It took me some time to find this piece of discontinued perfume treasure. All of the Yohji’s were completely off my radar. To be honest, I am not even sure they were available in New Zealand, where I lived at the time these fragrances were alive. New Zealand designers: Zambesi were stocking the Comme des Garcons and if memory serves me correctly, the Helmut Lang eaux with their prêt-a-porter lines, however Yohji Yamamoto was sadly absent. It was Luca Turin’s glowing review of the extinct fragrance in his 2008 Perfumes Guide that encouraged me to find a bottle. Later that year I was in New York and was delighted to find a bottle in a Midtown, Manhattan perfume store. That was until I enquired on the price. It was as though the counter staff had also read Turin’s review and was patiently waiting for perfume addicts to discover the goldmine she was flaunting. Requesting more than US$400 for a 100ml bottle my instinct to ride it out and find another source was heeded and I found a reasonably priced gift with purchase pack online when I returned to Australia. Receiving an eau de toilette and shower gel in a Yohji Yamamoto toiletry bag (one of those GWP bags that lasts about two uses before the zipper goes) I finally found out what all the fuss was about. Yohji Homme was created in 1999 by perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez when he succeeded nose Jean Kerleo as head perfumer at the house of Jean Patou who at the time were responsible for the Yamamoto scents. Rumour has it the scent was put to rest with Proctor and Gamble’s acquisition of the Yamamoto contract in 2002.
In his review, Luca Turin recalls the trend of masculine perfumery at this time. They were either fresh woody, or spicy exotic. Turin credits Duriez with the first successful exploration of combining these two styles in one fragrance. Yohji Homme is a gourmand fragrance that recalls earlier successes in female perfumery: Thierry Mugler’s Angel and Lolita Lempika’s eau de parfum. This masculine play on the gourmand theme (in my opinion) thankfully plays down all the hyper qualities that make Mugler’s Angel so intense. Duriez’ creation is a more natural gourmand based on licorice, rum and cinnamon (notes via Basenotes). Yohji Homme also carries a classic fougère structure. As coumarin is one of the basic building blocks of a fougère scent, I wonder if Duriez saw this as the key ingredient that could combine both gourmand and fougere elements. Coumarin has a powdery vanillic scent, a note common to both styles. But Yohji Homme goes beyond powdery vanilla-coumarin. It pushes further into sweet sugary vanilla which pairs effortlessly with rum, licorice and spices. Another key fougère note, lavender gives this fragrance a masculine herbal veil that is perceptible during the life of the fragrance. Powdery musk, resins and wood make this a tenacious scent for those who like to leave scent trails wherever they walk.
Not many guys would be interested in smelling like candy. Yohji Homme manages the precarious balance between femininity and masculinity with ease. This style of gourmand scent is well suited to smokers and men with strong personal odours. It may not be the Holy Grail I anticipated from Turin’s highly affectionate words, but an interesting collectable nonetheless. If your only option is to buy a bottle at a highly inflated price, I suggest seeking a small scent split or sample before investing.
By Kilian A Taste of Heaven, Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, Guerlain Very Irrestible, Annick Goutal Vanilla Exquise.
Perfumer: Jean-Michel Duriez (Jean Patou)
Bottle designer: Thierry de Baschmakoff (Aesthete)
Release date: 1999
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Aromatic Fougere