Perfume Review: Cartier Les Heures de Parfum XIII La Treizieme Heure


When I first read about the “Heures de Parfum” Collection from Cartier, I mentally shrugged and said to myself, “Well, if I run across them, I’ll try, and if not, oh well.”

That’s still my feeling about the line.  But a kind friend sent me a sample of XIII: La Treizieme Heure (as always, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks, as they’re not available on the software I use for blogging), and although it was composed by Mathilde Laurent and had gotten terrific reviews, it didn’t seem very much like me.  Leather, smoke, patchouli and vanilla? Uhhhhh, no thanks, not my thang.

I wuz wronnnng.

The official notes list reads Not Very Me:  leather, maté, birch, narcissus, bergamot, patchouli and vanilla.  (Well, except for the narcissus, that’s Very Me.)  The description of the scent didn’t move me either, seeming both pretentious and sort of faux-dangereuse:  Mathilde Laurent called XIII La Treizième Heure “olfactive trickery, like a crime with premeditation.”  I don’t even get what that means.  Still less do I understand another quote from Ms. Laurent about this fragrance: “By smoke, I mean perfume. Smoke like a fascination, to be worn like a trap with intent.”

I’m not much for smoky notes.  Cuir de Lancome is about as smoky as I tolerate well; SSS Winter Woods, for example, was very smoky on me and prompted a customer at the auto parts store where I used to work to ask where the wood stove was.  (Eep.)  Even Shalimar can be unbearably smoky on my skin, and another famously birch tar-and-leather fragrance, Cuir de Russie, is horrrrrrible, just horrible, on me (it smells like our cattle working pens).  But this?  I like it.  Really.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

Sometimes when I test fragrances new to me, I check the notes and read reviews of them.  This is because I am an unapologetic geek.  I try not to do that for scents that I am planning to write formal reviews for, but if I’m in that “wonder if this will suit me?” mode, I usually do it.  I didn’t do it for XIII, because I merely grabbed a vial on my way out the door the other day.  I’d been testing hay notes again recently (Bois Blond, SMN Fieno, that really expensive LE L’Artisan Fleur de Narcisse) and La Treizieme Heure was in a baggie with those, probably because someone somewhere said it smelled like hay – or because, perhaps, I’d confused it with La Heure Fougeuse, which is the horsey one, I think.

For the record, none of them smell like hay to me.  And I am not sure yet, but I think I really dislike Bois Blond.

So.  I was a little surprised at the bonfire that wafted off my skin in the beginning of this test.  My son Gaze (age 13, the kid who’s most interested in smells in my house) walked by and said, “Hey, you smell like fall.  You know, woodsmoke?  No, wait… it’s more like smoked sausage.  By the way, what’s for dinner?”  Yep.  Smoke smoke smoke.  Which should have felt very strange in June, but instead was rather fascinating.

Digression: At this point I feel compelled to talk about my late grandparents’ house.  It was an enormous monstrosity of a farmhouse built in 1860, the “summer home” of some wealthy people who also owned a beautiful brick house elsewhere.  (The brick house is now gorgeously restored and thriving as a bed and breakfast.  Check out Rockwood Manor here.)  My grandparents bought Mountain Home in 1950, mostly for the 100-acre farm surrounding it, and most of my childhood holidays were spent there.  I loved that house so much.  I think the whole family was sad when my grandfather died and my grandmother stated firmly that she couldn’t bear another winter cooped up in that house when it snowed, with no way to get to town, and it was sold.  My sister and I often talk about how frequently we still dream about that house, with its 12-foot ceilings, its transom windows, its double staircases, and how it felt both comfortable and exciting.  The vegetable garden was fully half an acre (weeding it was no fun at all), and the orchard was full of Early Transparent apple trees.  The outbuildings included a storage shed where Pawpaw kept his Ford tractor, a dairy barn, a hay barn, and… a smokehouse.

The smokehouse at Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. Looks surprisingly like my grandparents’ – tall, narrow, made of stone.

We grandkids loved to go into the smokehouse in the summer.  It was made of stone, sat squarely behind the house, and it was cool and dark and musty and smoky, a wonderful place to be.  La Treizieme Heure shot me straight back there to the smokehouse, and how enjoyable that was!

After the smokehouse start, the fragrance dove into a beautiful, almost transparent white floral with green overtones, a real surprise for something with such a heavy, wintery opening.  My testing notes say “narcissus? gardenia? jasmine-ylang?” because I couldn’t quite place it, but it is definitely a soft floral accord.  I would not quite say that the florals are out of place in the fragrance, but this scent is definitely a morpher, with distinct stages.  The white floral segued into a quiet tobacco-vanilla drydown, clear and lovely, no powder at all.

I was reminded a little of Bvlgari Black while testing.  Black is sort of a circular fragrance, however, rotating among smoky tea, new-sneakers rubber, and powdery vanilla.  I like Black, but to be honest my favorite part of it is the new-sneakers rubber bit – you remember how exciting it was as a kid to get new shoes? – and I would like Black far better without the powder in the vanilla. (Apparently I like my powder via aldehydes, not amber/vanilla.)

I really enjoy the trip from smokehouse to garden to cupcake via the “Thirteenth Hour.”  It has about average lasting power on me for an eau de parfum, four to five hours with mild sillage (I dabbed from a vial; it may be more radiant if sprayed).  However, since it’s one of those exclusive Cartier things, available at Cartier boutiques and Saks Fifth Avenue, it’s pretty pricey at $260 for 75ml.  That’s almost Amouage-level prices, and in fact more expensive than the last bottle of Amouage I bought (a 100ml tester bottle of Memoir Woman for $200).  So I think I’ll skip buying this one, but if a decant should land in my mailbox some day, I’d certainly enjoy wearing it.

Other reviews: Grain de Musc, Katie Puckrik Smells, Kevin at Now Smell This (I should probably mention that I LOVE Kevin’s writing, but we hardly ever agree in terms of likes and dislikes),  Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Mark at Ca Fleure Bon, Bois de Jasmin (brief).


17 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Cartier Les Heures de Parfum XIII La Treizieme Heure”

  1. I love it when a perfume that you think you will dislike based on the notes, turns out to surprise you. Thanks for this review. I’m headed up to the city today, so if I have time I will pop into Saks and try this one. I love Cuir de Russie and if this is easier to wear, I might like it too.
    I think Heure Fougeuse is the one that was supposed to smell like hay and or horse. It smelled like neither to me. It didn’t even give me the feel or hint of hay or horse. Then again, maybe it smells like a horse I haven’t been next to yet, as every horse smells different to me.

    1. Isn’t that fun – the surprises? Love them.

      Do tell me what you think if you try this. It’s considerably sweeter than CdR, with plenty of vanilla. Some people see some resemblance to Le Labo Patchouli 24, which I haven’t tried because the name skeered me off.

      I haven’t tried Fougeuse, though I think I might have a sample floating around somewhere. Funny how “hay” never really smells like hay to me, though I suppose I can sorta kinda see how people get hay out of narcissus.

      1. Argh. Saks did not have a tester for this today. The charming SA even hunted all over to try and find it. Bummed. Tried Cartier Declaration and Declaration Essence instead.

        1. Well POOT. I haven’t tried either of the Declarations either. I have in my mind that those are aimed at dudes (and borrowed by ladies), so I can’t remember what they are. Cardamom? Or violet leaf? (I could be industrious and look it up, or I could just be lazy. I’m picking lazy.)

          1. Citrus, ginger, geranium, lavender, vetiver. Some spices. The declaration was very citrusy-ginger on me. And the essence has some amber in it, which my skin amped up to a very sweet level. Over all, they had a very masculine vibe to them. A bit too masculine for me and I didn’t think they would suit DH either, as he generally doesn’t wear fragrance. Will have to organize my samples to see if I have decants from TPC or STC of Les Heures to try.

          2. Well, at least I did remember them as being geared masculine. Not gonna be my thang, then.

  2. I would’ve bet my last drop of Tribute attar that you would’ve HATED this. HAAAATED! huh. But! because you didn’t hate it, I’m going to retry it – I couldn’t get past the smoky opening to let it dry down (though Gaze’s sausage reference gives me pause).

    Fougueuse is my go-to scent. It doesn’t smell like hay. It smells like Heavily Monied Horses. Saudi Prince Money, if said Saudi Prince has a penchant for bazillion-dollar Arabians. It smells like the most expensive stable in the world. I wear it when I need to feel like I own a fleet of G-6s and am on my way to the Arabian Horse Auction instead of to am ethanol corn silo to check on a slurry feed screw.

    Oh, JOY!!! Your RSS feed icon is up! YAY! I’mo subscribe RIGHT NOW~


    1. crap. no it didn’t (see, you used to be able to just SUBSCRIBE TO THE DANGED PAGE and it would show up in the menu – but nooooo). so I did the email subscription. which is fine.

      just glad to have your blog back on my radar.


    2. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS UP WIT THAT DANG RSS. I SWEAR. I have tried to fix it multiple times, and I don’t know what I’m doing/not doing that makes it not work. So sorry…

      I know, I know, it So Does Not Sound Like ME. It’s not a *meaty* sausage thing, though it does remind me of the smokehouse, in which nothing had been smoked for a good sixty years anyway. Just that woody smoky smell. I think that the morph through white floral was probably what tipped the scale in its favor.

      You and your horses. 😉

  3. It surprises me that you liked this as well. I did run into these at Saks, and thought the line a tad thin and synthetic, if interesting, but now the plot thickens. Did I dismiss them all too quickly? Mathilde Laurent does do nice stuff, loved Shalimar Light for instance and Atrappe Coeur. Darn it, don’t make me put my heels on!

    1. This is the only one of the line that I’ve tried (though I *think* I’ve also got a sample of Fougeuse lying around… uh, SOMEwhere…) and I was very surprised to like it.

      Are you a smoke fan? I love Shalimar Light and enjoy Attrape-Coeur as well, but this one isn’t much like either of those.

  4. LOL! I suspect that Ms. Laurent’s English might not be the strongest. Where the hell are these Cartiers? I’ve still never seen this exclusive line, and I’ve been in an awful lot of Sakses,

  5. I have been similarly “yeah, whatever” about this line, but your review has intrigued me. If there’s a place where our tastes intersect, I’m wondering if it might be at smoky and leathery frags. Maybe? 🙂 So I’ll give this a test if/when I come across it again (I sniffed through all of these at a counter, but didn’t try any on skin). Thanks for the review.

    1. Who knows? I like Cuir de Lancome and Jolie Madame, that is pretty much it for my leather… and smoke is usually not me. *Usually.* It might interest you, though.

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