And lavender blue,
Thyme and sweet marjoram,
Hyssop and rue.
Hyssop and rue.
The notes of Mathilde Laurent’s new Heure de Parfum, III - L’Heure Vertueuse – lavender, rosemary, thyme, lentisque, verbena and absinth – read like a nursery rhyme. Or, perhaps, the ingredients of a natural remedy?
Cartier's in-house perfumer has never been afraid of nose-searing aromatic notes, as demonstrated early on by her Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca for Guerlain, then Roadster for Cartier. This time, she's made straight for the medieval apothecary's garden and looted it. L’Heure Vertueuse is a ballsy scent – it’s worth remembering here that the word “virtue” comes from the Latin meaning “moral strength, manliness, valor” and has the same etymology as virile. Broad, impulsive strokes of green aromatic notes, so powerful you’ve got to wonder whether this is fine fragrance or medicine. No perspective, no pyramid: the olfactory equivalent of the all-over technique. A massive terpenic blast, dominated by lavender, with mint and pine effects. But like the more delicate L’Heure Brillante (green-citrus) or L’Heure Folle (berry bush), once you poke your nose inside you catch the details: for instance, a tiny, unclaimed balsamic effect that suddenly brings to mind Caron’s Pour un Homme – but after the perfumer’s gone medieval on its formula.
What’s fascinating about Mathilde Laurent’s work, at least in the Heures where she is pretty much given free rein, is her fearlessness. By skirting perilously at the edge of phytotherapy, by translating its vocabulary into fine fragrance, she reconnects with pre-modern perfumery, when fragrance was used as medicine, imbibed as much as applied on skin to cure illnesses or repel them. In doing so, she forces fine fragrance to reconsider something it set aside over 200 years ago: its virtues for body and soul. Something that smells good can also do good. A timely statement when a clutch of allergists in Brussels are bent on vandalizing our gardens...