Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Derby by Guerlain

I own a sample of the Derby Reissue.

Upon initial sniffing, I get a strong impression of rosemary - this must be the combination of peppermint, mace, and pimento playing tricks on my nostrils. Very pleasant and clean smelling. Almost refreshing. Upon drydown, the scent becomes slightly sweeter, more musky, and slightly powdery, like a high quality soap. The moss comes out to play a bit more, ending on a somber note. It DOES make me think of men in vintage suits and derby hats! However, I do agree with the other reviewers about it being unisex, though I feel it is a bit dry for a woman and more appropriate as a work scent for men.
19th April, 2015
I'm three hours into sampling vintage Derby, and it's nice, and it gets nicer as it dries and develops. This could be a scent where I learn to love the top because the base that follows is so nice, but my first impression is that the smell of the top notes, or one dominant note or accord, that reminds me of Christmas, Christmas shopping in a nice department store, and/or cloves, is not my necessarily a smell I would be looking for in a fragrance.

It reminds me of cloves, which is a smell I like ok, but don't love; but I like the smell more as part of this fragrance.
13th January, 2015
Leafy in the Yatagan style but with citrus and a slight peppermint to freshen it further. Leather comes in it and remains very fresh and nothing is out of balance. Reading the notes before getting this sample I was imagining an experience like this. It's a bit like green leather that is more green than citrus and good to compare to Creed Royal English Leather which is more orange. It goes into fresh bread territory (rose?) while still smelling fresh . The mint is more green than minty if that makes any sense. This is an outstanding leather fragrance. I have no idea what the original smelled like but I have no complaints about this one. Very satisfied.
25th December, 2014
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My review is for the reissue of Derby (2012 version):

At first sniff, I have to admit I thought this was intimidatingly masculine. Something about the bracing bergamot, muskiness, smoky birch tar, and bitter-ish moss made me think of these old-school fougeres or chypres that my father might have worn in the seventies. I also thought that I could smell quite a bit of my bête noire, vetiver, lurking around in there. But then immediately, I noticed that whereas it did indeed contain all of those traditionally masculine notes, the overall effect wasn't in the slightest bit harsh. In fact, the texture of Derby strikes me as being very smooth, well-blended, and even a bit powdery.

As it dried down, I noticed a few other things. First of all, whereas I don’t pick out any of the patchouli that is said to be a significant component of Derby, I do in fact pick up on a lot of vetiver (not listed) – its dank, sour-ish twang is unmistakable to my nose. I can only imagine that vetiver is included in the ‘woods’ note that is listed. Second, the leather accord here is gently spiced, I suppose from the pepperiness from the carnation rather than from any overt spicing. This differentiates it (for me) from Bel Ami, whose leather is almost brutally doused with woody cinnamon. This is gentler, and perhaps, more refined.

And although this is not a fougere, there is a significant musky, herbal barbershop vibe to this – detectable in the slight clean-soapiness lurking underneath the moss, the pleasingly herbal, saline-sweet smell of male skin freshly lathered and shaved with good, old-fashioned shaving soap. This adds a solid dose of nostalgia to my experience with the scent. I wouldn't object at all to my husband wearing this, as I imagine that this clean, leathery smell would be amazing on freshly shaved skin. However, the bastard decided to grow a beard lately, to spite me, so, you know - sorry darling. Oh well, that’s about two hundred euros saved.

Lastly, the mossy aspects come forward a bit more as the scent dries down, and eventually it begins to resemble a drier, more austere Mitsouko. Was this perhaps the intention of Guerlain – to produce a version of Mitsouko for men? On the other hand, plenty of men wear Mitsouko, so perhaps I am just projecting here. All in all, I find Derby to be an exceedingly pleasant, old-fashioned, leathery-barbershop fragrance – reassuringly masculine and solid, and yet subtle and almost ‘light’. It has the distinct feel of a powerhouse male fragrance at the start, but the texture and subtlety of the drydown is such that I would call it refined and gentlemanly, rather than Alpha Male.
05th December, 2014
Smells kind of cheap to me.Seems like too much is going on with Derby. I get a touch of civet in this (not a bad thing in this case). Doesn't list it in the notes, but I get a touch of iris also. Smells a little better in the drydown. Definitely unisex. I actually think a woman would appreciate this more. Don't see what all the fuss is about with this one.
18th November, 2014
A woody-flowery-chypre masterpiece from the former times which managed to retain the glory of this genre: artemisia, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli and sandalwood are the most evident to my nose, all packed in a natural efortless blending to entertain your nostrils and reminds you how real men's fragrances used to be. Guerlain is one of my preffered houses and its releases never failed me. My humble rank 8/10
31st July, 2014
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.
12th June, 2014
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
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
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
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
19th April, 2014
bokaba Show all reviews
United States
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.
14th September, 2013
DanHD Show all reviews
United States
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
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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!

23rd June, 2013
Gary F Show all reviews
United States
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
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
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
12th May, 2013
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.
23rd April, 2013
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.
12th March, 2013
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!
24th February, 2013
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.
19th January, 2013
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.
23rd August, 2012
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.
14th March, 2012
Boundless victorian class, élite sports, highest french old-fashion sophistication, rosey vintage 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.
18th February, 2012 (last edited: 05th December, 2014)
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.
03rd February, 2012
drseid Show all reviews
United States
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.
24th January, 2012 (last edited: 26th December, 2012)
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!
27th December, 2011
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: 29th April, 2014)
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.
16th April, 2011
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.
22nd March, 2011