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January 31, 2011

Cartier Les Heures de Parfum Review: L’Heure Folle, Brilliante, Promise, Diaphane

Green leaves

As I smell many niche collections these days, I get a distinct feeling that the luxury is being channeled mainly through the price and elaborate packaging. I do not wish to single out Cartier; the same thing can be said about by Kilian, Armani Privé, Clive Christian, Xerjoff, etc, etc, etc. This is also not to imply that the fragrances launched under these brands are poorly made; in fact, sometimes it is quite the opposite. However, as the price of luxury rises higher and higher, I begin to wonder whether the fragrances truly justify it. After all, I am not wearing a pretty bottle, nor do I care about the esteemed brand name. The only thing that remains is the scent. As for Cartier Les Heures de Parfum scents, I enjoyed the incense of L’Heure Mystérieuse and fell hard for the introspective aura of L’Heure Fougueuse and liked L’Heure Brilliante. Yet, as I mentioned previously, I wish for more complexity in these compositions and fuller stories being developed around these strong ideas. As I finish testing Les Heures de Parfum, I am left with the surprising discovery that in comparison to many niche lines, Serge Lutens fragrances can seem like bargains!

I decided to review L’Heure Folle, L’Heure Brilliante, L’Heure Promise, and L’Heure Diaphane together, because they capture a similar bright, joyful sensation to me, despite being quite different in terms of their olfactory profiles. As such, it is very interesting to observe how different olfactory effects can be used to achieve a similar mood. They also give a very interesting insight into Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent’s style and her strong signature.

X L'Heure Folle

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

I am deeply ambivalent about L'Heure Folle. On the one hand, it is one of the most original green fruity accords I have smelled recently. On the other, I cannot help but think that it is an extremely expensive fine fragrance accord. Yet, L'Heure Folle is fascinating for its ability to weave an illusion of berries and ripe fruit out of green leafy notes. The strong fruity notes with their sharp butyric, and in the case of black currant, sulfuric facets are not pretty, and it is remarkable how Laurent manages to create a very juicy, edible sensation with just a hint of something strange. It gives L’Heure Folle a very memorable quality, much like the one in Laurent’s own Guerlain Aqua Allègoria Pamplelune. All in all, L’Heure Folle captures my attention, but I would not be interested in wearing it unless it were a part of a more complex composition. Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again can also be considered for those who enjoy bitter grapefruit-berry notes.

(notes: pink peppercorns, grenadine, blackberries, blackcurrant berries, blueberry, red currants, violet, ivy, shiso leaves, box wood, aldehydes)

VI L’Heure Brilliante

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

Vivid green notes are very hard to find in fine fragrance, because they tend to be quite polarizing. Even in the niche lines, green fragrances are quite rare. L’Heure Brilliante is a welcome departure, and it is undoubtedly my second favorite, after L’Heure Fougueuse. The composition scatters like pearls from a broken string , revealing the brightness of green grass, crush stems, green citrus rind and sticky buds. It is such a vivacious, effervescent composition that it is almost irresistible. But because of the price, I would rather go with the equally green and vivid Miller et Bertaux Green, green, green

(notes: lemon, flax seed, gin accord, aldehydes)

I L’Heure Promise

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

L’Heure Promise has a beautiful green bitter orange leaf and iris opening that slowly leads into a warm, soft sandalwood base. The verdancy is explored in different ways here, from citrusy to herbal, from floral to fruity. The luminous quality of L’Heure Promise is retained even in the late drydown, when the composition becomes mostly musk and creamy sandalwood. It is balanced very nicely and the whole sensation of smoothness, softness and lightness is very appealing. Wearing it, I keep thinking of Indian sandalwood soap and sun-dried linen—all very clean, soft impressions. The green fig leaf married with the languid sandalwood is reminiscent of Olivia Giacobetti’s L’Artisan Premier Figuier and Diptyque Philosykos, so perhaps, for this reason I feel that I have experienced L’Heure Promise before.

(notes: petitgrain, herbs, iris, sandalwood, musk)

VIII L'Heure Diaphane

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

L'Heure Diaphane is interesting in its exploration of the contrasts between the girly brightness of peony and the strong, dry sharpness of a woody amber. On the skin, it is less pleasant, since the strong rosy-citrusy note has a rather functional quality, making me think of furniture polish. It vanishes soon enough to allow the rose and peony accord to unfold fully, but it is a jarring start. The fragrance name does not mislead in this case, as it is quite a diaphanous, light composition. Again, an interesting idea, but not enough to tempt me into parting with $255. I feel that a similar contrast (even if the accents are different) has been already explored very successfully by Stella McCartney (rich, fruity rose on an amber base) and L’Artisan Fleur de Liane (vivid green floral and woody amber composition). For a gentle, fresh rose take, Cartier’s recent Cartier de Lune would be a nice alternative.

(notes: peony, lychee, rose, violet, amber)

Reviews of the entire Les Heures de Parfum collection: I L’Heure Promise :: IV L’Heure Fougueuse :: VI L’Heure Brilliante :: VII L’Heure Deféndue :: VIII L'Heure Diaphane :: X L'Heure Folle :: XXII L’Heure Mystérieuse :: XXIII La Treiziéme Heure

Les Heures de Parfum are available at Cartier boutiques and Saks Fifth Avenue in the US.

Image from

Samples: my own acquisitions, except for L’Heure Diaphane, which was a 4ml sample from Cartier.



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