Tag Archives: Opium perfume

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – When Yves Saint Laurent went to Denver by Lisa Jones

by Lisa Jones

I heard of this line years ago, when we perfumistas could post little parcels of decants and samples back and forth across international boundaries without a care. Stickers? Declaring dangerous contents? Pfft! Such ideas hadn’t been invented, and IFRA hadn’t spoiled our fun with their nasty old regulations about potential allergens.

The world is a safer and sadder place nowadays. Safer, because no postperson has to go to have stitches put in their hands while reeking of Shalimar after a flimsily-packaged bottle smashed in transit. Sadder, because I can’t just ask my buddies to send me ‘a little drop or two’ of something, drop a little parcel into the post in return, and find myself able to try things I can’t ever remember seeing in an actual shop in the UK.

I had tried a few of the DSH fragrances before and was impressed by their style. I like woods and spices, and she handles both well. And of course I had heard about her recreations of classic vintage fragrances such as Guerlain’s Jicky (DSH’s version is Passport a Paris and it’s very good! It has the ‘lemon and lavender floor polish in a posh house’ vibe to it that I love so much).

Photo from The Perfume Magazine

I knew Dawn had created a set of fragrances to complement a showing at the Denver Art Museum of the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective exhibition,  So when my American friend Joe pointed out that there was the annual 20% off sale on the whole DSH collection, I rather splurged. There were so many of her fragrances that I wanted to try – two from the YSL collection for starters. I was able to order from the US and have these sent to the UK because DSH offers what she calls a ‘Voile de Parfum’ format, which doesn’t contain alcohol and consequently isn’t considered dangerous to ship by air.

Le Smoking

“The Tuxedo for a woman was revolutionary and avant-garde at the time that YSL began introducing the style into his collection… Le Smoking is a gender-bending classic that’s great on both men and women.”

Described as “a sophisticated green chypre tabac fragrance” Le Smoking has a deep emerald green opening that has a little rasp to it but no bite as so many vivid green top notes do. This brightens as it opens up, becoming slightly soapy, in a good way. The heart has a spicy aspect to it, with some flowers, but there’s a green woodiness that is pure chypre and that sings like a crystal bell. I adore this heart, it’s gorgeous and wonderfully retro but modern.

It is unisex, and it certainly speaks of classic chypre fragrances to me. The base is lovely and this is one fragrance from DSH I need in a larger size. I’d like to try the eau de parfum spray to see if it’s any different from this formulation, and perhaps has more throw, as the voile de parfum stays close to the skin.

John William Waterhouse

Fou d’Opium

Not to be confused with DSH’s Euphorism d’Opium, from the Denver art exhibit mentioned above, which is a recreation of the eau de toilette strength of the famous fragrance, this is a recreation of the original Yves Saint Laurent Opium parfum extrait from the 1970s. I am a huge fan of the pre-reformulation Opium and have a significant stash, and I have to tell you – this isn’t it. This isn’t even slightly like it. I was deeply disappointed the first time I tried it so I have come back and will give you my impressions of it as a fragrance, pure and simple.

Well for starters, this one isn’t unisex, it’s definitely a feminine fragrance; in fact it’s a vavavoom sort of feminine fragrance. It has round and creamy topnotes, with something a little lush and ripe in there, possibly a rich gardenia note? It is certainly oriental, definitely retro, and possibly a little dark for mainstream tastes (this is a very

Fanpop

good thing to many readers, I know). There’s a funk to it that is indolic and slightly rude – I suspect Sam will have one of her eyebrow-raising responses to this, which always make me laugh. I shouldn’t wear it to work, unless you are Dita von Teese.

I couldn’t restrict myself to just two samples of course, so I shall return shortly with more delights from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Stockists

You can buy DSH perfumes from here. 

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Five Decades of #Scent Memories: National Fragrance Day 2017

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Dear reader, I am now in my fifth decade and due to toast the start of my sixth in 2020 when I turn 50.

To me, scent is like a Tardis. It takes you back in time so fast that you can be stepping out the Tardis door into 1976 after one whiff of Panache.  More instantly evocative than a photograph or a song,  a fragrance can whisk you back to the scent of the primary school teacher whose name you forget, but whose perfume you can recall as if a switch has been flicked in your head.

Please join me on my mini odyssey through the smell of the 70s, 80s, 90s, Noughties and Twenteens and do share your #scentmemories below.

The Smell of the 1970s.

1970s

I was born in 1970. The first ten years of my life can be summed up, at least in the olfactory sense, as a combination of cigarette smoke (not mine), the smell of a roast cooking, mud, ferns, bluebells, Woogiraffedleigh Green Apple Shampoo, Avon Pretty Peach and Avon Occur, in a giraffe shaped bottle, no less. Quite how giraffes and perfume go together, I never thought to question, but he literally had some brass neck.

My teachers wore Cacharel Anais Anais, which hasn’t changed to this day, as long as you sidestep the “Delice” version. I can’t remember what scent my mother wore, but she always smelled nice.  My grandmother wore Coty L’Aimant, which I didn’t recognise then, but which moves me to gusty sighs of melancholy  now she isn’t here.

BeFunky Collage70s home

The Smell of the 1980s.

Formative years mean a thirst to both stand out and blend in at the same time. I was groping for an identity and slowly moving into and out of adolescence. It was 1981 before I gradually weaned myself off

sindyplaying with Sindy dolls. I can still vividly recall the smell of the vinyl heads and strange nylon hair, inevitably knotted to all hell within a week of ownership.

My first ever scent that I paid for myself was a splash bottle of Bluebell perfume from Boots No 7. Long since discontinued, I have sought that bluebell scent ever since.  My mother bought me a bottle of Jontue from a trip she went on, and one Christmas I had a bottle of Cachet.  I wore this A LOT.  I also remember Avon Eau Givreé: a beautiful green hesperide that has long since been discontinued.

My teens saw me receive my first ever bottle of proper fragrance from my father for my 18th birthday. It was Estee Lauder Beautiful and I still love it now. 1988 saw me leave home at go to Exeter Uni, where the most memorable scents were Marlboro cigarettes, red wine and lashings of Cacharel LouLou.

1980s collage

Meanwhile, over in Denver Colorado, Alexis Carrington was cracking the whip.  Excess, big shoulder pads, big hair and big smells were all the rage.  On the High Street, there was the unmistakable cloud of Giorgio Beverly Hills and a miasma of Dior Poison mingled with Body Shop White Musk and Dewberry. The Nightclubs smelled of Calvin Klein Obsession, and my one little egg shaped bottle took me into the 1990s.

The Smell of the 1990s

The caring, sharing Nineties sobered everyone up and made us wear ozonic scents in an urge to cleanse ourselves of the Eighties excesses. All my friends smelled of Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey, which is no bad thing. I had discovered Chanel Cristalle, also a light scent that was the opposite side of the spectrum to Poison, Obsession and Giorgio. The 1990s saw me graduate and move to London, which smelled very different to Devon.  London air is thicker, dirtier and there were more cigarettes smoked and more traffic fumes, but reader, to me it was the smell of freedom and wonder and possibility.

collage 1990s

1992 saw the launch of the iconic Thierry Mugler Angel. I remember smelling it for the first time in Harrods Perfume Hall and thinking “but why would I want to smell like chocolate?” I appreciate it now of course, for the multi-faceted classic it is, but back then it was revolutionary among the ozonic and airy fairy Nineties scents. Meanwhile, in 1997, Gucci launched the now much-mourned Gucci Envy.  So good was this floral green scent with a vein of metal running through it, that I dumped Cristalle and remained almost exclusive to Gucci Envy until it was cruelly taken from us in 2007.

The Smell of The Noughties

The Noughties saw a revolution in celebrity fragrance.  Elizabeth Taylor had been churning them out since 1991, but they were largely seen as fan fodder until 2002 when Jennifer Lopez launched the brilliant Glow. It was a clean, white fragrance that pleased the crowds and began a snowball of celebrity fragrances taking off.  Britney Spears got in on it, as did many of her contemporaries and soon the perfumeries were chock full of celeb scents. Sarah Jessica Parker brought new possibilities with SJP Lovely and some of the snobbery dissipated when we realised that celebrity stuff can be pretty darn good. (I’m still a celeb scent geek)

noughties collage

The noughties also mark the only two years of my adult life where I have been without any fragrance and that’s because I had my sons during that decade.  Their first scent memory is of my skin.  No deodorant, no perfume, just me.  It wasn’t easy getting those babies, but it was worth it.

The Smell of the Twenteens

Now things really start to spice up. I started my blog on January 2nd 2013. It was a combination of an urge to write and a channel for my reawakened perfume passion. This was brought about by a lean period, during which Chanel was very much out of reach.  As a result, I developed a bit of a cheap and cheerful habit as my receipts from allbeauty.com will attest.  From that, and the three huge boxes of samples that dear Lisa Jones let me borrow, the floodgates opened.

twenteens

The biggest scent launch of the Twenteens has to be the seminal Lancome La Vie est Belle. The fruity floral explosion of the early ‘teens segued into a river of caramel and praline   Hot on its heels was YSL Black Opium , which dismayed many Opium fans, but brought a  cohort of new fans to the brand.

In recent  times, I’ve been coming across the semi-ubiquitous jasmine sambac note that  seems to be so popular right now.  You can find it in  Paco Rabanne Olympea,  Givenchy Dahlia Divin and Versace Eros. The big launch of 2017 is Mon Guerlain, and whilst it’s not my cup of tea, I do harbour hopes that it will  lead us into a big lavender  trend.

As we point in the direction of 2020, I’m looking forward to the alleged forthcoming trends of milk notes, peony and a renaissance of my favourite genre: green notes.

Interestingly, celebrity fragrance sales are on the wane, but guess what’s on the up?  Niche perfume.  Which is very good news indeedy.

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How about you?

What scents bring back instant memories for you?  It doesn’t matter how random or everyday they are, I always love to hear from you.

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