In a fragrance world dominated by churn-‘em-out-schedules and multimillion marketing-over-creativity budgets, Cartier stands out for all the right reasons.
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The French luxury brand is renowned for their fine watches and jewellery. Their fragrances are also all about detail and craftsmanship. They’re elegant and timeless, yet full of character.
The company’s commitment to consistent quality is evident in their use of an in-house perfumer. The prestigious position is currently held by Mathilde Laurent, who’s also known for Guerlain creations such as Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca and Shalimar Légère.
The name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance.
Our Shortlist For Best Cartier Fragrances
1. Santos De Cartier EDT (Daniel Moliere)
The brand’s 1981 debut is still in production and while it has that decade’s big and busy vibe, it’s also unmistakably Cartier.
The intro brings on the fresh aromatics, in particular notes of lavender, juniper berries and basil.
It warms up with the spiciness of notes of pepper, nutmeg and cloves. Geranium adds a slight floral aspect.
With its ambery, cedar and sandalwood finish, it’s a supremely sensual creation despite being reformulated over the years due to ingredient regulations.
Santos de Cartier Concentrée EDT, launched in 1982, with its heightened oriental accent, is also worth checking out.
This 1992 take on the fougère, with its gentlemanly barbershop vibe, is a standout in the genre.
Aromatic lavender features aplenty in the intro. Notes of mint, caraway, anise, and mandarin orange create a fresh spicy mood with green nuances.
There’s more spiciness in the form of coriander, while Brazilian rosewood brings depth.
Continuing the fougère theme, the dry down sees earthy notes of oakmoss and patchouli balanced by creamy sandalwood.
Also, look out for the richer 2020 version, Pasha de Cartier Parfum, which has more of an emphasis on sandalwood and amber.
3. Cartier Declaration EDT (Jean-Claude Ellena)
The term “classic” is over-used in perfumery, but in the case of Cartier Déclaration, it’s well deserved. Launched in 1998, it created a new standard for fresh scents in a most sophisticated and unusual way.
The fresh and sharp citrus opening sets the elegant tone, in particular a big dose of bitter orange. It’s infused with the spicy overtones of caraway and coriander. A note of birch produces a light leathery effect.
The spiciness is increased in the heart of the fragrance, where cardamom takes the leading role, with pepper and ginger in support. The powderiness of iris is discernible in the background.
The fragrance settles on a woody base of vetiver, cedar and oakmoss notes, with a tea note providing a green element to the composition.
It’s an absolute bargain at the price.
4. Must De Cartier Pour Homme EDT (Nathalie Feisthaur)
The female version of Must de Cartier is a bona fide 80s classic. Although released almost two decades after, in the year 2000, Must de Cartier Pour Homme is equally special and complex.
It starts with a focus on green and spicy anise, with its liquorice qualities. There are also hits of fresh citrus (green mandarin, grapefruit, bergamot), carnation and olive leaf in the intriguing mix.
Deep notes of cinnamon and ginger build on the spiciness of the intro.
Featuring notes of vanilla, sandalwood and tonka bean, the drydown is opulent in an oriental style and elegantly sweet.
It’s been discontinued but is well worth hunting down on the Internet.
5. Cartier Eau De Cartier (Christine Nagle)
An ode to freshness and simplicity, this 2001 release was also the brand’s first unisex scent.
Featuring notes of yuzu, bergamot and coriander, the opening is sharp, crisp and spicy.
It segues into light airiness, with powdery aspects, when the notes of violet leaf, violet and lavender come to the fore.
The dry-down maintains the clean mood, with notes of cedar and white musk.
It’s crowd-pleasing stuff, by Cartier standards, and nothing wrong with that when it’s this chic.
6. Cartier Roadster EDT (Mathilde Laurent)
This 2008 release is not your usual freshie.
It opens with a textbook-perfect rendition of mint – refreshing, cooling and green at the same time. Bergamot accentuates the wonderfully crisp freshness.
Notes of vetiver, patchouli and labdanum give it earthy muskiness. So far, so good.
But it’s the vanilla (effortlessly smooth but decidedly unsweet) that really makes this one distinctive – in a love it or hate it way.
Although discontinued, it’s still popular for good reason among Cartier connoisseurs.
Cartier’s contribution to haute parfumerie / high perfumery – in effect, their private collections – is at its best in the Les Heures de Parfum range.
Launched in 2009, the award-winning La Treizième Heure XIII epitomizes its uncompromising approach to the masterful use of the finest ingredients.
The crisp and tart citrusy undertones of bergamot set the scene for the herbal, smoked-infused note of maté.
A rich leather accord, together with birch tar, creates a seductive animalic mood that won’t be to everyone’s liking (but that’s the point of these kinds of experimental scents).
The deepness continues with patchouli in the dry down, and vanilla brings an element of smoothness to the proceedings.
We also recommend the smoky jasmine of Heure Mystérieuse XII EDP from the same collection.
8. Cartier Declaration D’un Soir EDT (Mathilde Laurent)
We can thank this excellent 2012 flanker for helping bring the beauty of rose fragrances to the attention of florals-fearing men.
The opening is faithful to the original with its fresh spiciness (cardamom, caraway). A pronounced twist of black pepper adds warm brightness.
And then there’s the rose. It builds on the fresh spiciness of the opening and presents the queen of florals (don’t worry, guys, it’s given a masculine treatment) the way we love it – thorns and all.
Creamy sandalwood completes this unique fragrance.
9. Cartier L’envol De Cartier EDT (Mathilde Laurent)
L’Envol de Cartier was launched as an EDP in 2016. So, of course, we expected great things of the EDT version, which was launched quietly in 2017. Let’s just say Cartier doesn’t do hype.
The EDT opens with a burst of clean citrus notes, with honey slowly developing in the background. It’s a light and airy interpretation of the note. Good news for those who might have found the honey in the EDP version too much of a good thing.
Artemisia adds a note of herbal interest, while the base of musk and guaiac notes balances the initial freshness of the scent.
Beautiful simplicity at its best!
10. Cartier Declaration Parfum (Mathilde Laurent)
Cartier Declaration Parfum was launched in 2018 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the classic original.
At first, there’s the freshness (bitter orange) of the original. And then there are powerful and seductive hits of leather and spice (cardamom, cumin).
The base features standout notes of wood (cedar, amber wood) and vetiver.
If this all sounds terrifically deep and smoky, that’s because it is.
If we had to compare the two, the original has more of a sparkling quality, whereas Cartier Declaration Parfum goes into the darker and denser territory. It’s a fitting tribute to the original, while still standing on its own merits.
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Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.