Friday, November 27, 2015

Tackling A Classic: Must de Cartier by Cartier (1981)

Must de Cartier is a bizarrely maligned classic, the maligning mainly stemming from Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's perfume guide which sums it up as smelling like cheap Russian chocolates. To this day that is the one review I truly and utterly disagree with them on. If you can love Angel then really in my head you have no ground to stand on. But let's actually get onto the perfume.

Must de Cartier has a complicated history, when Cartier released they also had a day version to go with it, the day version wasn't popular, but the evening version lived on. I remember reading somewhere that this was supposed to be Cartier's response to Calvin Klein's Obsession. Obsession is a scent that Must gets frequently compared too but to my nose they don't share a whole lot other than being in the Oriental family. For me Obsession is heavily dank spicy musk where as Must is well a composition of a different sort.

Must de Cartier is combination of green and elegant galbanum and narcissus and rich caramelized ambered woods with a whole lot of delicious tonka bean. There are hints of leather in the scent and to my nose also hints of delicious cherry pipe tobacco. I suspect that is the tonka bean playing with another note.

For me the genius of this scent is the use of galbanum and narcissus, this pairing of intense green notes with the caramelized woods creates the effect of making sure the heavier notes don't get out of hand. Must is no doubt an intense scent but those green notes give it an air of earthiness that lets it go beyond the usual sexy vavavoom-ness that we associate with the Oriental family. It is a cerebral oriental, it's not understated, but their is brain behind it.

What I find interesting is that to my nose it is the clear predecessor of two fairly well-loved scents. Dior's Addict before the reformulation and Fifi Chachnil's Fifi Chachnil. The likeness of Addict and Must de Cartier are found in the drydown where there is a definitely resemblance with the accord of amber, tonka bean, and vetiver being used but where as Must uses leather to anchor the notes, Addict uses heavy calorie vanilla to anchor the scent. The resemblance to Fifi Chachnil is also with the accord of amber, tonka bean, and vetiver yet I would also add I think Fifi gets some inspiration of using coriander in the beginning from the galbanum used in Must, the use of coriander provides that fresh green citrus note that lets the scent not get drowned out by the heavier notes. Ultimately, the divergence of Fifi is the much more prominent use of tobacco and rose in the scent.

Let's take a moment to also talk about reformulation. My Must de Cartier was bought somewhere in the mid 2000s at this point I know many spoke of it being reformulated yet it had not been reformulated to the point of being another perfume considering I have decant of the vintage parfum which it most definitely is akin too. The vintage parfum is gorgeous and a beloved for good reason, the notes richer, and more brocade like.

Try Must de Cartier if you like Dior's Addict, Fifi Chachnil, and Nicolai's Le Temps d'Une Fete.

First image from Makeupalley
Second image from Art Odyssey


Chez Pajama said...

So fucking good.

I'm torn between wearing that or Maria Candida Gentile's Sideris tonight.

marzipan said...

I adored Must...I had the perfume version (different from the EDT) and I bought it in the mid 80s... it came in a bottle that was supposed to look like a cigarette lighter....and it was wrapped in a mahogany colored leather jacket....the perfumer who made it was actually a client of the company I was working for at the time....I also adored Addict and purchased that when it first came out...I did not know it was reformulated (haven't smelled it in a very long time).

As always, great review!

marzipan said...

here's an interesting article on the perfumer of Must

I believe that Jacqueline was made in honor of the birth of his daughter.

marzipan said...

If you scroll down to the bottom of this article you will see that the perfumer who made Must has retired and turned into a "cowboy"....not the breathtakingly handsome exquisitely and expensively dressed young man I remember from my youth!

Neyon said...

Really sounds sweetly green and very enchanting!

marzipan said...

funny I left three comments and they disappeared!
I loved and wore Must in the early 80s but the perfume not the EDT (there was a difference). And the perfumer used to be a client of the company that I worked for...His name was Jean Jacques Denier and if you google his name it is interesting to see what he is doing in his retirement!

Jennifer Koth said...

Marzipan, Thank you for the wealth of information on the scent. The comments didn't disappear, I on the other hand have been super busy so that is probably why they have not been showing.

Wow, that picture of cowboy Denier is incredible. Talk about a career change.

Jennifer Koth said...

Chez Pajama,

We are finally getting weather so maybe you can finally wear Must :-). At least up here in the Bay Area I've actually been able to wear my heavy hitters.

Jennifer Koth said...


I definitely think it is worth investigating if only to smell a very different take on an oriental.