Fougères come in many forms, but every so often a brand makes one that smells simultaneously familiar and strange, an experience I liken to having a false memory. I'll smell an accord that I recognize, and think, "Oh yeah, I have others like this," but then in a direct comparison find that the different scents are not quite as similar as I thought. Such is the case with Givenchy's reissue of Xeryus, a "fougèriental" that was originally introduced in 1986. Every time I smell the "Les Parfums Mythiques" version, I smell a convergence of vintage Drakkar Noir and Francesco Smalto Pour Homme, with the spike lavender of the former gussied up with textured woody spices, and the latter's motor oil leather swallowed by an identical artemisia note and the hardest amber known to man. Drakkar came before Xeryus, and Smalto's scent came after, which in some ways suggests that Xeryus is a crossroads fragrance. It clearly draws from an aromatic fougère template that Pierre Wargnye put in place in 1982, but also looks forward to the complex orientals of the late eighties and early nineties. The historical reach of something like Xeryus is hard to measure, but for Givenchy to reissue it suggests it was something the brand was proud of the first time around.
I've never smelled vintage Xeryus. The man who sold me my bottle of "Les Mythiques" Xeryus told me that he has the vintage and the new version, and to him they smell identical. Perusals of threads online yield mixed opinions on this, with some feeling they're very close, and others lamenting the changing of the guard. My opinion of current Xeryus is that its strength alone is a testament to some degree of faithfulness to tradition. Its top notes are bright, garrulous, and sharp, very aromatic, a little sweet, and definitely fruity in a green/herbal way. Grapefruit, lavender, clary sage, and basil are pretty obvious from the get-go, and together they create a palpable veil of smells that settles across my face and becomes denser and heavier as the minutes tick by. An hour into wear, Xeryus becomes a powerful perfume-strength cloud, radiating a good four or five feet away from me. People notice it. I walk in and out of rooms, and my Xeryus is there to greet me when I return, like a big green puff of Bryan-shaped smoke. There are some vaguely floral notes, presumably some jasmine and just the faintest hint of violet sweetness, but I can't say Xeryus is a "floral fougère" like Joop! Jump, or even the iris-laden Green Irish Tweed. The fougère accord is simply very, very effusive, and the sweeter amber in the base is just as outgoing.
I like Xeryus, and I definitely don't get the bubblegum associations that some attribute to this reform. Its strength aside, I agree with those who think it's kind of ho-hum and unremarkable. I know that my Drakkar Noir feeling is due to an obvious use of Cypriol, a smoky, woody note that becomes increasingly obvious in the drydown, and the mixture of guaiac wood, cedar, sandalwood, pine needles, and artemisia is comparable to the lucid complexities of Francesco Smalto PH. Yet Xeryus is strange, an aggressive oriental framed by fougère elements that smell "retro" but unique, the kind of scent that might stop people in their tracks on the second pass, but not the first. I enjoy the fragrance, and I'm glad Givenchy made it their contribution to the chest-haired world of eighties aromatic fougères, but its beauty isn't quite "swoon-worthy" when taken in with its peers. People seem to feel that Xeryus is a cool weather fragrance, but cold weather flattens it for me and just makes it a vague, soapy aura. Warmer temps and humidity bring out the spicier, more textured wood notes in its heart, so I recommend trying it in spring and summer - in a very small dose (two or three sprays, max). The green notes are somewhat soapy, and definitely fresh enough to compensate for the sheer strength behind this thing.