For the seventh installment of 'Where did my review from several years ago go?' I will be looking at The Third Man.
It sounded great on paper, so a few years back I purchased a small decant from the Perfumed Court. My immediate impression was wonder of sorts, concerning how a perfume could come off as so natural and suave while also being that strong. In most cases you might get one or two of the three, but this really has it all. We see here the vanilla and lavender of Pour un Homme matched with some bright-as-day bergamot, a licorice-y anise ( a mixture which would be often copied in the decade to come), a swoon-inducing floral heart starring carnation and rose, and a deep, rich bed of tonka and moss. I echo here what many have said before, in that I wish the opening lasted longer (if not forever), but the total experience is decadent and lavish, with a natural yet manicured build like an English country garden in a velvet evening suit. I can think of few parallels to this level of quality in terms of blending, progression, and overall scent. I have tried two vintages so far, both of which are almost frustratingly attractive, like I am insulting the brand by not having a perfect face to match. This is one of the greatest lavenders out there, a real fougere paradise. My only caveat about its use is that, if over-applied re-applied throughout the day, the base becomes thick and stagnant, so watch the trigger.
Now this is male perfumery. Usually in the perfume industry us men are treated inferiorly and arrogantly, but here this is reversed. Caron knows how to make men smell good and I am overwhelmed with the fact that they put great effort in this task. The vintage juice is slightly better but the new one is also very identical. If you can get both please do so, you will never regret it. This not only smells great but it also taught me many things about how a man should wear and use perfume. Not for gaining attention but for smelling great. On this account this the most fashionable fougere ever. It starts citrusy and then dries down in a musky, sweet, floral way reminiscent of pouring romantic florals on aftershave. Collector or not get it, wear it and learn from it. After that you will understand that 75% of fragrances aiming men consider you a blunt bloodless stereotype.
Out of the gate, it smells “old,” yet within seconds it begins to feel current. A borderline leathery citrus perched on top of an expected mossy/lavender accord, yet all the genre tropes of the ‘80s masculine are subdued to reveal gently powdered and complicated floral accord. There are so many competing aesthetics at work here that it’s amazing that the scent doesn’t just collapse, but what keeps it afloat is a tasteful camphorous-type accord that’s little more than a hint. The bitterness and the herbal overdoses (that tend to overrule this particular style) are scaled back to humane levels, and the whole thing comes off as effortlessly approachable while retaining some traditional edge. It’s not my style overall, and it nose dives into a fairly redundant minty moss after just an hour or so, but it strikes me as more versatile than many of its brethren. A powerful silhouette yet less boorishly “alpha”—impressive overall.
I gave 3rd Man a good college try, but it just doesn't work for me. I have a major problem with the carnation/clove note that never really subsides until about the 10 hour mark. Hey, but it's great after that! No, I can't do it. It's a shame, because I do like the floral aspects. The next-day drydown is lovely too. I own both Yatagan and Pour Un Homme and would recommend those over #3.
I have a huge problem with Caron’s men’s fragrances. My problem? I tried Yatagan first. How any fragrance house could adequately follow Yatagan’s magnificent savagery is hard to imagine. The outrageous animalism of Lutens and Sheldrake’s Muscs Kublai Khan? The ethereal beauty of Dominique Ropion’s Carnal Flower? The briny austerity of Creed’s Erolfa? The barbaric opulence of Montale’s Black Aoud? Caron’s answer was The Third Man.
The Third Man opens with a potent, but fairly standard lavender and bergamot accord, underscored by just a hint of woods and smoky leather. The middle notes include a very sharp cedar, some lush vanilla or tonka, and a hefty dose of carnation or clove on top of the persistent lavender. I sense some rose at the heart, too, accented by a deep fennel seed or anise note. The drydown is mostly moss and woods, with lingering anise and a distinct vanilla/musk counterpoint. The result is an outstanding fragrance, but very heavy and opaque, in the manner of Creed’s Santal Imperial and Bois du Portugal.
Temperamentally, The Third Man is the exact opposite of the wild Yatagan: rich, and cultured, but also utterly conventional. Me? I’ll take Yatagan.
Wearing The Third Man today, I am reminded how very good it is. I have been unduly hard on The Third Man for not being Yatagan, or even L'Anarchiste, but to tell the truth, this scent is just as successful in filling its admittedly more conventional brief as either of those other two. What ultimately makes The Third Man special for me is the drydown, with its perfectly judged balance of vanilla, moss, and warmly animalic musk. In fact there's almost something of a classic Guerlain structure in those base notes. Promoted from a neutral rating for its beauty and utility.