It must be tedious to read a perfume review that winds up saying, well, of course, if you want the good stuff you need to have smelled it back in The Day. You know — back before they ran out of cheap Mysore sandalwood or banned that particular musk in the base, back before they decided they were going to cut their per-bottle liquid content cost from $18 to $1.80 or whatever the hell it was they dreamed up while they were thinking of new ways to save money.
It seems to me that the most common Arc of Disappointment is 1) The Cheapening of The Ingredients. The whole construct starts to smell like a made-in-Macau dupe. (Deor Poisson!) Sometimes this aura of cheapness goes hand-in-hand with 2) The Dumbing-Down of the Concept. To pick on Deor Poisson again, I find its current iteration slightly gourmand in a way that manages to feel dated already, and it seems less relentlessly aggressive, less toxic than the older bottles, although I’d still wear it over lots of other choices. There’s usually a slow downhill curve in the quality decline, unless there isn’t (Diptyque Tam Dao suddenly smells like nice pencils. Diorissimo still smells great-ish unless you smell the original, so don’t.)
Sometimes a house un-retires a name from the past and perfumistas cry foul because the new model doesn’t resemble the old at all – Rochas Femme, Cuir de Lancome, Lanvin Rumeur. These are trickier to judge because the newer versions, which may be rather nice on their own, are inevitably damned by comparison. I like new Femme, and love new Cuir, but I am not blaming you if you can’t get past your disappointment that the only thing they have in common with their predecessor is the name.
Cartier Must, as far as I know, was never pulled from the market for its overhaul, and the current version doesn’t smell like either a subtle taste-tweaking or a cheapening of the original. (Anyone who wore the old stuff and can flesh out the reformulation timeline? I’d love your input.) People have long complained on the Posse that the original Must, in the identical bottle, was much different (and much better) than the current scent. Eventually a die-hard fan sent me a care package and, armed with a sample of the vintage, I have to agree. Whenever and however Cartier changed Must, the then-and-now versions are so different as to be essentially unrecognizable as the same fragrance.
If I were to sum up the current Cartier Must in pithy Turin/Sanchez style for The Guide, it would be chocolate ashtray. And noooo, not in a good way. (LT says Russian chocolate and gives it one star, he calls it flowers, galbanum and vanilla.) The galbanum greenness is the bridge from old to new – only in the new version it’s like someone decided it’d be clever to layer the galbanum with a gourmand note, a cheap-chocolate-cookie smell, maybe Keebler’s or a BBW Choco-licious, not to give BBW any more wretched ideas. (Ack. This’ll now be in their winter lineup, named Sensual Chocolate.) The current Cartier Must is heeeeeedious, a two-pronged olfactory assault that’s as appetizing as chocolate-dipped herring. When I read online reviews by people who actually like Must – and yes, there are plenty of them – they’re always talking about the vanilla: the vanillic sweetness, the warm vanilla drydown. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about the commonalities of vanilla and chocolate, smell/taste-wise, but I’m not having it, not while you’re asking me to choke down an entire clipped ornamental hedgerow at the same time. Even I have my limits, people.
I have no idea what’s in the vintage, but on my skin it’s a green/spicy oriental that would probably fall somewhere between Chanel Coco and Cristalle, only done with a heavier hand. You know, more stereotypically Cartier-ish – more blinged up, suitable for placement next to Dragon’s Breath and the glittery eyes of Panthere. It’s got a sweet, powdery undernote that breaks hearts because it calls up the original Coty Emeraude – not the criminal, heinous swill sold today near you for $3.99 in a plastic clamshell hang-box, but vintage Emeraude, the one that equals – or, okay, I’ll say it, possibly surpasses – Shalimar. Go buy a mini vintage Emeraude on eBay, or at the junk shop. Find one that looks old. There are still tons of them out there, because Emeraude’s been around so long. Unlike Shalimar I can actually wear Emeraude, appreciate its vanillic embrace, its powdery sweetness. Vintage Must carries that seemingly contradictory airy/richness along with its florals and its spice. Vintage Must isn’t asking to be eaten, like the dregs of the Whitman’s box. It isn’t asking to be loved, either, particularly. But it can be admired. It must have been grand.
My correspondent included samples of the long-discontinued and apparently much-sought-after Must II (EDT and EDP) about which I know pretty much nothing. It’s interesting how different the two concentrations are. Must II EDT is drier and green and closer to the original Must.
(WARNING: UNSAFE EBAY BEHAVIOR AHEAD. NEWBIES: THIS COULD BE YOU. STOP NOW AND SEEK HELP.)
Then I put on the Must II EDP, in passing, contemplating the many facets of this unexplored side of Cartier, and …………… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhhhhgllllllllllllllllllgh.
WANT. Want want want want want. (scramble scramble type) Oh, look, I can buy this discontinued crap for … lookslike … $298 a bottle BIN! Fuuuuuuuhhh…gheddaboutit. It’s like stalking Chaos, I’m not doing it. Too much heartbreak. More googling produces the information that it was done by Alberto Morillas in 1993, notes are mandarin orange, peach, hyacinth, jasmine, daffodil, moss, vetiver, sandalwood and musk.
Must II EDP is massively fruital. Melissa, have we accepted your coinage? Fruital is yours, yes? Must II EDP is fruital in the general sense that Poison or Dolce Vita are fruital. It’s a syrupy, intensely sweet decoction without any of the redeeming spice-qualities of vintage Dolce Vita or the weirdness of Poison, and as I huffed it up my nose I wanted it desperately. I can smell its peachy fruitalness clear through its sealed plastic mini-bag on my side-table. You wouldn’t want this leaking in your purse. Or your car. Or your mailer.
My resistance? Was fruital futile.
On eBay – I don’t really want to pony up $200 – $300 for a new (old) bottle that, when it arrives, may smell nothing like my sample. So, let’s just check the auctions … well, here’s a seller with essentially no track record at all, shilling a partial bottle that’s probably been on Aunt Tillie’s dresser under a south-facing window for the last ten years, soaking up the rays. The photo’s so bad I can’t even read the label properly, and the description is inconclusive … yep, I think I’ll bid on it.
And I did. And, as luck would have it, I beat out the other hapless fools drunk-bidding on eBay that night.
I’ll let you know how it works out.