Cartier Must de Cartier Gold (2015) {Perfume Review & Musings}


The form of Must is recognizable but now it's a very sweet, balmy, powdery floral with subtle green reminiscences of Panthère de Cartier - of the originator scent too of course, with its galbanum-inflected Oriental warmth.

Must was composed in 1981 by perfumer Jean-Jacques Diener as a green Oriental eau de toilette; according to Cartier, in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent worked in partnership with Givaudan so as to be as faithful as possible to the initial blend, with the idea of creating an eau de parfum composition, which had not been done before. At the same time, her idea was both to enrich and freshen up the composition, the latter both literally and figuratively, in particular by adding an accord of crushed fresh green leaves to the galbanum...

Must de Cartier Gold keeps an assertive, even bold perfume personality but shows more restraint than it might have had were it born some 30 years ago. It offers the extremely interesting feature of offering a deconstructed homage to Poison by Dior, to this nose. It is also like its famous green-Oriental sibling Obsession by Calvin Klein born in 1985, an heir to the upbeat Disco era: over the top, extrovert and with its sexual attributes spilling over onto the street. (Re)-Imagine what it was like to wear seriously big perfume as bodies sweated and danced to swinging Disco rhythms. In short, if you feel like the 1980s need to be back in perfume form with an admixture of reserve, go for it.


A photo from the launch extravaganza for Must and Santos at Versailles © Cartier courtesy picture

In Must Gold, I also see Laurent's touch as a rebellious perfume history buff as I recognize the honey-drenched tuberose-turned-osmanthus of Dior Poison, with spicy accents much heavier - and clovey. In fact, perfumer Mathilde Laurent in a further apparent effort to reappropriate her own accords since she moved from Guerlain to Cartier, has managed to insert a big dose of the spicy carnation motif found in that Guerlain perfume she composed, and which vanished after a while, Terracotta Voile d'Eté. She also drew from her work on L'Heure Convoitée II by Cartier / review in French here, Oeillet Oeillade.

Not content to upset Dior Poison - and Guerlain - she now also decides to further shake things up inside the formulation of Must Gold with its sense of floral animalcy. The sensation is not really animalic and dirty but it relies on the intensity of the floral notes - a fauve jasmine in particular - to evoke a kind of too-muchness which is usually conveyed more evidently by animalic and humoral excesses. Unless you insist of course, that honey is in fact an animalic note, which it is. Because we are used to smelling honeyed nuances in flowers and honey drips, we don't necessarily make a sensory connection to animality with it even if conceptually speaking it makes sense and explains in part the natural intensity of honey.

While I've read somewhere that Laurent only feels disdain for La Vie est Belle by Lancôme, one feels that Must Gold has been enriched with a trendy textural syrupiness - something like Golden Syrup - which explains part of the success of LVEB as it's been surfing on the wave of gourmands-with-a-future, since Angel by Thierry Mugler.


Must de Cartier at Versailles Launch Party © Cartier courtesy picture

What you will find however in this new perfume by Cartier is more edginess and nerdiness thanks to the deconstructed vibe and heavy spices but also thanks to undercurrents of weird smells which smell a bit like...aesthetically satisfying vomit. To some extent, there could be in there a whiff of Italian strawberry ice-cream gone awry in the basement of a Punk night club, near a wind tunnel. Jasmine offers a strawberry facet, and it comes through here with that slight puff of putridity to add character to the composition. The vanilla is opaque, thick, creamy and a bit powdery. There's frangipani mixed in. The longer drydown is cut a bit short; I think that it tends to happen with Laurent's perfumes - and a rich, deep and sustained drydown would make this blend more completely coherent as a whole - and satisfying.

If you told me that perfumer Mathilde Laurent feels affinity with Punk aesthetics, I would go back in mind to her haircuts and think "yes, of course." A woman who wears statement hair like that, which could be found on the cover of a Rock-Punk record, is bound to be ready to make a perfume spill its guts onto the stage of perfumery.

I see her as one of the angry women of perfumery, in aesthetic terms; like Isabelle Doyen, she can make a perfume scream and yell and slam, while keeping it well-blended.

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4 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I loved your analysis of this, even though I only tried it once and I cannot recall all the nuances that you pick up. I really enjoyed it, particularly what I perceived as a brief opening chrysanthemum accord, a combination of green and honeyed notes I think

    • Yes, there is a contrast of green and honeyed notes. It's a pretty complex and eclectic perfume within but it all comes together in the end. I also perceive what might be civet but not 100% sure as it does not come through fully but maybe under one of its facets. Wished it lasted longer though.

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      Chant Wagner
    • This is very, very interesting - according to wikipedia the word "chrysanthemum" comes from the Ancient Greek word chrysos meaning gold, and anthemon meaning flower. Since the perfume is named Must Gold it could be the link between the flower of chrysanthemum and the juice. I cannot remember how chrysanthemums smell like, but in my country they are considered cemetery appropriate. I remember in particular one interview with Mathilde Laurent, in which she mentioned how she works on the accord of chrysanthemums and how they are cemetery flowers but that it is a challenge for her. I remember how I said to myself that I would like to smell that perfume she was developing with the note of that flower. Maybe Must Gold is it!!

      • Thank you very much for your comment. I didn't know Laurent was interested in a chrysanthemum accord. Yes, in France too the flower is an ornament of tombs. Serge Lutens featured the floral accord in the explicit De Profundis (review is on the blog). If I find my perfume bottle of Must Gold, and with your comment in mind, I'll try to see if there's any hint in that direction. All the best, Chant

        Chant Wagner

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