The background: The name presumably needs no explanation, insofar as Cartier is best known as a jewelry house. Cartier perfumer Mathilde Laurent says “Cartier brings diamonds to life by showcasing them so stunningly, by introducing light and making it scintillate and shimmer. I wanted to create a fragrance that sparkles, alive with all the fire of a diamond. ”1
The juice: So Mathilde Laurent aimed for a perfume that would transmit light with the brightness of a diamond, yada yada yada. That became something about the seven colors of a rainbow refracted through a diamond, with the seven colors represented by seven floral notes (violet, lily, hyacinth, ylang ylang, narcissus, honeysuckle and tulip).
The packaging: "Faceted like a diamond, the bottle captures and fractures the light in myriad colors."2 Well, I get that they wanted a visual representation of a diamond's facets, but the Carat bottle, while not unattractive, is not hardly lemmable on the level of the last two big feminine pillars from Cartier, Baiser Volé and La Panthère. I doubt anyone is going to order Carat unsniffed just for the packaging, as I foolishly did with La Panthère.
The advertising: The visuals, with model Janke Du Toit, and the matching commercial, are considerably more casual, sporty and youthful than those for most recent Cartier fragrances. The message seems to be 'fun' and 'carefree', rather than 'mystery' or 'romance' or 'luxury'. I would say they're reaching young. Who isn't?
My bona fides, or lack thereof: Last year, when I reviewed Baiser Fou, I said that I like Mathilde Laurent, but we are not besties. And I did pretty much hate Baiser Fou. For a rundown on the rest of the brand's recent output, I love Baiser Volé (or at least, really really like — I wear it regularly, but it isn't one I'd grab if I had to evacuate quickly). I didn't hate La Panthère but I didn't like it so well as Baiser Volé either. The Les Heures series I've mostly ignored, just as I've ignored umpteen other luxury series. Luxury perfume generally makes me grumpy.
What it smells like: It starts out a little strong and sharp, and for a few brief moments, Carat called to mind the overly-grape-y Lush Bubbly shower gel that I've been trying to use up for eons now. Just before I had time to decide if it was a poor fit with the advertising, or just a poor fit with me, it calmed into something dewy and fresh, sweetish but not overwhelmingly so, and just slightly fruity, slightly green. Ten minutes in, Carat is a pale, but bright and sunny and cheerful, spring floral. As advertised, you'll catch flashes of the individual floral notes — there are lovely snatches of narcissus here and there — but no single note dominates for long. As it dries down, it gets warmer, but not so much as to move from spring into fall, and it takes on a smidgen of powder.
The lasting power is good. I would call the sillage light to moderate (at least one innocent bystander called it heavy, though, so your mileage may vary). I would be surprised if we didn't see a lighter Eau de Toilette and a heavier Extreme before long.
My verdict: Beautifully done, very wearable, and yes, I like it (more than La Panthère, less than Baiser Volé). In spirit it reminds me of other soft youthful florals, like My Burberry and Carven Le Parfum (or their slightly older cousins Maison Francis Kurkdjian Pluriel Féminin and Jour D’Hermès). It won't go onto my buy list because it's not quite love, plus I do have the 'soft floral bouquet' category well covered already. Still, if a small travel spray fell into my lap, I'm sure I'd wear it.
The details: Cartier Carat is available in 30 ($72), 50 ($105) and 100 ($145) ml Eau de Parfum. There are 10 ml sprays around, but so far, I've only seen them as gift with purchase. A 100 ml Hair and Body Perfumed Mist is $55.
1. Via Cartier Carat at Wonderland.
2. Via Cartier.