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.
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.