Reading there are two editions, one old, one new, by Cartier with the emblematic panther in the name, one is faced with an embarrassment of riches. The good news is that perfumer Mathilde Laurent' style is vibrant, luminous, recognizable in the newer incarnation, La Panthère. The bad news (if that is considered bad in itself) is that it bears no copy-paste relation to the previous fragrance, Cartier Panthère, launched in 1986 and circulating well into the 1990s to be discontinued later on.
While the older Panthère is a ripe and fruity-saturated perfume which is recalling a trend of the 1980s and mid-90s (and bears a knowing kinship to the later Champagne/Yvresse by Sophia Grojsman with its fruit-liquor density, I always thought, as well as winking to Dior Poison), the newer La Panthère is a musky floral with a healthy dose of oakmoss felt in the base, which gains life on the skin, rather than on the paper blotter on which it is presented in perfumeries. Indeed to judge it by merely its effect on paper would be to misunderstand it.
I like what I smell on a batch of the older, Alberto Morillas composed Panthère which I received through a split from a bona fide collector. My own small bottle from 1991 was in a ramschackle state, due to it being kept on a dresser for the better part of that decade. The little remaining inside had become a thickish goo which muddled all notes together. So jogging my memory was necessary. The rather significant amount I ordered proves that my former instincts are correct.
The floral notes (tuberose amongst them) are so honeyed and dense (and warmed up by civet notes) that they gain an overripe fruitiness, reminiscent of grappa spirits. The resinous qualities have an aldehydic brilliance to them and a tenacity which has both influential wake (you sniff this from time to time on yourself) and good lasting power, either on skin or on clothes. It's a perfume that seems out of joint with the modern sensibilities in a way, yet like 24 Faubourg it doesn't smell really retro, just mature and "full." Contrary to 24 Faubourg, nevertheless, the older Panthère's aura is less formal and a little more playful, at least to me.
In contrast the newer 2014 La Panthère (differentiated both by bottle and by the article "La" [sic], i.e. "the" before the animal-emblem) spells modern sensibilities galore, yet done in a very tasteful way. Much like Baiser Vole (which let it be noted I liked a lot) was Laurent's take on one of the mega-trends of recent perfumery, that is, the gently powdery floral, here in La Panthère takes some of the tricks of the illusionist, making you see fruit (fresh, tart, like pear liqueur, greenish too, a touch of budding gardenias) while the floral bouquet develops beyond any doubt and gains radiance by the hour. The underscoring by musks fortunately doesn't tilt the perfume into laundry detergent territory, as many fear due to the abundance of musk molecules in functional products used for cleaning and drying our clothes due to their hydrophobic properties (which ensure a lasting impression).
Specifically Musk ketone in the base, which smells warm, inviting, pulsating from the skin, forms an aura that warms up with the heat of the body. Although previously restricted and disappearing from perfumes, it is re-introduced and utilized by some (but not all!) perfume companies and perfume labs. It is exactly its thermoregulating properties which are lost on the blotter, so I advice giving it some time to evolve on the warmth of someone living. The mossy notes brings the composition closer to something which indeed has a 1980s kin than anything. Yet it still remains contemporary, youthful, sparkling with life, a modern chypre. One of the better releases so far.
I really like the concave bottle which is carved from the inside to hold the juice into the cavity formed by the panther's head. In all sincerity I found the commercial (and the overly "meaningful" gaze of the model) yawn-inducing. But your mileage may vary.
Available at major department stores internationally.