Y Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent Review

Collage of Y Eau de Parfum by YSL and its notes, including apple, bergamot, juniper, vetiver, sage, calones, and ginger.

Ah, the latest fresh blue aromatic scent at the forefront of men’s designer fragrance. Arguably the new Dior Sauvage, Y Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent is the dressed-up beloved of many a modern man who cares to wear a scent but not so much what that scent is, so long as it is decently long-lasting and universally inoffensive.

A large glass jar with a spigot filled with cool, chilled cucumber water.

This perfect storm of men who want to own a single vaguely pleasant scent and the societal and scientific shift since the 80s towards creating the sweetest possible new scents for women and the freshest possible new scents for men is what has brought us to the homogeneous blue fragrance market we see today.

Y Eau de Parfum is a popular and inoffensive example that does not particularly stand out from the rest in its opening. Once you get past its overwhelming fresh calone-y blueness, however, it does integrate a few more compelling accords, including a nod at a fougère and a pleasant mix of resins and spices. The note quality here is solid, making this a strange mix of loud blue fresh aromachemicals and pensive and captivating middle and base notes.

A blue cloud, as from an atmosphere aerosol of colored fog in a can.

The first twenty minutes of Y Eau de Parfum are overwhelmingly characterized by fresh, bright blues, primarily made of calones. There is also a vague suggestion of green apple scent, though it tastefully shies away from leaning into chemical apple shampoo, leaving a particular fresh green suggestion without an overbearing, miserable attempt at realism.

Put another way: the apple isn’t realistic, but it also isn’t trying to be. It’s a suggestion of sweet-and-sour green juiciness, nothing more. There’s no bitter tannin edge of apple skin or other impressive flourishes to it. It’s just fresh greenish juice, fruity-sweet in places but balanced by a tasteful sour streak.

A shiny fresh green apple.

Unexpectedly, this is one of my favorite apple notes I’ve come across. (My previous favorite, the green apple note in Perry Ellis’ Perry Man, is similar, but still wanders a little into shampoo territory.)

By not trying too hard to be distinctly appleish, it entirely avoids the problem of an apple note that smells like children’s shampoo or hair detangler or one that simply gives you an artificial over-sweet juicy headache (looking at you, Kayali’s Eden Juicy Apple).

The apple in Y Ea de Parfum is not some masterclass in constructing beautiful restrained fruity notes, but a reminder that simple abstractions are often more palatable than attempts to really nail a note exactly on the head.

The relative un-sweetness of this green apple is also a relief; it’s juicy, sure, but the sweetness is tempered by a mild sourness and generally kept from crescendoing into a headache. This is an abstract painting of a tart Granny Smith apple, a chemical reduction of sour juicy notes that has little in common with the actual fruit, and that’s probably for the best.

Similarly, the calones don’t attempt to learn into a cucumber or any particular melon as a note, instead existing in the simple, nebulous calone zone of a fresh blue scent. This aromachemical freshness that doesn’t even attempt to mimic any one real-world ingredient is what makes Y Eau de Parfum overwhelmingly a blue fragrance, most notably through the first hour of overwhelming freshness.

Two green bergamot citrus fruits, one of which is cut open.

In this first phase of prominent blue, the primary recognizable note beyond an abstraction of freshness is the slightly bitter citrus burst of bergamot, along with a heady punch of a central sage accord. The bergamot blends well with the floating nondescript calone- and green-apple-freshness, adding a crisp juicy crunch of bitterness to the otherwise bland overbearing freshness of the opening.

Indeed, this is a bergamot note that leans more into its bitter, sour, aromatic facets the fruit can have than into the bright green citrus-y sparkle. It’s loud and overwhelmingly fresh in dosage and volume, but there’s something contemplative in the character of this bergamot. This would be a fascinating meditation on the note if it weren’t loud enough to burn your nose off and melded to several other very loud, very fresh, very blue things.

After twenty minutes or so, enough of the bergamot has evaporated to bring the ginger briefly to the forefront of the fragrance. It’s a faint but warm and comforting ginger, with a distant gentle piquancy. It’s not fresh and juicy like the yellow inside of a fresh ginger root, nor is it powdered and dry. This is something like the smell of the outside of a ginger root, subtle and warm, unsweet but without too much tang.

A very large branched light brown ginger root with several light yellow flowers.

This warm, spicy ginger root crackles softly among the sharp bergamot-blue edges of the opening. It does not add any earthiness or much groundedness to the light, airy cool blue cloud that is Y Eau de Parfum, but it does tether interest and attention to one facet of the opening that is intricate inwards, unlike the rest of the fresh notes, which expand outwards and shout over each other, without any increased complexity revealed in a deep whiff.

For just a moment here, a window into an alternate universe’s Y Eau de Parfum is visible: one where the subtle, resinous, warm-spicy accords subtly blended under the blue and aromatic notes get to have their moment in the sun.

As it were, the elusive ginger slips away into the background once again, overwhelmed by the blue freshness and fading edge of bergamot.

A branch of the evergreen juniper bush, with large blue berries covered in pale dusty bloom.

There is no question that this is a blue fragrance, the sort of calone-fresh designer scent I can picture fragrance-reviewing YouTube gentlemen praising, assessing it for “beast mode” longevity as they lounge about in three-piece suits with the top button undone and discuss their fitness routines with increasing insistent tension in their voices. This is the modern cologne bro’s sit-down date night fragrance, the piece in his collection he considers a touch more refined, and thus forgives its decidedly un-beast-mode performance.

Indeed, this is not entirely the pure bright blue of gym locker rooms and deodorant sprays, nor does it have the more grounded charcoal edge of the earliest proto-blue fragrances of the early 2000s. No, this is a blue fragrance wrapped in plenty of aromatics, most notably a prominent herbal sage, along with a fresh pine-y juniper berry and a pensive bergamot.

Three deep ruby red geranium blossoms.

Delicate red vegetal-spicy geranium petals are a final unlikely aromatic note in the mix. This is more of a leaf geranium note than a true rose geranium note from the flower itself. It’s fresh, green, and almost peppery, piquant in that fresh-spicy-green floral way that reminds me of eating big crunchy orange nasturtiums. The geranium blends with the kitchen herb aroma of sage and the evergreen cool freshness of juniper berries to form the aromatic herbal accord at the heart of this fragrance.

All of these bring a freshness to Y Eau de Parfum, but it is a more naturalistic aromatic freshness than some bright calone blues, grounding and sobering the scent up slightly from what would otherwise be a pure cerulean haze of bright fresh calones and fruit juice.

A small corked glass bottle full of pale green liquid surrounded by a variety of clipped herbs, including mint and basil.

These more palpable aromatic notes interspersed through the top and heart of the scent, along with the warm spicy accord wafting up from the base, make this a slightly more serious and formal take on the fresh blue theme. Indeed, after the first hour, Y Eau de Parfum is more of an aromatic fragrance at heart, with just the trimmings of blue freshness projecting around the edges.

Within three hours, the aromatic notes begin to fade back into the fresh blue muddle. A general suggestion of cool piney snappiness, of hazy culinary herbs, and of delicate small red flowers remains, crushed and mixed into a largely linear mortar-and-pestle mush of leftover aromatic touches.

From this point on through the drydown, the cool calone-fresh exterior of Y Eau de Parfum finally begins to give way to the gentle warm and resinous woody notes at its base. These are never at the forefront of the fragrance — at least, not in warm weather or indoors. The cool calone overtones are simply too loud.

This is a shame, because these woody and resinous base notes are lovely.

The Heddal Stave Church, a Norwegian church made entirely of wood with no nails.

Starting about three hours in, I’m delighted to catch light whiffs of a delectable holy frankincense. It adds the faintest hallowed churchiness to the base of Y Eau de Parfum, like walking through a Late Gothic Revival cathedral and hearing your footsteps echo against the stone floor. Though the resin is warm, the effect is one of hushed tones and indifferent stony coolness. In contrast with the insouciant youthful coolness of the fresh blue notes, this is a note that draws on reverence rather than swagger.

This and the amberwood provide a comforting warm resinous quality to the base of the scent, with just a hint of tonka bean sweetening its edges. This is no loud vanilla amber, but a steady dose of tonka bean coumarin is there, applied in a steady line along the base of the fragrance like icing dots out of a hot glue gun.

A green and white origami paper box containing many small bundles of dried vetiver grass tied with strips of cloth and twine.

A drop of green woody vetiver feels right at home among the aromatic notes at the heart of Y Eau de Parfum. It is a lovely reference to the classic men’s barbershop scents of old, dry and fresh in the way of crunchy grass and Listerine mouthwash, fresh like a real dewy summer morning.

The aromatics-and-vetiver signature of a fougère is hiding in here somewhere, like a picture of your grandfather hidden away in your wallet. The aromatic motif provides a touch of grown-up, good-old-fashioned formality stirring under the freshness. This is what makes Y stand out as a suit-and-tie scent compared to its cobalt compatriots.

There’s just a whisper of it here. I’d love to hear more. But then, this isn’t really the story of Y Eau de Parfum. It is only a brief note scrawled in its margins.

A pile of four square white bars of soap.

Throughout the drydown, the remaining edge of calones continues collapsing from a blue-and-grey chemical abstraction of gym bro masculinity to something softer and sweeter, which in idle whiffs is sometimes startlingly reminiscent of cucumber-scented soap.

All in all, there is something impressively linear about the arrangement of top notes here, which remain recognizable some five hours in. Somehow, they feel more intricate at this point than at the beginning, more characterized and cohesive. Now that the shouting of coolness, blues, and freshness has faded away, I can appreciate a very respectable restrained juicy apple note, a suggestion of fine warm and slightly earthy ginger, and the slightest sour hint of bergamot.

A light green slice of cucumber.

The coolness that surrounds these is now more of a gentle cucumber sigh, whereas in the opening it was an aggressive downpour of Abercrombie magazine inserts featuring black-and-white photos of sinewy shirtless men.

Most apple and cucumber notes feel like grotesque and repulsive caricatures to me. These fruity-fresh notes here, however, actually have an impressive restraint to them that I can really appreciate when they aren’t washed away in a cloud of basic calone blue.

A pile of small light-orange-colored clumps of frankincense or olibanum resin.

My favorite way to wear Y Eau de Parfum is outside in bitterly cold weather. When you can see your breath in the air, the fresh calones of the scent are stifled and the warm spicy facets of this fragrance shine. In the cold, the prominent blue heart and subtle warm undertones of the scent switch positions: Y Eau de Parfum morphs from a fresh aromatic blue scent into a delicate warm ginger on a bed of resinous, contemplative frankincense and amberwood, with faint echoes of harsh blue calone-and-bergamot freshness muffled jarringly beneath the surface.

Loud blue scents with warm, woody and spicy undertones are common, with the subtlety of the latter adding much-needed complexity and dimension to the former. Warm spicy scents with aromatic blue notes creeping underneath, however? It’s jarring. I haven’t smelled anything like it. It’s like the way that borrowing motifs from classical music and dropping them in pop music is common enough, but if I heard a classical symphony featuring a contemporary-sounding bassline, I’d be confused.

As a way of combining the two scents, it feels wrong, and yet this is my favorite way to savor Y Eau de Parfum: it’s far more interesting and subversive than anything else in the scent, and it allows some decent warm and spicy notes to shine through the loudness of the calones and aromatics.

I love this side of Y Eau de Parfum. It’s warm and crackling, softened by its vanillic tonka edges and warmed up by the snapping of ginger. These are comforting notes of a decent quality. They dance around and draw me in. I only wish they were more prominent in all but the coldest temperatures.

A soft orange-colorred rose lying next to a series of small lit tea candles. Two of them are in a heart-shaped orange dish.

This is the side of Y Eau de Parfum that makes it a favorite among the blue fragrance crowd for formal occasions and romantic candlelit dinners. While the aromatic fougère motif brings to mind classy old-fashioned sophistication, the hints of sweet tonka bean, spiritual resins, and warm spices give Y its dignified edge. Without it, the aromatic vetiver signature would have been dismissed as old-man-like.

The resins, woods, and spices ground Y Eau de Parfum in real, tangible, comforting things, venerated things, impassioned things. The amberwood and frankincense provide a dose of sophisticated dignity utterly at odds with the crowing confidence of the top notes, setting this apart as a more dignified blue. The faint vanillic sweetness of tonka bean, on the other hand, lights the scene with tiny, warm-colored tea candles.

A pile of tonka bean pods.

I’m glad nose Dominique Ropion went the vanillic route rather than the incense-charcoal-smoke-isn’t-this-sexy direction taken by many blue fragrances trying to distinguish themselves as more serious and passionate. Sure, the tonka bean sweetness is just as cliche as the alternative, but it’s cozy and comforting rather than simply being so aloof that no one wants to go near you.

There’s not nearly enough of it here for me to call this a remotely cuddly cologne, but there’s more in the cuddliness department here than there is in many do-you-even-lift-bro blue scents. There’s just enough sweetness here to keep this from being a dry scent, though it’s not remotely gourmand.

These hints of lightly sweet coziness and crisp-ironed-shirt debonair notes are what sets something like Y Eau de Parfum in a special sub-class of blue fragrances: the gussied-up suit-and-tie-appropriate blue fragrance. These are a group of blue fragrances trying to set themselves apart as formal-occasion scents, romantic scents, not just something to wear to the gym or party or club but to a refined, immersive human experience. Like prom.

A tall cedar tree. It is coniferous, with a rounded shape.

As an aside: You can usually spot these without smelling them because they tend to come in solemn charcoal-colored bottles rather than some typical sporty blue color. Take, for instance, the many blue flankers of Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Giò.

Acqua di Giò Profondo? Easy. Blue bottle. Typical gym-going blue fragrance.

Acqua di Giò Profumo? Dark charcoal-colored bottle. Infuriatingly similar name. Serious suit-and-tie flanker.

I could play this game all day.

So how does Y Eau de Parfum compare to its I’m-not-like-other-blue-fragrances-I-know-what-a-boutonnière-is comrades? It’s decent. There’s nothing that makes this stand out as worlds different in a sea of slightly cozy or smoky blue scents in charcoal bottles, but it’s pleasant and delivers the requisite hit of formality and distinction. It successfully obscures the creeping frat-boy vibe of many a generic blue cologne by putting him in a nice suit jacket with slightly dorky cufflinks. Well done.

Overall, this is the latest in a series of generic blue fragrances to capture the mainstream designer men’s fragrance market. This one is set apart by a touch of seriousness and refinement in its aromatic heart, as well as some intriguing well-blended warm notes in its base, but neither of these gets any time in the spotlight without the fresh blue calone-and-green-apple scent running circles around it.

The longevity of Y Eau de Parfum is respectable, lasting some seven to eight hours on me. Performance is fine, albeit not quite at the hyped-up “beast mode” level I’ve come to expect from fan-favorite designer fragrances like this.

A slice of wood showing the rings of a tree, covered in dripping amber and translucent sap, slowly becoming a hardened resin.

This is not an unpleasant scent. It is one that generally can’t go wrong, save among discerning audiences of people who acutely dislike loud blue fresh scents, and even that audience probably won’t mind it much after the first couple of hours. A touch of this won’t stand out as offensive anywhere, nor will it stand out as particularly novel or distinctive. If you like mainstream fresh blue fragrances with a slight suit-and-tie twist of aromatics and just a hint of warmth, this is an accessible fragrance for you to try.

I can see this being a go-to for parents buying their teenage sons a fragrance, any fragrance, just for the dressing-up rite of passage of having one. I can see those sons, in turn, spritzing this on along their collars as they dress for the high school prom. Nothing about this is inherently juvenile; it’s just easy and generic, with a cool and aloof vibe that appeals to young men trying to scrap together a self-assured, confident identity in a vulnerable moment.

An ornately-shaped crystal glass full of water with mint, watermelon, ice, and limes.

I think this is what makes modern blue fragrances appeal so much to a certain insecure sort of character trying to build a persona of sigma-male-businessman-gym-bro confidence and success by hiding behind a scent. Risky, unique, individual scents take confidence to pull off, while safe blue freshies promise to give you the confidence itself on a silver platter: smell how cool this is? That’s how cool and independent and sexy you’ll feel, they whisper.

They don’t give off warmth and cuddly affection like a warm or sweet scent, nor do they promise the bravery and gusto of musky animalics. As a de facto choice, scents like this one promise coolness, and they succeed in coming off as moderately cold and aloof, although the confidence and success part is entirely up to the wearer.

A bent soft branch of common sage with fuzzy leaves.

Y Eau de Parfum is classier and more subtle than some other straight-up-air-freshener type blue fragrances with no notes to speak of besides general chemical freshness, with some pleasant aromatic middle notes and some subtle warm spicy touches. There’s nothing wrong with it, and it serves its purpose: this is the one scent many men will buy, simply to check the box of having something that smells good for when it is needed. It has been very well-posited by its marketing department to continue fulfilling that role for many men throughout the 2020s.

If you like it, by all means, enjoy it. As for me, I’m excited to see what will finally hit the men’s fragrance market after this seemingly interminable wave of blue.



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