Opium For The Masses. Opium For Me


When Yves Saint Laurent Opium was created, it seemed to make Orientals more mainstream and is still a byword for the genre.  Its reputation precedes it:  “Nothing heavy please, nothing like Opium or stuff like that” and sometimes I fear it has  become platitudinous i.e it is so ubiquitous people don’t even see it any more.

I have avoided reviewing it thus far as I find it hard to train myself to just test one at a time whilst walking through my local House of Fraser, but today I just tried Opium (EDT) and nothing else. (It was tempting though, I had to walk fast past all the other bottles winking at me.)

Despite it being a mild summer’s day, not too hot, not too cold, somehow Opium surprisingly, felt just right.  I say surprisingly as I would have thought that Opium was too heavy for summer, but in fact the lightness of the citruses came out like an expensive eau de cologne, with added spice and extra staying power.  I find that I’m wearing a rather thirst quenching scent today that doesn’t feel at all heavy.

Purists may have other ideas about today’s version of Opium, as it has been very much reformulated since its iconic brown packaging at its launch.  I cannot comment on the difference as I am not familiar with the original, but I trust those who tell me, the new kid ain’t the same.

Opium has all the spicy/rich ingredients thing going on, but I think the reason I found it light and pretty is because it has no gourmand stuff in it. There’s no sticky cakey vanilla or sugar or caramel:  all ingredients which are hard to escape in today’s perfume stores.   After smelling so many scents that smell like cake crumbs, Opium is a refreshing change, and yes there is vanilla in it, but its barely discernible and seems to just round off the sharp edges a bit.

You can definitely notice the heavyweight Christmassy duo of Frankincense and Myrrh with their rich, deep resonance,  and the patchouli packs a punch, but somehow, this wasn’t a “woah there!” fragrance.  It felt just right for a sunny day with breezy spells.

Opium has managed to hang on to it’s green, spicy, citrus roots and was a breath of fresh air today: something I never thought I’d say about Opium in August. It’s gone onto the Wish List and I’m only amazed it took me so long to get there.  Oh and did I mention longevity? around fourteen hours for two squirts.  Amazing stuff.


11 thoughts on “Opium For The Masses. Opium For Me”

  1. Oh dear – here I was, quietly drinking my morning cuppa in the relative cool of the day before the thermometers reach breaking point again, and enjoying “blog time.” I see the word “Opium” in the heading of your post in my email box and pounce to open it. Yes! At last, a post about The Holy Grail from your good self. Then I slump in despair as I see the pic of the reformulated version and my head falls to my desk. For I am admittedly one of those Purists who most definitely will shriek that today’s version of Opium ain’t the same – in fact I go so far as to say I think it’s a positive travesty compared to The Beloved One. I have tried – several times – to readjust my thinking about the modern. I’ve tried to stop thinking the name “Opium” when I’ve smelled it, attempting to lull myself into a false sense of security that it really is all right, don’t compare the two, smell it as a standalone perfume and take it for what it’s worth. Can’t do it. In fact, I almost envy you for not having smelled the original, as you can truly be objective and provide, as usual, a great review – a review, I might add, that if I didn’t have the ghost of Opium Past stuck firmly in my olfactory memories – would have me heading to try the perfume in question.

    I think the main problem with the modern is that it *can* be described as “light and pretty” and not the “woah there!” fragrance that is was and still should be. That “woah there!” is the very reason why legions of women simply opened office windows to accommodate 16 feet of sillage. BIG was the word back then and the thought of the (increasing) number of fragrance free public spaces of today, would have set us guffawing in disbelief. I alone, kept YSL afloat in the late 70s and 80s with Opium everything. Now L’Oreal gets not one penny from my purse.

    I would love to send you a decant of the vintage original – I still have a large supply from the early 80s as I bought huge bottles in duty free every year for several years. I’d be interested to know your opinion! You can reach me at salmack1 at earthlink dawwwt net if you’d like to try it 

  2. Wow – that’s kind of you to say so. Of course I don’t mind :-). I think your review is excellent though – there are many people who love the new formulation so it’s perfect for them.
    I have a very fond memory of attending the Opium launch at Selfridge’s – it was quite the hullaballoo. I only wish that Selfridges had looked like it does on the TV show! How fab that perfume counter must have looked in the first days of the store.

  3. I’m in absolute agreement with Sally’s fantastic comments. I am a fellow ‘Old Opium’ lover. It was almost a signature scent for me through the nineties and early noughties and I have a stash of the good stuff that I amassed when I heard they were going to reformulate. At least they were honest. At least they changed the bottles and the packaging and relaunched with a new fragrance that is a tribute to the dear old duchess and that you can see the resemblance to.
    But she’s not my girl.

    I have some of the fabulous ‘light’ Opium that is just perfect for the summer – Fleurs de Shanghai.
    Honey, I’ll come round and blow your mind!!! 😀

    1. Ah dear Lisa to the rescue! Could I possibly have a sniff of old Opium? Your comments got promoted by the way. xxx

  4. Times change, we change and sadly our old favorites change too. I for one, will not actively seek out vintage fragrances. If they fall in my lap at the thrift store or estate sales, I will give it a go! I am just not a hunter……. I will give Opium a try the next time I see it.

    1. Hi Katy, thanks for dropping by. I’m with you on this. If vintage comes my way, fine, but otherwise I’ll make do with what’s around. That’s probably sacrilege isn’t it? 🙂

  5. That’s interesting – I wore a small dab to work the other day (probably from the same House of Fraser store) and thought… am I going mad, or is this not a perfectly work appropriate perfume? The citrus/spice combo (in small doses) seemed to add a dash of light seasoning to the day, without being at all OTT, or pandering to any girly or submissive female stereotypes, something I always try to avoid at work. Still, I had no meetings, was just mooching around a rather quite building… but definitely worth a repeat experiment.

    1. Hi Alice, yes its surprising isn’t it? i thought it ratehr gorgeous and it would even pass the elevator/commuter train test. Couldn’t stop sniffing it.

  6. I was lucky to be able to try a couple of drops of vintage Opium extrait.I also tried the new version in the EDP.The verdict is:I like both.They are not the same,the modern is missing the intense bite of the cloves and is somehow less fierce,a bit less complex,but still absolutely lovely and I think I should own a bottle and I will.Indeed,I’m not the type to loose hours trawling the EBay hunting vintage treasures,not knowing if the juice has turned or not.That is one kind of exquisitely masochistic pleasure I’m happy I’ve not succumbed to just yet.

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