Review: Caron Pour Un Homme — 5.0 points

In fine fragrance, lavender had often been associated with lavender water or the tried-and-tested fougère accord. It features a complex interplay of citrus, geranium, lavender, oakmoss, coumarin, and musk. So, the lavender forms part of the abstract complexity. It dresses up lavender in an elaborate and dramatic fashion, with fresh cool notes on top and warm dusky notes deep down to contend.

But perfumer Ernest Daltroff begged to differ and conceived a visionary plan for it in 1934. The result was Pour Un Homme (Caron, 1934). It brings out a striking character of lavender in a clear-cut manner, not unlike the minimalism inherent in many modern-day creations.

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A quick sniff will tell you that this is lavender galore. Pour Un Homme contains as much as 41% lavandin oil and 31% lavender oil — they amount to 72% of the note. Like lavender, lavandin is also aromatic with sweet floral notes, but is relatively more herbal and camphoraceous; it adds brightness and projection. Compounded with accents of rosemary and clary sage, the rustic freshness is over the top and radiant, much like a bright day in picturesque Provence.

Most of the lavender is allowed to shine in Pour Un Homme, and I sometimes forget that this seemingly minimalistic composition is from 1934. But towards the dry down, vanilla emerges and one begins to see why it is the perfect pairing: cool herbs versus warm vanilla create a dramatic contrast. Rounded off by a slightly powdery musk, it feels polished.

Lavender had been used unadorned or in elaborate fougère compositions, but then there was Pour Un Homme that puts the spotlight on lavender. Perfumer Ernest Daltroff brought out a strong character in lavender through a strong contrast. Its pairing of aromatic herbs and sweet vanilla is simple, yet stunning. And, the inherent minimalism makes it feel as though Pour Un Homme were conceived today. But above all, Pour Un Homme is atemporal.

Pour Un Homme de Caron, les plus belles lavandes’ — the most beautiful lavender, literally.

A note on the concentrations: Pour Un Homme Millésime (Caron, 2014) is basically the eau de parfum created by perfumer Richard Fraysse. It feels more transparent compared to Pour Un Homme. But, that does not mean any less intensity or volume. On the contrary, the lavender note is sweeter, more long-lasting, and more camphoraceous. The ambery warmth of clary sage is amplified to match. The vanillic powder and musks have been toned down. Overall, it is more diffusive, and the transparency therein keeps Pour Un Homme Millésime decidedly modern. One might find this updated version to be more to contemporary taste.

Sources: parfumdepub.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors.

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Review: Dior Homme — 5.0 points

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I say Dior Homme (2005) deserves its place on a pedestal of classics. Rarely do mainstream launches proceed without deliberation on market tests, but Dior Homme did. And its composition does not conform either: at the centre of it is iris, a material that does not have a firm ground on the masculine territory like, say, lavender or geranium. Yet perfumer Olivier Polge did an astounding job, thereby firmly establishing its place amongst masculine fragrances.

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Iris, which has the connotation of powder puff and lipstick, is not exactly a fresh note. However, in Dior Homme, its carrot facet is cleverly extrapolated with green herbs to give a fresh top note. A combination of bergamot, lavandin, geranium, and carrot seed renders the impression of aromatic green herbs. Cardamom and coriander provide a spicy contrast. Such cool herbs introduce freshness to the dense note.

The lively iris theme at heart revolves around 0.25% of orris absolute with its rich powder, carrot-like green, and chills. A peachy glow, the fruity touch of δ-damascone at 0.11%, and violet-like ionones warm and sweeten the composition. A radiant floral touch keeps the heart limpid. The glow and shimmer impart such clarity and polish, rendering an otherwise austere and sometimes dull note of iris vibrant.

Towards the base, the composition is warm and inviting. Here, vetiver is sweetened by vanilla, coumarin, and musk with a crisp ambery note of Ambrox. The resultant gourmand sweetness is brilliantly offset by the combination of myrrh and frankincense oil each at 0.5%. Patchouli conjures a surprising touch of bitter cocoa when paired with powdery iris. The character of vanillic woods strongly contrasts with that of iris, and pairing them together creates a gripping tension between warm and cool notes. It is riveting.

Offering iris as a masculine fragrance untested is a bold and risky move, but in doing so Dior and Polge have created a milestone with a memorable character and a lasting influence. The iris is rendered surprisingly fresh and spicy, and its rooty chills polished by radiant florals and glow of fruits. Then, pitted against vanillic woods and incense, it makes Dior Homme unforgettable. It is tenacious and its suave sillage of grand cru cocoa and supple leather will impress. Its boldness has certainly left a mark in perfumery.

A note on the concentrations: Since its launch, Dior Homme has been a success, spawning various incarnations. The versions which are clearly related to the original character are Dior Homme Intense (2011), which is an eau de parfum, and Dior Homme Parfum (2014) by perfumer François Demachy. The eau de parfum is like a creamy, sweet leather-cocoa as the levels of vanillin and coumarin are increased. For the parfum, its richness is overall increased, creating a dark supple leather; and the emphasis shifts to the fond with fumes of frankincense and myrrh — the blotter has been oozing these dark swirls even after three weeks from the first spray. The longevity of both is, likewise, sterling. Their presence also lingers long after one has disappeared.

Sources: fragrantica.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors