Insensé Ultramarine (Givenchy)

I generally dislike aquatics, not because I dislike the concept of smelling like cool sea water on flowery tropical air, but because most aquatic fragrances come nowhere close to smelling like that. Insensé Ultramarine, however, takes a respectable stab at it. The salty marine accord that spikes its top and middle notes is boldly pronounced against a dense and palatable mélange of fruit and flowers. A peachy rose, circumspect jasmine, and dewy magnolia/cardamom arrangement flesh out this perfume's core, and are smudged against calone and ambergris. A bit synthetic, and more than a little saccharine, yes, but all within the bounds of the prevailing zeitgeist at the time of Ultramarine's release. This is a '90s fragrance, with all the bells and whistles that came with aromatic scents of that decade. My main gripe is that a chemical-smelling salt note in the top and middle movement of Insensé Ultramarine is too loud and unbalanced. If you think you're getting a refreshingly sweet floral aquatic for men, you're in for disappointment. If you're expecting something that smells "sporty" or metallic, look elsewhere. This is a big, bawdy, blue-dyed French perfume, disguised as a masculine, and that's reason enough for me to explore it.

So pros and cons, starting with pros: this isn't a cookie-cutter aquatic. The scent is unique, an original twist on the maritime theme. The divergences from stuff like Polo Sport (blech!) and Nautica Voyage (double blech!!) are too numerous for me to list. Guess I could mention that there's tremendous sillage and eternal longevity, although it shares those qualities with Voyage. But all things considered, I can appreciate an aquatic that smells salty and floral instead of watery, white musky, and weak.

Now, the cons: Insensé Ultramarine has never been successful in convincing me of its legitimacy as a serious perfume. It smells far too synthetic, absurdly dense, throat-catchingly bawdy, salty, loud, borderline suffocating in its pinks and yellows and dirty off-whites. There isn't a single "blue" note in there, which normally would be a good thing, except here I desperately need "blueness" to lighten the load. Why would I want a fragrance that successfully bucks the usual trends to embrace those very trends? It's weird, very weird. As in, bad weird. Not good, creative, inspirational weird. Bad, shit my pants in Walmart weird.

I gave my bottle of Insensé Ultramarine to a gay friend who moved to NYC with a manager for an upscale supermarket. Was it the Givenchy that brought about his good fortune? All I can say is, in a sensible world, not a chance.

But it's not a sensible world, now is it?

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