Yohji Yamamoto : Long Lost Favorite Perfume

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“A fragrance created today is the one that’s going to disappear tomorrow,” says the director of the Osmothèque perfume conservatory Patricia de Nicolaï. Perfumes disappear for many reasons—reformulations, bad marketing strategies, poor timing. I’m not sure why Yohji Yamamoto was discontinued, but when Debbie emailed me to add Yohji Yamamoto to the long lost favorite perfume discussions, I was glad to talk about it. Debbie mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she really liked Yohji at the time, but as she noted, “when I go back and re-smell (I have about a quarter of a bottle left) I am struck by how interesting it is, especially at the time it was launched.”

When I first tried Yohji Yamamoto for Her, I also wasn’t sure if I liked it either. It was created in 1996 by the esteemed Jean Kerléo. Kerléo was an in-house Jean Patou perfumer, and he’s responsible for the gilded Jean Patou Sublime and the glamorous 1000. Yohji Yamamoto is a departure from the gold and silk elegance of Patou; it’s a gourmand composition that is unexpectedly crisp and bright.

Yohji Yamamoto includes notes of bergamot, galbanum, green notes, praline, raspberry, sandalwood, musk, and vanilla, with the first impression being green and radiant. The vivid leafy notes run like a crisp leitmotif through the body of the fragrance, taming the plush richness of its roasted hazelnut and vanilla drydown. It’s warm and sweet but never cloying, and the delicious, edible accord still feels sophisticated. For better or worse, Yohji Yamamoto won’t make you smell like a candy factory.

The closest fragrance to Yohji Yamamoto in spirit is L’Artisan Parfumeur Piment Brûlant. Like Debbie’s long lost favorite, it has a beautiful contrast between the green, crunchy notes and the warm, edible drydown. Piment Brûlant is green and sheer next to Yohji Yamamoto, but in terms of the play of contrasts, it’s comparable.

For those who enjoy the roasted and caramelized notes of Yohji Yamamoto, Les Parfums de Rosine Rose Praline would be a good choice as well as Comptoir Sud Pacifique Amour de Cacao. The chocolate and pralines in Yohji Yamamoto are well-blended into its sandalwood and musk base, whereas Rose Praline and Amour de Cacao are more of a sweet treat. In Amour de Cacao, the zesty orange notes provide a relief from too much sugar, while in Rose Praline the Earl Grey accord of tea and bergamot is a refreshing accent. Both perfumes have a lighthearted character, but just like Yohji Yamamoto they feel seductive.

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27 Comments

  • karin: I had a bottle of this! My sister gave it to me as a gift years ago. Unfortunately, it ended up at the Goodwill with a bunch of other fragrances in one of my many moves during those years…something I’ve regretted…but hope others are enjoying.

    I also didn’t care much for it at the time, and wish I could smell it again! May 11, 2012 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m kicking myself for throwing away bottles of perfumes that I would love to smell today. But then again, one can’t keep everything.

      I also love the masculine version, which had a delicious note of coffee. May 11, 2012 at 9:25am Reply

  • Suzanna: I remember that scent and you have described it just as I recall!

    It was probably too unusual with its combination of green and gourmand, although it didn’t stray from the label’s fashion aesthetic (something that has always confused me about other “designer” fragrances).

    Since you mentioned Rose Praline, I wonder if Parfumerie Generale’s Brulure de Rose might be another to consider. May 11, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: The combination of green and gourmand is something I also find in Calvin Klein Euphoria, which might be another option. Euphoria is much sweeter though.

      I don’t remember Parfumerie Generale’s Brulure de Rose, but on paper it sounds like it might be in the same area. May 11, 2012 at 9:27am Reply

  • neil chapman: I have had a great deal of fun from Amour de Cacao. I remember one freezing, February day, and I was miserable, cold, and on the train speeding through the Tokyo suburbs. And my halo of Amour was so innocent, warm and soothing that if felt like some kind of armour. Of course, on the wrong day it could be vile, but there is something so BAKED and powdered, and, as you say, not sugared, that I really do think it is one of the best chocolates.

    I have a bottle of Yohji Essential, which I would describe as a framboise chypre; quite nice actually, a bit like the original Kenzo Parfum d’Ete before they wrecked it in reformulation. There was something once so DEWY and delectable, where now there is nothing but pleasantness. May 11, 2012 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Parfum d’Ete was stunning, wasn’t it? It has that crunchy green note that smelled like snowdrops and new leaves–bright, yet delicate. I haven’t seen it anywhere recently, and I wondered if it got discontinued.

      A totally off the topic question–did you get to experience any distinctly Japanese scents since you moved there. What does the place smell like to you? May 11, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

  • Elisa: I have been having a love affair with Rose Praline lately! I love the geranium in it. I also smell blackcurrant in there, though it’s not in the notes — not sure if it’s an illusion, but it seems blackcurrant is often paired with rose.

    This the first I’ve heard of Yohji Yamamoto for Her, though I’ve heard many times of the homme’s version. Both sound great. May 11, 2012 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Blackcurrant bud makes for a great pairing with rose notes. It’s green, tart, and it sparkles against the honeyed rose notes. I like it in Rosine’s Roseberry. May 11, 2012 at 2:50pm Reply

      • Elisa: I haven’t tried that one, but I bet I’d love it. May 11, 2012 at 3:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love the green, sappy notes of blackcurrant, but some people hate them. In Ukraine, the blackcurrant leaves are used to flavor pickles, jams, lemonades. My grandmother’s cucumber pickles with blackcurrant and sour cherry leaves are my favorite treat. May 11, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Debbie: Thank you so much for this, Victoria. I’ve always been unable to pinpoint the notes in Yohji aside from basic ‘green’ and ‘gourmand’, and in the end I lost perspective on the individual nuances. Your description has opened it up to me, especially the praline and raspberry.

    I found it a provocative scent, in the way that it was slightly discomforting, unlike most gourmands, as well as being quite sexy. I was always aware of wearing it, and although it did elicit compliments, I felt I was much more aware of it than anyone else.

    I haven’t been able to dig up much information on my old friend but you have really come up trumps, V. I don’t wear it often now, treating it as some sort of museum piece, but I have been enjoying it all day in anticipation of your post.

    Thanks again 🙂 May 11, 2012 at 4:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Debbie, I’m so glad that I could help! Yohji has so much character. Those green notes are definitely unexpected next to the roasted, nutty gourmand accord. Makes me wish I could still smell the masculine Yohji. It was also fantastic.

      At this point, it’s a museum piece for me as well. I can’t imagine it returning. May 12, 2012 at 8:58am Reply

  • neil chapman: Victoria

    I am going to write more about Japanese scents soon, but incense obviously, and plum blossom blended with the distinctive smell of Japanese narcissus in the cold spring air is heart-breaking. If I ever leave and smell that combination I think it might kill me. May 11, 2012 at 11:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: I look forward to your stories, Neil! Sounds like Japan definitely made an impression on you. May 12, 2012 at 9:02am Reply

  • Wendy: This is too weird! About a week ago i was at the home of a fellow parfumista and I finally had a chance to smell the male YY, which is indeed gorgeous. I then remembered that as part of a magazine subscription deal i once received a bottle of the YY for her… at the time I did not really like it, especially in the summer (i remember a kind of a sweaty note i did not really care for), but when i tried again in the winter i absolutely loved it. Since last week i have been thinking about YY for her, and now you are reviewing it! How weird….. Talking about Japanese perfumes: this week i finally got my hands on a bottle of one of my true long lost perfume loves: Murasaki by Shiseido. It is in a new bottle, and i am sure it has been reformulated some, but it is still gorgeous! Rumour had it that it was discontinued, but the person i asked to get it for me in Japan said that although the girls at the Shiseido counter had to dig a bit it was still there. And cheap, too: about EURO 31 for 60ml edp! i am a very happy parfumista …. cheers, Wendy May 12, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve been enjoying these series, because I got requests for perfume I would not have reviewed otherwise. We talk so much of the new, why not talk a bit about the old scents.

      Congrats on making such a great discovery. And that’s a reasonable price too! May 12, 2012 at 3:56pm Reply

  • ken: i have both YY for him and for her. the homme version has a coffee note which is rather interesting. the female version is a clean vanilla scent (nice smelling but not exactly that unique.. IMHO)… May 28, 2012 at 3:58am Reply

  • ken: incidentally, on japanese perfumes, i chanced upon angelique by shiseido when i was in tokyo a few years ago. love the plum + rose scent. also found a couple of inoui as well. personally i prefer angelique to inoui. murasaki is very nice too! May 28, 2012 at 4:01am Reply

  • YOHJI YAMAMOTO: Interesting how even after it was discontinued, there is still a love and demand for Yohji Yamamoto’s fragrance. It seems to show how versitle this clothing designer really is. Good read. June 3, 2012 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Jena Blake: Surely I am not the only one in deep mourning over other Yamamato fragrances? YY’s elegant union of floral and chypre was marvelous, but Yohji Essential was so unique, its layers so seductively complex, that I have worn no other fragrance in more than a decade. I dread the day that my stockpile (carefully stored in my wine refrigerator) is depleted. June 22, 2012 at 12:21am Reply

  • Michelle: I too love YY and 10 years after my last spray and the bottle was empty….I can still remember that scent. I would love for it to make a return. January 24, 2013 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Kurt: Hi there,

    I’m a little confused! I have a bottle exactly like the one pictured above. It doesn’t say ‘homme’ or ‘femme’ anywhere so I am assuming it is unisex … it is also the 2013 release straight from the hands of the designer via a mutual friend. The confusing thng is that I get a hefty Anise note from it, but this note isn’t listed in any [yramid I have been able to find. Am I just going mad? LOL … help anyone?

    Kurt April 7, 2013 at 8:04am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a reissue, and it has been changed. I haven’t smelled it, but a friend who has says that it is different from the older Yohji Yamamoto. April 7, 2013 at 2:51pm Reply

      • Kurt: Thanks Victoria 🙂 April 17, 2013 at 4:44am Reply

    • Alice: I’ve just tried the new Yohji (not the Senses, Essential or Homme) and was also very confused as it smelled nothing like the official listed notes, but more like what I remember the original smelling (although its been years since I smelled it), i.e. it had a spicy sweetness to it, could have been anise, and/or some kind of milky/nutty note. It would be great if you could try it, Victoria, and give your views. May 7, 2014 at 1:40pm Reply

      • Alice: …I meant the notes listed for the new version: ‘Top notes: Green, Bergamot
Heart notes: Jasmine, Freesia
Base notes: Sandalwood, Musk’ May 7, 2014 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Fi: Selfridges is doing a 90’s revival and they have the original Yohji Yamamoto in stock !!! August 30, 2013 at 6:39am Reply

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