Non UK readers may be unaware that Marmite spread has a love/hate ad campaign. There’s no middle ground. You either love Marmite or you hate it. Thierry Mugler Angel is the same. Angel’s critics are as vehement as its fans. In the perfume industry however, it is regarded as a masterpiece. Even hard to please Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez gave it five stars in Perfumes The Guide.
In 2007, Angel was the recipient of the FiFi Hall of Fame Award, an accolade not given lightly. Sales show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Its creator, Olivier Cresp, will be remembered more for Angel than he will for the rest of his illustrious back catalogue, which is outstanding even without the success of Angel.
So why the hate? Well, it’s strong. It’s uncompromising. It doesn’t disappear after ten minutes and it has sillage that could floor a man at twenty paces. It is a Gourmand Patchouli of all things i.e spiky but chocolately. Caramel and Vanilla with prickles. Gourmand smells alongside Patchouli confuse my palate and make me feel like I am eating perfume or snorting food. Sensory confusion is not my thing. (I will make an exception for Coromandel, see my earlier review)
So why the love? See above: strong, uncompromising, doesn’t disappear after ten minutes… Some people say that Angel trod the path for the popularity of Gourmands. In fact, Fragrantica lists no fewer than 24 notes for Angel, including Bergamot, Peach, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Melon, Roses and Blackberries- not one of which I could detect.
When I first tried it shortly after its debut in 1992 (in the Harrods Perfume Hall no less, get me!), the displays were huge. It was the Next Big Thing. Jerry Hall, model du jour in ’92, made it her signature scent and mentioned it in all her interviews. Everybody wanted it. Every magazine carried the ads for it.
I tried it on my wrist and walked away to consider it. What did I get? Chocolate and… Talc? Cologne? In hindsight I know it was Patchouli but did not identify it back then as a 22 year old.
I tried again a few months later: Chocolate and Caramel. I tried again no less than twenty years later. It still made me smell as if I had just finished my shift on the production line in a Thornton’s Chocolate Factory. Big thumbs down. And yet I regularly walk through clouds of this in pubs, on High Streets and in restaurants. I can recognise it from a mile off. Millions of women love Angel, but I’m not one of them. My husband, on smelling this, grimaced and said “Eurgh, that’s what the train smells like in the morning”.
There comes a time in life when you realise that you are outnumbered by the number of people who disagree with you and so it may well be you who is in the wrong. However, in fragrance, as I have said before, there is no right or wrong, only your response. So my response is not wrong- I cannot bear this! The vast cohorts of Angel fans tells me that others see this rather differently. Its success, and the admiration of its peers, tell me that its apologists are not wrong either. As for me: well, I don’t “get” Angel. It’s as if the joke’s on me
If you love this, good luck to you. If you don’t, that’s OK too. However, I have yet to meet anyone who stands in the No Mans Land between the two camps and just says “it’s not bad, I wear it sometimes, it’s OK”. And that, my fragrant friends, is why I call it Marmite. I would never, ever spend money on a bottle of Thierry Mugler Angel. And for every woman like me, there is another who swears by it and who would never, ever let herself run out of it.
EDIT: Since writing this I have become secretly obsessed with Angel and wear little samples of it around the house. We’re definitely on flirtation terms now. Never say never.