One Way Or Another: Givenchy Pi Extreme review

     Hey, fragrance friends! Today I’m sharing a scent that landed in my mailbox many moons ago courtesy of the fine folks at LVMH Fragrance Brands. Many of you might be familiar with Givenchy’s Pi, one of those rare fragrances for men that became iconic. What’s great about Pi is that the young men who wore it upon its release in 1998 are now showing it to their own sons. In a marketplace where everything seems to fly past us in a constant stream of newness, few products are strong enough to grow roots and stay relevant, yet Pi is one such example. Its creator is Spain’s Alberto Morillas, the 2003 winner of the Prix Francois Coty. He has a knack for turning out timeless classics such as CK One, 212, Pleasures, Acqua di Gio, Flower by Kenzo, Miracle, Daisy, Tommy and many more.

     This, however, is a new branch in both Morillas’ and Pi’s history. Pi Extreme was launched in Canada late last year, but I chose to write about it now as it is getting a renewed effort at the department stores this month ($103*). Pi Extreme is the line’s first flanker since 2011’s Pi Neo Tropical Paradise, and takes it in a whole new direction. Where the original was a complicated and dense pyramid consisting of vanilla, almonds, Tonka beans and cedar among others, Extreme builds on a separate and simpler set of notes that work even better. I believe that Pi Extreme is aimed at those men who loved Pi but have outgrown it. Despite the name, Pi Extreme is still an EDT and is actually relatively tame, so office-workers can safely wear it.

© Gil Segev 2016

© Gil Segev 2016

     It took me a long time to figure out this bottle, and I’m still not sure I totally understand it. Hubert Taffin de Givenchy used to quote architecture as one of his inspirations, and when you take a look at this triangular flacon you can really see that (it is surprisingly nice to hold). The lines are crisp and very intentional, giving is a sort of massive presence on whatever surface you place it on from any angle. The color scheme and the primal shapes make me think of traditional Zodiac artwork and the old Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoons. The top arch swings back to allow you to spray the atomizer, and you can differentiate the new Pi from the old by the brown coating on the front.

     Pi Extreme is relatively simple in its notes, which I actually find a relief: leather, benzoin, and woodsy notes are all the listed ingredients. What I love about benzoin in men’s fragrances is that it lends a sour/sweet vanilla-inspired aroma with a touch of patchouli and coffee without the typical girly association of cupcakes and cookies (such as in Britney Spears’ Fantasy). All of these oriental notes are a welcome break from the fresh citrus and floral numbers we’ve come to expect in new releases. Leather is not my favorite usually as it can overpower a composition, but here it is the most subtle of the notes. It gives the woodsy notes and the benzoin a full-bodied animalism and a touch of spice (closer to Diesel’s Only the Brave Wild or Thierry Mugler’s Pure Havane than the fresher Spicebomb). This almost verges on gourmand, especially in the dry down.

     Verdict: The man who would wear this fragrance is rugged and quiet, with a sizable beard and big boots to match. He smells comforting yet distinctly masculine, an older gentleman who doesn’t have time to play around (at 19, when I wear it I feel like I am playing dress up!). Especially good for nighttime winter wear, like a well-loved flannel jacket, Pi Extreme is what you should reach for when the weather turns cold and when you grow sick of smelling “clean.” Available now online and in stores, thanks to Rita for organizing this review! I’m going to be stashing this one until next winter.

*Prices true at time of writing.

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