Cartier 101- Five To Get You Started

It took Cartier a while to finally enter the fragrance game. Most of the other luxury brands had been in for decades before Cartier released their first in 1981. In those days, it was a place for perfumers Jean-Claude Ellena and Christine Nagel to refine their signature styles. It was a place where there were memorable perfumes but no coherence. That would arrive with the hiring of perfumer Mathilde Laurent in 2005. At first, she was exclusively creating bespoke perfume at the Paris boutique. It wouldn’t be until 2008 that she started releasing perfume under the brand. It has become so distinctive that Cartier fragrance can be divided into: “Before Laurent” and “After Laurent”. She has also created a style which she has described as using “wonderful ingredients and very few”. It has made this one of the more impressive collections in contemporary perfume. For this edition of Perfume 101 I am going to focus on the “After Laurent” phase of Cartier with five fragrances that introduce her style.

Mathilde Laurent

I’ll start with that very first release from 2008, Roadster. I was so sure I wasn’t going to like it because mint was listed as a focal point. Instead Mme Laurent uses the green herbal nature of the leaf which eventually combines with vetiver in a fresh way. Patchouli and woods are the other foci. It highlights Mme Laurent’s ability to find strength in transparency.

That quality would find its pinnacle in 2011’s Baiser Vole. Working with Domitille Michalon-Bertier an exquisite lily perfume was produced. They chose to surround lily with a top accord of watery green and a base accord of powder and vanilla. The lily snuggles in between to create one of my favorite lily perfumes.

Last year L’Envol de Cartier was released with the description of it being a “transparent Oriental”. That translates into a perfume which is like watching the expansion of a soap bubble coated in a microlayer of honey. It is so light in effect I dismissed it as a trifle when I first reviewed it. The more I wear it the more I have come to admire this honeyed bubble for that lightness.

At the beginning of this year the sequel to Baiser Vole was released; Baiser Fou. This is Mme Laurent showing her playful side as she wanted this to represent “lipstick kisses”. Except her lipstick was not the iris or rose of the cosmetic counter. Baiser Fou is the fruit scented lip gloss you apply with a wand. That accord is layered over cacao. It is a stolen kiss leaving a bit of scent in its wake.

Along with the commercial releases Mme Laurent has produced a luxury line for Cartier called “Les Heures de Parfum”. These are more like Cartier 202 style perfumes and not a good choice to introduce yourself to the brand. If there is one which I think is the best introduction it is Oud Radieux. It is because it is a fascinating taming of that fractious Middle Eastern ingredient, oud. Mme Laurent transforms it with ginger and Szechuan pepper. It adds bite from somewhere besides the oud.

I am short shrifting the work done for Cartier prior to Mme Laurent. If you’re of a mind Declaration, Must de Cartier and Le Baiser du Dragon are great examples of that time. For now catch up with the current house style with the five suggested above.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review L’Envol de Cartier- Too Transparent?

There are perfume brands which seem to mine their original creations incessantly with flanker after flanker. Cartier can easily be accused of this with the entire Declaration line. Ten flankers in the 18 years since Declaration’s original release. Eight years ago in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent tried to till some new ground with Roadster. I liked it but it seems others did not share my enthusiasm. So it was back to Declaration flankers. Now it seems Mme Laurent is ready to give it another try with L’Envol de Cartier.

L'Envol de Cartier is described as a “transparent Oriental” in the press release. Throughout that description the adjectives which bring to mind sheer are used. Surprisingly I didn’t find anything mentioning this was aimed at Millennials even though it is this transparency which seems to be the common thought amongst the brands that this group desires. That may just be my Baby Boomer curmudgeon surfacing. It is not like Mme Laurent hasn’t composed in this style previously. L’Envol de Cartier is kept light and airy until we get to the base which literally roots this.

mathilde laurent

Mathilde Laurent

L’Envol de Cartier opens with what is called a “transparent honey accord”. What that means is a very light presentation of honey is buoyed by some ozonic and airy notes. I feel like there is an aldehyde in here but this is so slight it is difficult to be sure. Bottom line this is like a very thin film of honey over a pane of glass with the sun shining through it. The airiness is added to with an application of the more expansive white musks which take that honey accord and mount it on an expanding soap bubble. After all of this it is a surprising contrast when a near full-throated patchouli provides the foundation. This is a classic dirty patchouli adding a vivid contrast to what came before.

L'Envol de Cartier has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

On the days I wore this there was always a moment when I wanted something more. I like what Mme Laurent has done here. As it compares to many of the other transparent fragrances crossing my desk this is in the top tier of this style of perfume. I think it is going to be too transparent for some. I am probably in that category. I admire the effect and the skill necessary to achieve it. I just wish it connected with me more. I am very happy to see Cartier try something different. If this doesn’t succeed, please let Mme Laurent try again instead of doing another few Declaration flankers.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Cartier.

Mark Behnke