In case you hadn't already gathered from its name and from the brief hints above, this latest addition to Cartier's exclusive range smells green. But that familiar, unassuming five-letter word doesn't begin to convey quite how green the perfume is. To get some sense of the vividness of its verdancy, you first need to push aside any notions of peas, peppers or galbanum; this isn't that sort of green. Then you need to cast yourself back to your childhood and grab hold of the joy that came with imagining things that were so large, they weren't just enormous, they were ginormous. And finally, you need to apply the term 'ginormous' to a field of the most pristine, most sun-kissed grass you can possibly picture and tell yourself that it has just been cut by a fairy with a lawnmower attachment at the end of her wand. Now... stick your nose into that field. If you can do all this, you'll have some sense of how Vertueuse works.
When I first tried it, I experienced that jaw-dropping sensation - the feeling Roudnitska described using the word "shock" - which occurs no more than two or three times in a year's worth of scent sampling. I was astonished. I was engrossed. And I was impressed. Easily one of the bravest compositions of 2012, Vertueuse seems intent on answering the question, "How green can we go?" The answer is: very green indeed. And it's a testament to Laurent's commitment to the aesthetics of the Heures range that she provides this answer with fearlessness and intensity. So yes, once the gluey, nail varnish remover aspect of the opening settles down - an effect caused by the presence of cis-3 hexenol, no doubt - it's grass all the way, with a compelling sprinkling of the aforementioned fauna and enough sunshine to reduce the polar ice cap to a soggy puddle.
But it must come with a qualification: it doesn't last as long as some people would like it to. As far as I'm concerned, longevity is overrated. Yes, it's important, but it isn't the most vital aspect of fragrance construction, and we over-emphasise it at the risk of damaging certain genres of perfumes (look at what's happened with attempts to make eaux de cologne 'perform' for ages). The optimistic vitality of Vertueuse is gone after about four hours, but I'm not complaining, because at least Laurent hasn't sullied it with an overdose of musks and heavy fixatives. Indeed, it's this refusal to pander to market demands for long-lastingness which provides even more evidence of the perfumer's courage. The fragrance she's made sticks around for as long as it needs to stick around.
Fans of Laurent's work will be aware that she explored a similar scenario in Guerlain's Herba Fresca, and although there are unquestionably similarities between these two creations, Vertueuse ultimately belongs to a different landscape. HR's mintiness is sweet, odd and ever so slightly sci-fi; this latest effort hails from an imagined past, where Timotei models stroll across pastures to the sounds of distant lutes. Not unlike Caron's Pour Un Homme - with which it also shares some DNA - it fills your soul with hope, puts a spring in your step and makes you forget the meaning of the word 'winter'. A marvel.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette obtained in 2012.]