One Thousand Scents

Friday, April 13, 2007

Time Travel: YSL Rive Gauche Pour Homme

Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche ("Left Bank") was launched in 1971, a year that was no stranger to offbeat, fascinating women's fragrances: it also saw the enigmatic Aromatics Elixir by Clinique and the sharp-edged iris of Chanel No. 19. Rive Gauche is cool and reserved, a floral barricaded within sharp aldehydes.

I don't know what compelled YSL to launch a men's version over thirty years later, unless it was the success of Opium Pour Homme in 1995. Unlike the two Opiums, the versions of Rive Gauche have nothing to do with one another. Where the women's version was strict and rather avant-garde, the men's Rive Gauche is almost a throwback. There's nothing modern about it: it really smells like something from another era, something your great-grandfather might have splashed on his face.

After an extraordinarily brief flash of bergamot--it's literally gone within a minute--mixed with gorgeous herbal rosemary and a tiny hint of anise, the scent settles down to a soapy barber-chair concoction of lavender (and lots of it) garlanded with geranium leaves and a dab of patchouli. It smells very soapy: it strongly resembles shaving cream, which, luckily, is a scent that has good connotations for a lot of men and women alike. It's amazingly long-lasting on the skin, as is the base, a simple and durable vetiver-laced wood threaded through with more of that soft, clean patchouli.

The bottle--it's actually an aluminum canister--is a duplicate of the women's bottle, in darkest brown instead of sky blue. Rive Gauche Pour Homme isn't ground-breaking: it's not the sort of thing you smell and then have to own, but it's well-made and appealing for all that.


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