The Guest Nose: Thierry Mugler Angel Eau de Toilette

by jtd

As a rule, flankers suck, and it’s tiring to see them follow such predictable patterns:
X Cool
Eau d’X
X Sport
X Light
Voile d’X
X Fleur d’Iris (de Jasmin, de Rose…)
X Ice
X Summer Edition
X Chérie
X Extreme
Nuit d’X
X Noir (Rouge, Vert, Blanc…)
That list took me 30 seconds and not one of the flanker names is intentionally ironic. Which is more disconcerting: a bad perfume followed by ten flankers -- or a good one? Niche sometimes comes up with cleverer names, but it’s the same schtick as the larger mainstream releases.

God knows Thierry Mugler has milked the Angel cow. Yet it’s commonly accepted that no flanker has ever equaled or surpassed the original. 20 years down the road from the urAngel Eau de Parfum, Mugler has issued the latest iteration of copycat: the concentration flanker. But breaking the aforementioned rule, Angel Eau de Toilette is a smart, tidy and lovely reflection on the original. Mugler seems to have learned a lesson from the errors of the legion of Angel imitators, from Nuits de Noho to Flowerbomb to Pink Sugar, and doesn’t simply make proportion changes to the sweet/gourmand notes of the original.

Although there are similar elements between Angel EDP (hereafter referred to as “Angel”) and Angel EDT, the EDT is an exploration of the concepts underpinning Angel. The differences, the juxtapositions found in Angel are in the EDT, but they’re not quite so jarring. Angel EDT is potent, but not as dissonant as Angel. You can wear Angel EDT while easily keeping a little distance from it, as opposed to Angel where it takes effort not to let it wear you.

Eva Mendes is not an ideal place to store your Angel EDT: décolletage too warm, halo too bright.

While emphatically memorable, Angel isn't strictly pretty and it certainly doesn’t make any attempts to emulate the botanical or environmental. How many people come to appreciate, even love Angel after either recoiling from it or being frightened by it? The fact that so many eventually find their way to loving Angel leads one to the surprising truth about this misrepresented, misunderstood perfume: Angel is all about ideas.

Released in 1992, Angel mastered all the tricks of the 1980s and ran with the ball. Despite 20 years of association with ditziness, Angel exists as an almost philosophical discussion on juxtaposition in perfumery. Female vs. male (and everything beyond.) New trends in eating disorders, played out as food (albeit cotton candy) vs. the illusion of food (patchouli x vanilla = chocolate mirage.) Fresh (floral) vs. preserved (mothballs.) Juxtaposition, when modified by sheer volume, another of Angel’s defining attributes, produces a sensation somewhere between power and volatility. It’s mania, rage and instability in one pretty little bottle.

It is the perfume spokesmodel's job to convey mania, rage and instability.

The interesting principle of Angel EDT is that by removing gourmand elements, it ends up more appealingly edible than Angel. Turn the cotton candy down, focus less on patchouli's chocolate side, and the fruit that was underneath all of that joins the added vanilla to become comfortably food-like.

Mendes: comfortably food-like in her freshness chamber.

If you’re looking for the conflict, the juxtaposition that makes Angel EDT the conceptual heir to Angel, it’s more noticeable in the late heart and drydown. Instead of the Angel death match -- the Diva Floral vs. Ethyl Maltol vs. Patchouli Mothball which leaves you feeling hungover after five minutes -- the EDT has a musk/patchouli question that leaves you wondering. The obvious musk to pair with patchouli would be a berry-sweet, ambery musk that aligns with patchouli’s sweet woodiness. But Angel EDT’s musk, to my nose, is the sibilant, metallic musk from Mugler’s Cologne. It’s an unexpected (and fantastic!) balance. The patchouli is dense and round; the musk is concise and tight.

And while patchouli continues to alter through drydown, the musk is definitively linear. Both are of equal intensity and duration, making the drydown the most captivating part of the ride. When was the last time anyone said that about a mainstream feminine release? The contemporary mainstream feminine perfume strategy, a mix of movie-trailer theory and the fashion zen of transience, is to put the bang up front and to hell with the rest. Angel EDT shucks this wisdom and approaches the drydown with consideration and care. Where Angel’s drydown is essentially exhaustion after exhilaration, the EDT’s drydown actually leaves me pensive. 20 years on, and Angel is still all about ideas.

Angel Eau de Toilette is available from and, starting at $63 for 1.4 oz


  1. Thanks for the post; I’m a fan of your other reviews too.

    If Tania Sanchez thinks Angel is a joke, it’s one I didn’t get for a long time, although full credit to Mugler for establishing a whole genre of perfume that no one even knew they needed until it arrived, and for designing some of my favourite flacons (though not sure about this latest one).

    I also agree with you in general that ‘no flanker has ever equaled or surpassed the original,’ but another exception that perhaps proves the rule is Hypnotic Poison.

    Possessing neither her sister’s shoulder pads nor her outspoken temperament, Hypnotic Poison is so much darker and tempting, she was perhaps an adopted sister, or Poison’s secret alter ego. I presume HP was launched under the Poison name just to give her a healthy kick start from the off.

    Either way, I definitely prefer the flanker to the original in this case.

    1. Roland, it took me a couple of re-readings to figure out that by "no flanker has ever equaled or surpassed the original", jtd specifically means Angel. (I think. Correct me if I'm wrong, jtd!) Because like you, I was first all: "Nuh UH! What about Womanity Taste of Fragrance, Mister!"

  2. HI, Roland & Katie. Now you've both got me thinking. K, you're right that I did mean no Angel flanker had ever equalled the original Angel edp. (Of course this hasn't stopped me from wearing Angel La Rose today.) But R, it's an interesting notion to compare flankers of any perfumer to their originals. My bet is that the ratio of flanker champions will be about like that in film, with a Godfather II or The Empire Strikes Back every now and then, but an awful lot of Jaws/Jaws 3D (great movie; cheap, cynical sequel) and Saw 1-12 (flankers that follow an awful original.) I guess that by extension, Etat Libre follows the career of John Waters.

    Just taking a quick look through my collection I realize I don't have many flankers. Angel La Rose, interesting for the fact that rose and patchouli are a traditional pairing but in this case are in an odd setting. Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's reserve, sensational. Then I have Mugler's a Travers le Miroir which is one in a series of 4 perfumes but not really a flanker. In a review on Basenotes of Womanity, I bemoaned what I saw as the conceptual watering down of the Mugler perfume line, but I'm encouraged by Angel edt.

    What about you both? Have any good flankers?

    1. Aaaaah…thanks for setting me straight…gotcha!

      The first (change of concentration) flanker that comes to mind is Insolence EdP, which I’m crazy about. Somehow it has the guts to be trashy and proud, which works, whilst its EdT predecessor falls flat on its ditzy face.

      Maurice Roucel…you are my hero…yet again!

      It takes some doing to get me to fall in love with a fruity floral. I think the reason is similar to your take on Angel, though: there is a glorious contradiction with Insolence EdP in that its infectious, ‘happy go lucky’ charm only convinces thanks to a structure and attention to detail so exquisitely fine-tuned that it puts many perfumes that like to think they’re all that to shame. (ahem…Clive Christian) Would Patsy have been so Absolutely Fabulous had she not been played by such a revered stage actress as Joanna Lumley?

      This good time girl gets my vote any day.

  3. PS, Roland. Insightful point about Mugler giving the world a perfume it couldn't have imagined it needed. It would be interesting to see a thorough analysis of the perfume, its marketing and the changes in its demographics/audience over time. How has a perfume that has been copied serially, relentlessly for 20 years maintained its momentum?

  4. I'm taking out my small bottle of original Angel to sample,and I agree that it's such an endearing blend of strange notes. It could be the smell of the aftermath of a conflagration that engulfed a Hersheys factory and a neighbouring Polo mint facility ,while also burning up part of a nearby landfill.

    And the searing white menthol note reminds me of the white-hot tuberose-gardenia pairing in another blockbuster : Giorgio Beverly Hills, but there's no other similarity between these two giants apart,perhaps,from the suggestion of ripe fruit in the latter.

    I would love to get my hands on the EDT to compare,but unfortunately, TM has decided to match the price of the new to the exorbitant one of the original...over $60 for only 40ml of an EDT? No way!

  5. Rollickingly good review - loved the Eva Mendes cleavage comment!

    And what's not to love about "a sibilant, metallic musk" or a "pensive drydown"? I am a fan of all things sibilant, "susurration" being a particular favourite. And fricatives are pretty freakin' fun too. : - )