New Perfume Review Cartier XI L’Heure Perdue- Embracing the Synthetic

There may be no designer collection which holds more interest for me than the Cartier Les Heures de Parfum. Starting in 2009 Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent kicked off Cartier’s exclusive perfumes with five entries on her thirteen-hour clock face. Ten of the thirteen hours have been released but there hasn’t been a new one since 2012. Mme Laurent works at her own pace and so after a nearly three year wait the latest entry has arrived, XI L’Heure Perdue.

L’Heure Perdue translates to “lost time” and this time it seems like a bit of non-sequitur for a name. Mme Laurent was very conscious of creating a specific effect with L’Heure Perdue. In an interview with Thomas Dunckley on his The Candy Perfume Boy blog Mme Laurent was quoted on the creation of L’Heure Perdue, “I wanted to create a perfume that did not rely on natural ingredients. It’s totally molecular or ‘synthetic’.” The more I talk to perfumers the more I am hearing this slight irritation with the perception that natural is better by default. For these artists natural or synthetic they are all components for them to comprise a specific effect. The effect Mme Laurent is going for here is sci-fi milk.

mathilde laurent

Mathilde Laurent

Mme Laurent, also in The Candy Perfume Boy interview, mentions that she uses vanillin as the keynote for L’Heure Perdue precisely because it has been the source of the smell of vanilla for 100 years and it is completely synthetic. By using vanillin and its familiar vanilla as her foundation she forms a kinetic kaleidoscope of other aldehydes. It makes L’Heure Perdue one of the boldest explorations of aldehydes in recent memory as Mme Laurent goes to her organ and sweeps it clear except for the shelf holding these ingredients.

The first aldehyde which comes out is heliotropin. Heliotropin besides smelling like heliotrope also carries with it a slightly sweet almond-like nuttiness and a vanillic undertone. This is where I would tell anyone who tries L’Heure Perdue to stop and really experience the first moments. It is almost a heliotropin solo act. If you stop and smell the heliotropin I think you will see there is incredible depth and nuance in this synthetic component. It doesn’t take long for a sirocco of many aldehydes to sweep in and lift the heliotropin up on their shoulders and carry it toward the vanillin in the base. This middle phase has all of the kineticism I associate with aldehydes as they fizz and pop around the heliotropin. Eventually they arrive where the vanillin is waiting. Once L’Heure Perdue comes together it is like a digital version of milk. It definitely has the smooth creaminess of milk but the other aldehydes twist it into something a 3-D printer would produce. I have spent days trying to find a way to describe this and still words fail me.

L’Heure Perdue has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

L’Heure Perdue’s embrace of the synthetic over the natural feels a bit like a statement from one of our best perfumers that you ignore the synthetics at the peril of your own creativity. What L’Heure Perdue displays is if you embrace the right synthetics you will produce something as breathtaking as anything nature can produce.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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