Cartier Declaration : Perfume Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

My first encounter with Cartier Déclaration (1998) left me with a vivid memory of its dry woody accord, which starts on a radiant herbaceous note, then assume spicy warmth of cardamom and cumin and sustain its dryness over a cedarwood base. In comparison to the virile fougère types like Yves Saint Laurent Kouros and Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir, the elegant simplicity of Déclaration held my attention like a sincere compliment made without ulterior motives.

Simplifying the perfume formula runs the risk of losing the substance, the story, and the depth. Yet, one has to admire the ability of Jean-Claude Ellena to achieve a balance between clarity and depth, and among his fragrances, Déclaration remains my favorite in terms of achieving this goal….

The lucid quality of the composition is achieved without relying on ozonic or watery notes, but instead it is the dry, smoky woods that form the architectural structure of Déclaration. The sensual counterpoint to the brightness of the top accord is not derived from the musks, which would make the composition opaque, but from the cedarwood toned Iso E Super, a material that has a dusky radiance. Déclaration is reminiscent of Eau d’Hermès, Edmond Roudnitska’s composition of spicy-woody accord wrapped in supple leather. Like Ellena, Roudnitska aimed at the transparency and minimalism, and Eau d’Hermès is one of his most fascinating creations.

Revisiting Ellena’s compositions created after Déclaration, one can see the theme of dry woods and salty clarity repeating itself, whether it is Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade (2000) or Hermès Poivre Samarcande (2004). While the main spicy-woody accord relying on an overdose of Iso E Super is changed only slightly, the finished result always has a unique effect, from the verdancy of crushed lime leaves to the warmth of black pepper. Indeed, sometimes a few words say more than a whole book, and in this case, simplicity has a rewarding result.

There also exists Déclaration Essence, a sweeter and warmer composition than the original, with additional notes of immortelle and amber as well as Declaration Bois Bleu, both of which were created by Jean-Claude Ellena. Notes of original Déclaration include bergamot, bitter orange, birch, oak, Moroccan artemisia, cardamom, musk, vetiver, oak.

Please see reviews of other fragrances created by Jean-Claude Ellena:

Balenciaga Rumba (with Ron Winnegrad)

Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver

Hermès Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé (brief description)

Hermès Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé (full review)

Hermès Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan

Hermès Hermèssence Poivre Samarcande

Hermès Hermèssence Rose Ikebana (brief description)

Hermès Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

L’Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine

Paul & Joe Blanc

The Different Company Bois d’Iris

The Different Company Divine Bergamote

Van Cleef & Arpels First

Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again Fleur de la Passion




  • Allison: Wonderful description! I enjoy this one as well. For me, there’s a Scandinavian feel to it. I love cardamom bread that I buy from a Swedish bakery. And the woody notes remind me of a trip to Finland in late summer – they conjure up walking through the woods, saunas and swimming in a lake! I haven’t tried Cologne Bigarade but that is now on my list! Thank you. February 16, 2006 at 9:01am Reply

  • helg: Dear V ,
    this is one of my most favourite fragrances and S.O. positively adores it. Says makes him feel refreshed , as if he’s seeing the dawn for the first time opening the windows giving on a view of the forest.
    Incidentally , it’s one perfume that Jean Claude Ellena is very proud of-along with “First”- (admitted in an interview in Scented Pages) and I agree 100% he should be.
    I can also see the resemblance with “Cologne Bigarade” and his work at Malle proves that he is aiming at minimalism , indeed.
    “Poivre Samarkande” also held some aspects of the dry composition of this one , although there the spices were of course much more pronounced.(and it’s my favourite from the Hermessences).
    I humbly think Declaration makes for a terrific scent for either sex and is very appropriate for almost any situation.
    I have noticed that it blooms on light olive skins , but not so much on trully peachy/fair ones. Wonder why…
    Your lovely post has made me anxious to try the Bois Bleu now. February 16, 2006 at 4:10am Reply

  • Laura: As with so many scents, this is one I’ll now have to retry because of you! The essence one sounds very promising, too. Cardamom is one of my favorite notes. February 16, 2006 at 5:54am Reply

  • Robin: Lovely review. Declaration also reminds me very much of Bigarade, and I like both sprayed on a card, but on skin, both of them turn to a distinct sweaty smell on me within minutes. There was a very funny thread on basenotes some time ago by a doctor whose office staff asked him to please stop wearing it because he smelled like he hadn’t showered in days…

    Keep meaning to try the Essence to see if it works better on me. February 16, 2006 at 11:39am Reply

  • marchlion: It sounds just lovely. And also, thanks for reviewing something “widely available,” it is nice not to have to hunt some rare beast down! February 16, 2006 at 1:30pm Reply

  • Marina: “Elegant simplicity” is a great way to describe Declaration! I also adore Cologne Bigarade and especially Poivre Samarcande. Ellena rocks 🙂 February 16, 2006 at 8:39am Reply

  • Tania: I’ve always been fond of this one, and I think you nailed it. February 16, 2006 at 10:09am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: E, I have not tried Bois Bleu, and I know that it was a limited edition, but I still see it around. I also think that Declaration would make a good fragrance for anyone, since it is not particularly masculine. I usually end up wearing Poivre Samarcande, but Declaration still remains a favourite in terms of its beautiful structure. February 16, 2006 at 12:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I should warn that it also contains cumin, which some people do not like. But it is certainly worth trying, because it is a great fragrance. February 16, 2006 at 12:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Biagio, I also like Essence very much, although for a more sparkling treatment of this theme, I prefer Cologne Bigarade. February 16, 2006 at 12:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I like his work very much. He always manages to give a new twist to his main theme. February 16, 2006 at 12:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Allison, if you like Declaration, you are bound to enjoy Cologne Bigarade too. It has the bright sparkling lime effect, with more radiance and luster. The bitter orange is intensified, while the spicy-wood accord is present as a backdrop. February 16, 2006 at 12:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, thank you. I was struck by the similarity to Eau d’Hermes, but needless to say, I love both. February 16, 2006 at 12:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I know what you mean about the sweaty aspect, which is how cumin registers to me. I get it more from Declaration than Cologne Bigarade. I also notice it in Poivre Samarcande, but there the dryness of the woods dominates. I do not mind it at all, and it is rather subtle. I doubt that Essence would work better for you, because it has it as well, but it is very nice and I would recommend for you to try it. February 16, 2006 at 12:42pm Reply

  • deborah_d: I’ve been enjoying reading your blog for a while, and am posting for the first time. It’s so interesting to see reviews that mention the synthetic ingredients in familiar scents. There are some ingredients that I know I’ve smelled in several fragrances, and I always wish I could put a name to them. Thanks for providing some illumination on this point! February 16, 2006 at 5:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I like niche fragrances, but there are many that simply repeat the ideas of the successful big house fragrances (and I do not mean JCE’s Declaration and Cologne Bigarade similarities). Declaration is in the class of its own for me. February 16, 2006 at 2:55pm Reply

  • peter: You captured what I love most about Declaration. It is an elegant, minimalist, yet very sensual fragrance. I have not tried Cologne Bigarade yet, but it sounds like I might like it. Thanks for another great review! February 16, 2006 at 10:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Deborah, welcome! I am glad that this information is helpful. Sometimes, I become surprised smelling something familiar and recognizing a note that I recently worked with (from my stash of raw materials). It is a very interesting exploration. February 16, 2006 at 11:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Peter, I am glad to hear this. I think that you will enjoy Bigarade very much, and as I mentioned to Allison above, it explores the sparkly note of lime beautifully. February 16, 2006 at 11:36pm Reply

  • Marvin: I just got a sniff of Declaration Essence, which essentially smells the same as Declaration. Am I missing a trick here, or is Essence just a (intuitively speaking) more concentrated version of Declaration? November 25, 2013 at 4:43am Reply

    • Victoria: I believe so, but I’m not sure what they’ve changed exactly. I haven’t compared them side by side, and the only time I’ve smelled it, I noticed that the woods felt darker. November 25, 2013 at 10:34am Reply

  • marios: Love it and is in my collection since my early 20s…i adore the sweaty accord and the woodyness and for me is the best work for Elena..truly unigue..i used it every week at leat once and never get bored of it. December 5, 2013 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s outstanding, and for me, this is Ellena at his best. December 5, 2013 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Gentiana: I just discovered Declaration and I am impressed. Very good balance of citrusy- spicy – woody.
    I ordered it together with a bunch of other samples, as I think it is finally the time to know more about fragrances marketed for men.
    I think it can be very well used by a woman – I surely will use up my sample till the last drop.
    A light hand is required, as the cumin (?) gives a slight b.o. smell, in the second hour of development. May 1, 2014 at 8:01am Reply

  • zenica: Hi boisdejasmin,

    I have a question,

    How do you know Declaration Essence was made by Ellena as well? I tried to find the perfumer of that one but couldn’t find it anywhere.

    Regards January 22, 2015 at 7:14pm Reply

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