Reviews of Derby by Guerlain

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    Way Off Scenter's avatar

    United States United States

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    Genre: Leather

    When a scent is as universally praised as Derby, the obvious question is always “Could it really be that good?” In this case my answer is a resounding “You bet your backside it is!”

    Inside an hour’s acquaintance Derby arced into the lofty orbit of my esteem that's shared by Patou pour Homme and Knize Ten. Derby is a paragon among leather scents, and it may well be the most interesting Guerlain fragrance I’ve tried since Jicky and Mitsouko. With its barely revealed hints of civet and animalic musk (castoreum?), Derby is a sleek, well groomed animal in a custom tailored suit. It’s a very sophisticated scent, but it’s no less a power hitter than the more raucous Kouros and Yatagan. If Derby were a man, he’d be suave, cultured, and dignified, but he’d also really know his way around the bedroom.

    Along with power and complexity, another of Derby’s outstanding features is its blending. The accords are so seamless that I can’t determine where one ends and the next begins. Derby evolves through several fascinating stages on the skin, but the transitions are so smooth and gradual as to be undetectable. Derby is no scent for little boys (of any age). You must be self-assured, worldly, and well seasoned by life’s vicissitudes to carry this scent off convincingly. You won’t smell “like an old man” if you’re not qualified. You’ll just smell like you’re trying too hard.

    12 June, 2014

    Kain's avatar

    Iran Iran

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    Before saying anything about this fragrance, I must say that I'm not a fan of classic fragrances!
    I can't stand most of them at all!
    This fragrance made in 80's so I was expecting something old fashion and dated which remind me of my grandpa!
    After sniffing this, there was only one word in my mind....
    A masterpiece!
    Work of art by master Jean-Paul Guerlain!
    I haven't seen or it's better to say didn't sniff a fragrance that mix old fashion and modern scents perfectly like this before.
    In the opening I get a semi fresh scent with some green notes like vetiver mixed with smooth leather and hint of sweetness in the background.
    There are some floral notes in the background too.
    Very beautiful scent.
    In the mid woodsy notes joined in and give this beautiful scent much more masculine vibe.
    Every note mixed perfectly with other notes.
    Really complex scent and really well balanced.
    Good projection and longevity and extremely versatile.
    10/10 without any doubt!

    01st June, 2014

    G.M.K.'s avatar

    Pakistan Pakistan

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    It took so long to write about a fragrance of this calibre , Guerlain is the trend setter in perfumery for others and so is Derby and Jicky for Guerlains itself imho.

    Apart from the likings or dislikings (as it is a very subjective and vastly varies ) , Derby is a very very complex and rich fragrance which could not be evaluated in a few wearings, I have been wearing it since few months and I am still discovering something new in it on every wearing.

    This starts( don't enjoy the start a lot) very herbal and pungent due to so many spices but majorly i get mace and patchouli which remains so dominant till the drydown kicks in , the drydown is the part which i love , its very Guerlain , smooth , subtle , smokey leather and musky sandalwood with mesmerizing aura of Guerlain's signature.

    A Masterpiece but not for everyone

    20th May, 2014

    tymanski's avatar



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    I just spent some serious cash on a backup bottle of sealed 25 year old derby. why? cuz it's the greatest - and i mean GREATEST - fragrance ever created, at least to this nose. this 'new' bottle is incredible: the scent has deepened and matured while maintaining its balance and vibrancy. the heady mix of bergamot, pepper, leather and oak moss maintains a discreet sillage with impressive longevity of around 8 hours. as much as i love diaghilev and patou homme, this is my holy grail. jean-paul's magnum opus!

    10th May, 2014

    Colin Maillard's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    Gorgeous, powerful, perfectly-shaped balsamic opening with woody vetiver notes, jasmin (feels more like lavender for me), cloves/eugenol feel, cistus, patchouli, citrus notes. Really bold, dense, warm and masculine, with sweet floral notes and refreshening citrus accents. Elegant, dry, dark leather base emerging as minutes pass. Great, perfect oriental/chypre in the "timeless classic bibles" family of Jicky, Yatagan, Guerlain's Vetiver – and like these, perfectly wearable today.

    10/10

    19 April, 2014

    bokaba's avatar

    United States United States

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    Gentlemanly Masterpiece

    Derby was originally launched in 1983 as the second masterpiece of the now disgraced Jean Paul Guerlain (his first being Habit Rouge). He released numerous feminine scents, but like the Guerlains who preceded him, his real talent was creating gentlemanly perfumes.

    Derby came to the fore in time when the last vestiges of classical (by classical, I mean Victorian/Edwardian/Belle Epoch, etc.) perfumery had come to end in the 1960s. Derby likely took much inspiration from another timeless and brilliant scent that was introduced a few years earlier—the irreproachable Patou pour Homme designed by the mainstream fragrance industry’s final farewell hero, Jean Kerleo.
    Derby is a leathery woody fragrance for men, most suitable for autumn or winter evening wear. The opening is a brisk bergamot and green herbs followed by a soft floral heart of Spanish jasmine and Bulgarian rose with aromatic spices such as nutmeg. The base is built strongly with a good portion of real oakmoss, patchouli, and sandalwood.
    The overall feel of Derby is dark, but never brooding or overpowering. It is an 80s powerhouse style fragrance if you will, but retains more than enough good breeding under the watchful eye of Mr. Guerlain himself.
    The juice itself has darkened to almost dark brown at this point (purchased and shipped from Italy recently), but I feel nothing has suffered the passing of time save maybe the citrus because Derby contains mostly elements that improve over time if stored properly like a 1963 vintage Bordeaux wine. My bottle is the first edition "eagle" bottle that is supposed to look like an eagle with its wings outstretched. It was horribly unpopular and Guerlain quickly changed to the standard rectangular bottle.

    14 September, 2013

    DanHD's avatar

    United States United States

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    Complicated in a Good Way

    I didn't like Derby at first. It felt sort of old fashioned and on the powdery side. But luckily I gave it more tries, and I found that I'd developed an addiction. This isn't an easy scent for me. It has a carnation note and a touch of bitterness that doesn't work on certain days. But it's usually worth the challenge and it's fun the way you get different notes throughout the day. There's a vetiver greenness that pops out along the way that is pure joy, and the musk/woods towards the late middle/end are delicious.

    I think I'll own it one of these birthdays/Christmases. I have a hard time justifying the price of a bottle but I'll always have a decant or split on hand.

    Pros: Sophisticated, diverse, challenging
    Cons: Takes a while to comprehend, Doesn't always work"

    01st September, 2013

    Jack Hunter's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Eighties Masterpiece!

    This opens with a green herbal scent which reminded me of a mixture of Aramis and Devin. This then moves into the heart of a warm spicy leather accord so you have a warm herbal spicy leather scent.

    Now this is where things get very interesting as underpinning these main accords is a host of supporting notes making this scent very complex. I can pick up patchouli, a bit of citrus and some floral notes and these are constantly shifting and changing on your skin. So every time you take a sniff you can pick up different notes behind the main herbal warm spicy leather accord.

    This scent does have a slight Eighties feel and does not smell contemporary, but it is so well orchestrated and is very complex. When I scrutinised this scent I have to say it does live up to the hype and is worthy of all the praise.

    To sum up a green herbal spicy warm leather accord made complex by a host of supporting notes making it a masterpiece of it's genre and time!

    23 June, 2013

    Gary F's avatar

    United States United States

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    Uninteresting

    Bought a sample of this and had high expectations - loving other Guerlain's as I do. This is one I didn't have strong feelings about either way. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't enjoy it enough to pay the high price (or honestly any price) to get the bottle. It is very well blended and balanced, but I was bored by it.

    Pros: Leather is nicely balanced
    Cons: Interesting but Ultimately Bland

    20th June, 2013

    JackTwist's avatar

    United States United States

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    Light carnation/clove scent for summer wear

    This is a very nice, light summer scent - a green, woody effervescence that coalesces around a light and  refreshing carnation/clove note -odd that neither of these is mentioned in the ingredients list, but are for me the most predominant notes in this creation.

     

    Along with Guerlain's Vetiver (spicy and green - the very best available) and their Habit Rouge (dry citrus calming down to a moss), Derby completes the classic trio of their men's scents, stretching from 1959 to 1985. They would be best used in the following order:  Habit Rouge for morning, Derby for early afternoon, Vetiver for evening.

     

    Although perfectly nice and subtle, I can see why it failed in 1985. It was a quiet port in a storm of the scents of its time. Though hardly a masterpiece, as Luca Turin claims it to be, nor "one of the ten best masculines of all time," as he asserts, it is perfectly nice and a fine choice for the middle aged to older gentleman.

    Pros: Excellently balanced and sophisticated
    Cons: None

    20th May, 2013

    florestano's avatar



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    the first thing that hits me in the derby (vintage) longevity is not long, too bad because the drydown is very nice. reminds me a little monsieur carven without a rose, you should apply a few drops more and quit after about thirty minutes in order to have a good time, I still have to use it again to understand it furtherfor now, 3.5 / 5 waiting for a new review

    12 May, 2013

    rbaker's avatar



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    The Vintage Version:
    The opening is a gentle mint-and-orange note with bergamot blended in. After a few minutes I get a light and mild leather note that after the first hour takes on a flowery character. After another hour I get a touch of moss with a prominent fine powdery note that is neither sweet nor cloying. The leather is less creamy than Farina's Kölnisch Juchten, and lacks all harshness on me that characterises scents like Knize Ten. This is indeed a scent that did not follow the 1980s trend of heavy power scents, but harked back to the ideal of elegant unobtrusiveness. Whilst indubitably wonderfully blended, on my skin it never develops into anything extraordinary, and certainly is not amongst my favourite leathers. Projection and silage are poor, which makes it a great office fragrance, and the longevity is decent at about three hours on my skin. Just a borderline thumbs up though.

    23 April, 2013

    Scentologist's avatar

    United States United States

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    GUERLAIN DERBY

    Review: Current formulation

    Perfumer: Jean Paul Guerlain


    Notes per Fragrantica:
    Top notes: bergamot and orange

    Middle notes: spices, carnation and exotic woods

    Base notes: leather, birch, patchouli and woody notes.

    Jean Paul Guerlain was an avid horse admirer and very fond of the derby, which is where he got his inspiration. The vintage formulation might reflect this imagination better and evoke the spirit that focuses from the horse to the dirt. However, this new formulation arrives from the horse up; a classy gentleman poised upon his champion on a day not meant for races, but a casual stroll through the estate where citrus trees are here and there, where mud is not kicked up on the track but rather the essence of carnation and vetiver is disturbed beneath the hoofs. As this essence rises, it mingles with the leathery saddle beneath the rider and together envelops the soft citrus in the air from the trees.

    From initial spray, this is gorgeous. It begins its ride with fresh and lively citrus; bergamot and lemon seem to dominate more than the orange with brings it some depth. I don’t detect much mint, if at all. If so, its treatment was minimal. I do detect the beautiful and ever-present “Guerlainade” that runs through the creation. Immediately I notice a powdery vibe that is very high quality and balanced; no powder bombs here and this is something I wished lasted longer as this starts to transition into carnation, leather, and dries to a very bright and uplifting vetiver. Vetiver is not listed in the note pyramid above but it is there, and ever it is! Overall longevity and sillage are excellent. One to two sprays is all you need.

    Comparatives: None. However, this is what I feel Guerlain Vetiver wanted to be. GV is muted, linear, and the vetiver is not uplifting to me. Derby is lively, goes through three distinct phases, and the vetiver is bright and woody. Derby is far superior.

    12 March, 2013

    iivanita's avatar

    Croatia Croatia

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    this review is for the current version of Derby,
    it smells very modern, not with so much details as i expect old version holds, and thus lot less refined, still i think it offers some freshenes to the current mail designer offer, with carnation beeing the central of the stage and nice balance between spciy-leathery and sweet woddy notes(patchouly).Carnation hints a bit to retro style, but overal expression is very modern!

    It has nice projection and longevily, it smells like good designer perfume, and almost unisex!

    24 February, 2013

    Smelly Beast's avatar

    Brazil Brazil

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    I don't understand how a fragrance like this became a flop and ended up discontinued. Some say it was due to marketing issues other because it didn't belong to the 80's but to me there is no plausible explanation.

    Derby is a modern leather chypre. It is perfect, from the green herbal opening, to the spicy floral heart and the mossy and resinous base. Perfectly balanced and very well kept if you consider all IFRA restrictions. Unfortunately I never tried the original and cant say if things chagend a lot but I can say that it is still a masterpiece, relevant in the industry and smell like a chypre.

    At the same time that it holds Guerlains heritage using some classical accords of the brand it represents a departure from the ubiquitous vanilla that some times seem like a cage to their creativity like if everything had to be a new Shalimar or at least be related to it in some way.

    Guerlain didn't want to make the same marketing mistakes and relaunched it as a paris exclusive maintaining its status as a cult hard to find fragrance. So if you want Derby you have to go to Paris and thats the kind of exclusivity that makes people curious and wanting for more.

    19 January, 2013

    WillBell's avatar

    United States United States

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    I do not know why I have failed to review Derby before now, since it is, without question, my favorite of all EdTs. Everytime I wear it I get compliments. I have worn it for decades, and I was lucky enough to buy a dozen or so bottles of it (the old square habit rouge, heritage, vetiver type). I have also tried the re-issued Parisienne line, and have special ordered from Guerlain. Masculine, woodsy, leather, chypre, blended perfectly. A great scent for the office, since it is intimate and not overpowering. The dry down is clean,and not powdery or sweet at all. This is a must have.

    23 August, 2012

    Zizanie's avatar

    United States United States

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    I really like this fragrance and it has all of the charm and complexity of the great Guerlains but I am very disappointed with its longevity on me. It has, by far, the least longevity of the various Guerlains that I wear, including Vetiver, Habit Rouge, Mitsouko and Apres L'Ondee. If I were rating this with stars, I'd give it 4 instead of 5 because of its short half life on my skin.

    14 March, 2012

    Darvant's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    Boundless victorian class, élite sports, highest french sophistication, rosey indolence, green meadows, conservative complexity,  spicy tobacco, high aristocracy meetings, luxury leatherwears, womanizer gentlemen. This is vintage Derby Guerlain, probably the best leathery chypre of the olfactory universe and the Deus's signature fragrance. The hit of the top. Period.

    18 February, 2012 (Last Edited: 27 April, 2012)

    jbg44's avatar



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    Let me preface this by saying that I ordered a Reissue sample online that is most likely genuine, but it could be a fake (though I doubt it). This stuff is indistinguishable from dime-store Stetson! It reminds me of something my grandma would have bought me for $10 on my 14th birthday. I won't go into the details of the scent - others have done a good job on this below. I will, however, strongly recommend that you save your money for something with a little more depth and class.

    03 February, 2012

    drseid's avatar

    United States United States

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    This is a review of the vintage Derby...

    A beautiful citrus yields very quickly to a floral leather heart with heavy emphasis on a masculine rose. The base is supported by a tremendous moss and patchouli accord mixed with sandalwood and more floral leather found in the scent's heart. I kind of liken vintage Derby as a combination of Sous Le Vent mixed with rosy leather. This is worthy of the high praise it receives. Whether it is worth the extremely high price tag a vintage bottle goes for nowadays is a personal choice, but a strong case can be made in the affirmative. This great composition gets a strong 4 to 4.5 out of 5 rating.

    24 January, 2012 (Last Edited: 26 December, 2012)

    alfarom's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    Only a few masculine fragrances have been so praised to reach the hype status of Derby, but even a fewer really deserved their place in the Fragrance Olympus. Derby is surely among these. A leather chypre that strikes as extremely sophisticated, sort of restrained but never too mannered or polished. Multi facets, rich but not overpowering and incredibly harmonious in its complexity.

    No need to go through notes explanation as Derby is one of those masterpieces that any perfumista should experience without esitation. Mandatory.

    Among the top masculines of all times together with Knize Ten, Kouros, Yatagan and vintage Fahrenheit and surely among my favorite deliveries from Guerlain.

    Barbare Et Tres Civilise.

    Mesmerizing!

    27 December, 2011

    Oproust's avatar

    United States United States

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    I'm not a huge leather fan, with the exception of leather bound books. I approached Derby with tenuous trepidation. So much has been said about Derby starting with the Turin "best of" lists. This review is of the reissued version. My first and last impression of Derby is leather, peppermint, and pepper. I also get a tobacco vibe, although it is not listed as a note. The mid notes soften the opening which is a bit too strong for my nose. Aromatics and florals push through in the mid notes, in conjunction with a distinct pepper note. Patchouli and oakmoss anchor the base. Aramis comes to mind when I wear Derby, not as a similar scent, but as a state of mind. Derby intrigues me with it's complexity and debonair demeanor. Derby is a gentleman's fragrance to be worn with confidence and distinction. Now, please excuse me while I Derby up and retire to my library where "Remembrance of Things Past" awaits me, in all its complex, leather bound glory.

    Updated on April 29th, 2014

    21st December, 2011 (Last Edited: 29 April, 2014)

    Bartlebooth's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Guerlain Derby is often cited as being the benchmark leather chypre, and rightly so. Good reasons for genuflecting in its presence are the harmonious nature of the accords, the lack of dominance from any quarter, and the golden sheen that seems to adorn its entirety.

    The top notes are lightly drizzled with some expensive booze, and garnished with a flourish of pure mint. It becomes more floral and even a little more old-fashioned in the heart, but it is all still composed and restrained. The base is not allowed to dribble away and diminish the overall effect; it seems to support that which has been so lovingly produced.

    I do have a preference for slightly edgy and perhaps even flawed chypres like Equipage and the original Gucci Pour Homme, but Derby is almost impossible to fault.

    16 April, 2011

    headspace's avatar

    Sweden Sweden

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    This one instantly reminds me of the botteled paracetamol marketed in Sweden as Alvedon. Lovely associations, since it was the only medicine that ever tasted good when I was a kid, with the exception of licorice cough syrup. The thing with Alvedon was that it was unflavored, openly reveling its chemical tastes instead of covering them with something “the kids would like”, which at its worst could be a combo of chocolate and banana.

    An odd Guerlain, but still a Guerlain.

    22 March, 2011

    JonB's avatar

    United States United States

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    Derby gets a thumbs up rating from me, but I won't swoon over this one. It definitely smells like a different era. The opening is quite loud, and I find projection to be moderately high. Derby is too formal for me to enjoy; I just don't have the occasion to wear this stuff. The leather is very much under the radar, and really only modifies the patchouli base. I will use up the bottle I have, but I won't replace it once it's gone. I almost want to say "meh". It just doesn't capture my imagination.

    05 March, 2011

    Oh_Hedgehog's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Review of the 2005 re-formulation:

    The quandary here is in trying to dismantle the delicately orchestrated Derby without mangling or flattening it out. Simply put, it's an exemplary leather chypre with a bountiful citrus-floral-spicy-bitter progression that, in terms of predominant notes, would read bergamot-jasmine-pepper-oakmoss.

    It starts out classically Guerlain and then gallops through its cast to arrive at a prolonged bitter leather drydown reminiscent both of Piguet's Bandit and Dior's Jules. In fact, despite the old-school courtliness of its opening, Derby lands with its feet firmly in the 80s, a decade of fougères opened by and (I think) most compellingly represented in, Jules.

    The two features of Derby present throughout its development are its leather and mint accords. The leather is observable from the outset but intensifies considerably, commanding the drydown and in the process benefiting from nuances of the green (vetiver), the bitter (moss), and the dusty (patchouli). The mint note is pervasive but unusually drained of colour and it feels like someone blowing cool air over the composition through a handful of silver coins.

    My best experiences with Derby consist of a two-stage application, the second spritz an hour after the first. In this way, its mesmerising opening is laid upon an already established darker leather ambience, thereby stacking up perfume time and offering a few minutes of omniscience that smell truly Divine.

    18 February, 2011

    Endless79's avatar

    United States United States

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    This took me a few tries. The first time I smelled it I was struck by the woods. Then the second time I felt it smelled too "mature" for me. By the third time I was wondering what was wrong with me because I loved it so much I had to have it. One of the first things I did when applying from my new bottle was to wear some Bandit next to it, since both occupy this leather chypre territory. It was an interesting trial, and I felt that the two were siblings. Bandit was more green an biting where Derby had the smooth warm Guerlain base to heat up the leather, but they both seemed to be from the same family. Derby is obviously Guerlain, though, and it's majestic and masculine. It never fails to elicit compliments, and in this day and age your average guy sure doesn't smell like this. Like many of the great Guerlains, this is one I put on and just feel luxury and confidence emanating from me. It does have an "old" feeling to it, but I experience it more as a gravitas and weight of soul now that of physical age. The only annoying thing is the packaging; those glass bee bottles are gorgeous, but those bulb atomizers are worse than useless. I long to be able to spray it on with abandon instead of dab, but that is the fault of the packaging, not this wonderful fragrance that glows with a warm golden aura.

    05 July, 2010

    Mimi Gardenia's avatar

    United States United States

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    This is for the re- issue . Very herby bright start. I can't help but be reminded that this is actually for men. Thankkfully the heart becomes much like Sous Le Vent but stronger - lemony and aromatic. The dry down on me is strong vetiver rather than leather. It's an excellent fragrance but still rates a star below Sous Le Vent to me. Longer lasting than Sous Le Vent and good tenacity in general .

    28 June, 2010

    Swanky's avatar

    United States United States

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    A great fragrance. This strikes me as the offspring of Arpege Pour Femme and Knize Ten. It is quite soft and floral but with a smoky tone that is very appealing. This definitely harks back to a more formal time - this is far more appropriate for a tux or suit than for sweats and tank tops to be sure. Sillage is not domineering but it does have 6-plus hours of longevity though muted. It sits close to you like your shadow but you keep catching wafts to remind you it's there. Very nice.

    This is my all-time favorite and may never be supplanted. Derby is probably the reference masculine chypre.

    25 May, 2010 (Last Edited: 28 March, 2013)

    epicurean's avatar

    United States United States

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    An obviously very well-made scent in the typical old-school Guerlain fashion: complex in structure and very grand in scale; lots going on here. But alas, it's more admirable than lovable, I feel. And it's extremely hard to believe this one dates from the 1980s; smells much, much older: This is a very dusty, powdery affair indeed. (And where's the leather?) The 1920s Chanels such as Cuir de Russie or No. 5 have aged so very much better and feel newer than Derby which is 60 years younger. For a good masculine Guerlain, I'd suggest Heritage, which is fabulous. (And somebody should update the photo of Derby here; it looks completely different now, and if you're really unlucky, you might encounter it on display (e.g. at the Paris Galeries Lafayette flagship store) with a pump spray. Now how's that for masculine?

    23 May, 2010

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