NASTY GATEKEEPER: Halt! Who would cross into the Realm of Contentment must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
DNDB: I have paid great sums in coin and effort in my journey to this point. I am not afraid. Ask away!
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What is your name?
DNDB: My name is Buzier, humble fragrance enthusiast from the Land of Lincoln.
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What is your journey's quest?
DNDB: Unsure at times, it ended up that I was searching for the Holy Grail of spicy, masculine, leather chypres.
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What did you find that has so satisfied your notion of the ideal?
DNDB: Bel Ami, in it's earlier iterations, of course! Now quit taking up my valuable time and allow me to pass!
NASTY GATEKEEPER: Right. Off you go.
DNDZ: Oh... well thank you. Thank you very much!
Bel Ami - "good friend" indeed. ;^> My first Hermes purchase and still an endeared scent in my collection. Bel Ami is classy, warm, and fit for formal wear. Tastefully balanced woods, patchouli and citrus, along with the whiffs of vanilla and lavender. Not loud and overbearing; a dignified treasure for the mature wearer.
This review is for the current formulation. This fragrance is not just beautiful, it is elite perfumery in 3D high definition, showing off complex and pronounced detours at each stage of development that play off a stunning, elegant, masculine leather accord. Surely the perfumers who have contributed to this fragrance over its various incarnations are showing off here, like Jimmy Page inserting a 3 minute solo right in the middle of Stairway to Heaven because only the best rock anthem is worthy of showing his talent.
The development of this fragrance occupies a far greater spectrum than that of the more modern Bel Ami Vetiver, itself a highly accomplished fragrance. The opening in Bel Ami is more impressive, the leather in the heart of the fragrance is decidedly more masculine, and there are all sorts of things going on besides that I am not qualified to comment on.
I’m of the opinion that the modern (Jean-Claude Ellena re-worked) Bel Ami is better than the vintage. To my nose, vintage Bel Ami smelled a lot like Aramis. I could not tell the difference and quickly sold my vintage bottle off. It’s interesting that Luca Turin claims the vintage version had a “weird, dissonant citrus and leather accord” when there was nothing weird about it. It was almost of blatant Aramis copy.
Which brings me to the modern, Ellena version. Gone are the cumin & sage that were stolen from Aramis. In their place, are spices and florals and who better to mix them together than Ellena. The opening is a breath of light citrus and spice. The lemon and cardamom are quite upfront but don’t overpower. The citrus doesn’t last and fades into the florals (ylang-ylang & iris) but the cardamom is still present. One would think that ylang-ylang & iris would tilt Bel Ami towards Belle de Jour but Elena has masterfully mixed them without any lipstick in sight. They add another dimension before the really meaty and manly accord appears – leather, patchouli & oak moss. The leather is not the modern leather you smell in every male fragrance nor is it the leather of old found in Knize or Aramis. It’s a nice middle ground. Despite restrictions of oak moss, Bel Ami doesn’t seem at all affected by it. There’s also a touch of ambery sweetness that also tampers the meaty accords to something not as gold-chained and open-shirted.
Should Bel Ami be the modern standard for a leather-based fragrance? I could go along with that.
A great leather, halfway between Equipage and Knize Ten.
Ultra sophisticated, spicy (I'd swear there was carnation in this, though it's not listed in the notes tree), citrusy, warm and sensual, this is a remarkable achievement.
I've not encountered the original formula, which Luca Turin tells us "had a weird, dissonant citrus and leather accord," but this will certainly do. All the more remarkable in that with all the powerhouse men's scents of the 80s decade, this had the guts to be irresolutely and quietly masculine.
Turin also tells us the original was a resounding flop. Let's hope the excellent reformulation is the success it deserves to be.