Thierry Mugler’s infamous Angel is one of the most toxic fragrances I’ve ever had the misfortune of trying. I’ve heard about how lovely it can be on other people, how it supposedly evokes caramel and chocolate and vanilla and yummy foody goodness.I allow that this may be true on others’ skin, although I not yet found Angel pleasant when involuntarily confronted with passersby who wore it.
On my wrist, it turns into the most horrific, dirty, oppressive patchouli mingled with PineSol, with zero trace of the sweet foody notes which are supposedly part of its composition. I was perplexed by the disconnect between my experience with this fragrance, and the list of notes, as well as its description by people who enjoy it. Perhaps I was missing a gene required to appreciate Angel, as I lack the gene required to detect the bitter taste of phenylthiocarbamide, or to roll my tongue into a fleshy cylinder. So, when I heard that the latest Serge Lutens fragrance, Borneo 1834, had a patchouli and chocolate composition reminiscent of Angel’s, I certainly was in no rush to try it.
However, a very generous person bestowed a sample on me, and of course I could not resist trying it. Surprise! I like it very much. For the first couple of seconds it’s bitter and medicinal, but warms very quickly to a beautiful, rugged, earthy patchouli. Keep in mind that I’m no patchouli lover, and avoided patchouli for years after my Angel experience. The patchouli in this fragrance is not at all bitter or dirty; it’s soft, warm, and inviting, and actually reminds me of one of the few other patchouli fragrances I enjoy, Vanille by Des Filles a la Vanille. The patchouli note is soon joined by an incredible, mouth-watering dark chocolate note which kicks the ass of almost every other chocolate note I’ve experienced in fragrance.
It’s definitely not sweet and milky, like the one in Serendipitous, nor is it powdery and Cocoa Puffs-esque, like the one in CSP Amour de Cacao. The chocolate note in this fragrance is very dry and sophisticated. A stunning, resinous woody note adds depth to the drydown, along with a gentle touch of flowers and spice. This is a terrific example of the rare elegant gourmand fragrance which avoids sickening sweetness, but still manages to be warm and comforting. It’s smooth and impeccably blended, without the loudly blaring quality of other similar fragrances (such as, *ahem*, Angel).
However, if other people smell something like Borneo when they smell Angel, then I totally understand why Angel has such a devoted following. As much as I enjoy this fragrance, I don’t anticipate reaching for it very often, so I’ll probably fondly use up my sample without any anticipation of purchasing it. Besides, I’m already intent on purchasing Tubereuse Criminelle, Rose de Nuit, and, if I can make enough money doing mime on the street, Cuir Mauresque the next time I’m in Paris. Borneo, you’re deliciously charming and all, but you’ll probably have to wait a long time before a bottle of you finds a place on my dresser.
The notes of this fragrance include patchouli, cardamom, camphor, white flowers, galbanum, cistus, and a cocoa accord. Unfortunately it’s part of the Exclusive range, and can only be obtained at the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris, France.
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