Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche : Perfume Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Rive Gauche, created for Yves Saint Laurent in 1970, is a warm cloud of silver dust slowly settling to reveal a lush rose. The starched crispness of aldehydes foils the metallic facet of the composition, all the while as if suspending the development in time. Like Rodin’s marble sculptures, Rive Gauche presents a tantalizing contrast between the polished ivory smoothness of its main accord and the rough haze surrounding it. The two extremes complement each other perfectly, resulting in an arrangement of breathtaking elegance. …

The abstract quality of Rive Gauche recalls the aldehydic florals underpinned by pronounced woody notes, such as Lanvin Arpège and Madame Rochas. The aldehydic crispness accented with geranium and rose absolute, which softens the harshness of the metallic accord, slowly fades into the velvety oakmoss. The character of the composition is derived from its ambery woody notes, which hit its sculptural form like a soft glow of setting sun.

The metallic note that links Rive Gauche with its avant-garde predecessor Paco Rabanne Calandre is quite extraordinary, given that this elegant accord is fashioned out of rose and diphenyl oxides, which have a harsh, green synthetic quality. Diphenyl oxide with its strong metallic geranium odor is particularly difficult to imagine in a fine fragrance, and yet in the hands of the perfumers Jacques Polge and Michel Hy, it lends a liquid silver effect to Rive Gauche. As an example of a daring and unexpectedly refined composition, Rive Gauche is unparalleled.

The fragrance was reformulated in 2003 by perfumer Daniela Andrier under the creative direction of Tom Ford. Although I never fail to be impressed by Ford’s ability to influence one successful creation after another— Gucci Envy, Gucci Rush, Estée Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, to name a few, I regret the modernization of Rive Gauche. The characteristic woods and vetiver base notes have been retained; however the floral heart was altered, and the aldehydic impact reduced. While this alteration caters to the modern tastes, the result is that the composition has lost some of its sculptural quality and the perfect harmony of the accords.

Rive Gauche has been pulled from the US market, yet I recently learned that once again it is available from most retailers carrying the Yves Saint Laurent line. The masculine version of Rive Gauche is likewise great.

Auguste Rodin. Danaid, 1889.



  • Andy: poetic and interesting review, thank you. and again the question popping up again and again. Why touch the formula. Why not simply leave it and move on doings something entire different? June 2, 2006 at 12:56am Reply

  • Christina H.: Well my favorite categories are oriental and floral and I *do* consider myself a collector of perfumes, so maybe I fit some of that,lol! June 2, 2006 at 7:54am Reply

  • marchlion: Thank you for your lovely review. It is an unusual fragrance that has stood the test of time, although I’m sorry to read it’s been reformulated. June 2, 2006 at 8:31am Reply

  • Liz: Dear V – I have not tested Rive Gauche in years. I might be more open to it now than I was in my more radical anti-aldehyde days, but mostly I just wanted to thank you for the picture of my favorite Rodin sculpture. 😉 June 2, 2006 at 8:48am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    Ehat a lovely walk down memory lane! Rive Gauche I have always loved for its’ lush chypre burst ! It is so feminine and so reminiscent of the recent days gone by -in the 70’s and 80’s .I never used it tough always falling back of my beloved Opium, then Paris ..
    I do not generally like reformulations – though. I’m going to Montral next week – so I’ll check out the parfumeries and also Olgivy’s and Holt Renfrew – to take in their scented treasures. Any thoughts on Canadian perfume formulations vs. American ?
    Besy To you dear Vicroria ?Still waiting to receive my $105. sample bottle of Musc Ravageur !
    Madelyn E June 2, 2006 at 11:17am Reply

  • violetnoir: What a walk down memory lane. I loved Rive Gauche and wore it often throughout the early and middle seventies. It’s an original, the likes of which are a rare find these days.

    Hugs! June 2, 2006 at 12:56pm Reply

  • k-amber: Hello! I always enjoy reading your beautiful comments, which truly fascinating. As for Rive Gauche, it was a my favorite scent when I was as a late teen (to early 20’s). I did not know that was reformulated by Tom Ford. I will try new one when visiting the boutiques. The fragrance has sentimental value for me.
    Kaori June 2, 2006 at 9:07am Reply

  • Ina: Dear V., this is what I’m wearing today! I wish I knew if I have the pre-2003 version. You described it perfectly, “a warm cloud of silver dust” it truly is. 🙂 June 2, 2006 at 9:17am Reply

  • Robin: V, I have not smelled it in years, and perhaps I am best off ignoring the new version? Never smelled the men’s at all and will have to do that. June 2, 2006 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Marina: You beautiful review pushes me towards the online stores… Again! 🙂 Thank you for such lovely article. June 2, 2006 at 9:54am Reply

  • Marina: PS. I re-read the artcile and saw that the fragrance was reformulated in 2003 under the creative direction of Tom Ford. That reminded me that one of the Russian-speaking forums Ford is often called something like “mogil’shik parfumernyh domov [gravedigger of perfume houses]” 🙂 June 2, 2006 at 9:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Andy, thank you. As for the reformulation, especially when it is a matter of modernization, I agree with you completely. I find that few “modernized” versions are really modern enough, but they would certainly not please those who loved them in their previous incarnations. June 2, 2006 at 7:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, you are probably referring to the article about scent and personality. Yes, sounds like it is quite accurate for you. 🙂 June 2, 2006 at 7:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I think that just about everything gets reformulated one way or another. At least, we know the year when this one was reorchestrated, which makes it easier to track down the original version. June 2, 2006 at 7:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I love this sculpture as well. When I first visited the Rodin museum, I was struck by it. The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia also contains a number of beautiful marble pieces. June 2, 2006 at 7:57pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, thank you very much. I would be interested to hear your take on the reformulated version, since you have worn Rive Gauche for a long time. June 2, 2006 at 7:59pm Reply

  • Karin: Trust me, the new version is a pale, pale, pale substitute for the real thing.

    The real thang is really, really, real.

    I wore it in the 70s. It’s one of the bottles I forced myself to finish off when I thought I had to in order to buy another bottle of something.

    Even my current vintage juice, a gift from a friend, seems to pale in comparison to my memory, so I suspect that some of the initial burst is gone.

    But it is a lovely, lovely fragrance, even being ~36 yrs old.

    None of the fragrances I’ve owned have ever gone bad on me, so imagine if I had a couple of bottles of the real thang! I suspect the original owner of the bottle I now enjoy didn’t keep it as protected. Maybe. June 2, 2006 at 8:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, you should go back to the boutique and compare. I recall that you liked the modern version we tried there. It is very nice, although I definitely prefer the original. June 2, 2006 at 8:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, if you like aldehydes, you are guaranteed to fall in love with it. Even if you do not, you will definitely admire it. June 2, 2006 at 8:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I am laughing over “mogil’shik parfumernyh domov.” That is rather harsh, although in case of Rive Gauche and YSL Y, I cannot agree more. June 2, 2006 at 8:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, burst is the best way to describe how it unfolds at first, a burst of silver dust. Amazing! I think that there is no difference between US and Canadian formulations. They are the same. June 2, 2006 at 8:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), it is indeed very original. Paco Rabanne Calandre is even more so, being more avant-garde, but Rive Gauche has a more immediate impact. June 2, 2006 at 8:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, go for the men’s version instead. The new one is so pale in comparison to the original that it is frustrating. June 2, 2006 at 8:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mireille, thank you! It is the image that came to mind as soon as I smelled it. A beautiful perfume. June 2, 2006 at 8:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I cannot agree with you more! It is very pale. The problem with aldehydic fragrances is that the top notes tend to break down easily if the bottle is not stored properly, thus losing the intial sparkle. I wish Rive Gauche were left alone. June 2, 2006 at 8:29pm Reply

  • mireille: ahhhh, I loved the parallel drawn to the metallic quality of
    Calandre … “silver dust slowly settling.” Wow. That image should hold me for a while. Beautiful. xoxo June 2, 2006 at 6:59pm Reply

  • k-amber: Dear Victoria,

    I went to a Yves Saint Laurent boutique(snooty!) in Tokyo to sniff the scent. I found new one is totally different from the original one. I am not sure I can tell the fragrance is Rive gauche without looking the bottle. The new Rive Gauche loses sharpness and bitterness somehow. Probably the original scent matched free-sprited era…
    All the best!
    Kaori June 4, 2006 at 9:48am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Kaori, thank you for your impressions. I also found that the lack of bitterness ruined the entire composition. It was such a perfection. June 5, 2006 at 2:07pm Reply

  • sdn: i have a lot of this in vintage formulation because my mother wore it. unforgettable. August 10, 2006 at 7:24pm Reply

  • sdn: i have a lot of this in vintage formulation because my mother wore it. unforgettable. August 10, 2006 at 7:24pm Reply

  • Lee Forster Robinson: I am so glad to hear so many echoes of my sentiments about the ´new´ Rive Gauche….

    Why on earth did they do this? it´s like giving the Mona Lisa a moustache to improve her looks!

    I have worn Rive Gauche for years and it always conjured up associations of Parisian cafes, gitane and french teachers! The ´bitterness´and ´sharpness´were what made it unique and special,and the way it evolved by the end of the day was magical…

    Now…it´s like any other cheap mono-faceted ´modern perfume´(I think Calvin Klein et al!)A true tragedy!

    Does anybody know if their is any hope of a u-turn and the fragrance being restored to the origional? I will stop wearing it now as I longer enjoy it and don´t want to support this horrible new version.

    Finally, does anybody know how one would go about posting a more direct complaint?! Who could be contacted? And is it still possible to buy the original version anywhere?

    Lee February 28, 2007 at 6:27am Reply

  • Jeannemarie: I had to buy the Rive Gauche Intense when I sampled it! You know, I wore this in the 70s and loved it. I associate it with the financial district in downtown Boston for some reason!

    The composition of the current RG (Intense) is wonderful! I can’t tell you what this means to me!

    I can’t recall if it is less or more than what I remember. I only know it’s YSL’s wonderful RG! June 15, 2007 at 9:14pm Reply

  • Lee: Ahhh…..Jeannemarie…your memory and your nose fail you if you feel that any of the current incarnations of Rive Gauche can hold a candle to the original….it is a masterpiece lost and never to be rivalled by it´s replacements….!! I am in mourning…!! July 6, 2007 at 7:55am Reply

  • twix: omg…the burst of silver dust is so true. My mom wore this when I was young and up till now I can STILL smell it just by reading your lovely review. 🙂 August 21, 2007 at 8:25pm Reply

  • twix: omg…the burst of silver dust is so true. My mom wore this when I was young and up till now I can STILL smell it just by reading your lovely review. 🙂 August 21, 2007 at 8:25pm Reply

  • twix: omg…the burst of silver dust is so true. My mom wore this when I was young and up till now I can STILL smell it just by reading your lovely review. 🙂 August 21, 2007 at 8:25pm Reply

  • twix: omg…the burst of silver dust is so true. My mom wore this when I was young and up till now I can STILL smell it just by reading your lovely review. 🙂 August 21, 2007 at 8:27pm Reply

  • Jean Shepard: I am not at all a professional in regard to the making of perfume. However, when I began to wear Rive Gauche, in the 70’s, there was not a man I knew socially, or not at all, that did not comment on it– bus drivers, cab drivers, ticket takers on trains, and in depots,businees associates, airline personnel, my young sons, former husband and current husband who brought home everything he could find in all sizes from dusting powder to bubble bath as well as the perfume and the toilet water or cologne , women friends, store personnel and on and on — . When I ran out, I restocked and although not a professional knew at once the complete perfection of that fragrance for me was gone.
    It was a horror and someone should inform Tom Ford as it was a travesty.
    Please let meknow any clues to finding some of the original formulation if it still exists. I have been duped several times.

    I understand now why, when I was younger I was so attracted to Arpege. Has that also undergone a hideous transformation. Verty grateful for an informed response to the above two questions. Thank you. October 4, 2007 at 6:55pm Reply

  • Paula: There are few things in life that are everlasting – a beautiful scent is among those that we can recall forever. Thank you for reminding me of how lovely Rive Gauche was through your beautiful review. Wearing this from its debut, I must share wolf whistles, second glances, and certainly second dates with Rive Gauche because men adored it, and thus I was the beneficiary. My husband of over thirty years (years of marriage, not his age ;~) still recalls the name and asks me why I no longer wear Rive Gauche. After it became difficult to locate, I went with other fragrances, much to his dismay, and to hear that it has now been reformulated is disheartening and disillusioning. Why must everything be “modernized”? There are certain things of beauty that should never be changed. You wouldn’t change a piece of sculpture to “modernize” it! You can always create new, but once a work of art is gone……. How fun it would be to give my husband an anniversary to remember – one wearing the original Rive Gauche. January 15, 2008 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Confuzzled: I was about 13 years old when someone gave my older sister a gift set of Rive Gauche, which included french-milled soap! I thought it was the most gorgeous scent ever. The new version is horrendous, a travesty.

    I recently had the great good fortune to find a small vial of Rive Gauche parfum from an e-bay seller, who was sharp enough to spot it at an estate sale. It arrived today. It is as gorgeous as I remember.

    If I could lobby Tom Ford to return to the original, I’d buy a boatload to have for the rest of my life. May 11, 2011 at 8:18pm Reply

    • Rainn: My GOD! My sentiments exactly!!! Tom Ford destroyed a masterpiece!!! It was my signature fragrance and everyone loved it especially me I am still heartbroken!!! If I could buy the original rive gauche again I would forever grateful!!! April 20, 2020 at 3:20am Reply

  • Lisa B: Just stumbled on your website whilst reading up on the history of Rive Gauche. Recently tried it at the airport (returning from a trip to the perfume museum at Grasse, Provence) and now understand why I felt so disappointed that the fragrance didn’t seem to evoke the old feelings and memories I associate with years of myself and my sisters wearing Rive Gauche in the 70’s and 80’s. I thought it was my mind playing tricks as that scent has always had the ability to take me back. I stopped wearing it many years ago but wish I had stocked up before they changed it – what a shame to ruin something so perfect. June 8, 2012 at 3:57pm Reply

  • Kniterati: I’m so sad. I was wishing for RG dusting powder this morning as I made my toilette. I live many miles now from anywhere that would purvey such a thing and I know that it would not be the same as what I wore for years and years. “Cloud of silver dust” indeed, a whiff of memory now. YSL knew what he was up to and now he is retiring. He changed forever the way women present themselves and I have been one of the glad adopters of his legacy. Perhaps there will be a renaissance. One can hope. January 8, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

    • spe: I just picked up a bottle of Rive Gauche from Bergdorf Goodman in New York City – they shipped it out to me. It is the current EDT version. Not the Intense that was available for many years. It smells closer to the original, I believe. Mom wore this. It’s exquisite. June 19, 2017 at 10:13am Reply

  • Linda Fay: I have worn Rive Gauche since I went to HS in Switzerland. Like a post above, I got so many compliments from everyone everywhere…it always made me smile to wear it. The new formula is not at all the same. Others have asked if the original can be bought somewhere but I didn’t see any answers. I’ve ordered it online from different retailers and it’s just falls flat. You would have to have worn the original to really know there is a big big difference.
    I would love to know if the original can be bought or how could I know.
    I’m going to the Caribbean for 2 weeks and even thought maybe in some of the duty free shops but if it’s been so long since it was reformulated I would imagine all the originals are already sold out. Any help is sincerely appreciated. I just stumbled on your site looking for the history of Rive Gauche. Your description is utterly on point. Bravo! December 16, 2017 at 1:15pm Reply

  • Julie Demelo: Dear Victoria-
    5-star review.
    I have a small EDT version.
    This is a scent I still love…I am wearing it today. 🙂
    A real beauty indeed.
    I was 10 when it appeared!
    Thank you for such a lovely review. I agree it’s elegant. June 26, 2018 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Cynthia F.: I’m so sad that they changed the formula in 2006. My best friend and I wore it in the 70s. I remember how it always drew attention and was often asked what it was. I found the original scent haunting, I guess because the fragrance stayed with you. I had the body lotion and eau de toilette as well. We should petition Tom Ford to go back to the original but I suspect he doesn’t have the rights to the formula. September 23, 2019 at 7:05pm Reply

  • Rowena Reams: Is it just me or has anybody noticed the tinnish odor that comes out of the new cans of Rive Gauche? It has been my favorite from puberty until it disappeared from parfumeries. Three years ago, I ordered one online and was so excited about it. Excited because I was so sure it would remind me of my romantic escapades as a Fine Arts student in the late 70’s. Unfortunately, it got me so disappointed as I smelled that tinnish odor with the weak scent of the Rive Gauche that I used to love. It used to be a scent that lingered around 20 minutes after I left my classroom, according to my classmates. Is it not possible to create the very same scent basing it on the original recipe? I would readily purchase one no matter how much it would cost. November 13, 2022 at 7:19pm Reply

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