The opening is a complex array of Meyer lemons, whiffs of ripe grapefruit, a touch of spiciness die to the elemi, and a green herbal undertone of basis a just a smidgeon of parsley. All in a blender - quite interesting.
The drydown develops sone florals initially, mainly carnation and a man agreeable iris note, which a sone powderiness to it as well as a slight undertone of dusty cardboard. This merges into the leather impression, which is the main heritage bequeathed to this flanker by the original Bel Ami. The leather is still quite dark in the traditions of Russian leathers, but minimises the harshness and the birch tars, is rather smooth and quite well-behaved, with a bit of Isobutyl propionate well on the back burner, but there is a touch of styrax in evidence too bit not that strong. This leather lacks, therefore, the harshness of Knize Ten, the fresh and civil wildness of Creed Cuir de Russie, and it is definitely a far cry form the soft and syrupy sweetness of Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather. Imagine a simplified and superficial version of Russisch Leder by Farina Gegenüber.
The vetiver is a latecomer on me, and in the base it combines with an ambery tonka impression, with just a slightly musky civet Vetiver that is soon drowned out by the other notes.
I get moderate sillage, very good projection, and an excellent nine hours of longevity of nine hours on my skin.
A scent for warmer autumn days, and compared to the original this flanker is brighter, lighter, less intense and has less depth, is a bit thinner but lasts longer. More superficial but still quite attractive. A sign of the times? Overall 3.25/5.
You have flankers that are in but name alone, then you have flankers that try to bring something new to the table but keep the spirit of the original intact, and then you finally have flankers that are but one or two notes away from the original and seem fairly redundant for it. What perhaps seems funny about that last one is it usually only turns up in quick cash-in seasonal flankers like the billion and one summer versions of cK One (1994) Calvin Klein has issued since they started doing it, but sometimes it occurs "upmarket" as well. I recently reviewed Amouage Interlude Black Iris Man (2020), which may seem like a candidate for the "same but different" dismissal as well, but it was an attempt to improve the original Amouage Interlude Man (2012) by the same perfumer who made it, whereas here with Bel Ami Vetiver (2013), perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena is not the original nose and doesn't seek to really improve anything. Cartier Déclaration (1998) also got a similar "same but not" treatment when Ellena revisited it for Déclaration Essence (2001), so it's not entirely unlike him to touch up something only in a minor way then have it sent out as a flanker, plus he would do a flanker for Équipage (1970) a few years later under the name Équipage Geranium (2015), so maybe all this is just contract fulfillment since he was house perfumer for Hermès. In any case, Bel Ami Vetiver will appeal to fans of the original but at the same time isn't really necessary since it does nothing to stand out from the original, nor will it sway many people who didn't like Bel Ami in the first place. Ah well.
The opening is the expected spicy petrol leather that made the original so noteworthy. You get that lemon oil and carnation over clary sage and cardamom, plus isobutyl quinoline leather, pumped by aldehydes. The tannery leather here is a bit more subdued than in the original Bel Ami, but this is on purpose. The heart is rich an ambery like the original, with the dark eugenol-powered "Russian Leather" elements mixed with patchouli, styrax, and ylang-ylang just like the original too. The vetiver is moved down to the base in the way the cardamom was moved up to the top, becoming a bigger player in the show as Bel Ami Vetiver dries down. Synthetic sandalwood tones, some oakmoss, and vanilla finish out with the vetiver. The biggest change here is literally the musical chairs game with the note structure and the dialing up of a rooty, earthy vetiver from the original, that's it. Bel Ami Vetiver wears like Bel Ami was layered over a days-old skin film of Guerlain Vetiver (1961) dried to the point that only the buttery rooty vetiver/oakmoss slivers remain, with none of the green tobacco or grassy feel. Wear time is over 8 hours but projection isn't crazy, nor is the sillage super dense like the original, so this flanker proves a more soft-spoken iteration. Bel Ami Vetiver is still best as a fall or winter scent despite the tamping down of the leather, and it feels very mature, stately, and less confrontational than the original. Maybe if you are looking for a take on Bel Ami with the leather jacket and saddle replaced with leather-bound tomes of some esoteric academia, this may be for you. I like it, but I wouldn't call this A-list material.
My bottom line is if you're only looking for a collection of unique experiences that do not overlap with each other, you'd shoot for the original Bel Ami (1986) and leave this one on the shelf, but collectors needing all things Hermès might consider this a worthy accessory, and it does beat the pants off most leather scents made in both the designer and niche world by miles outside maybe a few Roja Dove-penned entries that pay direct homage to Bel Ami itself. Prices are also not so good on the discounter side for most things Hermès that aren't Terre d'Hermès (2006) thanks to tighter control over their inventory a la Chanel. Hermès doesn't sue gray market sellers like Chanel does, but not a lot of stock slips out of their grasp, so what little does won't receive much markdown to make it worth a blind purchase, meaning I'd sample this first. I think sampling is especially important if you're not a Bel Ami nut that'll love it regardless, or if you haven't smelled the original, because Bel Ami Vetiver is more leather than vetiver despite what the name implies, and isn't your standard black shoe polish leather style so popular in upmarket perfumery in the 21st century. In other words, this slightly more-modern revision of classic Bel Ami still shares more DNA with scents like Knize Ten (1924), Piguet Bandit (1941), or Aramis by Estée Lauder (1965) than anything Tom Ford or Coach is calling a leather. Very good, but also so close to the source material that it could be overlooked, so proceed with caution. Thumbs up.
A more relaxed and less aggressive and/or stern alternative to the original Bel Ami, I find Vetiver more suitable to my taste and personality and as a result prefer it considerably. It's a wonderful fall fragrance, and kind of like the B-Day option to Terre d'Hermes' A-Day. What I mean is that I like to go back and forth between them in the fall, opting for TdH when I want a little more citrus and cedar, and BAV when I want a bit more darkness via leather, woods and a smoky vetiver. And that's what I really like about BAV--it's a very balanced blend between its woody aspects, leathery facets, and smokey resinous notes. It's not too much of any of them or too little, so it sits just right. If a fragrance becomes too smokey it gets tedious and "cloying" in its own sort of way. If leather dominates completely it loses some of its pastoral charm. And if the woods take over, it risks becoming boring. That never happens here, and as it's all balanced so well you end up with the style and luxury of the leather, the outdoorsy, autumnal appeal of the woods, and the cozy, nostalgic repose of comforting smoke. As a result, it's also quite versatile in terms of its impression and the range of scenarios in which it can be worn and still feel appropriately suitable. I often find myself in jeans and a flannel shirt while wearing Bel Ami Vetiver, but it would also work just as well in a tux or a cashmere sweater and pair of chinos. It's classy without feeling stuffy, and it's comfortable without relegating itself to the strictly-casual crowd. I've recently culled my wardrobe from a once formidable and foolishly unmanageable 300-plus bottles to a much more concise and deliberate 50 to 65. BAV has made the cut and I never even once considered getting rid of it. It firmly holds its spot among the last "woody spicy" fragrances that have survived the cut and earned their permanent place in my collection, among such company as Royal Oud, Egoiste, and Divine L'Homme Sage. If the genre appeals to you, I would rush out and get a bottle of this five-star fragrance now while it's still in production and widely available.
Bel Ami Vetiver smells like it has warm, ambery cinnamon in it to me but none of that is listed. In fact, there are very few notes listed and the only one I can smell is the vetiver which is of the smokey variety.
Smells a little too mature for me. Definitely a cold weather scent to my nose. Too sweet and heavy for heat.
This has good projection and lasts all workday, so no need for many sprays.