Some fragrances have an uncanny rightness to them – in French, I would use the word “justesse”, which conveys at once a sense of accuracy and of suitability. Perhaps it is purely a matter personal feeling; perhaps not. At least, it was Mathilde Laurent’s deliberate intention to build L’Heure Fougueuse (number IV in Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum collection), around an olfactory archetype, just as she’d done in La Treizième Heure.
The latter was a work on smoke, possibly one of the oldest smells known to mankind. The former is a tribute to mankind’s noblest conquest, the horse. L’Heure Fougueuse, which mean the fiery, impetuous or spirited hour, is a setting for a base Mathilde Laurent calls “l’accord crinière”, the “mane accord”: a simple formula as sure-handedly traced as a Paleolithic cave painting.
You’d be forgiven, though, if you didn’t get a whiff from the stables when you first smell L’Heure Fougueuse. The bergamot and maté top notes give off a distinct tea effect, whose tannic raspiness is compounded by the bitterness of Evernyl (the main component of oak moss, synthesized). Maté is, of course, a type of tea with herbaceous, tobacco and hay facets (the stables aren’t that far after all), which Mathilde now uses as a substitute to oak moss in chypre structures. The tea illusion is reinforced by the use of the fresh, powerfully radiant Karismal, a material related to Hedione, itself a natural component of jasmine and tea (it was used by Jean-Claude Ellena, along with ionones, to conjure jasmine tea in Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert). The citrus and floral facets of Karismal combine with vanillin to create a tender, transparent, magnolia effect that softens the almost tactile tannic raspiness.
Karismal and maté were both prominent in the formula of La Treizième Heure, and you could also read L’Heure Fougueuse as a tamer, daytime alternative to it. But whereas XIII pulls its leather accord towards the burnt spectrum, this Fourth Hour (for the horse's four legs) plays on the soft warmth of “living” leather.
The horsy accord kicks in as a whiff of something funky and a little hay-like with the saddle thrown in – that horse-sweat facet you get from narcissus absolute or some qualities of jasmine --, as though carried by the wind. But it's hard to tell whether this slight animalic funk is given off by the mount or the rider: its slightly cuminic tinge conjures human sweat – not the pungent blast you catch in the subway during summer evening rush hours, but rather that faint reminiscence of a human presence unlaundered vintage clothing gives off when you iron it.
And this is where L’Heure Fougueuse achieves its “rightness”: the sensation of being haloed in a scent that somehow manages to slip under any specific male or female persona to convey a feeling of humanness in all its animal glory – as I wrote in my preview of the new Heures de Parfum, the first times I wore L’Heure Fougueuse, I kept instinctively swiveling my head to find out whose smell was so compelling (rather than who was wearing such a lovely fragrance)…
By conjuring this non-gendered aura, but also through its fresh chypre structure, L’Heure Fougueuse also achieves one of Mathilde Laurent’s stated goals: to pay tribute to Edmond Roudnitska’s Eau Sauvage, the ultimate his-and-hers fragrance – though it was marketed to men, Mr. Roudnitska admitted he’d hoped all along women would filch it, and they did in droves… And thus, the impetuousness of “Fougueuse” answers the wildness of “Sauvage”, despite the fact that neither is a particularly fiery scent. On the contrary, what draws them together is their impeccable sense of balance.
If it weren’t for its rather punishing price point – which means I must make do with the decant provided by Cartier for this review --, L’Heure Fougueuse would be the fragrance I turn to when I just want to be myself: the chord it strikes somehow makes me feel more centered, and oddly free of any need for adornment. It doesn’t speak for me, and it doesn’t even speak of me: it feels like home without recalling any home in particular. Perhaps in another, mythical life, I was a centaur.
Which may well mean that Mathilde Laurent has succeeded in transcribing an olfactory archetype, something that is literally encoded in our genes.
The three new Heures de Parfum will be available in November.
For another take on IV – L’Heure Fougueuse, 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, without comparing notes.
Stay tuned Thursday for a review of VII – L’Heure Défendue.
Picture: The “Chinese Horses” of the Lascaux Grotto (Upper Paleolithic era).
This sounds wonderful, and comfy, though of course, I was born in ranching country, so it would be....RépondreSupprimer
One of the substitutes (natural) for Indian sandalwood is muhuhu wood. Muhuhu smells just like a clean, sweaty horse, and not much like sandalwood at all. I wonder if she used that for the horse accord? Thanks for the review.
Marla, the "mane accord" is something Mathilde wouldn't talk about -- I'm not entirely clear on whether she composed it herself or whether it's a base, and have no idea what went in it. I'll try and ask about muhuhu wood next time I'm in a lab, I've never heard of it!RépondreSupprimer
It's from the Muhugwe tree (don't you love that name?) of East Africa, the latin name is Brachyleana hutchinsii, the eo is called muhuhu. Yes, if you try it, let me know if you agree about the horse effect!RépondreSupprimer
Marla, thanks, I'll try and explore...RépondreSupprimer
Oh dear- I was hoping October would be a cheap month...RépondreSupprimer
Thanks Denyse, am most intrigued by the "mane accord", must confess that I like the smell of the human scalp once the shampoo scent has worn off and the hair is not that clean. While I don't go around sniffing people's head, I often do with my family and what I get is a "concentrate" of them, makes sense?RépondreSupprimer
Look forward to trying this.
Alexander, knowing you i think you'd like even horsier but i can't imagine this not raising your interest. You've got until november to save up!RépondreSupprimer
Silvia, i think the mane in question is the horse's. The dirty hair note could be approximated with musk, costus and a touch of peach lactone.RépondreSupprimer
Of the three you described briefly in the summer this was the one which caught my imagination and you have further stoked the fire! La Treizieme Heure was probably my favourite of the first five releases and Eau Sauvage one of my favourite scents full stop. Your description also brings to mind yet another favourite, Dzing! My lucky number is 4. I might have to view this as a sign..... NicolaRépondreSupprimer
Off she goes to make her own "dirty hair" scent...RépondreSupprimer
This sounds like something I'd like very much, D. I'm looking forward to trying it.RépondreSupprimer
I love your description,RépondreSupprimer
and love love love the name of the fragrance.
Why, I am a fougueuse!
And I am a centaur (at least astrologically).
And horse mane sounds so very good.
So far, I loved only one perfume from les heures: la XIIIème. A beautiful perfume, which is associated with a lot of frustration. Cartier is not making it easy for perfume lovers to approach these "hours".
Samples? Ah, Ah, Ah!
I still have la mouiellette of la XIIIème, and it still smells wonderful.
I didn't perceive it the way it is usually described, and, I don't know why, but it opened my nose to many new perfumes: I became powdery-tolerant (yes, you told me that XIIIème is not powdery, but I get tons of talc!), and fell in love with the classics of a house I never cared of before...
XIIIème to me is beautifully reminiscent of l'heure bleue, as good as the model, with its own very distinct personality.
I will test la fougeuese, but really, I hate Cartier-perfume wise. It seems like they don't want you to buy the fragrances. And hey, I am not complaining about the price point, but the absence of testers, the attitude when they hear “perfume”: they don’t seem interested in selling these.
Nicola, I'm afraid your name is written on that bottle, what can I say?RépondreSupprimer
Silvia, L'Air de Rien is meant to have a dirty hair accord, don't remember your feelings on that one...RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, I see your name on another one of those bottles, I'm afraid...RépondreSupprimer
Zazie, that's really odd, I'm wondering whether we've smelled the same scent since La Treizième Heure doesn't have anything to do, as far as I can see, with L'Heure Bleue... I'll have to re-try it in that perspective.RépondreSupprimer
About Cartier, I think it really depends on the boutique. I've heard great things about the service in London from Silvia and Nicola who commented above. Clearly the policy has hiccups, but obviously, their staff isn't geared towards perfume lovers... Perhaps someone at Cartier will read this?
There is no better smell on earth than a clean, sweaty horse, especially if that horse is a Percheron! There's a note in XIII that doesn't quite agree with me but IV sounds like it might be Everything Horsealicious!RépondreSupprimer
I'm really looking forward to this one!
I wonder if people who keep horses will find it appealing or a real turn-off?
Musette, I can't say I wasn't thinking of you!RépondreSupprimer
You know, one of the things that really surprised me when I taught my perfume course to (mostly) American fashion students in London was how many did NOT know the smell of horses. When I was their age at least one in two girls was just coming out of an intense horsy period! Is this no longer the case?
Persolaise, excellent question. Can't say I run much with the horsy set so I don't know how I'd find out, though...RépondreSupprimer
In America, the horse thing really depends on where you grow up. Urban girls have no exposure to horses and cattle at all unless they are very wealthy, so their "horse" smell is the Chinese plastic of My Little Ponies. Those of us lucky enough to live at least partly in rural areas have a much richer olfactory palette to choose from, even to the point of liking the smell of cow manure, ha!RépondreSupprimer
Marla, I would imagine girls whose parents can afford to send them to London to study for 3 months would be fairly well-off, but maybe the fashion types aren't the horsy type... It's true that people who have some experience with the countryside have a much richer olfactory palette and a taste for more adventurous smells, I've noticed that time and again in my classes. And talking about their grandparent's gardens is a constant in perfumer's stories...RépondreSupprimer
Some of these comments do awake my interest, e.g. Nicola's question about any similarity between IV and Dzing! (is there any?), XIIIème heure as being my favorite for the moment too, and the snottiness of Cartier SAs (in Zürich), I was treated as a pauper and had litterally to beg for a second homoepathic spray of XIIIème heure, so I'm still not sure about buying a full bottle. Great description as usual, thanks! BeeRépondreSupprimer
Bee, Dzing didn't immediately come to mind when I wore L'Heure Fougueuse, which I feel is sharper because of the citrus and very diffusive Evernyl (oak moss note). However, I could very well imagine the same person liking both, as both use animalic notes in an off-beat yet somehow comforting manner.RépondreSupprimer
You're the third person to comment on the snootiness of Cartier SAs in different countries. I hope someone at Cartier reads this and addresses the problem because it's certainly not going to help sales!
All snooty SAs should be rounded up and sprayed with Bleu De Chanel!!!RépondreSupprimer
Persolaise, Bleu is too kind a gesture -- after all, the stuff is competently made and fairly unobtrusive.RépondreSupprimer
I suppose the problem is that these people aren't geared to selling perfume and resent having to do it -- a dedicated perfume aficionado will keep them away from selling a watch or piece of jewellery, and perhaps not even buy a bottle...
One can wonder whether the snootiness of the Cartier SAs people have reported here isn't quite deliberate, to discourage that kind of attitude? I doubt it, but it's a thought...
that's what I suspect too (I mean Cartier- or Chanel btw- SAs not really wanting to be a perfume sellers), but then they shouldn't even sell the scents - just give them away as freebies when you buy a diamond studded watch :-)RépondreSupprimer
An alternative would of course be an enthusiastic reaction like: you like XIIIème heure, what great taste you have!!!! Don't you think that this darling little collier would be the ideal complement for it? Do you want to give this brochure to your partner (hint hint)... Bee
Bee, I guess it's more like Chanel or Cartier wanted to sell those gorgeous fragrances as a kind of extra to people coming in for larger items... Mind you, I've had stellar treatment at Chanel on the avenue Montaigne from an SA who was a connoisseur and an enthusiast -- it's not like Chanel haven't been in the perfume business for decades. My London friends say they had fantastic service at Cartier, and a Parisian friend was very well treated by an SA at the Boissy d'Anglas shop, so I guess it's impossible to generalize.RépondreSupprimer
How very appropriate to read of this new perfume - the Scent of the Centaur - just as the World Equestrian Games open in our fair city - held for the very first time in N. America.RépondreSupprimer
Wonderful review of what sounds like a fascinating scent, and of course, I look forward to trying it. Thanks!
Donna, now that must be a fragrant event -- not to mention utterly beautiful, because there are very few creatures as glorious to behold as a horse...RépondreSupprimer
Responding to horses and Cartier snootiness:RépondreSupprimer
My fascination with horses ended when I was about 12 (severe allergies) and reignited when I discovered Drafts, about 10 years ago. I agree with Marla, though - where you live probably determines your interest, or even awareness, of horses. My granddaughter is now 6 and I see little interest in horses, though that may change as I drag her to Hitch Classic shows! LOL!
Cartier: I think much depends upon the SA. I have never had any issue with SAs in either Cartier or Chanel - I think SAs are quickly becoming aware that 'ya nebber know'....today's 'fume purchaser may be tomorrow's tank watch purchaser. But I also try to help them out - if I am going to be there awhile, sniffing and comparing, I encourage them to go wait on the Tank Watch Guy whilst I play over here...etc, etc...that acknowledgement, that they are trying to make a living, seems to go a long way. I'm not suggesting that it's the responsibility of the customer to do this - it's just my way and works for me and my SAs!
One other thing (@ Persolaise) -RépondreSupprimer
it's not the horse people you have to worry about - it is the horses. Truly, it is. Horses, even Drafts, are notoriously prickly about the weirdest stuff, perfume being chief among that. I can't get near a horse if I'm wearing Mitsouko - I learned that, much to my dismay. They get really itchy and tetchy. Most horse people simply do not wear perfume when around horses - especially high-strung ones (the horses, not the people :-) Drafts are a big easier-going - they tend to like warm leather fragrances. Brillante, one of my Cartier faves, is an absolute no-no!
Anita, about SAs, I agree, the more you acknowledge them in a considerate manner, the better the experience seems to be all-round -- I very seldom get "snooted" by SAs. And I've *never* gotten "snotted" by a horse!!!RépondreSupprimer
What a dismal experience... Imagine scaring big sweet things like that!
Musette, that's pretty amusing... or alarming, depending on whether you happen to be sitting on a quadruped.RépondreSupprimer
Just wait: in a few years, IFRA will probably join forces with a lobby of animal psychiatrists...
Persolaise, shush, don't go giving them ideas! Do you reckon I'm traumatizing my cat by letting her smell civet, castoreum and hyraceum? Drives her batty...RépondreSupprimer
Denyse, I couldn't possibly comment. Client confidentiality... you understand...RépondreSupprimer
But, off the record, she did once reveal that she'd love to try some top quality oud.
Persolaise, if she finds any, please tell her to let me know...RépondreSupprimer
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