Imagine a lovely box of chocolate with exquisite fillings like mint, caramel and vanilla. You’re eating it with a nice cup of coffee while someone is tarring the roof. This is the scent of Mugler A*Men.
First came Mugler Angel for women, released in 1992. It was in many ways the first gourmand fragrance. Not that there weren’t any fragrances before it that featured edible notes but it was Angel that made this concept mainstream. It was a bit hit and it remains a big seller to this day.
Then in 1996 Mugler released the male version A*Men, sometimes known as Angel Men in the United States. I think A*Men is the better name. It was a divisive release. Sure there had been sweet fragrances for men before, like the incredibly sweet Joop! Homme which was released in 1989. But a male scent smelling of chocolate? Of coffee? Of caramel? This was something new.
The Mugler A*Men family
Mugler A*Men has spawned a long line of flankers. Most of which highlight a single note from the original composition. For example A*Men Pure Coffee, A*Men Pure Tonka and Kryptomint which highlights the mint note from the original. Some have gone a different direction like A*Men Ultra Zest which adds orange and Pure Energy which is almost a sports flanker.
The newest release in the line is Mugler A*Men Ultimate which features a cappuccino note. I’ve sniffed that one and I like it, but I also think it comes across as a light version of Montale Intense Café. By the way, Intense Café couldn’t exist without A*Men as a predecessor. I hope that Mugler keeps on releasing new flankers in this line. Variations I would love to smell are Pure Cinnamon, Pure Vanilla and Pure Lavender. Or maybe even Pure Oud…
Yes, I’m one of those guys that likes a good flanker. I’d rather have a good flanker release than a bad pillar release. Even if that means houses only release variations on one basic fragrance, something Jean Paul Gaultier has become with the Le Male line. When was the last time they released a male fragrance that wasn’t part of the Le Male line?
Mugler A*Men has also been an inspiration to other houses. I already mentioned Montal Intense Café, but also Rochas Men appears to be very much inspired by this fragrance. And let’s not forget the teenybopper bodyspray brand Axe with their scent Dark Tempation.
What Mugler A*Men smells of
A*Men contains notes of bergamot, helional, lavender, peppermint, coffee, tar, patchouli, tonka bean, vanilla, caramel, chocolate and musk. Yes, you read that right: tar. The tar provides the balance, the connection if you will, between the more traditional notes like bergamot, lavender and mint, and the gourmand notes of coffee and caramel. It sounds weird but without this note it would be an unbalanced mess.
And A*Men does smell weird the first time you sniff it. Some people love it immediately but it had to grow on me. In a way it is a love it or hate it fragrance, but in my experience most people end up loving it. Caveat there though, don’t go too heavy on the sprayer. This is one of the fragrances that smell best when you wear it in moderation. Too many sprays and it becomes too much to bear. Use a light touch to get the most out of Mugler A*Men.
But what does it actually smell like? Most people would probably say a rich and dark chocolate, I understand that but I also think that’s oversimplifying it. There is more going on. I don’t think it would be as popular as it is if it were that simple. Actually I think the smell is pretty difficult to describe, it’s rich and sweet and with a lot of depth. But it’s more than just that.
I think the most important thing that Mugler A*Men gets right is balance. Yes it’s heavy, but there is also freshness there from the bergamot and the peppermint. It’s rich, but it’s not formal. There is some playfulness there, it mutates throughout the journey and shows different sides of itself. It’s sweet, but it shows its teeth with the tar and coffee notes. This balance is the key to the success of A*Men.
Simply put this is a scent that you have to smell for yourself. But don’t test it on a strip a the mall. Spray it on your skin and live with it for the day.
Perfumer & Packaging
The perfumer behind Mugler A*Men is Jacques Huclier who is also responsible for all of the flankers. Although I think he had some collaborators on a few of those. The packaging and bottle was designed by Thierry Mugler himself. The bottle features a big blue star on the front which is reminiscent of the bottle of the original Mugler Angel.
I would say the bottle is the weak point of this fragrance. It looks great but all the rubber makes the sprayer difficult to handle. I know of some people that have cut away the rubber around the nozzle to have better access to the sprayer. I’ve never done that but it’s an option if you find this cumbersome. There are two versions of the bottle, besides the rubber flask there is also a metal version available. The bottles are refillable which is a nice touch.
Final thoughts on Mugler A*Men
Now I must admit that the first time I tried Mugler A*Men I scrubbed it off within an hour. I was not able to handle it. It goes against much what people normally think is acceptable in masculine fragrances. It is not a fresh scent and it is incredibly sweet. But the more I wore it the more I started liking it. And now I absolutely love it.
Mugler A*Men still smells utterly modern, it hasn’t aged one iota since it was released in 1996. And despite all the flankers and the fragrances it inspired it also still smells completely unique. There simply isn’t anything out there that smells like this. Don’t miss it!
Do you agree or disagree with this review? Share your opinion in the comments on this blog!