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February 16, 2006

Perfume Review: Declaration by Cartier


My first encounter with Cartier Déclaration (1998) left me with a vivid memory of its dry woody accord, which seemed to start embellished with a radiant herbaceous note, then assume spicy warmth of cardamom and cumin and sustain its dryness over a cedarwood base. In comparison to the virile fougère types like Yves Saint Laurent Kouros and Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir, the elegant simplicity of Déclaration held my attention like a sincere compliment made without ulterior motives.

Simplifying the perfume formula runs the risk of losing the substance, the story, and the depth. Yet, one has to admire the ability of Jean-Claude Ellena to achieve a balance between clarity and depth, and among his fragrances, Déclaration remains my favourite in terms of achieving this goal….

The lucid quality of the composition is achieved without relying on ozonic or watery notes, but instead it is the dry, smoky woods that form the architectural structure of Déclaration. The sensual counterpoint to the brightness of the top accord is not derived from the musks, which would make the composition opaque, but from the cedarwood toned Iso E Super, a material that has a dusky radiance. Déclaration is reminiscent of Eau d’Hermès, Edmond Roudnitska’s composition of spicy-woody accord wrapped in supple leather. Like Ellena, Roudnitska aimed at the transparency and minimalism, and Eau d’Hermès is one of his most fascinating creations.

Revisiting Ellena’s compositions created after Déclaration, one can see the theme of dry woods and salty clarity repeating itself, whether it is Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade (2000) or Hermès Poivre Samarcande (2004). While the main spicy-woody accord relying on an overdose of Iso E Super is changed only slightly, the finished result always has a unique effect, from the verdancy of crushed lime leaves to the warmth of black pepper. Indeed, sometimes a few words say more than a whole book, and in this case, simplicity has a rewarding result.

There also exists Déclaration Essence, a sweeter and warmer composition than the original, with additional notes of immortelle and amber as well as Declaration Bois Bleu, both of which were created by Jean-Claude Ellena. Notes of original Déclaration include bergamot, bitter orange, birch, oak, Moroccan artemisia, cardamom, musk, vetiver, oak. It is widely available, whether from retailers like Sephora or various online discount stores like Imagination Perfumery.

Please see reviews of other fragrances created by Jean-Claude Ellena:

Balenciaga Rumba (with Ron Winnegrad)
Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver
Hermès Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé (brief description)
Hermès Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé (full review)
Hermès Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan
Hermès Hermèssence Poivre Samarcande
Hermès Hermèssence Rose Ikebana (brief description)
Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil
L’Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine
Paul & Joe Blanc
The Different Company Bois d’Iris
The Different Company Divine Bergamote
Van Cleef & Arpels First
Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again Fleur de la Passion



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