L'Eau Bleue d'Issey Pour Homme (Issey Miyake)

Discovering olfactory doppelgangers is loads of fun. Finding something for $30 that smells 90% like something for $300 is even more fun. Enter L'Eau Bleue d'Issey Pour Homme and Amouage Epic Man.

The other day I blind bought a bottle of L'Eau Bleue at a steep discount. Normally it's priced at $45 here in CT, but this bottle had been sitting around for a while, and found its way to the discount rack, priced at just under $30. Issey Miyake's fragrances are generally of high quality and usually smell pretty good, so finding a large bottle at this price isn't bad. I vaguely remember trying the original L'Eau d'Issey PH many years back, so long ago that I can't even write a review of it, but I know it smelled good. Something fresh, herbal, and citrusy, but how fresh, how herbal, how citrusy? I'd have to revisit it to tell you. One interesting factoid about L'Eau Bleue is that it's actually Miyake's second masculine fragrance, right after the original L'Eau. There was a L'Eau flanker called "Lumieres d'Issey," which was released in 2002, two years prior to L'Eau Bleue, but I don't think that one caught on, nor do I think it really qualifies as a serious entry in the line, given its flanker status (it's probably been discontinued anyway). L'Eau Bleue marks an interesting new direction that the house went in after their Japanese-lemonade debut in 1994.

I sprayed L'Eau Bleue on my arm, waited a few seconds, and took a deep whiff. Immediately, before the fragrance molecules even had a chance to filter through my nose hairs, I exclaimed out loud, "Epic Man, but no oud!" The resemblance is uncanny. Actually, it's Epic that smells like L'Eau, since Miyake's scent came first. What's even stranger is that L'Eau Bleue smells good, and Epic is just so-so. There's the exact same camphoraceous green accord, loaded with a very naturalistic rosemary note (rosemary smells a bit pine-like), juniper, cedar, and an anisic element, possibly fennel. Vick's VapoRub comes to mind, as it did with Epic. The difference is in how L'Eau Bleue's weird, balmy notes accompany rosemary, pink pepper, and patchouli, smelling like a fresh, watery accent to very literal renditions of herbs and spices, instead of sneeze-inducing muscle rub. The absence of oud proves that this sort of woody-chypre structure needs no extra medicinal qualities - the combined forces of juniper, rosemary, ginger, cypress, and pepper are medicinal enough.

There's also a prominent "fresh-fruity" note in the mix, which becomes increasingly apparent as the fragrance dries down, and I'm wondering if Jacques Cavallier dumped a thimbleful of plain old Calone into the formula. If so, it works. Its breezy sweetness permeates the base, and balances the oddness of the scent's earlier stage. It's a nice denouement for what could have been a disaster; L'Eau Bleue's pyramid is chock full of difficult notes, and it could have very easily crashed into a disgusting essential oil bar-soap mess. There's still a soapiness about it, but its herbal and woody elements remain prominent throughout the lifespan of the scent, and it never fuzzes out into something cheap. After four or five hours, it just fades away.

If Epic Man smelled more like an expensive, Creed-ified L'Eau Bleue - in other words, like itself, but with higher quality ingredients, and without any oud and frankincense - I might be tempted to buy it. I think there may be a combination of herbs, and even a geranium note that unifies these two and makes them so similar, and it's not even like Epic Man is loaded with oud. I think there's more frankincense in there. But in Epic, the camphoraceous/herbal accords smell uninspired and cheap. In L'Eau Bleue, they smell revitalized, streamlined, freshened, and very good. Miyake made this idea a versatile scent profile. They also made it a very rich scent profile, full of lushness and dimensionality. I think it's pretty mainstream, and not mind-bending in any way, but well conceived and quite memorable. If you like Epic Man and want to wear an improved version of it "on the cheap," L'Eau Bleue is for you.

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