Wore the vintage Givenchy gentleman today on one arm, the currently available stuff on the other. I wanted to see how they stacked up, and if there was a difference. There WAS, and I will explain below (after a short preface.)
First, one of the things that any "long term" fragrance fan will tell you is that you very quickly have to learn to take just about everything other fragrance fans tell you with a grain of salt. Perhaps it is something inherent to the evocative nature of scent itself, but almost without fail the longer distance between a positive scent experience and its failure to reoccur (for whatever reason, but in this case mostly because the scent gets discontinued) causes that experience to be aggrandized unrelated to the ACTUAL quality of the experience itself.
What this means is that in only two of the perhaps twenty times in which I've encountered a discontinued or vintage fragrance that was DROOLED over or lusted after on fragrance forums, has it been anything but a disappointment, a feeling of wasted time, or just plain "meh."
Not that I didn't "like" the scents; often I did. BUT, hearing people talk about how "wondrous" they were, how amazing the past was compared to the drivel produced today, etc etc etc made the whole thing sound great. Going through the effort to locate a bottle, often at great time and or expense, and I went, "this is IT?" I would rather have just put the money down on a scent available I knew I'd like.
Giorgio Red for men, Havana, Yohji Pour Homme, Guerlain Derby, Nicole Miller for Men, Jil Sander Feeling Man, Chanel Bois Noir (sacrilege!) just to name a few. While some of these have been rereleased, keep in mind that in 2005 or so, people were paying $200-300 for Red or Havana. They are good scents, but they are NOT that great, and almost without fail there is a currently available "substitute" that is just as good, or better.
The two exceptions? Balenciaga Pour Homme and the vintage Givenchy Gentleman. They are actually fairly similar to me, in type. Both are big, sweaty, boozy powerhouses of stink. The current Givenchy Gentleman doesn't feel like a reformulation (or not much), but it is much lighter, crisper, and with less of the funk and dirt of the original. Or, looking at the scent pyramid for it, it appears that the current version highlights the upper notes (tarragon/cinnamon/vetiver... and civet) while the original emphasizes the darker bottom (deeper civet, leather, patchouli, with a hint of cinammon).
The new is more "kouros with patchouli." The older is more "bottle of bourbon poured over an unbathed spice seller." Older has a dirty, sexy, smooth depth and richness, while the newer has an almost sour sort of crispness... almost a "fizz." To put it less delicately, the older has none of that "piss note" that people get from Kouros, from Moustache, and from the current Givenchy Gentleman. The newer has the piss note, and (complete speculation) I wonder if this is due in part to (1) a different concentration or "type" of synthetic civet, and/or (2) a combination of said civet with more "crisp" notes like vetiver and cinammon, rather than the deeper leather/patchouli notes.
If new is "Kouros avec patchouli," the old is almost like "Idole Lubin with stink." As they dry down, however, the same patchouli heart with civet comes through in both, though again "lighter" feeling in the newer.
SO, I say all of this only to say don't NOT buy the new juice because you can't get the old; they ARE the same fragrance, and especially in the drydown come closer to one another. If you "like" the new, you'll absolutely adore the old. Why did they mess with it? I really have no idea, because they obviously didn't change it to make it more "appealing" to a contemporary nose... the new is just as "foul" as the old, only not as "good" foul (if that makes sense.) As such, my guess would be the change in legal restrictions on certain ingredients, and cost-savings measures on said raw ingredients, rather than an actual change of recipe, is to blame ((for example, the 2000 rerelease of Givenchy L'interdit was an ENTIRELY different fragrance than the 1957 one, designed to appeal to a new consumer. I don't think that's what's happening here, because the current GG is hardly "appealing" in a world full of D&G Light Blue and Acqua di Gio.)
Here endeth the lesson, but only to say: never spend too much money on discontinued fragrances. If you get them cheaply, then fine. But, if you do it, don't do it blind, and not for premium $$$. You are almost guaranteed to be disappointed, and are buying more somebody ELSE'S evocative scent memory than an actual quality-related experience. I paid the equivalent of $9.50 for each of my 50ml sealed bottles (in box), so obviously I'm a happy camper. If somebody was asking $150 for an old bottle of GG, though, I'd say "forget it" and get BOND no. 9 "HOT ALWAYS" instead, or the aforementioned Idole Lubin.