Cartier’s La Panthère was one of my favourite launches from last year. It felt modern and new, but also had enough of a foundation in classical perfumery to ensure that it was suitably familiar and accessible too. La Panthère took nature’s most elusive flower – the gardenia, a bloom that oozes with scent, giving off facets of highly indolic jasmine, cool mushrooms and blue cheese (just to name a few), but yields no usable oil in perfumery, and presented it abstractly as something recognisably ‘gardenia’, but not photorealistically so. The gardenia at the core of La Panthère is sweet and fuzzy, with a sharp, green edge.
Cartier’s in-house perfumer, the extraordinarily talented Mathilde Laurent said of her choice of gardenia for La Panthère; “For La Panthère, I wanted to propose a new femininity that’s not on the market. I proposed a chypre, the most chic, feminine and sensual fragrance. I wanted to make it animal using civet and musks. To express femininity one often uses flowers, but I wanted to do this in a different way with La Panthère, without jasmine or tuberose etc. I chose gardenia because it is historical and because it isn’t on the market. It doesn’t exist in the modern era.“ It was, and remains a very good choice of flower.
This summer, Cartier is seeking to extend the beauty of La Panthère with a lighter version entitled La Panthère Eau de Parfum Légère. This new edition flirts with the same bold and free-spirited ethos as the original but adds the tropical note of tiaré flower for extra shimmer and a slightly exotic feel. The result is a fragrance that is distinctly ‘La Panthère’ but one that also takes the scent in a slightly new direction. Think of it as a slight diversion through a tropical rainforest, and you’re on the right track.
Top: Green Notes and Dried Fruits
Heart: Gardenia and Tiaré Flower
Base: Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli and Leather
How Does it Smell?
Cartier’s La Panthère Eau de Parfum Légère (hereafter simply referred to as Légère for the sake of brevity) instantly feels lighter and more breath-like than the original, which in itself wasn’t a heavy or oppressive fragrance. Both fragrances are very similar in the initial instance, and Légère comes out of the bottle in a cloud of gauzy gardenia and musky fluff, as seen so prominently in the original. The impression is definitely lighter though and feels like the familiar fragrance seen through a slight haze, and with stronger green inflections.
The difference comes in the heart through the addition of tiaré flower. Cartier bills this as a “new spark” and it certainly brings something quite lively to the composition. Tiaré, also known as ‘Tahitian Gardenia’, has a heady fragrance that is sweet and tropical, with coconut and ylang-ylang nuances. In Légère, the tiaré feels buttery and almost orris-like, providing a smoother texture. It also brings a measured touch of sweetness – not too much or too little, just the right amount to amplify the heady nature of the white flowers, without losing any of that strange muskiness that leads one to envisage an abstract flower.
As it strides towards dry down territory, Légère becomes much softer. The musky chypre base of La Panthère is alive and kicking here, and it displays a strange tension that positions it somewhere between creamy and abrasive. The juxtaposition of the smooth and the coarse make for interesting smelling, allowing the chypre dry down to be heavier on the leather and in a way, ultimately more luxurious. In the end it is the floral-tinged musk that reigns supreme and that carries the scent to its final moments on the skin, collapsing in wisps of delicate floral air.
Légère does what a ‘Légère’ (i.e. slight or light) version of a fragrance should. It stays faithful to the original, boasting all of its best parts, whilst adding something new. This isn’t simply a lighter summer fragrance that has been diluted with enough citrus to make it more transparent and palatable in the hotter months, instead it’s a slightly less intense fragrance that uses bold tropical notes to give the impression of sun-soaked skin. Would I choose it over the original though? Now that’s the question. In truth, I think the off-centre gardenia and musky plushness of La Panthère may just have the edge for me, but that aside this new one would make a worthy addition to any fragrance wardrobe.