Cartier Les Heures du Parfum L'Heure Convoitée (2011): Killer Carnation {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Fragrance}

Cartier_L_Heure_Convoitée.jpgL'Heure Convoitée II (The Coveted Hour) is the newest and 9th addition to the collection Les Heures du Parfum by Cartier which assembles the freer compositions of the house by in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent. It is what Les Exclusifs are to Chanel, Hermessences to Hermès and La Collection Privée to Dior, only more selective still in terms of distribution and price. These collections are the special preserves of perfumers where one always expect to happen on rarer ideas and more personal introspections. The atmosphere of these selective libraries can be so choosy as to allow for the luxury of compositions that are more sketches than magisterial works.

This time, the inspiration is taken from the color red, like desire, and the atmosphere of a certain brand of light-hearted, playful French sensuality as built up in the song "Déshabillez-Moi" written by Robert Nyel, composed by Gaby Verlor, and interpreted by Juliette Gréco. Fetishistic notes have been used to suggest parts of the feminine body, but the composition turns out to be centered on carnation supported by two other main floral notes: red roses and iris....



Official notes: strawberry pulp, chestnut cream, iris notes, red rose notes, clovey notes, fresh green notes.

The perfume opens on an initial impression seemingly painting the vivid green and red colors of a geranium, which would smell of carnation. Retrospectively, the nose teases out an accord of carnation, red rose and buttery yet wet-green iris, with the red rose being the most ambiguous note, revealing itself at its fullest in the drydown. A very qualitative iris butter note succeeds to the first impression offering an animalic whisper underneath the surface of things. A fresh fruity note lying somewhere in-between a star fruit and pineapple brings a slightly green fruity-floral tonality to the perfume. Aldehyde C16 strawberry tends to smell of those fruits before stabilizing itself as "strawberry." A warmer vanillic and animalic Oriental base develops itself as in a counterpoint, tactile enough to suggest fur and even a rawer animal skin. One is reminded somewhat of the dry and hot animalic spirit found in Untitled by Martin Margiela, with the herbaceous nuances of a Mediterranean landscape.

The fragrance develops further its rose-carnation accord spiced up with chili, clove and black pepper softened by a riche and suave note of iris. Nuances seemingly escaping from the Corsican scrubland contradict somewhat the impression of velvety, drawing-room luxury offered by the floral accord.   

In a slightly surprising twist, the fragrance takes on suddenly an almost masculine persona expressing itself in a fairly typical range of woody-animalic notes. There is only the touch of carnation - more than a touch - which lends a more floral and coquettish dandy-like style to this sensation of smelling a rather typical masculine fragrance. One thinks of a reference like Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene, which would have suddenly turned into not a violet perfume aymore, but a spicy carnation one, only much more with a punch-in-the-stomach effect.

But even more so, one thinks of the recent Vitriol d'Oeillet or rather of what it could have been if Serge Lutens had wanted to create an obvious, more literal interpretation of the perfume as suggested by its name, but which was not the goal that was sought out. Vitriol d'Oeillet is instead a deconstructed carnation perfume. Knowing Mathilde Laurent's admiration for the olfactive aesthetics of Serge Lutens, one is little surprised to feel that she might have struck up a conversation with that elusive carnation interpretation. Even the masculine-cologne accord can be smelled in Vitriol d'Oeillet.

L'Heure Convoitée however goes further than just filling a void or answering more substantively the question about a lost carnation scent which everyone has been looking for. A creamy and even floury chestnut accord apears in the composition creating a gourmand tonality which is on purpose slightly odd, but in the end a factor of harmony.

Perfumer Mathilde Laurent has made the choice of creating a carnation perfume which is strong-smelling. The carnation is heady, powdery, spicy, almost medicinal in its aromatic excesses. You do not just smell it, you end up tasting it in your mouth due to its olfactory power of diffusion. The iris brings that luxurious and soft base which allows the perfume to not only be a bit of a howler, a bit Gavroche in Les Misérables, but also soft to the grain of the skin. There is here a whiff of the titi and revolutionary sides to the Parisian personality underneath its tradition of couture elegance. But the iris butter is there to suggest a note of fine lingerie and lady's skin; the clove note is ascribed the mission in principle to allude to the shoulder of a woman. The cause of French luxury has been saved and respected. The carnation here means passion and in French evokes the term "oeillade", which means a "wink," especially when one thinks of the khol-rimmed eyes of Juliette Gréco singing "Déshabillez-Moi." This carnation perfume is not afraid of being excessive and even a bit repulsive in its lack of restraint. Juliette Gréco singing "Déshabillez-Moi" leads on and spurns her lover's advances, all in turn and in order to offer a lesson on a modern version of l'amour courtois.

The perfume becomes rosier in the drying down phase, with the red rose becoming more prominent and characteristic. The red-rose accord is meant to be an allusion to red underwear.

People who are looking for a real, full-frontal carnation perfume, both robust and complex, but also qualitative, should give it a go. It is also interesting to make it dialogue with Vitriol d'Oeillet. Like with many so-called "niche" creations, once it has said what it wanted to say, there are no further surprises and mystery. It is a well-circumscribed and finite piece of work, more intellectual than fully artistic. Or it would be closer to something called conceptual art.

You can read a French version of this article here / Vous pouvez lire une version française de cet article ici.

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