Fixer-upper Monday: YSL’s Black Opium

Black Opium(Note: I wrote this before Patty picked up her Black Opium and did a post on it, so here goes my take/remake on it.) When I first read that YSL was launching a scent called Black Opium, my ears pricked up considerably. Although I knew it very likely wouldn’t resemble the original Opium, at least it sounded interesting, seeing as it had coffee, patchouli and jasmine in it. And I thought the bottle looked kind of neat, at least in the photos. But I couldn’t seem to find it around me (not yet released here in the U.S. I found out), so I snagged a sample from a decanter.

It struck me right off as a bit of a fruity-floral mish-mash and didn’t really stand out from the crowd. I really tried to like Black Opium, and although it really wasn’t any worse than the usual department store fare, I was still disappointed. Mainly because I didn’t get much of the vaunted coffee note, unfortunately. In my opinion, a little coffee (and tea) makes everything better. Side note here: Thank, thank, thanking L’Artisan for bringing back Tea for Two.

So what did I do? I decided to play mad perfume scientist and tweak Black Opium to my liking. I snagged my samples of Bond No. 9’s New Haarlem and Abdes Salaan Attar Scents of the Soul Milano Caffe — to help “caffeinate” it, and went to work on layering. The Abdes turned out to be a bit too complex and seemed to add to the cacophony of notes, but the New Haarlem was just about perfect, cutting through the department store overload, tamping it down, adding some non-floral highlights and giving a nice shot of interest to my wrist. Now this I could definitely live with.

I’m sure perfumers cringe when they hear about people doctoring up their creations, but you know, I just couldn’t help it. And although I doubt I’ll be needing any more Black Opium, at least I have found a new way to change up New Haarlem when I tire of wearing it straight (which isn’t often).

After wearing this and writing about it, it occurred to me pretty much what Patty and others have said: that Black Opium parallels Chanel’s Coco Noir — a great bottle and name saddled with a mediocre scent inside. It really seems a shame to have wasted those two attributes on so-so juice; they both deserve something far more memorable. Oh, well, such is life.

What about you — do you sometimes “doctor” a so-so scent to make it more palatable, or even enjoyable? Have any of you tried Black Opium yet? It might play nicer on some skins than on others; maybe it really shines on you? I could see it working better if someone had “coffee-amping” skin or their chemistry blew up the patchouli, vanilla or cedar more.

Notes from Fragrantica: coffee, pink pepper, orange blossom, jasmine, vanilla, patchouli and cedar.

  • Caroline says:

    Hey Ann, are you still here? Not related to YSL, but as a fellow lipstick fanatic, would you let me know if you’ve ever had a lip palette where you have to apply color with a brush? Am sorely tempted by the palette exclusive to the Chanel site, but I’ve always bought bullets and apply right from the tube. Not sure if having to use a brush would annoy me.

    • Ann says:

      Howdy, Caroline! I’ve only used palettes a few times. IMHO, it just takes a little getting used to working with a brush instead of a bullet. But I’ve found if you love the color, it ends up being all good and worth the little bit of extra work to apply. Much easier than liquid eyeliners — for me at least, ha!! At least you won’t end up poking yourself in the eye 😉

  • Kandice says:

    Got it – thanks! For anyone else that’s interested it’s I can’t wait to try it but given the reviews here I’m ready to be disappointed. I loved the original Opium but I’m sure it’s nothing like that. Like you mentioned, Ann, why even bother if you can’t make something that’s as wonderful as the original Opium or Coco. Still, it’s hard to turn down free perfume samples 🙂

    • Ann says:

      Hiya, Kandice! Yep, it is hard to turn down free samples. Get it and see what you think of it; and perhaps, like I did, you can find something to layer it with to make it more lovable. Or pass it along to someone who doesn’t mind mainstream dept. store scents; I have a friend who loves a lot of that stuff, so I end up sending her a big ‘ol envelope full of samples at Christmas and she seems to enjoy most of them.

  • Kandice says:

    Julie, do you have the link for that? I went to and couldn’t even find perfume listed on their page. I was on the U.S. site. Thanks!

    • Diana says:

      I typed in “YSL Black Opium” into the browser, clicked on the first link to the YSL page that came up and on that first page, scroll down and you’ll see where you can enter your info to receive a free sample (first dose).

  • Julie L says:

    YSL is sending a free sample if you goto their page and enter your info! I did it two days ago! So I’ll have a report soon 🙂