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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Back To The Future With Mr. Morillas: Salvador Dali & Panthère de Cartier

By Donna

For some reason I have really been appreciating the retro perfumes of the Eighties a lot more recently. Perhaps it’s time and distance, making me forget the horrors of Giorgio Beverly Hills and Christian Lacroix C’est La Vie, or maybe I just dismissed many of the better fragrances of the era, tarring them all with the same brush as the bad ones, so to speak. Many of them are now discontinued, but fortunately not all, so there are plenty of true gems to be discovered under all the fake rhinestones and glitter of the “Me Decade.”

As it happens, two of my favorite fragrances from that time period are both currently available and by a perfumer who is perhaps better known now for more modern and minimalist compositions such as Calvin Klein’s CK One and the Bulgari Omnia series, the well regarded master perfumer Alberto Morillas. Yes, there was a time when he was responsible for far more opulent creations than his recent oeuvre would suggest. (It’s fascinating to me to see how a perfumer’s range develops over time; after all, the reigning king of minimalism, Jean-Claude Ellena, made First for Van Cleef & Arpels back in 1976, and it’s not exactly the perfume equivalent of a haiku.)

I was delighted to acquire the original Salvador Dali women’s perfume from 1983 recently; it was last seen here adding interest to DSH Perfumes’ magical mushroom scent. I had smelled it when it was first released but I never wore it then, since I did not consider it to be my style. Little did I know that I would soon branch out from my signature romantic florals and learn to appreciate a wide range of fragrance styles when the “perfumista” bug bit me very hard. This is a big, roomy floral-oriental perfume with a sense of humor; the fizzy, fruity, mandarin-rich opening has a syrupy quality not unlike pineapple, though that is not a listed note. Basil and other greens add a unique signature. The rich floral heart briefly threatens to turn into an Amarige-like foghorn, but this one is far more good-natured and it mellows into something very wearable. All my favorites are in there: tuberose, jasmine, narcissus, lily-of- the-valley, and lily. This is a very warm fragrance, and the delicious base of musk, cedar, vanilla, sandalwood and benzoin is a pure pleasure. My vintage version seems to have an exceptionally nice grade of sandalwood in it, the kind that’s hard to find today. It is bit loud, but not the sloppy drunk kind of obvious that ruined so many other eighties scents for me. It’s user-friendly and just plain fun, suitable for either a night on the town or just kicking back at home when you want to be enveloped in something delicious. This was the first of many Dali fragrances and I can’t keep up with them all anymore, but it’s certainly one of the best from this house. It’s fairly easy to find online; just be sure you are getting the right one, since several later Dali releases also came in a similar “Lips and Nose” bottle.

In 1986, Cartier released the wonderful Panthère, a fragrance that seems to be aimed squarely at the kind of woman who likes big, luxurious special occasion perfumes, and it definitely hit the target. Panthère has a similarity to the Salvador Dali scent, sort of the sober sister to the Dali’s Froot-Loopy optimism. It is equally rich but the sillage lies much closer to the skin. Mine is the vintage Parfum and it has aged very well, with a distinctively dry, spicy-herbal aspect of pepper and ginger setting off the deep sweetness of the other notes to perfection. The generous florals are rather similar to those in the Dali perfume and so are some of the base notes, but oakmoss, patchouli and civet are included to make a seriously sexy impression. The first thing I think of when I smell this one is “evening” and I picture an elegant little black dress accented with a few nice jewels, smoky eyes and a chic French twist. I am not that kind of woman, but I still appreciate this perfume. It is perhaps more restrained and civilized than the Dali, despite the name; this cat purrs but she does not snarl or bite. The really good news is that Cartier still makes it. I have been very disappointed in their recent mass-market releases such as the dreadful (in my opinion) Roadster and its equally unfortunate flankers, but at least you can still get Panthère.

Image credits: Salvador Dali bottle from online discounter Panthère de Cartier bottle from collector site Disclosure: The perfumes in this review are from my own personal collection of vintage fragrances.

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Blogger Gaia said...

We share a love for Panthere! I've been wearing it semi-regularly since 1995. It was also my wedding perfume and I'm sitting on a lifetime vault of the "vintage", both in parfum and PDT (I think I actually prefer the latter concentration). So gorgeous it's hard to believe the same line has released the recent stinkers.

I t looks like I need to revisit Dali. It's been years but you make it sound very appealing!

12:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Gaia, we do seem to like a lot of the same things - such as Jean Patou fragrances! :-)

Panthere is seriously sexy, I love it!

I had not smelled the Dali for ages until I got my vintage a few months ago, but I find it to be just delightful when I am in the mood for a big,fun scent with character.

1:35 AM EDT  
Blogger Karin said...

I received a purse spray of Panthere parfum as a free gift with purchase a few months ago from Saks. The SA said Panthere was discontinued, though, so Cartier isn't making it any longer. It is, however, still available on some discount sites...but probably won't be for long! As to Panthere, I'd never tried it, and immediately fell in love. I love those rich 80's perfumes (Poison was my favorite of the genre), and Panthere ranks right up there - rich, lush, and gorgeous!!!

8:04 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I love the idea of "sloppy drunk" scents..

12:27 PM EDT  
Blogger saralevy said...

I love big 80's fragrances. J-C E created one of my favorites, Rumba, for Balenciaga. It is the "biggest" fragrance I own. You have me wanting to try Panthere. Thanks!

2:43 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

both really good scents. i wrote about the dali on my now-asleep blog, but not panthere. enjoy them both, and think they're kinda underappreciated, so it's good to see them getting some love.

panthere is quite dramatic - i remember turning on a south american woman to it - she was looking for something rich and interesting, and the SA kept showing her lighter stuff. i was like, here, try this. it was much more "her." funny how SAs don't remember to show some of these really great classics. just because it's been out a while doesn't mean it's not quality!


4:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom - me too but don't tell anyone....

12:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Karin, that is not good news! I was afraid they might ditch it with all the new releases they have out now. Big mistake if they do! Of course, now that you have fallen for it, it's gone!

12:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Saralevy, many years ago I owned a bottle of the fabulous Rumba, and now I wish I had it again! It's really hard to find now and spendy too. Wonderful stuff!

12:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

minette, good to hear from you! :-)

I understand that SAs are taught to push the new stuff, but I wish they would be more educated about the back catalog scents, especially now. Lots of great perfume is languishing in those closed cabinets!

12:57 AM EDT  
Anonymous julie said...

I've slapped this comment around the "fumiverse", but it's a good one, so here goes again:

My daughter bought me Panthère for my birthday one year because it reminded her of when she was a little girl and I would come home late from my orchestra job, tiptoe into her room and give her a kiss. She said I smelled like "cold perfume" and went looking for a fragrance to match the memory, Panthère in EDT splash. Having run out, I bought the parfum at Saks last year; I prefer the EDT—both versions dry down similarly, but the EDT has a sparkly opening that the spicier parfum lacks—but cannot find it anywhere except eBay at a pretty price.

There is a postscript: My daughter, wise young woman that she is, said to me, "mom, save your money; you don't need to recreate the occasion, just enjoy the memory." Smart girl.

Panthère doesn't get the acclaim it deserves. It is a classic "perfumy" perfume.

12:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Julie, thanks for stopping by! What a nice story about your daughter. I agree, Panthere is definitely underrated - but no longer by me!

2:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife has been wearing Panthere de Cartier EDT exclusively for more than twenty three years and our four daughters identify it as her. I could pick her our of ten thousand women blindfolded! We bought the last seven bottles available in London while there last September and are heartbroken that it has come to an end. She hopes to leave a half bottle to each of the girls to remind them of her after we're gone. Sad, I know! My question is, does another fragrance exist that is close to Panthere so that the change won't be too drastic? The brand was never available where we live in Ireland so we had to buy it while away. We're currently on a short vacation in Santa Cruz, CA. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. James

8:13 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an old bottle with Panthere - it´s refilled with parfum de toilette 25 ml/0,6 fl oz left. It´s also still in it´s beautiful Cartier red box and the perfume bottle is with those two painters on each side. Anyone interested in buying this, pls contact me and suggest a price tag.

10:42 AM EST  

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