10/3/13

Déclaration (Cartier)



To categorically condemn any one perfumery material as being "unpleasant" is difficult to do, because inevitably someone finds a way to use it correctly. Such was the case in the mid nineties, when Jean-Claude Ellena managed to integrate Iso E Super into a formula without making its presence intrusive or harsh. Its usage contributes greatly to the elegance, the sheer beauty of Déclaration, a fresh chypre from 1998 by the moderately reputable house of Cartier. One could argue that Cartier should stick to jewelry and give up on trying to compete in the fragrance world, but for whatever reason they've entrenched themselves in it, so here we are. Thankfully they have a few good scents, and Déclaration qualifies as being a magnificent fragrance, and also one of the best masculines of the nineties.

If ever there was a case for sticking with a fragrance into its far drydown, it is made with Déclaration. Its structure is so complex and multi-faceted that mere top and middle notes cannot illustrate the full extent of its abilities. It starts with a sparking, clean, fresh burst of orange citrus, full of juice and pith, before rapidly segueing into a dense accord of herbs and spices. Cumin swims out of the juice first and hits you across the nostrils for a good ten minutes, threatening to tip the whole balance into chaos with its sweaty aggression, but that part quickly subsides and makes way for more pleasant fare. Cardamom, coriander, black pepper, ginger, juniper, birch, and cinnamon unravel in unison, and what strikes me about this procession is how incredibly rich and natural it smells. I love formulas like this, because they boast good note integration and balance, but also enough note separation to discern exactly what its constituent parts are, and how well they function. The coriander is especially impressive (I think it's right up there with Jazz's), and the ginger doesn't get soggy and weird, but stays crisp and clean, thanks to the juniper, a lithe dose of artemisia, and pepper. For two hours this citric-spicy marvel hums along, unscathed by skin chemistry, air pollution, bad attitudes. It's excellent, a true treat to wear.

What stuns me about this is that it isn't even Déclaration's best phase. Three hours into wear, the spices dial themselves back, the Iso E Super becomes more noticeable, and suddenly there's a sweet jasmine/neroli bouquet, tinged with spices and mandarin. The Iso E Super lends the woody-floral accord some radiance and depth. It never asserts itself beyond a modest supporting role, unlike what it does in Bleu de Chanel, where it gets raspy and a bit unbalanced. I understand there's actually quite a bit of it in Déclaration, but Ellena's minimalist, pitch-perfect approach to using three or four complementary and durable aroma chemicals to maximal effect pays off. Déclaration winds up smelling luscious, airy, clean, earthy, and altogether beautiful. If you're a person who enjoys earthier, old-school fragrances with a clean-green edge, you'll appreciate this one. Unlike Terre d'Hermès and Chanel's Bleu, which smell nice but rather synthetic and "modern," Déclaration comes across as being textured, natural, and only as "modern" as the best of the late seventies/early eighties powerfrags smelled - which is to say, not much at all (although it's much more refined than your Polos and Quorums). Given the choice between the Hermès and the Bleu, I'm going with the third option: the Cartier, and throw in a diamond-encrusted watch to sweeten the deal even further.







4 comments:

  1. Nice review! I, for one, hope that Cartier never gives up the perfume business. I think that they are underrated. I have been quite pleased with both Declaration and Pasha. I do like Must de Cartier, but it didn't really last on my skin. I like Santos; maybe might try it again sometime. I can really feel the quality in Declaration and Pasha.

    I got Declaration about a year ago after Pour Monsieur's review. It was plentiful at the local drugstore; marked down. You are right that it is a beautiful fragrance. Although one could conceivably wear this one anytime and almost any occasion, it gives me the impression that it would be better for 'dressed up' occasions. You have reminded me to pull this one out and to include it in my Fall rotation. Except for the most bitter cold, wouldn't you say that this one could be pulled off into the Christmas holidays? It has plenty of spice and citrus to complement some hot mulled cider/wine. Smelling both Terre D'Hermes and its antecedent, it seems like this Ellena guy sure likes orange very much.

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  2. I think it could work for any autumnal/early winter holiday. I'm more likely to wear Orange Spice at Xmas, but Declaration wouldn't be a bad pick, either. Ellena does like orange, bitter orange (neroli), mandarin, all of these orange/orange-related notes feature prominently in his work. He is a master of the citrus accord. I look forward to trying more from Cartier in the future, although I'm a little skeptical of Pasha.

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  3. Hi Bryan!
    If you liked Jazz, Tsar, Paco Rabanne XS and Quorum, you will probably also like Pasha. It has many similar accords which many of us fougere fans have always loved. I think that it is very similar to Jazz, but in some ways perhaps better. I think that it is better not only in terms of longevity, but also in smell. It is smoother, more refined than all of the aforementioned. On my skin, a couple of sprays may last more than 8 hours. Sometimes, I have noted that it lasts until the next day. I was still getting pleasant wafts of it. The mid/later drydown has that sweet pipe tobacco vibe that one picks up from Quorum. Although I don't wear fragrance to attract/delight other people (if they like it all the better; an incidental benefit, otherwise...too bad...I gotta be me), this one has also garnered me more compliments than the others mentioned. As a matter of fact, none of the other ones produced any comment whereas Pasha has on several occasions.

    Like you, I was also skeptical about Pasha. When a salesgirl let me sniff the strip a couple of years back, I must admit at first I was repelled. I forget exactly what made me try it again, but I did. Perhaps, it was Pour Monsieur's favorable review. I am sure that you may have read that one. However, my renewed interest in Pasha predated that review by about a month as I remember. I am glad I did try it again. I sprang for a 100 ml bottle.

    I know your stance regarding reformulations. I agree with you to a large extent.
    Like most Cartier fragrances, Pasha now comes in a red box. When it was first released, it had been in a grey box. Having first tried the current offering which is most available, I still opted to seek out the grey-boxed version. In line with your expectations, they are still the same notes, still the same fragrance. However, I have noted that the current version will require more sprays to achieve the same effect, ceteris paribus for individual skin PH, oiliness of complexion, humidity, temperature etc. I think that you have implied this in your review of Jazz when you said, '...Your local mall has a perfume shop, and in that shop sits a bottle or two of older vintage Jazz. You might end up paying $45 for it instead of the $35 it sells for online, but the newest version is actually twenty dollars more expensive for no discernible reason (and you get less), which is a bad deal - why spend $65 on it?'

    This is the same philosophy with Pasha in that I paid about twenty five dollars more for my bottle at the local rinky dink mall shop in rural Pennsylvania on a recent visit to my relatives rather than order online the red-boxed edition for much less. If one could obtain the grey boxed version, then by all means. If not, it is not too much of a problem because they are still the same fragrance. It may be an entirely different story with Santos, however. Only difference I have noted is more sprays will be necessary to achieve the same effect. By the same token, I think that you have also mentioned this in your discussion of the newer 'white shoulders' bottle of Kouros in that you were compelled to spray more to achieve the same effect.

    Please do try this one as I think that you will probably not be disappointed. Although I think that Pasha is great for all seasons and occasions, it would probably be most pleasing around the Fall season. Just my humble two cents.

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    1. I get what you're saying about Pasha Kris, and I will definitely look into that fragrance, it sounds good. I just want to point out though that your approach to Pasha is the inverse of my approach to Jazz - in my case the older version is cheaper, while in Pasha's case the newer version is cheaper, which is understandable given the scent's age and presumably diminished popularity since its heyday. But by the same token, Jazz is suffering from a marketing ploy that makes no sense in the scheme of its existence - L'Oreal has decided to water it down ever-so-slightly, repackage it in a smaller bottle, and charge much, much more. Meanwhile the fragrance is essentially the same. In the case of Kouros, specifically my newest "white-shoulder" bottle, the fragrance is experiencing noticeable oxidization over time. It's well over a year since I purchased it, and since the initial spray (which is when air entered the bottle), the fragrance has become significantly stronger. I now get sixteen or seventeen hours of longevity with half as many sprays as I initially did. We're talking about six or seven sprays, instead of the twelve that I used before.

      That doesn't surprise me, because as you know, I am a firm believer that well-made perfumes age in the bottle. Most of the Creeds I've encountered do this, for example.

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