Yatagan (Caron)

Autumn is officially here, and with it comes a need for crisp, dry things. Goodbye, flacid summer aquatics and fougères, and goodbye humid, unforgiving heat. Time to bring in the hearty, multifaceted woody chypres. I love October because it's the one month of the year where I'm always guaranteed a beautiful moment in nature - whether it's the stunning New England foliage, the gorgeous clarity of 50° air, or the sight of leaves fluttering to the ground, something always wins me over. This is my favorite month.

I can think of no better chypre to wear in October than Caron's Yatagan. Named after the curved Turkish sword, this scent boasts the driest topnote structure I've ever sniffed. It's a wall of celery seed, wormwood, and petitgrain. There's plenty of press about how intense the celery note is, but it's really not that bad - Yatagan does have a prominent celery accord, but it passes quickly, after only a few seconds, and is rapidly replaced by artimesia. The artemisia is what becomes larger than life. The woodiness is stark and medicinal, and becomes the focal point of the scent. It's this wormwood that people confuse with celery seed, mainly because the distinct whiff of celery compliments it so well. Vincent Marcello's deftness of blending never ceases to amaze me.

Embedded in the heartnotes are green and floral elements, all of a certain ilk, one not sniffed elsewhere. Distinct notes of pine, geranium, hints of lavender, and patchouli waft from the wood. This pine isn't green and fresh, but old, layered on the forest floor, and burnt. This pine forest is on fire. Its oils are thick and lusty and full of evergreen's astringency, yet also battened down by an underlying impression of carbonized woods. Smelling it, I'm given a sense of olfactory bi-location, as all surrounding smells disappear, and are replaced with a feeling of standing in the middle of a black forest. The rosy sweetness of lavender mixed with cooling geranium flits in colorful shadows between the trees, and if the sun beats down on your skin when wearing it, Yatagan's composition can become quite herbal and fresh.

Caron has been accused of wrongful reformulations in recent years, and many of its most prized perfumes have suffered. The entire masculine line has been rehashed, with certain ingredients pared down or replaced. Once upon a time, Yatagan was full of deep, funky castoreum and pungent styrax. Today, I smell approximations of the animalic in the earthy density of the woods, but no distinct note of castoreum comes through. Nor does a full-fledged benzoin emerge - the overall effect of its ingredients does suggest a bit of "churchiness," but not frankincense. I'm not really too hung up on these changes, as I've never sniffed the original version of Yatagan. 

But what does bother me is an incorporation of sheer musk in the base. As the fragrance dries down and ages on my skin, a soft white glow tinges the edges of pine and patchouli. It's very gauzy, almost a white musk, but not quite. It's out of place here. It makes me feel like I'm sniffing a log cabin built on a foundation of sugar paper. The clean, semi-sweet mystery note suggests weakness in an otherwise extraordinary effort. I wonder, too, if I can attribute Yatagan's mediocre longevity to this note. If you get five hours out of it, you're lucky. I've had to re-apply Yatagan once or twice a day.

All faults aside, this offering from Caron stands as one of the boldest, most unique masculine fragrances to ever hit the shelves. I think it's perfect for a rural guy, or someone who wants to approximate that kind of machismo. It's also a good choice for the unconventional woman. Vive Octobre!