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.
My first purchase of Bel Ami EDT spray was from a Hermes Boutique in the early 90s. I still have that bottle, about 25ml remains. Date of manufacture 1991.The heart and basenotes are intact. A few of the notes missing from the pyramid above are Cumin, Clary Sage and the Absinthe of Wormwood, possibly Caraway. A purchase of 1987 Aftershave and 1986 EDT recently, confirms.
The topnotes have faded particularily the lemon.
The charm for me was, although it was a BIG 80s fragrance for Hermes, it carried an elegant, restrained Leather heart, reminiscent of Knize Ten.It was ahead of its time in that it pointed to this direction of restraint at a time when bombast was King.
A few have said that it is Old Fashioned, dated.
I can agree in that it suggests an elegant, seasoned Masculinity.
The colour it evokes with me is Caramel its palette that of sweet butter. Brought to the door, led through, to the transcendence that is Meditative Mysore.
The current formulation suggests a contemporary Masculinity. It is brighter, cleaner,leaner, drier and carries the bold incense needed to compete. I find it luxurious, vibrant.
It's colour is Conifer Green and palette is Dry White. Brought to a door, to the transcendence that is Meditative Fir.
Ellena has brilliantly brought Bel Ami into the present while still paying homage to the original. Brief sniff to the BA Vetiver leads me to believe that Ellena has done further masterful work and perhaps, leads me through the door.
The Vintage remains as the Masterpiece to this old man. Today's,well not really, but certainly close.
05th September, 2015 (last edited: 19th February, 2016)
Great fragrance, Bel Ami. I believe my sample is the current formulation. It reminds me of Egoiste and Antaeus, meaning I like it.
It is not a bad leather. It is very good but it smells old somehow. I own Chanel Cuir de russie and Knize ten, which are actually older creations than Bel amis, but those perfumes smell very present. I don't know which fragrance component makes me perceive Bel amis smelling old but that is how I feel of this one. I use Bel amis when I need to project quiet authority and look organized in formal setting.I used this in my recent job interview that was successful.