Elisa on a timeless, elegant and somewhat underrated chypre.
A green chypre can feel golden and warm, like the opulent Safari by Dominique Ropion, or chilly and aloof with iris, such as the archetypal Chanel No. 19 and Paco Rabanne Metal. I associate the warm, galbanum-dense chypres with autumn, while I always seem to reach for cool chypres like Metal in spring.
YSL’s Y, released in 1964, is immediately recognizable as a green chypre, but has a different feel from others in this family. To me, it’s a summer chypre, with the same aspirational mansion-in-the-Hamptons air as Estee Lauder White Linen. When I play tennis, I do it on free courts, not in backyards, but either way, this seems like the perfect perfume for a doubles match, especially if you’re wearing a skirt. If you prefer to watch from the lawn with a glass of white wine, it would be lovely for that too.
Y opens with a burst of cold, herbal green notes and sparkling yellow aldehydes, like damp grass and sunshine. The floral heart has a flirty, coquettish quality – it’s a bit sweeter than it needed to be, which adds to its girlish charm. Rather than focusing on the austere, powdery, grayish lavender notes of iris and hyacinth, as many green chypres do, Y is fruity and lactonic, with an emphasis on peach, honeysuckle, ylang-ylang, gardenia, and rose. During this stage, it has the soft-focus quality of vintage Guerlains.
Y is on the light side, another reason I like it on hot days – under the flowers, you won’t find one of those dark and dirty patchouli bases that last forever and ever, just a trailing off into a soft woody base with the creamy undercurrent of oakmoss, similar to YSL’s later Yvresse (née Champagne).
Perhaps I’m at an advantage, since I wasn’t alive when this perfume came out, but to me Y feels classic without feeling dated, with a timeless freshness akin to its contemporary Dior Eau Sauvage. This is a great place to start if you need a chypre that’s more approachable and easier to wear than its intimidating predecessor, Guerlain Mitsouko.
YSL Y is available to purchase directly from YSL Beauty for $125/80 ml. It is also widely available at discounters. This review is based on an older vintage.
Victoria’s Note on the current version of Y: the differences are what you would expect from reformulated old school chypres. There is less moss, less darkness, fewer buttery florals, but overall, Y is still an elegant, suave fragrance. It still has lots of character and its distinctive signature.
Yves Saint Laurent Y includes notes of aldehydes, honeysuckle, gardenia, green notes, peach, mirabelle plum, galbanum, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian rose, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, benzoin, civet, oakmoss, vetiver, and styrax.