Mugler Hot Cologne is a spin both on the suave gentleman's after-shave - and closer to home - on the neo-classical-smelling Mugler Cologne composed by perfumer Alberto Morillas. Part of the collection Les Exceptions created in 2014, it aims to interest the connoisseur who likes to wear perfumes which stand out, literally, to her or his nose...
In a way, Hot Cologne is part of the school of colognes which function like oxymorons. But it is essentially a wink addressed to people who are aware of perfumery codes. You can measure the distance it takes from mainstream codes, but also its affiliation to those. Nothing comes in a void. But you can play more or less with conventions.
The way the fragrance defends its brief of smelling "hot" as in heated up, not necessarily dead sexy, is by blowing a sort of coffee-breath accord into the mix followed by chipotles roasting on a barbecue grill and by smelling like a raft on the sea whose wood planks are catching fire under a lens in the sun. It also smells more incongruously of toasted bread.
Perfumer Christophe Hérault (IFF), who is in sole charge of the collection's compositions now that Olivier Polge is Chanel's in-house perfumer, has been thrumming the pyrazine strings to convey "hot". The olfactory impression you get is about cereals and chilis roasting peacefully in the fire next to a big bar of soap on a drift-wood table. The soap smells like an elegant eau de cologne.
Mugler aficionados will think that the coffee note is consistent with the house universe. In A * Men, it is heavier-hitting, more decisively oriental. In Hot Cologne, the brew has turned into a more desincarnated form of itself. It now smells of - as we said before - what is popularly called "coffee-breath." The gourmand facet of the perfume is a subtler form of what it can be in a Mugler for all.
Behind that consistent façade, there is a further layer of research. Besides the ambergris, whose hot, sun-burnt nuances mesh well with the smoky range of the scent, there are more unexpected notes of white florals, with nuances of almond milk. This is the point where one feels the perfume deserves more convincingly its appelation of "exceptional" compared to the more mainstream concoctions of a brand which is one of the more eccentric ones in the market, even when primarily available in chain stores.
It is when Hot Cologne plays with break of tone and asymmetry that the jus becomes a bit more next-level. Green nuances escape the subtle brasero of notes. White tropical petals manage to grow on burnt forest ashes. Puffed brown rice grains cohabit with a sweetish, creamy smell which reminds me most of a recreation of the smell of human placenta I once smelled at a colloquium. It still smells of an eau de cologne worn by suave men in the city underneath the Robinson Crusoe's salvaged medley of notes. It's an artful combination of the familiar - and hence reassuring - and of originality.
It's one of those scents which I call "legible" because you take pleasure in them like you can when you read a book. The story unfolds. You follow the plot. There are twists and turns. But if it is legible and there is the pleasure of reading a perfume involved, I do not experience an olfactory shock. I cannot exclaim "Wow!" I do not feel really pulled in by the perfume. It falls short of making you feel something is going on beyond words. Last time I experienced that intangible feeling which perfume can convey, it was with Bulgari Splendida Rose Rose.