The bitterness of galbanum is what greets you, which is incongruent with modern sensibilities, I'd wager, since most men (and women, of course) are attuned to sweeter-smelling notes nowadays, but wait it out a bit, because the scent mellows into a violet leaf accord with aubepine aromachemicals and a touch of iris and almond — from the coumarin — in the background. Overall, its feel is cooling and rejuvenating without being spikey sharp, especially in warmer climates or on hot summer days. But let it bloom on a rainy day and there comes a certain melancholy coming out of the heart, which is endearing in an unsentimental way — priceless.
There is a distinct kinship with Dior's classic masculine cologne from the 1980s, the famous Fahrenheit pour homme. But there the violet takes on a different guise, leaves and all, with a more petrol-smelling, pungent opening that is a throw back to the agrestic and abstract opening of Guerlain Jicky, instead of the bitterness of galbanum in the Beene creation. Still, the indigestible nature of the beast is hard to miss. The Grey Flannel customer was prepared for the onslaught to the senses that the original Fahrenheit presented a decade later...
NB. There is another edition called Eau de Grey Flannel which takes the metallic grey of dihydromyrcenol (that aromachemical which characterized all the Cool Water clones of the 1990s) which dilutes the original Grey Flannel in a sea of ionized water. Do not go for that.
NB.2. My bottle comes from the early 2000s. There are several batches out there with a tiny bit of variation. But not too much.