It’s amazing that nearly 50 years after its initial release, Givenchy’s first fragrance for men, Monsieur de Givenchy, is still available, still selling, and still perfection. A hesperides lover’s dream come true, Monsieur is composed of bergamot, lemon, lime, petitgrain, lavender, clary sage, orange, basil, musk, civet and cedar. Don’t worry — if it sounds herbal, it is, but only slightly.
Monsieur opens with a bright, fresh citrus punch that is quickly restrained by a green bouquet of sage and basil. At this point, I’m reminded of the opening of classic Eaux de Cologne like Eau de Guerlain or Eau de Patou. As the top and middle notes relax, the fragrance settles into a soapy lavender and musk with warmer hints of cedar and civet. It is these basenotes that set Monsieur apart from many other scents of its time, such as Dior’s Eau Sauvage (1966), regarded by many as the best men’s fragrance of the 20th century, though I vehemently disagree. Whereas Sauvage ends in a green earthy note of vetiver accented by basil, Monsieur develops into something warmer, richer, and to my nose, far preferable.
The fragrance sheds its citrusy Eau de Cologne persona after about 45 minutes when the cedar and musk really begin to shine, though it never totally loses the slightly powdery soapiness of the lavender. At this stage I’m reminded of Acqua di Biella No. 1, though without the minty highlights. The petitgrain remains a strong contender throughout and the entire effect remains on my skin for about 3 hours, not tremendous as far as longevity goes, but definitely satisfactory. This last phase of the development is my favorite as the sweet musk and cedar really open on the skin. Perfection.
To offer additional praise, Monsieur is easy to wear, relatively inexpensive, and great for any time of year, and any occasion. The new packaging and re-designed bottle (see photo above) bring it into the 21st century where hopefully it will continue to thrive as an example of the early genius of the house of Givenchy.