Crumbly marzipan cookies dusted with icing sugar à la 3.14159265. That’s Givenchy Pi.
In this post, I take you back a few decades to review an early gourmand I first discovered in a Montreal department store on a home visit between jobs here in Japan. I had a boyfriend at the time who smelled delicious and found myself roused to browse the “what’s new in fragrance” section for men. The mathematically inspired bottle of Pi was hard to miss. It came out in 1998, but to me, the bottle design speaks to a previous decade. It’s also very “now” as well. The bottle shape and particularly the texture on the back of the glass is very postmodern unless I am not as adept as I think I am at identifying trends. I’m not a huge fan of the bottle, though; I prefer more minimalist designs like this. However, I approve far more of the juice it contains, which was concocted by perfumer Alberto Morillas, who I’ve mentioned several times on my channel.
When I first smelled it, I thought indeed Pi was something I would wear, not only my guy. Years later, I found this bottle in a thrift store, and indeed I am wearing it. Back in the day, I guess I had more fixed ideas about genders and fragrances and assumed that I couldn’t possibly wear something that targets the male market. Silliness. Sadly, on that day I didn’t pick it up for my boyfriend, either, basically because of the cost to me at the time, and because I wanted to smell him in another scent I preferred for him from the same decade.
Givenchy Pi is a woody aromatic fragrance that the ladies will most certainly enjoy on their own person as well. You can luckily still find this unisex blend. It’s been re-released, but I cannot say with certainty that it’s been reformulated. Reformulation is almost always a given for one reason or another over time (and a reformulation is rarely for the better), but this does smell how I remember it. Cozy, spicy, warm, sweet, vanillic, woody, and almondy with licorice.
- Mandarin orange, tarragon, rosemary, basil,
- anise, neroli, geranium. lily-of-the-valley,
- vanilla, almond, tonka bean, benzoin, cedar
I would purchase this based on the note profile alone! Pi is technically not a gourmand, but it is indeed cozy and delicious. When I last smelled it years ago, I don’t recall picking up on the anise, but now, perhaps due to some scent training, the licorice vibe is obvious to me. But perhaps it’s that same subtle anise scent that might not make it likable for those who aren’t fans of that aromatic black root, that is licorice. Anise is not licorice, I know. They taste different, but they smell similar because they both have anethole, which is an organic flavoring compound.
Booziness, burnt sugar, and vanilla in all its permutations permeate this scent from start to finish. And mixed with the almonds, it’s beautiful, especially when the alcohol starts evaporating. This common thread is present throughout the fragrance, but more from the heart notes onward. Marzipan absolutely comes to mind. Baked brown sugar adds a sweet layer to the dark, nutty, vanilla and anise-laced tonka beans and resinous benzoin. If you’re a fan of the more expensive Spiritueuse Double Vanille by Guerlain, this relatively affordable classic might be up your alley, I think. It’s by no means a dupe, but it has the same type of vibe.
Where this well-blended and sensual fragrance leans a smidge masculine to my mind is in the opening, which is short-lived. Overall, it’s fairly linear, but the start is slightly green and barbershoppy. I’ve read some people say it’s soapy, but I disagree. It’s just got a slightly dapper, spicy green start. Although it’s unisex, I would also describe this as gentlemanly, especially when thinking of its top notes. I’d also say it’s a mature fragrance – calm and sensual rather than energetic and playful. It’s sensual, but not seductive for a first date. Think sexy with someone you are already very comfortable with. I think the person who wears this knows who they are and is open to trying new things. It’s a classic fragrance now, but it’s by no means dated or easily pigeonholed into a period. It’s very wearable today – very wearable, period. I envision it in colder months, but I think it works for different levels of formality and times of day.
I don’t think Pi is a performance monster, but it’s not the weakest blend either, especially when compared to more contemporary creations. It’s more of a fall and winter snuggle-close fragrance, meaning it doesn’t project a great deal. The sillage is nice and it will last a few hours, but far from the entire day. I’d spray it on for date night AFTER dinner.
Overall, this is an easy pull-off-the-shelf item for day-to-day wear. It’s not one of my top fragrances of all time, but I’d say it’s a solid release. I’ve decanted some of this for my reference collection, but plan to pass on the remains of this lovely scent to one of a handful of students who have won prizes for their performance in class this semester. I told them I hadn’t gone shopping yet, and upon hearing that, one particular student asked me specifically for fragrance. Students and faculty apparently know when I’m on campus by the way because they can smell me. There are worse reputations.
Pi is a commercially successful release, and as such, you can bet there are flankers. Pi Fraiche came out in 2001, Pi Metalic Collector in 2004, Pi Original Code and Pi Leather Jacket in 2006 and Pi Neo in 2008. Sadly, I’ve not sniffed those yet. As you may know, I have a bias against flankerization. But if you know any of them and think any are better than the original, I’d like to know. Comments are welcome.