Yves Saint Laurent (1964)

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Y by Yves Saint Laurent

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About Y by Yves Saint Laurent

People & Companies

Yves Saint Laurent
Fragrance House
Jean Amic
Pierre Dinand
Packaging / Bottle Design

Y is a women's perfume launched in 1964 by Yves Saint Laurent

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

Reviews of Y by Yves Saint Laurent

There are 56 reviews of Y by Yves Saint Laurent.

The original Y has the sonority of french horns, the vivacity of a woodland nymph, and more charm in just its few opening seconds that many perfumes can muster in their entire development. It is sunshine, blue skies, budding trees, sparrows singing, green and yellow, shimmering and bright.

All the joys of a mid-century chypre are here, composed like a Burt Bacharach song with Dionne Warwick a plum and Dusty Springfield a peach, gliding over galbanum strings and aldehyde flutes to a bridge of green, bright, punchy florals, bursting into joyful cascades of coloratura.

Luxury soaps and shampoos dreamed of smelling this dreamy, the modern perfumer toils to articulate this and too often falters, a multitude of memories are distilled through its throw, igniting olfactory receptors into a frenzy of longing and tender fondness. And it's a very mossy, shadowy fondness retreating deep into the dark mysterious woods like foxfire.

The original Y by Yves Saint Laurent (1964) represents the intial perfume efforts from the house and its eponymous founder, combining a number of chypre conventions plus a few new ideas into one, helping to create a bold new style that was simultaneously more assertive yet more laid-back than past chypres marketed to women. The genre in general had evolved since the days of seminal entries like Mitsouko (1919) to include heavier animalic styles, stiff leathers, and brighter aldehydic florals, but by the time of Y, shrill bergamot and galbanum had started to give chypres an extreme green edge that blurred the gender boundaries further. If not for the Western notion of "wear what is meant for you" in regards to gender, many of the flowery and powdery fougères guys favored in the decade could also be enjoyed across the spectrum. With that having been said, the kind of sexual independence a chypre like Y represented was different from the virility of the previous decades mavens like Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953) in that it was a more serious and less rebellious, since perfums like Y were more about being carefree rather than downright naughty. Some of this irreverence might have been intended by perfumer Jean Amic under Saint Laurent's direction, or maybe it was just a sign of slow cultural shifts and further changes to come as the 60's moved on, who knows?

What is known about Y is that the stuff opens with aldehydes and bergamot rather dryly compared to feminine standards like Chanel No. 5 (1921) or Patou Joy (1930). Some of this dryness can be said to have been borrowed from men's chypres like Monsieur de Givenchy (1959) or old leather ladies like Piguet Bandit (1944), but the way it leads into desiccated fruit notes of lactonic peach and honeysuckle is where most will find the feminine foot forward. The middle of white florals like ylang-ylang and hyacinth is not unexpected, laying on a grassy bed of galbanum for that tomboyish playfulness this green take on the feminine market chypre has, with iris to combat the also-present rose and jasmine to straddle the line between sexy and stately this genre also usually carries. While not the official ur-champion of green chypres, Y and the subsequent Fidji by Guy Laroche (1966) were two of the earliest and most-promient showcases of the style, but Y distinguishes itself with a civeted finish that leaves the lewd undercurrent YSL fragrances would be famous for up through to the end of the 80's. Benzoin, and patchouli also join the civet, but with heaps of oakmoss and vetiver keeping the dryness in place, Y never quite reaches "horny on main" levels of salacious like YSL Kouros (1981). Eau de toilettes wear succinctly and appreciably long, but transparently like most bitter chypes, while EdP and parfum is denser. These kinds of chypres typically feel summery to me, but your appropriate context for usage may vary.

Y by Yves Saint Laurent was never seen as groundbreaking, although it did break some new ground in the chypre realm and helped set up the style for the next 15 or so years, followed by such classics as Givenchy III (1970) and even emulated to a degree by several mid-70's Avon perfumes that also went for a big bitter mossy style. The best way to describe Y is as a page in a new chapter of perfume rather than a whole new book like something such as the aforementioned Chanel No. 5 or even future Yves Saint Laurent perfumes like Opium (1977), which set the oriental genre on its head upon arrival. Yves Saint Laurent finally gave this perfume a masculine counterpart in 2017, exactly 53 years after its intial launch, and it naturally overshadowed the existence of this perfume since conspicuous male consumption of fragrance has reached that point, but they are worlds apart in both style and quality. The best way to play with Y is in vintage, but as supply and price eventually make that prohibitive to all but the richest collectors, getting your hands on even the newest "La Collection" edition is still an okay way to experience a classic lean, mean, fruity, mossy, and green chypre that comes at you with no care for how you might perceive its lack of restraint, which is the only way to Y. For me, this works equally good on all genders but I admit that you have to be a fan of bold herbaceous, animalic and bucolic tones to fully appreciate this gal. Thumbs up.

There's something in Y that makes it different from the other classic green chypres I've tried (and perhaps I just haven't tried enough), because while it contains the same sharp, citric signifiers that immediately spell GREEN and CHYPRE, the honeysuckle and peach and civet give Y both a sweetness and depth that genuinely enchant. There is none of the expected stridence or prickliness here, instead there are tiny flickers of fruited honey and oak mossy depths that provide both nectarous AND animalic components that keep me smelling my wrists over and over.

Ah, yes, just what I need: another rare vintage to seek out and pine for!

I had a miniature bottle of this a long time ago. I recently obtained a vintage sample from purecaramel. I honestly don't remember this one from back then. This is mellow, in my opinion. I'm diggin' the honeysuckle, galbanum, and jasmine here. There is a very light sweetness now and then. The base is woody, earthy, and animalic. Not loud but subtle; lays close to the skin.

It's impossible to get beyond Luca Turin's description of Y as stockings swishing together...

With an uptight feel like green nylons, this old timer comes across as rather haughty at first. Not exactly a Blue Stocking but a less conventional green one.
It's still someone with control issues though...
Gradually, the frigid green lets go, and a warm russet chypre comes through.

Jean Amic's Y is one of the best green fragrances ever. It avoids the kind of harshness that often spoils the genre. As with many classic chypres, Y can be worn unisex.

1978 Extrait?

This goes on oily and has the skin glisten.

This is a BIG, Feminine Chypre. A plethora of Floral notes.
A blast of Galbanum and Fine Quality Citrus pumps into a dramatic Aldehydic Cloud opening. A powerful Bouquet is sweetened by Honey and countered with the slight acidity of Peach.
Support is provided by an extraordinary composition of Amber,Patch and Civet folded into Golden Benzoin.
Oakmoss creams it with a slight savoury and billow which dimensionalizes this into the dramatic. Powdery goodness in the end.
I am sure that Armani looked back at this while developing his first Feminine.
In Y's brush strokes I can see Yves Saint Laurent signature in the later 1971 Rive Gauche.
Recommended in Vintage, surely.

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