Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Cartier IV, L’Heure Fougueuse: Sheer, Unbridled Splendor

Fragrance notes: magnolia, bergamot, horsehair note, vetiver, yerba-mate, musk notes, lavender, coumarin, oak moss.

The perfume blogosphere is currently aglow with swooning reviews of Cartier IV: L’Heure Fougueuse (from Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum collection). I’m well aware that by adding my own smitten sentiments to the heap I won’t be contributing anything new to the discussion; my only elucidation will be to add more fuel to the merry bonfire to keep it blazing brightly, as by every right it should. This is without a doubt the most drop-dead gorgeous skin scent I have ever smelled: it is modern perfumery at its best—an uncluttered yet uniquely inspired assemblage of notes that smell as if God divined them personally and then placed them in the hands of one of his most talented artists—in this case, perfumer Mathilde Laurent—saying “Go play.”

(I probably should pause here and state that if you want the definitive review for this fragrance, trot yourself over to Grain de Musc, especially if you’re one of the new, rare birds who hasn’t read it. In the meantime I’ll continue to gush effusively as I wait for you to return—or not.)

An earthy yet sparkling tea note is the first thing I smell when I dab on this fragrance. It is enhanced by the Earl Grey-citrus smell of bergamot and given further play by the lemony-floral facet of magnolia. This is the kind of tea that is drunk alfresco, in the sunshine, and for some inexplicable reason always sends up a corresponding color in my mind—a brindled brown—and makes me hallucinate the scent of a woman’s long flow of hair, freshly washed and dried by the heat of the sun. It’s a nostalgic scent for me, predating the advent of blow-dryers and flat irons and the scented gels and waxes we now refer to as “product.” As such it reminds me, too, of certain boys in junior high school in the ’70s, the pretty ones whose hair fell in silky waves across their forehead and down below their ears, barely grazing their shoulders; not long but not short either, just long enough to prove irresistibly glossy and touchable.

This tea-scented hair facet is just that, though: a facet. Bring your scented wrist to your nose again and you will smell the leather that it combines with, and soon the cascade of hair begins to resemble a spill of mane that is equine in the best and most romantic sense of the word. Add to that some dusty green and floral notes that smell like alfalfa hay (not a good hay for horses, but one of the most delicately sweet and fragrant of hays when it has been properly cut and dried—and terribly moldy when it has not) and soon you are caught up in the kind of enchantment that reminds you why you want to stay tethered to this world. In Cartier’s heures de parfum, IV is defined as “the ardent hour”—“a time of day when your head starts to beat faster and rushes towards freedom” per the press materials at, where they also describe the fragrance as “redolent of the countryside, freedom and getting away from it all, like ‘a chance to grab, the way you cling tight to the wild neck of life.’ ” (Are the words in single quotation marks the words of the perfumer, I wonder? I’ve no idea, but they are fitting and charmingly expressed.) It’s when life is full of movement and wild possibility and the kind of wide open spaces, both physical and metaphorical, that allow one to explore those possibilities, that life becomes something worth seizing and hanging onto for the ride.

With its equine sleekness, L’Heure Fougueuse truly is a skin scent (on my skin, at least; I’m working with a dab sample, so more discernible sillage might be had by spraying), and I’m actually loving this quality about it. Wearing it brings on a feeling of joyous secrecy and, as well, I think its sheerness enhances its feeling of movement, of being unencumbered by anything weighty that might slow you down as you race off to greener pastures. In its far drydown, L’Heure Fougueuse is all light moss and clean musk—the scent of the earth and the wind caught on your skin at the end of the day. And here is where I should interject that this fragrance makes no claims on gender, as one would hope and expect of a perfume embracing the notion of freedom. So don’t be fooled by the photo I chose to accompany this review: L’Heure Fougueuse is a fragrance of sheer, unfettered beauty is the statement I was aiming for with that. Equally suited to any man or woman who wishes to embrace it.

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February 8, 2011:

Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse can be purchased at the Cartier boutiques, as well as online at; $250 for 75 ml/2.5 oz.

(As further evidence of how many people are in love with this fragrance, Saks currently has the following notice on its page: “DUE TO HIGH DEMAND, A CUSTOMER MAY ORDER NO MORE THAN 6 UNITS OF THIS ITEM EVERY THIRTY DAYS.” Yes, all in capital letters. Oh my!)

Stunning photo of Italian model and TV personality, Giorgia Palmas, is from the site