Smelling the combined fragrance notes of A*Men (bergamot, lavender, mint, coriander, patchouli, Atlas cedar, roasted coffee, chocolate, caramel, “tar”/styrax, tonka, musk and aldehydes) is akin (I imagine) to drinking a purée composed of all the foods and beverages you plan on consuming in one day — both are unsavory experiences.
Introduced in Europe in September 1996, Thierry Mugler’s A*Men was created by perfumer Jacques Huclier and was a follow-up to Mugler’s best-selling 1992 women’s scent: Angel. The chocolate-caramel-infused Angel is credited with starting the trend towards foody notes in perfume (Women's Wear Daily, 6/21/96) and when A*Men came to the U.S. in the spring of 1997, it was stocked not only in the men’s fragrance department at Saks Fifth Avenue, but in the women’s perfume section as well. (It was hoped that Angel-loving women would buy A*Men for the men in their lives — or for themselves.)
Since I knew I’d be reviewing the soon-to-be-released A*Men Pure Coffee fragrance, I thought I should try A*Men first. I shunned A*Men for a decade because its ingredients sounded awful; boy, were my instincts correct. A*Men starts harshly with a jumble of sour herbal notes sprinkled with a chemical-smelling “chocolate powder”; ten minutes after the initial assault on my nasal passages, comes a strident, metallic vanilla note that is coupled with rancid cocoa. At this point I stopped bracing myself since, surely, the base notes of A*Men would mellow?
No! The final stage of A*Men is perhaps the worst: a seepage of burnt coffee, scorched (and stale) coffee grounds, and sickening tar. The final gasp of A*Men smells of coffee-induced halitosis; there is also the scent of the dregs of a cup of day-old coffee-cocoa (with a twist of moldy patchouli). After scouring my brain (and skin) I thought: “This might be the ugliest-smelling scent I’ve ever worn.”
To illustrate this review, I carefully chose an A*Men ad; the robot-man in the ad bears as much resemblance to a real man as the notes of A*Men resemble anything “natural” smelling. I would rename all the fragrance notes in the A*Men line-up: ballistic bergamot, Laser lavender, instant coffee à la microwave, freezer-burned cocoa, petromint, sun-burned tar…. (I didn’t find any fragrance note in A*Men appealing.)
Fans of A*Men, please write and defend its honor or at least tell me what you like about it — but I warn you: if you write to say “On me, A*Men smells like a creamy, vanilla ice cream sundae topped with luscious melted chocolate, warm caramel and a shot of espresso!” I will not believe you.
Tomorrow: A review of the new Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee. Update: look for that on Monday!