Givenchy Insense is a strange one, and always reminds me of the kind of risks designer houses used to take with their releases. I admire Insense, but I have to admit it isn't something I reach for often.
Basically, it is an extremely dry, waxy, green floral woody fougere, significant creatively in that it overdoses the aldehydes and uses sharp astringent notes to make the green floral accord so scorchingly radiant and soapy that they become unrecognizable as flowers, and turn into something else, something men at the time of its release would feel comfortable wearing. A brutalist floral.
Sometimes I find this jarring personality totally intriguing and satisfying, calling to mind an image of a crystal clear swimming pool, immaculately maintained, sitting deserted in the middle of the Sahara with the sun beating down on it. Sometimes, it reminds me of a harsh soap, and bubbles (i.e., the bubble juice you use to blow bubbles).
The blinding spotlight calms down a little heading through the base, and it's more of a moody woody fougere. It is in the arena of YSL Jazz or Platinum Egoiste, both of which are also very "bright" but also bone dry, dead serious fougeres. Guerlain Coriolan and Rochas Globe also echo this style with some additional flourishes.
Insense is the most uncompromising and challenging expression of this early 90s mini trend of dry, serious masculine florals, and as interesting as it is, it can be a demanding and difficult wear. Still, I give it a thumbs up for art.
This is just an okay perfume. Full stop. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, you might want to know what the hype surrounding Givenchy Insensé (1993) is all about, but unfortunately I can't accurately answer that. For you see, the megalithic reputation this has earned among guys in the fragrance community as a lost and misunderstood masterpiece is mostly misinformation, congratulatory echo-chamber chest-bumping between "FragBros" in the know, YouTube influencers looking to increase their own profile by jumping on a "hype train", and perfume resellers looking to capitalize. Once you swirl all this madness together, you end up with what was once a failed mainstream designer masculine perfume doomed to a slow death at discounters selling for prices well above new niche releases, hoarded by eBay sellers and collectors who drank the Kool-Aid alike. What I do know is this: The early 90's was a period of transition away from heavy, overtly-masculine perfumes for guys thanks to the popularization of a few breakthrough aromachemicals that allowed for fresher, cleaner styles to take over. This in turn when combined with a progressive unisex-leaning "less-is-more" fashion sense after a decade of sexual polarization and decadence meant designers were scrambling for lighter perfumes with more-ambiguous gender lines, which is how something like Givenchy Insensé came to market. Many people cite this as the first men's floral, which is poppycock when you consider the existence of 19th century men's favorites like Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840) or masculine-market rose perfumes like Aramis 900 (1973). In fact, florals for men had been on the rise for some time through the 80's, just previously swaddled in musk like with Salvadore Dali pour Homme (1987), but fresher varieties had started popping up with entries like Claiborne for Men by Liz Claiborne (1989) and 1881 pour Homme by Nini Cerruti (1990).
I think where Insensé gets off being called the first men's floral may have more to do with it being advertised directly as a floral perfume for men by Givenchy themselves, plus this house axes a lot of things a la Gucci and that generates fear-of-missing-out hype itself, which leads to some tall tales from sellers to boost prices. Perfumer Daniel Moliere certainly doesn't have the prolific resume of other contemporaries, but Santos de Cartier (1981) and the later Tam Dao by Diptyque (2003) are minor classics among aficionados so he seemed a logical choice for such an unorthodox exercise. For the most part, Insensé reads as a mildly soapy and coniferous white floral chypre, like someone took an unused formula from the golden era of sharp austere women's chypres (the 1970's) and stuffed in some fir, a bit of castoreum, and sent it back out as masculine. Put another way, if you took something like Chanel Cristalle (1974) and removed the fruity top notes, added some iris, and stuffed in a watered-down version of the base from concurrently-released Rochas Globe (1990), you'd end up with Insensé. That is to say, this opens with aldehydes and a sharp bergamot paired with dry lemon, black currant, mandarin, and a bit of English lavender, before descending into classic white floral territory. Once there, you get a heart of muguet, magnolia, mastic, iris, and neroli touched by a bit of basil. The base is oakmoss, fir balsam, castoreum, styrax, and pine. The overall scent profile is floral, very clean, crisp, sharp, a bit synthetic, and with just enough musky undertone for skin retention but not enough to crank up the virility, making you feel like you're taking a walk in the woods during the spring bloom but in VR instead of the real world. I can see where the minds of Givenchy and Moliere were at with Insensé, but the average Joe just wasn't ready for this sort of thing yet, which is why it failed to sell. Still, performance wise, you get quite the beast in the longevity department, and Insensé can survive showers without extra scrubbing. Thankfully projection isn't quite as monstrous and the profile is clean enough for use in an office or formal settings, but Insensé has zero sexiness to it as it is just a prim and proper floral chypre wearing a man's suit.
I like this and I'd wear it if it was cheap, but with so many other masculine floral options from this time period of similar quality still within reasonable price ranges, I'd be loathe to pay near-Creed prices for an old failed Givenchy masculine released on the wrong side of the Calvin Klein cK One (1994) unisex craze, just because a few YouTubers called it buried treasure and everyone panic bought it. Givenchy sure were quick to make more-conventional aquatic flankers of this costly exercise to try and save a little face, and they're still easily available despite also being discontinued, because the hype never extended past the pillar release. Had this been released in the latter half of the 90's and not been labelled as something "for him", it might have been kept on the books, at least until IFRA banned lyral and lilial in 2019, but Insensé is far from the first floral for men nor is it something I'd think most guys in "the game" of collecting fragrance would even be into these days. For the most part this is one for the trophy hunter, or the kind of guy that pays crazy prices for bottles of Patou pour Homme (1980), Chanel Bois Noir (1987), Gucci Envy for Men (1998), or Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002) so he can photograph his bottles with Instagram filters, pretentious watermarks, and post shots of himself spraying it with a smarmy cocksure grin. For everyone else, Givenchy Insensé is a strange misfire and for a select few, an odd treat if it can be had without much difficulty. I suggest looking into many of the more "butch" women's chypres from the mid 20th century if the smell of Givenchy Insensé is appealing to you, as they'd be far cheaper and easier to track down, plus deliver comparable results and perhaps even richer, more satisfying dry downs, as this is still a 90's perfume full of chemical magic. Why everyone is so jazzed about this perfume is beyond me, but that's the power of suggestion for you, especially in an age when information is served fast and loose digitally by unverified sources that get a pass on good faith for being popular, as if the whole world has been reduced in the online space to a never-ending high school lunch period. This Insensé feels more like nonsensé to me, but see for yourself if you dare spring for the prices it commands. Neutral.
Ahead of its time for a masculine fragrance,floral notes of Mimosa and Lily of the valley,clean and fresh,herbal,woody unisex, many similar notes to Givenchy III which is why I love it! (It actually layers well with Givenchy Gentleman). Agree with earlier review that its a very Spring like fragrance.Hard to find now.Shame.
One of the best masculine floral fragrances ever created and truly a 'Spring in a Bottle" fragrance. To me, it's a work of art and what a real masterpiece should smell like when it comes to vintage fragrances for men. Before Insense, I never though a floral fragrance could be masculine. But somehow Givenchy pulled it off and blended it perfectly with lilly of the valley done in a manly way, and perhaps the best Firbalsam dry down in the business. It does have a tad sourness to it in the middle notes, as it was intended, and that's a bonus for those that love their fragrance to have some rough edges while being smooth at the same time, if that makes sense. Longevity is decent at 6+ hours. Projection and sillage is rather modest. And that's how I prefer my fragrances.
The Youtube fraghead 'Scent Land' did a wonderful review on this beauty, and it inspired me to hunt down a bottle. From the very first sniff I feel in love, and it immediately reminded me of Spring flowers and Easter celebrations. It's my Easter staple and on the first few warm days of Spring. Nothing will ever replace it for those occasions. Thanks Chris!
Insense is a very frustrating fragrance to me. It has one of the best openings ever, a fantastic lily of the valley note, (one of my favorite flower that kept me entranced as a kid and now) which combined with the aldehydes and the coniferous notes makes a highly original, satisfying experience. Add to that the mastic (lentiscus) another delightful scented memory from growing up in the south of France, and I just love it. For a couple of hours... After which It just starts to feel grating and three hours in I just HAVE to have it off. It makes me feel just about sick.
Its also very potent so even minimal application tend to yield the same result.
The very best and very worst in the same scent, something unique to Insense in my limited experience.
This is nice. It almost smells too familiar. To me, it smells like an Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) store. I believe it was a concentrated version of A&F Fierce that they used to scent their shops. I feel like Chanel's Platinum Egoiste and Bleu de Chanel also capture some of that A&F smell, but then I don't smell any overlap between Insense and the Chanels.
Aside from the memory of A&F, this strikes me as a floral frankincense. It has a unisex, or even metro-sexual feel.
It also reminds me of lotion, maybe sunscreen.
I'm giving this a thumbs up. I think it smells nice and I like it. I could wear it and enjoy it. But it doesn't rise to the level of something I would want to buy. For Givenchy, Gentleman and Monsieur de Givenchy are a couple I have in my collection, but this one and Xeryus are ones that I don't like quite as much.