One Thousand Scents

Friday, May 29, 2009

Drink Up: Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Malt

I don't know the first thing about whiskey, or whisky, for all that. Okay, that's not absolutely true: being a finicky language maven, I do know that Scotch whisky is spelled without the "-e-", Irish whiskey with, and god help you if you get it wrong. But as for the drinks I know nothing, because I'm just not a drinker: I may have tried whiskey or whisky in the past, though more likely not, and if I did, I don't remember it, but I bet I didn't like it. I have friends who are more sophisticated about beverages: Trish and Steve know a thing or ten about wine, and Ralph can tell you about the various peaty and smoky qualities of whiskies.

So I'm not the best person in the world to be talking about the new Mugler scent, A*Men Pure Malt, which is based on whiskey and created with whiskey-making techniques (people who were thinking "Ovaltine" when they heard "malt" are going to be disappointed), but I'm going to talk about it anyway, because while I may not know anything about beverage alcohol, I do know a thing or two about perfumes. Despite the name, the scent isn't boozy at all; I like to joke that things like Idole de Lubin (rum) and Demeter Sambucca (anise liqueur) let you smell like an alcoholic without actually being one, but Pure Malt doesn't make you smell like you've been anywhere near a bar.

Just like last year's A*Men Pure Coffee, Pure Malt is recognizably a relative of the original A*Men, but stripped down to make room for the new fusillade of whiskey. The citrus top notes (and the peppermint which is so evident in the shower gel, much less so in the EDT) are completely gone: instead, the top consists of an intimation of the usual candy-shop A*Men yumminess buried under a big clump of earth. I don't know if it's peat, exactly, but it's earthy, with a little twinge of vetiver. It's masculine; muscular without being bombastic.

The earthiness lingers through the middle of the scent, leading up to a warm, thick caramel, but surprisingly unsugary; it suggests caramel burnt a little so that the smoke veils the sweetness. There's also a demitasse of coffee-with-cream-and-two-sugars; the scent is still sweet, but without that sugar-shock quality that even a bit too much A*Men suffocates you with. There's patchouli in the base, a little; there has to be, because candy plus patchouli is the whole idea of the Angel and A*Men scents. And there's a bit of sweetened wood and some vanilla as well. The drydown is very cozy and warm.

The bottle is nearly indistinguishable from last year's Pure Coffee bottle, except that the rubber casing for the flask is black rather than coffee brown, and the star cutout in front, instead of being shimmery opaque gold, is clear glass to reveal the whiskey-coloured juice inside (and the bottle has a highly reflective silver backing which catches every stray gleam of light to make it look as if the contents are being lit from within, a nice touch). In contrast to last year's coffee-bag package, the box is more or less just a box this time around, although the packaging does suggest a high-end beverage, to the extent that a little paragraph on the side of the box ends with "Do not drink."* The front of the box reads "sublimée en fût de chêne", "sublimated [!] in oak barrels", and the top bears a stamp that reads "Les Liqueurs de Parfums", which suggests the first in a line of booze-themed A*Men clones, does it not? And what might they be thinking of next? Tequila? Rum? A whole line of schnapps-inspired scents?

But between Pure Malt and Pure Coffee (and also the rhubarb-and-wood B*Men), I figure I'm set for A*Men-based scents that aren't actually A*Men, so I don't think I'll be buying whatever they should happen to come up with next year. Unless it's based on root beer or cola, in which case I'm right there at the front of the line with my credit card in my hand.

*The entire text, in case you should care, reads:

Discover the fusion between A*Men and the world of spirits thanks to a patented method inspired by traditional techniques used to produce the finest Whiskies. A*Men Pure Malt is aged in oak casks to reveal a fragrance imbued with elegance, intensifying a lingering note that is subtly peaty and exceptionally noble. Do not drink.

The "traditional techniques" were devised for the production of an Angel flanker called La Part Des Anges, which is a winemaker's term meaning "the angels' share" and referring to the evaporation that naturally takes place during aging in wood: the quantity that disappears is what the angels took in return for making a better beverage. La Part Des Anges was aged in cherrywood barrels for 23 weeks and released as a limited edition extrait: just under 5000 10-mL bottles. And what bottles!

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