Since 2016 I have been watching the popular perfume brands come to grips with the current trend for lighter more transparent fragrances. Each of them has chosen their own path with varying degrees of success. At this point their choices have become evident. Thierry Mugler has made one of the more interesting choices. If you want to lighten up your perfumes you should also do it with a palpable smile. Thierry Mugler Angel Nova continues to achieve that.
The original Angel is nobody’s idea of a light perfume although the spirit behind it was fun. In 2016 perfumer Quentin Bisch laid down the marker on the new Angel with Angel Muse. It has continued through two iterations of Angel Eau Croisiere and Eau Croisiere II. Those perfumes are made for nights on holiday. They are also intelligently designed perfumes. Angel Nova picks up on all of this with a team of M. Bisch, Louise Turner, and Sonia Constant collaborating.
One of the hallmarks of this current generation of Angel flankers is they have been simple constructs. Angel Nova is three keynotes of raspberry, rose, and akigalawood. There are a couple of supporting ingredients which add to the complete piece, but it is predominantly those three.
It opens with a juicy raspberry given a syrupy finish through lychee. It made me think of opening a can of lychee and finding raspberries covered in the syrup. This is the kind of value added of a clever supporting note. It leads into a rich rose living up to its jammy adjective. I know you read this and think light, how could this be light. It is a remarkably transparent effect. It is capped with the spicy patchouli analog of akaigalawood adding an echo back to the original with its own patchouli inspired base. Some benzoin completes that base accord.
Angel Nova has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is another perfume full of joy. I keep looking forward to these Angel flankers because they all manage to find a way to have fun without becoming inane. Perhaps because they know the secret on how to lighten up their perfumes.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Thierry Mugler.
This year I tried 680 new perfumes which wasn’t even half of all the new perfume that was released. The Top 25 below represent the top 3.7% of all that I tried.
Alessandro Brun, Me, and Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.) of Masque Milano
The Top 5 (Perfume of the Year Candidates)
5. Thierry Mugler Angel Muse– Two of the most iconic landmark fragrances ever took it upon themselves to re-invent themselves for a new generation. Perfumer Quentin Bisch didn’t just change the gourmand template begun with 1992’s Angel he sent it off in an entirely new direction with Angel Muse. It is easy to see Angel Muse as a softer unplugged version of Angel with its vetiver and hazelnut cream core. If you look at it that way you miss the complete transformation of the pyramid without ever being anything less than a relative of the original.
4. Faths Essentials Green Water– I love the original Jacques Fath Green Water it is one of my favorite perfumes no matter what year. I worked hard to find as pristine a vintage bottle as I could. Which was why when I sat down to try the Cecile Zarokian supervised re-formulation I expected a watered-down shadow. Instead I found probably the best re-formulation of a classic vintage perfume I can recall. It started with the simplest of choices not skimping on the concentration of neroli oil; matching the percentage in the original. This was not economical but Mme Zarokian convinced creative director Raina Naim it was necessary. In many ways, the fresh snappy quality of the 2016 version is more appealing than the well-aged and macerated vintage versions. There is a time and place for both but there is no embarrassment having them side-by-side on my shelf.
3. The Different Company Adjatay– Simple was the by-word with the 2016 release from The Different Company. Creative Director Luc Gabriel had gone on a trip and left some actual tuberose in his well-worn leather traveling case. When he took it out again he realized that smell he encountered needed to become a perfume. He asked Alexandra Monet to find the balance between tuberose and leather he had experienced. It is an ever-evolving battle through the early going with tuberose on top at first before the leather gains the upper hand finally achieving a balance between the two. If it wasn’t for Adjatay my luggage would all have tuberose inside.
2. Zoologist Perfumes Bat– Almost literally the first new perfume I tried in 2016. From that point every one of the successive perfumes I tried had a very difficult bar to hurdle. Owner/creative director Victor Wong continuing his efforts of working with the best artisanal perfumers collaborated with Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids. Dr. Covey had done some field studies of bats in the wild and had a good idea what should be in Bat. Mr. Wong creditably allowed Bat to evolve into a perfume which was true to both of their visions. I have had the most fun handing Bat to people throughout the year. Most gravitate to it immediately; but it is the ones who at first are unsure and over time keep returning to the strip before finally picking up the sample and spraying it on that make me smile widest. Bat is everything Independent Niche Perfumery should be about.
Here are the rest of the Top 25 in Alphabetical Order
Aeon 001– Another early year release all about a unique take on smoky vetiver. The name of the perfumer was held back until it sold out. When it turned out to be Bogue Profumo’s Antonio Gardoni it wasn’t a giant surprise.
Amouage Lilac Love– I have lauded creative director Christopher Chong for defining the boundaries of perfumery. Working with perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Elise Benat he turned Lilac Love into a gentle lilac tinted nudge towards the greater Amouage collection while maintaining that DNA.
Arquiste El & Ella– My only cheat this year but I couldn’t separate the two new releases from Arquiste. Creative director Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux take us back to 1970’s Jet Set Acapulco for a hot night contrasting chypre, Ella, and fougere El, all reflected through a mirror ball of cardamom and honey.
Atelier Cologne Citron D’Erable– Jerome Epinette’s twenty-third perfume for Atelier Cologne finds creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel saluting Canada with a mixture of maple syrup and citrus. It makes Citron D’Erable a citrus cologne for cold weather.
Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve– This probably should have been number 5A on this list; that’s how close it was to being in the Top 5. Creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont continues his collaboration with perfumer Marie Salamagne to create the best of this very good brand, to date, with this musky iris that warms the soul.
Byredo La Botte– The Night Veils Collection within Byredo was begun late in 2015. This year the three releases explored the different versions of leather. Creative director Ben Gorham and perfumer Jerome Epinette turned the one celebrating the leather boot into a real kick.
Cadavre Exquis– There were many interesting collaborations in the indie artisanal world this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari did a trans-Atlantic examination of the gourmand. It provocatively reminds you that camphor is a gourmand note. Everything I love about the artisanal mindset is on display here.
Chanel No. 5 L’Eau– Scariest press release line of the year “Chanel No. 5 re-interpreted for a younger generation”. Olivier Polge showed me my fear was misplaced with a fresh take on the grand parfum that lost nothing and maybe gained a generation of new admirers of the brand.
Dasein Winter Nights– Another artisanal collaboration between Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors and Sam Rader of Dasein. Making an evolution of Ms. Rader’s first release Winter in to a Holiday bonfire at Big Sur was a triumph.
Diptyque Kimonanthe– 2016 was deep in great osmanthus perfumes. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin took an opulent osmanthus and dusted it with the Japanese powdered incense, zukoh. Kimonanthe was the best osmanthus perfume of 2016.
DS & Durga Radio Bombay– Perfumer David Seth Moltz deconstructs sandalwood in a compelling way. As the entropy takes place on my skin I kept trying to tune the signal back in which is why this was one of my favorites.
DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison– Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s work with the Denver Art Museum on their Monet installation last year led to this. La Belle Saison is Ms. Hurwitz’s version of an impressionistic lilac perfume.
Eris Parfums Night Flower– Barbara Herman is another who has successfully made the leap from enthusiast to creative director. All three of her debut Eris Parfums with perfumer Antoine Lie were excellent but it was Night Flower which really reminded me of how they used to make ‘em.
Galop D’Hermes– Even though it was the second perfume Christine Nagel released in her new post as in-house perfumer at Hermes Galop D’Hermes was where she planted her flag in the ground. By retaining the lighter tone the brand has been known for while changing it to her style made Galop the place where generations changed at Hermes.
Hiram Green Arbole Arbole– One of the best all-natural perfumes I’ve encountered in a long time by one of the most talented young independent perfumers, Hiram Green. The smell of being high in an olive tree next to a fresh-faced girl wearing powder. I have spent hours enjoying the places in between in this perfume.
House of Matriarch Kazimi– Christi Meshell has made the courageous move with her independent brand House of Matriarch bringing it to Nordstrom’s all over the US. With Kazimi she is leading with some of her best work ever. Fingers crossed some of the mall shoppers agree with me.
Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge– The continuing story of Jul et Mad co-founders Julien Blanchard and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard continues into their honeymoon with this perfume of travel and love composed by Luca Maffei.
Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO– Creative director Roberto Drago working with perfumer Luca Maffei creates a carnal lily more in keeping with O’Keeffe than the funeral home.
Olfactive Studio Close-Up– I have long worn this brand’s Lumiere Blanche as my favorite. Close-Up has replaced it as creative director Celine Verleure and perfumer Annick Menardo combine cherry, tobacco, coffee, and patchouli into something I want to keep close-up all the time.
Puredistance Sheiduna– I appreciate brands which are willing to change a well-known architecture. Creative director Jan Ewoud Vos and perfumer Cecile Zarokian take the traditional Oriental and dry it out with abandon. Never has the Orient seemed so modern.
The Final Cuts (The 20 perfumes which just missed the Top 25)
In 1992 Thierry Mugler Angel invented the gourmand fragrance category. Composed by young perfumer Olivier Cresp it was almost a creation that could only come from a precocious talent still discovering his own boundaries. Since the massive success of Angel the gourmand sector has grown every year. If there is a quarrel I have with it, and it is a small one, there is a tendency for new releases to tilt towards bombastic sweetness. That is probably as much a nod to the concept that they are trying to woo Angel lovers to something similarly as intense as anything else. Now in 2016 we see the original innovator return to the gourmand scene with an equally precocious talent with Thierry Mugler Angel Muse.
That talent is Quentin Bisch who, like M. Cresp was in 1992 at Quest, is in the early days of his career with Givaudan. He is one of that coterie of creatives I think of as Young Guns. Incredibly talented, honing his talents by working in all sectors from bargain to high-end niche. M. Bisch has already created a portfolio of memorable perfumes. With Angel Muse he has perhaps provided a path to a modern gourmand aka gourmand 2.0.
Angel is a powerhouse. Most of the flankers of Angel have worked less to attenuate the presence; instead looking to explore facets hidden deep beneath all of the chocolate and patchouli. Angel Muse is something much less powerful. It definitely has presence. It also has a comfortable geniality to it that I would never describe Angel as having. Angel asks you to take it or leave it on its own terms. Angel Muse sidles up next to you asking you, politely, to pull it closer. M. Bisch completely transforms the pyramid of Angel while still reminding me that this is a blood relative.
Angel Muse starts with a sly wink to the original as a flare of ethyl maltol imparts the cotton candy smell it is known for. It goes away as M. Bisch begins a savorier exploration of sweet. The first two notes are called “raspberry jam” and “strawberry jam”. What this means is M. Bisch takes raspberry ketone and the strawberry aromachemical aldehyde c14 and ensnares them in a matrix which contains their natural exuberance. These notes fill up rooms when used in high concentration. I am guessing in Angel Muse M. Bisch is using a smaller percentage, just enough to know they are there but not so much to be cantankerous. This is what makes them jammy instead of just raspberry and strawberry. It is also the initial indication Angel Muse is all about affability instead of confrontation. Then Angel Muse makes its biggest change as M. Bisch jettisons the chocolate and patchouli for creamy hazelnut and vetiver. In many of the niche gourmand perfumes that have followed Angel, vetiver has been found to be a good partner to sweeter accords. M. Bisch has used that information to create the new gourmand power duo. The hazelnut is softer. The nutty quality is just right embedded in a creamy cocktail of lactones. Vetiver provides the green woody contrast which makes the cream and the nuttiness stand out. Later the hazelnut transforms to something similar to a praline as the nutty and the woody predominate over the final hours.
Angel Muse has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage but not the nuclear sillage of Angel.
There seems to be a thought out there that millennials are looking for a gourmand fragrance to call their own. Much like Angel did in the 1990’s Angel Muse could become the perfume for this new generation of perfume lovers. If that is the case, you can count me as one for whom that would make happy. Gourmand is a perfume style which seems ripe for innovation. I can hope the other Young Guns might also take a shot at the same style. I know that M. Bisch has defined gourmand 2.0 in Angel Muse. It is hopefully the beginning of a new era for gourmands.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Macy’s.