Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In a nutshell: Thierry Mugler's Cologne

Mugler Cologne can be a disappointment to those expecting an eau de cologne in the classic style: fresh, fleeting, natural-smelling, and citrusy. This is the eau de cologne George Jetson might wear, with a deliberately synthetic space-age feel and an incredibly tenacious base of white (some say "laundry") musk. The citrus at the top (bergamot, lime) is a bit of a tease, as it gives way almost immediately to a green, soapy skin scent, with a touch of neroli and vetiver to give some floral/earthy interest to the central musk accord. This is the cleanest musk possible; moreover, there's a particular aromachemical in the mix that smells deliberately and uncannily of hot, metallic steam, like that from a clothing iron (or, as one Basenotes user put it, the smell of shower fog on a bathrooom mirror). This accord immediately sets Mugler Cologne apart from the pack of similarly fresh, soapy citrus fragrances, and nearly raises it to the level of a concept scent. The end result of this wackiness is that, hours after spraying, you smell like you've just stepped out of a hot shower with a grassy, spicy soap. Works unbelievably, mind-bogglingly well in the sweltering heat of July, but Cologne is a welcome, wonderful scent any time of year.

In a nutshell: Le Labo's Patchouli 24

Mercurial, shimmering, Gareth Pugh-esque (ie. on the razor's edge of wearability) composition from that mistress of the weird and wonderful, Annick Menardo. Explodes off the skin with a mix of lapsang souchong tea (read: campfire), cedar, patchouli (it's there, look harder), gasoline, and a bone-dry vanilla that somehow blends perfectly with the smoky salvo. Much like Menardo's Black for Bulgari, 24 is a bipolar shape-shifter, seeming sweet and sultry one minute, coarse and carcinogenic the next. Unlike the easygoing Black, though, 24 can be fickle: The drydown occasionally calls to mind a glass of flat, watered-down root beer into which someone's extinguished a cigarette. But when it works, Patchouli 24 is nothing short of relevatory, a delicously dark confection with a rich presence and phenomenal staying power. Not for all tastes, but a masterwork regardless.