Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cartier XIII La Treizième Heure

Just when I thought Mathilde Laurent couldn't possibly create another masterpiece to compete with XII L'Heure Mysterieuse, I've discovered I equally love XIII La Treizième Heure, winner of the Prix des Parfumeurs (Perfumers' Prize) and the Prix des Spécialistes (panel of bloggers, evaluators & journalists) at the 2010 French FiFi Awards. Artfully composed with notes of bergamot, narcissus, maté, birch, leather, patchouli and vanilla, La Treizieme Heure is at once comforting and strange, a daring juxtapositioning of bitter and sweet notes. A bittersweet ending to the Les Heures de Parfum series, La Treizième Heure, the thirteenth hour, is named for the lucky number 13 in Cartier's Parisian address at 13 Rue de la Paix. The word in perfume blogosphere is that this fragrance is the perfumer's favorite among the extraordinary and exclusive collection she has authored.

At first sniff, I smell a combination of dark tea and rubber tire notes on a scrumptious bed of warm, milky vanilla, reminding me of Bvlgari Black, Serge Lutens Chergui and Cumming by Alan Cumming all wrapped into one, then made minimalist and sublimely elegant as none of the aforementioned could compare. It is as coolly intellectual as it is passionate and raw - it does not develop in stages as traditionally structured compositions do, but instead begins and ends on the same combination of notes in linear fashion. This does not bore me, however, because the combination keeps my interest as it teases the senses with smoky burnt rubber and gourmand elements, as if to torture the physically hungry and psychologically love-starved, to keep true satisfaction at bay. Lucky me, there is enough sweetness here that I don't feel deprived; in fact, what's one person's "too sweet" or "unsweet" is another's "just right". This is a level of discipline I can tolerate - any less sweetened, and I would consider it unfashionably austere.

The overall feel of the shared gender scent is that of leather, but it's not the soft, buttery suede of Serge Lutens Daim Blond nor the aggressive leather of Cabochard or Cumming, but rather like the motor oil and lipstick leather of Molinard Habanita, only extremely downplayed in character (edited to clarify: the oily lipstick leather note and the smoky birch tar note which is similar to Cumming, together make this unique leather accord). This modern leather creation is an Oriental fragrance mostly redolent of soft spices, green notes and all of the urban smells I'm familiar with having grown up in the metropolitan areas, technically bad smells I must have grown to subliminally love, if only for the familiarity, and the comfort such a thing can provide when the nicer comfort scents, along the lines of more easygoing gourmand vanillas, won't make the grade.

Besides, no one needs to know that Cartier XIII La Treizième Heure is really just a sweet, idealistic dreamer of a white floral at heart.