Y Vintage Parfum (Yves Saint Laurent)

The first letter in a long, illustrious scented narrative spanning almost five decades, Y -- Yves Saint Laurent's inaugural perfume -- must have seemed like the last word in modern chic when it debuted in 1964. Feminine, stylish, yet just a touch unpredictable, it calls to mind the fashion models of that era: young women of expressive pose but pensive mien, whose direct unsmiling gazes broadcast a clear challenge to the spectator. Don't assume you know us, those eyes say. And keep your hands to yourself.

Impassive, yes; passive, no.

For such a woman, a spruce and self-possessed chypre made serious by a nice dose of galbanum-- but not too serious, as a honeyed note of yellow plum demonstrates. Perfumer Michel Hy (co-author of Fille d'Eve and eventual creator of smell-alikes Calandre and Rive Gauche) judged his audience perfectly; Y must have suited the zeitgeist to a T.

And now? Sure, why not? So long as women still struggle to be judged for their intellects rather than for their curves, we will always need smart chypres like Y-- the olfactory translation of "Eyes up HERE, fella."

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, peach, Mirabelle plum, galbanum, gardenia, honeysuckle, tuberose, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian rose, iris, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, labdanum, benzoin, styrax, civet