Caron Yatagan fragrance review


I never let anyone tell me writing about perfumes is a waste of time or a trivial activity! Since last April, when I started writing for Now Smell This, I've learned so much about plants, animals, the rituals and symbols of many cultures, history and historical figures, even health matters — all related to fragrance. In the last month, I've learned about Yatagan: a Turkish sword, a city, and a perfume.

The elegant yatagan, or Turkish sword, was used by janissaries for over 300 years (mid-1500s till the late 1800s). These swords bear the name of a southwestern Turkish city called Yatagan in Denizli Province (named after its Seljuk conqueror, Osman Bey, or "Yatagan Baba", who was a blacksmith). Yatagan city was famous for its swords (and unfortunately, today the city is infamous as one of the most polluted areas of Europe, due to a coal-burning power plant).

Yatagans were not only weapons but works of art, incorporating expensive materials like ivory, silver and copper gilt; the yatagan hilts were often encrusted with jewels — diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and coral. Many yatagans have lines from literature engraved or inlaid into the flat sword blade; these literary lines can be intensely personal expressions of the owner or sword maker, or favorite lines from poetry, prayers, or Koranic texts. A strange thought: being run through with a sword engraved with poetry extolling the beauty of the world, a prayer for protection, or holy verses.

Caron introduced Yatagan in 1976 and categorized it as a "flowerless" oriental chypre fragrance; it was created by perfumer Vincent Marcello. Yatagan contains petitgrain, lavender leaf, geranium leaf, pine, fennel, basil, artemisia, oak moss, musk, woods, patchouli, castoreum, labdanum and styrax (Liquidambar orientalis).

Yatagan is a heady cologne, a bracing mix of aromatics, herbaceous/green notes, woods, moss and leather.

Yatagan begins with a hot, peppery, herbal liqueur aroma; one detects fast-forward appearances of fennel, basil, petitgrain, lavender and geranium leaves. This burst of aromatic plant aromas leads to a flare-up of artemisia (wormwood). Wormwood is a "star" in the Yatagan composition; it is a member of the daisy family and, though Caron claims no floral elements are in Yatagan, the slightly sour scent of daisies is present due to the wormwood.

Yatagan also possesses a dusty bitterness (reminiscent of bundles of herbs and flowers hanging and drying on the rafters after a summer harvest). A soft, leather-scented 'breeze' wafts over Yatagan's base notes of mossy pine, oak moss, labdanum and patchouli. In Yatagan's final stage of development there is a hint of malt.

For me, Yatagan is a near-perfect cologne. The wearer smells this delicious scent for over 10 hours but it stays close to the body, providing little sillage.

If any NST readers have ever clicked on "KevinS" in the comments section of my posts and gone to my user profile, you have seen a photo of the cutest man ever — no, not me, but Diego de Fontana, my flower-loving pug, standing amidst hyacinths. When he was a puppy, I taught him a command he obeyed with relish the 13 years of his life: "Smell my PERFUME!" When he heard that command, he would trot over to me, push his flat face against my inner arm and inhale deeeeeply — he seemed intent on detecting every note in the perfume I was wearing.

A month ago when I as trying Yatagan for the first time, I happened to be sitting on the floor. I was thrilled that the latest addition to my life, my cat Vanya, showed an interest in perfumery; he came running to smell my Yatagan-saturated arms! He started by sniffing my arm, proceeded to lick it, then bit it, and finally grabbed my arm with his claws and held it tight (his tail shifting furiously). Vanya and I then had a rambunctious wrestling match that got too serious for my tastes. I anointed the top of Vanya's head with my Yatagan-scented arms and he retreated and rubbed his head wildly against the sofa, yowling all the while. I believe the "offending?" "exciting?" smell that caused the ruckus was the piquant aroma of castoreum. I doubt real castoreum (a scented secretion from the prepuce glands of beavers, used to mark territory and to protect the beavers' coats from water) is in Yatagan these days, but synthetic castoreum was real enough to cause a hissy fit in one feline.

Caron Yatagan

Not counting its intellectual dimension, see how much fun a perfume passion provides? (Vanya will be sampling some perfumes with faux civet soon….)

Note: image via

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the wonderful review of one of my very favorite scents, which I now have a strong desire to go spray! To me, Yatagan is fierce and calming all at once. I think it's the resiny pine aspect that calms me–it reminds me of walking in a silent pine forest.

    Love Vanya's reaction to Yatagan! My Lucy dog, when forced to sniff anything I'm wearing, pulls her head back and looks at me as if to say, “No, that is not the dead deer carcass scent I've been searching for.” :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great reveiw of a fragrance that I truly love!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I seem to draw my pets into my perfume obsession. Vanya now MUST smell the day's cologne…but so far nothing makes him crazy like Yatagan. It's good to hear from other Yatagan lovers!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tom: you're welcome…Yatagan IS wonderful. K

  5. Anonymous says:

    Interesting…I have heard lot's of buzz about Yatagan from people in the online fragrance world that I admire, I must try it soon…

    I'm a little scared of the “wormwood” note – correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't M7 have wormwood too (not particularly fond on M7 anymore, I just swapped my bottle for CdGarcons 3, which I am really loving!)?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mike: M7 has agarwood…whole different animal! Many people think agarwood is “medicinal.” Wormwood to me is “floral-herbal” in character…so give Yatagan a try.

  7. Anonymous says:

    One of my Holy Grails. Thank you so much for the review!

  8. Anonymous says:

    You're welcome…and congratulations on your Basenotes win. (I love your blog!) K

  9. Anonymous says:

    I adore Yatagan! One of the true originals, I have nothing remotely similar to it.
    I think the utter lack of floral notes makes it iconoclastic while it has the depth and breadth of the House of Caron

  10. Anonymous says:

    I agree…how often do you come across a cologne that you can't compare to at least a few other perfumes? I'm very intrigued by the perfumer…I wonder what some of his other creations were….

  11. Anonymous says:

    swords that were engraved heavily or encrusted with jewels
    were not every day weapons. They were usually gifts and were
    well cared for. Everyday weapons rusted away from negligence
    but a well made sword from a master sword maker was considered
    an extremely precious item. The practice has not gone out of style.

  12. Anonymous says:

    GF: I guess that preciousness accounts for the fact there are so many beautiful old yatagans still in existence. I did read that elaborate yatagans were ceremonial or purely artistic creations (to give as gifts, etc), but also that some condemned warriors would request being killed with their best sword.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful review! This is one of my all time favorite comfort scents. And, yes, a perfume addiction certainly is both educational and fun. They're both high on my list of justifications I occassionally whip out to read to DH.
    Vanya sound like quite the character! And Diego de Fontana was heart meltingly adorable. My canine child spent a great deal of time sniffing my wrists and ankles (which I use to sample scents) to try to get a fix on mom's scents for the day.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Colombina turned me on to Yatagan. “Turned me on” is not too far off the mark — I think Yatagan is like a drug. What an amazingly sexy smell. Not for the fainthearted, though. Thanks for the review!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Vanya is a handful…and he smells GREAT… he's always around for morning cologne spritzes and his a.m. hug so he gets a bit of cologne on his fur every morning.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It IS like a drug, I've even been known to take the bottle to work on the days I wear it so I can reapply just for the heck of it. If only there were some “skin-delivered” codeine in the formula it WOULD be perfect.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, what a great review! I love Yatagan but thought I was one of the very few, but I guess there are many of us! When I put it on, I get loads of bergamot. It is very citrus-y to me and then the pine kicks in and I am in heaven. I smell lots of patchouli as well so I have the image of a pine forest with rich black soil and rotting leaves. This is a magical fragrance. Keep up the good work.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Kelley…let's rejoice there are lots of Yatagan lovers…Caron will keep making it!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Great review, Kevin! And thumbs up for Yatagan from me too. I'm wearing it today.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks fpr the wonderful, entertaining review of this great scent! I agree that Yatagan is perfect in winter–and it also layers unexpectedly well; my favorite combo was dreamt up by Colombina: Yat + Messe de Minuit = fabulous!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Marcello…I decided to wear Yatagan today too.

  22. Anonymous says:

    You're welcome…I'll have to try that Y/MdM mix. Interesting.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This was not only my first Caron, but my first “blind” purchase. 100% score on both counts…
    I loved it straight out of the bottle and I adore it still. It is one of my regular selections and one of the few scents I've bought a back-up bottle of. It is truly one of the greats.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the wonderful review of this fragrance, Kevin.

    Based on your review, and because I love collecting retro fragrances from the 70's (they really weren't afraid to wear strong fragrances then!) I bought 2 bottles online immediately and to date, it's one of me favourites when I just want to feel comfortable about being 'Me'.

    I wear a variety of fragrances, but what I love about this fragrance is that it's so manly and sexy, without making too loud a statement. I enjoy wearing it to work and I always spray the back of my left hand with all my perfume, so I can check how it's going, how it smells on me and how long it lasts.

    I think I shall always have a bottle of this lovely perfume and thank goodness for online perfume shops .

    Thank you again for reviewing this fragrance so thoroughly.

  25. Anonymous says:

    desmondorama: you're welcome…thank goodness you liked Yatagan! I would have felt some guilt if you had bought it and didn't like it. You trust me TOO much! HA! K

  26. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I trust your tastes far too much; but then, I know what I like and don't like just by reading the fragrant ingredients listed.

    I currently buy 90% of my perfumes untested. My priority is how long they last on my skin more than anything else.

    I tried spraying Yatagan on a friend's arm for him to test it out and he hated it, sadly but true. It just didn't suit him. He's pale-skinned and auburn-haired and I'm Asian and dark-skinned.

    I tried it on 2 others and they both agreed it was very 'manly' and sexy. I was pleased with their reactions.

    I hope to collect the entire Caron masculine range, just based on the descriptions on the House site.

    Have you tried any of the other Caron male fragrances? I'm particularly curious about L'Anarchiste and Royal Bain.

  27. Anonymous says:

    desmondorama: I have worn Royal Bain for years – in fact it was my first Caron discovery and is still a major signature for me. Yatagan is now up there with it, so I am fast becoming a totally caron man (altho hard to get away from Guerlain's Habit Rouge, which I have worn for 30 years now). Royal Bain is very musky – big depth of opponax and amber in it to me – and very long lasting. Interesting your comment about skin colour: I am olive skinned Caucasian and its all the woody/musky/Oriental scents that work with me

  28. Anonymous says:

    Columbina or LilyBP – combining Yatagan and Messe de Minuit sounds amazing – they are two of my very favourite scents. How do you do it? Which do you spray first and how many spritzes of each?


  29. Anonymous says:

    PhillippM – I have since bought a very large bottle of Royal Bain de Caron and I like the musky – vanilla smell of it. It's very comforting and nice to wear, but I still like my stronger fragrances for special nights out. This is a great day fragrance for me, but after reading about your love of Guerlain's Habit Rouge for 30 years, I can see similarities. Wow that's quite a signature fragrance for you!

    I don't have signature fragrances any more – times have changed and in the 70's when there were only a few male scents around, it was possible, but now, I have about 30 bottles in my collection – excessive, I know, but I enjoy collecting and wearing perfume – it's almost a fetish.

    As mentioned before, by basic criteria is for fragrances that last and with my skin, anything light is wasted. I usually like to hear comments about my fragrance from my colleagues – if they say they can smell me, then I'm happy to know I've worn enough or too much – but then it's never too much if you're a parfumisto like me!

  30. Anonymous says:

    To date, the only negative reaction to perfume my kitties has been Luctor et Emergo. No idea why that would've warranted the violent hiss and leap backward…

  31. Anonymous says:

    I for one love Yatagan.
    I think it is a very manly and elegant scent.
    However, words of warning.
    This is not a fragrance to jam your nose to your skin, it completely fractures the scent and ruins the area where it smells great, where it projects off the skin.
    Directly on the skin it can smell harsh, but off the skin it projects an aura of elegant warmth. This is no shrinking violet of a fragrance and get the best effect, should be lightly applied otherwise it is a sillage monster.
    This is a formal fragrance and is worn best with jackets and shirts. T-shirt and jeans on a summer day? Never. It would be like wearing Doc Martens boots around the pool while sunbathing.

  32. datura5750 says:

    I have been reading your old reviews, and Thank You for this one! Just got a bottle and Love It!

    • Kevin says:

      Datura5750: Oh, good!

  33. Fred says:

    Yatagan is great. I see now that Caron is making it again – it was gone for a long time. I still have 1/2 bottle from the 70’s! Great review Kevin.

    So now a question if I may – I really liked also Chromatics by Aramis. Still discontinued? I think. (But I still have 1/2 bottle in the original silver opaque) – do you know of anything remotely like it?


  34. Kevin says:

    Fred: Aramis just did some repackaging/re-releasing of some classics but Chromatics was not included. I never smelled it so I’m sorry I can’t be of any help!

  35. George Sand Devotee says:

    Great review and thank you for sharing your discoveries.
    I went to Les Senteurs the lovely perfume shop on Elizabeth Street in London and picked up a few samples, including Yatagan.
    It does indeed smell heavenly as you suggest. Interestingly, I did quite a few ‘show and smell’ sessions with friends and family with the stash I got. . Each and every person picked this one out as their top one. It works well for men and women if you want something fairly robust.
    A tip I learnt from the above establishment: if you are smelling lots of things in one go, keep a jar of coffee beans handy and sniff them in between sniffing perfume. It really works to clear the nose.

  36. John says:

    Well, I am coming to this post rather late, but maybe this is a good thing if others reading old blog posts while researching a prospective purchase wonder (as I often have) if the review still holds true in this age of reformulations. I just received a bottle of the current formulation of Yatagan this past Christmas (2015) and am delighted to report that everything Kevin says by way of praise of this treasure of a fragrance still stands up beautifully…. Including the animal interest! My border collie/spaniel cross, who has hitherto shown no real interest in fragrances, went straight for the unopened bottle as soon as I unboxed it, sniffing the cap with great, earnest curiosity. Anyway, it certainly pleases the animal in me – thanks for the great review!

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