Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review

YSL Black Opium

Mainstream Monday: Sniffing a Popular Perfume

It feels so cliché to be another perfume blogger that complains about a flanker of a classic perfume that’s geared to young’uns, but I can’t help it. I went in with an open mind when I sampled Black Opium. I *knew* it wouldn’t resemble the original Opium in any shape way or form. I had a feeling it’d be another sweet fragrance with a patchouli base – the mainstream “noir” recipe. Keep in mind, I love Mugler Angel Muse and I’m probably the only perfume blogger that likes Chanel Coco Noir. But, when I sprayed Black Opium onto my skin, it was an instant regret. Now you get to decide if you want to continue reading my kvetching…

Black Opium opens with heady, indolic white florals and something that is reminiscent of burnt sugar or candy floss. It has a syrupy plum/grape jelly thing going on. It actually makes my stomach turn in the opening. It’s so sweet and syrupy. But, what gets me is that burnt, nutty cotton candy. This doesn’t play nicely with the syrupy florals (which are too much) and then the sharp, synthetic patchouli. I also pick up on French Burnt Peanuts/Boston Baked Beans (candies too sophisticated for my pleeb tastes). So, there’s like a candied peanut thing going on that really gets to me. The dry-down is a sweet vanilla marshmallow. I can tolerate the dry-down but it’s not like it’s something special. I can name at least 100 perfumes that dry down to vanilla sugar and marshmallows (and 99% of those don’t have an opening that makes me sick!)

I wanted to not be a cliché. I wanted to say that people were being too hard on this fragrance. They weren’t. They were being very kind. My stomach hasn’t felt so uneasy from perfume since I tried Betsey by Betsey Johnson many moons ago. These sort of super sweet/floral/nutty perfumes are my kryptonite. I have no idea as to why, but they are. I’m also still mad as hell about the lack of coffee in this. I mean, that’s the only reason I sprayed on so much to begin with! I feel like I can forgive the name and even the fragrance, but I can’t forgive that lack of coffee. I’m not a perfumer and I’m not classically trained, but there is something that feels very incomplete about this fragrance. It’s like all top and then falls flat. I feel like it’s about 50% finished. But, in all fairness, many designer perfumes are composed like this. They want to get us to fall in love with the top notes so we’ll buy a bottle when we’re randomly sprayed by a sales associate in Macy’s.

Anyway, I can keep going on, but you get the point. I don’t like it. Mileage will vary. You never know until you try it, right?

Notes listed include coffee, pink pepper, orange blossom, jasmine, vanilla, patchouli and cedar. Launched in 2014. PERFUMERS – Nathalie Lorson, Marie Salamagne, Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc.¹

Give Black Opium a try if you like really sweet perfumes or like floral amsbers with a sack of sugar. Or perfumes like Dior Poison Girl, The Body Shop Black Musk, Diesel Loverdose or Betsey Johnson Betsey.

Projection and longevity are above average. But, that’s the case with every perfume that doesn’t sit well with you. This is one of the Cosmic Perfume Laws. ANY perfume that you want to scrub off immediately will last on your skin for 24 hours minimum. IT IS THE RULES.

Black Opium comes in a few sizes. The 1.6 oz bottle retails for $91 at Nordstrom and Sephora.

Victoria’s Final EauPINIONA syrupy sweet floral amber with a sharp, burnt nuttiness. This one is a huge disappointment for me (on so many levels).²

¹There’s a superstition in Perfume World that the more perfumers are attributed to a fragrance, the more terrible it will be. We say, “Perfumers in threes, leave it be”.

²I don’t mean to offend if this is your signature. I’m merely one “EauPinion” and I trust that it smells good on you. Fragrances wear differently on different people, etc. It’s just that this one that I can’t wear. We all have that one (or many) that can work for others but will never work for us.

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*Sample obtained by me. Product pic from the Fragrance Foundation.

18 thoughts on “Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review

  1. Yeah, it skews different on me–very sweet, very lasting, and some definite coffee, but coffee after it sits a long time on a hot plate and starts to burn. It mellows down well on my skin, though, and I wear it during cold weather. Hot weather, now . . . no thanks. People would die.

    1. I was so surprised by its tenacity. I can’t imagine wearing it in warm/humid climates without killing people and also being followed by a swarm of bees.

      OMG, so I tried something not too long ago that had that “office coffee” accord you’ve mentioned. Gah, I can’t remember what it was but it was totally “that coffee that was put on 7am and it’s 2pm and nobody in their right mind is going to drink it; yet, it continues to be on the hot plate…” But, it sort of worked out. I can see it being wearable in something like Black Opium where there’s a lot of sweetness and florals.

  2. Man, Alexis looks PISSED OFF. Probably at whoever did her eyebrows.

    I knew Black Opium was gonna be awful. I mean, I hate Opium. I hate and despise and abhor it. It is vile. I’d pay a million bucks, if I had it, to not smell it again. (Thank GOD the 70s are dead.) And at the same time, it is intelligent and coherent and even though I hate balsams, which I truly do, it has a persona. My hatred for Opium is balanced with a healthy dose of respect. Black Opium is thin and screechy and sa-weeet on top of that horrible sour “clean” Coco-Mademoiselle fractionated patchouli, and I have nothing but contempt for it.
    Mals86 recently posted..Mini-Reviews Roundup, Feb. 2017

    1. Death glares are required if someone paints those tragic brows on your face.

      You are so correct about Black Opium and CM sharing the same patchouli. I consider myself a patch-head but whatever the heck scrubbed-up patchouli in these sort of sweet “everything but the kitchen sink” orientals are, those don’t mesh with me. Black Opium made me feel ill. Like I could smell CM on others and like it, I don’t know if I’d want to be trapped on a bus with Black Opium (BO, ha!). Awful things could happen.

      I expected this to be sweet, but it’s sooo sweet. And I don’t mind sweet or gourmands. No clue why this one rubbed me so wrong. Like I can’t use words (especially without cursing) on just how sweet this wore on me.

  3. I agree, I sniffed this when it first came out and was like like whoaaa over the top and I generally like sweet fumes. Such a shame.

    1. I don’t really know how to describe this sweetness or what doesn’t sit well with me. Because I do like and wear some sweet stuff. (Like I’m not someone that is hyper sensitive to sugary notes). Maybe it’s just that everything is dialed up to 10 and it’s too much for me. idk.

  4. “Perfumers in threes, leave it be.” That is hilarious – never heard that before.
    Loved, loved, loved the original formulation of Opium. Surprisingly did not hate Black Opium. Just never want to smell it again. Absolutely no coffee whatsover (which I thought might save it from being as bad as the reviews said it was). And no longevity on me. Keep getting samples of it which I throw away.

    1. Browse a database like Fragrantica and you’ll notice a trend 🙂 It’s like the ones with 4 perfumers are the most boring ones. My theory is that the perfumers themselves get bored to death by them and can’t finish them, lol.

      I’m sure it smells good on somebody and one day I’ll eat crow. “What are you wearing? It smells wonderful?” A: Black Opium.

      But, for me, I don’t want to wear it. AND YET I have like 4 samples of it because the universe really, really wanted me to have a headache.

  5. I tried to wear this twice. It was horrific on me. I’m sure there is someone who smells amazing in this, but the “Boston Baked Bean” smell makes me sick to stomach.

    1. I don’t mean to be whiny but wearing this actually made me sick to my stomach. I test a lot of stuff and overall, I’m lucky. I rarely get ill. This is one of the few that made it onto my “Nope, never wear that again” list.

      Oh, well.

  6. I love poison girl and angel muse so I thought I’d give this one and the other two flankers (Wait- Isn’t this one a flanker already? Are there now flankers to flankers?) a whirl and I like none of them. Seriously though, I really like poison girl a lot more than I should!

    1. We do need a special vocabulary for flankers of flankers!

      I expected to hate Poison Girl but I didn’t. I think it fits with what they were going for (vs. this one where I just do not think it did).

  7. I like this one. Well, then again, I do like sweet fragrances – but not all. I haven’t worn this in a while though so wonder if I will feel the same.
    I bought the Nuit Blanche one last year because I like the bottle but don’t like the scent as much.

    1. The bottles are so pretty.

      I don’t mind sweet. I have no idea what “bothered” me in this, but something did. Oh, well.

  8. I keep seeing this crop up on YouTube or blogs in “monthly favorites” but whenever I go to Sephora, I pass it over for other things to try. I don’t have strong thoughts about the original, other than it is definitely a scent of another era. Your description makes me glad I’ve overlooked its flanker. Bleah.
    I’m not averse to sweet stuff or fruity florals (I have way too many mainstream scents to be one of those haters and I even blind bought Loverdose… yes, it was kind of a mistake 🙂 but I didn’t throw up… yet). So thank you for the warning. I’ll be sure to test on paper, not on back of hand, no matter how many people claim THEY’RE OBSESSED. 😉

    1. It’s worth trying because it *may* work for you. I don’t doubt at all that it works for some people. However, it wasn’t good on me at all. I do recommend trying on paper first (which is probably good advice in general that I don’t take).

      I actually like sweet/fruity/designer perfumes. I hope nobody reads this and think I’m a snob! It’s just that there was something in this that was very disagreeable, almost combative, on me. I haven’t had this experience with many perfumes, thankfully.

      The bottle is gorgeous though! Maybe if you’re a Youtube star with one of those pretty dressing rooms, then you need a bottle for sure!

      1. I didn’t take my own advice and tried it on the back of my hand today. You’re so right. It smells a lot like Diesel Loverdose. Very sweet and grape juice-y. It’s not something I want to wear but it didn’t quite induce vomiting for me, whew!

        1. No vomit! This is good!

          Still have no clue why my initial experience was so sickening with this one (I can handle Loverdose, not wear it but I can handle it).

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