Through a Looking Glass Darkly

alice-entering-the-looking-glass-world-by-sir-john-tennielThe perfume house of Mugler has become one of the most innovative ones in the world.  Forget niche perfumery (most of the niche companies, anyway). If you want something totally new and different, half the time that something will come from Mugler.

The company didn’t focus test Angel back in the day because they knew the scent would be too polarizing. It didn’t matter; the stuff swept off the market triumphantly with a huge hit.  Proving, I suppose, that to be a true entrepreneur takes true grit no matter whether you are selling smart phones, Bitcoins, or …perfume.  And although I may never have taken to the blue Angel, millions of other people have, and by now Angel’s structure has inspired dozens of similar perfumes, everything from Flowerbomb to Magical Moon.

But so far I had not found a Mugler feminine that I could wear.  Alien is too alien;  it reminds me of a sideshow from Mars.  I did, however, buy a small bottle of A Travers le Miroir recently, now that the brouhaha (and there was never all that much) of the 2009 release has died down.

The idea apparently was to have a series of mirror perfumes, and recently Mugler has added to the list with Miroir des Majestes, and Miroir des Voluptes, but these are  standard luxurious perfumes competing with Amouage or Montale or whoever you like, and are in this familiar soak-in-the-souk style.  What I wanted was the low-down on the original five perfumes, and I got it.  A Travers, though, was stranger than I had expected, and I had expected strange, this being a Mugler and all.

If you take as a starting point that most of the Mugler scents are either about a sharp transition, or else a kind of explosion in the nostrils, then A Travers is right in line with the rest of the Mugler perfumes.  It’s a tuberose scent, but that’s where the similarities to the vast majority of florals ends.  For one thing, A Travers is not feminine at all.  The tuberose is heralded by absinthe, a very literal poison green absinthe. The evocation is so real it makes you feel slightly sedated.

The meeting of the absinthe and the tuberose makes this a very curious perfume;  curiouser, I should say, and curiouser.  The absinth has a way of slowing perception down,  and it is when you are in this state and are seeing everything move past you at half speed that the tuberose makes its entrance and the combination of mentholated, almost toothpaste tuberose into warm trance-inducing absinthe is like an explosion that sends the still surface of the perfume shattering into what feel like icy shards all around you.  This is the part of the perfume that takes you through the looking glass, and you can feel that the perfumer, Alexis Dadier, took his brief seriously.

Maybe I would simply walk away feeling that this is a cold perfume for witchy women who want to stomp the world dead under their stilettos, if I had not once smelled a bit of absinthe.  The uncanny likeness of the first part of the perfume to this is what gives A Travers le Mirroir it’s very peculiarly jagged edge.

Is it pretty?  In a word, no.  Is it feminine? Certainly not; in fact I would recommend this one for men who like florals.  Is it evocative? Yes, one of the most evocative fragrances I’ve come across in a long time and it is surprisingly wearable, given its epic oddity.  I mean, I’ve been wearing it for days – well, evenings any way.

Altogether, A Travers is a weird perfume, and quite unforgettable.

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11 thoughts on “Through a Looking Glass Darkly

  1. Sounds quite intriguing, Blacknall – and especially for you, as I don’t think of you as being into weird perfume. :D Although maybe I need to scout around on your blog a little more before I make such a statement (so forgive me if I’m wrong), but because of your love of Guerlain, Caron and vintage Coty perfumes, I wouldn’t have imagined you liking a perfume such as this. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and I bet you smell bewitching in the very best sense of the word!

    • You wouldn’t think so now wouldya? But I do like some oddities, Cumming for instance, although my Hub simply couldn’t stand that one, or Vraie Blonde, although ditto.

      I like the Muglers for their peculiarities, and not just in spite of them. A*Men is a favorite. Bet you like the offbeat yourself, you liked L’Heure Convoitee, speaking of which, have to go smell those Cartiers before they all disappear.

        • This would be more the Khoublai Khan side of things for you. Got it.

          Did you ever try Poivre? That was carnation squared.

          • LOL! Carnation squared is a perfect description of Caron Poivre. Which is why it was too much for me, as the clove aspect was suffocating (clove is a note that has to be a certain pitch for me to love it, and that one went too far). I had a decant of the extrait some years and, when it didn’t work for me, let my mom try it. Poivre suited her to a T, and she was quick to claim it! :)

  2. I have never had the opportunity to try any of the more obscure Muglers, for want of a better word. I like your take on absinthe – its a difficult note to like, and a difficult drink to drink too!

    • Well, I’ve never tried to drink Absinthe, since it had this flashing danger sign over it. It’s supposed to kill brain cells or something like that. But I really enjoy the smell, and I like this scent better than Fou d’Absinthe. A good floral for guys I’m thinking.

      • I drank absinthe when I was in Prague a few years ago, the czech way – a little spoon of sugar, burnt in a flame, stirred through the ‘evil’ green liquor, then down the hatch! And jeez, did it kick like a mule! I still have a few brain cells left… :-)

        • My husband so envies you that. I don’t think I would have brain cells left,and I used to drink Sambuca alla Mosca! Come to think of it don’t remember why I was drinking that now…

  3. I always wanted to try all those Mirrors but they are nowhere to be found in the U.S. – and I’m not ready to pay for my curiosity since I do not expect to like most of them. Definitely not this one – because of tuberose.

    • They were on Ebay, which is where I got my little bottle, and I picked this one because Victoria at Bois de Jasmin liked it and she usually knows what’s what.

      The other one that many people mentioned as being interesting was Mirroir des Envies which was a jasmine with a hazelnut note. Truly it was nutella people referenced. Whether or not that’s worth a sample from you, would depend on whether or not you like Christine Nagel perfumes. She’s very good at gourmand orientals like Theorema, and I can’t remember if you like gourmands much?

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