About a year ago I smelled Derby at Bergdorf Goodman on paper and really liked it. However, Derby comes in this very unattractive wood bottle and that bothered me. Then I found out that it had previously come in the iconic bee bottle, but that had been discontinued in favor of the current bland boxy bottle. So of course I had to obsess about how to get my hands on a bee bottle. After searching around, including calling multiple Guerlain stores and reps, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to find my Derby bee bottle. So I finally gave up and moved on to my next perfume obsession.
Last month when I was in Chicago, I stopped by the Michigan Avenue Saks store where I asked the sales associate if they had any samples of Derby. Of course, I was given the “are you really asking me this” look and was told no. After wooing her with some charm, she managed to go to find a small decant bottle and she provided me with a 5ml decant of Derby which was more than I had expected. Note to sales associates: you’re not dispensing gold, just perfume.
WHAT I SMELL: Derby opens with bergamot and wonderful oakmoss (no wait, that’s carnation intended to mimic oakmoss) with a twist of lemon. It’s slightly sparkling and a bit powdery and dry. After a few minutes, Derby becomes a little more spicy… but it’s still fresh and clean. After that, Derby stays clean, but some wood is added to the spice. Supposedly there is leather there, but I have no idea where it is and figured that the cow must have run out of the door. I wish I could add more, but that’s really where Derby left me. It’s pleasant and pretty subdued and I found it to be a safe scent for men who don’t want to smell “out there.”
Derby Notes from Fragrantica:
Top notes are bergamot and orange; middle notes are spices, carnation and exotic woods; base notes are leather, birch, patchouli and woody notes
WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME: Perfect for jeans, a white shirt and a blazer…easy, breezy casual, but looking great.
THREE ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE DERBY: safe, neat, easy
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT DERBY: A Perfume Review, Scentrist.com
BOTTOM LINE: To me this smells a lot like my vintage Givenchy III, except with a slightly more masculine tinge. I would like to smell the vintage Derby because I have heard that it’s a bit beefier and contains actual oakmoss. The carnation mimics the oakmoss well, but it’s not the same as the real thing. Do I want a full bottle of Derby? No. Wait…if someone has a bee bottle that they want to get rid of, I would gladly take it!!
- Bone Rating: 3.5 out of 5 possible bones
- Scent: Woody
- Classification: Masculine
- Expense: $245 for 100ml EdT
August 9, 2013 at 11:49 am
Yes! The comparison with Givenchy’s III is apt insofar as that rare best a male ‘near-chypre’.
I must say I get an awful lot more leather than you, but of the birch tar variety that to my nose can sometimes blend into the peppery-ness of the hottest carnations (as in vintage En Avion by Caron).
I skin or climate thing I guess, but I found that Derby made definite if understated statement on me. In fact I really rather enjoy it!
I’m sure you’ve already given it a very thorough testing, but my experience has been that it is a ‘grower’ rather than a ‘grabber’.
Oh, and as to the bee bottle, did it ever come in one? I now the female Parisiennes are packaged thus, but I remember derby in its own individual flacon in the days before Guerlain started herding things into more standard packaging.
The Perfumed Dandy
August 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm
My dear Dandy – it’s funny that these Guerlains I am reviewing are wearing on me much differently than on others. There is no leather whatsover on my skin at all. Which is fine because I rarely like the leathers. As for the bee bottle, I believe that there was a small window in which it was available…post the more square and rectangle vintage version and right before this current bottle. You can find a pretty picture of a bottle on Basenotes here: http://www.basenotes.net/t/272364/today-i-bought-march-2011
August 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm
I can’t help thinking that one of the beauties of Guerlain’s perfumes and a testament of their great complexity is the fact that they can wear so differently over time and on different skin.
I love leather, so perhaps I was sniffing for it… willing it to be.
Just as I am willing that gorgeous bee bottle to be in my possession right now!
The Perfumed Dandy
August 9, 2013 at 11:20 pm
Gosh, it sounds gorgeous on you, Beau! Birch tar, and the hottest carnations…… mmmm. You’ve just pushed me into making sure Derby is the next Guerlain sample that I order! It certainly sounds better on you that it does on poor Mr. Hound.
August 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm
This is so completely different to my experience. Now you must give this a try K to see what side of the spectrum you show up on. It’s nice on me, but not that nice!
August 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm
The Dandy does have something of a leather fetish…. my family owned a tannery for a number of centuries I discovered just recently so I believe it must be in the genes.
This and my fondness for carnations, perhaps makes me more apt to seek them out and smell them when sniffing a scent.
derby is a little restrained, but I like to think in a passionate man in a starched white shirt sort of a way.
The Perfumed Dandy
August 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm
“you’re not dispensing gold, just perfume” Well haven’t we all wanted to say that to those sales associates who think they Are dispensing gold!! That line cracked me up so much!!! I tried Derby years ago, and I honestly do not remember it leaving an impression.
August 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm
Tora – it’s lovely, just not LOVELY. Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad the post gave you a chuckle 🙂
August 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm
This is Jin’s favourite of all the Guerlain offerings. It was a very near buying experience in Paris. He was given a generous sample and every now and again he asks me if I love what he’s wearing and it’s Derby. On his slightly pepper and spice amping skin it is magic.
August 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm
“I have no idea where it is and figured that the cow must have run out of the door.” — Bwhahahahahaha! I had such a loud cackle snort at that, I woke up The Hairy German and got a filth look. What a line. You really have a spectacular, dry, witty sense of humour. As for “you’re not dispensing gold, just perfume” I read it with the inclusion of a slightly snotty, “honey” tossed in (“you’re not dispensing gold, honey, just perfume”) and laughed even more.
I must say, the perfume sounds rather bland and uninteresting on your skin, but I know a number of guys who find the fragrance (even in its modern, bastardized, non-vintage version) to be their favorite offering out of the more modern Guerlains. It really must come down to skin chemistry. I’ve long wanted to try Derby, and StC has the “re-issue” version that always tempts me. One day, one day…. 🙂
August 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm
I also loved these two places in the post. Thank you for the laugh! 🙂
August 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm
August 11, 2013 at 2:14 am
I am going to a big Guerlian presentation and event at Neiman’s S.F. next Saturday so I will be asking them if they have Derby for me to smell. We shall see what then transpires! Lovely review.
August 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm
A Guerlain event, how fun. What’s the focus of the special day?
August 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm
I am not too clear on just what it is all about, but I was told there may be some new perfumes to smell. ??
August 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm
I wonder if its part of their Orchidee Imperial skin care event. I received an announcement from Bergdorf Goodman for the same weekend in NY. I’m sure they’ll give you a wonderful facial…and then you can go on from their to fragrance heaven. Have a wonderful time!
August 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm
Oh I do think that IS what it is! But they told me that the perfume expert will be there and I have a consultation with her. We shall see what transpires.
August 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm
With my complicated as is relationships with Guerlain I wasn’t concentrating too much on their masculine offerings but, as a side note, I wanted to mention that those “wooden” bottles were the only attractive quality for me since (I know, I’m risking my perfumista card here) I do not find those “bee bottles” attractive or desirable.
August 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm
Hmmmm, I have to admit that the plastic top bee bottles for the EdTs are cheap and icky looking. The bee bottles that are one step up and much nicer and intriguing to me. The wooden bottle looks like some kid made it in shop class 🙂
February 23, 2015 at 10:53 am
Terrible (modern) bottle, but great scent. I preferred a lot the old “Eagle” bottle by Robert Granai.
February 23, 2015 at 8:36 pm
I agree Andre, the new bottles are horrid. They obviously are trying to make them more accessible to younger men and “men” with their woody exteriors. They just leave me cold. But as with you, I agree, a great scent. Thanks for stopping by!