9/25/11

Pour un Homme (Caron)

Being a man isn't as easy as it looks. Sure, we don't have to strive to meet unattainable beauty standards, or deal with "that time of the month," but we guys struggle to maintain unimpeachable masculinity while staying au courant in a metrosexual world. It's a high-wire act of being both accessible and individualistic, without losing our balance. When you consider the archetypical American male - the silent, rugged type - and how this sort of guy hasn't lost cache, unless he's too silent and too rugged, well then, you can draw some obvious conclusions here. Men measure themselves against each other, their archetypes, and society. It's not all babes and beer pong.

So for a lot of guys, finding an ideal fragrance is a task so difficult that many would rather just go scentless. What's this? Something that makes me smell like flowers? Jesus, forget it. That's lady stuff. And the defeatist attitude prevails in this, a small matter of personal charisma.

Jennifer Lopez once said, and I'm paraphrasing, "The first thing I notice about a man is not how he looks, but how he smells." I'm fairly certain that if more men knew she felt that way, they'd put in the extra effort to find the perfect scent. Living in a male mindset has its advantages, but not when it comes to understanding how women think. They move with their noses more than their eyes, and it's up to us to reach out to that sense and make a lasting positive impression. You can't do that if you stop at Dial soap.

You can do that if you recognize some basic tenets of masculinity: a real man is balanced between his sensitive and rugged side. Therefore, it stands to reason that a real man (as opposed to a boy) smells both hot and cold, rough and suave, timeless and modern. There's an eau de toilette for that, and it's called Pour un Homme de Caron.

When I smelled Pour un Homme for the first time, I wrinkled my nose, and almost returned the bottle. What the hell is that? I asked myself. Cold, not sweet, sorta-green, sorta-metallic, and altogether like nothing I'd ever smelled before. There was a urinous quality, too, like someone had pissed in a male sport aftershave. I sat there puzzled as this odd brew slowly resolved itself on my hand, and opened into the most gorgeous, natural-smelling lavender I'd ever met. Intrigued, I started my car and left the mall parking lot, certain now that the last thing I wanted to do was give this bottle back.

By the time I made it home, the lavender had receded, and a luminous, rich, earthy, and completely inedible vanilla had taken its place. The purple herbal luster of lavender hadn't entirely disappeared, and the urinous tinge to the base still appeared from time to time, but instead of smelling offensive, it was glorious. I smelled like I'd spent an afternoon in Provence running through the fields, and had finally returned to my chateau for a little cognac. It was wild and civilized, with an aura of something so simple and direct that it couldn't be ignored.


Pour un Homme is the fragrance for a guy who doubts fragrance, and its many powers. It's something a good woman gives to her man and makes him wear, even if it's against his wishes, because she knows it does him good (and she's right). It's a powerful essay on lavender, civet, vanilla, and musk, and it's 77 years old. Composed by Caron's founder, Ernest Daltroff, Pour un Homme was Daltroff's answer to the famous Guerlain masculine, Jicky. Unlike Jicky, Pour un Homme never found appeal with women - it was always man juice. Today, the formula survives intact, and new bottles of Pour un Homme can be had for under $50. It's been criticized as being too simple, too vanilla, too out of style, but nothing could be further from the truth. The masterful handling of greens, civet, and musk has resulted in a fragrance that works as well in a tuxedo as it does in pajamas. Pour un Homme de Caron has made it just that much easier to be a man. One of my favorites, and certainly something every guy should at least try, if not make a permanent staple in their wardrobe.






























11 comments:

  1. Thanks for this tribute! What I appreciate is the fact that in your many write ups of this fragrance, you never suggest that it is dandified or antiquated -- it's not! Why on earth do I read this? Anyway, a great fragrance, and probably, as the kids say, a 'low key' signature... Actually a signature for those who'd rather their signature wasn't that obvious, which is me. Have you tried any of the other products in the line (aftershave, deodorant, etc.?) I glimpsed them at the old Caron boutique in NYC once, but that was when I'd just been sprayed with this stuff for the very first time, and was still figuring out what hit me...

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    1. I've never tried the ancillary products in the PuH line, unfortunately, although I've extensively owned and worn all three of Caron's masculines. I never considered Yuzu Man or L'Anarchiste to be serious offerings, although I wanted to give the latter a whirl a few years back and just didn't get around to it.

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  2. Yeah, me neither... I have Yatagan, or, 'the smell of 1970's Christmas,' as my wife calls it, and fully intend to own a bottle of 3rd Man at some point (I admire it objectively, but also find it strangely moving... An experience I think a lot of people have, all the while feeling they're the only ones who have it!) I had the chance to sample Anarchiste awhile back, and might seek out the funky copper flaçon version-- I'm not sure I'm on board the normalizing of Caron's bottle design!

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  3. I recently picked up the deo stick and it is lovely... Really helps to boost the projection & lifespan of the fragrance at close range, and hugely boosts its reassuring character, IMHO (my perspective here relates to wearing it to work... I move around a lot, and PuH always seemed to soften up and dry down sooner than I wanted it to.)

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    1. Glad you enjoy it, John! I recently picked up Grey Flannel and Sung Homme in deo stick form, and really enjoy those, they do the same for those two fragrances.

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  4. Hey Bryan, just a quick question... Regarding your reference to civet in PuH. How do you think that that note manifests in PuH's profile? I sometimes get this dirty, almost scalp-like warmth from the musk (like nearly everything else about this composition, I've learned to love it), but is that the civet talking or is it something else?

    Relatedly, It intrigues me that both Pour Un Homme de Caron Sport and another new William Fraysse creation, Pour un Homme de Caron L'eau, both list ambergris in their pyramids. I once read the elder Fraysse saying that the original PuH formula has only ten ingredients -- do you reckon that ambergris (or some approximation) might be one of them?

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    1. The use of civet in PuH is tricky. Notes have modulations that are exploited across a spectrum. Take lavender, for example: in PuH, it smells crisp and herbal and hyper-realistic, but the lavender in Cool Water is basically dihydromyrcenol dressed like Ferris Bueller. Consider the velvety olfactory texture of the lavender in Azzaro PH, then compare it to the razor-sharp and aptly-named spike lavender in Drakkar Noir. Both the same note, both very different in how they're used, and how they smell.

      Now compare the civet in PuH to the bombastic civet in Kouros. In Kouros, the civet is paired with ambergris (notably absent in the latest formula), and the musky-clean sparkle of whale vomit subliminally balances the brown-urine / fecal aspect of the huge slug of Civetone piled on there. In PuH, the civet is relatively minimal. Unlike Kouros, PuH's profile isn't trying to make a statement with the civet. Instead it's using it to bridge the relationship between earthy (dirty) lavender and smooth, natural, inedible vanilla. If Kouros has a cup of civet, PuH has half a thimble.

      What makes such a small amount of musk so obvious is the relative simplicity of PuH's pyramid. Kouros is a complex monster. PuH is an austere wonder. Even just a drop of civet in the formula sharpens the lavender's sharper elements while lending depth to the white musk's "raunch factor." But nothing screams civet. Nothing screams in this Caron masterpiece, it's meant to be a serene wonder.

      As for ambergris being in the original PuH, I would say that this is entirely possible. The same shimmering quality of the ambergris in Kouros (and several Guerlains, Creeds, etc) could conceivably work to lift the multi-dimensional realism of Caron's Les Plus Belle Lavandes, circa 1940. Like the civet, I would guess that ambergris would have been used in near microscopic doses. If Kouros uses a thimble of ambergris, PuH uses a morning dew drop.

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  5. My belated thank you for this rich and elucidating analysis (and for the phrase, "dihydromyrcenol dressed like Ferris Bueller")! I often ponder how note pyramids impact on reviews... I also think of Pour un Homme as a discreet but well-tailored wonder, but think that sometimes reviewers who bash it as too simple, raw or old fashioned might sing a different tune if Fragrantica just posted the more complex note pyramid that appears on Basenotes, which includes lemon, geranium and sage, for instance (no doubt in thimble-ish increments.) These kind of optics can be very misleading (think of Eau Sauvage Eau de Parfum, which obviously had more going on than just bergamot, vetiver and myrrh...) I find the abstraction of just describing PuH as lavender, vanilla and musk interesting, and a credit to its expert blending, but I do think it creates confusion for folks who take those pyramids too seriously/literally...

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    1. Yeah, but remember my October 2015 post on "Phantom Notes" that warned of expecting products to match their stated pyramids? This is how fragrances mind fuck people. (Really they're just screwing themselves.)

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  6. Well, here are two more thoughts to file under, "is it all in my head?"...

    - 1. I made a lowball offer on one of those16.9 OZ splash bottles, and I have to say, it is magnificent. Something about the way the bottle is scaled so that it just looks like an absurdly large regular bottle kind of works for me, and the way the scent unfolds when splashed on really is lovely. There seems to be less of that metallic sensation in the opening, and more of the honey-like character lurking in the heart. Anyway, every aspect of the experience is rewarding, so if you haven't tried this yet I encourage you.
    - 2. The Ales Group has announced they're putting Caron up for sale. What this will mean for the house and its heritage is beyond me... in a perfect world, maybe just better product distribution? But of course one fears the worst, and starts planning the wine cellar filled with 750 ml bottles of Pour un Homme...

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    1. The sale of Caron means frags aren't selling in high enough numbers. I noticed in recent years that Amazon started charging retail for Caron, close to $100 a bottle (and more depending on size). To top it off, the brand has suffered some significant failures in recent years. Yuzu Man got blistering reviews and I'm not sure they've made up for it with PuH Sport.

      Its future depends, of course, on who buys it. If LVMH or some other foreign conglomerate acquires the brand, it's anyone's guess as to how the frags will be reformulated, which frags get the axe, etc. I don't see a hugely bright future for Third Man and Yatagan. PuH and L'Anarchiste are probably safe, although the latter will probably get rehauled into being a Cool Water clone. The dozens of feminines will probably get whittled down, also. Very concerning stuff.

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