I wasn't surprised when Cartier discontinued Panthere de Cartier, one of my favorite perfumes of all times. The 1986 bombshell white floral was not of this time and you could smell it from afar, not to mention all the stuff there that couldn't have been IFRA compliant, at least in its original formula (later vintages smelled decidedly weaker). So, yes, we all knew it was a goner even before the official axing. The surprise came earlier this year when Cartier released La Panthere, composed by Mathilde Laurent (the original Panthere was an Alberto Morillas creation).
The new La Panthere smells modern from the very first go. And that's not necessarily a compliment. This perfume is one of those modern floral chypre things, a genre that doesn't really smells like the robust chypres of yore, but has a certain kick reminiscent of the classic structure, and a refined air about them, even when they don't smell as good as you want them to be.
Here's the thing: I may hold a grudge against Cartier and La Panthere, but I really wanted to be proven wrong and fall in love with the new juice in the bottle bearing a panther face that oddly resembles my cat Bob. And the more I tested the perfume the better I could see, smell, and appreciate the idea and the intent behind La Panthere. There's a shimmering quality there, a fragility that turns into a steel backbone of oakmoss, and a reasonably nice gardenia note that lasts forever. But the sum of it, the way La Panthere smells on my skin? It's all plastic. And quite unpleasant.
This is where skin chemistry is the only thing that counts. I smelled La Panthere on a friend and it wasn't half bad. Some people fall madly in love with it, so obviously it does what it's supposed to do. I can definitely identify the careful craftsmanship that created this fragrance. But wearing it is not a pleasant experience for me. A perfume is more than the idea behind it or the formation of notes, and whatever is actually in this one just doesn't work for me.
Cartier La Panthere ($72, 1 oz EDP) is available from select department stores.
Photo credit: Elias Amari.