The 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.