Once the big perfume producers get ahold of a brand they usually find a way to ruin it for me. The first step is to take something kind of exclusive and release a bunch of by-the-numbers releases. The fragrances which have Alexander McQueen on the bottle were in that exclusive category of reflecting the influential designer’s aesthetic via scent. Even 2016’s McQueen Parfum managed to feel like it belonged with the earlier releases of Kingdom and My Queen from a decade earlier. One reason that McQueen Perfume worked was that Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen, took an active hand in developing it. She worked with Pierre Aulas as a consultant. When I received the press release announcing eight new releases called the McQueen Collection I worried that the moneychangers had overrun the temple again. The McQueen Collection is eight mostly soliflore style fragrances from eight different perfumers. Overseen by Ms. Burton and M. Aulas I hoped for the best.
This is one of the rare collections where there are far more hits than misses. I will be reviewing many of these over the next few weeks. It should not be surprising to regular readers that the one I was most interested in was Sacred Osmanthus.
The perfumer behind this is Domitille Bertier. The entire McQueen Collection works as a set of simple constructs. Mme Bertier surrounds osmanthus with a gorgeous set of supporting notes. She uses ingredients to accentuate the two faces of osmanthus; apricot and leather.
The perfume opens with the apricot character pushed forward. Mme Bertier cleverly uses petitgrain as a figurative magnifying glass upon the apricot quality. In the first few moments I wondered if there was some apricot itself in the formula. The next two ingredients transform the apricot over to the leather face. First smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea steams up through the apricot. There is a moment it feels like an apricot jam pot is next to a cup of fresh brewed tea. The note which really captures the leather facet is the use of the botanical musk of ambrette seed. Ambrette seed has this vegetal animalic nature which is an ideal complement to the botanical leather of osmanthus. This is where Sacred Osmanthus captured me completely. Cashmeran finishes this off with a lightly woody effect.
Sacred Osmanthus has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Sacred Osmanthus is not as bold a fragrance as the original Alexander McQueen perfumes. If you’re looking for that kind of aggressive aesthetic it won’t be found in any of these new perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a more delicate style of perfume. Which is as it should be in soliflore perfumes. Sacred Osmanthus is a study of the two faces of osmanthus which is more than enough.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Alexander McQueen.
There is a series of commercials in the US where they show one half of a married couple acting like their mother or father. I’m getting old enough it isn’t my parents I’m acting like but my grandparents. My grandmother used to always see the potential bad outcome to everything. If there were 99 ways things could go right she would make sure to mention the one which would be terrible. She always looked for the warning signs of the disaster she knew was right around the corner. I’ve watched the decay of some of the great perfume brands into happy mediocrity, or worse, over the last few years that my grandmother’s voice greets every stumble by my very favorite brands. I’ve spent a couple of months with Mugler Alien Man trying to decide what it portends.
Mugler is one of the great perfume brands ever. It is the product of consistent creative direction by Pierre Aulas and Thierry Mugler which has always gleefully gone against the grain. If I say Angel, A*Men, and Alien to you if you are a perfume fan you’ve tried them or smelled them on another person; and you are not indifferent about the way you feel about it. It has been the Mugler credo to ask perfume aficionados to come over to their way of thinking. If there was a bit of change it maybe came with last year’s release of Aura. It felt like the Mugler attempt to woo the younger perfume generation. It definitely had a presence just one lighter in character. I liked it better the more time I spent with it. Which is why it has taken me so long to write this review I expected Alien Man to win me over.
Alien Man, I think, wants to be the counterpart to Aura on the masculine side of the fragrance counter. Perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault puts together something which is so typical of the other perfumes in this sector; that was the main surprise. Except for the top accord which is where there may have been an attempt at something Mugler-like which just doesn’t come together.
The top accord is named “The Electronic Vibration”. It definitely does not shock it doesn’t even sizzle a bit. M. Herault creates an herbal dill opposite apricot and anise. This was unpleasant for me, reminding me of a refrigerator crisper door where the dill and the apricot got left together. I gritted my teeth every time to get through to the heart. There I found a refined leather accord which is great but nothing different than many others out there. Pairing it with osmanthus to bridge the apricot and leather is also as typical as it gets. If I was waiting for a surprise ending beechwood and white amber provide another reminder of many other perfumes out there.
Alien Man has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I’m not sure if Alien Man is a warning sign, or not. There were many who thought Womanity was a warning sign eight years ago; and were wrong. I also wonder if that top accord just never coalesced into that envelope pushing style Mugler is known for. Time will tell if this is the beginning of something or just a stumble.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
Thierry Mugler fragrances have a dear place in my fragrance library. A*Men and many of the outstanding flankers, the proto gourmand Angel, and the proto Cologne Nouveau Thierry Mugler Cologne. Any single brand which claims these kind of innovations is one to look for as the new generation of fragrance buyers look for one of the fragrances which might define them. The answer from this brand is the new pillar perfume Thierry Mugler Aura.
When I saw the bottle for the first time I was reminded of the emerald they were searching for in the 1984 movie “Romancing the Stone”. You can see them side-by-side above. Longtime Thierry Mugler fragrance creative director Pierre Aulas assembled a team of Firmenich perfumers; Daphne Bugey, Amandine Clerc-Marie, Christophe Raynaud, and Marie Salamagne.
Aura comes off as a bit of an experimental fragrance as two Firmenich exclusive materials are used one called Wolfwood and the other given a code name of Tiger Liana. Wolfwood has little information available beyond it is a woody aromachemical. Tiger Liana on the other hand sounds much more interesting. According to Firmenich it is extracted from the root of an unidentified Chinese medicinal root. It is described as smelling “botanical, animalic, and smoky”. I was going to have to figure out what these new ingredients to me were adding in the spaces between the other listed notes I know.
I have mentioned in the past that most of the brands have made an early determination that millennials want a light floral gourmand. The Aura creative team provides exactly that. What makes it stand out is the inclusion of the new materials. I will be guessing what exactly they bring to the overall experience but they have a profound effect.
The first thing I notice is a slightly cleaned-up orange blossom. The indoles are kept to a level such that they are a background hum underneath the transparent floral quality. What is paired with it at first is a tart rhubarb. This rhubarb accentuates the green tinted citrus nature and the sulfurous quality, like the indoles, are pushed far to the background. Then a humid green note intersperses itself; based on the description I am guessing this is the Tiger Liana. It smells like damp green foliage, at first, in a good way as it adds some weight to a fragrance which has been very light to this point. Then beneath the green the promised animalic and smokiness is also simmering beneath it all right next to the indoles and sulfur. It is a clever way to add in a deep set of notes to provide detail without giving them the room to be more pervasive. The smokiness gets more pronounced which I think might be the Wolfwood. It could be how Tiger Liana develops too. A haze of smoke is what leads to the base of a rich opaque vanilla on a woody base. It is a comforting finish.
Aura has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I must give M. Aulas and the team of perfumers credit they have made a perfume that is indelibly Thierry Mugler that has a great opportunity of romancing the millennials to the brand.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Thierry Mugler.
The most successful line of flankers might be the Thierry Mugler A*Men series begun in 2008 with A*Men Pure Coffee. Over six successive releases spaced about a year apart perfumer Jacques Huclier has successfully added in the listed “Pure” ingredient all while staying true to his original A*Men from 1996. The variation in these perfumes comes in the opening two thirds of development. All of them end on the very familiar A*Men base of caramel, chocolate, and vanilla. That sort of composition can have a sameness to it over time. For the newest addition to the line, called A*Men Pure Wood, M. Huclier decides to make this the least unlike the original or any of the previous Pure releases.
Creative Director Pierre Aulas has overseen the entire line of flankers and he has done a tremendous job at guiding M. Huclier on how to add in a disparate ingredient into the existing A*Men framework. The only complete miss for me was 2011’s A*Men Taste of Fragrance which has waggishly been named Pure Chili because M. Huclier tried to add in spicy red pepper and it just didn’t feel like it belonged. When it works, with Pure Coffee or Pure Malt, the addition illuminates something different about A*Men. If there has been one consistent drawback for some it is the sheer power and projection of A*Men and its flankers. For those who have wished for an A*Men which is a little easier to wear and a little less prominent to those around you Pure Wood might fit the bill.
M. Huclier keeps the composition of Pure Wood very simple and that works to its favor. The promised wood is an oak and cypress blend. I like the choice because the oak adds brawn while the cypress is a bit more blonde and fun. Early on coffee is the note which interacts with the woods. It is not as rich in character as you might expect. M. Huclier uses the oak as foundation and allows the cypress and coffee the space to become more expansive over the early going. Instead of going for the fully gourmand A*Men base M. Huclier dials it down a lot as he pairs vanilla with patchouli. For those who love that gourmand base the vanilla plus the patchouli form a sort of chocolate accord which makes it seem like a member of the A*Men family. I have to say while I was wearing it I kept sort of expecting the caramel and chocolate to come rushing in. The fact that M. Huclier left them out is what makes Pure Wood less extroverted than the rest of the line.
A*Men Pure Wood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Pure Wood goes to the top of the A*Men list to stand next to Pure Coffee and Pure Malt. It is the most different structurally from any of the other flankers and it is that difference which makes it interesting to me. If you’ve always wanted a lighter version of A*Men I think Pure Wood might be that perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Pure Wood I purchased.