Givenchy Ysatis : Fragrance Review

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Patricia tries on Givenchy’s Ysatis, once one of her signature perfumes, to see if it still fits.

The 1980s were a big decade. Big shoulders, big hair, a boom economy, and over-the-top perfumes. Givenchy Ysatis, a mossy floral created in 1984 by Dominique Ropion, was one of these, and I wore it happily for several years. At the time I was a serial monogomist where perfume was concerned, and Ysatis fit neatly between K de Krizia and Jean Louis Scherrer, Scherrer 2 in my rotation. As a mother of very young children, I enjoyed an occasional evening out, dressed to the nines and enveloped in a cloud of Ysatis.

ysatis

The perfume starts out with a blast–woody, floral, sweet, and powdery, accompanied with refreshing citrus notes and creamy coconut. Lush white floral notes, mostly fruity jasmine and ylang-ylang, dominate for the next few hours, before mellowing into a sweet and creamy dry down. It’s a  high-calorie feast of musk, amber, vanilla, and sandalwood that reminds us that Ysatis was born in the “more is more” fashion era. The dry down reminds me of the baby powder I once used on my children. While I liked this at the time, it now strikes me as cloying.

Ysatis comes in a lovely Art Deco bottle reminiscent of the lines of the Chrysler Building, a skyscraper built in New York City in 1930. The vintage version of the perfume (which is what I tested) comes with a gold cap, which is a good way to identify it from the reformulated version if making an online or auction purchase. Vintage samples and minis are readily available for very little money on eBay.*

I have several lovely coats from the eighties that I no longer wear. With their huge shoulder pads and extreme lines, I admire their workmanship, the excellent quality of the fabrics, but they are hopelessly out of style.  Similarly, there is nothing modern about Ysatis: no transparency, a potpourri of too many different notes, and no real development in its progression. It is a period piece that I keep in my collection but seldom wear. It is part of my history and as such brings with it happy memories of an earlier time.

Givenchy Ysatis includes notes of citrus, ylang-ylang, galbanum, coconut, rosewood, aldehydes, jasmine, rose, iris, tuberose, narcissus, musk, amber, vanilla, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood, and civet.

*Victoria’s Note on reformulation: Of course, like nearly all perfumes that have been around for a while, Ysatis has been tweaked to make it compliant with new ingredient regulations. It’s fresher and brighter in the top notes. The drydown has slimmed down and is dominated by polite musk and sweet amber.  The mossy nuances are much softer, and the animalic breath is less raunchy. But the outlines of the original are there, and it might be easier to wear for those who are not used to the smothering 80s perfumes.

Do you have any “scrapbook” fragrances that are kept merely for their historical importance?

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69 Comments

  • Truehollywood: I keep a small bottle of White Shoulders Perfume from the 70’s because my grandmother and great grandmother wore it. May 21, 2014 at 7:32am Reply

    • Patricia: I’ve heard so much about White Shoulders but have never tried it myself. It’s a real classic! May 21, 2014 at 2:33pm Reply

    • Robin: OMG! I do the same thing because it reminds me of my Mother who wore if forever and brings back memories of her and growing up in the 70’s. May 6, 2017 at 11:46am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I was so happy with Poison, in 1985, when it came out! It was from then on a ”signature scent”, together with Rochas’ Lumière when I wanted something similair but lighter.
    I also wore Chloe (1975), but the big favourite was Poison.
    That is a long time ago, and I wore lots of perfumes since 1985. Nevertheless, I have always Poison in my collection, and wear it from time to time.
    Maybe it is too closely connected with the esthetics of a certain epoch to be really a classic, but ”merely for historical importance”? Oh no! May 21, 2014 at 7:42am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: p.s. Reading this, I was already perfumed (”First”), but tomorrow I will wear Poison, inspired by your article! May 21, 2014 at 7:50am Reply

      • Ziggy: Both two of my favorites! I missed the heyday of Poison but grabbed a bottle a while ago just to see what everyone was talking about, and I loved it. May 21, 2014 at 8:59am Reply

      • Patricia: Enjoy! May 21, 2014 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Patricia: My mother wore Chloe, and I keep a bottle of it in her memory, but I never wear it, thinking of it only as “her” perfume. May 21, 2014 at 2:36pm Reply

  • solanace: How timely, Patricia! My mom used to wear Ysatis, and I just saw an old bottle in her closet this weekend. It looks beautiful. However, there was so little juice left that I could not bring myself to spritz. I remember loving it back then, though, it felt soft and elegant.
    Loulou is a fragrance that is connected to my history. I love the bottle and am extremely happy to have one decorating my vanity, but there is a reason I leave it outside the closet: I can´t wear it anymore. I just got tired of it, like a tune listened to too many times. May 21, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

    • Ziggy: Got my first bottle in high school. Have one and a backup now, but somehow, the time never seems right for LouLou anymore. May 21, 2014 at 9:00am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Solanace, If you save the bottle just to smell now and then, it will remind you of your mother over and over again. I’m always surprised at how fragrant “empty” bottles can be! May 21, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

  • Andy: I can’t admit to having any “scrapbook” fragrances, but as luck would have it, I dabbed on some Ysatis from my mini last night before bed. Alas, every time I wear it, Ysatis never really feels “me,” but I do find it charming and rather tropical. May 21, 2014 at 8:38am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Andy, Ysatis is rather tropical. It must be the coconut. It’s funny how some fragrances seem like us, some become us only after many wearings, and others never quite make the grade! May 21, 2014 at 5:40pm Reply

  • The Perfumed Veil: When I first cam to the US, I would see Ysatis advertised in magazines. I would rub the fragrant powder on the scent strip and imagine how it would be to own this perfume. I especially liked the name.

    When I grew up, there were many other perfumes that were more my taste. I generally dislike white flowers, citrus and jasmine. Yet that bottle kept calling to me until I bought a wonderfully-priced mini.

    I am glad I did and am enjoying that little sucker till this day. May 21, 2014 at 9:16am Reply

    • Patricia: I’m so glad that you are enjoying Ysatis, Perfumed Veil. It certainly has given me much enjoyment over the years. May 21, 2014 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Dana’s Ambush and Ungaro’s Diva, both full bottle perfume strength in the bottom of a dark box in my closet. Why do I keep these? I never wear them. I am however wearing Ch22 today and feeling that kind of over the top thrill the big ones provide so well. May 21, 2014 at 9:17am Reply

    • Patricia: I love Chanel 22, Ariadne. I parcel out small dabs from a vintage perfume bottle that I bought only half full. So lovely! May 21, 2014 at 5:44pm Reply

  • yomi: I love Ysatis! From the name , to bottle and the ads!. When I started my fragrance journey it was one of the first scents I discovered. It was I remember sold as a sort of female * version* of Xeryus. If xeryus was *he man* ysatis was his dame!
    To me its a true classic anyday. From a great era in perfumery when there was more originality in creative expression.
    Was happy to read the review. May 21, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi yomi, I’m glad you like Ysatis and my review of it. The old ones really are fun to revisit from time to time, aren’t they? May 21, 2014 at 5:46pm Reply

  • Steve: One of my all time favorites. In this case, bigger is better! Lovely review. May 21, 2014 at 9:47am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Steve, Thank you! Sometimes bigger IS better. As much as I like the modern, pared-down fragrances, sometimes I crave a big eighties number, or its modern equivalent. May 21, 2014 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Elisa: I still have a bottle of Gucci Rush but I don’t think I’ve worn it in several years. It was my college perfume, and it’s hard for me to understand it as perfume, now, as opposed to just the smell of my youth. 🙂 I hope the opaque plastic bottle is protecting the juice from age! May 21, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

    • sandra: I like Rush a lot!! May 21, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

    • Patricia: I have a bottle of Rush and keep forgetting about it. Must remedy that and give it a good spritzing soon.

      One thing that I don’t like is that I can’t tell how much remains in its opaque bottle! May 21, 2014 at 5:51pm Reply

  • Christine: I am wondering how we can prevent perfumes from deteriorating over time. that’s a concern I for large fragrance wardrobes and of those who want to preserve discontinued fragrances. May 21, 2014 at 11:01am Reply

    • Ziggy: I have always heard protection from light and extremes of temperatures, anyone have any other insights? May 21, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

      • Alex: Indeed, direct sunlight, heat and frost could kill the fragrance very fast. May 22, 2014 at 3:53am Reply

      • Patricia: Some people have refrigerators for their perfume (especially the vintage ones), but I don’t. Not sure what the ideal temperature would be, either. Probably cool rather than cold? Does anyone out there know? May 22, 2014 at 7:40am Reply

  • Sabine: I have just recently bought one of my 80’s staples, Scherrer2 again after nearly 15 years of not wearing it. It still fits and now I won’t want to be without it ever again. It’s not one that I’d wear often, but it’s good to know it is there on my shelf. May 21, 2014 at 11:04am Reply

    • Patricia: Love, love, love Scherrer 2. One of my all-time favorites and one I will never be without. May 21, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

  • Nancys: I have recently purchased a few mini’s of fragrances that I wore in the 70’s and 80’s. They include Anais Anais and Ombre Rose. I no longer want or need full bottles of them, but I love being able to sniff these scents from my past. May 21, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

    • Patricia: Aren’t minis great? I have too many, but they are like potato chips (or crisps for those of you in the UK). Hard to have only one, and a few leads to a collection before you know it! May 21, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

  • Devon Hernandez: Oh my how I love Ysatis! I was a child in the 80s when this came out and never smelled it then. However, a few years ago when my perfumista obsession started, I had gotten a rather large gift card to the mall for a birthday present from a friend, and went to the fragrance counter at a department store. The SA tried to get me sniffing the modern schlep I didn’t want and I remember liking Poison when I was young and told her that. She got the hint and started pulling 80s power scents for me to sniff. It was love at first sniff with Ysatis EDT, current formula, and I nabbed that along with a bottle of YSL Paris EDT. Last year I finally grabbed an almost empty bottle of vintage Ysatis – I can’t recall right now if it’s EDT or EDP, but it was a dab top with a clear glass stopper (the gold cap is on the EDT spray atomizer version). You can definitely tell which one is current and which is the vintage. The vintage is more intense – more of more, just like the 80s. It’s fabulous and I need to hunt down more of it. But, I really truly enjoy the current formulation and spray with abandon when I wear it and shower with Ysatis shower gel. It was one of my first designer buys as a new perfumista and I don’t care when it’s from, it smells fantastic on me! 🙂 May 21, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Devon, I didn’t know there was a Ysatis shower gel. That sounds delicious, and I think I’ll have to track some down!

      Good to know that there are so many Ysatis fans out there in perfumeland. May 21, 2014 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Lynley: I used to own Ysatis in the early 90’s, and it was one of the first I chose for myself. I didn’t wear it too often though as it was one of those massive perfumes that unfortunately give me a headache, so I gave it away about 10 years ago.
    Then a year or so ago on a whim tried the one at the store and was so disappointed at the reformulation- it was so different to me I almost couldn’t place it at all. Now really regret giving that, and others, away, as I really would love to still have my old fragrant memories with me May 21, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Lynley, Yeah, Paloma Picasso Signature always gave me a migraine, and as much as I loved it finally had to give it up.

      I haven’t tried the Ysatis reformulation since I still have quite a bit in my massive bottle from the dark ages. It has certainly aged well, though. I don’t detect any deterioration, even in the top notes. May 21, 2014 at 6:00pm Reply

  • Alicia: One of my very favorites while a student at Stanford, I certainly loved Ysatis. I haven’t smelled it for a time. I remember that in those years of Giorgio mania in California, I wore YSL Paris and Ysatis. I still wear Paris quite often. I also wore in the summer Coty’s Bois de Muguet. Wouldn’t scrap that either, which Ii use to sprinkle my linens. Two other favorites were L’Air du Temps, a beauty then, and Caron Fleurs de Rocaille. Both have changed, alas! Should I or shouldn’t I scrap them? Difficult decision for my romantic heart. May 21, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Patricia: Oh dear. It’s hard when our old loves have changed and we can revisit them only in our memories. May 21, 2014 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Nikki: What a time warp, Patricia! I remember it so well! I remember exactly where I was when I smelled it first: in Berlin at somebody’s party. It was the most sophisticated and unusual scent. I love it. I don’t wear it….The eighties were really fun, I also remember when YSL Paris came out and it was love at first sniff as well.
    I am wearing another D. Ropion creation now: Jil Sander’s Sun, a comforting 80’s scent with vanilla… May 21, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks for you comment, Nikki! I think I have something of Jil Sander’s (not Sun) and will now have to look through my minis.

      How great that you have such specific memories of Ysatis and when you first wore it! May 21, 2014 at 6:05pm Reply

  • sandra: When I was 16 I spent two weeks traveling around europe. During that time I had a sample of Gio by Giorgio Armani. Since I was so young I could never afford my own bottle. I use to go to the counters at Macys and smell it and think about my trip there.
    I wish it was still around..oh I would love a bottle. May 21, 2014 at 2:19pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Sandra, I spent the summer in France when I was 16, and it changed everything that came after.

      Good luck finding some Gio and recapturing some of those memories! May 21, 2014 at 6:08pm Reply

  • Patricia: To all…Sorry my responses were late today, but I had an eye exam today, and my pupils are still dilated! Had to increase the size of the type x4 just to be able to read well enough to respond.

    Fortunately my nose is working fine, and I’m enjoying a sample of Guerlain’s Shanghai, which is delicious and reminds me a little bit of Ysatis! May 21, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

  • Tora: Wonderfully evocative story/review of your old favorite. I totally got the feeling of your descriptions. One of the more interesting aspects of our perfume love journey, is the way our tastes change, our options widen. We can be humbled when previous firmly held notions get shattered. Often joyfully, with no small amount of surprise. This was a very enjoyable read. Thank you. May 21, 2014 at 7:29pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Tora, for your eloquent comment. I love when previous firmly held notions get shattered…in perfume and in life. Keeps us humble :). May 22, 2014 at 7:18am Reply

  • annemariec: I’m with Devon (above): I love and wear the modern version of Ysatis. It is such a fun fragrance – the coconut/custard notes give a relaxed air and I smile every time I spritz. The Venetian masked ball ads are fabulous. Although it sounds as if the modern version has been lightened and cleaned up, Ysatis still has a lot of complexity while being very wearable (I think). I’d feel differently if I’d worn ii the 80s, I guess, but as it is, I’m happy. Bonus: 50 mls cost me $40. May 21, 2014 at 8:11pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi annemariec, Thanks for sharing your take of the modern Ysatis. And yes, $40 for a 50 ml bottle is a great bargain! May 22, 2014 at 7:22am Reply

  • Loric: I have a bottle of L’Air du Temps pure perfume that my brothers gave me for Christmas in 1974. I cherish the bottle because they bought me something they knew I loved (keep in mind they were teenagers) and also because the following year one of them died in a car accident. The perfume still smells wonderful, and every time I look at the bottle I am reminded of my wonderful brothers. May 21, 2014 at 9:32pm Reply

    • Patricia: What a moving story, Loric! The L’Air du Temps bottle is so lovely and a wonderful gift from your brothers. May 22, 2014 at 7:28am Reply

  • Matthew: I used to have a (male) friend who wore it in the early 1990’s….was stunning on him. I worked in the cosmetics department of David Jones at the time. We had a few customers asking to try “Yes It Is” by Givenchy 😉 May 22, 2014 at 12:54am Reply

  • Matthew: Customers aslo asked for “Arrivederci” by YSL and “Poisson” by Dior May 22, 2014 at 12:58am Reply

    • annemarie: What was the YSL they wanted? Yvresse ?

      Funny story about your DJs customers. I can imagine people getting confused about Poison, but then why would they assume anyone would name a perfume after a fish?! May 22, 2014 at 3:53am Reply

      • Matthew: No, it was Rive Gauche….no, I don’t understand either! I think people were trying to put on a French accent…then getting it totally wrong.

        Afterwards I worked for Elizabeth Arden at Myer. We had a few people ask for “5th Element” It was a popular film at the time…but really? May 22, 2014 at 5:11am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Matthew, Choked on my morning coffee…thanks for the laugh!

      I can well imagine “yes it is” being lovely on a man :). May 22, 2014 at 7:32am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Yes!! I digged out a beautiful mini of the vintage Ysatis, sleeping in my cupboard. Dominique Ropion is the maestro of white flowers with that delicious coconut, also to be found in Carnal Flower. Could I say that Carnal Flower is the continuation of Ysatis? Kind of ”Ysatis Extreme”? May 22, 2014 at 5:18am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Cornelia, I almost put on Carnal Flower this morning but then decided it would be too much for the office (wearing No. 22 instead).

      Can’t wait to do a side-by-side with Ysatis and Carnal Flower when I get home! May 22, 2014 at 7:35am Reply

  • Danaki: I keep a mini of Paloma Picasso Tentations as it reminds me of the 90s though it has a bit of the voluptuous 80s about it. I also keep Anais Anais by Cacharel as it reminds me of my childhood! (I know…my mom is a perfume lover and she let me wear eau de toilette as a 10-year-old). I have Arpege from the 80s and an old RL Safari which is likely a 90s reformulation. I never wear any of them. ANY! But I need to have them and sniff them from time to time. Ok…Sometimes I wear Anais Anais because ‘why not?’ and because it is lily of the valley. May 22, 2014 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Patricia: Hi Danaki, I have minis of all of these, and like you enjoy having them even though I don’t wear them anymore. They are handy to have around for comparison. It’s difficult to remember exact shades of colors without swatches and perfume scents without samples. May 22, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Today I bought a 50 ml bottle of the new Ysatis. Still a geat perfume..thank you for the review, Patricia! May 22, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: great of course. Hurray fot this discovery! May 22, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Patricia: I’m so glad you liked it, Cornelia! Enjoy your new Ysatis. It should be a perfect spring and summer fragrance. May 22, 2014 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Laney: I have a bottle of vintage Ysatis that belonged to my mother-in-law, who passed away before I met her son. I love it, it still smells great, but I’ve found it’s best if I don’t wear it around my husband because it makes him sad – too evocative of her. Based on the comments I might need to try Carnal Flower!

    I also have small bottles of Anais Anais and Vanderbilt – wore both of those as a teen in the 80s, along with the original Lauren (oh man, do wish I still had that last one!) I didn’t do the big 80s perfumes back in the day, I (correctly in retrospect) thought they weren’t a good fit for me, but now that I am a woman of some years I’m loving rediscovering them! Still can’t handle Poison though, LOL. May 24, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

  • Patricia: Hi Laney, What a sweet story about your mother-in-law and Ysatis. It must have been her signature scent for your husband to so closely associate it with her.

    I also wore and loved the original Lauren and am lucky enough to have stockpiled a good quantity of it before it was reformulated! May 26, 2014 at 6:49pm Reply

  • Rednails: I did not like Ysatis when I was young — the creamy white flowers smelled too rich and tropical to my young nose. Now that I am a middle aged lady with an overripe figure it suits me just fine, and I own 3 vintage bottles. Guess I won’t be running out! You can tell the vintage because it says Ysatis de Givenchy. The modern version omits the pronoun. May 26, 2014 at 8:05pm Reply

    • Patricia: I did not know about the dropping of the “de” in the name. Is it on the box, bottle, or both?

      Even though I don’t turn to Ysatis often, it is a great fragrance, I agree! November 21, 2015 at 10:38am Reply

  • Adriana Galani: I am not knowing the vintage version of this one but I own a 30 mls bottle of the reformulation. The lasting power is wonderful, sillage is great but the issue with this fragrance is, yes, that there are just too many things inn there, rightly said. There is a stage in the development of this scent on my skin, when I am not aware where is what anymore. Still, I like it very rarely on because is different and it surely makes a beautyful distinct note in the crowd. August 12, 2014 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Patricia: In a sea of department store fragrances, it is certainly nice to be able to strike a different note! November 21, 2015 at 10:40am Reply

  • Michelle Peek: In the 90’s I loved Fendi and Il Bacio. I don’t hear these mentioned. November 20, 2015 at 10:44am Reply

    • Patricia: I love and own Fendi, Michelle, but haven’t ever tried Il Bacio. What is it like? November 21, 2015 at 10:40am Reply

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