Yves Saint Laurent Opium (New) : Perfume Review

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Opium. Even if you haven’t worn Opium yourself, just the name of this perfume by Yves Saint Laurent is enough to conjure its controversial and dramatic personality. Opium came out in 1977 and it marked a whole era with its spicy, fiery carnation scent. In the 1980s, when neither perfume nor hair could be too big, it held its own alongside Christian Dior Poison, Giorgio Beverly Hills and other heavy hitters.

opium

My relationship with Opium and other big 1980s perfumes is ambivalent. I recognize their genius; I admire their boldness and verve. But whenever I wear Opium in all of its “pre-reformulation” spicy glory, it feels like I’m playing dress up. I can’t make it my own. But Yves Saint Laurent left us with no choice. In 2009, the house discontinued Opium and reintroduced a new version. The original formula of Opium contained so many ingredients considered allergenic that trying to save it was a losing battle.

I can’t imagine being in the shoes of perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, who was faced with the formidable task of reviving Opium. With half of its formula missing from the modern perfumer’s palette, recreating the spicy bite and smoldering sensation of the classical oriental is almost impossible. Maisondieu approached Opium not via the spice route but the incense road. He recomposed the fragrance based on the sticky, smoky interplay of opoponax, myrrh and sweet resins.

What you have is a voluptuous scent contrasting the richness of resins and woods with creamy jasmine. The subtle crunch of peppercorns is enough to give texture to the soft veil of Opium. Except for a flirtation with orange and pale carnation, the perfume hits one dark note after another–incense, amber, patchouli. Nevertheless, there is an opalescent, radiant sensation to Opium, and it doesn’t feel heavy and oppressive.

It also doesn’t smell particularly modern either, with neither cotton candy nor caramel offsetting the dryness of woods and balsams. Instead, the delicate sweetness in Opium comes from the opoponax and benzoin, two materials with a unique velvety sensation. As Opium settles into its incredibly longlasting drydown, it wears like soft velvet and smells like well-aged dry sherry and clove studded oranges. I wear it on summer evenings, enjoying its embrace against my sunwarmed skin, but my favorite occasion for Opium is a winter dinner for two in front of a fireplace. It’s the ultimate seductress.

I’m not going to compare and contrast the new Opium with its 1977 namesake. They’re so vastly different that such a discussion would be pointless. I think that the Yves Saint Laurent team made a mistake giving the new perfume the name of its magnificent predecessor because it only invites unfair comparisons. Seek it out if you love the darkness of amber, the pleasant roughness of woods, and fragrances that feel like experiences, not just nice scents. The new Opium deserves being loved on its own merits, rather than as a replacement for something that can’t be replaced.

Opium is available as the Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette. The EDP is heavier on powdery incense, amber and myrrh, while the EDT has a fresh citrusy top laced with sweet orange and pepper. They are not too different, but I prefer the EDT for the stronger contrast between the sparkling citrusy top and velvety, enveloping drydown. The EDP, on the other hand, places all of its accents on the powdery, warm finish.

Yves Saint Laurent Opium includes notes of bergamot, mandarin, carnation, jasmine, patchouli, amber, and vanilla. Available at all major retails and perfumeries.

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100 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: The old Opium was in my opinion exaggerated, cloying. As I said more than once on this blog (sorry if I was boring), I liked the new Opium much better! It is a perfect perfume for me, the myrrh is on my skin very pleasant. I only know the Edt., perhaps the Edp. is even better.
    Old Opium was to me like an aged contralto singing too loud. September 3, 2013 at 7:22am Reply

    • Victoria: I like the EDT best, since it has more layers, but the EDP is more velvety. For now, I have the EDT, but if at some point I run out, I will get the EDP instead. September 3, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

  • rosarita: Oh, thanks for this review! I’ve wondered about this one. I wasn’t really a fan of the old Opium, preferring Estee Lauder Cinnabar at the time, since I’m getting to the point where I’m considered vintage myself. I I’ll check it out. September 3, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

    • Karen: Too funny! Your comment gave me a great laugh. September 3, 2013 at 8:31am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 The definition of vintage in the perfume land is very flexible. I’ve seen perfumes from 2000 being referred to as such.

      Cinnabar and Spellbound have the Opium accent to me too. Well, Mrs Lauder famously said that Opium was just Youth Dew with a tassel. September 3, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

      • DP: “Youth Dew with a tassle!” What a dame. September 3, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

        • Victoria: She really didn’t mince words. 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 12:23pm Reply

      • DP: “Youth Dew with a tassel!” What a dame. September 3, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

      • rosarita: that’s a great line 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 12:39pm Reply

  • george: Ah!- eighties perfume- the dynasty theme song in a bottle- born of technological development; and killed by technological restrictions; how you shall be missed, like the person to be invited to a party, but never for the weekend. Also- it has to be said that Opium had simply one of the best names for a perfume. It sounds like YSL did as good a job as possible on reformulating this. It’s just I like my perfumes to sometimes be a little bit fierce……. September 3, 2013 at 8:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I forgot to mention it in the review, but Opium, pre-reformulation or the current one, would be great for a guy. The new version definitely is more soft spoken. Well, in comparison to Opium in the 1980s, that is. September 3, 2013 at 11:53am Reply

  • Heather W: I dearly loved the old Opium and still do, and I still maintain that it is best used as pure parfum applied lightly to pulse points. When I run through my last few ml I am going to be very sad. I tried the new one once, was contemptuous of how different it was from the old one, and never gave it a chance. I’ll have to give it another go. September 3, 2013 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: When I first tried new Opium, I was so disappointed and I might have said so someplace on the blog. But when I revisited it and started treating it as a different perfume (rather than a replacement of old Opium), I completely changed my mind. I’ve been wearing it for the past couple of years, and I’m enjoying it very much. September 3, 2013 at 11:55am Reply

      • Daisy: I think that is the best way to treat any perfume that has undergone a reformulation.

        I need to get my hands on some vintage Opium, but in the meantime, it’s nice to know that the new Opium can stand on its own as long as it isn’t taken to be replacement.

        What a daunting task it must have been to reformulate it! If I were Antoine Maisondieu, I would have been tempted to take a pass! September 5, 2013 at 2:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Inwardly a perfume might be worried about the responsibility of such a task, but they would be dying to get their name on such a fantastic project. All of these high-profile brands constitute fairly prestigious work, whatever the challenges. At least, you don’t have to create something that doesn’t appeal to everyone from 15 to 95 and sell everywhere from Aberdeen, WA to Yokohama. Opium brand has its own following. September 5, 2013 at 4:45pm Reply

          • Daisy: Very well put! It has to be a tremendous challenge, but also an opportunity that would be hard to pass up. September 5, 2013 at 10:14pm Reply

            • Victoria: And being able to leave a mark on a new generation of Opium wearers too! September 6, 2013 at 11:14am Reply

  • machula: I was scared to try this – exactly because of the unfortunate name. I love (the original) Opium (but use it sparringly, only a few dabs here and there of pure perfume, as it’s one of the beasts that can be unleashed easily and slip out of control) and was afraid that they did a poor job reformulating it. But now I’m very happy to hear that the two are, in fact, not alike but completely different. September 3, 2013 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Considering the difficulty of reformulating this perfume, I’m impressed with how well they’ve treated it overall. It doesn’t smell the same, but it has that unique combination of elegance and sensuality that old Opium had (despite its drama, I found it very elegant). Plus, if you loved the warm ambery drydown of Opium, which took hours to reach, here you get much faster. September 3, 2013 at 11:58am Reply

  • Melinda: Opium is my mother’s favourite scent, I wonder what she will think of this newer version. Your review is beautifully written! September 3, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Melinda. I don’t think that your mother will be impressed with new Opium if you presented it to her as such. There is just no comparison. But I would be curious what she thinks if she smells it without making the connection with her old favorite. September 3, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

  • DP: I love the quote about “invited to the party but never for the weekend!” Old Opium (sorry: fine aged, vintage, senior, youthful older) has become more of an “invited for cocktails and lingers for dinner, then a scandalous overnight, with an early morning reminder on last night’s clothes.” Kind of the cougar of my perfume collection, so to speak. Older, wiser, louder, needy, can’t miss what it’s saying as it smokes in the corner. The more elegant cousin of Tabu, who just comes right out and says it. Opium would never say it, but you know what she wants and where she’s been. September 3, 2013 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: What a great description! Yes, that’s the “vintage” Opium for you. And she still retains her cool despite knowing how to seduce, throw a tantrum and maybe break a few hearts. September 3, 2013 at 12:02pm Reply

  • fleurdelys: It’s refreshing to read such a positive review of a reformulation! Sounds like Maisondieu did the right thing: Lacking the original ingredients, instead of creating a watered-down or “modern” version of the original, he did a variation on a theme. My go-to for a spicy, take-no-prisoners fragrance has always been Youth Dew, and I never found Opium to be special enough to replace it. Now I want to try the new version. September 3, 2013 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: New doesn’t always mean bad, and in this case, whatever its relationship to the old Opium, the perfume is good on its own terms. I don’t think that it will fill the void for those who miss Opium though.

      I love taking baths with Youth Dew. I’m still too timid to wear it full-strength, but in the bath it’s wonderful. September 3, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

  • solmarea: I was tempted to try a sample of Opium, days ago, so it’s interesting to see a review. September 3, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Would be curious to hear what you think! September 3, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Bastet: I love the old Opium but now am eager to try the new formulation – it sounds like it may be more versatile (especially the EDT). Thank you for the review! How many stars would you give this new Opium? September 3, 2013 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Oops, I forgot the stars. I gave it 4 stars, a very well-done fragrance.

      The EDT is definitely versatile. It’s still a fragrance with an impressive sillage, so for daytime I wear it lightly. One spray is another to last for the whole day. September 3, 2013 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Shendel: Oh, so nhumy! It makes me want to buy a new bottle of it… your words make my mouth water like when I see a luscious piece of dark chocolate. September 3, 2013 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Do you wear the new Opium too? September 3, 2013 at 12:11pm Reply

      • Shendel: No, I had a bottle I got in 2003. It was delicious, but like you, I felt odd wearing it, and I swapped the bottle. The other day I tried the new Opium at a store on paper and I really like it. September 3, 2013 at 12:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: I feel that it demands too much of me, and while I admire it, I can’t pull it off.

          But the new one is a perfect fit. September 3, 2013 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Elena: I tried this a couple of weeks ago and wondered what all the fuss about Opium being such a “big” perfume was. Now that I know it’s an entirely new perfume, it makes much more sense. I think I could go through quite a bit of this in the colder weather, though Coco is also a contender for me. I don’t buy very many bottles, so I’m starting to think about buying my one winter bottle now. September 3, 2013 at 11:23am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a wonderful winter perfume, and I love that it has a dose of radiance in addition to richness. Now that you mention Coco, I realize that those of us who find Coco beautiful but a touch too sweet might enjoy the more restrained new Opium. September 3, 2013 at 12:17pm Reply

      • zari: I’m also considering Coco for a winter perfume, though I bought Youth Dew on a rainy day in June and foresee using it a lot more in the winter. That dose of radiance and richness I smell in YD as well. I wonder if Opium will just be redundant for me. Coco is just exquisite, though I’m afraid of other people’s reactions to it. I have only worn it among family so far. September 3, 2013 at 2:46pm Reply

        • Victoria: Coco gives me a headache time to time, but so I don’t wear it much. But I’ll tell you this–every time I do, I get lots of compliments on it. If you wear it with a light hand, I’m sure you will too. You’re right, it’s really exquisite. I wish it were better suited for me (or I for it). September 3, 2013 at 3:42pm Reply

  • irem: Thank you for a fair review of the new Opium. It is indeed refreshing to see a positive review of the reformulated version. I share your take of the old Opium: had a bottle of the parfum from the eighties, which I eventually sold because although it was genius it never felt right. Based on all the negative reviews I did not bother trying the new version. Reading your review makes me want to go out and try it immediately. September 3, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Please try it without thinking of old Opium (yes, I know, it’s hard since they named it Opium and even kept some of the features of the ad campaign!) Whenever I wear it, I think that anyone who loves the niche spicy perfumes and doesn’t mind a slight retro twist would enjoy it. September 3, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

  • Tatiana: I adore the original Opium in extrait, so it was quite easy to dismiss the new version. I too wish they had given the new formula a new name, perhaps then I would have given it a better chance. Thanks for this review. Now that autumn will soon be here, I’ll go give the new Opium a second chance. I will have to find another name for it, as there will forever be only one Opium in my mind. September 3, 2013 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can see why! As a replacement of Opium, it won’t work. Nothing can replace Opium, since it’s not possible to use many of the spicy, fiery materials that gave it its distinctive character. And Opium was one of the most memorable, polarizing, unique perfumes.

      That’s why I didn’t want to compare and contrast. The new version would invariably score badly. But on its own, it’s a very good perfume with its own strong and beautiful character. September 3, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Dênis: sounds lovely! I miss seeing more incense on mainstream launches. September 3, 2013 at 12:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yves Saint Laurent also has Nu, which is a fantastic incense perfume. September 3, 2013 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: As always, I’m fascinated by your writing and perfumes. I never wore Opium, but knew many who did.
    Victoria, I wonder if you’d comment (or maybe write an entire blog post) on this business of perfume ingredients that are no longer used due to allergy issues. I’m not a perfumista, I just know I love fragrance. And I’m totally clueless when it comes to all these issues with ingredients. To me, if a certain fragrance doesn’t work for me in ANY way, I simply don’t buy it. What has happened in the perfume industry to cause this mass hysteria over certain ingredients? And please understand, I don’t mean to be snide about this. I really don’t get it. I’m 59 years old. Have been wearing perfume for 45 of those years. I’d love to read an in-depth article on the whys and wherefores of these ingredient bans. Thank you! September 3, 2013 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Yulya: Annette, I am with you on this. I would love to read an honest analysis on this topic. September 3, 2013 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Annette, I have written already on this topic:
      http://boisdejasmin.com/2012/12/fragrance-regulations-like-an-atomic-explosion.html

      And you can read some other pieces, if you click on the fragrance regulations tag:
      http://boisdejasmin.com/tag/fragrance-regulations

      I don’t know if any of this covers what you’re interested in. Please let me know if there is something else I should discuss, and I would be more than happy to. In a nutshell, the momentum comes from consumers who are suspicious of what’s in their perfumes and cosmetics and are pushing the government bodies to regulate the industry. September 3, 2013 at 1:13pm Reply

      • Annette Reynolds: Thanks so much, Victoria. Will look forward to reading the info. September 5, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

  • Elizabeth: The old Opium was my second real perfume (the first was Tommy Girl). I bought it with my birthday money at age 15 because my mother, aunt, and grandmother wore it, and I loved its spicy, mysterious air. I have not smelled the new version, but now I am curious. I did not know that it is a completely different scent! September 3, 2013 at 2:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love it! You were such a sophisticated 15 year old. 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 3:43pm Reply

  • behemot: Great review and a lot of interesting points. I used to wear “old” Opium, but it was a lot of… torture. It was beautiful, but very, very potent and gave me headaches. I kept wearing it, because I thought it is made me more mature.
    Now I am ready to try the “new” version. These days, however, I am not trying to get more mature 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 2:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: In my early 20s I used to get upset when people asked me if I were in high school. Ha! 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 3:44pm Reply

      • behemot: Same here 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Maria B.: For me the old Opium will always be associated with a dear friend. She wore it because it was the only perfume her husband liked. She and he thought it was “soft”!?! She has moved away now, but I have the small bottle she pulled out of her purse and handed me when I asked her, “Is that Opium you wear?” September 3, 2013 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Some women I’ve interviewed called Christian Dior’s Poison fresh. All of these descriptors are so subjective. But I can sort of see what someone would mean. Poison has a sparkly top (although then it warms up and becomes very sweet). And Opium has a velvety, languid drydown.

      I absolutely love that your friend was so generous in sharing her favorite perfume with you. What a great story! September 3, 2013 at 3:46pm Reply

  • maggiecat: Now I want to try the new Opium…I haven’t, yet, because I wore the old one back in the day. It was a gift from an erstwhile boyfriend – one of the few times I’ve been given perfume as a gift – and while it was a bit “loud” for me, I wore it happily. And now that I’m more comfortable with “loud” scents than I used to be, perhaps I can wear it happily still! September 3, 2013 at 2:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: The old/vintage one is such a drama queen. And she is unforgettable!

      Opium today speaks with a softer voice, but then again, it’s far from a wallflower. September 3, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

  • Andy: I haven’t tried vintage Opium (honestly, the descriptions of some of these dramatic 80s fragrances tend to scare me just a little!), but your description of the reformulation sounds very appealing. I’ll have to seek it out the EDT next time I’m at a department store. September 3, 2013 at 3:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely worth a try, reformulation or not. If you like balsams, resins, myrrh, amber, this is a must. Good thing, it’s easy to find. Even my tiny local Sephora-like store had all concentrations on display. September 3, 2013 at 3:49pm Reply

  • Aisha: I haven’t tried this one yet, and honestly I had no interest in doing so until reading your post. I was also too young — and shy– to wear something called Opium when the fragrance was enjoying its heyday during the “Big Eighties,” so to me this will be brand new when I do try it.

    I do like how you reviewed this fragrance on its own merits since its reformulation. It’s something I’m trying to remember each time I sniff a fragrance that has changed. Perhaps it’s time for me to try the new Lauren again and give it a second chance. Or .. Maybe it’s time for me to move on and find new favorites, which I seem to be doing every month since I started reading your blog earlier this summer. 😉

    By the way, I received samples of Chanel’s Bois des Iles, 31 Rue Cambon and Cuir de Russie last week, and spent the long weekend trying them out. I love them all! Cuir de Russie is my favorite of the three, and they are all so exquisite. I’m now trying to save up for a full bottle of both Vanille Tonka and Cuir de Russie. Perhaps I’ll have new fragrances by Christmas! (A girl can dream…) 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Maybe, in case of Lauren it’s best just to look for something else. It’s too pale to be exactly what you remember it to be. Same with new Opium for someone who wore it for years.

      I’m so excited to hear that your Chanel samples turned out to be such a success. So, now you can enjoy trying all three in turn and figuring out which will be your first one. 🙂 Between Vanille Tonka and Cuir de Russie, you will have a great wardrobe (in addition to other perfumes you have). September 4, 2013 at 7:55am Reply

  • Debbie: I loved the original EDT but the sweet orange note always came up strong on me, cutting through the heaviness and making it very soft and wearable – with a light application.

    I was very disappointed and surprised with the ‘thinness’ and lack of longevity in the reformulated EDT but found the EDP to be a more satisfactory substitute. Would’ve been nice if they’d turned the citrus notch up a little on the EDP though.

    P.s. Unrelated but another well-loved oldie, Yohji, is set to make a comeback, Victoria 🙂 September 3, 2013 at 4:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wonderful news! Yohji definitely deserves a comeback. September 4, 2013 at 7:59am Reply

  • Ariadne: A coworker of mine in the mid eighties wore copious amounts of Opium to work every day. No one complained but I have never EVER considered buying it since. This metamorphosis you write of has changed my mind and I will try the “new” Opium, especially since I am a closet Tabu fan ;+) September 3, 2013 at 6:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I’m a closet Tabu fan too! This perfume has such a bad rap (depending on Dana’s ownership, its quality would oscillate dramatically), but it’s fun. I haven’t smelled Tabu as it’s sold now, but I hear that it’s also set for a comeback. September 4, 2013 at 8:00am Reply

  • Steph: My mother absolutely loved the original Opium but to my young nose it was headache inducing and heavy. I couldn’t believe someone actually wanted to smell like that because in my mind perfume was supposed to be light and flowery. I figured I was just too young to understand it and it was a grown-up thing. I recently tried Opium at a store on a whim and was surprised how much I liked it. I thought I was becoming mature! Ah well… September 3, 2013 at 7:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 And our tastes do change. Whenever I think of perfumes I used to dislike (and that I now love), I’m amazed. Funny thing, the more I smell, the more eclectic my tastes become. September 4, 2013 at 8:01am Reply

  • kaori: I am excited to try this one. From your description and the notes, it would be promising. I wonder YSL has just started to revamp its line, launching “Oriental Collection”, rose, leather, bouquet and this. We face a shortage of perfume having characters, so it is refresing! September 3, 2013 at 10:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried the new Oriental Collection, but I just assumed that they are following the “private collection” trend. On the other hand, some perfumes sound very interesting. September 4, 2013 at 8:02am Reply

  • kaori: Oh sorry, “refreshing”. September 3, 2013 at 10:21pm Reply

  • mazlifa: As always thanks Victoria for such an exquisite review. I got a vial sample 02 weeks ago at the airport (when I bought a bottle of Paris for my niece who turns 19 and going away to study) and it was love at first whiff (vs the edp) and by the time the edt settle, I felt smitten by it. I thought its sensuos but not overt and I so wish they have given it another name. It’s certainly will become one of my repatoire September 3, 2013 at 11:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very glad to see that new Opium has other fans. I had such low expectations, but it’s a testament to how well this perfume is done that it swayed me. Plus, it’s a good quality perfume at a very decent price (especially the edt). September 4, 2013 at 8:05am Reply

  • Sally: Imustnotcompare, Imustnotcompare… How difficult this will be, as Opium was THE perfume for me in the late 70s/80s when I was 20s. I had it all – extrait, EDT, bath oil, powder, body lotion. I had it in all sizes too. Every time I went across to Europe from the UK I would buy it in some form at the duty free. I think I alone kept YSL afloat… I like that you stress the old and the new are 2 different animals and to treat them as such. I get that the best way to look at this is not to look at the new as a replacement for the old. My intellectual head is nodding along at these words of wisdom. But my big hair and padded shoulders head is shrieking “noooooooo!” I keep telling myself to woman up and give it a try, but then I heave a sigh of relief when I remember I still have at least another 23 years worth of original left… September 4, 2013 at 1:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Sally, it’s going to be very hard for you not to compare! You know the vintage/old Opium very intimately (much more intimately than I do, since I never wore it as “my perfume”). So, when you’ll smell the new one, you will see glimpses of the old. I, of course, encourage you to try it. Perhaps, you will find something else to love about it. September 4, 2013 at 8:08am Reply

      • Sally: You are, of course, quite right – I need to look at it from a completely different perspective. I’m thinking I should order a sample – as a big amber lover too, I will start with the EDP – and try to have no expectations. Onward! September 5, 2013 at 12:21am Reply

        • Victoria: Please update us on how it goes, good or bad! 🙂 September 5, 2013 at 9:12am Reply

    • Illdone: Hi Sally, Victoria,
      I was born in 1964 so I lived through the Opium era “live”. It was my sisters perfume for over 20 years and also my best friends sister’s perfume.
      I enjoyed smelling it but never got to wear it as I considered it to be “not mine” but theirs. The depth and complexity of the perfume was wonderfull.
      Most people oversprayed in the eighties. I think it had something to do with “everyone” smoking at that time + a larger tolerance for heavier perfumes.
      I remember seeing my sister a few years ago and asking her what she was wearing; I couldn’t believe she had changed perfume, knowing how faithfull she was to Opium.
      Imagine my surprise when she told me she just bought a new bottle.
      To be honest, I was more upset then her because I simply seemed to have lost the connection : sister and her perfume.
      I couldn’t just appreciate the perfume for what it was now and got more enraged with the reformulations.
      It frightened me so much that I started to hoard anything, all perfumes, I could get my hands on from the sixties, seventies,…
      I’ve learned to let people and places go or change but not,never perfume, if I could help it.
      Perfume blogs are the only places to ventilate this sensitivity and love for perfume, most people I know consider this a form of “madness” on my part.
      Aaaah, the things we do for love. September 5, 2013 at 2:58am Reply

      • Victoria: Trust me, I know exactly how you feel! As a perfumery student, I would sometimes come to work to discover that half of the formula I worked on turned red overnight (ie, I couldn’t use those materials due to whatever restrictions). When you notice these changes becoming more and more frequent, it can be very frustrating. As a perfume lover, you’re in the dark most of them. Is it your nose? Your memory? The perfume itself?

        But the only thing I’ve concluded is that perfume is more like a bottle of wine than a book. Every time it’s made anew, it will be different. The perfume brands proclaim the opposite–and they have to, if they want to continue selling the signature scent idea. September 5, 2013 at 9:34am Reply

      • Sally: Illdone, I think you have hit on it exactly when you say “you lost the connection” that the original Opium embodied for you. When I wore this diva, it was an extension of me, my aromatic expression, the statement of who I was at that time in my life. It was an incredibly important time in my life and somehow – even though I know it is irrational – to change the perfume equates with changing all it meant to me. Of course it does not. And if I hear my own words as I write this, my life now is different. As Victoria said, every time a perfume is made anew, it will be different – time for me too, to make a different statement. September 6, 2013 at 12:51am Reply

        • Illdone: Sally,
          You’re right, sometimes it’s time to move on.

          But imagine this ; you’re able to open a small or large bottle, one sniff and you’re back there.
          That house, those people, the conversations.
          I’ve been spotted opening a bottle of l’Air du Temps with teary eyes because my (deceased) grandmother enters the room and I can talk to her, hug her…
          I know music or images can do the same thing but for me it’s perfume that brings the most vivid memories.
          Good to know I’m not alone. Do enjoy whatever it is you’re wearing now, Sally.

          Victoria, I can almost see you in the lab and the expression on your face.
          True about the batches and the years!
          Thank you for all you write and love, me and many others, I believe, do enjoy it. September 6, 2013 at 2:21am Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you so much for these nice words! I hope that as our perfumes change, we just find ways to continue deriving enjoyment from this hobby and not let us get too frustrated by the changes. September 6, 2013 at 11:17am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I have mixed memories of the original Opium because both my mother and my therapist wore it! When I was confessing my sins to “Dr. Judy” sipping herbal tea and feeling sorry for myself, it was oddly comforting: sort of invoking the idea of Mom without he criticism. As for my mom wearing it, I was always bemused at the choice since it was so at odds with her exterior persona- Mummy wears lots of Land’s End and is usually clad in jeans and a T- shirt, khakis and a T-shirt or on chilly days, jeans and a cashmere sweater- obviously she nurtures an inner femme fatale the rest of us don’t get to see. As far as re-formulaing the original, I think it would be better to just let it die. All of the true fans of the firy, spicy, in your face version will be disappointed. PS. Mummy wears “Obsession” now and I am no longer seeing a shrink. Is this progress? September 4, 2013 at 7:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hey, things can’t stay the same! 🙂 Your mom is still nursing her inner femme fatale though, since Obsession is quite sultry. September 5, 2013 at 8:51am Reply

  • Ajda: I have to ask – is it really THAT different? To me, it is still recogniseably Opium, going just from memory, of course.
    And thanks to you, Victoria, I have a bottle of EDT on the way :). Lovely, lovely post. September 5, 2013 at 6:10am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re right, of course. There are elements of Opium in it, but when I compare the two, I feel like I’m smelling two different perfumes, so I decided to treat it as such. Either way, I like it very much, especially the EDT. September 5, 2013 at 9:41am Reply

  • Nancy: So sad…but I finally found an article that talks about the bad decision to change Opium. I’ve been wearing it since the day it was launched. In fact, I was in Paris the day it was launched. Such a shame. I wonder when Chanel No 5 will be changed? Why can’t anything good remain the same… May 28, 2014 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Did you try the new version, Nancy? It’s different, of course, but it’s still very good. Unfortunately, nothing remains the same, and with perfume, it’s even more complicated. The changes in raw materials, in regulations, in people’s tastes have their effect. May 28, 2014 at 5:48pm Reply

  • sherrypi: I too am an ardent fan of the original Opium and have been sorely disappointed with the new version! After reading the comments from Victoria, I will have to buy another bottle of the new and consider it a “different” scent – which it is!

    I am allergic to most perfumes – especially florals. If I am able to find a scent in the “Oriental Spicy” category, it usually does not set off my asthma.

    Victoria: Do you have any suggestions for perfumes that have a similar scent/notes to the original Opium? Unfortunately, most dept store sales clerks do not understand scent distinctions enough to give me advice. October 27, 2014 at 6:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t think of many perfumes like that, Sherry, because those spicy, clove-like notes are now restricted and the perfumes have been reformulated. There are many ambery perfumes out there, but none are exactly like Opium. But do try Estee Lauder Spellbound and Cinnabar, if you can. Those might be the closest ones. October 28, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

  • Therése: My colleague and I spent a lunch joking about the big dramatic scents of the 80s, and Opium was (of course) mentioned. I went to my local perfume counter after work to sniff it again and was pleasantly surprised at the new version. I recognised it, but all the headache inducing heaviness of the original seemed to be gone. Now I’m considering bying a bottle, something I never thought I would do. November 12, 2014 at 4:33am Reply

    • Victoria: I confess that I prefer the reformulation to the original, but of course, they are very different. Still, the original is something I can admire from afar, while the new one is more my style. November 12, 2014 at 11:02am Reply

  • vani: I am so happy to have found your blog Victoria!! Opium was my very first fragrance love and obsession when I was a teen. At the time, in the late 80s, I had to save for a very long time to be able to afford it. I always felt so confident and transported to a world of luxury when I wore it. l used to be in so much awe of its beauty although I was never sure if I could really pull off such a big va-va-voom fragrance. I lost by bottle and have not wore it for the past 15 years, but it as always in my mind to repurchase again one day. When I heard that It had been reformulated I was so disappointed thinking that I could never love it again. Well, after reading your review, I decided that I was going trust your opinion and purchase without trying it first and I absolutely love it. I love that it’s tamer, still luxurious, dramatic and exquisite, however more approachable and now in my 40s I feel really confident that I can now pull it off. November 19, 2014 at 5:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: So glad to read this, because I was wondering how someone who wore Opium might perceive the new version. Yes, it’s definitely much more understated, but it still has enough oomph. I’m enjoying it too. November 24, 2014 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Olivia: Hi Victoria,

    I would love you to review “Opium Vapeurs de Parfum” which seems to be a flanker of the new Opium. I own this and adore it’s light spicy freshness but have never had the chance to smell the original so have nothing to compare it to! What are your expert thoughts?

    Thanks. 🙂 November 25, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Linda: Victoria, thank you so much for your blog in general, but currently for this open-minded review of the present formula. I’m in my 60s and have disliked almost every forced reformulation (don’t get me started on those ludicrous restrictions) of the beauties I have loved in through my now numerous decades. I finally bought a bottle of the EDP. I don’t love the first 30 minutes or so (oh, that vintage topnotes blast was such a joy…), but with passing time, it settles nicely. I am still pining for the beautiful fresh-carnation chassis upon which the whole gorgeous mother lode of spices was carried in the old days–I guess that won’t stop. But the new kid is ok. Thanks for convincing me to try. December 18, 2014 at 2:13am Reply

  • Erin: Old thread I know, but having just bought the new Opium I had to see what’s being said on the web.

    I love the ol Opium. I’m not a huge perfume fan, always been more of a body spray kind of gal, but my mom wore Opium in the 80s-90s and it always had a special nostalgia for me. I have a very sensitive sense of smell and my mom is not flashy or ostentatious in any way so it’s strange to me that so many people have such a dramatic opinion of the old Opium.

    I swear I sampled some at Ulta around Christmas and didn’t even know it had been reformulated. So I bought some online last week and just tried it and now i want to send it back.

    This is like patchouli infused alcohol. The only element of the old Opium is the unbelievable staying power. Now, unfortunately, I’ll smell like a 1970s college dorm room until my next shower, which will probably be soon and i hope dows the job.

    The first spray has some of the more complex spicy notes that harken back to the old Opium, but that’s all gone after the first 2 min. It’s straight patchouli for the next 12 hours and I’m not a fan. I can’t believe what i paid to smell like a head shop.

    I don’t know why they bothered carrying on the name. Why not just let it die? A true lover of the old Opium couldn’t possibly accept this abysmal substitute, amd people who do like it wouldn’t care about the name

    I don’t understand why they couldn’t just keep making it. Obviously plenty of people WEREN’T allergic to it. I’m disappointed they couldn’t just keep making it and develop a hypoallergenic line to sell alongside. May 30, 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: The regulations unfortunately make it impossible to keep on making Opium as it used to be. I’m sorry that your experience was such a disappointment. May 31, 2015 at 11:37am Reply

  • Divania: Opium has been my favourite perfume since I was a little girl. My gran used to wear it (the original, I assume) and I have owned a bottle since I was old enough to afford it. So dark and dramatic. Absolutely loved your post. Beautiful detail. Makes me want to spray on some Opium, even though I am home in my PJs. September 8, 2015 at 8:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a beautiful perfume, and it still have the DNA of the original Opium in its heart. But it doesn’t smell like the first one, of course. I enjoy it for what it is now. September 9, 2015 at 9:20am Reply

  • Laura: I purchased Opium for its forever fragrance I absolutely loved it and wore it often, it was my signature scent. Then I bought a new bottle figured it was just a new bottle, wrong! I cannot stand the new Opium and will never buy it again with great sadness for the amazing scent it was. This is a case that new is NOT better. Shame on YSL for ruining an eternal scent. Live long enough and everything you love is gone. May 10, 2016 at 5:24pm Reply

  • Notturno7: Wow! I had no idea that Opium has been reformulated!! Luckily, after reading about it in Luca Turin’s book and remembering how much I liked it on a friend a while back, I bought an EDP and extrait before reformulation. I also received few body creams as gifts. My perfume collection has grown since, so I still have a lot of it left. Thanks for letting us know. I will treasure it now.
    I realized reading other comments that I picked something up from my mom who also loves perfumes. I just wear perfumes that I love. I don’t feel like I need to be dressed up or to be a femme fatale or ‘to pull off’ a certain fragrance.
    If I like it, if it makes me happy- it’s mine 😍. July 24, 2016 at 4:33am Reply

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