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

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Frapin Nevermore

Nevermore. Source: Frapin via Fragrantica.

Nevermore. Source: Frapin via Fragrantica.

“…on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’/ Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Edgar Allen Poe wrote those words in his famous poem, The Raven, which has now become the inspiration for a new fragrance from the French luxury cognac house, Frapin.

Frapin entered the perfume business only six years ago in 2008, but the brand has been making expensive cognac for centuries. In fact, as a Vanity Fair article explains, the family behind Frapin goes back almost 800 years and has a true passion for cognac, as well as an interest in tradition. Understandably, as a perfume house, their creations all involve cognac to some degree or another.

Nevermore, however, is their first fragrance to have a literary focus. The inspiration is two-fold. First, Poe’s poem, The Raven, where a man slowly descends into despair and madness, aided by a talking raven who squawks out “Nevermore” like a prophet of doom at the man’s every mention of a happy memory in the past. In my opinion, the second inspiration is far more significant and noticeable in terms of its concrete effects on the perfume, and it involves a mysterious visitor called The Poe Toaster who visited Poe’s grave to pay tribute with cognac and three roses every year on Poe’s birthday for more than seven decades. As the Frapin press release quoted by a number of sites explains:

In the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the poet reveals the misery that overcame him whenever he was confronted with loss. Each happy memory become so distant that he knew of only one term for this condition: “Nevermore” – never again.

For the first time in 1949 on January 19 – the poet’s birthday, a mysterious visitor began to leave three red roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. An enigmatic gesture and a myth-enshrouded story, a dark, baroque universe, purple roses and amber liquid…

Source: The London Telegraph newspaper. telegraph.co.uk

Source: The London Telegraph newspaper. telegraph.co.uk

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L’Antichambre Le Chocolat Parfum (Le Chocolat Ambre)

Source: luckyscent.com

Source: luckyscent.com

Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown and Peanuts, once said “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Le Chocolat might help as well. It is a pure parfum from the Belgian house of L’Antichambre, a boutique in Brussels that originally made only customized, bespoke creations. In 2013, its founder and nose, Anne Pascale, launched a line of parfums or extraits available to the public, one of which was Le Chocolat, though it was originally called Le Chocolat Ambre at the time. The name may have changed, but the scent supposedly remains the same.

According to Luckyscent, Le Chocolat’s notes are:

Lemon, jasmine, chocolate, amber, vanilla.

Source: kcchocolateschicago.com

Source: kcchocolateschicago.com

Le Chocolat opens on my skin with delicious, rich, very expensive-smelling chocolate. It veers between something like a chocolate truffle, a chocolate mousse, a Mars bar with its caramel center, and Cadbury’s. If you’ve ever smelt Cadbury’s chocolate, you know that it has a certain aroma that is strong and simultaneously a bit milky. Le Chocolate, though, smells much more expensive than a mere Cadbury’s bar.

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A Lab on Fire Paris/LA

Source: A Lab on Fire website.

Source: A Lab on Fire website.

Los Angeles as seen through French eyes in a perfume that tries to capture the gourmand essence of both cities in one bottle. Coca-Cola and Macarons are the symbols chosen to represent each city in a new fragrance from A Lab on Fire called Paris/ LA. (The scent is sometimes written alternatively as “Paris L.A.“, but I’ll just refer to as “Paris/LA.”) It’s a very original idea which Paris/LA tries to accomplish by marrying the zingy, zesty brightness of Key lime, ginger Cola with the creamy vanilla of a Parisian macaron dusted with “neroli petals” and then wrapped in ambered warmth. Some of you are probably blinking at the sound of all that, and trying to wrap your head around the thought of ginger-lime cola infused with the creamy filling of a macaroon (never mind adding “neroli petals” to the mix), but it somehow works. At first.

Source: Twisted Lily.

Source: Twisted Lily.

Paris/LA is an eau de parfum that was created by Laurent de Guernec and released last month. On its website, A Lab on Fire describes the olfactory interplay between cities as follows:

When they speak to each other, it’s a filtered language, a private exchange. One adores, the other abides––for the lover sees what the beloved cannot. LA, captured through Parisian eyes, succumbs and is made new. A refreshing Coca-cola marries a smooth-shelled macaron. When you look around, are you still in the same place you started?

According to Luckyscent, Paris/LA’s notes are as follows:

Key lime, ginger, cola accord, neroli petals, coriander seeds, thyme, macaron accord, amber, musk.

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