Angel Muse Eau de Parfum by Mugler Review

Collage of Mugler's Angel Muse and its notes, including chocolate hazelnut spread, pink pepper, patchouli, and grapefruit.

Here’s the note on the opening of Angel Muse I dashed off last night before running out the door to meet an old friend for a walk of questionable legality through an abandoned cemetery:

“Sharp green and chocolate. Sharp pink pepper. Fruitiness. Sweet chocolate. And sharp patchouli. With a masculine smoky vetiver. Much sharper than anticipated and less sugary. Bf [boyfriend] loves it, says green and chocolate. Chocolate becomes more convincing as it emerges over a few minutes. In heat it’s a little Tootsie tooty fruity [sic]. Like Black Orchid. Just a hair.”

A pile of tarot cards fanned out, decorated with old-fashioned muted-tone illustrations. The star card is on top.

Before you ask: no, Mugler’s Angel Muse was not an intentional aesthetic choice for a midnight cemetery crawl. Nor was it a particularly appropriate one. Perhaps I should have gone for something creeping and sour, something like Akro’s Ink. Or something vintage the ghosts might recognize, like Mitsouko or Shalimar. Or something cold and witchy like Liquides Imaginaires’ Saltus or Lush’s Devil’s Nightcap or Amouage’s Myths Woman. Or even Mugler’s own unsettling Womanity.

But I chose none of those things. Instead, I caved into the seduction of the unknown. Which happened to smell like patchouli, fruity candy, and Nutella.

Angel Muse feels, somehow, red-fruitier in texture than I’d expected. I’m half expecting an ambiguous “red berries” note to pop up in the pyramid. It’s something about the pink pepper note melding with the grapefruit, I think, that makes for an unnaturally bright fruity overtone.

And it’s much sharper than I’d expected, more crisp. It’s not a heavy masculine smoky vetiver that creates this impression, but a strong patchouli note that makes me think of shoulder pads and power suits, a tough vintage office lady taking a smoke break (though this doesn’t actually smell like smoke besides the hint of smoky vetiver).

A pile of dried medium-red-colored pink peppercorns.

The pepper top note is prominent, but not obnoxiously so. It feels less like a delicate feminine pink pepper than like a judiciously dosed black pepper paired with a red fruity undertone. It’s just a hint of that almost aquatic black pepper sort of aroma molecule I’ve smelled so often lately that I can’t name but unfortunately find a little grating. It’s rather subtle here, though, sparingly sprinkled for just a hint of spicy sparkle. There’s not so very much of it, though it does stick around all the way through.

Though the note pyramid says the star of Angel Muse is chocolate hazelnut spread, I don’t get anything very nutty or overwhelmingly saccharine here. There are touches of cocoa and chocolate, sure, but they are sparing and rather cutting around the edges. This is more of a cold dark chocolate bar than a melty dessert-for-breakfast Nutella spread.

Three to four hours in, things get softer, more mottled. The chocolate accord is a gentle chocolate now, familiar and tender. But something else develops to define the perfume. It has a texture that’s lavender in color, heather purple and gray. Words like lavender and bergamot come to mind but are all wrong really. It’s that perfect spot between musty and dusty, just a bit worn in, like a beloved couch.

It’s so familiar, and yet the word escapes me. It’s a soft hint of sweet. There’s something vaguely fruity in the shape of it behind it all. It’s quite comforting, yet unusual and jarring to me in the way it blends the new and the old, the natural and the alien, into something that feels like a home I just can’t name.

The friend I was visiting said this smells purple with a gold jellyfish-shaped thing on top. Though my own color perception of it is duller, more heathered lilac and gray, I do agree with the general color palette. It doesn’t feel like a rich brown chocolate gourmand or even a bright red artificial candy fruit perfume. It’s a mix of those, and sharp crisp green notes, and pepper, and the result, somehow, is utterly purple.

Angel Muse is, to me, utterly unexpected and unconventional. This feels especially surprising when compared to the notes.

A month ago before I got absolutely steamrolled by work — I work in higher education, and it’s that very special time of year when we get unilaterally steamrolled — I’d been planning a post listing a bunch of Barbiecore perfumes to hop on the trend following the release of the film. Though I’m entirely late to the party by now, I probably will still make the post because it sounds like fun and I’ve been looking forward to it.

A plastic toy Barbie doll with blonde hair and posable limbs sitting and smiling in a professional pink skirt and blouse.

(Other culturally relevant moments I’d been planning to write about in July before life got in the way include Taylor Swift’s Eras tour and the life and death of Jane Birkin. Ah well. I was never good with Kairos.)

Without having sampled it yet, I’d breezily written Angel Muse into my notes for the post — maybe for some sort of chef Barbie or something? A Barbie in a dress that looks like a sweet dessert?

But now, having tried it, I have to say Angel Muse isn’t very Barbie after all. It isn’t bright pink and red and rich warm brown. It’s bewildering shades of watercolor purple and gold, a peppercorn crushed underfoot and a grass stain on one knee. It’s a familiar haze of lazy breakfast-for-dinner nights on a couch that hasn’t been cleaned in too long. It’s a fruit roll-up packed in your lunch along with the faint odor of your mother sneaking a cigarette. It’s nostalgia constructed of jarring modern components. It’s a color you can’t quite name.

By the next day, over sixteen hours in, Angel Muse is finally a faint, nutty atmospheric hint of soft Nutella on skin. At last, I get a hint of some sort of pyrazine-like nutty richness, gentle and sweet and almost vanillic. That luxurious rich quality I’d expected of the opening is finally here, albeit heavily diluted by time.

And oh, it is absolutely delicious. I love this gentle cloud of warm hazelnutty goodness and chocolate. It’s sweet, musky, and incredibly diffuse, a sort of second skin. It makes me think of that dust cloud in space that smells like raspberries, except instead of raspberries it’s hazelnut and chocolate cream. Mmmm. It’s a shame it’s so quiet and close to the skin at this stage.

A bitten-into sandwich made of toasted white bread and chocolate hazelnut spread.

Angel Muse has the designer lasting power I’ve come to expect from Mugler. It’s mostly faded from my wrists after some twelve to sixteen hours, but keeps hanging around somewhere in my aura for far longer. I catch whiffs of it from somewhere around my headspace, somewhere between my neck and my clothes I can’t quite locate. (Which is partly an anatomical limitation on my part. I mean, have you ever tried smelling your own neck?)

Ultimately, Angel Muse surprised me. I committed the sin of judging by the note pyramid and was expecting straightforward guilty-pleasure Nutella with a hint of obligatory green. What I got was this weird wild fruity peppery alien thing of a patchouli perfume shot through with just a hint of cocoa, drying down to a soft mottled comfort.

Angel Muse is fascinating and ultimately perhaps not for me. But it is, somehow, a Boyfriend Perfume. Ladies and gentlemen, he was trying to eat me alive. I would have expected this had Angel Muse performed as I’d expected, simple and sweet and edible. But that rather sharp, dominant patchouli in the opening? The dustiness in the drydown? The odd faraway fruity pebble notes and juicy pepper? I don’t know.

This reminds me how much of consuming and enjoying perfume is about perception. Maybe I’m just not smelling Angel Muse the way he is. He identified it as chocolate and green straight away and kept smelling it on me long after I’d largely stopped noticing it.

Six fancy chocolates from a luxury candy sampler, including white chocolate, pink chocolate, dark chocolate, and a caramel.

I hadn’t expected Angel Muse to be a green-peppery-chocolate sort of scent that I’d feel the need to compare to an indie wonder like Aether Arts Perfume’s Mayan Chocolate. But those broad strokes of what is portrayed in each perfume are indeed rather similar — although Mayan Chocolate is a richly saturated oil painting and Angel Muse is a modern watercolor topped with that topographical grit that sometimes gets added to paintings to add dimension.

Mayan Chocolate is more like if Leonid Afremov painted a verdant green jungle, while Angel Muse is the magnum opus of an Edward Hopper acolyte who eats too much Nutella.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s just a different thing. A new and unusual thing that feels strikingly vintage and masculine in places while in others it cracks open and bleeds modern dessert.

A stalk of light green, leafy patchouli with tiny white flowers.

There’s quite a bit of similarity between Angel Muse and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, too. They’re both unconventional yet unquestionably modern chocolate perfumes laced through with bright synthetic fruity notes and spice. The textures of the two perfumes are, however, quite different. While Black Orchid is the suburban decadence of Christmas shopping at Macy’s, Angel Muse is lighter, more quotidian. It feels more like an airy chocolate day in early spring (before all the cobwebs of dormancy have quite been cleaned out) than a desperately rich winter indulgence.

Angel Muse is surprising and weird. I found out after writing this review that the marketing for this perfume positions it as a “futuristic gourmand,” with rich imagery of cosmic pebbles and faraway galaxies. They may be cosmic fruity pebbles, but cosmic pebbles they are indeed.

For once, the marketing really does have something right about the feel of a perfume. Something about Angel Muse feels different, alien, modern. It doesn’t smell how it looks — like a cozy Nutella gourmand — until the late drydown. Before then, it’s an unconventional tour of sharp vintage green notes, synthetic aromachemical fruity notes, elusive cocoa, piquant pink pepper, and cosmic couch dust.

A green and white origami paper box containing many small bundles of dried vetiver grass tied with strips of cloth and twine.

Angel Muse is not for me, but impressively unexpected. Props to Quentin Bisch for a weird one. It’s a shame it’s recently been discontinued, but it also makes perfect sense. Much like Womanity, this is a womens’ Mugler offering that was far too strange to last long. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to sample this when it was thrown in with a few other samples by a generous Basenotes friend. When we have enough people to do a good traveling sample box, I’ll be sure to throw this one in so some more people can have the opportunity to smell this pretty little oddity.

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