Thursday, November 12, 2015

YSL- Black Opium (EDP)

Yesterday we talked about a perfume that is generally considered better than it should have been. Today we go the other way, to re-examine a popular fragrance the perfume community agrees is dreck. YSL Black Opium was released in 2014 (the eau de toilette followed earlier this year), and the response was generally hostile and usually used stronger words than Angela did in her NST review. And who can argue? A generic gourmand fruitchouli, sweeter than necessary, and completely redundant on a Sephora shelf that includes dozens of similar specimens. The fact that this YSL perfume dares use the name Opium has enraged just about everyone, and with a good reason. And to end the farce, four perfumers have signed on this thing, making Black Opium literally a perfume designed by a committee.

But I have something to say in its defense.

While I doubt I could have picked Black Opium from a lineup of its peers (pears?), I can actually wear a spray or two without jumping out of my skin. The husband has said that I project to high heaven, but in a nice cozy way that he kind of enjoys. I'm okay with that. After the generic opening of pink pepper and flowers that have never appeared in nature comes the sweet vanilla syrup. There's supposed to be a strong coffee note, but if Black Opium were a blended Starbucks drink the barista would have been fired for going crazy with the syrup on your grande pear latte. All the washed up patchouli can't make up for it. And yet...

It's pleasant. I've smelled worse. You smelled worse. YSL did worse (I hated Elle, Manifesto, Baby Doll, and their eleventy million flankers). This one is more vanillic, more fuzzy, and consciously aims to a demographic to which I don't belong. It doesn't deserve the Opium association nor a place on a shelf that also holds the great Yves Saint Laurent vintage perfumes (Rive Gauche, Y, Nu, and even Yvresse and Cinema, most of  them I own in several concentrations and regularly sacrifice virgins to their greatness), but this is not the reason to erect barricades in front of either YSL headquarters or L'Oreal who holds their perfume license. They've all given us bigger reasons to be cranky.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium eau de parfum ($25, 1/3 oz) can be found in every department store under the sun and at Sephora (the small size I mentioned above is a Sephora exclusive, elsewhere you can get regular bottles starting from around $67 per 1 oz).

Image: Forbidden Fruit- Pear by Kyle Bean and Aaron Tilley, 2014.


  1. I'll stick with my vintage Opium extrait. ;)

  2. It's nice to see that someone is giving it a chance. Not because I like it, I don't, but as you say YSL and L'Oreal in particular have done worse. Much much worse. If only they'd given it a different name; I don't think that today Opium and the Opium name are such a big hit, mostly because young people still see it as a powerhouse and former users mostly have given up on it post 2009. Do they really feel like they did such a good job as to franchise the name? Does it really conjure the glamour and extravaganza it did back in the day? I guess next is Black Opium Fraiche or whatever.

  3. This is another scent I've never tried. Vintage Opium has a very prominent place on a pedestal in my perfume pantheon and I think I've been a bit concerned that, powerful deity that it is, it might actually throw a thunderbolt or two at me if I dared to try this. But your review had me laughing enough that I think I'll give it a sniff and risk the rage of vintage O.

  4. The very first perfume my Dear Husband bought for me while we were just dating was what is now vintage Opium in the extrait. Tassled bottle and all. Sigh. I very much doubt I would like this, as I find myself wishing for another bottle of that original perfume. I did have a good giggle reading all the five star reviews of this version on Sephora's website. I'm guessing what I want in perfume at my age, is far different than what quite a few young, twenty-somethings want in theirs.

    1. Tatiana,
      It's interesting to note that when I was a twenty-something a few decades ago, vintage Opium is what I wanted to smell like. How tastes in fragrances have changed!!

  5. I got a sample of this and promptly threw it away after one sniff. I need say no more.

  6. I'm really quite surprised by your stance on this perfume given your scathing reviews of Couture by Juicy Couture and Lady Million by Paco Rabanne as well as your intolerance for the self titled Badgley Mischka. I completely get the disdain for fruitchoulis in general, trends do become boring and mindless after a while and this one has been going on for quite some time now, however it's a bit unfair to pardon one but ridicule all others. I can't recall smelling Black Opium but I doubt it's any better than it's syrupy peers. Fruitchoulis aren't for everyone but neither are leathers or ouds. I will confess Couture, Lady Million and Badgley Mischka are my guilty pleasure perfumes and yes I am in that 20-something bracket, but I also happen to own Cuir de Russie, 31 Rue Cambon, Ubar and several other highly esteemed juices. I don't reach for my fruitchoulis all that often but if the weather isn't that hot and I'm in the mood for a fun and cheerful fragrance that doesn't take itself too seriously, then nothing beats a single spritz of sugary-fruity-floral. I personally find these perfumes easier to wear and much less in-your-face and over-the-top with sweetness than say, Amarige or Organza. I don't agree with the blanket statements about what "young 20-somethings" vs any other age demograph want in a perfume, there's a time and place for every style of perfume and I'm sure none of us here would ever agree to wearing only one perfume for the rest of our lives. If someone wants to look down their nose at this style then to each their own, but if ever you want some lighthearted fun...


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