cashmere against naked skin, and morning sunlight streaming in a window as you make love before breakfast. It IS kind of animalic, maybe just a little dirty under all the citrus and vanilla, but not overly so. It doesn’t load up on the skank, it just kind of hints at it in the background.
Do I recommend it? Without reservation. It’s well worth dropping some coin for this gem (and yes, it will be slightly serious coin - Shalimar hasn’t been around since 1921 because it’s cheap and nasty, this is good quality Guerlain which means you can expect to pay). Spray it on when you’re having a bad day, spray it on when you’re going to dinner with someone you love, do what I do and spray it on after your evening shower and before you go to bed. Be uplifted by the fuzzy citrus-vanilla opener and then be soothed by the warm musky-vanilla drydown.
And you know what? Once more, with feeling - Shalimar. Is. Perfect.