Tag Archives: Oriental perfume

Guest Blogger Lisa Wordbird at Your Command!

At the 4160 Tuesdays studio, on the famous swing.

Hello! Lisa Wordbird here. I’ve persuaded Sam to let me come and play, and I would love to know what you want to read about. I have a big box of samples and I’ll review things you’re interested in if I have them or I can get hold of them.

Like Sam, I’m a big fan of a bargain and I think an inexpensive perfume can be just as beautiful as something incredibly costly. Equally, I think that there are perfumes that justify a whopping pricetag. I’m a fan of artisan perfumers like Andy Tauer, Sarah McCartney and Liz Moores, and I appreciate how much goes into creating and producing their perfumes.


Equally, I recognise that some of the greatest geniuses in the fragrance industry are the ‘functional fragrance’ creators. These are the unsung heroes and heroines who produce delicious scents for shower gels, fabric softeners and shampoos on an ingredient budget of sixpence a kilo. Don’t believe me? I am eking out a Shower Crème from Lidl called Indian Summer, which is a gorgeous woody oriental. It cost less than £2 when I bought it 18 months ago.

Personally, I lean towards orientals, incense, chypres, leather and animalic fragrances. Some of the things I like make Sam say ‘Eurgh!’ and look at me as if I’ve left the house without my trousers. However, Sam likes some white flowery things that make me go ‘yikes!’ and feel like I’m a drag queen.

Some things we both love, like vintage Miss Dior. Oh, I love vintage perfumes, too. Partly this is because they can be so much cheaper on ebay, partly because things I bought years ago now count as vintage because they date back to before the IFRA made companies reformulate perfumes to reduce possible allergens. (They’ve done it a couple of times now. The IFRA are not my friends.)

So – what would you like to hear about? Vintage perfume? Scented toilet paper? My boundless love for the Yves Rocher Secrets d’Essences range? Please let me know, and I’ll do my best.


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.



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.


Hello to my USA Readers, This is For You. Obsession by Calvin Klein


I see from my blog dashboard that I have a lot of readers from the USA, a country that has given me several wonderful holidays (Hello San Jose, Yosemite, Carmel and San Francisco!). In honour of your special day, I thought it only right that I should review an American Classic.

Calvin Klein Obsession came along at a time when heavy, spicy perfumes were few and far between. There was Opium and Youth Dew and Cinnabar and that was about it on the Oriental Spicy front. Obsession was created in 1985, the same year as Dior’s Poison (Loud? Let’s just say it made an Aerosmith Concert sound like birdsong). Obsession had the big, brashness that was so characteristic of 1980s fragrance and fashion, think Alexis Carrington and her shoulder pads slamming open a dramatic set of double doors.  I miss you Joan. *sigh*

With a moody black and white ad campaign that was probably shot on a beach in the Hamptons, the market was ready for Obsession, even if train passengers were not.

Obsession opens with Spices, Amber, Sandalwood, a hint of Bitter Orange that’s pitched just right, and a whole host of other goodies that makes this shout “I’M HERE” as soon as you enter the room. Longevity is very good for a scent that’s High Street, mainstream and pretty inexpensive, and I have a sneaking fondness for it. On me, it unfolds in layers: Spice first, a slight booziness like Christmas,  Oranges, then Musk and Incense. I like it, but I am careful to spray just one squirt (base of throat) and no more, especially if I am going to be around food.  I love both perfume and food, but I do believe that perfume should never drown out the smell of either your meal or anybody else’s.

I had a bottle of Obsession in 1995, and again in 2005, and I don’t recall any differences in the formulation. Purists swear it’s been messed with, but I didn’t find  any  discernible anomalies .

 In a sea of fruits and berries and florals, this makes a welcome change and I wouldn’t object to a little mini revival, albeit sparingly. This has stood the test of the time and still feels current. One squirt usage makes the iconic egg shaped bottle last a very long time, making this a beauty bargain.

Happy Independence Day