Memory lane Monday: Poison (love it or hate it)

Christian Dior Poison. It was 1985 and I was fascinated by that gorgeous green box and the lovely crystalline stopper adorning that curvy, tempting aubergine bottle.

christiandiorpoisonOh, that bottle!

I.Wanted.That. Wanted it in the small spray, in the miniature parfum, in body products, in each and every form it came in. It was one of the few products that I’ve out-and-out craved.

And the juice inside — well, it was simply like nothing else I had ever smelled: captivating, intense and near-narcotic in its lushness.

Poison’s heady potion of plum, tuberose and jasmine rushed out of the bottle, intoxicating and nearly over the top. Just in the nick of time, the woods, spices and musk stepped in to warm it and rein it in, taking its sultry glamour down to slightly more wearable levels. When I put it on, I couldn’t help feeling sophisticated and — dare I say it — rather exotic. Which, if you know me, is almost laughable.

It really was a stunner, though, despite its obvious room-clearing ability. At the very least, it was a 180 from so much of what was out there at the time, and probably why it fascinated me so.

Now I’ve heard the grape juice/Kool Aid comments, but it never went there on my skin. On the contrary, my nose reveled in its (then) unusual plummy-berry opening that somehow smelled delicious and dangerous at the same time. The perfume world then was not so rife with fruit, so maybe it didn’t seem like such a bad thing, until the heavy-hitters began over-applying, of course. (In my defense, I don’t think I ever gassed anyone out with my Poison, for even back then I applied with a light hand.)

Recently, my craving for it reawakened a bit, so I pulled out my sample of vintage Poison parfum late one night when there was no one around to be offended. I dabbed sparingly, waited an anxious moment or two and then sniffed … ah! — still a knockout (no pun intended), still a remarkable scent after all these years. It had lost none of its appeal as a lush and beautiful femme fatale, though I must confess it did seem a little dated.

Notes for Poison (they vary slightly from site to site, but these seem to be the main players): plum, berries, coriander, tuberose, jasmine, cinnamon, cedar, sandalwood, incense, musk, vanilla and heliotrope

These days I prefer to get my tuberose from the gorgeous Carnal Flower and my occasional jasmine from Alien, but it’s fun to revisit this heady ‘80s diva from time to time.

So what big ’70s, ’80s or ’90s scent do you still enjoy, despite it getting a bad rap? Come on, ‘fess up, you know there’s gotta be something … Giorgio, anyone?

  • Kirsten D says:

    Way late to the party due to some commenting issues with browsers, but all fixed now and ready for Swapmania (excited!!). Just the mere mention of Poison brings back happy memories. My best friend and I used to spend our school lunchtimes at our nearest department store sniffing and spraying perfumes. We went to afternoon classes reeking of Opium, Poison, Ysatis, Amarige, Paris, Cinnabar, Lou Lou, Drakkar Noir and Kouros – often at the same time. The vintage Poison always gave me a terrible headache, but she was an absolute beauty. I tried it again recently, but the poor thing has been reformulated to the palest shadow of her former glory. I think I need to ebay trawl for some vintage, and some Opium too. Lovely post Ann, thank you for the memories!

  • nozknoz says:

    I like a lot of perfumes from the 70s, 80s and 90s. For one thing, AG Heure Exquise and Vetiver are from the 80s, as are Paco Rabanne La Nuit, Jil Sander Woman III and Samsara. In terms of big, I’d like to smell the original Carolina Herrera again.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Nozknoz, I’d forgotten about several of those, especially Samsara. That was nice and spicy-warm — most definitely a cold-weather scent, for me at least. The original Carolina Herrera — was that the one in the black and white box with yellow and polka dots?

  • renad says:

    Loves me some big white flower bombs, the Eightier, the better. Also: Amarige. Unreservedly, I don’t care how many elevators I clear out.

    • Ann says:

      You wear ’em proudly! Yes, Amarige was one of the big ’80s personalities but I liked it a lot, too.

  • Dina C. says:

    I never owned or wore Poison during the 80s. Back then, I wore Jontue, Lauren, Flora Danica and Emeraude. I remember lusting after LouLou, and I finally bought myself a vintage bottle just this year. It’s great stuff — a violet oriental — as long as you apply sparingly. 🙂 I remember the smell of Opium and Giorgio, both of which were wafting through the halls of my high school. And my best friend’s signature scent was Cinnabar. I just saw the original Poison (though probably reformulated) on sale at Costco this week.

    • Ann says:

      Dina, you hit on lots of ’80s lovelies there, some way bigger than others. I remember liking the Loulou as well (and didn’t it come in kind of a cool opaque blue bottle?).

  • March says:

    I love this so much I can’t even tell you. I have the Poison extrait for the days regular ol’ Poison isn’t quite enough.

    • Ann says:

      Wow, March! Welcome aboard — I didn’t realize you were on the Poison love train. I really want to try the current version, too, just to compare, and also explore the flankers.

  • ElizaC says:

    Cinnabar was the perfume I wore in high school (many, many years ago). Just a few days ago, put a small spritz on – still lovely and still a powerhouse. Stayed on me for about two days and is still embedded in our wood office desk.

    • Ann says:

      Talk about unforgettable — that’s some amazing lasting power! Wonder how it would be just dabbed on? Next time I’m by an EL counter, I’ll see …

  • Sherri Miller says:

    Ann, y’know I just sprayed some original Poison on last week at Sephora. It was Halloween and I thought I’d have a little fun. It definitely opens big and syrupy, and I thought I’d really regret it. But, it’s one of those perfumes like Angel, moments of gorgeous mixed with moments of whew this is a lot. I can see it being pretty in small doses. It does open very grapey; I’m wondering if it was always like that, or if it’s gone more fruity to suit modern tastes. Definitely it is the most original thing in Sephora, and you gotta love it for that!

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Sherri! So Poison on you was a little trick, a little treat? I didn’t realize it was at Sephora. It always had a fairly fruity open but not sure what it’s doing in today’s formulation. Must try very soon!

  • catlady says:

    LOVED Magie Noire!!!! and Coriandre, Ivoire de Balmain, Cristalle, Anais Anais.

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, Magie Noire! Now that was a dark, heady beauty. I wore it from time to time, but always felt like it was a little out of my league. The others you mentioned are nice, but I was especially fond of Cristalle — still am!

  • ringthing says:

    Hi, Ann – Poison didn’t work for me at all back in the day and I still remember smelling it everywhere. When Hypnotic Poison came out I’d spray some whenever I was in a dept store and couldn’t decide if I loved it or hated it, then bought a bottle. It’s my favorite winter bedtime scent. Those bottles are just gorgeous, esp the purple Poison one!

    • Ann says:

      Glad you found a Poison that worked for you! Now I’ve got to get busy and try all the flankers. And you’re right, all those bottles were so lovely.

  • Mals86 says:

    As I mentioned in the comments, Chloe was my 1980s scent – though I also wore the following: Prince Matchabelli Cachet, Diane von Furstenberg Tatiana (now there’s a spicy-white-floral beast, if you like!), Noxell Navy, Revlon Xia Xi’ang, and Emeraude.
    And I haaaaaaated Poison, back in the day. You couldn’t walk through a girls’ college dorm hall without being asphyxiated by overspray hanging around in the air, and it was just huge. That cough-syrupy grape/berry note. That enormous jungle of white flowers. For years I said I hated it, along with Opium and Youth Dew and Obsession. After recent resmellings, I STILL don’t like those three, but Poison has begun to grow on me, to the point that a few months ago, I actually managed to snap up a 1-oz bottle of the vintage. I’d been testing samples – the modern edt, the vintage Esprit de Parfum, the very-loud EdT – and found that they were all soft and almost cuddly on me, all sweet and come-hither and pretty.
    Furthermore, as opposed to my husband’s usual “meh” reaction to whatever I’m wearing, he really likes Poison. While the kids shrink back against the wall, big-eyed in Poison-apprehension, The CEO is following me around the house going, “What is that you’re wearing? That’s niiiiice. C’mere, lemme smell you! What IS that??”

    • Ann says:

      Hey, Mals! Happy to hear you’ve come around to Poison (and if the CEO likes it, that’s definitely a big plus, isn’t it?). Wow — Tatiana! I had forgotten about that. I remember wearing it and feeling a little dangerous in it.

  • In the 70’s – Chloe in the original parfum, wearing only a tiny amount and loving it. It was so soft, even worked to help me sleep during the years I was in graduate school and sleep was so limited. I’d still wear it if I could find the small bottle of parfum.

    • Mals86 says:

      I wore Chloe (edt, but sparingly) all through the 1980s. Recently I wanted to smell it again and went hunting on ebay – I have a small 3ml bottle of parfum that smells lovely five minutes in, after the aldehydes burn off. It’s still in good shape and I’d wear it myself if it didn’t feel quite so much like high school to me! I had set it aside to send to a good home during the upcoming Swapmania here, but if you’d like it now I’d be happy to get it to you. Email me at malsnano86 at google with your address if you do.

    • Ann says:

      Anita, I think it’s still a beautiful scent. An old BF bought me the mini of the parfum and I still have it around here somewhere, although it’s probably turned. Glad it was such a comfort to you.

  • Patty White says:

    You know, I did not hate Poison as much as you would think! But Opium and Estee Lauder Cinnabar were my big hair orientals. Loved them. Still do. Opium only in the vintage parfum, which is amazingly beautiful!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Ann!

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, Patty, would love to sniff Opium in vintage parfum again. A little dab of that would definitely be the way to go. You can’t see me, but I’m grinning because I’m trying to picture you spraying yourself with Cinnabar. 🙂

      • Patty White says:

        Remind me to send you some. I , um, sorta overstocked on it because I was afraid the world would run out of Opium parfum. yeah, I know, like that could happen!

  • I still remember the shockwaves when Poison came out. The EDP was what everyone was wearing, but the Esprit de Parfum was much better — darker, lusher, less violent. And a couple of years after the original launch they came out with an EDC that was also better than the EDP — brisker, lighter and cheerier, incorporating all the notes of the original without that huge room-filling quality.

    Unfortunately, Poison has been reformulated in recent years: I smelled some a couple of years ago and it was quite a shock, that recognizable dark blackcurrant overlaid with the modern light-fresh elements that everything seems to have these days. But now I know everything gets reformulated all the time: it’s just the way the world works now. If you’re smelling Poison for the first time, though, you should know that that isn’t what it smelled like in 1985. (Nor is Dune: I smelled some yesterday and that’s been altered as well. As I said, everything gets reformulated.)

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Robert. Thanks so much for that good info. I think what I have is that esprit de parfum you mention because it is very smooth and lush. It is sad to see so many things reformulated, but you’re right, that’s the way of the perfume world these days. All the more reason to snag vintage scents if you can. Thanks!

  • Lynne Marie says:

    I recently acquired a vintage bottle of poison and I have to confess to being terrified to sniff it. Its reputation precedes it and a recent whiff of Giorgio nearly tossed me across the room. But I am deeply in love with the lush, purple bottle and will gather my courage to open it. The only 80’s perfume I still wear ( although I think it dates earlier than that) is Blue Grass, which is hardly terrifying at all but brings back sweet memories of young motherhood. I also wore Rive Gauche back then but find it too metallic now.

    • Ann says:

      You can do it, Lynne Marie! If it’s the parfum, just dab the tiniest bit, or if it’s a spray, maybe try one spritz on a cotton ball and then dab that on your wrist. Let us know how it goes.
      My mother wore Rive Gauche and that sleek black, blue and silver canister it came in always struck me as the height of French chic. Blue Grass I recall only vaguely but remember it was nice. Do they still make it, I wonder …

    • Don’t be afraid. Vintage Poison is genius. Open the bottle, dip a dressmaker’s pin into it, and draw the flat of the pin across your wrist. That will be plenty of Poison, believe me. You don’t need much.

  • kathleen says:

    I’ve never tried Poison (that’s right). I have, recently, tried Hypnotic Poison (vintage) and I like it very much. How do they compare? Do you know?

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Kathleen! Do give the original a try sometime. I have not tried the Hypnotic, but maybe one of our other Posse folks can help with the comparison. I do remember liking the Pure Poison (I think). I’m curious to sample all the Poison flankers now.

      • All the various Poison flankers are unrelated to one another. Tendre Poison was a fresh green floral (I think it’s discontinued), Pure Poison is a clean white floral, Hypnotic Poison is a bitter-almond-and-jasmine oriental, and Midnight Poison is a rose-and-patchouli oriental. If you smelled them all side by side you would never guess that they had any of the same DNA, unlike, say, the Mugler flankers, which always use the original scents as a starting point and work small but significant variations on them.

  • Olfacta says:

    I have an 80’s called “Explosive” by Etienne Aignier — a huge rose with dark aspects. It’s a sleep scent for me. Maybe one of these days I’ll wear it in public — maybe. I missed Poison somehow, though. In the 80’s I wore Cristalle to work and Bal at night.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, lady, how are you? Good to see you. I completely missed the Etienne scent, though those purses were everywhere in the ’80s, weren’t they? I loved me some Cristalle, too, but the skank in Bal put me off a little. BTW, didn’t you also wear the Must de Cartier back in the day, too?

      • Olfacta says:

        Yes — the perfume sample the lady who lived next door (and worked at Saks Beverly Hills) gave me — real perfume, in a sample! Hard to believe. I made it last a whole winter, then went into hock for a bottle of the EDT, which was quite different — lots of galbanum — then. Last year a fan of the blog sent me a mini of the vintage perfume, which I’m making last similarly.

  • Mrs. Honey says:

    I love vintage Poison, but don’t remember smelling it back in the 80s. The 80s smelled like Lauren, Anais Anais, Nikki de St. Phalle, Maxims, Giorgio and Opium, and later Red Door, for the females. The males wore enough Polo and Drakkar Noir,. I still have a soft spot for DK and I can tolerate but don’t choose to wear any of the others listed. Except Giorgio, which might be okay if people wore a reasonable amount, but I have only ever smelled that one on people who marinate in it.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, Mrs. Honey, you mention some lovelies; they bring back some great memories. I adored Lauren in college, but I’ve heard that it’s a completely different animal now, more’s the pity, so think I’ll pass. Loved Drakkar on the right man, so I have a soft spot for it as well. Off to find my Nikki now!

  • pam says:

    I second Opium. Not my everyday fragrance, but still great. I have my mother’s vintage bottle.

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Pam! On an extremely cold day, there was nothing better than a dab of Opium to warm you up. Lucky you to have that vintage bottle. I had the small parfum (with the tassel) and I think it’s around here somewhere — gotta go find it now.

  • Karin says:

    Hi Ann! I LOVE Poison! I wore it back in the dark ages…ummm…I mean 80’s. Haven’t worn it since. Bought a bottle this past spring, and have not cracked it open yet. It’s about time I did!

  • Poodle says:

    I was a Poison girl and I still love it. I will own up to wearing Giorgio too. A woman I work with still wears it and it’s wonderful on her. I probably cleared a few rooms with Knowing and Cinnabar back in the day. I love the 80’s.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Poodle! Yay — another Poison girl! I also wore a bit of Giorgio now and then back in the day. I have not tried the current formulation of Poison, though, have you?

      • Poodle says:

        No I haven’t tried it. I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed when I do because I know it won’t be the same.

  • Lisa D says:

    Well, since nobody else is going to mention it, mine is Opium. I know, I know! It just smelled so damn GOOD on me. Stop you on the street, what are you wearing, let me bury my face in your neck good.

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Lisa! I know you smelled great in it. I didn’t own a spray of this, but did have a little bottle of the parfum, which I would dab very sparingly, and also the body cream (which was a gracious plenty on its own). I remember adoring that heavy yet sleek frosted glass jar with its cinnabar colored top.

  • OK, now I know everyone is gonna hammer me for this . . .but . . . I love me sum Giorgio Beverly Hills . . . in smallish doses , I’ll grant you . . . but this post had me out of my chair to go find my bottle . . .a quick spritz or two, and for me, at least, seventh heaven. . . guess my body chemistry brings out the sandalwoody notes in this, and on my skin it’s sweet, but not cloying!

    • Ann says:

      No hammering — it’s all good! It really was a great scent, as you say in small doses, and it took us all by storm. Now I need to go get myself some to try.

    • Mals86 says:

      I didn’t own any back in the day, but Giorgio was what the popular girls at my high school were wearing, and I liked it then. The heart’s completely gone out of it now, judging by the mini I bought in the last few years – it’s a chemical mess guaranteed to give me headache, even dabbed.

  • Sandstorm936 says:

    I do have a liking for Obsession. Every once in a while, I pull out my 14 year old bottle of it and wear the tiniest spray that I can get. Since I have finally understood Mitsouko, I wear it quite often.

    • Ann says:

      Yes, wasn’t Obsession great (in small doses, that is)! I didn’t wear it much, however, as Must de Cartier had preceded it by several years and they were somewhat similar. I did love the body cream in in though.

      • Ann says:

        Glad you now “get” Mitsouko. I’m still trying, but maybe one day it will click for me, too.

  • I love my Shalimar. I can’t get enough of it. I feel gorgeous, dangerous, outrageous, and cuddly-as in I-knitted-this-scarf-for-you-sweetie-do-you-want-a-butterscotch cuddly. I love it!

    I adore it’s ’20’s feel and ’80’s powerhouse slam, and I LOVE the spice. I feel like I could go on a great safari with Hemingway while wearing a fabulous Bob Mackie with humongous shoulder pads. Ahhhh, fantasies!

    • Ann says:

      Yep, it’s a great one for sure, and still a wearable classic to this day, so that’s doing pretty well. Glad it works so well for you!