Cartier’s Baiser Vole Essence de Parfum (2011)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

It was last summer, on a hot day, I walked by a Cartier flagship store and wondered if they had any exclusive perfumes like Chanel did. I walked in to find out, and the shop was as quiet as a library after the apocalypse. A woman with her husband was trying on a diamond necklace, and no one in the room was making any noise, like a western movie standoff scene. I kept walking, very quietly, looking for the perfume section.

And there it was, hidden between two columns, almost like an after-thought. Judging the shape of the bottles on the shelves, I guessed Cartier didn’t have any exclusive or “privee” collection. I smelled a few different colognes, didn’t find anything particularly interesting. Then I picked up a beautiful bottle with a gold cap, took a sniff… wow, what is this beautiful scent? A vanilla lily fragrance, named Baiser Vole Essence de Parfum (Stolen Kiss), smelled very soft, tender and huggable, and also of banana, like a fabric softener commercial where the jug was dropped from above the camera and landed on some towels and kept on bouncing. I looked at the bottom of the bottle, and the shelves, and couldn’t find any price. The air conditioner was on full-blast, the security camera mounted on the ceiling was staring at me coldly, I felt like I should leave. Nevertheless, Baiser Vole really did give me a stunning impression.

Later I found out that Baiser Vole was commonly available in any department store. On the day Sephora had everything in store 20% off, I decided it’s the perfect time to get a bottle. But it was a war zone – I had never seen so many women in a single place at the same time in my life. I squeezed into the perfume section, quickly took a sniff of the bottle again before grabbing a box, and found its magic was gone. I must be experiencing some claustro-agora-sephora-phobia because of the huge crowd and my nose had stopped working.

Finally I had reached home, at my own peace, and smelled it again, and the magic reappeared, only this time I discovered the dry down was green, spicy and woody, a bit too sharp compared to the soft opening.

Cartier’s Le Baiser Du Dragon (2003)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I have a caucasian friend from Pittsburgh who loves everything Chinese. He has Buhda statues and Chinese water-colour paintings, and he practices tai chi daily and burns Chinese incense sticks at home. He knows more Chinese tea blends than I do and openly says that if reincarnation were real, he wishes to be a Chinese in his next life.

One time we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He ordered stir-fry chicken and specifically asked for white meat. The dish came and it was all dark meat. He was a bit upset and asked the waitress for an explanation. The waitress looked very puzzled and refuted, “Chicken is white meat, beef is red! I gave you white meat!” I laughed at him and said, “You are miles away from being a Chinese because 9 out of 10 Chinese prefer dark meat.”

Cartier’s Le Baiser Du Dragon (2003) to me is kind of like my friend. The Chinese furniture inspired bottle design suggests something exotic and Asian, but the juice smells nothing of it, in my opinion. Similarly, like a white blond woman wearing a Chinese long dress just for a little exotic elegance and fun at a ball, no one would mistaken her as a Chinese, but she definitely looks pretty.

Le Baiser Du Dragon was introduced to me by Ricky, who said “If Shalimar and Habit Rouge had a baby it would be Le Baiser Du Dragon.” Since I am not most familiar with Shalimar, I kind of disagree with the Habit Rouge part. The opening is boozy, full and marginally sour and unmistakably almond. It’s an elegant party that serves mostly Armaretto liqueur and chocolate fondue, but it ends way too soon. Out, out, out, the bouncers kick everyone out and turn the party room into a 1000 square foot powder room for ladies, and they replace all the bar stools with cedar stumps.