My Favourite Givenchy Fragrances for Men
Updated: Oct 1, 2018
I have always had a soft spot for the French fashion company Givenchy as a fragrance house. My father’s fragrance or “aftershave"of choice was Givenchy Gentleman and the name sounded exotic and classy whilst the classic black and white box pictured below was an iconic piece of design. Since discovering the hobby of fragrance collecting and appreciation I have been lucky enough to sample most of the house’s masculine scents and can happily report that there are quite a few that are highly recommendable.
These are my favourites - and whilst most are from the mid to late 20th Century I’m pleased to note that with just one exception they are all still in production and where the bottles and formulas have changed the smells are still recognisable if sometimes slightly undermined by the ravages of ingredient restrictions and cost cutting.
Working in chronological order I will highlight Monsieur de Givenchy from 1959 first. This was the first masculine fragrance from Givenchy and is a beautiful, delicate citrus chypre Eau de Toilette. The bergamot and lemon verbena opening is complimented by lavender, oak moss and woods in a manner that will remind many of Chanel’s Pour Monsieur (1959) but which has a charming and refined character of its own. The modern reissue is a little different but still very good. Performance of any version I have tried is rather modest. A perfect gentlemanly cologne for daytime wear.
In 1974 Givenchy released Gentleman. This is a much more pungent and heavy scent dominated by patchouli, leather, musk and civet. There’s a honey and lemon accord in the opening and a powerful masculine musky undertone. The addition of tarragon (which I usually think of a something to flavour chicken with) gives a welcome green herbal twist in this rather dated but unique and praiseworthy composition. Modern versions have emasculated this one somewhat so I prize my mid 90s bottle highly.
1986 saw the release of Xeryus – originally titled Keryus but changed at the insistence of Yves Saint Laurent due to the similarity of the name with Kouros. This is an aromatic fougere with a soapy and clean aura complimented by florals and the exotic twist of incense. Somewhat dark and sombre with the ability to transport one back to the 1980s just by sniffing the lid – Xeryus is a much underrated fougere scent that stands alongside Azzaro Pour Homme or Paco Rabanne Pour Homme as a classic and also has a certain daring and other worldly magic all of its own.
In 1993 the house released Insense which means “foolish” in French. Givenchy may have felt the name was apt as the fragrance was apparently not a commercial success. Another aromatic fougere – this one has a lovely array of floral notes including lily of the valley and magnolia. A fruity blackcurrant note and some vibrant fresh citrus tones combine for a masculine scent that seems to encapsulate the scent of spring blossom in the May air and never fails to put a smile on my face. Sadly Insense is discontinued and difficult and/or expensive to find on eBay.
Pi from 1998 is an out and out vanilla scent, and rather nice, but I've never quite felt compelled to buy a bottle.
The 21st century saw the release of Play and Play Intense with lamentable bottles mimicking IPods and far from terrible but ultimately underwhelming scents.
I am very fond of Gentlemen Only Intense from 2014 – a fresh yet spicy oriental woody fragrance. Mandarin, birch tar and black pepper mingle with tonka, cedar and amber for a modern yet classy smelling signature scent contender that deserves more attention in the online fragrance reviewing community.
I also really enjoy Gentlemen Absolute from 2016 where nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron combine with vanilla and sandalwood for a semi gourmand experience that stays classy and well balanced and would make a perfect evening scent for colder seasons.
There are others, such as the discontinued Greenergy, that I’d love to try and Pour Homme from 2002 that always leaves me unimpressed but may need to be re-sniffed to see what I’m missing. The recent release of Gentleman Givenchy Eau de Toilette (which is nothing to do with the 1974 release) was confusing but the Eau de Parfum flanker from 2017 is a rather good Iris based scent that gives Dior Homme Intense and Valentino Uomo Intense a run for their money.
So, for now, these are my 6 favourites from Givenchy. It’s a house that has a great history in fashion and also in fragrance and whose releases I still look out for with a slightly higher than average level of anticipation.