Thierry Mugler Angel EDT: Heaven S(c)ent

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(originally posted on katiepuckriksmells.com)

As a rule, flankers suck, and it’s tiring to see them follow such predictable patterns.

  • X
  • X Cool
  • Eau d’X
  • X Sport
  • X Light
  • Voile d’X
  • X Dry
  • X Fleur d’Iris  (de Jasmin, de Rose…)
  • X Ice
  • X Summer Edition
  • Cuir d’X
  • X Chérie
  • X Extreme
  • Nuit d’X
  • X Noir (Rouge, Vert, Blanc…)

That list took me 30 seconds and not one of the flanker names is intentionally ironic. Which is more disconcerting:  a bad perfume followed by 10 flankers or a good one? Niche sometimes comes up with cleverer names, but it’s the same schtick as the larger mainstream releases.

God knows Mugler has milked the Angel cow (1992, perfumers Yves de Chiris and Olivier Cresp). Yet it’s common knowledge that no flanker has equaled or surpassed the original. So 20 years down the road Angel has the latest iteration of copycat:  the concentration flanker. It’s a flanker of Angel EDP (which I’ll just call Angel.) But, breaking the aforementioned rule, Angel EDT is a smart, tidy and lovely reflection on the original. Mugler seems to have learned a lesson from the errors of the legion of Angel imitators, from Nuits de Noho to Flowerbomb to Pink Sugar and doesn’t simply make proportion changes to the sweet/gourmand notes of the original.

angel edt

Although there are similar scent elements between Angel and Angel EDT, the EDT is more largely an exploration of the concepts underpinning Angel. The differences, the juxtapositions found in Angel are in the EDT, but they’re not quite so jarring. Angel EDT is potent but not as dissonant as Angel. You can wear Angel EDT while easily keeping a little distance from it, as opposed to Angel where it takes effort not to let it wear you.

Angel is memorable to say the least, but it’s not strictly pretty and it certainly doesn’t make any attempts to emulate the botanical or environmental. How many people come to appreciate and/or love Angel after either recoiling from it or being frightened by it? The fact that so many eventually find their way to loving Angel by coming to understand it leads to you to the surprising truth about Angel: Angel is all about ideas. Despite 20 years of association with ditziness, Angel exists as an almost philosophical discussion on juxtaposition in perfumery.  Female vs. male (and everything beyond.) New trends in eating disorders, played out as food (albeit cotton candy) vs. the illusion of food (patchouli x vanilla = chocolate mirage.) Fresh (floral) vs. preserved (mothballs.) Juxtaposition, when modified by sheer volume, another of Angel’s defining attributes, gives a sensation somewhere between power and volatility. It’s mania, rage and instability all in one pretty little bottle. Released in 1992, Angel clearly mastered all the tricks of the 1980s and ran with the ball.

The interesting principle of Angel EDT is that by removing gourmand elements, it ends up more appealingly edible than Angel. Turn the cotton candy down, focus less on the chocolate side of patchouli and the fruit that was always buried joins the added vanilla and is comfortably food-like.

If you’re looking for the conflict, the juxtaposition that makes Angel EDT the conceptual heir to Angel, it’s more noticeable in the late heart and dry-down. Instead of the Angel Death-Match: Diva Floral vs. Ethylmaltol vs. Mothball/Patchouli, which leaves you feeling hungover after five minutes, the EDT has a musk/patchouli question that leaves you wondering. The obvious musk to pair with patchouli would be a berry-sweet, ambery musk that aligns with patchouli’s sweet woodiness. But Angel EDT’s musk, to my nose, is like the sibilant, metallic musk from Mugler’s Cologne. It’s an unexpected (and fantastic!) balance. Patchouli is dense and round; the musk is concise and tight. And while patchouli continues to alter through drydown, the musk is definitively linear. Both are of equal intensity and duration, making the drydown the most captivating part of the ride. When was the last time you heard that said about a mainstream feminine release? The contemporary mainstream feminine perfume strategy, a mix of movie-trailer theory and the fashion zen of transience, is to put the money and the bang up front and to hell with the rest. Angel EDT shucks this wisdom and approaches the drydown with consideration and care. Where Angel’s drydown is essentially a feeling of exhaustion after exhilaration, the EDT’s drydown actually leaves me pensive. 20 years later and Angel is still all about ideas.

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