Here we are! The first review of 2017! I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out what to write for my first post of the year (hence why I’ve been on an extended hiatus – lucky me) and I must admit that I was reluctant to start with a review simply because I wanted to kick off with something a little bit different . That said, a review feels like a good place to kick off the year because it’s a good opportunity to see where we will go scent-wise, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Luckily for me 2017 has already seen a number of launches so I wasn’t short of something to pick for review number one. Even luckier was the fact that the latest launch from my favourite brand appeared on my doorstep just a few days ago!
My love of all things MUGLER has been documented many times. So many times, in fact, that I’ve probably bored you all to tears by banging on about my adoration for Angel et al. So I will spare you the hyperbole this time and instead will say that I very much appreciated the brand’s launch of their exclusive line Les Exceptions last year. With Les Exceptions, MUGLER took on the classics, creating fragrances based on the major olfactory families, serving each with a MUGLER twist. Every one of the Les Exceptions scents felt decidedly un-MUGLER, in the sense that they weren’t overtly daring or challenging, yet at the same time they really did add something innovative to classic French perfumery. In short, Les Exceptions is a phenomenally good collection and one that MUGLER seem to want to explore further.
The latest scent to launch within Les Exceptions is Hot Cologne which, if you haven’t guessed by the name, plays with the themes found within the classic Eau de Cologne. Now, this is MUGLER we’re talking about here so to expect a typical cologne is to underestimate the nature of the brand. MUGLER already have Cologne (launched in 2001), which is highly odd with its notes of steam and ‘S’ (rumoured to be a sperm accord), so Hot Cologne, the eight instalment in the collection, was never going to be a simple cologne in the manner of say 4711 and instead, this cologne, says MUGLER, “breathes fire and ice…and eau de cologne turns torrid”. Intriguing!
“Eau de Cologne has always been associated with cleanliness, reassuring contentment and even childhood memories. I wanted to give a new twist to this comfortably ‘purring’ mechanism by introducing a green coffee note. This charming disruption arouses the senses with its edgy temperament and stylish signature”
– Jean-Christophe Hérault, Perfumer
Top: Lemon and Petitgrain
Base: Ginger, Cardamom and Green Coffee
How Does it Smell?
Hot Cologne starts out in a conventionally cologne-like manner, splashing forth with an entire pitcher’s worth of fresh mojito-esque citrus notes (I get more than a few shades of GUERLAIN Homme, which is a good thing). Lemon and lime dominate, with neither note appearing too sharp or two sweet, shining almost colourless rather than in vibrant shades of lemon or green. It hits the right pitch, creating a sense of overwhelming freshness that quenches one’s thirst. A touch of mint gives a cooling effect that is icy and herbal, cutting through the zing to create an opening accord that leaves a blindingly bright impression.
The olfactory shock starts to peek out during the heart, which is very much a tug of war between the sunny disposition of neroli and the darkness of bitter coffee. There’s an interesting discord between these two impressions, with the clean, sparkling floral character of the neroli shadowed in part by the bitter and warm-breath like coffee. This contrast skews the genre completely and I don’t think anyone is going to pick this up and think ‘Eau de Cologne’, instead they will be surprised by the depth and oddness of this roasted citrus fragrance.
When I was taking photos for this piece, I grated some lime zest and sprinkled it atop off ground coffee with a few lime slices and a dash of ginger for good measure. After a while, the coffee, which had started to absorb the moisture from the lime zest, took on a dark, murky character that laid dotted amongst the dry ingredients. I looked at this tableau and thought that it perfectly summed up the base of the scent itself, which feels like a smattering of coffee droplets amongst citrus, spice (cardamom and ginger) and neroli. As with all things MUGLER, it’s a fascinating image to behold.
The idea behind Les Exceptions is to take a familiar olfactory family and shock it with something entirely new. In that respect, Hot Cologne is a complete success. The cologne genre, which is so usually fresh, airy and bright gets a dark twist thanks to a rich cup of coffee. This makes for a really unusual wear that definitely delivers an olfactory shock to the Eau de Cologne family. So Hot Cologne most certainly nails the ‘cologne’ element, but would I say that it was ‘hot’? Probably not. The coffee effect doesn’t heat things up to my nose, instead it adds a darkness – a brooding character that contrasts the lighter and brighter materials really nicely. Hot Cologne may not stand out as the most striking in Les Exceptions (I’d pick Oriental Express or Over the Musk to take that accolade) but it should not be underestimated, because this cologne is not quite what it seems.
Hot Cologne is the eighth instalment in the MUGLER Les Exceptions line. It is available in 80ml Eau de Parfum for £135 exclusively at Harrods, Harrods.com and Mugler.com.
Sample, notes and quotes via MUGLER. Images are my own.