Friday, March 11, 2011

Byblos by Byblos: fragrance review

A proud in its weirdness creation by nose Ilias Ermenides from 1990, this fragrance is now discontinued. Why bother trace it, you might ask: I like to talk about bygones; I’m really old beyond my biological years it seems, that embellishing, idealistic reminiscence being characteristic of older people, as stated very early indeed in the work of Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics”.

And yet in the world of perfume everyone does it, I’ve noticed. Nary does one read a perfume forum where people don’t say with contempt “today’s perfumes are nothing like they used to be”. That would be a logical conclusion though, wouldn’t it? How is something so elusive by nature, so fleeting, so ephemeral, so closely tied to the zeitgeist as perfume not capable of following the times? And yet, the nostalgia about perfumes we have not even smelled overwhelms us and sometimes we let ourselves believe the golden age of Saturn has bypassed us and the future is all gloom.

is named after such a Saturnian concept of bygones, the ancient city of Phoenicia which was the centre for the trade of Lebanese cedar wood to Egypt back in 3200BC. Cedar was used in perfumery even back then, although it had other practical uses as well, such as mummification. The Phoenicians were famously the inventors of the alphabet, which was later taken by the Greeks and with the addition of vowels turned into the first real alphabet in the history of the world. Pity Phoenicians only used it for commercial purposes and not literature or science. They were the Marketing majors of the ancient world it seems, not the Bachelor of Art ones.

The fragrance of Byblos by Byblos however distances itself from both the name (which is after all merely the Italian clothing company’s brand name) and the cedarwood smell. On the contrary it gives the impression of peppery/spicy fruits! The opening of peach and cassis (a synthetic berry note) is tangy with the bittersweet grapefruit and mandarin rind smell. It goes on into a dense, rich mimosa and marigold scent that floats above the raspberry, musky base. It’s as if it invites you to bite, only to find the hotness has singed your tongue. But don’t be afraid: this is no Caron Poivre; it’s rather tame for that but still interesting. The cobalt blue bottle shaped like an ancient pyxis, a ceramoplastic type of clay vessel that was used for storing unguents or jewels, is topped with a most original stopper of a golden “plate” with an open flower in light peach pink on top.
To be sampled, at least once.

Notes for Byblos by Byblos:
Top: bergamot, mandarin, black currant, grapefruit, pepper, peach
Heart: mimosa, lily-of-the-valley, lily, honeysuckle, violet and iris.
Base: red fruits, vetiver, musk, raspberry, heliotrope.

Available as Eau de Parfum online on stockists.


  1. I wore this in the early 90's. I haven't smelled it in years, but It was fun and I rmember i loved the bottle.

    A month ago, I was getting my hair done and The shampoo the salon was using reminded me of something. It smelled like Byblos! It was Kerastase Age Recharge shampoo. I bought a bottle just for the nostalgia.

  2. K,

    ah, you do remember this one! Yup, wasn't it totally fun? It had a weird fruity peppery thing going on which I haven't really come across as convincingly again.

    Now I simply must get some Kerastase Age Recharge shampoo!! (thanks....I think! LOL)

    They wash and condition mine with something almondy at the salon, but they do not keep the bottle at eyeing distance and I always hesitate to ask about the scent in case they take me for a looney. Come to think of it, they might get actually pleased if they think I'm going to buy the things there and then.

  3. I have a old bottle of this in the eau de parfum strength. I love it. I dab some on just before bed. To me, it smells happy--like grapefruit and violets.
    I would buy more, but who knows what version I would get?

  4. Thanks for this. I love Byblos and never see much if anything about it. I have an older bottle like the one pictured. Recently, at a discount store, I found another bottle which was also called Byblos but which smells different to me. I believe it's actually the EDT version, which I never see out and about. Have you smelled it? The round bottle is encased in wood veneer-like material. I see it pictured on various retail websites but it is always out of stock. It smells less of heliotrope, mainly. That seems to be the biggest difference. It smells to me less succulent, more white floral. I like them both and find that the edt lasts quite well too. It's a drier fragrance.

  5. Sunnlitt,

    the review seems to have the fans surfaced! I'm pleased.
    Yes, it's a happy smell and one which is quite appetizing too. I should think that since it's predominantly fruity and not especially heavy on known restricted allergens (one caveat on coumarin, haven't checked percentages), it shouldn't be too messed up. Plus it's discontinued, so that points to old stock circulating.

  6. Brian,

    you're welcome. It's one of those "fly under the radar scents" ;-)

    Hmm...I recall a men's version which was indeed the EDT. Was it this one?
    (the notes don't compute though...)

  7. This was my first and favorite perfume in the early nineties. Something randomly made me think of it so I went online to see if it was available still, I'm sad to see it discontinued. Thanks for the nostalgic review!

    1. It's a lovely little hidden gem. What a glorious choice you made! It's sad they discontinued it indeed. But I believe you might find it still on ebay and such.

  8. If you live in Philadelphia they sell byblos at the local picwick pharmacy or you can purchase it on I know this to be a hundred percent true because I just purchased a bottle last month as it's my favorite perfume.

  9. Anonymous14:13

    I used wear Prescriptives Calyx and Byblos during my college days. When Clinque relaunch Calyx I went and got a bottle. I hope Byblos will be back in production some day. Thanks for your post.


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