Perfume Directory

Monsieur Lanvin (1964)
by Lanvin


Monsieur Lanvin information

Year of Launch1964
Average Rating
(based on 20 votes)

People and companies

Parent CompanyInter Parfums
Parent Company at launchLanvin-Charles of the Ritz

About Monsieur Lanvin

Discontinued in 1992

Reviews of Monsieur Lanvin

Lanvin released it's first proper men's line in 1964, much like Elizabeth Arden had in 1957, not by releasing one marquee men's fragrance, but an assortment. There were 4 key scents in the Monsieur Lanvin line besides this eponymous creation, and they included "Monsieur Lanvin Figaro", "Monsieur Lanvin Lavande", and "Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver". Eventually the "Monsieur" was dropped from all but the eponymous scent a little further into the 60's and 70's, with just the name of the variety preceding the name of the house ("Vetyver Lanvin" etc.) before the whole men's line was essentially rebooted with Lanvin for Men in 1979, which shared the same octagonal column bottle as the rest anyway, further adding to some confusion over whether these were all the same scent or flankers of each other etc. Everything across the board was discontinued by 1992 when it was gobbled up by the Orcofi Group and then sold to L'Oreal, being stripped and streamlined for relevance with modern tastes for profitability, making all of the original masculines from the house become near-unicorns as they still had their loyal fans. For this reason, my ability to impart a review of this cult-status masculine is in no small part due to the kindness of a fellow Basenoter that wished for me to experience it, and for that I am thankful. Monsieur Lanvin sits at a strange cusp in the evolution of male-centric perfumery: it is heavily dependent on civet in the base, like many male chypres from the previous decade or so, but it isn't heavily reliant on aromatics, and instead chooses a floral heart which gives it a unisex quality to a modern nose, but back in the mid-60's, was probably just the unique "gentlemanly" angle the unknown perfumer was looking for in order to compete against a samey crowd. A similar very floral and very dry attack would be taken over a decade later by Grey Flannel (1975) which substituted the civet for tonka and pulled the whole shebang into fougère territory but barely.

Monsieur Lanvin opens with lemon, bergamot, sage, and some kind of generic green accord, maybe galbanum but only in small degrees. It's not the juicy lemon opening of most chypres from this period, but rather a very stark and dry citrus similar to the yuzu that would become popular in 90's scents. From there it goes right to the flower patch, taking us through carnation, jasmine (a note Grey Flannel only implies but doesn't have), geranium, and rose, before sandalwood and cinnamon comes to warm things up a bit. So far so good, and very floral, but no worse than any number of late 19th or early 20th century "dandy" masculines, so fans of Penhaligon's, Trumper, or D'Orsay would actually feel right at home in the heart here. I mean come on, Lanvin is nearly as old as them or Houbigant and Guerlain, so they're well within their rights to go this route, however late it may seem by 1964. After tip-toeing through the garden, the cat is let out of the bag with the unleashing of perhaps the biggest single civet note I've ever encountered in a masculine. Fans of Moustache Rochas (1949) are already trained to endure this, and anyone liking the castoreum/civet/styrax-dripping 80's powerhouses like One Man Show (1980), Kouros (1981), Lapidus Pour Homme (1987), or Sybaris (1988) already have sufficient tolerance to virile bases to handle Monsieur Lanvin. It's a silly thing, to have such a light dalliance of a top and middle in a fragrance, only to pull down the pants and swing the underwear overhead right at the end; the whole thing almost feels like a bait and switch, but I'm not judging. Labdanum, oakmoss, musk, leather and a degree of coumarin are noted to be in here somewhere, but that civet just draws all the attention away from them until the moss finally takes over late in the wear, so I can't really confirm that.

As far as male chypres go, this one is definitely an exercise in perfume as art. Monsieur Lanvin is way more complex than most things from the 50's which it follows up, but isn't nearly as approachable of a chypre as the flowers might make it seem thanks to the overall dryness followed by that 10 megaton nuclear warhead of civet at the end. I totally enjoy animalics in my fragrance, and would have zero problem prancing around in the grocery store drenched in Monsieur Lanvin, especially if it made all those lackadaisical nitwits filling the aisles move out of the way so I could get my weekend shopping done in time to enjoy the evening, but nobody ever said I was a nice guy so... I can't entirely recommend a context where this would be appropriate. Vintage collectors willing to shuck out the asking price to get a bottle will probably cherish it even more than me, because with the required investment, they ought to, but this idea would reappear in slightly tamed form a decade later thanks to Geoffrey Beene, and Grey Flannel still manages to divide everyone exposed to it, even without the civet, due to the fact that it's even drier than this beast. The aforementioned cusp Monsieur Lanvin sat within was a brief turning point in men's fragrance design where perfumers really didn't know where to go; some went more masculine with gasoline and aldehyde leather scents, others retreated back into powdery Victorian designs heavy on musk, while still others drove in greener aromatic directions, with a few period oddities like this containing some or all of the above ideas and straddling categories. I've seen sweet, powdery and leathery fougères, oddly green chypres, but this is the first men's chypre and floral combo I've encountered from this decade, and I can't say the idea really took off. Must have been an exciting time for perfumers, as there were few rules or conventions to follow besides "make it manly" which itself was not even easily definable at that stage. This is a very strange brew, going on classic and restrained, and slowly turning up the passion with florals and screaming civet before fading into quiet moss. Monsieur Lanvin: a Bohemian romance told in three parts.
12th March, 2018
It seems that I may not be a big fan of civet. This and Furyo just don't work for me and I blame the civet.
23rd June, 2016
An animalic discontinued since 1992, what's not to like? It smells like an ambitiously fragranced shaving cream, and gentlemanly.
16th March, 2016
Top notes of Lemon, Bergamot etc have faded somewhat. Geranium and Carnation hearts still beat strongly. The Civet is present, strong and is crafted gloriously into the melange. The slightly camphorous note in Carnation is extraordinary. Under-rated gem.
03rd August, 2015 (last edited: 17th January, 2017)
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
The opening is classic: lemon, bergamot, sage and lemon but being quite restrained overall. Carnation, geranium and jasmine are added in the drydown, resulting in a citrus-floral of the traditional ilk. Then the scent, hitherto with decent and projection for three hours, it becomes very close to my skin, turning to civet and moss to make the base change character into more of a chypre; it lasts five hours overall. The main drawback is the late restraint that makes it weak, but very suitable for a traditional office setting in spring.
31st January, 2014

The classic scent from another Age.
By the way, it could be called "King of Civet", there is an astonishing quantity of.
08th March, 2013

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