The house of YSL is a perfume powerhouse and has, in its back catalogue, an impressive list of classics; it’s the house of Opium, Paris, Rive Gauche, and of course, Kouros. La Maison of Jazz, Cinema and Y. Not forgetting, it’s the epicentre of blockbuster perfumes such as Black Opium – scents that have defined the olfactory landscape. When it comes to trends, Yves Saint Laurent is a brand that has always been a leader, not a follower.
There is a strength to YSL perfumes – a boldness that perfectly replicates the stylish challenge of the house’s historical garments. To bear the YSL name is to be androgynous, empowered, chic and innovative, but most of all it is to be free – free from convention, expectation and constraint. Speaking of freedom, Libre (meaning “free”) is the latest addition to the house of YSL, and it feels like a homage to the classic spirit of the brand.
What are Libre’s Fragrance Notes?
Top Notes: Mandarin Oil, Blackcurrant Accord, Petitgrain Oil and Lavandine France Oil.
Heart Notes: Jasmine Sambac Absolute, Jasmine Grandiflorum India Absolute, Lavender Oil and Orange Flower Absolute.
Base Notes: Madagascan Vanilla, Cedarwood Oil, Ambergris Accord and Musk.
How Does Libre Smell?
Libre makes a sparkling first impression, opening with a warm and glittering shower of citrus sparks. For contrast, a tart cassis effect illuminates the dewy mandarin in beams of purple light, giving it a fullness that is juicy, sharp and vivid. The cassis brings a dark backdrop to the citrus top notes in the same way that the night sky provides a stark canvas that allows the stars to shine so brightly. So far, so sparkly.
The heart of Libre is an intertwining bouquet of Moroccan orange blossom and jasmine. Together, these heady white florals create a warm intensity that is entirely abstract – it’s almost as if the flowers melt into each other, creating a brand new petal pattern. The unexpected contrast comes here in the form of lavender, which brings a transparent, herbal facet accompanied by just a hint of toasted sugar, blending seamlessly with the sweet white petals of Libre’s floral heart.
Underneath the fruit and flowers is a warm, glowing base of vanilla and cedarwood. The merging of these two notes is seamless, and together they create a sweet, plush feeling that smells luxurious and smooth. But as we know, Libre sets out to amplify these accords through contrast, and it is the soft mineral air of ambergris that provides olfactory juxtaposition. Ambergris elevates the base, allowing it to breeze through the fragrance, giving it clarity and projection. The whole thing is formed perfectly.
I find Libre to be a difficult perfume to pin down. Is it a floral? Is it amber? Is it fruity? It seems to be all of these things, but also something new too. At each stage, there is an unexpected contrast of something dark to intensify the bright character of this buoyant fragrance. Yes, Libre has a retro, 1990s vibe in that paired-back abstract way, but it also feels current too, offering a point of difference from all the sugar and syrup we’re used to in perfumery today. Libre feels chic. It feels elegant. It has a tailored signature that cuts the figure of a sharp tuxedo jacket, and while it may not challenge one’s nose in the way that Opium did, I think it’s a worthy addition to the house that Monsieur Saint Laurent would be proud of.