Perfume Directory

Santos (1981)
by Cartier


Santos information

Year of Launch1981
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 262 votes)

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About Santos

Named after the early aviator Santos Dumont, for whom Cartier created the first wrist watch. The fragrance includes notes of Lavender, Nutmeg, Vetiver and Sandalwood.

Santos fragrance notes

  1. Top Notes
  2. Heart Notes
  3. Base notes

Reviews of Santos

Superb leather fragrance. Manly, smooth, understated and smoky. One of the best releases from the 1980’s along with Derby and Baie de Genievre.
08th February, 2020
Like the Lungfish, Santos is an evolutionary halfway house. Not stuck between land and sea - like the air breathing fish - but an odd hybrid of herbal fougère and brown Seventies chypre.

I suppose that, sooner or later, someone had to put the two together and come up with this kind of dull mediocrity, but, against all the odds - and like the Lungfish - Santos survives to this day and is still lurking in his muddy hole.


Vintage miniature
29th April, 2019 (last edited: 26th July, 2019)
A moderate thumbs up, mostly out of respect for the scent versus full-fledged liking of the product.

I try to be flexible with older scents. I realize that many were competing with other brands for the hearts and bodies of the populace in their time. Loud, unapologetically brash colognes were quite the thing within the 20th century.

Santos de Cartier was one of these. It is a trail-leaving beast that fit nicely within the early 1980's when it had premiered. In its own right, Santos is classy and pleasant, so it's no drug store cheapie.

Being a product reflecting its period, a bottle of Santos (esp. the original formulation) will put off many who are used to today's cologne aesthetics. It's a cologne for older wearers, particularly those who remember the 1980's.

Spicy, aromatic, bright, but with a toned-down finish, Santos is not unlike recent scents like 2012's Christian Dior's Eau Sauvage Parfum, albeit not as sweet. I haven't had the chance to try out recent reformulations, so I cannot comment on comparisons with the original.

I MAY wear Santos around the house purely out of reverie for the past. Otherwise, I tip my hat to this credible scent series from Cartier.
05th December, 2018
gimpy Show all reviews
United States
This has been in my top 5 since I first smelled it. If you love fragrances like Bois du Portugal, then you owe it to yourself to try this.

An oriental with a dry fougere top. It reeks of dignified, masculine class.

Don't fall for the emperor's new clothes hype that only the vintage bottles are the ones to go for. I've had 2 different vintage brown bottles (and the Sport version) and the modern version is just as good (probably even better if you like the topnotes). I never cared for the Concentree, to be honest.

Lovers of Eau Sauvage Parfum 2012, try this. Extremely similar base.
29th July, 2018
Santos is a delicious, woody fragrance. I just have a little sample to dab on, likely the vintage/original version, but I'd love to have a big spray bottle to wear large doses.
19th July, 2018
Santos de Cartier, or just Santos, is another larger-than-realized outlier from 1981 that had massive impact on the direction of men's fragrance in the 1980's. Santos is the debut masculine from the house of Cartier, known more for watches and jewelry than fragrance, and didn't receive the incredible amount of hype that "Class of 1981" masculines received, like Kouros, Antaeus, Bijan for Men, Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui, but rather was an outlier that built the reputation as a signature for guys in the know, allowing Cartier to continue on making distinct masculines to this very day. Outside of it's fans, uttering the word "Cartier" will yield questions about jewelry and watches, much like saying "Speidel" or even "Rolex"; the former of these two also would venture heavily into fragrance too but eventually divested itself. Cartier released Santos in honor of it's first watch client, the late Santos Dumont, who recently had a new watch released under his name too, also in his honor. Santos de Cartier sort of tries to do it's "own thing" much like Coty's Stetson (also 1981), which is why I don't put it in league with the watersheds of this year. What you get from Santos is smooth, subtle, dignified mossy scent that continues in the train of thought began with Eucris by Geo F Trumper (1912), then furthered by Jacomo Eau Cendreé (1974), and Jacomo de Jacomo (1980) with heavy doses of vetiver and spice.

Santos is a great deal smoother than it's forebearers and strong by modern standards, but no powerhouse compared to it's peers. The scent opens with lavender, basil and bergamot, which come across smooth and barbershoppy until the dirty cumin and nutmeg kick in, giving this a deeper manly growl than any strict barbershop fougère ever could. A barely-detectable sweetness of juniper is the counter-balance to all this rustic masculinity in the middle, setting up for the smoky vetiver to show like it does in Eau Cendreé and Jacomo de Jacomo. Santos actually pulls closer to Eau Cendreé thanks to the nutmeg so fans of that long-dead scent might just want to stock up on Santos as a close replacement. Sandalwood and cedar add the expected dryness to counter the sweetness of the patchouli in the base, which is glazed by a thick oakmoss note which is the scent's hallmark in vintage. For a while, newer post-IFRA batches using tree moss (then no moss) were becoming increasingly metallic and sharp as the vetiver was left to fend for itself against the woods, but the newest versions in the built-in sprayer bottle return some of the roundness the moss provided, which is either accomplished with beeswax absolute like Chanel did for it's old mossy scents, or some unknown synthetic.

Older is better with Santos de Cartier, but don't bother with mid-vintages post-90's due to the chances of running into a screechy batch, so if deeper vintages are too costly, new production is quite satisfactory, much like Bogart or Van Cleef & Arpels. Smoky, smooth, buttery, rich, and slightly sweet is the name of the game for Santos de Cartier, and since it's not focused on sheer power, it moves in the background under a nice suit and tie for a mature man or a guy who appreciates classic swagger. Santos is pure business-class and Cartier probably figured as much, since they made a deeper, richer, more romantic (but also more linear) Santos Concentrée (1982) a year later. They're different enough to have both if you really dig the style, but for the folks who don't like flankers or alternates, Santos itself is just fine. Avoid sweltering heat with this one, as humidity renders the moss/patchouli base invisible, but dry heat is fine. For a classic early 80's moss masculine that doesn't feel so dated or loud in the 21st century, Santos is a great choice, and this smooth operator will get you through your toughest business negotiations or longest nights. My only complaint, if any, is that it is so similar to other moss fragrances before it, and feels like the refinement of somebody else's idea, but when has that ever stopped me from liking something? Definitely a soft-spoken classic, that has strength where you want it, and nowhere else.
07th June, 2018

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