Posted: Nov 18 2015
Luca Turin once described Yatagan as “one of the most disturbing fragrances in masculine perfumery.” Having given it some consideration, I’m not terribly sure I agree with that assessment. Much more accurate, to me, seems the characterization given it by a Fragrantica reviewer, who called it “Absolute masculinity. A kingdom in a bottle.” Released in 1978, it was the controversial creation of Vincent Marcello and became very popular in the Middle East, but went largely unloved in the West for many years. Recently, it has experienced newfound popularity with the resurrection of traditional men’s grooming practices, but it’s still a pretty radical entry as fragrances go.
It starts with pine. Lots and LOTS of pine. And smoke. So smokey pine. These are followed by some serious castoreum (which I once heard described as “beavers in heat”), but the dark, animal note is tempered by the freshness of the pine and the richness of the smoke. After this, there comes a note that I had previously heard described as “caraway and sage” but which I’ve since found is actually artemisia, an odd flower related to tarragon that has a bitter, herbal smell. The whole top of the fragrance is very complex and interesting and reminds me a bit of what it might be like to walk through the woods in the Lord of the Rings.
Odd though it sounds, as the fragrance develops further, it begins to develop a scent that reminds me of a chemical fire doused in tea leaves, but this is strangely not unpleasant in any way. Instead, it’s more of a rich, mature smell, sort of like the smell of burnt gasoline (which I rather enjoy and know many others do as well).
Eventually, it begins to develop some kind of nondescript “wood” note. It’s not sandalwood and it’s not cedar. It’s much closer to the smell of dry sawdust, warm and a little bit nutty. This is an old, elegant scent, the kind of scent worn that might be worn by trappers out on the frontier or hardworking men who struck oil and built timberframe mansions in Wyoming. It’s beautiful, weird, and utterly without compromise. It’s the fragrance of a man who’s sure of himself and of his place in the world. On a woman, it would be the ultimate femme fatale; bitter and warm, smooth and lilting, like a dress that conceals and displays at the same time.
Though many of Caron’s fragrances have recently been reformulated (and consequently destroyed) by Richard Fraysse, the House’s current private perfumer, Yatagan has so far managed to escape this fate. If it sounds interesting, either pick up a sample or a bottle before Caron tries to “correct” this oversight.
Enjoy woodsy, masculine scents? Don't forget to check out our release of Latha Taiga on November 20th!