jeudi 30 septembre 2010

L’Heure Défendue by Mathilde Laurent for Cartier: The Bean and the Beast




Dark as black, but shot with bistre and umber; as lush and hefty as silk velvet, but oddly radiant… By hovering at the lowest levels of the olfactory spectrum, L’Heure Défendue (“The Forbidden Hour), like last year’s L’Heure Mystérieuse (aka “the one with incense”), achieves the equivalent of fashion’s faux noir.

The Seventh Hour of the “Heures de Parfums” collection – named after the seven deadly sins – is also a tough, modern twist on the oriental family. In a bid to give chocolate the same nobility as vanilla, a material Mathilde Laurent knows inside-out from her eleven years as Jean-Paul Guerlain’s assistant, she has used cocoa absolute as the core note of her “Black Oriental”.

Did the idea spring from her habit of chewing cocoa beans and observing all their facets without their usual sugary coating? After a tiny burst of sap reminiscent of the green, faintly sperm-like smell of tulips (which is present in the cocoa bean), the note is served up in its original bitterness and animalic growl. Just like the dried vanilla pod, dark unsweetened cocoa hints at leather – cut off a chunk of the stuff, smell it next to castoreum and you’ll find the Aztec bean morphing into a beast…

Mathilde Laurent further darkens her blend by matching her cocoa with several types of patchouli, from the earthy, musty, camphoraceous Indonesian straight stuff to the more delicate patchouli fractions[i].

The affinities between chocolate and patchouli have, of course, already been explored on the sweet side by Thierry Mugler Angel; Serge Lutens’ Bornéo 1834 zoomed in on them. But the Forbidden Hour achieves very different effects. Whereas Bornéo 1834 is dry and powdery with a faint milkiness to the chocolate, L’Heure Défendue has the smoothness of a black chocolate ganache filling with none of the sweetness. The velvety, woody-musky facets of Cashmeran – an IFF material Mathilde Laurent admits she would bathe in – smooth out the cocoa-patchouli accord while pushing it outward in a powerful, yet surprisingly delicate sillage.

As L’Heure Défendue evolves, the cocoa-patchouli melts to release a violet filling with iris and leather effects; there is also a hint of rose (Sophia Grojsman played on the rose/chocolate accord very differently in S-Perfumes’ 100% Love). This is when the Forbidden Hour starts venturing in Guerlain territory: it picks up where Mathilde Laurent’s own Guet-Apens/Attrape-Coeur left off a decade ago, in a pared-down, intelligent interpretation of the Guerlain tradition. A recent Guerlain, Gourmand Coquin from the Elixirs Charnels collection, did in fact play on the chocolate note: smelling it alongside L’Heure Défendue is an object lesson on the divergent paths this tradition can take. While the classic Guerlains’ gourmand leanings – whether vanilla, peach or the almond facets of coumarin and heliotropin – were always kept in check by aromatic notes, several of the contemporary compositions boost their sweetness. Mathilde Laurent opts for the opposite stance, and tugs her gourmand note out of the pantry and into the boudoir.

Of the Seven Deadly Sins after which this seventh, forbidden hour was named, you can thus have your pick between the two tastiest ones…




For another take on VII – L’Heure Défendue, those of you who read French can click here for Ambre Gris’ review – as we discovered the fragrances at the same time, we decided to post on them simultaneously, but without comparing notes.

And stay tuned on Monday for a review of VIII – L’Heure Diaphane, and a draw for the sample of your choice of the previous five Heures de Parfum.



Illustration: Irving Penn for Vogue.


[i] “Fraction” means the natural material has been broken down into its components and re-assembled using only the molecules needed to create a specific effect: patchouli fraction is usually divested of the musty facets it acquires when patchouli leaves are dried before being treated.

30 commentaires:

  1. I'm one of those weirdos who loves SL's Borneo, so I hope I get a chance to try this one. The cashmeran's a bit off-putting, though, because I "mis-smell" it as mildew. No idea why, must be brain damage, but dark chocolate and mildew, eek! Cashmeran is very popular with perfumers, too bad for me.
    -Marla

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  2. Marla, I loved Bornéo until a now-ex appropriated it... No, actually, I've gotten over that.
    You'll get mildew effects from the patchouli anyway, won't you? Somehow in L'Heure Défendue it works and it's one of the things that make it veer away from the gourmand -- the chocolate is cleft from its edible associations quite early on in the development.

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  3. OK, I'm sold, I must try.
    And yes, patch has that mildew facet, for some reason it seems romantic to me in that context, cargo ships coming and going between Great Britain and India, silks and embroidered textiles bundled carefully amongst the patchouli leaves, the Raj, blah blah blah! Silly romantic me.
    -Marla

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  4. Hey, if perfume ingredients don't arouse the romantic in us, what will? Stories add resonance: isn't that why we tell them and write them around perfumes?
    I actually love the smell of mildew, unless it's in my plate, and even then, on cheese it's ok.

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  5. This is the first time since I've become infatuated with perfume, that I've been fascinated by a review of a modern Guerlain. Must try!

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  6. Patuxxa, bear in mind that this is NOT a Guerlain, but a perfume by Cartier, though obviously Mathilde Lauren, having working throughout all her formative years for Guerlain, carries on with her own interpretation of the heritage.

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  7. Sounds uber-fabulous....you are very hard on my perfume budget girl !!
    On Saks Fifth Ave. website right now if you buy any full bottle of Les heures , GWP is a 5 pc. deluxe sample set of the Les Heures ( in the cute red boxes...)no affiliation .
    Split a bottle anyone ?

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  8. Carol, and you're telling *I'm* hard on the perfume budget? That sample set was the one sent to journalists: it's a very good GWP idea, no doubt about that.

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  9. Oh, that's completely over the top. I'm glad they won't ship to me!
    -Marla

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  10. Chocolate is one of my fragrance bete noires (betes noire?). For some reason, I almost never like a strong chocolate note. Odd, considering how much I like the actual stuff. Still, always willing to have my mind changed!

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  11. Well, Amy, in that case I'm not sure the Défendue will be your thing though in this case, it's not used as a novelty note but as a straight-up perfumery material...

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  12. I do what I can , Denyse...as do you !
    *GRIN*

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  13. Just like StyleSpy said before, I don't like chocolate on perfumes, however I love eating chocolate and how it smells!
    The same thing happens to me with coffee. It's strange.

    I loved your review, but I'm afraid that I wouldn't love L'Heure Défendue :)

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  14. Isa, chocolate and coffee usually read as food rather than perfume, I guess.
    Conversely, when I gave my perfumery course in London, I had the participants blind-smell a chunk of unsweetened dark chocolate, which in certain qualities is quite animalic. Few people recognised it. But one woman who is a confessed chocoholic blurted out: "I love chocolate but I'd never realised up to now that I actually didn't like the smell of it!"
    Still, out of curiosity, chew a toasted chocolate bean and see how different it is from what we read as "chocolate".

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  15. I'll have to forget the mention of mildew, otherwise expectation may force me to smell it although my brain might not have perceived it otherwise. Molds and mildew provoke my allergies: the mere thought of that smell can make me wheeze. But I'd like to investigate a scent that uses chocolate without evoking its culinary uses, so I'll cross my fingers. . .
    Gretchen

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  16. Gretchen, as a lifelong sneezer and sniffler, I can sympathize! Moldiness is an intrinsic part of the
    smell of patchouli. I think it smells of damp earth, which I find beautiful and somehow life-affirming. This facet is
    not overwhelming in L'Heure Défendue, however...

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  17. Usually cashmeran scares me right away ( I'm still slightly traumatized by Malle's fungal horror, Dans Tes Bras ), but I recently smelled that note - or at least something quite like it - in the base of JAR's Jarling, which combines a sweet and spicy marzipan with civet and that musky-mushroom note in the drydown. It smelled just great! So, if it works for almond, chocolate might work too.

    The mention of iris in the context of cocoa makes me ask - is this at all related to Dior Homme? That's the only one I'm familiar with on the iris-cocoa front and I found it didn't have enough bite for my tastes; this sounds like it will, but I'm curious if this is close or far away from that fragrance.

    Thanks for the heads up on what sounds like a fun new fragrance, and for another brilliant review!

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  18. wow.

    I didn't think anybody could do this, Denyse.

    I didn't think anybody could get me to consider a 'chocolate' fragrance...even though it's not a 'sweet' (Angel is my worst possible perfume nightmare).......

    ..but you have done it. I am drooling with anticipation!

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  19. Sugandaraja, I don't think any perfume material ought to be crossed off: it's all in the effects it produces along with the others.
    And, no, it didn't remind me of Dior Homme at any stage: there's no iris per se, just an iris effect, and it's not very strong. Certain qualities of iris concrete (not orris butter) give off a distinct chocolate facet, and that may have been the idea behind that accord in Dior Homme.

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  20. Anita, I'm Angel-phobic as well, and I've worn my sample of L'Heure Défendue quite blissfully, so I'm guessing it's within the realm of possibility that this one might interest you!

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  21. eleven european mystics2 octobre 2010 08:17

    This sounds irresistibly ...intelligent. If the mind elaborates the sensations of fragrance, it seems as if the mind gets especially rewarded with this Heure Defendue by Mathilde Laurent. I just wish it manages to avoid that strange acidity that i register in SL's Borneo.
    Oh, and the title "The Bean and the Beast"...

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  22. Thanks for the response! Sounds like I'll definitely have to explore this one, then.

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  23. EEM, you mention acidity and oddly, that ex-BF I was mentioning in the comments above was a redhead and his acidic pH turned most perfumes... except Borneo.

    And, yes, Mathilde's stuff is marvellously intelligent, though it's also a gut-level type of intelligence -- and gutsy, period. It's that combination, on top of the fact that this stuff really smells wonderful, that appeals so much to me!

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  24. eleven european mystics2 octobre 2010 10:14

    This sounds great, simply great, and your post, as usual, just brilliant.

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  25. A 'continuation' of Attrape-Coeur sounds like a must try... and I don't know about bathing in Cashmeran, but I'd certainly love to see it turned into sticks of incense.

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  26. Persolaise, I'd even mention the "M" word (as in Mitsouko), not because they're smell-alikes -- much as I worship the pre-reformulation Mitsouko, I consider it pointless for a real perfumer to re-do a "dupe" now, it's like making new antique furniture -- but there is an element of it in L'Heure Défendue, just as there was in Guet-Apens: a vibe.

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  27. Re: the Dans tes Bras comment above: is cashmeran the fungal, nauseating part of that perfume? That part of DtB makes me keep sniffing even though it's also repulsive...

    Very excited to smell this one, I do love the deep, dark and grotty scents!

    h.

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  28. H, I've never cashmeran as fungal so I doubt it.

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