When you are a child, teachers provide all kinds of mnemonics, so you can remember things. One which has stuck with me for almost my entire life is the one used to remember the colors of the rainbow or a spectrum; ROYGBIV. That translates to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Even though I learned it at six it helped when I was faced with the idea of infrared or ultraviolet at later age. It even helps when I want to get the layers of a rainbow cake in the correct order. I hadn’t thought to apply it to perfume until I received my sample of Cartier Carat.
Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent wanted to translate the colors of the refracted light through a diamond, the spectrum, into a perfume. She would go so far as to assign each ingredient a color. The easy one is violet for violet. The others are more interesting analogies; lily for indigo, hyacinth for blue, ylang-ylang for green, narcissus for yellow, honeysuckle for orange, and tulip for red. Mme Laurent doesn’t make a perfume of ROYGBIV hers is a creation VIBGYOR or an inverse spectrum. It is a much more dynamic perfume than even that implies.
Many of the large mass-market perfume companies have made a concerted effort to produce a transparent floral fragrance. This is done to capture the new young generation of fragrance enthusiasts. As I’ve observed this over the past couple of years there have been nicely constructed perfumes but the move to transparency has left me wanting for a richer complexity. Which does not seem to be what the mass-market desires. Mme Laurent puts that to rest because as much as Carat is a transparent floral it is also as intricately constructed a perfume as I could desire.
This rainbow comes together a few colors at a time. Right away there is a watery green accord of violet and lily. Mme Laurent uses both notes tilted towards the green facets. The next color is the unctuousness of ylang ylang. This is so precisely applied it never gets out of control while providing a spine for the rest of the spectrum to hang upon. Hyacinth and narcissus provide the deeper colors in this spectrum, A captivating honeysuckle and a recapitulation of watery floral with the tulip complete the spectrum. Here is where Carat stands apart. Just as you look at light being refracted through a diamond; as you turn it certain colors flare to life momentarily. That is how Carat spends its time on my skin developing as if I was rotating a precious jewel through a beam of light. A bit of narcissus transforms to honeysuckle to violet to ylang. It stays with the same seven ingredients but it sure as heck isn’t linear.
Carat has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Carat is a marvel for its kaleidoscope-like construction while retaining a transparent nature. Mme Laurent has reaffirmed my belief that she is the best of the current in-house perfumers. So many of her contemporaries have taken a swing at this to strikeout completely or hit an uninspiring single. Mme Laurent hits a rainbow arc of a home run to produce the best mainstream perfume of 2018.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Cartier.