Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cartier Panthere

I'll have to revisit it in the winter, but for now Le Baiser du Dragon is a disappointment, a murky vetiver and amaretto melange. I'd expected to like it. Maybe many people were expected to like it, and that's why it fails to raise hairs. The real surprise for me has been Panthere. Like Baiser, it has great packaging. That panther on the lid is gen-yew-whine glass, as heavy by itself as the bottle, the faceted body of which sure is pretty to look at. Unlike Baiser, Panthere isn't just superficially distinctive.

Panthere uses tuberose wonderfully, adjusting it with a soft woodsiness that truly tames it, though while giving the impression it might at any second pounce forward. That's an interesting tension. I love tuberose but, as oft-mentioned, it almost as a rule seems to take over a composition. Before Panthere, I would have sworn there was no such thing as a fragrance with tuberose which wasn't a tuberose soliflor. Juicy Couture augments tuberose with salty watermelon. Poison adds dates and spices. Fragile zests the note with crushed greens and citrus. While only Fracas captures the buttery rubber quality of the real thing, all of the tuberose fragrances I've smelled are unmistakably tuberose.

Panthere is an exception. Decidely old school, it has a masculine affect, speaking floralese in a slinky baritone. Everything is just so, everything as it should be, making this kind of thing seem a matter of attention to detail. If so, not many perfumers are paying attention. More likely, this kind of balance requires exceptional skill, imagination, and patience. Tonka and patchouli are discernable in the base, but there's a delicacy to the composition that many of Panthere's eighties contemporaries lack. The patchouli, particularly, has a light touch, allowing the tonka's hay-like properties to emerge. Labdanum warms everything up, contributing hints of leather, subtle smoke, moss and honey. There's a suggestion of amber but only a whisper, virtually subliminal. Judging by revews online (what few there are) others register the amber more forcefully.

There's also an eau legere version, which smells nothing like Panthere original--not even remotely. Panthere is very hard to find now, often fairly expensive, and worth it, in my opinion.

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