One Thousand Scents

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tender Kiss: Le Baiser du Dragon by Cartier


As I've said before, a great many oriental scents are unisex without even trying. Unless they're heavily floral, they contain notes that have never been assigned a gender in the Western world. Cartier's Le Baiser du Dragon--"The Dragon's Kiss"--is the perfect example; it has floral notes, but they're so unimportant in the grand scheme of things that anyone could wear the scent. The advertising copywriter, clearly aware of this, used such terms as "daring femininity", but don't be fooled. There's nothing daring or feminine about it.

You'd think a scent called The Dragon's Kiss would be intimidating, fiercely sexual, but you'd be wrong. The first thing out of the bottle is the warm sweet scent of almonds, as appealing and comforting as any smell I know, like a glass of amaretto by the fireside. A soft, unobtrusive floral glow soon accompanies this; it's mostly gardenia, which can be overwhelming (as it is in Marc Jacobs, Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia, or most any scent which uses it as the starting point) but here is just another thread in the tapestry.

As the scent warms up even further, the glow is supplemented by a very soft iris note accompanied by warm woods, mostly cedar; this slowly fades as the vanillic ambergris-patchouli base note takes over--and as you might guess, it lasts a very long time, glowing the whole while. The whole thing is remarkable for what it isn't; aggressive, fierce, or sexual. Instead, it's sensual and welcoming.

As noted by a couple of the reviewers here, Le Baiser du Dragon is in fact fairly masculine (one even compares it to Omnia in this regard, a comparison that's also come to my mind more than once). The floral notes don't make it any less so: the heat of it, the warm woods in the middle and the patchouli and ambergris in the base, make it of a piece with men's oriental perfumery, or rather with oriental scents in general. How easy it would be for Cartier to market this to men; tweak it slightly, maybe tone down the gardenia and add a splash of sandalwood and tobacco-leaf, so nobody accuses them of putting the same thing in a different bottle, and you're off to the races. (They'd probably need to square off the bottle, too. It's gorgeous, a big rounded mass that resembles the bottle for Panthère stripped down and ready for action, with a solid cap inspired by Chinese writing and a black dagger piercing the heart of the fragrance. But conventional wisdom has it that round bottles are for women and square bottles are for men, despite such obvious contradictions as the classic Chanel bottle and the spherical Hugo Boss bottles.)

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