There is a bit of history behind Yves Saint Laurent M7 that might be useful to understand before I begin a review of the fragrance, along with a disclaimer that your mileage may vary.
This history of this fragrance takes us back to 2002 when the house was sold to the Gucci group. At the time, the design head of the house was Tom Ford, and as part of resurrecting both brands, Ford took over the design work for YSL. Among the releases he commissioned for the house was Yves Saint Laurent M7. The M7 monacre represents the seventh male fragrance that the design house had commissioned, and it was among the first fragrances in which Ford took a designer’s interest. Although it’s still minimally available online (provided you hunt for it), that availability appears to be vanishing quickly. This leaves the only reliable source as Yves Saint Laurent’s own e-commerce site.
Commissioning a signature fragrance for a major designer comes with some level of chance, since these often are fragrance note decisions that are handed over to a larger manufacturing concern for mass production and retail. Most will never have a strength more than eau de toilette, price points hit a sweet spot below the $80 mark, and the formulation is generally skewed toward the masses. The results often are hit-or-miss and reflect the fragrance trends of the time. In this regard, M7 is no exception, although some scents do better at withstanding the test of time.
Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002): As one of the first commissions by Tom Ford, M7 is dressed in a very minimalist burnt red bottle without naming adornments. It comes primarily as either a 50 or 100 ml EDT.
The top notes are on par with the period, and consist of rosemary, bergamot and mandarin orange, leaving a somewhat sharp presence highlighted by the rosemary notes. This subsequently dries into a heart of Oud and vetiver, with amber and a very powdery musk finishing the composition. Appreciating this requires understanding that this is one of the first widely commercial fragrances to leverage at least some quantity of Oud, and while not the first (perfumers such as Amouage and Montale Paris in addition to other niche houses take that honor), it represented some introduction to a wide audience. Ford knew something, and perhaps this was a good test run of how it could be employed as an element.
It’s too bad, however, that the Oud is barely noticeable and contributes very little to the overall composition. In the minute concentration and diminished quality used, it is far overpowered by both the sharpness of the top notes and overshadowed by the base of musk. As it opens and unfolds, there is some limited transformation between stages, although the heart notes feel more like a milepost on the highway that you’ve passed at high speed: it’s barely noticed. Only the vetiver greenness stands out as a transition, the Oud leaving little impression.
It might be a bit unfair to compare a mass-market fragrance containing Oud as a note to more formidable niche scents since its inclusion may have been ambitious to consider on this level. Oud is not a cheap element, so the choice to use it in composition is a stretch that misses the mark for us. Due to the seemingly low presence, the wearer is left with a scent that relies heavily on a synthetic amber and musk at dry-down once the sharp top notes have dissipated. The outcome is a powdery fragrance that seems more a nod to a much older clientele than a fragrance designed for a younger mass-appeal.
It also misses the mark for us on that count. The result is a very incomplete composition that maintains unremarkable longevity (6 -8 hours), strong projection (provided you enjoy sharp and powdery sillage) but finds itself lacking in execution. While the ambition should be acknowledged, the outcome is less than the surrounding hype. Not surprising for a designer-commissioned fragrance for mass-market, but still disappointing.
Rating: 1.5/5. Not recommended. This is simply dreadful as a result. The effort to present a contemporary fragrance seems offset by too much of a brush stroke of powder that smells more like the aftermath of a barbershop visit than the sensual experience alluded through its promotion. No bottom-line is needed here, unless we want to be redundant in our disappointment.