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Yves Saint Laurent – Rive Gauche: Overview, Smell, Notes & More!

Meaning “left bank,” Rive Gauche was named in honor of the once student-dominated Parsian location that hosted the company’s (and country’s) first first ready-to-wear line. 

The fragrance single-handedly changed the fate of all aldehydes scents before and after it.

Even the most popular aldehydes fragrance of all time, Chanel No 5, is sometimes considered a level below this.

That might seem like a bold proclamation, but the scent revolutionised the industry. 

It’s indeed something to admire.

And admire we will!


  • Brand: YSL
  • Fragrance: Rive Gauche
  • Release: 1971
  • Gender: Women
  • Perfumers: Jacques Polge and Michel Hy


  • Top Notes: Aldehydes, Green Notes, Honeysuckle, Bergamot, Lemon, and Peach
  • Heart Notes: Rose, Iris, Geranium, Ylang-Ylang, Lily-of-the-Valley, Jasmine, Magnolia, and Gardenia
  • Base Notes: Oakmoss, Tahitian Vetiver, Musk, Sandalwood, Amber, and Tonka Bean

What Does Rive Gauche Smell Like?

The opening scent smells like a clear blue sky on a sunny day: fresh and clean.

The citruses (bergamot, especially) add an energizing layer of freshness, though it’s not as vibrant as the aforementioned Chanel.

This creates a cool, calm aroma with a light sweetness in the undertone.

If the aldehydes are the star of this scent, the white florals hold the silver medal.

The rose, in particular, is the most pronounced flower here, highlighting a powdery, feminine feel to the aroma.

The florals blend together to form a strong, aromatic heart.

This slowly shifts into a mossy, earthy base that’s well accentuated by the likes of oakmoss and good-quality vetiver while amber and tonka bean finish things off on a warm, soft note.

However, despite this, this perfume still comes off as fairly cold compared to other products on the market.

It’s not warm and fuzzy or even sweet.

More like sharp, edgy, and avant-garde.

It’s certainly a unique fragrance.

If it didn’t push the boundaries of the art of perfumery, it wouldn’t be here in the first place.

How Long Does It Last?

The perfume is an eau de toilette that lasts for about 6-10 hours.

Sillage is good, and depending on the age group of those around you, you can get compliments.

It’s not popular with the younger generations so it might come off as old or even grandma-ish in a room full of teenagers!

When Should You Wear It?

This product is certainly one for the day.

Seasons wise, summer is the least appropriate time while fall is the best.

Winter and spring are tied in second place.

Where Should You Wear It?

Considering its general lack of youthfulness, mature settings such as your workplace can be a great time to use it.

The longevity is also perfect so you won’t have to keep reapplying it.

Presentation and Value For Money

Speaking of YSL’s vision, the perfume was created for free and independent women.

The determined city girl with the purpose of making it on her own.

It’s worth noting that it was reformulated in 2003 under Tom Ford.

Alongside perfumer Daniela Andrier, he recruited Jacques Hy, son of one of the original perfumers.

This was probably done to preserve the essence of the original formulation.

The iconic, blue, metallic bottle arouses mixed emotions.

Some see it as a work of art, while some equate metal to low-quality packaging.

You can still find it in some stores today, but it’s almost impossible to find the original.

A 100ml bottle of the 2003 version can be scooped up for around $70-$85; not bad for a classic.

The Bottom Line

If you want to travel to the Northern part of France, a waft of this will quickly transport you to the YSL boutique in bohemian Paris.

It might not be one for the modern audience, or a particularly fresh and modern item, but it’s revered enough to have a core fanbase today; something that might continue for years to come.

Perfumes that Smell Like YSL Rive Gauche

Besides notable mentions like Arpege by Lanvin and Farouche by Nina Ricci, the fragrances below are some of the closest scents you can find in a saturated market often lacking great perfume.

1. Calandre (Paco Rabanne)

Calandre, by the perfumer Michel Hy, is a crisp, sometimes sharper alternative.

It’s still aldehydes-based, but it’s greener than the YSL bouquet.

One thing to note here is that Pierre Dinand designed the bottles of both these two scents.

2. L’Interdit (Givenchy)

Released in 1957, this aldehydic floral perfume is a more feminine alternative.

It’s a sweet, flowery scent that comes off as fruity and powdery.

Notes like rose and bergamot are also present here.

3. Climat L’Edition Mythique (Lancome)

Climat L’Edition Mythique is a modern substitute, released in 2015.

It’s woodier but the product’s aldehydes are prominent enough for it to deserve an honorable mention.

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