Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013): Intensely Yours, or Not {Perfume Review & Musings} {Men's Cologne}


Invictus is from the start an intricate, intense and pushed far along association of "new freshness" and ambergris. The sensation it creates is animalic, sweaty but also fruity; many male fragrances nowadays add that fruity note which pushes them in the realm of contemporaneity where more sweetness and roundness is sought - Paco Rabanne 1 Million, to start with, and its almondy note. This fact, I noted earlier at first I think with Man by Calvin Klein. As the perfume develops, the intensity doesn't abate, picking up on the contrary... 

 Imagine harried whale hunters on a sea voyage dripping with salty sweat as they forcibly toil on the deck to harpoon back a giant of the seas while wall-like waves crash down around them. This is the kind of visual I get from the scent.

The scent imagery is actually not too far off. The design behind the scent was to recreate the concept of a sports fragrance for men. The creative team wanted it to be "heroic" not just dynamic or competitive. This is conveyed well by the composition. They also wanted to go beyond the habitual freshness accord. As written previously for them, "It is neither a transparent summer eau, nor a classical eau de Cologne but a fresh perfume offering an extremely textured sensation with a prominent character and a base which is very present. It is a perfume poised between "a slashing freshness and an animalistic sensuality," says Nyberg."

They furthermore wished to address the social fantasy that is the culture of sports. In the wake of the London Olympics, the perfumers got inspired to focus on that element of day-dreaming about sports as millions of spectators were going to be tapping into the myth and the adulation. The fragrance took two years to develop mainly by nose Véronique Nyberg quoted above working in association with perfumers Olivier PolgeAnne Flipo and Dominique Ropion.

In a further stage of its development, Invictus lets out more urbane nuances of powdery aniseed offering a gourmand edge. The whale chasers have now completed their work and are warming up with spicy sea biscuits and woolen shawls. The note of urbanity is expressed by a note of powdery labdanum and ambergris. 

The fragrance mellows more and more, starting to meld with the skin, smelling fruity, woody, with an almost pillowy-warm texture butched up by harder-smelling aromatic molecules flashing some metal. It evens prickles the nose. While you were decoding its incremental softness, you take a step back and have to realize that, in fact, the intensity of the scent is intact. Again, we go back to the elements and the sea. You thought the tempest had quieted down yet the gale winds are still here. After that point, it seems that the tension gets preserved. Your skin smells more and more of woody, rumy and dark fruits. The ambergris is quite prominent continuing to weave its subliminal tale of high sea voyages only sweetened by a cargo filled with barrels of dried fish preserved in gros-sel salt next to molasses and dried fruits. 

Showing affinities with Paco Rabanne 1 Million, a phenomenal bestseller for the brand, Invictus is likewise a graphite-smelling, urban gourmand with a metallic edge. It ventures more than its big brother in the territory of aquatics. It also takes a leaf out of another masculine bestseller, Dior Homme, in its pondering over the attraction of sueded, orris-like texture for men, and women. Invictus is more than the other colognes cited, about intensity. You cannot help but make a connection with Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens, and the much more commercial Hugo Boss by Hugo Boss in its predilection for dark woodsy fruits. 

The drydown smells like a powdery fougère of the Brut type. The vanilla, powdery musks and turn it into a powdery bomb. This is where I find the composition starting to lack in a satisfying level of nuance and subtlety. The smell feels a bit obnoxious, like a loud person. That person seems to be repeating the same tired, stereotypical and unilinear thought. In fact, the insistence becomes nauseating. One of the purposes of the perfumers was to suggest an impression of "brutal virility" and apparently it's lodged in the base most. This gets too much for me at this point and unless you like your man apish, it's going to get on your nerves too. Judging from a number of chick-magnet comments about the scent in France, it seems that Silverbacks are fully appreciated in the mainstream. 

Not being a man, I can't say whether this over-simplified ending is great for the male psyche more than the female one. Maybe if you love techno, you're going to embrace the level of olfactory pounding you'll get from the drydown which will be your sillage. Maybe you need that semblance of badass strength in your aura. And maybe that it is going to smell great on you, but on my part I'd say apply with caution. There is a fine line between intensity and a potential migraine which was crossed for me at the finish line. 

For more fragrance quotes & notes, please see here

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