One Thousand Scents

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mint Condition: Cartier Roadster


The trouble with mint as a fragrance note is that it has certain associations. Toothpaste. Dentists' offices. Breath fresheners. Restaurant after-dinner candy. If you're going to put mint into a scent, you have to be very careful that you're not calling any of these things to mind.

Guerlain bravely tackled the theme twice in their Aqua Allegoria series. Herba Fresca had a sort of spearmint note that commingled with grasses and leaves to give an overall effect of springtime freshness; no toothpaste there. Mentafollia had a few sprigs of mint tucked into a bouquet of indifferent flowers, and while it too avoided the dental-office effect, it wasn't very interesting.

Cartier's new Roadster, though, is interesting. It too avoids the connotations of oral hygiene, wrapping the mint in other fresh notes (green herbs, citrus) to give the opening a sense of newness and vivacity. The mint is there, and it's recognizable for what it is, but it isn't antiseptic or candylike.

The core of Roadster smells so much like that of L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme that more than once in the last week I've been startled by an unexpected whiff of L'Instant, knowing perfectly well I wasn't wearing it. There are differences: the mint-herbal note shows up from time to time in Roadster, making it sharper and fresher, where L'Instant is smoother and warmer in the middle. But they seem to have an identical patchouli note that shows up about half an hour in and keeps intensifying, and this note binds everything together and makes the two scents feel to me like, if not twins, then brothers. Brothers who look very much alike.

I should note that the base of Roadster is nothing like that of L'Instant, because something marvelous happens: whereas L'Instant gets darker and warmer, Roadster gets brighter, like a full moon rising over the horizon. It doesn't have the freshness of the opening, but instead the needle-sharp quality that cedar can sometimes project. People who expect a scent to end in a warm bath of balsams and woods are in for a surprise, I think. It's a surprise that lasts, too; Roadster is still clearly present on the skin a good twelve hours later.

More than a few people have declared that the bottle looks suspiciously like a BOB (Battery-Operated Boyfriend), but I have to say I don't see it. The cap--which twists to click satisfyingly into place--is a duplicate of the stem on the Cartier Roadster watch, and the bottle itself is made to stand on its base (to take up less room on your shelf) or on its side (to give it that aerodynamic feel). It's a beautiful piece of industrial design, and I like it a lot.

3 Comments:

  • One other bad mint association -- hospital floor cleaner. I can smell it in YSL's M7.

    By Blogger Joel, at 4:51 PM  

  • Is there mint in M7? I can't say I ever noticed it, though it could be there. M7 smells just the opposite of floor cleaner to me, or any other kind of cleaner, or any kind of clean: it smells kind of funky-dirty, and a little dangerous.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 7:35 PM  

  • I like all the earthiness of M7, but didn't buy it because of that mint note.

    By Blogger Joel, at 2:59 PM  

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