Usually, I can tell whether I’m going to like a fragrance or not from the first sniff. Sure, things can change with development but usually after one wear I can make a judgement as to whether a scent is for me or whether it’s perhaps best suited to someone else. Of course, when reviewing I wear something at least three times to get a good impression of the nuances, but you catch my drift. Sometimes though, a scent will perplex me and it will take me much longer to decide whether I like it or not. Cartier’s latest masculine fragrance ‘L’Envol‘ was one such scent.
I wouldn’t be dishonest if I said that I have gone back and forth on Cartier’s L’Envol whilst I’ve been testing it over the last month or so. At times, I couldn’t quite understand the positive reviews I was reading and wondered what others were seeing that I was missing. At others, I sensed a deeper sense of intricacy that elevated L’Envol above the many other masculines it shared its shelf space with. So, it would be fair to say that L’Envol is a fragrance that doesn’t reveal itself entirely upon first sniff and that it also makes one think. For that reason, I haven’t given up on it.
L’Envol, which literally translates as ‘the flight’, is inspired by aviation. Cartier’s in-house Perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, was inspired by “the mythical ambrosia of the Gods on Olympus, a mead drink believed to confer immortality”. Laurent says that she wished to create “a light fragrance” one that “conjures up a personal and spiritual journey from within”. I have great admiration for Mathilde Laurent (you can see an interview with her here) because she is able to think about perfume abstractly and cerebrally, and has taken the house of Cartier to entirely new heights. L’Envol is yet another surprise from a body of work that has proved to be entirely fascinating and forward thinking.
Now we cannot talk L’Envol without touching on the presentation. That bottle, you guys! Honestly, I thought Cartier would have a tough job one-upping the marvellous flacon for La Panthère, but somehow they’ve managed it. L’Envol, in the 100ml size, is a detachable tube housed within a glass cloche. There’s no bottom to the glass dome, which leaves the fragrance suspended gracefully in midair. The bottle was designed to ensure that the fragrance never touched the ground, hinting at the fragrance’s aviation-based inspirations. It is nothing short of a work of art, but does the fragrance itself live up to the beauty of the bottle? Let’s find out!
Lignum Vitae, Iris, Musk and Honey
How Does it Smell?
L’Envol opens with a distinct violet leaf accord and therein lies my problem. Violet leaf is so bold and so inextricably linked to masculine perfumery that one cannot help but find it utterly familiar and at worst, completely dull. Granted, L’Envol does boast a violet leaf note that is much softer and subtle than other. But to judge L’Envol on its reserved violet leaf opening is to judge a book by its cover, because the interest certainly comes as the fragrance sheds away some of the greyness of this material and warms up to something entirely more golden, but before that: iris.
What really is lovely about L’Envol is the heart of iris that links into the violet leaf. Like stickle bricks, these two materials go together perfectly and as the violet leaf dissipates, the iris comes through softly and heavy with minerals. There’s a touch of the feminine to it – a dash of powder that feels airy and light, in addition to a mineral facet that is rugged and cold. When this iris heart is in full force, L’Envol comes across as a soft and sensitive fragrance with a reflective aura. For a masculine it’s surprisingly delicate and that, my friends, is exactly what make L’Envol intriguing.
Underneath that violet leaf and iris sits a base of woods and transparent, airy musks. I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing new there, but L’Envol’s woods have a wonderful grainy texture to them. What’s more, as it dries down, an undercurrent of honey trickles through the composition, illuminating from the bottom up, a golden light of warmth. The honey really makes L’Envol something special. It adds a sweet and sour facet that compliments everything else perectly. L’Envol may not be bold or challenging but it certainly is intricate and ever-evolving, which is fine by me, after all, sometimes a fragrance just needs to smell good without bells or whistles.
So where do I stand on L’Envol? I like it and whilst it isn’t entirely as innovative as I would expect from Mathilde Laurent and Cartier, it’s a really pleasant scent to wear. I don’t think it is something I will find myself reaching for but my husband loves it and I must admit that it certainly suits him a lot better than it does me. It’s a fragrance that I am more than happy to smell on others and the presentation, especially in the 100ml, really is breathtaking. L’Envol is an offbeat woody fragrance that strikes the right balance between conventional & easy to wear, and unusual & new. It’s definitely worth a sniff.
L’Envol is available in 50ml (£64), 80ml (£84) and 100ml (£97) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes and quotes via Cartier. Images are my own.