YSL Black Opium

Source: lookbooks.com

Source: lookbooks.com

This is nothing like Opium. Let’s get that point out of the way right from the start. Black Opium isn’t even in the same galaxy as the original, let alone a related flanker with strong olfactory kinship. Regardless of whether you loved the original Opium or hated it, the objective reality is that the fragrance was a masterpiece that changed the perfume landscape, ushering in the oriental genre like nothing else before it, and becoming the benchmark by which all subsequent orientals were measured. Black Opium is not a masterpiece. In my opinion, it doesn’t deserve to bear the “Opium” name even in a small way.

"Tattooed Salome," c.1876 by Gustave Moreau.

“Tattooed Salome,” c.1876 by Gustave Moreau.

This is an extremely difficult review for me to write. As I’ve said many times in the past, original vintage Opium is my Holy Grail, one of two fragrances that changed everything for me and made me the perfume lover that I am today. Luca Turin called it “The Spice King” in his Five Star Review, but I prefer a friend’s loving, adoring term, “The Bitch Goddess.” In my wholly biased, subjective view, there is nothing like 1970s or 1980s Opium. It is bottled magic that transcends a mere set of notes to become something else entirely. It is a roaring, spectacular, bold masterpiece that is the Sistine Chapel of Orientals, a warrior’s olfactory shield worthy of Joan of Arc and all of the Seven Veils for Salomé. Men should wear it, women should seduce with it. There is simply nothing like vintage Opium, in my opinion. Period. (Note: versions post-1992 or 1995 are not so special, while absolutely none of this applies to anything put out during L’Oreal’s reign of horrors at YSL from the late-2000s onwards.)

Source: feminorama.com

Source: feminorama.com

How then can I review a modern interpretation put out by L’Oreal with any objectivity? I can’t. I simply can’t. Opium shaped who I am as a perfume lover, and is something more than just a mere fragrance for me. Consciously or subconsciously, my feelings for it are bound to seep into every word I write here. And, in all honesty, I had to toss my first draft of this review because — like the notes that I took while testing Black Opium — it was fast degenerating into a Tourettes-like stream of bitterness. My issues with L’Oreal are so widespread, so deep, so fundamentally negative, that I can’t begin to even describe them at this point. What they’ve done to YSL Parfums as a whole is abominable, but what they’ve done to my beloved Opium in specific takes me outside the realm of rational objectivity. There is such rage coursing through my body at the mere thought of L’Oreal that I can barely see straight. I know that none of this is sane, reasonable, or logical, and I’m fully aware that I sound like a crazy person — but I can guarantee you that every single person who loves vintage Opium passionately feels exactly the same way.

Source: profumeriesquillace.it

Source: profumeriesquillace.it

I am going to do my very best to put my seething bitterness against L’Oreal aside in this review and to approach Black Opium as objectively as possible under the circumstances. I don’t know how successful I will be, but I will try. If I fail, please try to understand that wearing Black Opium was, quite genuinely, a sorrowful experience for me on an emotional level, as well as a difficult one for purely olfactory reasons. It’s not a ghastly fragrance relative to a generic fruity-floral that you could find in Victoria’s Secret, but it actually pains me to think that this is what L’Oreal believes is a modern version of Yves St. Laurent’s genius creation. I’m not the only one. As you will see later, Saint Laurent’s Creative Director, Hedi Slimane, publicly disavowed all involvement with Black Opium. It seems to have been the last straw in general, because he went further and also bluntly denied anything to do with any fragrance put out by L’Oreal under the YSL name as a whole. I think that says something.

Edie Campbell for YSL Black Opium. Photo: Txema Yeste & Daniel Wolfe. Source: fashioncopious.typepad.com

Edie Campbell for YSL Black Opium. Photo: Txema Yeste & Daniel Wolfe. Source: fashioncopious.typepad.com

Black Opium is an eau de parfum that was released in September in limited fashion in Europe and countries like Australia. I’ve read that it will issued in the U.S. in 2015. Black Opium was created by Nathalie Lorson and Marie Salamagne, in collaboration with Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc. The press release quoted on most sites describes the fragrance and the woman who wears it as follows:

Introducing Black Opium, a new expression of femininity. The Black Opium girl is a modern Rock Chick. She lives life with passion and dares to be different. Her fragrance, like a shot of adrenelin or a dose of energy gives her the courage to free herself and the confidence to seize her singularity.

The English YSL website focuses instead on the fact that Black Opium is the first “coffee floral” fragrance, saying:

"Javascapes" by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: Behance. net (website link embedded within.)

“Javascapes” by Photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: Behance. net (website link embedded within.)


… BLACK OPIUM plays on the intense pay-off that happens when darkness meets sweet luminescence. As addictive as that first shot of caffeine, with electrifying white flowers to tie it all together, this new generation oriental gourmand is a radical move away from the structure of the classic perfume, and instead is inspired by the artistic movement of the “chiaroscuro”, where the emphasis is on the contrast and tension between light and dark. Playing on the incongruity between the bitterness of the coffee bean accord, an ingredient never used before in such a high quantity in a feminine fragrance and radiant white flowers, BLACK OPIUM gives a sensation of light-headedness, bordering on ecstasy. First there is the wake-up call. The coffee bean note hits you hard, jolting the senses. Next, it becomes softer and more feminine with the white flowers of jasmine sambac and absolu of fleur d’oranger to finish incredibly addictive and emboldened by the ambrosial appeal of vanilla and the woody notes of cedar and patchouli, giving a roundness, depth, and mysterious elegance.

Black Opium’s notes, as compiled from that YSL description and the press releases quoted by Now Smell This, are therefore:

coffee, pink pepper, orange blossom, jasmine, vanilla, pear, patchouli, musk, and cedar.

Source: simplebites.net

Source: simplebites.net

Black Opium opens on my skin with a profoundly intense tsunami of fruited sweetness. There is orange blossom that feels like thick syrup, amplified further by hefty amounts of saccharine sweetness from a deeply jammy, molasses-like, purple patchouli. The latter has a rose-like quality, and I don’t think it’s merely a case of mental association due to the commonness of the patchouli-rose combination in perfumery. No, on my skin, Black Opium smells almost as much of jammy roses as it does of orange blossoms. Both flowers are drenched with sweetness that is even further amplified by the pink peppercorns, a standby note in many fruity-florals from the 2000s.

Source: imagekind.com

Source: imagekind.com

Other elements are noticeable as well, though never in the same quantity or degree. In the base, there is a strong amount of clean musk, while the background contains a tiny wisp of something that vaguely appears like a coffee note. To be precise, a nebulous, quasi-coffee note centered around very creamy café au lait. It’s a minor touch and heavily muffled by the painfully sweet, purple fruitchouli molasses, the fruity pink berries, and the orange blossom jam. Ostensibly, Black Opium also contains pears, but it’s not visible in any distinct, concrete way. I suspect, though, that it’s working indirectly to add to the overall sense of syrupy fruitiness.

Lola, Velvet Edition bottle. Source: beautycrazed.ca

Lola, Velvet Edition bottle. Source: beautycrazed.ca

Words cannot describe how sweet this fragrance is, nor how generic. The first thing I thought of when applying it was that Black Opium felt like an orange blossom version of Marc Jacob‘s Lola, with a dose of Chanel‘s Coco Noir. Both fragrances are centered on fruitchouli roses, but Lola’s notes include the same pink pepper, pear, and creamy elements that there are here. Black Opium also bears a similarity to a celebrity fragrance, and the memory of a few things from Victoria’s Secret nagged at me as well, though I cannot specify which particular scents at the moment.

Part of the problem is that there is really not a lot to this scent on my skin, either in the opening phase or later on in its development. For the most part, Black Opium is simply excessively sweet, fruited goo enveloped in a hazy, abstract floralcy. Orange blossom or rose, it matters not, because their defining individual characteristics are almost obliterated by the patchouli, pink peppercorns, and clean musk. The quasi-coffee note is too weak to substantially change things, either. Less than 30 minutes into Black Opium’s development, it sinks into the base where, from time to time, it peeks out its head in the quietest of ways. Later on, it adds a subtle suggestion of creaminess to the foundation, but it’s truly the most inconsequential factor. A “coffee floral”? Not on my skin.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Grape jam. Source: Shutterstock.com

Black Opium’s core essence basically remains unchanged for the next 9 hours. There are subtle variations in its secondary notes and nuances, but they are mainly a question of degree, not of kind. At the start of the second hour, the patchouli begins to emit a Concord grape or Welch’s jelly nuance. Then, for a brief 30 minutes, the coffee note grows stronger, merging with the other accords to create an aroma rather similar to black licorice, but it fades from sight rather quickly.

Much more noticeable is the clean musk which starts to compete with the fruited, floral syrup for dominance. It never quite succeeds in wrestling attention from the orange blossom-rose molasses, but it tries. At the start of the 6th hour, it takes on quite a sharp bent, slowly turning Black Opium into something very similar in feel to inexpensive, girly, feminine fragrances put out by Victoria’s Secret. There is nothing wrong with Victoria’s Secret fragrances for those who enjoy them, but the point here is something else. Victoria’s Secret is not pretending to put out luxury masterpieces, and they’re honest enough to price things accordingly. It’s quite the opposite situation with Black Opium.

In its final hours, Black Opium is a simple, wholly abstract blur of sweet, fruity-florals with clean musk and patchouli. Wisps of crystallized, sugared, somewhat burnt vanilla stir in the base, occasionally sending up tendrils to the top and further adding to the perfume’s saccharine sweetness. Yet, for the most part, the patchouli fruitiness and white musk combination bulldozer over everything else on my skin. In the end, all that is left is mere synthetic sweetness.

Source: wallpapers55.com

Source: wallpapers55.com

Black Opium has excellent longevity on my skin (alas), and very strong sillage. Using 3 smears equal to roughly 2 sprays from an actual bottle, Black Opium consistently lasted between 11 to 11.5 hours in two different tests. It always opened with an intense cloud that projected 5-6 inches above the skin. The numbers dropped to about 4 inches at the end of the 1st hour, then somewhere between 2-3 inches at the start of the 3rd hour. There it remained for quite a while, and the perfume only turned into a skin scent on me at the start of the 7th hour. I think part of the reason why I had such high numbers is that my skin tends to amplify fruited patchouli, sweetness, synthetics, and clean white musks, but I also think that Black Opium was intentionally made to be a strong scent, even if it’s not to the same degree as its powerhouse predecessor.

The difference is that this Opium flanker was also made to appeal to modern and youthful tastes. Mainstream fragrances today focus on sweetness, gourmands, and fruity-florals. Whether it is Guerlain, Chanel, YSL, or L’Oreal in general, designer fragrances are all targeting the youthful market. By today’s standards, vintage Opium smells like an older person’s fragrance and/or has practically a masculine profile with its dark, heavily spiced, resinous, and incense notes. Black Opium is tossing all that aside, avoiding anything that would be truly “black,” and amping up the sweetness in order to create a very safe, easy, approachable fragrance that would appeal to the Victoria’s Secret customer, only this one also wants the more prestigious, designer caché of the YSL name.

Hedi Slimane. Source: cruisefashion.com

Hedi Slimane. Source: cruisefashion.com

The end result is obviously not going to be original or distinctive, let alone reminiscent of either Yves St. Laurent’s ground-breaking genius in the early days or the edgy innovations of Tom Ford’s later reign. That is undoubtedly why Saint Laurent’s new chief has publicly disavowed anything to do with L’Oreal’s creations under the YSL name. In September, WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) reported on a long tweet sent out by Saint Laurent on behalf of Hedi Slimane:

Hedi Slimane has been mentioned several times in the press in connection with the introduction in the market of Black Opium with Edie Campbell by Yves Saint Laurent Beauté (L’Oréal Group). It is appropriate to [specify] that no creative direction has been given by Hedi Slimane on the market launches and on the choices of artistic elements, or definition of image, related to the product lines or the advertising campaigns of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, including the ones of Black Opium.

Just to make sure the message was loud and clear, an additional press release was also sent out to emphasize that Hedi Slimane had absolutely nothing to do with any “product lines” or “market launches” issued by the L’Oreal Group under the YSL Beauté label. If you think about the fact that L’Oreal bought the name back in January 2008, and has been releasing YSL fragrances since then with nary a word from the separate fashion house, I think it clearly says something about both Black Opium and what L’Oreal has done with the YSL label as a whole for there to be such a public disavowal after all this time. It’s not just me with my silly little, biased feelings who thinks that L’Oreal has absolutely destroyed the brand and everything it stands for. The fashion house that seeks to carry on Yves St. Laurent’s legacy does so as well.

There is one way that Black Opium stood out for me: for the first time in my life, I had an allergic skin reaction to a fragrance. The part of my arm where I applied the scent became inflamed, red, hot, and swollen — and that has never happened to me that I can recall. With Black Opium, it happened twice, on both occasions that I tested the fragrance. If the EU and IFRA are so concerned about skin allergies, then Black Opium is yet one more example of how it is the cheap crap put out by companies like Givaudan and L’Oreal that are the problem, not the natural essences that they’re trying to restrict into nonexistence. As the perfumer Mandy Aftel once said, it is the synthetics that stink up the elevator and give perfumery such a bad name, not the pure essences or ingredients. However, the companies who produce those chemicals are the same ones funding IFRA. They benefit from the EU’s upcoming draconian measures, but so does L’Oreal who uses the synthetics to save money on perfume production, while simultaneously raising fragrance prices.

And Black Opium is priced quite high by the standards of fragrances in the Victoria’s Secret or Marc Jacob genre to which it belongs. The smallest bottle, a tiny 30 ml, costs about €56 which translates to almost $70 at today’s currency exchange rate, while the largest (90 ml or 3 oz) costs €105 or about $128. Those are comparable to Hermès‘ prices, as well as Tom Ford‘s in his regular line, like his Black Orchid. Unfortunately, Black Opium doesn’t come close to the quality, complexity, or originality of something like Black Orchid. If L’Oreal wants to learn how to do flankers properly, it should look to Tom Ford who has done rather a decent job of it several times now.

1977 Opium advert featuring Jerry Hall. Photo: Helmut Newton. Source: Vogue.com

1977 Opium advert featuring Jerry Hall. Photo: Helmut Newton. Source: Vogue.com

I haven’t found a lot of blog reviews for Black Opium, perhaps because it is a limited release at this time and won’t be launched globally until 2015. However, The Candy Perfume Boy covered the scent in a review entitled “How The Mighty Have Fallen.” And that’s the opinion of someone who isn’t even an Opium-head! He writes, in part, as follows:

Smelling Black Opium, the latest from YSL, one finds it hard to believe that this fragrance comes from one of the most iconic and innovative designer fragrance brands of all time. Just think about it for a second, Yves Saint Laurent brought the world Opium, Paris and Rive Gauche, arguably three of the most important feminines released in the modern age. Not to forget the fact that they have also created cult classics such as Nu, M7 and Rive Gauche Pour Homme – perfumes that paint YSL as a brand with no fear, and a thirst to be different and divisive.

Black Opium is not an important fragrance, nor is it a particularly good one[….] With each release, YSL seems to be creating more and more duds (does anyone even remember 2012’s Manifesto? Exactly) whilst simultaneously unleashing a regular wave of flankers of their flagship fragrances. Black Opium is the third permanent flanker to the Opium name since 2010[.][¶]

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Licorice. Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Black Opium opens with a sickly sweet haze of sticky liquorice, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, except for the fact that YSL have managed to remove all of the joy from a fun and frivolous note, weighing it down with vague fruits and the sweet spice of pink pepper to give the impression of something not unlike liquorice cotton candy. It’s an opening that can be smelled in a thousand-and-one fragrances, many of which create a more enticing gourmand impression.

From then on Black Opium swirls uncomfortably into an Angel-esue soup of patchouli and vanilla. There isn’t a great deal of development and none of the promised floral and coffee notes make an appearance to create any deal of interest. […][¶]

But does Black Opium really smell that bad? Well the answer is no, it doesn’t smell ‘bad’, in fact it simply isn’t interesting enough to be dreadful. Black Opium represents all that is wrong with the fragrance industry and reinforces a growing trend where mediocrity is accepted and the idea of creating something beautiful is lost underneath the desire to make a quick buck.

On Fragrantica, the earliest reviews for Black Opium skewed towards the negative, but the winds are shifting now and there are many more positive comments, with a good number of people sticking up for the fragrance. The critics are represented by the following review which read, in majority part, as follows:

Associating this with the original Opium line seems like something of an insult. If you were to smell this, you’d never guess it was a new iteration of the sultry and spicy original.

Black Opium with its box. Source: escentual.com

Black Opium with its box. Source: escentual.com

This just smells horribly cheap and synthetic, it might as well be a drugstore body spray. I appreciate that YSL are attempting to appeal to a younger market, what with the bottle redesign and all that, and I think in this respect, they’ve succeeded. This is so sweet and artificial-smelling I can just imagine a tweenager wearing this – it really isn’t for a self-assured, mature woman – and the hefty price tag would suggest that the latter target market is the only one who can afford it.

Upon spraying, I immediately get a burst of vanilla that smells more synthetic-y shampoo than rich, creamy, upmarket perfume. I would have the though the coffee would have taken the edge off the sweetness, but it just makes it worse. I’m no perfume expert in the sense that I find it difficult to identify notes and how they develop, but this is just an awful saccharine mess from start to finish. [Snip sentence about the bottle being tacky.]

There are many more comments in the same vein, either describing Black Opium as a “celebrity/teenage scent” or saying things like, “Haha, IT IS A JOKE!” Others have an issue with the price, writing “Terrible perfume for the money.” In fact, even some of the people who like Black Opium think it’s overly expensive for what it is.

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

The opposing camp has a very different perspective:

  • I love Black Opium, it is the perfect Autumn/Winter fragrance. It reminds me of all things Christmassy, especially mulled wine. I can not get enough of this fragrance, it has the perfect spicey, sweet, warm, deep combination.
  • I’m gonna go against the general grain here too and say I reeeeally enjoy this one! Being a coffee addict probably doesn’t hurt – there is definitely a sumptuously rich coffee note in here which smells a lot like licorice on my skin, coffee, licorice and burnt vanilla. Yum.
    I am a spicy oriental fan but unfortunately the original Opium just never sat well on my skin, not like Cinnabar for instance, which is also very spicy. But I digress. I take this new Black Opium as a stand alone, not a flanker and in that space I really, really enjoy its gritty, punchy, sweet aroma. Yes please, this is definitely for me – and I am NOT a teenager OR a mallrat.

I’ve noticed that a number of people who struggled with the original Opium find the new flanker to be something “a lot more wearable” and approachable, which brings me to my final point: how you feel about Black Opium may depend heavily on your feelings about the original, as well as your general appreciation for gourmands, fruity-florals, and intense sweetness as a whole.

I have tried my best to be as objective and professional as possible in describing Black Opium, but I fear the strain of self-censorship is beginning to show, so I better abruptly end this review here and now before a torrent of bitterness slips out. Bottom line: Black Opium is completely unrelated to Opium in any way imaginable. Take that how you will.

Cost & Availability: Black Opium is an eau de parfum that comes in three different sizes: a 30 ml bottle that costs €56,20 or £44; a 50 ml bottle for €80,25 or £62; and a 90 ml bottle for £80 or roughly €105. Black Opium is not currently sold in the U.S., and is not shown on the US YSL website at all. It will probably remain an international exclusive until sometime in 2015. In Europe, you can order it directly from YSL France. I assume they ship throughout the EU. In the U.K., Black Opium is available at Boots, Debenham, House of Fraser, Selfridges, or The Fragrance Shop. In France, Sephora has Black Opium in all sizes. In Italy, it may be available at Profumerie Squillace. In Australia, it’s sold at Myer for AUD$90-$165, depending on size. Samples: In America, The Perfumed Court sells Black Opium starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

63 thoughts on “YSL Black Opium

  1. I remember the distinctive, deep, spicy smell of Opium in the 70’s & 80’s. All the females in my circle of friends in Austin wore it & proclaimed their LOOOOVE for it’s beautiful fragrance. Their apartments smelled of it, & when the bodies became sweaty at the discoes, Opium wafted from those dancing girls. Fun times!
    Your reference to the 70’s & 80’s brought forth that scent memory, so thank you for that. I wasn’t a perfumista at the time, but I knew this was something daring, exotic, and special.
    Another great review, beautifully written,and yes, objective & professional :); & LOL at the “longevity was excellent on my skin, (alas).” Just your luck, eh?
    I read on mimifroufrou that scientists have created a substance that can be added to all perfumes which will prevent allergens from entering the skin-I think it’s called something like PerfuGuard. Anyway, they hope this will enable perfumes to be restored to their original glory. Maybe some day you’ll be wearing Opium more often! I certainly hope so, because I’ve no doubt that you wear it well!

    • I think you would wear it well yourself, Ed, and you would love its spicy character with the endless Mysore sandalwood, the incense, dark brown patchouli, tonka, balsamic resins, and more. You seem to have magical luck on eBay, so you may want to keep an eye out for a bottle at a good price. NOT Men’s Opium, though. That’s a 1990s scent, while the women’s is much more intense, bold, true, and dark.

      As for the Perfume Guard or whatever it’s called, it’s arrived too late. Once the EU issues its new laws, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever roll them back. That’s simply not the way that unwieldy, large legislative bodies work. We’re basically stuck with things as they are. Alas.

    • I thought of you, Sally. I knew what your reaction would be, my fellow Opium head, and the very fact that you can’t trust yourself to say anything more than “Hideous” speaks volumes. Your reaction is actually the only thing that has made me smile today. Thinking about the way things were, what Opium symbolized, and that entire lost world has made me really sad. We’re of a different time, you, me, Feral Jasmine, and a few others. Perfume is quite different now, on so many levels. I think poor Yves St. Laurent would be quite horrified at it all, never mind at what has happened in his name under L’Oreal’s reign.

  2. I don’t think that I will be able to try this one. As a worshiper at the shrine of the original Opium, I don’t care to sample a sad sweet mockery of same. I am so tickled that my “bitch-goddess” description resonates with you! Going from the bitch-goddess to purple patchouli feels too much like going to hell in a handbasket. I am rather taken with Hedi Slimane, though, and glad to have been alerted to the presence of somebody with actual integrity who rejects the whole L’Oreal mess. Ah well, off to douse myself with the original.

    • “Hell in a handbasket” for people like you and I, but it seems to be quite popular with recent commentators on Fragrantica. Really, some people truly ADORE it. Few of those are Opium lovers, though…..

      Somehow, I can’t bear to put on original Opium right now. It feels like an unbearable reminder of all that no longer is. Or perhaps I’m just too emotionally drained after a few days with L’Oreal’s latest travesty. At least Hedi Slimane made his feelings about it clear. Whatever one may think about him, I’ll always respect him for making such a public statement.

  3. I wrote a bit of a diatribe and it seems to have vanished in the posting process. So I will just join Sally in saying “hideous.” A nod to Hedi Slimane, too, for making it clear that this mess is L’Oreal, not YSL.

    • It ended up in the Spam folder for some reason. Perhaps WordPress is a fan of Black Opium? 😉

  4. Friends schlepped this back from Paris for me, and I haven’t had the heart to tell them what a big, hot, revolting mess this stuff is. I tried it on two different occasions just to make sure, and yes, both times it was as bad as I thought. I am not a HUGE original Opium fan but still, not to put too fine a point on it, who would actually WEAR this shit? It remains a mystery to me.

    • Haha, bless you, Robert. I could almost hug you right now. Thank you for cheering me up, and for letting me know it’s not just me and a few crazy Opium heads. I hope you have a lovely weekend and, really, Thank You! I sorely needed the laugh and, after suppressing so many expletives of my own, your bluntness was just perfect.

      • As a side note, I own a successful Espresso Bar and was actually looking forward to the idea of a coffee/floriental! I never did manage to find that coffee note in that synthethic smelling stew.

        • The quasi-“coffee” note was a weird thing. It was such a nebulous abstraction, and more of a suggestion than anything else — and that’s when it actually *did* appear in its tiny, minuscule fashion. I’m not surprised to hear that the synthetic soup obliterated the tiny fragments entirely on your skin, though some people on Fragrantica clearly think Black Opium is a coffee scent. Hm.

          Speaking of coffee, one of the few fragrances that I’ve found to actually resemble that aroma is AbdesSalaam Attar and La Via del Profumo’s Caffé Milano. Have you tried it? An Italian expresso coffee recreation, done mostly via patchouli, vetiver, and other dark notes. If you haven’t tried it, you can look up my review to see if it sounds tempting and then order a sample from Surrender to Chance. I would love to know what you thought and if you experienced something truer to life than some of the more pseudo coffee fragrances around which tend to be vague approximations of milky café au lait or lattes, mixed in with a flood of sweetness. Caffé Milano is definitely not that, and is a very dark scent.

          • Hey thanks! The attar is a new one to me, and I think I actually have a sample of of the LVdP knocking around in that fathomless hell I call my sample box! (more of a suitcase, actually.)

          • Shows how much attention I pay! Yup, they ARE indeed one and the same,time to go routing through that suitcase! LOL!!

          • Yep, same company. AbdesSalaam Attar is the name of the nose and founder of La Via del Profumo. That’s what he goes by, though his real name is Dominique Dubrana. I hope his Caffe Milano gives you a strong whiff of coffee. 🙂

  5. I have always regarded vintage Opium as the ultimate fragrance. It is, “I am Woman(Man), hear me roar,” and it is my absolute favorite. It was also my mother’s signature scent from the day it was released until the day she passed away.. I hate that the name is being used in such an awful way. Ugh, Ugh, Ugh! How simply awful on the part of L’Oreal to attempt to capitalize on the name in order to get a buck. Shame on them. Beautiful review, by the way.

    • I think “I am Woman/Man, hear me ROAR!” is the ultimate and perfect summation for vintage Opium. I really do, and I’ve used that expression in the past myself.

      As for capitalizing on things to make a quick buck, L’Oreal seems to have done it with a number of the YSL greats (see e.g., Paris and its endless flankers), while simulultaneously ending some revolutionary masterpieces (M7), reissuing other scents in a completely altered, new form with completely different notes (Yvresse), and gutting others to the point of non-recognition (Kouros).

      And my God, the list of flankers…!!! Everything has turned into a flanker with hardly any new, original releases of their own. Paris, Elle, Kouros, La Nuit, Cinema, Manifesto… I think they’ve come out with a new “twist” on Paris each year since L’Oreal took over YSL. Honestly, a pox on them and their house. They’re parasitic vultures.

  6. Don’t worry Kafka. You are not the only crazy person :).
    If that bitchy goddess was to raise from her grave she would call Black Opium a worthless impostor, punch her in the face and fumigate her with her original scent until she was begging for mercy! That’s how it’s done! I have my left arm covered in 1977 edt to recalibrate and it feels sooooo right. On a different note, the other day on the street I’m pretty sure I smelled Opium on a guy in his 30s and it smelled great; must be the new one though… Hope you are recovered from the shock of testing this abomination, and hope vintage Opium makes it all smell better!!!!

    • Black Opium really is an abomination. I was utterly baffled at first, and just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was smelling. The thing is, even if one takes away the “Opium” part of the name, it is NOT a good perfume! But to include the “Opium” name truly adds insult to injury.

      I think I could have handled things better and been more nonchalant if they had just called it something entirely different. Then, it would simply have been another L’Oreal perfume to shrug over, just another entry in their line of things that wasn’t worth caring about or making a fuss over because it was so damn generic, uninteresting, and synthetic. Instead, they tried to pass this off as a modern, rocker, dark, coffee-oriented twist on the legend, and some sort of luxurious modern masterpiece.

      So, yeah, it was a bit of a shock but I think Black Opium depressed me more than anything else. That said, I seem to have covered the entire range of the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief with a very (very!) extended pit-stop in the anger section. lol 😀

      On a separate note, regarding the guy you smelled on the street, I wish more men realised that Opium would be perfect for them. It’s certainly more masculine than a number of “unisex” fragrances that I’ve tried, and more than some supposed “masculines” as well.

  7. I think my comment got lost but basically yes, Opium rules and will rule always. Black Opium is the impostor who needs a punch in the face. Re calibrating nose now in vintage glory! 🙂

    • It went into the Spam Folder, just as Feral Jasmine’s did. I think WordPress has an issue with the “B” word, though it may just be my settings. I’ll look into it but, no worries, your comment is posted and I responded to it. 🙂

      • Oh good :-)! Kill me now but La vie est Belle, is my trashy guilty pleasure…It’s trashy, it’s L’Oreal. Because I’m worth it!!!!!!

  8. I, too, was a wearer of the original Opium, ever since its release in the UK, I was a final year university student when it came out, and, having fallen in love with the edt (or maybe edp) I spent a large chunk of my holiday job wage on the perfume in the tasselled bottle. There has truly never been anything like it and I do miss it. I will not try this, partly as a matter of principle and partly because it sounds like everything I detest in a perfume.

    • No, there really has never been anything like Opium. You and I rejoice in that fact, but I think others were a little more traumatized over it. LOL 😀 For good or for bad, it was utterly unique for its time (and since then), it stood out, and it had character. NONE of that holds true for Black Opium. None of it.

  9. That rash you describe sounds nasty. I have to agree with you that the synthetics may be the real worry in new perfumes. I’ve had no skin reactions (yet) but approach new releases with extreme caution and don’t put them on skin -unless they are naturals.

    I’ll bet some readers ask themselves why so many perfume bloggers like vintage or natural perfumes. This sort of occurrence is part of the answer, also in my experience sinus problems! All of which one might have endured for original Opium, but for Black? Hmm…

    • I’ve said for ages that the synthetics are the reason why so many people today have issues with fragrance, especially the headaches! All that revolting cheap, clean white musk, not to mention the stronger aromachemicals, ISO E Super, and the rest. You obviously can’t avoid them by going upscale and into niche, but you do reduce your chances of being heavily inundated with nothing BUT synthetics if you go niche and away from the mainstream or designer side.

      And that brings me to your point about vintage. You’re absolutely right that synthetics are one reason why so many perfume bloggers rave about vintage or natural perfumes. The latter are difficult for me personally because of the low sillage, but I respect them. And vintage fragrances never smelled cheap to me, even if they actually *were* cheap in price relatively speaking. (I mean, not everything was like Joy in price back then! That sort of price was a rarity and the exception to the rule.) Nowadays, though, mainstream scents do smell cheap because they’re jam packed with synthetics and almost nothing pure. Perfumes are turned out like factory-assembly line products several times a year, after being put to focus groups run by PR agents, and most of the money goes towards perfume campaigns and marketing. What a far, far cry from just a few decades ago when a perfume house like YSL worked for years on a single scent, and spent the majority of its money on the components.

      I know you know all this already, but I needed to vent out of sheer frustration. Arrggghhh! As The Candy Perfume Boy said, L’Oreal has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with perfumery today, and writing reviews like this one just reminds me of it all over again.

  10. The original dreamy Opium: It was me against my mother’s world back in the day. She had Opium hidden from my hands because I will just shower myself with it. I loved it.I love it. Memories, good and bad, of times gone, lost, and cherished, that’s Opium for me. I actually did smell this Black version and it was really meh for me. Just another non-substantial scent. Like you, I didn’t experience anything black about it. As Slimane, I too disavow my experience with any post 1990s Opium.
    I did not get a skin reaction like you did, my dear K, but I suffer for you since I know what it is to love a lost object, which will never return because its conditions of possibility and its context make it impossible.

    • I love the thought of you and your mother having a tug-of-war over the Opium bottle! LOVE that! As for the new Black version, “really meh” is a very kind way of putting it. lol

  11. My mom would be rolling in her grave. She rocked vintage Opium and passed her love of it along to me. I get warm fuzzies whenever I sniff it. No way would I want to trade my Mom’s smart, stylish bejeweled embrace for a drunken night out with Vicki’s Secret regulars. Hell no.

  12. I was not an original Opium wearer. As the owner of a small clothing boutique in the mid 80’s, the smell of it and other “big shoulder pad scents” really got to me. Tried on clothes reeked of it. People oversprayed. . . I developed a perfume aversion that put me off scent until the early 2000’s (!),but probably on account of the whole stew of loud 80’s perfumery (Poison, White Diamonds, Giorgio Beverly Hills). I should really get my hands on a vintage sample to sniff because I’m sure I’d have a different opinion now.

    I found myself cringing during the three paragraphs in which you described wearing this “goo.” Great writing indeed! Even though you gave it such a horrendous review, I couldn’t help but think L’Oreal doesn’t deserve such a great bad review!

    I felt a bit guilty enjoying this post so thoroughly as you had to suffer to write it. What a conundrum!

    • Heh, this was my polite, highly censored, edited version of the review. You should have seen my notes with the stream of bewilderment that quickly descended into expletives and exclamation marks, not to mention the highly vitriolic first draft of this post.

      I really wish you would get a sample of vintage Opium, preferably from someone who knows they have a sample from the ’70s or ’80s. I would send you some of my ’70s version, but the top has gone “off,” and I don’t want you to get a misleading idea of the scent in your first attempts to come back to it. And I don’t have enough of the ’80s or ’90s version to really spare without feeling some panic or hoarding setting in. I hope you will forgive the honesty of that statement. But I really, REALLY wish you would try it again. Your tastes have changed so much in just the last year in terms of what you like or think is “bold” or “intense,” versus “sheer” and “safe,” that I truly think ’80s Opium would blow your socks off now. I really do.

  13. Even the post-90s Opium eau de parfum was gorgeous to my ‘ignorant of the vintage version’ nose so I can safely proclaim that I will not be trying Black Opium.

  14. I curse myself for not buying the vintage Opium for myself when I was buying it for my mother! Kafka, just so you know, I refused to buy mom the “new” $#!! when she asked what happened to her beloved Opium.
    I said something like I would rather she wore Old Spice! :/

  15. The original Opium changed everything for me, too. I first sampled it (edp) when I was 15. I remember smelling my wrist the next day (!) and thinking, “This is me.” I had been wearing perfumes since I was 12, but I had never responded that way to any scent. At 15, I did recognize the fact that I was probably too young for that scent. But the memory of it stayed with me always. I’m sad that I didn’t buy a bottle in the 1980s; every time I’ve sampled it since then, I could tell it was not that same scent.

    Needless to say, I won’t be sniffing Black Opium!

    • First, welcome to the blog, Bettina. Second, thank you for sharing your memories and experiences with original Opium. I was especially touched to read how it changed things for you, too, and that you responded to it with a “This is me” feeling. Perhaps one day you can find a bottle on eBay that smells the way you remember, though it is such an tricky hit-or-miss situation with buying really old vintages on eBay.

  16. Ick. It truly is grotesque it shares the same name. I wonder how many people bought it thinking it would be somewhere in the same realm? Sounds abysmal by any standard, but especially in relation to vintage Opium. I was at my aunt’s house the other day and saw she had not one but TWO big bottles of vintage Opium on her nightstand – I’m sure she took them from my grandmother after she died (Grandma used to wear Opium on special occasions). It was nice to know they’ll be worn by someone who will enjoy it! 🙂

      • Bargain? I thought about swiping it without asking! 😛 LOL. But I do have a spare vintage bottle that hasn’t yet been opened, so I think I’m good for the time being. But can one really ever have too much vintage Opium?

  17. I find myself rereading these funny replies to Black Opium and it’s great to see that so many people associate old school Opium with fond memories of loved ones past and present. This time of year is bittersweet for me. I am in malls and holiday shoppers rushing about etc… It’s been two years not having my mother to buy for, yet at perfume counters, at kiosks, I still find myself picking up the usual riff-raff of scents i.e. mall fragrances and think “no, No, ew and ugh! SAs tempting me with the latest flanker’s flanker. Kafka, I’m not sure what I have been trying to say. Lol Just that your blog and reviews make me feel like part of a lil family is all. I hope you and your Teutonic overlord have a blessed holiday. 🙂

    • Don, we are sort of a family! All best wishes and hope for a joyous holiday despite your longing for your mother. And, when it comes to the Teutonhund, I feel sure that Kafkaesque is in total, complete control ;-).

      • Well said, my dear! But with regard to The Hairy Kaiser, I fear I lost that battle a long time ago….. LOL 😛

      • Awe, thank you FeralJasmine! I wish you all the best of the season and may your New Year be any even better smelling one. 🙂 You made me smile indeed. My resolution for 2015 is to win the Powerball and take everyone from Kafka’s blog on an all expenses paid shopping trip to Paris, Italy, wherever to buy every single bottle of perfume of her/his choice 😀 And Kafka can buy up all the vintage Opium his/her heart desires lol. Lol@ Teutonhund. Jawohl…

        • Very sweet of you, Don. Let’s hope that Powerball lottery comes your way. LOL. Merry Christmas, my dear. 🙂

    • I have to echo what FeralJasmine wrote: we are a family of sorts. You know, the holidays can be difficult times for people. It always is for me personally, and I don’t have something as weighty or difficult as the loss of one’s mother as you do. Our little group here makes ME feel better. You’re part of that, Don, and one of those reasons.

      You know, I think you should order that bottle of Maai that you’ve been wanting, and forget about waiting until the new year. This is the time to treat yourself. I think your mother would not only approve of that, but I think she’d LOVE Maai. Any woman who had Opium as her signature scent would fully approve of the old-school, divaesque glamour of Maai. So, order it for her, as well as for you. 🙂

      BTW, when you wrote your note, I was actually having a worship and cuddle session with My Teutonic Overlord. He was getting groomed, massaged, and pampered, with his paws kissed every few minutes throughout. I shall tell him that you send your regards. 😉

      • I think you’re right Kafka-why wait for Maai and my mother definitely would have loved Maai. You said divaesque quality and I mentioned she loved Ungaro Diva as well. If I buy Diva for myself do you think layering with Maai would work?
        One more thing: You can’t believe how’s many compliments I get wearing Kalemat. I have to write down the name and where I bought it. It’s so neat. Please tell Herr Zola I said Ein frohes Weihnachtsfest und alles Gute zum neuen Jahr. 🙂

        • Diva was a great fragrance, and one I wore myself. If you can find a vintage bottle, why not try layering it with Maai? Always worth trying. 🙂

  18. I’ve kept away from sniffing BO so far as I’ve been postponing the inevitable disappointment. But thanx, now I’m pretty certain I need not even bother. 🙂
    As for the ‘Baies Roses’, yes only the mighty ‘Oudh’ managed to finally usurp that ubiquitous little onslaught. However, I must admit that I’m actually rather fond of the pink peppercorn note. (Plus, I fully understand it’s popularity with perfumers, as it’s wonderfully versatile to work with in a blend.) Plus, it’s certainly a contender for ‘crowd pleaser’ if ever there was one. …

    Also, whilst I do agree re ‘synthetics’ being the ‘the real nasties’, (not to mention re the whole ‘IFRA thing’) 😉 ; but, it’s unfortunately inevitable that ‘naturals’ do certainly have their culprits too. For example, it wouldn’t surprise me if that rash were due to none other than the pink peppercorn content itself – as PP does/can contain a known skin irritant/allergen i.e. cardanol (an irritating phenolic compound). And with PP a natural extraction can often be even more cost effective than a synthetic reconstruction. So maybe it was used here (??) – & perhaps your skin’s susceptible to it ??

    Tho’, even in the un/likely event they DID use a natural PP, it could’ve just as well been one already stripped of said irritant. Or maybe there is some or other newfangled (& dirt-cheap!) PP ‘smell-alike’ I’m yet to hear of. Or due some other synth’ entirely, of course. Lacking further concrete info, all I can really do is speculate – BUT the reason I did mention it is said rash u described sounds very much like some I’ve gotten before from some Pepper EO’s, so … .

    (If, on the other hand, u also happen to react ‘funny’ to cashews (?) then the probability I’m correct shoots up tenfold (tho’ due to a different allergen they both share) ; … but I imagine that’s probably quite unlikely, no !? 🙂

  19. Black Opium is a disgrace.It represents everything I abhor in perfumery.It’s a slapdash fragrance,I bet the formula doesn’t cost more than 50 cents a liter, and yet is marketed as something luxurious and refined.Do they take us for stupid?I mean I’ve smelled Impulse deo sprays that are better than this.I was depressed for hours after I smelled this,I had to rush over quickly to the Hermes counter and spray some Cuir d’Ange and Ambre Narguile for a pick me up.At the same time I also tested Velvet Orchid,and yes compared to Black Orchid is not that great but at least there’s a kinship.As you said Black Opium is galaxies apart from even the modern Opium,never mind the original one,and I’m not even an ardent fan.Horrible stuff, and for people like us,that love perfume,a real crime

    • Heh, I do so adore you. I particularly love hearing the reaction from those who aren’t bogged down by love for the original, because I think that really says something. Thank you so much for your comment, Ana!

  20. My, oh, my. Sounds (ahem) perfect for our summers in Florida! (Sorry, Kafka, Darling, I could not resist! ) I wore, and adored vintage Opium from 1982-89. And I also ADORED KL, from that timeperiod as well. Cinnabar actually smelled to much like Youth Dew to me to be anything more than a dated attemt on EL’s part to knock off Opium!!! Thank you for reviewing this “fragrance”. I honestly wish you would not torture yourself like this. Hope you had Wonderful Holidays!! <3

    • Heh, I smiled at the thought of wearing Black Opium in your weather and with your 100% humidity. Not a good idea at all. As for Cinnabar, I completely share your feelings and interpretation of it. Happy New Year, dear Anastasia!

  21. Happy New Year to you and yours my Darling Kafka!! Yes, January in Florda means Summer is here!! 🙂 We have 4 Seasons in Florida just like everyone else…there’s Spring in January, Summer in February, Indian Summer in November, and Holidaze in December!!! 😉 Love to you, Sweetheart! <3

  22. Kafka, you’ll think me quite the loon after you read this! Please bear with me..eventually I make sense. Sorry for all these random replies. I detest L’ Oreal, yes. I think most of their skincare and hair products crap. What really started my antipathy towards them was when they destroyed Anita Roddick’s The Body Shop. I loved the pre- L’ Oreal TBS. 🙁 That slipped my mind. I’m finished. 🙂

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