Cartier Les Heures de Parfum Review : La Treizieme Heure, Mysterieuse, Defendue



The deterioration of perfume’s luxury status has resulted in some new marketing strategies on the part of high-end brands. The most obvious one has been to create niche lines within the main range that are distinguished from their commercial offerings both by the elaborate nature of packaging and the impressive prices: Chanel Les Exclusifs, Hermès Hermessence, Guerlain L’Art et la Matière, Giorgio Armani Privé, Cartier Les Heures de Parfum, and Christian Dior La Collection. Cartier Les Heures de Parfum first launched in 2009 with five fragrances (L’Heure Promise, L’Heure Brilliante, L’Heure Folle, L’Heure Mystérieuse, La Treiziéme Heure,) and this year, the collection was expanded to include three more (L’Heure Defendue, L’Heure Fougueuse, L’Heure Diaphane.) As I have been testing my way through Dior La Collection, I decided to revisit Les Heures de Parfum as well.

The fragrances for Les Heures de Parfum were created by Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, whose work for Guerlain (Attrape-Coeur, Shalimar Eau Légère) has been very memorable in its combination of baroque plushness and laconic modern style. Les Heures de Parfum, on the whole, exemplifies the latter. While Dior and Chanel have taken distinctly traditional routes to build their collections, Cartier has largely explored modern niche trends. In some what this is not surprising. While Chanel and Dior have a very strong fragrance heritage, Cartier’s experience with fragrance is relatively recent; its first fragrance, Must de Cartier, was launched only in 1981. If one criticism may be levied against the collection, it is very heavily skewed towards presenting little fragrance etudes that do not develop into fuller stories. Given the luxurious pricing*, I am left wanting something more complex. Fragrances like X L’Heure Folle and XII L’Heure Mystérieuse are actually among the most unusual scents I have tried lately, but they strike me more as original accords that I long to smell as a part of a more complex structure. On the other hand, the vivid verdancy of VI L’Heure Brilliante and the ashy jasmine of IV L’Heure Fougueuse tell very interesting stories with enough complexity and twists to the plot to maintain one’s interest. While I am tempted to purchase only one of the eight, I still find that it is a collection worth exploring for its interesting ideas.

Since I have not yet reviewed any fragrances from the collection, I decided to start with the darkest of the eight and work my way to the lightest ones.

XIII La Treiziéme Heure

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

Dark and smoky, La Treiziéme Heure is not subtle in its message. It plunges straight into the heart of darkness with its accord of dry leather, woods, and patchouli. The phenolic birch tar note, reminiscent of the irresistible burnt rubber in Bulgari Black, is set center stage in La Treiziéme Heure. I like the dry, green note of yerba mate (shrub native to South America, the leaves of which are used as tea,) which along with clove provides a great contrast to the heavy, dark notes in this composition. It is fascinating to explore the interplay of dark and smoky, which is quite nuanced, and I would have loved a more complex fragrance built around this idea. As it is, I find La Treiziéme Heure to be too blunt and anti-climatic.

(notes: bergamot, narcissus, maté, birch, leather, patchouli, vanilla)

XII L’Heure Mystérieuse

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

The mystery of L’Heure Mystérieuse is woven out of incense, and it is quite beguiling. The green herbal opening with a hint of burnt orange gives the composition a surprisingly classical aura, but soon it enters the terrain of modern niche. In contrast to the mainstream embrace of fresh floral and crisp fruity notes, niche is all about incense, smoke and animalic notes. L’Heure Mystérieuse explores incense both as a fresh, peppery note as well as a dark, burnt accord. A hint of sweetness recalling Indian sandalwood incense sticks is a memorable touch. Although I enjoy L’Heure Mystérieuse, it does not have much sillage, staying heavy and close to the skin. Undoubtedly interesting, but for me, it has a difficult time competing with other incense dominated fragrances like L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer and Armani Privé Bois d’Encens.

(notes: juniperberry, jasmine, coriander, patchouli, elemi, frankincense)

VII L’Heure Deféndue

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

Chocolate and patchouli may be an au courant combination given the new generation of gourmand fragrances (from Thierry Mugler Angel to Guerlain Iris Ganache,) but L’Heure Deféndue has a surprisingly retro aura. The balsamic notes layered with dark amber, dried fruit and vanilla have an abstract gourmand quality, while the dryness of patchouli and woody musk (Cashmeran) tempers the creamy sweetness of cocoa. To me, this is the least interesting of three fragrances I have reviewed here, because it is in the same genre as Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, minus the strong character and surprising contrasts.

(notes: amber, sandalwood, tolu balsam, coco wood, patchouli, musk, vanilla)

Les Heures de Parfum are available at Cartier boutiques and Saks Fifth Avenue in the US.

Reviews of the entire Les Heures de Parfum collection: I L’Heure Promise :: IV L’Heure Fougueuse :: VI L’Heure Brilliante :: VII L’Heure Deféndue :: VIII L’Heure Diaphane :: X L’Heure Folle :: XXII L’Heure Mystérieuse :: XXIII La Treiziéme Heure

*Les Heures de Parfum are among the most expensive niche collections, priced at $255 for 75 ml. To compare, Dior La Collection–$225.00 for 250ml, Chanel Les Exclusifs–$110 for 75ml/$210 for 200 ml, Hermessence–$235.00 for 100ml.

Samples: my own acquisitions, except for L’Heure Deféndue, which was a 4ml sample from Cartier.



  • Suzanna: The Chanels have gone up; the last one I purchased was $220.00, which is still a comparative bargain. There may have been a small price hike since, but the Chanel site is marketing the smaller sizes in place of the larger now.

    The Cartiers are hardly pressed into service where I live. The Saks here acted as if they weren’t part of the line-up. When I asked about them, the SA, very sotto voce, mentioned the price first, dismissively, and then showed me the latest Bond. January 28, 2011 at 9:03am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I just received samples of Diaphane, Promise and Fougueuse, so I am very much looking forward to your take of all the Les Heures. Out of the three you reviewed today only L’Heure Mysterieuse held interest for me, but your review sends me off re-smelling Bois d’ Encens and Passage d’Enfer and feeling smug because of money saved. :)Thank you,V! January 28, 2011 at 4:23am Reply

  • Alice C: Your description of the dark and smoky La Treiziéme Heur sounds like it would be so yummy, but even if your review were more positive these are too rich for my blood. 😉 January 28, 2011 at 9:34am Reply

  • Marina: “Little fragrance etudes that do not develop into fuller stories” describes them so very well. I was left stone-cold by the first ones, haven’t tried the new additions though. January 28, 2011 at 7:17am Reply

  • meg jamieson: L’Heure Fougueuse is lovely and very special. I did something unusual for me (unheard of, actually) and purchased this on a recommendation (aka unsniffed). At first, the scent seemed too ephemeral, too light, but then I realized that it did function as an “aura” perfume (borrowed from Denyse at GdM) and that it did function: I feel quite focused, very light, when this is on. And very much as though I am not smelling a perfume, but am in an amplified pool of myself. I get no “barnyard” or even significantly horse. I get so many other things, but perfectly blended. At the outset of each wearing, there is something so organic to my nose as to make me recoil slightly: I have used this element in my own very juvenile efforts, or the maceration of multiple essential oils creates this unsorted miasma. But then, sleight of hand, it expands and opens up, and passes through what has been noted: mate, gardenia, skin, mane accord. Lovely, and very different applied to scarf or to body. I will wear this until it is used up. January 28, 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

  • meg jamieson: Oh, dear, please excuse the giant block o’text, my spacing was lost from word processor to post. January 28, 2011 at 1:07pm Reply

  • meg jamieson: and, magnolia. January 28, 2011 at 1:08pm Reply

  • Victoria: They are very interesting and original as ideas, accords, but I found wearing them not as exciting. Plus, the price! It makes other niche lines seem like bargains.
    Did you like anything at all? January 28, 2011 at 8:11am Reply

  • Victoria: L'Heure Fougueuse is my favorite! It is the only one I want to buy so far. A very beautiful, original fragrance. January 28, 2011 at 8:14am Reply

  • Victoria: Suzanna, thanks so much! I will check on the new price. I myself have not purchased any since they launched a couple of years ago. A small size sounds so appealing though.
    I cannot believe that your Saks SA would do that, how unprofessional. Actually, no, let me rephrase, I can believe it, given my own retail experiences! January 28, 2011 at 9:18am Reply

  • Victoria: I admit that mine too, in all respects! 😉 I feel also that La Treiziéme Heure is too similar to Le Labo Patchouli 24 and Bulgari Black in character for me to spend $255 on a bottle.
    They are very enjoyable, because the materials are very good quality and the ideas are interesting, but I want more complex stories. January 28, 2011 at 10:02am Reply

  • Eric Brandon: As I’ll say in more detail, L’Heure Promise was my favorite of the original five. I haven’t worked myself up enough to actually go try the new ones.

    I did like La Treizieme Heure but it had a tendency to go oily. A friend said it smelled like fried chicken but I thought that was a bit extreme. I do wonder, though. I just sampled Patchouli 24 but my sample of LTH sample is gone. Did you notice any similarities? January 28, 2011 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Meg, I completely agree with you on L’Heure Fougueuse. I wanted to review it separately also because it is very unusual and quite striking. I also do not get barnyard, but a very elegant, sophisticated composition of jasmine, hay, very soft leather. It is a beautiful example of Laurent’s work, and I only wish that the other fragrances in the collection were as fully developed as L’Heure Fougueuse.
    I also like L’Heure Promise very much, but it flattens rather too fast. January 28, 2011 at 1:38pm Reply

  • Marina: L`Heure Promise, but sort of out of desperation to like at least one of them 🙂 January 28, 2011 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: LOL! What a classic perfumista line! 🙂
    I think that you might like the most recent ones better. January 28, 2011 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am wearing L’Heure Promise right now, and interesting enough, it alternates between Indian sandalwood soap and L’Artisan Premier Figuier to me. A rather surprising mix!

    I find La Treizieme Heure to be quite similar in character to Le Labo Patchouli 24. Of course, when you compare them side by side, you will see differences, but overall, it is the same idea–phenolic/smoky notes of birch tar and woods. January 28, 2011 at 3:30pm Reply

  • dee: I love L’Heure Fougueuse! Someday, a decant. 🙂 January 29, 2011 at 12:50am Reply

  • Victoria: It is so tempting, very well-made fragrance! January 29, 2011 at 8:17am Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2021 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy