It isn’t leather in the modern or dense aromachem niche sense. It has an air of, in my mind, a fine tan leather; lightly spiced, fresh and balanced with some clean vetiver. Slightly soapy with just the slightest hint of cumin, muted lemon and a rounded cardamom note. The blending is top drawer thanks to none other than JC Ellena. Every note plays its part perfectly, contributing to but never taking away from the composition.
The original is a denser animal although still refined and has a more oily petrochemical and oakmoss foundation.
Bel Ami is Vito Corleone!this is a powerful fragrance that demands respect and oozes quality;it falls in the same class as Cartier Santos, Chanel Antaeus every man over the age of thirty should have one of those greats in his collection. one of the first fragrances i fell in love with at eighteen.this scent is sophisticated testosterone in a bottle that will bully all your other fragrances. it is a leathery chypre such as Bandit,Derby.it is like warm sexy skin,sexy in a warm,clean and classy way.a true gem for everyone who can appreciate a strong masculine scent.
The perfume starts off with a burst of citrus like a classy chypre - lemon,bergamot,sage and rosemary.it then moves to a classic floral heart as it begins settling with notes of basil, jasmine,and carnation,and finally settles into a leathery woody chypre base comprised of patchouli,leather and oakmoss.the key attribute to Bel Ami is the great compositional balance,where a styrax driven leather accord rests harmoniously on a chypre foundation laced with a deft blend of herbs and florals. sometimes it's more spicy, sometimes more herbal.this certainly isn't for little boys,it's a perfume with strong character.absolutely awesome fragrance.Double thumbs up!
Bel Ami is one of the better leathers. Its radiance is supple and sweet but it has a woody and bitter core.
Leather is a power scent, but unlike the biker jacket with its black toughness Bel Ami is more sedate. It's a soft brown leather which feels rather complacent, all monogrammed slippers and dressing gown. If you compare Bel Ami to Fahrenheit (which the same perfumer wrote two years later) you can see how staid this is. Bel Ami: the boon companion of rich old white men.
(This is about the vintage, not the Jean-Claude Ellena version.)
This is so much like Creed Royal English Leather, just not as dirty. But side by side Id have a hard time guessing which was which. Maybe more oak and less orange in the Bel Ami. But its an old broken in dirty leather smell I get. Good staying power, and just right amount of projection and sillage. I love it and use it now that my Creed REL is gone and discontinued by creed. This will replace it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some say Cool Water is the fragrance of the 80s. I believe this is the business fragrance of the 80s. Masculine and powerful, this fragrance evokes the sense of "Roaring 80s". I bought this fragrance across the street from the World Trade Center as my memento to New York and Wall Street.
Oak Moss, Vetiver are the main players that I can sense. I find it more wearable and inoffensive than Terre, so I wear this to work most days. Extraordinary fragrance that will always be in my collection.
Love this one for its "strength of character". Beautifully masculine from start to finish with longer than average performance. I have a bottle each of the vintage and non- vintage, with the newer version a bit sharper in a good way. Imagine that!
A famous rendition of the patchouli and leather riff that I am fond of - perhaps the most famous. Bel Ami distinguishes itself by being dry in tone, and although incorporating minimal spicy and fresh notes, manages to showcase the leather in a non-aggressive manner, while remaining unremittingly masculine. The impression I get from Bel Ami is that it's all about a few good quality accords put together sympathetically and without ostentation: a bit like a simply-cooked meal with the best ingredients; you don't need to do too much with them. I also find it flattering to wear, and it would be terrific paired with any kind of formal attire. I don't find it to have potent performance, but somehow it's not a problem. Another point is that the best of it, for me, comes well into the drydown. Its continued popularity is no mystery.
NASTY GATEKEEPER: Halt! Who would cross into the Realm of Contentment must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
DNDB: I have paid great sums in coin and effort in my journey to this point. I am not afraid. Ask away!
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What is your name?
DNDB: My name is Buzier, humble fragrance enthusiast from the Land of Lincoln.
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What is your journey's quest?
DNDB: Unsure at times, it ended up that I was searching for the Holy Grail of spicy, masculine, leather chypres.
NASTY GATEKEEPER: What did you find that has so satisfied your notion of the ideal?
DNDB: Bel Ami, in it's earlier iterations, of course! Now quit taking up my valuable time and allow me to pass!
NASTY GATEKEEPER: Right. Off you go.
DNDZ: Oh... well thank you. Thank you very much!
Bel Ami - "good friend" indeed. ;^> My first Hermes purchase and still an endeared scent in my collection. Bel Ami is classy, warm, and fit for formal wear. Tastefully balanced woods, patchouli and citrus, along with the whiffs of vanilla and lavender. Not loud and overbearing; a dignified treasure for the mature wearer.
This review is for the current formulation. This fragrance is not just beautiful, it is elite perfumery in 3D high definition, showing off complex and pronounced detours at each stage of development that play off a stunning, elegant, masculine leather accord. Surely the perfumers who have contributed to this fragrance over its various incarnations are showing off here, like Jimmy Page inserting a 3 minute solo right in the middle of Stairway to Heaven because only the best rock anthem is worthy of showing his talent.
The development of this fragrance occupies a far greater spectrum than that of the more modern Bel Ami Vetiver, itself a highly accomplished fragrance. The opening in Bel Ami is more impressive, the leather in the heart of the fragrance is decidedly more masculine, and there are all sorts of things going on besides that I am not qualified to comment on.
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.
Just tried the latest BA & BA Vetiver.
It's lost its soul. A Gentrified Watercolour on a chemical wood base. Lost it's growl.
Shaker and Broad shoulder are the way to go for us Old Guys now.
1991 was the first bottle I purchased traditional bottling. Quite open natural Lemon, spicy with Cardamom, Cumin, Styrax was quite noticeable. Birch was lightly noticed through the center. Patchouli and Vetiver were blended quite well. A High Quality Synthetic feel Sandalwood base.
2001 in traditional bottle. Little different than the 1991, a little more open, less lemon and a bump up of the Cumiin. Styrax was replaced with a another resin or different quality. A Contemporary quality Synthetic Sandalwood base.
2013 New bottling (with a traditional cap) which started mid 2000's with Ellena's first reform. Much simpler mix of ingredients. Patchouli Vetiver bumped up, a lighter touch of the Resin Amber Vanilla. Cumin subdued and Cardamom forming up front. Almost a Pine or Fir "Greeness" produced by a lower quality Lemon Synthetic. I don't get a strong Sandalwood drydown.Overall a very nice, Contemporary interpretation of the Classic. I bought another bottle of a 2014 and I have used the 2013 up.
2016 Different bottling with New capping. A facsimile 100th copy of the the 2013. Very pretty and Ellena-esque, light and airy. The picture is almost set into the background. Little longevity. More of an unisex model. Undistinguished to my mind. But then, I find Ellena's work for Hermes generally "Uninterestingly Elegant". I go elsewhere these days.
1986 EDT All of the wonderful qualities of the 1991 except at first very dark, closed in, Leathery, deep Baritone. High Quality vestiges of Lemon Scent to start. Subdued Cumin. Strong Resinous base. Drydown is very much a Leathery Sandalwood full bodied base. It builds like a symphony with a huge variety of notes exposing slowly, reaching a crescendo and fades into the distance. Oh Yes! Cardamom adds a slight "Anisic" and Camphorous twist indicating it's quality. I have a 1986 sample from Epapsiou that verifies with mine.
1987 A/S Same qualities of the EDT but I believe has Moisteners for the skin. Scentwise just slightly less vibrant.
Oh Yes, Leather Yes. Spice Yes. Sandalwood Yes. and a beautiful Incense 1986-2001 rises through the centre 2005-2014 Incense is up front and vibrant..
All in all I have been able to track 4 Reforms to date. Others may be better able to fill the picture.
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.
Nice. Retro type fragrance with heavy spice and pepper. This stuff is strong. Not a bad thing though. Perfect for cooler days. The leather note in Bel Ami is great. Received a half bottle of this and will purchase another when done. 7.5/10
Bel Ami smells expensive and elegant but slightly old fashioned to my nose. Goes on with lots of leather which becomes a herbal spicy sage and cardamom smell - like spicy black pepper and suede leather, with an almost apricot-like note to the soft and fuzzy suede. There's also a suggestion of cypress pine in here too (which i love)
I get 6-8 hours performance from the new version - after 6 hours the leather is mostly gone leaving a light but very pleasant vetiver and sandalwood that hangs on my clothes for the rest of the day. Right at the end there's a dated bit of oakmoss that clings on.
Whilst being a warm and inviting scent it is also somewhat formal and is the kind of thing that would go well with a tweed suit and overcoat in autumn and winter.
Very nice smell, Reminds me strongly of Molton & Brown Black Pepper body wash...
Tried the current version. Very nice. In style it reminds me a lot of Equipage. The spice takes a lead here. In addition to cardamon, I also suggest pepper and perhaps nutmeg. Not sweet, despite the amber and vanilla. In fact, the vanilla is so muted here that I can completely endorse the scent. Leather here is not a problem. Very nice. My only caveat is that I find it so similar to Equipage that I can't see having both. But if you want a gentle but classy spice scent, this is a good one.