When Insensé was launched by Givenchy in 1993 the typical perfume shopper (be it the man or the woman who buys his grooming products) was not ready for it. Of course, that was before the niche perfume scene exploded- Serge Lutens has only opened his Salon a year earlier and Frederic Malle was still seven years away from launching his Editions de Parfums. A decade later, a men's fragrance in the style of Insensé might have been easy to accept from a smaller house, but in 1993 when designer scents started to be all about air and water, a big aldehydic fougere with a side of oakmoss had absolutely no chance.
Insensé is too complex for its own good. The aldehydes, lavender, bergamot and assorted greens make the top notes sharp and assertive. Insensé and its wearer are here to be noticed, and those sensitive to aldehydes are likely to recoil right away, especially if they associate this fizzy note with traditional and very French feminine fragrances. To keep things masculine there's quite a bit of greenery and balsamic resin. They are probably the reason Insensé was never fully embraced and adopted by women, unlike Givenchy Pi. Insensé, marketed as a masculine, has probably been perceived as neither here nor there and just too weird to have a mass appeal.
The thing is, Insensé might be one of the best scents of the early 90s. It's beautifully done, multifaceted and interesting. It has a quiet, confident elegance that comes from the fougere (lavender and green) accord, the dark gravitas of oakmoss and a very smooth, suave base. I wear it, masculine or not, because I like it and think it smells good on me. I recently decided it was time to share with the husband, who without knowing anything about it said the opening was borderline feminine. He thinks it's nice but is not (yet) a convert. More for me.
Givenchy Insensé was repackaged, most likely (though unconfirmed) reformulated and its current production status is unclear. The EDT in the original blue and yellow packaging can still be found here and there. Don't confuse it with the many flankers that came out under the name Insense Ultramarine.
Image: Givenchy Insensé 1994 ad- couleurparfum.com