Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cartier Les Heures de Parfum: L'Heure Fougueuse IV

The elegant and refined, spicy and posh, powdery uptown maquillage Chypre Floral reminiscent of paperwhites (narcissus) is quiet but adventurous, like Central Park South on a hot summer day, with mild whiffs of horses and white/yellow heady blooms in the air. It starts both sharp and soft: retro glam and sophisticated on one hand and a green and virginal debutante perfume on the other. It's a leafy yet floral-powdery Chypre perfume fashioned after Ma Griffe and Chant d'Arômes - proper gardenias, of course, and with dirt notes typical of earthy Chypres, freshened up with soapy greens so no one will be the wiser. It smells like the city and the countryside in one, a complex unity of Aldehydic French lime blossoms and the temple incense of dry, dusty leather - English or Russian (who knows?), but definitely of the royal gloves and equestrian variety.

Among the Cartier Les Heures de Parfum collection, L'Heure Fougueuse IV stands out as being very spicy from the beginning, sharply bitter and acidic like coriander seed or French carrot soup, though it's coupled with maté, which adds a mildly sweet and lemony green tea note. It reminds me of The Different Company Bois d'Iris, or Frederic Malle L'Eau d'Hiver, which is carried by the bravado of relentless spiciness as well, while the rest of the composition is just a mellow, transparent musk. L'Heure Fougueuse could smell mellower, too, without all that spice, bringing it closer to Chant d'Aromes or Caline (not that I want it that soft, either); with tear-inducing lemon rind and coriander sharpness dominating the top notes, it's rather brisk for such a classic, well-mannered scent.

Osmoz describes L'Heure Fougueuse IV as the following: "Horse's mane notes intertwine with maté, musks and hay, creating a half-animal, half-botanical sensation." L'Heure Fougueuse, even being a trendy nouveau Chypre, with thin yet pungent, smoky, woody incense for its dry and dusty leather base, is the one perfume I can recall in recent times that went totally against the grain by retaining a traditional "mossy green" Chypre form, and letting soft-spoken yet dependable oakmoss dominate over leather for a change. I love the horsey, dusty leather coupled with grassy, weedy moss, but the jasmine, though an unlisted note, makes this scent for me. I've only smelled one other perfume that compares to the jasmine note found in the heart of L'Heure Fougueuse, and that is a 100% organic perfume called Rich Hippie Spring. It smells like honey, flowers and a hint of soil.

L'Heure Fougueuse reminds me of the definitive "summer hay, grass and honeysuckle" perfume, Annick Goutal Eau de Camille most of all, but it's more complex, compositionally closer to vintage perfumes than most new perfumes, with dirty, smoky patchouli leathers a la Jean Patou 1000 and Chanel Cuir de Russie adding a wild edge. It feels more formal than Eau de Camille, though it isn't quite opulent, either. It's glamorous but dry, floral yet unsweet, Aldehydic without bubbliness, like Caron Infini which I loved most in parfum once upon a time. Alas, I need a little more sugar to make it go down. Such a lovely and gentle floral heart, yet it succumbs to this bitter cocktail of herbs and spices served up in a Depression glass.

"Elegance is refusal." --Coco Chanel