Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cartier Panthere and Cartier La Panthere: fragrance review & comparison of vintage vs. modern edition

Reading there are two editions, one old, one new, by Cartier with the emblematic panther in the name, one is faced with an embarrassment of riches. The good news is that perfumer Mathilde Laurent' style is vibrant, luminous, recognizable in the newer incarnation, La Panthère. The bad news (if that is considered bad in itself) is that it bears no copy-paste relation to the previous fragrance,  Cartier  Panthère, launched in 1986 and circulating well into the 1990s to be discontinued later on.

While the older Panthère is a ripe and fruity-saturated perfume which is recalling a trend of the 1980s and mid-90s (and bears a knowing kinship to the later Champagne/Yvresse by Sophia Grojsman with its fruit-liquor density, I always thought, as well as winking to Dior Poison), the newer La Panthère is a musky floral with a healthy dose of oakmoss felt in the base, which gains life on the skin, rather than on the paper blotter on which it is presented in perfumeries. Indeed to judge it by merely its effect on paper would be to misunderstand it.

I like what I smell on a batch of the older, Alberto Morillas composed Panthère which I received through a split from a bona fide collector. My own small bottle from 1991 was in a ramschackle state, due to it being kept on a dresser for the better part of that decade. The little remaining inside had become a thickish goo which muddled all notes together. So jogging my memory was necessary. The rather significant amount I ordered proves that my former instincts are correct.

The floral notes (tuberose amongst them) are so honeyed and dense (and warmed up by civet notes) that they gain an overripe fruitiness, reminiscent of grappa spirits. The resinous qualities have an aldehydic brilliance to them and a tenacity which has both influential wake (you sniff this from time to time on yourself) and good lasting power, either on skin or on clothes. It's a perfume that seems out of joint with the modern sensibilities in a way, yet like 24 Faubourg it doesn't smell really retro, just mature and "full." Contrary to 24 Faubourg, nevertheless, the older Panthère's aura is less formal and a little more playful, at least to me.

In contrast the newer 2014 La Panthère (differentiated both by bottle and by the article "La" [sic], i.e. "the" before the animal-emblem) spells modern sensibilities galore, yet done in a very tasteful way. Much like Baiser Vole (which let it be noted I liked a lot) was Laurent's take on one of the mega-trends of recent perfumery, that is, the gently powdery floral, here in La Panthère takes some of the tricks of the illusionist, making you see fruit (fresh, tart, like pear liqueur, greenish too, a touch of budding gardenias) while the floral bouquet develops beyond any doubt and gains radiance by the hour. The underscoring by musks fortunately doesn't tilt the perfume into laundry detergent territory, as many fear due to the abundance of musk molecules in functional products used for cleaning and drying our clothes due to their hydrophobic properties (which ensure a lasting impression).

Specifically Musk ketone in the base, which smells warm, inviting, pulsating from the skin, forms an aura that warms up with the heat of the body. Although previously restricted and disappearing from perfumes, it is re-introduced and utilized by some (but not all!) perfume companies and perfume labs. It is exactly its thermoregulating properties which are lost on the blotter, so I advice giving it some time to evolve on the warmth of someone living. The mossy notes brings the composition closer to something which indeed has a 1980s kin than anything. Yet it still remains contemporary, youthful, sparkling with life, a modern chypre. One of the better releases so far.

I really like the concave bottle which is carved from the inside to hold the juice into the cavity formed by the panther's head. In all sincerity I found the commercial (and the overly "meaningful" gaze of the model) yawn-inducing. But your mileage may vary.

Available at major department stores internationally.


  1. Miss Heliotrope02:38

    The modern one sounds slightly more my sort of thing, but not convinced about panthers' heads holding perfume...

  2. Maria04:44

    I liked the bottle and the fierce attitude of the ad a lot, so the tamed perfume was a disappointment. Not much strength and menace in it, which to me equals not much of a Bagheera, or any panther for that matter. It's good but not for that name and image.

  3. I really like this new perfume...the bottle, also. I smell the gardenias with their almost rotten-in-a-good-way aroma. A+.

  4. C,

    well, the panthers are the house's emblem, I don't think they'd be congenial to perfume either, plus aren't they supposed to be lovely-scented all by themselves? (i.e.Myth of Scented Panther article on the right hand column of Home Page)

  5. Maria,

    I agree that if one starts with anticipating a very fierce perfume that would hold no prisoners they get disappointed. But it's quite lovely in execution and style and it does stand out from the rest of the contemporary releases, especially in the mainstream. So it's a winner in my books, even if one would expect something wilder.

  6. JW,

    it's a very nice modern chypre, not as "full" as some of the older ones, but easily one of the best new releases. Love your description, btw! :-)

  7. I was wandering around in Nordstrom's perfume department and saw the bottle for La Panthere (not the Legere, the "full monty") -- spritzed it on my wrist, and promptly bought the large bottle. I thought it was elegant, rich, and relatively long-lasting. Oddly, the initial hit I got from smelling this was, of all the strangest things, the late, lamented Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica. There's something in the top notes that is very reminiscent of FD, which is what made me go crazy for this perfume in the first place. I wore it to work and reveled in it all day long, although I think this fragrance is rich enough to wear in the evening. I am looking forward to wearing it on summer nights, when I think it will bloom magnificently. Bottom line, I absolutely love this, and highly recommend it.

    1. Glad we arrive at the same conclusion! Υes, it's lovely.

  8. I have the cream. Which one should I get.


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