Pasha Parfum by Cartier (2020) is not really the flanker anyone saw coming, nor does it really smell like one might expect, which is part of it’s charm. In these “late stage” shareholder capitalist days of huge corporations demanding constant unsustainable growth and as much profit in the shortest term possible to propel it, stuff like flankers to nearly 30 year old lines doesn’t happen in 2020, but yet here is Pasha Parfum. I guess it isn’t entirely unreasonable considering Cartier also issued Déclaration Parfum (2018), but that fragrance married woody-amber molecules to the original Cartier Déclaration (1998) formula in a way that felt like a sellout to mass appeal worse than when Metallica cut their hair and tried to sound like a biker bar rock band with Load and Reload back in the 90’s. In a nutshell, fans didn’t like it, but everyone else did. Here with Pasha Parfum, house perfumer Mathilde Laurent doesn’t try to make a stronger parfum variant of the classic fougère stylings of Pasha de Cartier (1992), but rather moves the concept onto a modern oriental base similar to that in Cartier L’Envol (2016). What this means for people who liked the oakmoss bottom line in Pasha, is that you’re effectively getting a different semi-related scent that feels less like a flanker and more like an idea born from an entirely different brief, but married to the Pasha DNA only where it makes sense to justify the label. Also of note, if you’re not a fan of modernization or woody-amber bases in perfumes at all, you can ignore this flanker without consequence and continue to wear the still-made Pasha de Cartier EdT (at least for the moment), but if a more-oriental Pasha flanker with a modern sandalwood-ish base that punches upward in execution sounds like a fun idea, read on.
First things first, say goodbye to the lavender of the original Pasha de Cartier. Uncoupling the Pasha structure from the fougère framework means not just ditching the IFRA-hated oakmoss (rectified in modern batches anyway), but also the lavender. The mint goes bye-bye too because it doesn’t fit the context of a warm woody oriental accord, so we get just the mandarin orange and thyme left over from the original’s opening. Coriander and cardamom play a role into the heart of Pasha Parfum, with a similar honeyed benzoin note as L’Envol mixing into the equation. Less and less of the recognizable Pasha vibe is felt as the scent dries down, and this Parfum becomes its own stand-alone thing as a nice creamy synthetic sandalwood note continues into the base, one that reminds me of is put into the Art of Shaving sandalwood shave cream (or soap), mixed with patchouli cleansed of its camphoraceous side as is so common in modern 21st century orientals. The surprising bit of cognac-like booziness into the base is also a good point of separation away from the comparable L’Envol, as is the move away from scratchy ambroxan-enhanced norlimbanol to make the woody aspect of the woody-amber base. Instead, a single ambrocenide molecule replaces the pair, a note that brings the ambery aspects of the woody-amber base into greater focus, and has been used mostly by niche perfumes up until this point, but is slowly becoming the new (superior) kid on the block for woody-amber lovers tired of chemical burn nosebleeds in their perfume. Wear time is about eight hours but projection/sillage is a sneaky one, seemingly growing louder over time as the base hits, so do not overspray. Best use is in cold weather, for formal or romantic occasions, Pasha Parfum can also be unisex too.
In some ways, Pasha Parfum feels like a refinement of the idea started by Laurent in the L’Envol range, and a capitulation to those liking the scent but not its drydown, as Pasha Parfum is indeed smoother. In other ways, this is also the Pasha for people who think oakmoss bases (real, rectified, or synthetic) or spiced lavender top notes smell old and out-of-step in the 21st century the way powdery traditional sandalwood perfumes probably smelled to people in the 1980’s when oakmoss hit it’s peak usage. By keeping what is still relevant about the composition and replacing what isn’t, Laurent has granted the Pasha line a new lease on life the same way Moustache Eau de Parfum by Rochas (2018) has given that venerable nameplate much-needed interest, which allows the original (or some semblance of it) to continue existing alongside it. So even if you end up hating the thing that is Pasha Parfum, embrace its existence knowing that it will inevitably draw curiosity over to the original classic fougère that is Pasha de Cartier, as a younger brother that respects the accomplishments of the older. I actually quite like Pasha Parfum but if you own L’Envol, it is sort of redundant unless you want more of a creamy sandalwood feel in your benzoin-woody-amber stew. If nothing else, this flanker at least makes some sense as a “night out” variant to people who use Pasha Edition Noire (2013) as day wear, although classic Pasha fans okay with woody-ambers may also see it as redundant in that task the way L’Envol owners might. In conclusion, Pasha Parfum feels more like a L’Envol flanker housed in a Pasha bottle, but there’s no use in complaining because it is just a flanker after all, and not a reboot. Pasha Parfum is a nicer modern “sandalwood” perfume than we have any hope to otherwise expect from a designer-tier fragrance house anyhow. Thumbs up.