HOW TO DO IT: : Baiser Volé, by Mathilde Laurent, for CARTIER ( 2013)

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We looked yesterday at the crass state of mainstream perfumery and the nasal malaise, even misery, that is inflicted upon us by much of what is released in the name of ‘fragrance’. And standing, exhausted, in the interminable terminal of Dubai airport tragically trying to kill eight hours before my flight back to Tokyo last Thursday, I would occasionally pick up the odd scent from the Duty Free concessions, lift it to my nose, and put it back down again.

 

 

 

Approaching the Cartier stand, I saw some scents I had never heard of for some reason, and thought I might as well give them a try. Before I go any further, though, I should admit, to my great shame, that I have never smelled any of the much lauded Heures by in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, chiefly because they don’t seem to have them in Tokyo (there are not all too many women on the Ginza who want to smell of horses), and because I have just never seemed to come across them anywhere else either.

 

 

Otherwise, when it comes to Cartier, my knowledge is limited to the marvellous Must parfum, that belly-filling, complex, lustful oriental that I have always enjoyed to the max, and also the great Panthère, a over-jewelled, opulent, eighties femme fatale floriental prism that nevertheless, when I met a girl called Anoushka at Cambridge who was wearing it to some formal event one evening, gave me a mad, synaesthesic reaction akin to cerebral fireworks: my head was spinning, I was lifted out of reality and genuinely seeing colours; I was honestly not quite myself there for a moment. Damn that thing smelled sexy. On the wrong person it could have been tacky, for sure, but on her it was 100% magnifique erotique, and the feeling of having been knocked for six by such a perfectly coutured woman-to-scent melding would surely feature in one of my top ten perfume experiences of all time.

 

 

 

Then there was Santos – a rigid, austere, silver-haired, tight-jawed masculine that I would rather die than wear myself but which I imagine I could probably be seduced by if the right man was wearing it: a taut, no-nonsense eighties, surreptiously aggressive macho number that nevertheless managed to withold some dignity and reserve, just enough mystery to make you want to find out more (what would he look like out of that immaculately tailored suit?)

 

 

 

 

The same could not be said for some of the recent mainstream releases I have smelled by Cartier. I did rather like So Pretty in a way, despite its slight over-insistence (… I AM pretty!!!), and spent an enjoyable Air France flight lulled pleasantly in its neo-classical floral trail, as the flight attendant walked by me down the aisle each time and I would catch its suggestive, ripped-stockinged end-trails on the air….

 

 

 

As for Cartier’s other perfumes (and fill me in on any I am not mentioning here), I know that people say good things about Le Baiser Du Dragon, but I personally just thought it was about as ferocious as a lemon-pink chihuahua and nowhere near as appealing; and as for ‘Les Delices’ ……..(ugh!) that actually made me feel physically nauseated it was so artificial, sugared and cheap – repugnant even.

 

 

 

So it was with rather blasé trepidation that I picked up the unfamiliar bottles of Baiser Volé (‘stolen kiss’) in eau de toilette, and essence de parfum. In fact, despite the appealing bottle – smooth shouldered, simple, ergonomic in its thick, glassed contours – I think I already had my eye-rolled, bored, expression in place: to receive, knowing perfectly well in advance, or so I imagined, exactly what to expect.

 

 

Instead, what greeted my nose was a rarity in a mainstream release: a fully realized, idiosyncratic, perfectly executed scent of character that made my eyes start: Wow!! A perfume of quality: different yet familiar (always a good thing in a work of art I feel; I sometimes think that the familiarity of something, even when it is starkly innovative, suggests universality); fresh, beautiful, yet also modern, futuristic even. Although I didn’t spray it on my hand ( I don’t do lily), here was a scent that set my mind free for a few moments: a dreamy, airy, contemporary magnolia/lily, holistic in its white-tubed completion; rounded, vanillic, shimmering and resourceful in its integrity, and I think that this, this truth essence at the heart of a scent, is what is key for me.

 

 

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As a committed, manic cinephile with certain tastes, I think I probably differ from many people in my criteria for enjoying a film. Plot, tension, character, all the usual box-ticking (villain! hero! award-seeking acting! triumph over adversity! requisite action sequences! ) are personally far, far less important to me than atmosphere, cinematography, aesthetics, and a sense that this is the film that the director wanted to make. The vast majority of films, I feel, are consensus-built, test audienced, paint-by-numbers efforts that cater to banal commercial requirements and often just come out as ready-mades: fast food products that can satisfy on certain levels ( I watch all kinds of films), but, it has to be said, rarely touch the soul. The kind of films I like, or become obsessed by myself are the ones that seem not to have been compromised, that are the true vision of their creator. Whether they have a happy or tragic ending, where something dramatic happens or doesn’t, I don’t care a jot as I long as I am immersed in their vision and trust in it implicitly. And the same theory holds true for perfumery. While there are always commercial and financial prerogatives in the launch of a new scent, a talented perfumer, like a film auteur, has a vision, genuine inspiration, and will try to execute it as well as s/he can. ‘Extatic’, the risible scent I described on yesterday’s post, was clearly a group effort, trying, so blatantly, to cash in on certain empty clichés that would only appeal to a mindless fool. But the soulful perfume enthusiast will recognize in Baiser Volé, even if he or she doesn’t necessarily like it personally, something intact, real, a finished idea, polished to perfection. Unlike Jour d’Hermès, which everyone raved about but which I myself found distinctly unappealling, even horrible, with its amorphous, abstract, weird synthetic ‘florality’, Baiser Volé is a commerically viable, luminescent white floral that is far more suggestive of a new, optimistic dawn; lilian, feminine, enigmatic, and stupendously pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Comments

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18 responses to “HOW TO DO IT: : Baiser Volé, by Mathilde Laurent, for CARTIER ( 2013)

  1. Boveney

    Baiser du Dragon! – the fierce lady in the basement perfume place at the Jiyugaoka station arcade was pushing this the other day when I visited – a visit inspired entirely by your blog (serendipitously found while searching for information on shrine sales in Tokyo). Although the farthest person from your target audience (perfume makes me sneeze), I was so entranced by your writing that I immediately subscribed to The Black Narcissus. I am so glad you said what you did about Baiser du Dragon – I lack your vocabulary so ‘sickly sweet’ was all I could manage, far inferior to your ‘lemon pink chihuahua.” But I’d gone to Jiyugaoka in search of Nuit by Yoshie Inaba. Have you ever come across this in your trawlings? Made in the 1980s, I believe, and now vanished totally though Kiss of the Dragon Lady said she had customers occasionally asking for it. I say I am a non-fragrance person but that one was …..transformative. Anyway, apologies if this is the wrong place to post my fan letter – wasn’t quite sure how best to let you know how much this total non-nose enjoys your blog.

    • I have just had a total jump start thrill hearing you mention that Jiyugaoka arcade: I presume you also found the cheap place upstairs as well which is WAY more sensibly priced. How brilliant you actually went there…I love it. How long are you in Tokyo?

      As for the Nuit, I have sadly never heard of it, but I will keep an eye out.

      Tell me more!!

      Did you buy anything? Where are you from?

      WHO ARE YOU?!

      • Sorry, just reread your comment and understood that you are a non-fragrance person.

        (really???)

        I can’t imagine that, obviously. But I am intrigued as to why that particular perfume has such resonance for you.

  2. Loved hearing your recollection of Panthere, the tuberose with fangs. I don’t hoard the lovely vintage version as obsessively as I amass vintage Opium, but nearly. I haven’t smelled the reformulation, and won’t.

    • God no.

      But wasn’t it amazing? Crass in a way, and yet so damn bloody GORGEOUS!!!!

      Seriously, I am not exaggerating with my Anoushka story. I literally did have some kind of drug like reaction to her standing next to me. She just ate the room with it and my brain was in some kind of swoon.

      Tell me more more more about Panthere please. When you wore it, how you feel in it, whether it gets/got reactions….I have a tiny bottle of the parfum upstairs. I must try and find it…

      • I never wore it until about a year ago. It started with seeing a nearly-empty bottle of the vintage parfum on EBay and having to have something so retro and wonderful. You know the one, with panthers climbing up the sides? I got it for nearly nothing, and the remaining parfum was still good. Well, I do love tuberose, and this one more than any other I know of says “I am tuberose, hear me roar.” It has strong green notes and a bit of Mysore in the base. So next thing you know, I owned a few bottles of the vintage parfum de toilette.
        Vintage Opium is a thing of deep savage beauty, justly admired wherever it turns up. This one is different, and I seldom wear it outside the house. But when I do, men do seem entranced by it. I have wondered if it’s old enough to contain real animal musk, and if that has an unexpected impact on us in these days when we are not used to it. Regardless, the bottle has quite an impact on me, non-minimalist that I am.

      • It is so over the top that bottle, and I wish the little panthers crawling up its sides weren’t plastic (at least they are on my parfum mini), but there is no doubt about its impact, as you say – I was floored by it. So sweet and yet so fully rounded and plush. Most current perfumes look like such utter WIMPS in comparison.

  3. Boveney

    The Yoshie Inaba Nuit – again, I lack the vocabulary but remember it as totally enveloping, very soft, very velvety. Small squat bottle in a square wooden box. Maybe the wood was a clue? As it was Japanese, I think it is safe to say it was not overpowering but it had some stamina. Perhaps it was made mostly for the foreign market? (the odd thing is when one googles it, many of the results are in Russian. I think. Cyrillic alphabet anyway.). Speaking of foreign markets, I thought it interesting when the very helpful salesperson at the CDG store on Omotesando advised me to hold off buying any of the scents until London where the price would be significantly lower as the perfume was manufactured in France. The definition of ‘helpful!’ Yes, I think I found the place upstairs in the Jiyugaoka arcade – his stock that day seemed to consist mostly of a jumble of tiny half-filled bottles of White Linen. Oh – and judging by the numbers of young people thronging one of those fake/cut price perfume places in Ameyoko the other day – maybe the younger generation here is more open to experimenting with scent? I so enjoyed your ‘Perfume Haters.’ The whole cultural aspect is fascinating. Weren’t the first Westerners in Japan known as ‘Butter Stinkers?’

    • Probably.

      Ugh, those cheap scents…..I know exactly the ones you mean. Oh yes: the younger generation, of a certain type, most certainly does dabble in the shampoo sheen kind of scent, and they can sometimes smell quite good in them, actually. I think I have made possibly too overreaching statements about Japanese perfume culture: the country is ultimately about contradictions, and that is probably why I love it.

  4. Boveney

    Totally agree. A country of contradictions. And I love it too. . But it is still valid to consider the cultural differences. I am a gardener and when I talk to Japanese gardener friends, it amazes me how they describe plants in terms of smell. Eg a geranium is the plant with bad smelling leaves. I think in the West we wouldn’t focus on the smell, or if we did, we’d describe it as ‘pungent’ rather than ‘bad,’

  5. Katy

    I adore Lily fragrances, I am not wild about the dry down of Baiser Vole. Too clean, too musky. I wish it stayed a little more linear and green. I have only sampled the EDT, perhaps the stronger concentration is better?

    • Katy

      P.S. I wore my last carefully hoarded sample of Baiser Vole today. I have discovered it stays much crisper and green, is not that the beauty of this fragrance? On clothing. Not the fully open, wafting her strangely salty/sexy scent lily, but the just opened, at the beginning of the day, complete with dew and snappy greens, lily. An innocent lily perhaps? I am definitely checking my Nordstrom for this in the more concentrated version. My favorite lily perfumes, you ask? Donna Karen Gold, the amber base annoys me occasionally, but for the most part we rub along. I also like the ill named Tom Ford Lys Fume, which should be Lily and Ylang-Ylang, forget the fume. I hear Serge has a good lily as well, and Ineke, also. I have yet to try these.

    • I couldn’t say, as I didn’t actually try them on: just from the bottle and on paper, but I was (sleepily) trying a trio I think; of the new stronger concentrations as well and came away with quite an excellent concentration of creamy luminescence from them all.

  6. Renee Stout

    Wow! When I smelled Baiser Volé I had the same reaction: Finally, a commercial perfume that somebody actually put some real passion into!

  7. Dearest Ginza
    Wonderful words to be savoured.
    I can quite imagine your Cambridge cougar to be all vamped up with somewhere to go in her fabulously ostentatious (I hope) over application of Must.
    Did you ever try Must Homme? That was an a curiosity,again in a good way,or so I thought, a strange spicy thing, too much ginger to be quite mainstream, a little on the femme side for the normal customer base (no Santos this), today it smells like niche, then no one noticed it, so they quietly killed it a year or so ago.
    Such things happen I believe when a certain amount of things are done in house (as I’m told they still are at Cartier) a certain freedom must reign, an insularity that, far from a bar to creativity,perhaps protects from the trend to be just like everything else.
    Might this explain this latest gem?
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Lilybelle

    After that praise, I will be sure to sample Baiser Volé if I happen to see it while I’m out on my semi-annual mall trip. I love white florals, especially if they are not marred by fake, harsh, horrible, modern woodsy notes.

    • God I know those notes, and can’t vouch for sure that this is the elysium I imagine it to be, but I know that you won’t be totally repelled by it – it struck me as a truly decent lily offering.

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