Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cartier La Panthere: A Sophisticated Gardenia

When La Panthere was introduced in 2014 the bottle itself created a lot of the initial buzz. Cartier uses the panther as a brand symbol, and an angular panther face can be seen on the bottle. If the message was that this perfume was feline and a bit wild, the juice inside did not disappoint.  In a year when so many new perfume introductions were sweet and fruity, Le Panthere stood out as a serious scent.

La Panthere is a modern chypre . Chypres are the grande dame of the scent world, at least in my opinion.. They reek glamour and class. They speak of the days when people didn't have rules about wearing perfume in an office space, when fashion houses rather than celebrities drove the sales and trends in fragrance,  and when elegance spoke more of creating mystery than revealing all and leaving nothing to the imagination. Chypres have been a somewhat endangered species with the IFRA restrictions on oakmoss, but recent advances have removed the forbidden  molecules while maintaining the integrity of the oakmoss accord. Chypres are typically composed of five elements: citrus, floral, woody, oakmoss and amber/musk. Mossy and animalic, this fragrance family is meant to roar,  I think La Panthere growls more than roars but it definitely has a presence. Those who have never worn chypres may find this fragrance surprising, but it would be a good and slightly gentle introduction to the chypre family.

From the first spray La Panthere reveals itself as an alluring fragrance, ready to charm and possibly to seduce. The perfume opens with a fizzy burst of warmth, generated by the addition of bergamont. It's bergamont that gives Earl Grey tea its delightful tang, and here it makes the opening warm and sunny. Chypres often use the more traditional notes of rose or jasmine as the floral element but perfumer Mathilde Laurent chose to highlight gardenia as the focal flower for La Panthere. This is not a soliflore gardenia--dewy green and tropical, but a fantasy gardenia giving a crystallized portrayal of the flower.There is a fizzy effervescence to this fragrance and I get a mental picture of a champage bottle spraying out showers of gardenias. Very quickly this brightness is shrouded by a dark cloud of musk and oakmoss. Although listed as base notes, I feel their presence very early in the unfolding of the perfume's presentation. This bright/dark contrast is an element found in chypres.

Cartier lists top notes of rhubarb, strawberry, and dried fruits, and in the opening moments I do get a sense of these notes, but it is fleeting and momentary.  The base notes are oakmoss, musk, patchouli, and leather but they are so expertly blended that they make a thick gorgeous broth with no one note standing out. Leather is not a note I normally seek out in a perfume, but when added with a delicate hand as it is in La Panthere, it imparts subtle elegance. The sillage is excellent and I can still make out the scent several hours after application.

I chose this vintage photo of Marilyn Monroe because to me she illustrates the glamorous feeling of wearing La Panthere.  The gardenia note seems as elegant as her white satin dress and the fur (not promoting fur, mind you!) captures the musk and light animalic notes present which wrap the wearer of La Panthere in a purring warmth. If you're a gardenia lover this is an unusual interpretation of the flower, and if you haven't particularly loved gardenia in the past you may still love this one if you're a fan of chypres. 

Photo of Marilyn source unknown. Cartier bottle from Cartier.


Undina said...

La Panthere was the first perfume by Cartier that I liked, all their previous offerings, including their Les Heures series, left me cold. It stands out among the current mainstream releases.

I do not really need any more bottles in my collection but I'm still tempted to get this one if I see it at a good discount - both for perfume and for the bottle.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for commenting, Undina. I don't have much experience with other Cartiers, with the exception of Baiser Vole. I really like this one, although more for a nighttime fragrance. By the way, I enjoyed your most recent blog post on coffee; Ally McBeal was one of my favorite shows too! It did go off the rails after a while but was still entertaining.