Givenchy L’Interdit, vintage and new

Well I promised you a perfume review and you’re going to get one. It is going to be an exercise in frustration, because I am trying the vintage version of Givenchy’s L’Interdit against the new version which is available at e-tailers everywhere. I am sure all of you have heard the story of L’Interdit and know it backwards and forwards but it bears repeating: originally it was a bespoke scent, a love letter from Hubert de Givenchy to his friend and muse Audrey Hepburn. It was hers and hers alone for several years until it’s creator decided that he wanted to release it to the public as his first perfume. According to history, Miss Hepburn said “Mais, je l’interdis!” (“but, I forbid it!”) Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Miss Hepburn agreed to the release of what was now called L’Interdit, “The Forbidden One.” where it became an instant best-seller.

Now I guess I was not keeping up with the perfume news, but apparently the new and the old are two completely different animals. For whatever reason (fashion, tastes, costs, regulations of ingredients) the version that came out in 2018 bears only a slight resemblance to the one from 1957. That one was a full-bodied, feminine, aldehydic floral with a surprisingly strong core of grasses, amber and musk- It’s not only a beautiful scent but one that perfectly fits the woman it was designed for: elegant, a trained ballerina of an aristocratic family who knew the privations and heartbreak of being brought up in her Nazi-occupied native land, who went on to make her mark on Hollywood and the world not only through her beauty, grace, and style, but through her good works for the less fortunate through UNICEF.

The new one, not so much.

The Givenchy website writes this about it “A white flower crossed by a dark woody accord. L’Interdit Eau de Parfum for women — a fearless fragrance imbued with the frisson of freedom. Transgress your limits with audacity and feel empowered on the journey to self-discovery.“ Well okay then.

The thing is that the new version is fine. Very nice in fact. If I didn’t have a decent splosh of the real stuff to compare it to side-by-side I would be quite happy with it. It’s a pretty, office-friendly, don’t-scare-the-horses kind of scent (sorry perfumers.) Side by side it’s like Dom Perignon and Diet Pepsi. Side by side lets me know that what the new stuff it isn’t is L’Interdit.

How I wish some Indie perfumer would just come out with re-dos of these classics, with warning labels if neccesary. They could call the line FU-IFFRA, and they’d sell like hotcakes.

The new version is available practically on the moon at various price points. The old one is of course discontinued and I am sure there are bottles on eBay that are going for more than black-market organs, but I didn’t have the heart to check. My samples came from Surrender To Chance.

Photos: Pexels, Wikimedia Commons and my iPhone

  • Christine says:

    Had anyone tried the early 2000s version with the red label bottle to see how it compares? I think the bigger regulations went into place in 05 through 2010/11.

    sigh I wish they’d release the new versions as flankers.

    • Tom says:

      I’m not sure of the vintage of the vintage one I tried. I’d love to read if anyone has.

      I doubt they’d release the originals, even as flankers. It would point out how wan the new ones are.

  • Dina C. says:

    Thanks for retelling the story, Tom. I loved your Diet Pepsi and Dom Perignon comparison! Like most (all?) perfume lovers I dream about discovering an antique/junk shop with a cabinet full of brand new bottles of vintage scents like this one where the proprietor says, “Oh that old stuff? You can take the whole lot for twenty bucks.” Sigh. Nice dream, huh?

  • March says:

    Adding my voice to the chorus: I wish someone would have a whole line of “dangerous” perfumes made as close as possible to the originals, with plenty of warning labels that our arms could fall off etc. I do think there was a line … long lost perfumes? Too lazy to look it up. But honestly I have no idea how closely their re-creations matched the originals. Wouldn’t a time machine be great for sampling old perfumes? That’s what I’d use it for … and you could buy a classic car!

  • cinnamon says:

    Never managed to smell this when it was the real thing. It continues to be sad what is done to lovely things in the name of new regulations or even just companies faffing around. I keep hoping something incredible will pop up at the one of the charity shops here but so far no dice. eBay is impossible at this point. Might start to look out for estate sales. But the vintage version of this sounds just incredible.

    • Tom says:

      Ebay hasn’t been the place for that in years and years sadly. That’s the place for people who know the value (or wildly overestimate it) You need the perfume equivalent of barn finds for cars, which I guess are estate sales in out of the way places.

    • Christine says:

      I’ve had luck with folks who don’t know what they have on FB marketplace. Scored a treasured refill bottle of Guerlain Liu for $20 once. Like you hear of those people who go thrifting and end up picking up and Ancient Greek bust for a song – the Liu is as close as I’ll ever get to that probably.

      • Tom says:

        I think you just have to be at the right place at the right time- years ago I scored a bottle of original Shiseido Feminité de Bois for like $10 because they couldn’t get rid of it. They wouldn’t sell me the tester as well, sadly

  • alityke says:

    The recycling of perfume names drives me up the wall. All to avoid the piffling cost of registering & TMing the new name. Lazy marketing!

  • Filomena says:

    I could not agree with you more. The vintage L’Interdit was a beautiful scent and unique. The new version is similar to all new designer fragrances with the same kind of vibe. They don’t make them like they used to.

  • Portia says:

    Grrrrr! Double Grrrr and Triple GRRRRR.
    How easy would it be to call it Nouveau l’Interdit. Even l’Interdit ’18.
    Portia x

  • Maya says:

    I knew I had a sample of vintage L’Interdit that your post caused me to go hunting for. Found it and am wearing it now. It’s lovely. I have been disappointed too often on current versions of great perfumes of the near and distant past, that it’s now vintage or nothing for me.
    I love love love your new line name, FU-IFFRA!!!!! Perfect.

  • Kathleen says:

    I’ve adored the original L’Interdit. I still have some smidges of vintage. I have a bottle of Les Perfumes Mythiques-L’Interdit that was released in 2007 is a decent reformulation but of course not the original. I haven’t sniffed any of the current reformulations as I’ve understood they have no resemblance to the original. It would break my heart. Why do perfume houses do that? Why not release a perfume with its own new name?

    • Tom says:

      It does have a resemblance, but it’s a ghost of the original one. It’s Cheryl Ladd as Grace Kelly (or more to the point, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Audrey Hepburn) both Cheryl and Jennifer are lovely and good actresses but they aren’t Grace and Audrey and they aren’t doing themselves or the subject any favor trying.

      With all the talk about AI taking over, the “new” L’Interdit is AI of the original. A hologram, not even a ghost. A ghost is at least interesting. They did this scent no favor by calling it L’Interdit.

      • Musette says:

        omg, Tom – that was incandescently brilliant in its viciousness (the JLoveHewitt reference) and this? THIS is why you will always come sit by me, okay?
        Okay – you’re not vicious – but that was such a perfect analogy.

        • Tom says:

          I know I can be quite vicious, without really meaning to be. I guess in some ways I am just a drowning scorpion. It’s in my nature.

          Oh you kid- we will sit together, All of us. and the world will tremble at the thought..

  • Pam says:

    I have a tiny bit of the vintage and have also tried the recent version. Your review is spot on. Sigh

    • Tom says:

      If I’d never smelled to original the new one would be fine. But as the saying goes “howya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm now that they’ve seen Paree?”