Perfume Directory

Bel Ami (1986)
by Hermès


Bel Ami information

Year of Launch1986
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 546 votes)

People and companies

PerfumerJean-Louis Sieuzac
PerfumerJean-Claude Ellena

About Bel Ami

Bel Ami was launched in 1986 by Hermès. The fragrance was originally created by Jean-Louis Sieuzac. The scent was updated by Jean-Claude Ellena in recent years.

The company say:

Irresistibly charming and masculine. An audacious mix of cardamom, amber, patchouli and leather

Bel Ami fragrance notes

  1. Top Notes
  2. Heart Notes
  3. Base notes

Reviews of Bel Ami

I wanted to like this, I really did. The glowing reviews, the poetry of those descriptions! And my sample was briefly lovely. Then (like Terre d'Hermès) it rapidly disappeared beyond my nose's reach. But you know what? I'm going to keep trying, I'm going to learn to enjoy more delicate scents.
24th June, 2019 (last edited: 27th June, 2019)
Hermès Bel Ami (1986) is one of the single highest-praised leather fragrances for men in the fragrance community, if not the single most-praised in all creation. The fragrance received an IFRA-required update by Jean-Claude Ellena to address the quantities of some of the items in the fragrance (like oakmoss), which changed some of the tone as a result, but the resultant reformulation is still excellent, even if not on the level of depth or potency vintage die-hards came to love about the original version penned by Jean-Louis Sieuzac. With that kind of incalculable hype powering the insane aftermarket prices on the original "shaker bottle" production runs and subsequent square-shouldered "second edition", the scent is one of the few examples of a "unicorn" that is ironically still in production, because every "vintage guy" getting into the game wants to prove their worth by having a bottle too, since the old pillars within the hobby sing a near-siren song of praise about it. Is this stuff really that freaking good in vintage? Well, yes and no, depending on one's tastes. The cold hard truth is you just plain have to enjoy this kind of masculine "petrol leather" creation, the result of the isobutyl quinoline "leather note" found in older leather scents like Knize Ten (1924) English Leather by MEM (1949), Aramis by Estée Lauder (1965), and Avon Clint (1976), applied to a chypre base. Bel Ami simply was one of the deepest, spiciest, and most potent of it's ilk when it released, the peak of the genre if power is your desire, and even the Jean-Claude Ellena reformulation is no laughing matter in that department. My guess is Équipage (1970) was a really tough act to follow, so Sieuzac just chose to a different take on leather altogether, resulting in one of his most-iconic contributions, outside his involvement with the creation of the "barrel note" in Dior Fahrenheit (1988) two years later.

Bel Ami opens familiarly to those acquainted with the tannery leather vibe: harsh bergamot, bright lemon, aldehydes, and clary sage bring all our eyes forward to the oncoming storm. Bel Ami diverges from past leathers in this genre by not getting mucked down by dandy florals like Knize Ten, English Leather, or Aramis, nor does it become particularly woodsy like our bargain friend Avon Clint, but instead goes into cardamom, a spice Hermès has played with since the first Eau d'Hermès (1951) by Edmond Roudnitska, and still played with all the way as recently as Hermèssence Cardamusc (2018). Patchouli and vetiver make a bit of a show in the middle with a twang of Iris to round things, but that deep, rich, abyss of leather shows up not long after the hammer drops and that sets the tone of the scent, and what drives all the vintage guys crazy. Pure unadulterated isobutyl quinoline tannery leather over animalic styrax and amber become the par for the course, resting on an academic chypre base of sandalwood, oakmoss and labdanum. There is a touch of vanilla to keep things from getting hairy, but it doesn't jump out to me, with the whole affair being immaculate in blending. Sillage is apocalyptic and longevity is until the end of days, making Bel Ami a winter weather warrior. If you do get a vintage bottle, it will probably outlive you unless you use it every single day. Some of its more hardcore fans with cash to burn actually do this, increasing scarcity and driving up the price even more, making that unicorn horn on the forehead of vintage Bel Ami look more like the leaning tower of Pisa by the minute. Bottom line here is this is a spicy, ultra-masculine, and ultra-mature leather scent that is the holy grail of many Generation X guys who used this when it was new, or just guys in the over-30 crowd that discovered recent production at their nearest Nordstrom. The hype is deserved here, as Bel Ami is a benchmark in the masculine leather genre, even enjoyed by a few particularly daring women who love animalic scents with self-control. A flanker penned by Jean-Claude Ellena also exists in the form of Bel Ami Vetiver (2013), which is a greener, but also more animalic take since it adds civet to the mix.

If all of this sounds too daunting for a colognoisseur of more modest means, fear not, for the modern interpretation merely dials down the depth of the chypre base within regulated tolerances, but otherwise retains the basic leather, spice, and citrus character of Bel Ami. Many older vintage guys have what may seem to be an unhealthy fixation to the onlooker with the presence of oakmoss in their scents, preferring as much of the thick, woodsy, slightly sweet, and pasty (in large enough quantities) odorant as possible in their favorite creations. Tastes are subjective and often the result of acquisition through years of exposure (like beer), but if you don't fall into this category of person, my recommendation would be to try the newest form first then work your way backward to older formulas when convenient to sample. Moschino Pour Homme (1990) is often compared to Bel Ami, but goes in a slightly brighter, more dandy, and more lewd direction with lavender, mace, jasmine indole, rose, and carnation on top a nearly-identical base, and used to be considered a cheaper alternative to Bel Ami until it was discontinued. Honestly, modern Bel Ami still compares favorably to it, and perfumer Roja Dove in particular has paid homage not once, but twice to this scent with two of his own super-ridiculous "haute parfum" creations in the form of Puredistance M (2010) and Roja Dove Fetish Pour Homme (2012). If you like leather scents already, this is one rare example where I actually encourage a blind buy, and although I do still roll my eyes some at the hysteria over the vintage productions of this, I understand their madness. If you had to get bent out of shape over any fragrance, Bel Ami would not be a bad choice, and is not only the best leather scent Hermès has ever created, but is in the top of the crop. Bel Ami isn't the end-all be-all Hermès fragrance, but another example of why the house has such a fervent fan following in fragrance hobbyist circles.
20th January, 2019
Modern version... This has bright notes of citrus, vetiver, sage, and basil on top. Nice and crisp, in fact. Second phase going into the middle I get styrax, patchouli, amber, and carnation. Then, the leather smacks me in the face. Kind of that new pair of gloves or winter coat smell. Oddly, as that begins to mellow I get something of a reminder of fine lipstick. Way later I am treated to a skin-base of vanilla and coconut. I give this three and a half stars. One of the better masculine 'fumes that works on my old lady skin.
15th July, 2018
Bel ami vintage it 's a good scent with a excellent leather and good patchouli ,much mascoline . Remember Moschino pour homme vintage ,but Moschino it's more bright imo.
17th January, 2018 (last edited: 06th February, 2018)
"Try this French saddle,"
I said, smelling lemon oil.
She had no regrets.
07th August, 2017
The Eighties... So many great things saw the world for the first time in that decade; Fahrenheit, Égoïste, me, and Bel Ami.

When I first fell in love with it, it was actually not really Bel Ami, it was Puredistance M. I got a decant of it, and I was instantly seduced by the rich leather, the alluring spices, the light but brilliant citrus dancing with the florals, and the warm and deep, woody base.
M was classy, but a bit over the top at times, as the intensity of the extrait concentration is immense.

After discovering that M (and another of Dove's "creations") was merely a facsimile, a clone, an hommage to Bel Ami, I decided to get my hands on this rare eighties icon.

Crazy thing is... It's true. The balance... The beauty... All of it. It's all true. Every single thing I heard and read about the original Bel Ami was never an exaggeration, but the unrefutable truth.

This fragrance is one the best leathers, if not THE best, I have EVER put my nose on. Cozy, charming, deep, warm and enveloping, yet toned down and with more citrus than Puredistance M, making it very easy to wear in the heat, without having to worry about the number of sprays. It has this inherent balance, that could only have been achieved by some arcane, dark and foul magic, because it is so unreal.

Perhaps that is why Sieuzac did not pen more fragrances? He might have sold his soul, so as he could burn as bright as a thousand suns to make only a few, yet immense, fragrances.

It is a funny thought, and if it has even a grain of truth in it, I and the rest of the fragrance community thank Mr. Sieuzac for his sacrifice.

This is one that touches the heart.
12th July, 2017

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