Cartier Déclaration Essence (2001) is probably one of the rare examples of the name actually befitting the scent inside. Jean-Claude Ellena penned the original Déclaration (1998) from which this is based, and although there is no notation showing he created any flankers for the house afterward, the uncanny similarity between this and the original cannot be ignored. First and foremost, Cartier Déclaration Essence really is as it is self-described: the essence of the primary accord found in Déclaration. What this exactly means will be different depending on who you ask and what part of that accord they favor most, but for me, Déclaration Essence is all about the core leather and cumin of Déclaration stripped of most citrus elements, the eau de cologne elements in the top, and "flash" if you will. Instead of these brighter and more-gaudy tones, Déclaration Essence surrounds that core cumin and leather with aromatics, additional woods and cistus labdanum, pulling the dry down into a darker overall direction. Déclaration Essence would be the first of many flankers in the line, with several of them already discontinued and fetching pretty pennies in the aftermarket, but most still available for sale. The key difference between this and all future additions to the line is the fact that this is an attempt to condense the formula of the original instead of embellishing or modifying it like everything else bearing the "Déclaration" name.
The scent of Cartier Déclaration Essence opens with bergamot, cedar, and mandarin orange. There is a bit of a soft tea note and lime floating around in this earliest phase, which isn't found in the original Déclaration, giving a bit of a softer feel to the overall opening in place of the calone and ozonic tartness the first Déclaration possessed. Another big point of difference is the birch tar being moved down into the heart away from the top, and the oakmoss being pulled up from the base into the heart as well, which is an odd place for it since it hits so early in the wear, but there is a method to the madness if you stay close. There's no juniper here, and the cumin and leather of the core accord also comes in drier and a bit less sweaty thanks to less citrus vavoom, making Déclaration Essence seem less like an Eau d'Hermès (1951) homage than it's predecessor. Cardamom plays a bigger part in Cartier Déclaration Essence than it did in the original Cartier Déclaration, as does vetiver and cedar, with the new addition of rosewood adding a smooth almost faux-rose tone to the final dry down. Granted, this is nothing like the much later Cartier Déclaration d'Un Soir, but you get my point. The biggest change in the base of Déclaration Essence is the addition cistus labdanum, which really warms up the final phases. Wear time is on par with the original Déclaration, with sillage a little quieter, and is wearable in all the same contexts except hot summers really, and feels a tad more casual in tone because of how smooth it is.
All in all, Déclaration Essence is a good first flanker for the line, but may also seem a bit redundant since all it really does is manage to take the primary cumin and leather accord and place it in a slightly more conservative setting, but hardcore fans of that accord will see this as the best flanker in the line for that reason. The bottle contains a blue hue gradient that fades in from top to bottom, making people think at first that this may be some kind of aquatic interpretation, but folks who hate anything fresh and aquatic might be pleased to know that this is even further away from that aspect than the first Déclaration, which was barely "fresh" to begin with and feels more like a leather scent by the end of the wear. Déclaration Essence comes across more like a true chypre than the eau de cologne style of the first scent, even if the original is ironically stronger than Déclaration Essence, so owning both for true fans of the line or the house would really just be adding some flexibility to the overall scent profile, like owning an eau de toilette and pure parfum iterations of a fragrance. Déclaration Essence gets a big thumbs up from me, regardless of who composed it, and for someone who generally likes the animalic aspects in Déclaration but not how harsh the citrus can be in places, Déclaration Essence might just be the fix they need. As for me, it's a bit too close to the original to make it a priority unless you're a super fan, but I wouldn't be against owning this at some point, and as with so many low-priority things, might already have one by the time you find this review. Good stuff!
To be fair, I've tried Declaration a few times and I can't get past the cumin note. I was hoping this might be something different. It is a bit milder with the citrus than Declaration but still too heavy on the cumin/BO note to make me like it any better. Projection and longevity are both decent.
A drier variation on the original excellent Declaration, Essence is meatier, smokier and less bright than its brother. The citruses and spices are there but balanced shrewdly by a warm ambery body odor accord in the heart of the fragrance. I also get some geranium (a citronella kind of smell) on top and birch. A superbly elegant fragrance, virile and somber. A great masculine in my book.
Turin gave both this and the original Declaration four stars and dubbed both "fresh spicy." He had difficulty deciding which he liked better, naming the original "superb," but deciding for the Essence version.
I have both before me, one sprayed on each arm. The original is certainly bright, as the Essence is dark. Both are very dry, the Essence being smoky, the original effervescent.
They both share most ingredients, the Essence replacing the Juniper and Artemesia of the original with Rosewood, Cistus, Cumin and Amber.
My husband delineated the difference for him, in that the original becomes part of the person who wears it, the Essence is a garment worn. The original does not call attention to itself, the latter does.
They are both superb creations and the best men's scent Cartier ever produced. I wish the bottle design were less "modern," and more sensual, but that is a moot point.