Cacharel pour L’Homme (1981) is the masculine follow-up to the popular Anais Anais (1978) originally commissioned by Cacharel founder Jean Bousquet from L’Oréal to give the house a presence in the perfume market. What makes Cacharel pour L’Homme most interesting is it took an entirely different direction than other major designer masculines of the year like Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981), Bijan for Men (1981), or Chanel Antaeus (1981), by being soft-spoken. Make no mistake, this is still very much an “uber-masculine” fragrance that fits right in with early 80’s tropes, but unlike the others, takes a markedly drier and more-discreet approach to the same goal. Cacharel pour L’Homme comes in a bottle with an affixed spray head that makes the whole thing look like a whiskey flask, a vibe seemingly borrowed from Speidel-Textron’s British Sterling (1965), and is adorned with “pour L’Homme” in flowing silver script. Older bottles have a duck on them since the word “cacharel” literally describes a variety of the bird local to Nîmes in France, where the company was founded by Bousquet. Mostly, I think Bousquet took a “high road” approach to making this fragrance, because it feels very conservative in design, and not waiting with baited breath to whip out its virility and slap everyone with it like most powerhouses released in 1981. Men looking for their “game” to speak for itself rather than have their fashion sense do the talking wore this.
Gerard Goupy of Givaudan was brought in by L’Oréal to work on Cacharel pour L’Homme due to his experience working with masculines for Lancôme, in particular his involvement with making Balafre (1967), but these scents don’t share anything else besides perfumer. The opening is stark lemon oil and bergamot mixed with some dry lavender, clary sage, and nutmeg. The nutmeg is of the utmost importance here because it stays around until the end, so you better like it or this is not for you. Eventually a tiny bit of ylang-ylang and clove oil enter the picture, drawing some comparisons to Jacomo de Jacomo (1980) without the smoke, while the nutmeg reminds me of a less-brutal take on what Bijan for Men was after, toned down further by stark florals of muguet and cyclamen. The base merges with the nutmeg carrying over into the dry down, combining it with pine, cedar, sandalwood, and oakmoss with a pinch of vetiver. From here, I get a tug-of-war between something like Aqua di Selva by Victor (1949) and the later Dunhill Edition (1984). The whole thing is very austere, masculine to the max, but not boisterous at all. Wear time is 8+ hours and projection calms in an hour, but sillage will trail all day. Cacharel pour L’Homme gives me classic wet shaving vibes but also could work in an office too, plus outdoors for a hike. Guys into the ultra-woody and completely unsweet pencil shavings vibe will dig this for sure, although don’t expect the usual loudness just because this stuff is from the 80’s.
The make or break factor here, as many have mentioned before me and many will undoubtedly mention after, is the omnipresence of nutmeg from start to finish. I love Bijan for Men, and this is a much easier-to-wear version of that same idea, so I’m on board with Cacharel pour l’Homme myself, but the strict ascetic woody mossy base also makes this a lot less fun than Bijan as well. All the other masculine powerhouses of the day were in tight jean shorts with bulges clearly visible, wearing those abs-showing crop tops guys could get away with back then, v-neck full of pectorals and crazy hairspray quaffs crowning a pair of big soulless wrap-around blue-blocker sunglasses like they’ve had one too many fast times at Ridgemont High. Cacharel pour L’Homme took the opposite approach, being more Gérard Depardieu in the 80’s than Tom Cruise. This unwavering conservatism sort of made Cacharel pour L’homme not of its own time then, and serves to make it all the more timeless now, which perhaps explains why it is still on the books while newer masculines from the house are all discontinued. If you’re concerned about vintage, there isn’t a ton of difference after the nutmeg and woods settle on skin, since this was never an oakmoss bomb to begin with, but older bottles are a tad muskier with higher quantities of indoles from the ylang-ylang. Still, this is a relatively brisk and fresh/dry woody masculine that never goes out of style, in any formulation. Thumbs up.