Le Troisième Homme (Caron)

Perhaps the nicest thing about having 100 years of modern perfumery behind you is the ability to trace the thematic evolution of popular scent profiles. It's as easy to connect the dots between Skin Bracer, Caron Pour Homme, and Agua Lavanda Puig, as to follow the gilded path from Grey Flannel to anything "fresh" and "green" from the last twenty-five years. The fact that one could miss genuinely unique and distinguished entries is the only possible downside, as those rarest of rare diamonds-in-the-rough sometimes have an elusive way about them. Which brings me to Le Troisième Homme, Caron's "Third Man" in its esteemed masculine range. Released in 1985, this brilliant fougère stands aloof, safely away from a myriad of woody-fresh fougères of that era, although I contend it's loosely book-ended by Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur cologne and Creed's Bois du Portugal, with Guerlain's Héritage further afield. All parallels aside, comparing Le Troisième Homme to anything misses the point: this fragrance is one of a kind, and its nose is undoubtedly the sort of slightly-eccentric woman who voluntarily reads Ada and Beautiful Losers and plays Fruchtchen! for fun.

Le Troisième Homme, created in a Givaudan laboratory by a Japanese perfumer named Akiko Kamei, takes a yuzu-tinged citrus and lavender note and enlivens it with a fresh, cool, almost-lactonic woody-floral accord of surprising strength and tenacity, thanks to synthetics that extend the lavender well past its sell-by date. Its herbal coolness is flanked by a judicious touch of oakmoss, and forms a subtle tension against a warm and musky base. Coriander lends a feral edge to clean jasmine and an anisic, ephemerally-camphorous base of cedar, vanilla, and sandalwood. Although its drydown is lovely (and dare I say it, sexy too), I'm more enamored with LTH's champagne-fizz top. It's comprised of nothing special, yet somehow smells new, unprecedented, successfully inventive. A standard arrangement of orange, lemon, lavender, and oakmoss is passable on paper, but in practice here it astonishes me, as it smells of nothing else, and smells very, very good. You could blame it on the angelic touch of aldehydes in the first five seconds, or perhaps the liqueur-like dulcitude of syrupy orange and lemon as they mingle with a tempered version of Pour un Homme's unmatched lavender. Whatever it is, it works, and the somewhat-questionable sheer musk that plagues other Caron masculines, Yatagan in particular, is right at home here as well. Nice work.

It took me four years to get around to trying this scent, due in no small part to the scattered reviews about it in online forums. I'd come close to a blind-buy, and then read more about it and get spooked. People have the most divergent opinions about Third Man, with comments ranging from "Tom Selleck with his shirt open," to "a great scent to wear on Easter, with its association of flowers and candies." Some say it's too feminine, too "pretty," while others claim it's almost unisex, but in some ways too masculine for the ladies to pull off. Still others suggest that it's completely unisex. Having finally worn it myself, I can say that I fall firmly into the last camp, finding LTH neither overtly masculine, nor overwhelmingly feminine, but somewhere in the middle, a terrain inhabited by everyone, from the girliest of girly-girls, to the butchest lesbians, the strongest archetypical silent types, to the classiest bisexual Hollywood players.

Ironically enough, virtually no one wears it. Their loss - I'm definitely keeping it in my rotation for the rest of my life.


  1. Well, I have a big bottle of this juice, and I'm with you, Bryan! Every time I wear it I wonder why I don't wear it more often.

    Interestingly, the same thing happens every time I watch the film The Third Man: I find myself wondering why I waited so long to watch it again...

    1. Ha yeah I know you're not the biggest fan of PuH, not sure if you've tried Yatagan (another unisex woody chypre that Caron did a nice job with), but we're definitely of the same mind on this one. About frequency of use: my theory, given how many times now I've "almost" worn it but picked something else, is that Third Man has a very special-occasion champagne-and-oyster feel, at least to me. Wearing it on a regular humdrum day kinda feels like wearing a tuxedo to work. But then again, a perfume isn't a tuxedo, and I'm going to push past that reservation in the future and try to wear this every time I feel like it, which lately is often.

    2. Yes, I like Yatagan, too, despite its intensity (or is it because?...). My issue with Pour Un Homme is really a personal problem with lavender. I seem to be very sensitive to it and often find it harsh and grating in even small concentrations. So that's the first strike against it: any Big Lavender fragrance is automatically not going to thrill me. Then, since it's mixed with vanilla, I get a kind of Bath and Body Works flashback going. I've probably used too many bottles of BBW Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla body products...

      These are, again, personal problems. lol

      So Creed month is really over? How time flies! I'm thinking about doing a Serge Lutens wax sample challenge: can I wear a different scent to bed for thirty-two nights--and will I get any sleep? (-;

    3. That's interesting about the lavender. Third Man definitely integrates its lavender - which I find moderately strong - much more than PuH, as the latter is far simpler. I think PuH is more a love-it or hate-it scent that I previously thought. And if people don't hate it they seem to find it merely dull and forgettable. And damn you B&BW! (Shakes fist at capitalistic mall-trap).

      Creed month is really over, although October has some good stuff in store. I laughed out loud at your Lutens challenge idea. Please, whatever you do, don't sacrifice sleep in the name of Lutens :-P

  2. I am a fan of the House of Caron, and was very impressed by all their masculines when I got the chance to sample them. Caron doesn't do itself any favors with its (non-existant) marketing in the US; even in the New York-Metro area, there are too few outlets selling the fragrances. And when was the last time you saw a Caron ad in a glossy magazine? I know Caron has taken a lot of hits from perfumistas for the Richard Fraysse reformulations of the house's classics, but IMHO even the current formulations are way better than a huge percentage of fragrances sold today.

    Hope you don't mind if I ask an off-topic question: I think you mentioned that you had taught English overseas. I'm interested in teaching ESL, and wonder if you would mind sharing how you trained, how you found work, something about your experiences of teaching? You can respond at plsny2012 at yahoo dot com. Thanks!


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