A Lively Afternoon

– a review of Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum – L’Heure Fougueuse IV

Once upon a sunny summer afternoon a very long time ago, life was…much less complicated. Every day was a new adventure, a new discovery, a new way of immersing myself into the world and my surroundings. It was a time without artifice or pretense, a time without disguises or subterfuge, a time to love without inhibitions and as passionately as only a pre-pubescent girl can, and the only scent yours truly ever wore or even wanted to wear was the all-pervasive, sweet and heady aroma of…horse.

In those days, I had a horse. I lived for that horse, a storm-gray Trakhener horse named Becky, who had a past as a showjumper and event horse, and what she knew, she taught me. She had a soft mouth and a sweet disposition, could stop on a dime and we even had fun playing polo for a few dizzying months, although I missed the ball more often than I hit it. We hunted – a particular kind of bloodless ‘fox hunt’ called Hubertus hunting where a rider is deemed ‘it’ – the fox – and the rest of the hunting party chases after him or her through water jumps and over fences, hedges and logs. I managed to survive three hunts before she spooked right in front of a water jump because of a squirrel, and I sailed in spectacular fashion – jacket, boots, hat and all – over her head, over the jump and into three feet of very icy, muddy water. Becky knew tricks from dressage and how to gauge a fence perfectly, and in all my time with her, I only fell twice, all my own fault. I can still hear my grandfather’s voice when I think of her. “Heels down, knees in, shoulders back, back straight, give her some rein!”

We were happiest, she and I, when I took her out after school on exercise rides, through the woods and over neighboring fences, and there was nothing but the birds in the air and the open fields calling, nothing but a girl on a horse who always understood her perfectly, or was it a centaur who knew that when the reins loosed and a soft nudge of the heel came, it was time to let loose, to feel the wind in our faces as we went from a gentle walk to a canter and then to a glorious gallop as smooth as silk and we became one creature, one entity called freedom.

I can remember the cold, rainy days of winter after our rides when I took her back into the warm stable and rubbed her down with straw and a chamois cloth, and how she would nuzzle my neck and blow in my ear before she sniffed in my pocket for apples and carrots, and even if I switched pockets just to tease her, she knew where to look. I remember the night I slept with her in her stall and rubbed her back the spring night she foaled a perfect rowan filly into my arms. I remember the sweet smells of straw and hay, the endless task of maintaining tack with saddle soap and polish cloths, the heavy wheelbarrow when I mucked out the stalls, the scent of hoof oil and how she would shine before an event, all clean and brushed and burnished, her coat gleaming like a satin thundercloud.

I remember, because Cartier’s L’Heure Fougueuse takes me there in an instant to so many memories, all of them happy, all of them horsey, all of them – perfect, as only memories can be.

Cartier and Mathilde Laurent called this ‘The Spirited Hour’, but to me it should have been called…The Laughing Horse. And such an elegant compilation of all that the word ‘horse’ implies. The sweet, green grass of a summer meadow early in the morning, the dark green of the beech trees over the bridle path, the scent of warm, breathing, lovable animal, and the dusty, sunshine perfume of hay – it’s all there and takes me – all there.

Out of the bottle, it is slightly flowery and very green – the green of lavender and bergamot evoking that summer meadow, and right when I think it’s more than slightly good, it’s damn near perfect, comes that horsey laugh and all the bales of hay my memory of Becky can summon. Hay on a day of sunshine and promise, hay in a hayloft on a rainy, windy day, curled up with a book when I wanted the world to disappear. L’Heure Fougueuse is leathery, but unlike any leather I’ve ever met – this is more hide – the living, breathing, whinnying hide of a dearly beloved horse, but it’s more than that – it’s the smell of unadulterated joy, a joy with few inhibitions and no agenda or secret purpose but just a moment in time to savor, to be happy, to connect with a favorite four-legged friend. A moment just to…be, to breathe, to celebrate life.

After the hay, I’ll catch glimpses of horse and horse laugh, a stunningly beautiful drydown of…I-don’t-know-what-and-who-cares-when-it’s-gorgeous?

This is so unusual, so distinctive and so different from just about everything else my nose has met these past few months. This is a perfume to make happy, and so far as I’m concerned, that’s precisely what it does – makes me happy, happy as I once was when happiness was so much easier and life was so much lighter.

Mathilde Laurent has made a masterpiece of a perfume. Name me one that contains horsehair – or a leather scent that’s alive. Just as Becky once was (she died at the ripe age of 21, sweet until the end), just as I was once totally and completely alive in my own centaur moment, nothing but me, my horse and a wide-open horizon. It was perfectly simple – unlike this perfume, which is complex and simple – and it was always…perfectly enough.

Thanks to Suzanne of the Perfume Journal, for giving me the opportunity to try it!

Notes: Magnolia, bergamot, horsehair accord (!!), vetiver, yerba maté, musk, lavender, coumarin, oakmoss

Photo: © Brett Simson

27 thoughts on “A Lively Afternoon

  1. What wonderful memories you have! I still wish I learned how to ride (and you never know, I still might get a chance to do it).
    Everyone talks about this particular Cartier with so much love, I really need to order some and try.

  2. Wonderful! L'Heure Fougueuse is truly magical, and I thoroughly enjoyed being drawn into your magical experience with it.
    Life was once so uncomplicated, wasn't it? I wish we had known and appreciated it then… 🙂

  3. T., that was so beautiful— I felt like I was right there with you: I can imagine my mare Duchess and and I racing you and Becky head to head through the woods, squealing with laughter and goading each other on. L'HF brings me there too, and it is such a wonderful place to be.

    I'm glad that you have those memories, and that you've shared them with us! What a perfect way to start my day!


  4. Wow, Horsehair Accord, shocking and intriguing! I didn't expect the note to be listed there. I love horses and have since I was a child, so I understand the pure, undemanding joy a relationship with a special horse can yield. How lovely that you've found a scent that can take you there. That is the ultimate compliment to a perfumer, I think. If you can connect with a person's emotions and memories by scent. I have to ask (because I always do when it comes to horses), do you have a picture of Becky you can share?

  5. Ines, really, you should try this. It's amazing, and I'm not just saying this because I belong to the literary school of hyperbole.

    And if you ever get a chance to find a friendly horse, let me know! 😉

  6. Frida – I know you won't believe this about a perfume that has 'horse' somewhere in the descriptions, but when I say there's nothing 'leathery' and quite a bit spring-to-summery in LHF, it's true. I know. I couldn't believe it, either.

    As for those of you who have tried it – do you agree with that? Wouldn't you say it's perfect for spring and summer?

  7. B, magic it certainly is!

    Ah, life was a simpler pleasure then, but on the other hand – there are a few compensations for adulthood. Wine, perfumes, music, good company…

  8. Thank you for that, Dee! If we could go back to that enchanted life and those magical hours with the horses we loved and as we were then – what fun we would have!

    On the other hand, I'm not complaining now! I'm so glad I made your morning!

  9. Carrie – as I said, this is nothing at all like anything I've come across before – and that's a good thing! (I love surprises!)

    I no longer have any pictures of me and Becky – my sister is the family archivist, and I believe she has a few, but the ones I had were stolen along with most of my belongings a long time ago when someone cleaned out my apartment while I was at work. Tant pis!

    But the memories remain – and thanks to this perfume, all I have to do is inhale – and they're clear as a perfect summer day!

  10. Oh, the amazing posts this fragrance has inspired! T, what beautiful writing. I have never experienced the freedom of riding horseback, and now I simply must do it.

    Thanks to the lovely Suzanne, I have experienced this gorgeous fragrance too. To me, it's the smell of a hot summer in the country. It is earthy yet truly divine.

  11. Oh I wish I could love this fragrance! Your review makes it seem so appealing. I love riding, rode hunter/jumper as a child, and always wished for a horse of my own. After reading some other reviews, I ordered this unsniffed. And then got nervous, so I ordered a sample.

    I can tell there is something wonderful in this fragrance, but there is a note in it that fouls it all up. I don't know if it is the leather, or perhaps the yerba mate, but it seems antiseptic to me. And it lingers, from first application until it finally wears away 8 or more hours later.

  12. I've realized something today: I like girls (or feminine-leaning guys) who love horses. All week, I've been talking horses with a few people, and they're all good ones. 🙂

  13. You not only captured the loveliness of L'Heure Fougueuse so perfectly, you made me feel all wistful! Your horse Becky sounds similar to my girlhood horse Nellie, an older horse of sweet disposition who also lived to a ripe old age. (Though unlike the very cultured schooling in dressage that your Becky had, Nellie's previous schooling was in barrel racing and pole bending, the Western-style sports riding).

    Anyway, thanks for such a lovely post and for stirring up such great memories, Tarlesio. 🙂

  14. T., I agree—it is the perfect Spring/Summer scent, and I am going to milk my sample vial for as long as I can! 🙂

  15. JoanElaiine, divine it certainly is! Although I've stuck my nose in not a few amazing fumes these past six months in particular, this one blows my mind – or blows in my ear, I'm not sure which! 🙂

  16. AcornAlley, I'm so sorry this doesn't work for you or on your skin! I know that one…it really bites when you know something is so well-made and – so say they all – beautiful, and all you get is…antiseptic. (Which is what a lot of oud scents are on me!) Never fear, I'm sure you love not a few that I never, ever can…

  17. Suzanne – Nellie sounds like a lovely horse! Do you know, dressage may be rather cultured and downright 'high-falutin' – as they say in the South, but if you could only have seen the first time yours truly got onto a Western saddle. That cowboy had hysterics, to put it mildly, because I was used to dressage and English saddles, and the very idea of riding loose ran counter to everything I'd been taught! he stopped laughing when I made that horse walk sideways..;)

  18. PS, Suzanne: Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you liked my memories – and more grateful than you know for that little sample you sent! There was magic and mojo in that vial…and horsehair accord, too! 🙂

  19. What a great lead-in for review of a perfume I have been dying to try!

    I almost did not get past the aprt about your “storm-gray Trakehner” though; this city girl is feeling homesick for horses a lot recently. You write so beautifully about these wondrous creatures.

  20. Flora – this was no fault of your own. This is what happens when you think in at least two languages at any given moment! Becky was indeed a Trakehner – a German warmblood very much prized in eventing and dressage, which was exactly what she knew. It's just been so long ago that I forgot how to spell it! 😉

    Horses are beautiful, and when they're as wonderful as Becky, Nellie, Duchess – whatever they're called – we remember them with love.

    Another horse called Suzi I remember with something else. She pitched me straight into a wooden bargate at what felt like 40 MPH. Next thing I knew, I was confined to a hospital bed for six weeks with a fractured skull. To this day, I have the bump to prove it. I got even later. I brought her bubblegum – the really sticky Hubba Bubba variety. Last I saw Suzi, she was still chewing a gargantuan pink wad of gum…;-)

  21. Great review of a truly fabulous and original scent. I especially loved the line “just as I was once totally and completely alive in my own centaur moment” Oh and I agree, it would be perfect for Spring.

  22. What a joy! I love hay. Wonderful to find an accord that reminds you of such a beloved animal. Thank you for telling all about this fantastic cross of memory and scent, on full alert to try this now.

  23. Tarleisio,

    This was so beautifully written, and you totally evoked your charming horse and all the wonderful scents you associate with it. So cute! (And that picture is hilarious.)

    Now I need to smell those perfumes!

  24. Now I need to get a bottle of this AND find my old photos with my favorite horse, Relicario.
    I’ve always thought happiness smells like sweaty horse+crisp morning air.
    My sister is the family archivist too. I will see if I can borrow a few pictures next time I visit her.

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