Yesterday, I pulled out Insensé again, and was struck, again, by what a fantastic smell it is. I'm happy to report that the reviewers on basenotes.net generally agree, ringing in with only four negative reviews out of 25. Of the remaining 21, only 5 are neutral. These are uncommonly favorable ratios for the famously tough basenotes community.
As JaimeB points out, the name is French for "foolish", "senseless" or "insane". All of these in their own ways seem perfectly apt to describe this fragrance. How foolish of Givenchy to think that a floral for men would perform in the marketplace. How senseless the ambivalent reception by the general male nose when his choices at the time otherwise included watery aquatics and pale citrus nonsense. To me, as apparently to JaimeB, Insensé is insanely, even addictively, wearable.
I generally like Vibert's reviews, which is to say I find myself appreciating his tastes, even when I don't agree with them. I appreciate, for instance, his take on Insensé. He sees it essentially as a galbanum-driven aldehyde for men. Instantly, I see his point, and the comparison to Chanel No. 19 makes perfect sense. "A floral fragrance that remains spare, dry, flinty, and uncompromising from beginning to end," he says. As he also points out, those aldehydes persist into the drydown, steering the fragrance unwaveringly. If, hearing this, you're apt to peg Insensé as a sort of pine-heavy aromatic, make a quick comparison with a cologne like Romeo Gigli's Sud Est, which has none of Insensé's interest in floral accents and illustrates with visceral economy the role florals play in the latter's composition. Vibert detects "bone dry rose" and "stark lavender" deep in the heart of the cologne, whereas I'm not really feeling it. I smell bone dry iris and the oily contribution made by lily of the valley, and enlisting this dynamic duo to screw with galbanum's already resinous head seems a master stroke to me.