Les Plus Belles Lavandes de Caron (The Most Beautiful Lavenders by Caron) was announced in 2008 as an unisex Eau-de-Cologne iteration of the house of Caron's famous masculine scent Pour Un Homme (For a Man). As if to make the olfactory genealogical link explicit, it takes as a name the tag line that used to be inscribed on the labels of the bottles of Pour Un Homme (see the 1934 advertisement below).
Pour Un Homme is reputed for its characteristic aromatic freshness combining with a delicate sustained sweetness. It is a scent that manages to balance out these two facets without one overshadowing the other. Thanks to the subtle dosage of vanilla and amber, the lavender in Pour Un Homme seems to have been hand-picked as is from a dry windy hill as a representative of the sweetest varietal of the flower without ever feeling artful...
Smelling the new Les Plus Belles Lavandes, I had the pleasure of being reminded spontaneously of the sweet richness of the lavender note found in the vintage version of that other historical lavender perfume, Yardley Old English Lavender (1913). I know I was supposed to make a connection with its elder brother, Pour Un Homme (1934), but instead my mind started floating down the years to memories of Yardley Lavender being peddled on the overcrowded shelves of an exotic supermarket in Malaysia next to a luscious green jar of brillantine in the same scent. I desperately wanted to own and use the jar of brillantine especially but could not really see myself using it. The thought of dipping a comb in it and lustring my hair with the thick greasy solution did not make sense even to me and felt overly masculine a gesture. Meanwhile I would come and sniff and stare at the Yardley Lavender almost each time I visited that supermarket with my parents. I think that I was also hypnotized by the old-fashioned labels, wondering how old the scents really were.
In this case, this anecdote is not completely gratuitous because Yardley Old English Lavender was created by Caron perfumer Richard Fraysse's own grand-father, Claude Fraysse (there are several members of the family who are perfumers; I think I counted five). I am tempted to detect a loving homage paid to his ancestor.
Les Plus Belles Lavandes is a harmonious subtle sweet and musky lavender perfume never lacking in character thanks to its dirty naturalistic pungent herbaly overtones. A creative touch seems to have been added by Fraysse for a more unisex interpretation of sweetness by pulling it in the direction of sweets, but done very subtly. It has been softened down as well, with an undertone of green angelica.
The eau de cologne starts with a fresh lavender outburst and then becomes more opaque and soft-smelling, more like a soft gourmand oriental even hinting at a subdued, attenuated accord smelling of delicate dragées, sugar-coated almonds that present quite a subtle scent of vanilla and sugar with faint nuances of aniseed, licorice and marzipan.This little confectioner's motif is very understated adding an almost subliminal gourmand touch to the sweet lavenders. To counterbalance this angelic sweetishness, more primitive animalistic notes, amber and dark musk, retain their influence, with nuances of black rubber and pith. There is something reminiscent of Chanel Bois des Iles and Donna Karan Cashmere Mist in the soft, understated peppery vanillic musky and ambery powdery drydown. At times, especially in the dry-down, some of the vanilla peeks through as feeling a bit synthetic and naked on its own when it is not as well-covered by other ingredients, but it is a minor gripe. The longer dry-down has the character of precious powder. It is a delicious lavender cologne turned into perfume and offering a neutral, complex unisex personality.
Perfumer: Richard Fraysse
Notes: Lavender essence, lavender, vanilla, lavender absolute, amber, musk
Gender label: Unisex