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.