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.
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.
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
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?
OK, let's just get this out of the way: the bottle looks like a cockroach.
Aside from that, Derby is pretty good. The drydown is everything that's promised: masculine, mossy, sophisticated, unintrusive, leathery. Two thumbs up.
The thing is, you have to run a 45-minute gauntlet of generic, perfumey, "classic", "cologne guy" top notes to get there. From my perspective, the drydown may as well be on the other side of the moon.
I will try this one a couple times more and see if it grows on me.
I was very interested to try this – I know it has many fans. I find that there is much to appreciate here. Ultimately the leather/patchouli combo isn’t quite my cup of tea.
I find that this has three distinct phases. Also worth mentioning is that the fragrance note elements are quite clear and distinguishable from each other. The first phase is the opening, which is bracingly spicy and green. It is big, aromatic, and pleasing. In particular the artemesia has a vibrant and powerful presence. The second phase is that of peppery spice, with some florals given a dark and earthy tone. This too is well done. The last phase is true to the scent’s 1980’s origin: a big ol’ tangy-brown chord of leather and patchouli. The patchouli really hangs in there, and takes on a kind of salty, minty character.
So, this is classed as a leathery chypre, but I think that a case can be made that it is a leathery oriental (given the spices and patchouli). Well crafted, and worth checking out if you like this sort of thing.
Reviewing the re-issue. Pretty good leather. I smell more minty citrus than leather. A nice modified leather chypre with a heavier patchouli note than usual. If it didn't have the name Guerlain, I'd swear it was any other un-of-the-mill leather chypre from the 80's.
I have only smelled that reissue version, and for sure it`s a nice fragrance, although I was perhaps expecting even something more magical.
Balsamic, smoky leather in the vein of Knize Ten, vintage Cuir de Russie (Chanel), Cuir Mauresque etc.
Very deep and mysterious, long lasting and quite satisfying experience. However, not worth the insane price tag, at least not to me.
My two cents' worth of dissent… As a lover of vintage chypres, I earnestly tried to develop a fully-fledged affair with Derby (both original and reformulated), but failed miserably. To my unsophisticated nose with a predisposition to full-bodied, manly, sensual and user-friendly chypres, Derby is rather thin and effeminate while also uninvitingly detached and indifferent to the wearer and others at best or smug at worst (given the name, it could easily make a great piece of tongue-in-cheek social commentary). I find the moss, leather and vetiver promised in the basenotes just barely perceptible, with Guerlain's signature vaguely floral / distantly sweet accord proudly floating above and muffling all other notes there are until the very end. Elegant and refined, no doubt, but hardly an outstanding men's chypre by my standards.