Yves Saint Laurent Opium: Old-vs-New: The Prosecution Speaks



You may have noticed that I reviewed YSL Opium  recently.  Now I do not claim to have a preference between the old and the new and cannot until I have tried the old one.  I thought it would be only fair to give the other side of the coin after my fan letter to new Opium.  My review inspired two impassioned replies from die hard pre refurb Opium lovers.

Friend of the blog Sally wrote such a heartfelt and erudite reply about her love for “Old” Opium that I thought it would make a blog post in its own right.  Fellow friend of the blog and guest writer Lisa Wordbird agrees  “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.”

Here’s Sally’s post in full- she really knows her stuff:

“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!”

Thanks Sally- you have made me long to try the old one and luckily Lisa can help me out on this with a sample.  I’ll keep you posted!

PS The photo of the aged looking bottle is borrowed from fragrantica.com.



6 thoughts on “Yves Saint Laurent Opium: Old-vs-New: The Prosecution Speaks”

  1. Well, I’m intrigued now. I will try the reformed Opium on the weekend. I’m not short of mild office friendly scents, but I’m curious to see how the newer Opium performs if it has become part of that genre. The original was just too much for me. I bought some just before the reform – not realising what a treasure I was obtaining – but ended up selling it to someone who had had the original as signature scent for years and was almost willing to well her own grandmother for more.

    I do admire the original even though I could not wear it. It was one of those scents that some women felt liberating in wearing. Liberated from feminine expectations and polite stereotypes, I mean. Women don’t seem to need scents like that so much any more, if today’s mainstream market is anything to go by. Is it because many more women have found fulfillment at last in careers, and don’t need affirmation from external things like perfume? I don’t know.

  2. Hi AnneMarie and a warm welcome! What you say is very interesting. I wonder if women did use perfume to make a statement they no longer feel a need to make? Maybe with loud scents they were announcing their rightful presence in the workplace after years of male dominated business?

    But then it made me wonder why the emancipated woman of today wants to smell like baking? There are so many vanilla cupcake/fruity/ strawberry scents out there that I can’t help wondering why. We spent years working our way further from the stove, only to end up smelling like we were still there.

    It’s a funny old thing, the world of perfume.

  3. Like you, I shake my head in disbelief. Of course adventurous people will find their way to niche, but I still wonder why the mainstream offerings are so bland – for men as well as women.

  4. I didn’t wear the original, it seemed too sexy and assertive for me. A friend wore it and it was fabulous on her. It’s unfortunate that a lot of classics have been reformulated, usually because the original ingredients aren’t available. It happened to my favourite Diorella and the under powered modern version doesn’t come in eau de parfum. But I managed to get an original unused bottle on eBay.

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