“Like tea or coffee, lavender is best served sole and black; treated with a light touch and in consideration of conformity.”
Blogging never becomes an easy task. Instead, it seems to get harder. I am forced to make posts constantly engaging to attract an audience, with a clear and readily observable trend of improvement from amateur to pseudo-expert. In reality, I’m just a guy with a good nose and a knack for self-bettering that I am constantly (and indeed) discovering further dimensions of perfume and its structure. Nevertheless, there is a time and place for everything. There’s immense pleasure of dissecting a perfume that’s loaded and rich, and then putting these discoveries onto paper and then eventually the blog. I love showing people what I get out of something, and especially when something ‘clicks’: “Oh! It’s the vanilla doing that” or “Aha! I get a lot of ylang-ylang out of this one”. Naturally, as a reviewer that’s astonishingly satisfactory, and with complete avoidance of the haughty side of things, sharing ideas is wonderful, enriching, and totally self-satisfying too.
But conversely, sometimes the nose gets a bit tired. “Nothing too adventurous, you fusspot!” my methodical conscience might say. I lavish simple things when they contrast starkly against their opposites, be it a simple and traditional Eau de Cologne from the early Guerlain perfumers or the sound directness of Caron’s Pour Un Homme. Beautifully simple, lavender is treated as king … Rightfully so.
Photo by Caron
Firstly, as many have said before me: “Pour Un Homme is not dead!”.
Why is simplicity so good? Perhaps it doesn’t set itself out to be pressing on the wearer. When wearing this fragrance, no persona is required and certainly no mindset is demanded. Simply, as it says on the label in French, this is for a man. Simple as that. It makes no unrealistic promise, and it certainly doesn’t swarm the wearer like bees to lavender.
The lavender is smooth. Sugared slightly with a simple-syrup twist. This is targeted for a man because lavender is emblematic for calmness and cleanliness, and a gentleman should be just that. He should know his place in life, boast nothing of high extravagance, and be of good temperament. And so, the lavender is slightly herbal, green, and floral, and possess its inherent roasted quality akin to fine coffees and hay (the tonka and vanilla play an important role projecting this facet). This lavender is affixed with a warming heart of vanilla. The beauty of the vanilla here is that it provides a different style of sweetness at the underneath of the herbal and anisic-like sweetness delivered by the lavender up top. Together these notes are surrounded in a delicate bouquet, made more herbal with a crisp touch of rosemary and sage. Spritz generously all over and surprise yourself with a brightness attributed to hesperidic notes way up top.
In the end however, Pour Un Homme deserves much respect as it just gets the balance right. There are no claws in this fragrance that grip you and pull – and there aren’t any shadows present for these fictitious claws to hide anyway. A very functional cedar note improves the clarity of the fragrance, much like increasing the sharpness of a still life photograph. As you trail, a clean but expectedly unfresh musk hovers above the wearer, with a touch of warm tonka bean and amber.
This makes me happy – it puts me in my place. But, despite my infinite praise for this fragrance, I wonder if its simplicity could be improved upon? Or, is that its intended effect? Whatever the case, when quasi-philosophical questions arise in perfume (see here), I know I have a noteworthy fragrance as subject.
The classic lavender.
Subjective rating: 4.5/5
Objective rating: 4.5/5
One thought on “Pour Un Homme by Caron”
Thank you for this terrific review of what I consider (at least for the past year and a half) my signature. I tend to overthink these things, but my own way of coming around to the question of Caron Pour Un Homme’s simplicity is divided into two attitudes. The first is to regard it as the radically simplified outcome of what was originally perhaps more complex (we hear, for instance, of the vintage ‘plus belles lavandes’ label containing moss, rose, maybe ambergris in its formula.) Interestingly, the structure and balance of the surviving profile seems to account for what’s lost as absent presence (negative spaces that serve a role in organizing composition) rather than as present absences (potholes on the road to pleasure), if that makes any sense. It reminds me of looking at some other examples of classic early Modernism, Mondrian’s paintings of the ‘Grey Tree’ and the ‘Flowering Apple Tree’, of 1911 & 12, respectively.
The other way I find myself thinking about it is with regard to certain archetypal ideas about classical restraint as they apply to the idea of a man in a soberish suit and tie. I wear the latter six days a week (I teach at a boarding school)… Pour un Homme’s bonhomie is not an obvious, clobbering thing in this mien, but a hint here, a waft there, something that relies on other aspects of one’s character to round it out. In that particularly special kind of setting, where the line between formality and friendliness is often softened, the paradoxical cool and warm, astringently disciplined and comfortably affable aspects of Caron’s scent are indispensable. Its simplicity makes the encounter instructive.