Hello Old Friend: Hermès Bel Ami

I was on a mission.

I hadn’t seen Eau d’Hermès anywhere in a long time, even on the Hermès website.  So I decided to make a special trip to the boutique on Rodeo to see.  Normally I avoid that shopping street, since (A) it’s full of tourists and (B) to be completely honest there’s very little I can afford on it.  I’m more Beverly or Cañon than Rodeo.  The Gap and Baskin Robbins is more in my price range.

They indeed did have Eau, in all of its sweaty, cuminy glory.  Since it was about 80F out, I had no desire to spritz.  They also had Bel Ami, which I don’t think I’ve even thought about since the 80’s.

According to the fine folks at Basenotes, it was introduced in 1986 and has been softened by reformulations.  Normally this would have my teeth a’gnashing, but the reformulated stuff is still pretty strong.  Listed notes are lemon in the head, ylang-ylang and iris in the heart and vanilla, sandalwood and vetiver in the base.

What they don’t mention is leather, which this has in spades.  Or perhaps chaps.  They also don’t mention in that innocent looking “lemon” description that those fruits must have been plucked from Audrey II, because that opening is almost caustic.  If this is the reformulated “lite” version, I can only imagine what the original was like.  After the opening, the scent settles down quite a bit but is still not going to be confused with an eau de eau.  It’s a big, strong, expensive smelling scent that some will think of as dated.  Personally I don’t think so; is a Kelly or a Birkin bag dated?  It smells, well, dressy to me.  I would advise going very steadily on application.  Your co-workers will thank you.

It’s available at of all places Walgreens (online only) at a steep discount.  $76.29 (down from $120 at the Rodeo Drive boutique) for 3.3oz.  My sample was from the Hermès boutique on Rodeo.


  1. Hi, Tom. Glad you mentioned these because I saw them when I was poking around in our Hermes boutique a month or two ago. Gave the Eau a predictably wide birth (cumin-phobe here), but tried the Bel Ami and kind of liked it, although as you mentioned, it’s big.

  2. Why o why don’t the Hermes stores ever have samples of this one or Equipage? I liked one of them in the store on the card and thought it would be great for my husband, who wasn’t with me. But they don’t have samples, so I can’t test drive them on him.

    As I recall, the one that I loved smelled leathery but wasn’t marketed as leathery. Does that mean that it’s this one?

  3. Sounds great. I was hoping I could find a clip of countertenor Jochen Kowalski singing “Bel Ami,” but nothing on line. But here’s a version by a sophisticated female vocalist:

  4. Adore this AND Equipage. After you sniff them, all the wan, watery Fraiche, Cool, & Sport men’s fragrances seem downright laughable. Give me a man who smells like he has an opinion.

  5. At Walgreens??? 😮 Wow. Who’dathunkit? You mean…you DO mean the drugstore, right?


    I haven’t ever sniffed this. Now it’s on my must-try list!


  6. Have been curious about both of these – now even more so!

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