Thursday, March 22, 2007

Panthere de Cartier (Memory Lane IV)

The winter of 1995/96 wasn't the best one ever. I was fresh out of business school, living in a city by the sea that turned out to be a gray, dreary place, plagued with unemployment and air pollution. I was working for a very small employment agency (so small that I was the only employee), had my second-to-worst boss and was realizing that the real world wasn't all that.

There were a few bright spots, though. The Blond and I were living together and talking engagement, we adopted our first cat and just around the corner from my miserable office was a little store that sold several of my favorite beauty brands.

One evening, after another frustrating day of trying to place unqualified workers at jobs only a little less horrible than mine, I paid a visit to the store. I needed a new Lancome Artliner, and was contemplating going wild and buying a red lipstick. I found one that I liked (I can no longer remember which one or what shade), and the sales assistant rewarded me with a purse spray of a new-to-me Cartier fragrance, Panthere.

I still have this vial, which is ensconced in the grip of a blue plastic panther. I don't remember much from the first time I tried it on, other than that it was love at first sniff. So much love that within a few days (and a paycheck) I was back at that store buying a full bottle.

Today I know to classify it as a floriental, to identify the citrus in the opening, the white florals in the heart notes (it has one of the most delicate tuberose and jasmine blends I have ever come across) and enjoy the elegant woodsy spicy dry-down (sandalwood, tonka bean and labandum). Back then I could only say that it felt elegant and sexy, much darker and edgier than my everyday Eternity, but still bright enough to make me feel happy.

It still does. I'm definitely not the queen of white flowers, but this scent is a far cry from the heady Fracas and its ilk. It doesn't hit you on the head. Instead, it glides on velvety paws in a warm, enveloping way. The flowers are soft, and even the opening isn't sharp at all, being more about the blossom than the pulpy fruit. A cat would not recoil from this.

Back then, it was one of my more sophisticated scents. My taste has shifted since then, and I might not be as in awe of Panthere as I used to be, but I still wear it when I want to smell beautiful, with a hint of mystery.

Panthere used to be easier to find. Sephora carried the fragrance and several of the bath and body products in this line, most of them are now discontinued. My first bottle was refillable parfum de toilette, with a red plastic cap. Those are also gone now, replaced by the prettier edp bottle with the perching panther on top. You can find it occasionally at one of the online discounters, but it's easier to get at the department stores. There's also a parfum version that might be my next purchase. I'm very curious to see how they differ and get more staying power.


  1. My daughter bought me the EDP because it reminded her of when I would come home from my orchestra job and tiptoe into her room when she was a little girl; she said I smelled like "cold perfume" and went in search of that memory. It wasn't my scent, the late lamented Mollie Parnis was, but I fell in love with it. When I ran out, I bought the parfum; it is heavier, and lasts forever. I find a light touch with the parfum works best, then it captures some of the sparkle of the EDP. I should layer. Oddly enough Antilope layers well with this.

  2. I believe Panthere is discontinued now, which is a shame... Cartier started phasing it out sometime in the last year or so...

  3. julie here again, I was mistaken; she bought me the EDT. EDP is heavy and sharp like the parfum. Just found halh bottle of EDT on eBay - fingers crossed...

    This summer, I layered my Panthère parfum with Guerlain Mayotte, a sweet tuberose/frangipani/ylang-ylang concoction with no staying power. One helped the other.


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