Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fresh's Cannabis Santal

Well, not really. The "cannabis" smells more like hemp, if anything - a sweet, earthy, hay-like accord, lovely but hardly the sickly, skunk-like reek of marijuana, smoked or otherwise. And the santal - sandalwood - mostly sings backup harmony rather than taking center stage as its top billing would suggest. (Frankly, patchouli and coumarin are the real stars of this show.) But regardless of its slight identity crisis, Cannabis Santal works beautifully, offering a warm, pillowy blend of sweet comfort with just the right amount of dirt.

The opening is a delightful kitchen-door waft of plums, peaches, and strawberries, caramelized and autumnally spiced. The sweetness threatens to cloy, but it's kept in check by the aforementioned hay - sorry, cannabis, man - and a patchouli that pulls off the hat trick of being both earthy and restrained. This patchouli isn't of the musty, trunk-in-the-attic variety (see Clinique's Aromatics Elixir and the original Prada), nor is it that squeaky-clean "modern" patchouli, borne of test tubes and omnipresent in perfumes aimed at young tartlets who want something only mildly suggestive beneath their bubbling flowers and fruit. This is a smooth, decadent patchouli, redolent of the forest floor yet elegant enough for cocktail hour. The combination of patchouli, fruit, a dash of cocoa, a veil of tangy vetiver, and a taffy-like coumarin backbone - and, oh yeah, a bit of sandalwood - gives Cannabis Santal more than a passing resemblance to none other than Thierry Mugler's Angel. The olfactory tug of war between dry and diabetic is less baroque and vivid here, and there's no cotton candy machine in sight, but the comparison is hard to dismiss. Where Cannabis Santal differs crucially, though, is in its intent: Angel blares and demands attention, Cannabis Santal is content to draw you in. (Both scream to be eaten.)

Cannabis Santal is an eau de parfum, and has terrific lasting power but polite sillage after the first 20 minutes or so. (It also clings to clothes for days, so you'd better be a patchouli fan.) Upon its release, it was marketed to men, somewhat bafflingly given its sweet nature and lack of traditionally "macho" notes of citrus, aromatics, and wood. Plenty of women adopted it regardless, at least judging by reviews on MakeupAlley, and it seems to have found a cult fan base of women and men alike. Its appeal is skewed more niche than mainstream, and it comes off as a bit of an oddball at times, which suits me - and Cannabis Santal - just fine. (Groovy.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thierry Mugler's Angel Eau de Toilette

On the heels of a brand-new marketing campaign for Thierry Mugler's perennial bestseller Angel (featuring the buxom Eva Mendes, no stranger to perfume advertising) comes an Eau de Toilette variation of the original Eau de Parfum. This isn't the first time Angel has been been lightened and freshened for those who can't stomach the brash and heady original - 1999's Angel Innocent presented a softer, more childlike vision of similar gourmandise, and 2007's Eau de Star was Angel on the beach sipping a watermelon daiquiri - but it's the first to be presented on equal footing with its predecessor, and is expected to be a permanent addition to the Mugler lineup. We may as well find out what we're in for now, before our noses are assaulted from passersby trailing a drugstore-candy version of the stench that wafts from your local Bath and Body Works and pervades for miles. Angel Eau de Toilette is not a shy creature, but nor is it particularly unique.

The opening is familiar; Angel's signature camphoraceous chocolate-and-cotton-candy stew makes its presence known at first spritz, here done with a somewhat lighter hand and made fresher and more berry-like. The cotton candy fades, the chocolate stays a mere whisper, and a fruity/soapy/floral heart accord barges in, calling to mind that shower gel you bought at the Body Shop because it was on sale and came with a free tube of lip balm. Angel's patchouli undercarriage - the most divisive aspect of a fragrance full of them - is here, but cleaner and less earthy, and there's no coumarin to soften and thicken the overriding sweetness and light (coumarin was the unsung hero of the original Angel's composition, lending a taffy-like chewiness and pipe-tobacco density to the saccharine top notes). As the fragrance fades the patchouli becomes more evident, but it's still too inconsequential to make much of an impression. The drydown supposedly contains cedar, but then, BBW's Twilight Woods was supposedly a dark, forest-floor scent and contained enough sugar to send an elephant into a coma. Angel EdT is working with a similar palette, the Sweet Oriental Lite selection, and it's a little disappointing.

Angel EdT's most grievous error, though, is in choosing to smell like nothing you haven't smelled before. Say what you will about 1992's Angel - and most of you reading this surely already have - but it wasn't just unique, it was from another planet. It broke nearly every rule in the playbook and shook the perfume industry to its core. It attracted and repelled in equal measure, and eventually took over the world through sheer force of personality and brutish charm. Lighting can't strike twice, and Angel's many imitators have somewhat dulled its shock-of-the-new effect circa 2011, but couldn't Mugler have stepped up to the plate and delivered something a little less generic? Angel Eau de Toilette is safe and middling, and while admirably less "edible" than might be expected from such a venture, it's still too sweet and juvenile for most anyone over 18. I do predict it will sell like hotcakes, and the bottle is certainly an eye-catcher, but I'll be shocked if this Eau de Toilette elicits anywhere near the love-or-hate reception of the Eau de Parfum; it's a bland, watercolor recreation of a true pioneer that deserves better. Wearing it, I longed for nothing more than to be wrapped in a cloud of the original - or failing that, a shower.