Fast forward to 1992, the year the original Angel came out. In a post from 2011 about my pre-perfumista perfume-wearing past, I included my purchase of Angel in the 'SA-driven impulse buys at airports' category, in this case Berlin Tegel in December of that year. I can remember the main thrust of the assistant's sales spiel, in which she set about reeling me in with talk of a novel chocolate note. Team that with a curious blue juice and sparkly festive star-shaped bottle, and in the homeward bound pre-Christmas hustle I must have been an easy sale.
Would you look at that list of notes? There is pretty much every flower, fruit and confectionery ingredient known to man in there, with the possible exception of Rice Crispies and nuts.
Top notes: melon, coconut, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, bergamot and cotton candy
Middle notes: honey, apricot, blackberry, plum, orchid, peach, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, red berries and rose
Base notes: tonka bean, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, dark chocolate and caramel.
Now I don't intend to link every review I write of a perfume to memories of a past boyfriend(!), as I recently did in my account of Ruth Mastenbroek's Oxford and the medieval lutinist who forgot he actually was my boyfriend. But I feel moved to mention that Angel is inextricably bound up in my mind with a tempestuous rollercoaster of a relationship in the early 90s. (Please excuse the 'r' word, but it really is most apt.) I felt intensely alive the entire time, but not always in a good way, and when a potted spider plant went flying across the room one morning, narrowly missing my head, I finally upped sticks and left. At one point I even developed an eating disorder, and recall episodes of binging on Thornton's toffees...and well, you can imagine the rest. But how odd that toffee should yet again show up in the context of 'abuse', however administered.
And years later, here I am trying the latest Angel flanker, and trying very hard to keep an open mind. I am grateful to Liz Moores of Papillon for the sample, which I was most eager to try, having heard that several of my fellow bloggers took an instant liking to it.
These are the notes I could find, which are decidedly sparse compared to original Angel!:
Grapefruit, pink peppercorn, hazelnut cream, vetiver, patchouli
Well, well, I wrote that comment about Angel only missing nuts before I found this list!
And despite having the most sensitive grapefruit radar of anyone I know, the opening salvo of Angel Muse is promptly drenched in a sickly nap of candy floss-cum-gooey Ferrero Rocher innards. It is syrupy, but in a hard, cruel way, like the confectionery equivalent of the lava tide that engulfed Pompeii. The vetiver, such as it is, is keeping its head down, but is horribly aware of its impending fate. There is no overtly chocolate note this time, though the patchouli vaguely hints at it. In this case, its purpose is to ground the goo and give it its malevolent heft.
As Angel Muse wears on, the brooding, discordant hostility lifts, and I am left with a wispy gourmand trail not unlike Dries Van Noten, but less nutty. It manages to be distinctive yet inoffensive, but I cannot bond with Angel Muse in its more benign phase, for the damage is done. So yes, Angel Muse 'speaks' to me, and it has indeed inspired this post, but the 'Angel' bit is if anything even more of a misnomer than it was in the case of the original.
|Now with wings!|
As a lover of most gourmand scents, I was frankly surprised at the capacity of Angel Muse to serve up such painful memories in this punch-packing poisoned patisserie of a perfume. As I was mulling over how much of these bad vibes to share with readers, I decided to take a quick scan of other reviews to see whether I was out on a limb with my more downbeat take on Angel Muse, and was heartened to read this assessment by Jtd of Scenthurdle, who also detected a jarring quality:
"Muse streamlines the flavors but not the dissonance. Forget Innocent, Angel EDT and the extrait. Muse is the true successor to Angel."
"Muse is different, creepier. It gives me the shapeless fear of sitting through a dogmatic, atonal modernist piano piece."
Yes to 'dogmatic'! The opening of Muse is arresting, in your face, provocative and intentionally annoying. I don't want to be badgered and bothered by my perfume, thank you very much, even if it does settle down later to something the right side of captivating.
Angel or Angel Muse? Better the devil you know? I think so, for the Angel I just met may be wanner than its gutsy gourmand antecedent, but is on balance worse.
And don't even get me started on that horrid shade of blue, an ill-assorted affront to the copper trim. So here instead is the Blue Copper butterfly, a much lovelier creation in the kingdom of winged things.