Launched in 1993 I remember being drawn to Insensé’s sunny yellow packaging. At the time I opted for a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent’s Jazz but I have always maintained this Givenchy eau in my periphery of perfume likes. A few years ago I found a bottle sitting in the sales cabinet of a discount fragrance store. It was a forgotten relic, one I happily uplifted. Luca Turin writes a great review of Insensè in his book, Perfumes The Guide. He points out the failure of Insensè to turn heads during the mid 90’s when other men’s fragrances were heading down a road made from spices and wood. This was a sharp contrast to Insensé’s masculine floral theme that eventually failed in the market giving way to a series of watery/melon Insensè flankers that rode on the successful coattails of Davidoff’s Cool Water. Turin suggests Insensè was too clever for its time. Perfumer Daniel Moliere is the nose behind the original that was reissued in 2007 as part of Givenchy’s Les Parfums Mythiques, celebrating 50 years as a perfume house; a curious move since stock of the original is still easily accessible in discount stores and online.
Insensé is an unusually complex fragrance. Described as an aromatic fougere it also has mossy chypre undertones and could also be described as aquatic. Beyond the citrus at the start, first impressions give you bubbling aldehydes, a punchy green floral and fruity black current. As this settles, lavender rises to prominence. There is a dry spice that carries the fragrance towards its mossy dry down and this has a dirty quality to it; a novel contrast with the clean watery notes. Age has not been kind to Insensé, its fougere structure and parts of the aquatic theme feel slightly dated, but it still is capable of standing out above others from this time.
When I first tried Insensé towards the end of 1993, I remember thinking it felt modern and new. Times have changed and today it probably smells cliché and overused. I still think it has a place on modern men, but the trick is to use it sparingly. Kept on a short leash, Insensé can draw others in as they search for the source of this familiar yet intriguing smell. Over applied and you should be prepared for comments that you smell like Glade air freshener. This is always an issue with leading perfumes built around low cost synthetic materials. They are easily appropriated into low cost industries and in time, a scent that was original, regardless of how well it was constructed, is then copied by other industries. A smell that was once associated with designer perfume, becomes an olfactory symbol of toilets, bathrooms, dishwashing, laundries and countless other areas of our lives where scent is used as a commodity.
Givenchy Insensé Ultramarine, Rochas Globe, Lagerfeld Photo, Chanel Platinum Egoiste, Carthusia Uomo.
Perfumer: Daniel Moliere (Mane)
Bottle designer: Pierre Dinand
Release date: 1993
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Floral