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.

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