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