Paco Rabanne Invictus Onyx (2020) is literally just the original Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013) in fancier packaging. When I originally reviewed the first of this line, I was sort of more interested in getting my mind into the headspace of all the controversy within the online fragrance community surrounding Invictus than properly reviewing the fragrance itself, which is perhaps a character flaw of mine to let my sardonic side take pot shots at the herd mentality that usually spawns from peer pressure 'round these parts. Invictus deserves better, and since we basically have a new version of the same fragrance, you'll get a new version of the same review free from all that. I still think Invictus is "just fine", and have come to enjoy it more at times than I'd care to admit, but after living with it for some time, can sort of see why its DNA is absolutely everywhere and everyone is trying to cash in on their take of it, even if Invictus isn't actually Paco Rabanne's top selling men's fragrance. The distinction for the honor of top seller actually goes to Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008). The phenomenon that is Invictus actually starts properly with Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011), which was the first commercial men's fragrance to have any resemblance to this DNA. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Homme (2012) came next, putting a luxury refinement on the sweet orange blossom tonka and ambroxan vibe in the Gucci, then the dream team who worked on Invictus took that refinement and re-commercialized it with heavier sweeteners, more ambroxan, and added a virile kick to justify the macho sport cup bottle. Paco Rabanne certainly knows how to make a ridiculous bottle, that's for sure
Inside the bottle of Invictus Onyx you'll find nothing more than the most-recent formulation of the original Invictus juice, so the opening is still aldehydes and grapefruit, orange, and ozonic notes that sweeten up with ethyl maltol and get aquatic with a soup of calone-1951 and dihydromyrcenol. The middle is still a huge hedione and bay mix that has this fruity shower gel thing going on too, and the base is a very mineralic musky representation of ambergris powered by ambroxan and then adulterated with other things to make it feel like real ambergris. Patchouli and the smokiness of guaiac wood exist here too, and the whole thing comes across fruity, fresh, mineralic, musky, and a bit sweaty. Olivier Polge teamed up with Anne Flipo and Dominique Ropion, the latter two who have played with some form of these accords since Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme (2006), and who would play with them again in Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme Ultime (2016), then Ropion alone in Y by Yves Saint Laurent (2017) and Y Eau de Parfum (2018). Veronique Nyberg is the odd one out here, but she had a part to play too no doubt. Invictus smells like every young man wearing "cologne" who has ever crossed your path in the 2010's, and perhaps that's the point. The dynamic of clean and musky effectively made it Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981) for late Millennial and early Gen Z men, and can be a signature for year-round use in all situations with stellar performance. I still think if you're going to wear something like this, you should ignore all the hate and leave the clones alone, as nothing does what this does better than it does, regardless whether or not someone likes the thing it does. Invictus Onyx is really just collectable packaging at this point, so you don't need this bottle if you just intend to wear Invictus as a regular dumb-reach scent.
However, there will be some who maintain that this is a distinct flanker with subtle, but noticeable differences, as is the solipsistic madness of isolated internet-trained fragrance "gurus" in the community. With Valentino, Jimmy Choo, John Varvatos, YSL, Carolina Herrera, and countless others doing their own take on this style, it's easy to get burned out, furthered by the existence of actual clones to boot. What makes Invictus so likeable and likely profitable is it makes that perfect marriage of "blue fragrance" freshness, the fruity bubblegum sweetness carried over from some youth-oriented 2000's fragrances, and then stuffed in that locker room virility, all while banking on star players like grapefruit, ambroxan, hedione, tonka, and other evergreen notes in mainstream masculine perfumery. Invictus was just the perfect storm of artistic iterative refinement, consumer data-powered research and development, plus the modern fragrance-wearing man's obsession with performance all in one scent that works for guys 14 to 44. Most designer copycats at least seem to try imitating Invictus Aqua (2016/2018) rather than bog-standard Invictus, as the Aqua flanker is a bit softer on the mineralic musk and thus more palatable to a wider audience than the original. In summary, this stuff has become one of nü-powerhouses of the 2010's alongside Dior Sauvage (2015), and this fancy packaging redux is just further proof of its importance to the mainstream men's perfume market. Assuming you're okay with its extreme commercial glossiness, ubiquity, and gauche packaging, Invictus Onyx is still a pretty easy, satisfying wear, just not to a black tie event, job interview, or first date, pretty please. Thumbs up.