The first thing dispelled from mind is that this fragrance is going to be like a classic pre-WWII Caron, because that isn’t possible. Secondly, this isn’t going to be like most of the well-meaning but unremarkable work made when Caron was under creative stewardship for a number of owners by the Fraysse family. Lastly, this will not be daring “high art” or a decadent luxury perfume a la some niche house because that isn’t what Caron needs to survive it’s third lease on life in so many decades. What you will get in this bottle is a carefully-crafted modern masculine that pays respect to the deceptively sophisticated bold stroke style of house founder Ernest Daltroff, mixing in some comfortable elements, and not 100% built for cost like a high street designer but also still within the pricing realm of one. In other words, you’re getting the kind of self-referential “modern classic” masculine perfumery that Guerlain has been making for years since Jean-Paul was given the boot, but of the Caron variety. Jean Jacques slips into a Thierry Wasser-type role for Caron under new managment by Cattleya Finance, since owner Ariane de Rothschild is a life-long fan of the house. Jacques is tasked with preserving legacy where possible and pushing Caron back into relevant territory for contemporary buyers, where it has been absent for decades. With this in mind, Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis (2020) represents itself as a modern woody-amber with a vetiver-forward structure and bold 2-note focus built up with many side players in the spirit of Daltroff. The name of Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis roughly means “Love Me as I Am”, and seems in a sense to be a spiritual successor to both Aimez-Moi (1996) meaning “Love Me” and N’Aimez Que Moi (1917) meaning “Don’t Love Anyone But Me”. If anything, it seems like the original message of this impromptu series has softened and grown more passive over the years as it has moved from the female market into the male, an unintended downplay of pastiche macho tropes maybe?
Jean Jacques sort of plays up the old adage of Guerlain being for mistresses but Caron being for wives, flipping it into the male spectrum by making a fragrance that emphasizes class and wearability over extroversion and compliment-seeking. The idea here with Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis is that you don’t wear the fragrnce for compliments, but rather because the scent compliments you, if the name doesn’t give that way. The opening is smooth with grapefruit and ginger right off the bat. This is a slightly sweet grapefruit like what you’d expect in a 2000’s Kenneth Cole, which may put off some old heads looking for a dry rakish lemon or bergamot, but I wouldn’t call this a sweet fragrance overall. A rounded nutty vetiver comes into view, further assisted by a claimed hazlenut note. This fragrance doesn’t smell like Nutella (thank God), but the nuttiness of the vetiver is going to be really pronounced, along with a smokey element you don’t tend to see in vetiver these days. Again, it feels like a bit of the old and a bit of the new are at play here. Hazelnut and vetiver remain the star players, vis-á-vis the lavender and vanilla of Caron Pour un Homme (1934), with the expected woody-amber base warming up after a few minutes on skin. The woody-amber molecule is blended with tonka to give a tobacco-like feel, and a flinty metallic edge similar to Terre d’Hermès (2006) comes into view then stays. Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis is both more agreeable than the Hermès scent but also a tad more boring and age-neutral, with the slight sweetness from tonka and the subtle woody-amber trail replacing the patchouli and cedar notes, giving it a younger face. Just about all-season and all-occaision, the only time I see Aimez-Moi Comme Je Suis not working is in extreme heat or in strictly formal settings where you want to avoid any sweetness, but could otherwise be a signature for the guy tired of blue fragrances and needing a bit of versatility. Wear time is eight hours, and projection isn’t fierce, staying steady until halfway through where it collapses into the base.
Sticklers for specific ingredients or people who have biases towards them can say they hate this without smelling it and move on with their lives because of the woody-amber foundation (which I found rather tolerable to enjoyable), but calling this corporate mainstream sell-out dreck would be a stretch since nothing with a prominent vetiver note (let alone hazelnut) will ever be totally mainstream, and the closest you get to that is the aforementioned Terre d’Hermès. Last time I checked, that scent isn’t exactly new anymore, and the last time Caron tried a new male pillar was the ill-received Yuzu Man (2011) created by Richard Fraysse. Now, I’m not saying you need to take what Caron gives you and be grateful, that’s not it at all. If you’re the kind of person that only wants to live in the world Daltroff created, you’re entitled to that, and likewise if the polarizing 70’s alpha male scent of Yatagan (1976) by Vincent Marcello (created when Caron had a downmarket turn under A.H. Robins and Révillion Freres ownership) is more your speed, that’s not going anywhere. Yeah, I’m a little bummed that the Rothschilds sacked William Fraysse only 2 years after inheriting master perfumer from his dad and only making four perfumes for Caron, but there had to be a reason. Jean Jacques comes mostly from Oriflame and Cofinluxe, so he’s never had a chance to work for a prestigious house like Caron, meaning he may be “hungrier” to do a better job than William Fraysse could have, since the latter was nearly groomed nepotism-style for his role. Who knows? All I do know is we got a good easy-wearing vetiver fragrance that doesn’t feel cheap, pays respect to what Caron is, and doesn’t have any pretense about it at all. For a perfume house whose biggest previous hit in the men’s world came out 35 years prior (1985’s Le 3ème Homme), I’d say that’s a step in the right direction. Caron can save the game-changers for next time. Thumbs up.