Opium is one of the most beautiful oriental fragrances of the Yves Saint Laurent brand, a perfume classic that incorporated all the most essential oriental perfumes until 1977 when it appeared and continued to inspire all the latter fragrances from this exotic perfume group. It is one of the most controversial perfumes of the 1970s and 1980s, both because of the tangible things like the name and bottle, as well as intangible – fragrant notes and fascination that even now provoke the most opposite reactions, from total contempt and disgust to complete devotion and loyalty. Opium, despite the name, was not an opium for the masses, but for the chosen souls who were not afraid of the condemnation of society and who dared to indulge in ecstatic enjoyment in themselves. All that was indicated by its poster, which portrayed a woman who does not enjoy the company of a man, but her own, stretched on the ottoman, intoxicated by Opium, without even looking at the camera. Who needs a man or audience, if she has Opium.


From the moment it appeared, Opium provoked outrage and mass hysteria. Everyone wanted to be part of the revolution Opium caused in the fragrant, cultural, and social life of Americans and Europeans. A party to launch Opium was so extravagant and the place to be, that even Andy Warhol regretted being outside the city when it was taking place, judging by Lizzie Ostrom. The first part of the party took place on the Beijing boat, where over 800 guests attended, among which were the most prestigious names from the most diverse spheres: writer Truman Capote, industrialist David Geffen, pop icon Cher and fashion editor Diana Vreeland. Of course, the party did not stop there as the selected team continued to the famous Club 54 where the hosts, model Jerry Hall and Yves Saint Laurent welcomed guests in, let’s say, elevated mood.

Yves Saint Laurent liked to shock the audience, and everything about the Opium perfume was shocking for the ubiquitous small-town air that even today exists, despite the fact that many of the Opium-like phenomena cut through it a Samurai sword. The Opium bottle was designed by Pierre Dinand, modeled on the inro, a small pot originating in Japan, in which the samurai kept their opium tablets. The idea delighted Yves, who accepted it from the first and Opium got a final, materialized form, which began to conquer the world, one intoxication at a time.


The perfume composition of Opium is oriental, but the leading role, unlike many other oriental perfumes, was given to spices. The perfume base is a blend of two main directions in making oriental perfumes: the first is based on the ambreine accord based on the legendary fragrances Shalimar, Obsession and Must de Cartier, and the second is based on the Mellis accord, celebrated by Youth Dew, L’Air du Temps and Coco. In a sense, Opium is the perfect blend of Shalimar and Youth Dew, but at the same time, it’s more than just a mixture. A greater emphasis is placed on the animal note castoreum, spicy and resinous notes, as well as a large share of the rose essence.

Opium opening is composed of hesperidic notes of lemon, orange, bergamot and mandarin, but unlike all other perfumes from the oriental group, its top notes also contain aldehydes, known for the specific scent of fresh laundry. In the heart of the perfume, there are dense, opulent and juicy floral notes of rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang, as well as notes of an exceptional flower that further underlines the spicy character of the perfume – carnation. It connects and emphasizes all other spicy notes such as cinnamon and cloves, present in the formula, and rounds them into a picture of what many perfume critics call the king of spices among perfumes. The bottom notes are what makes Opium a one-way ticket to the world of 1001 nights, an eastern mix of aromatic resins of tolu, styrax, opoponax and benzoin. And at the very end, last but not least, factor X of this perfume … mystical incense, which permeates and refreshes every part of this perfume, as it has been doing for thousands of years in many religions and civilizations.

The main problem in accepting this perfume, are fans of the same. Perhaps there is no perfume in the world that is more valid for less is more credo. One spray is enough. Two are too much. Three are a crime against humanity. Whenever I tested Opium, vintage, as well as the modern version, I have never applied more than one spray. There were times when I could not separate my hand from the nose, and there were moments when I wanted to peel off a piece of skin sprayed with it and revolted like Van Gogh, sent it to the perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, who made the reformulation for the new version. Whatever you feel about this perfume and its fans, you can not deny that it is a genius creation, which combines smart chords, characteristic ingredients and a striking personality. Perhaps it is not your cup of tea, but every time you notice it, you will stop to hear what it has to say. And Opium is Demosthenes among perfumes.

[Fragrance notes] top notes: lemon, lavender, bergamot, cinnamon, orange, mandarin, coriander, pimento, plum; middle notes: rose, jasmine, carnation, ylang-ylang, pepper, carnation, iris; base notes: incense, sandalwood, castoreum, opoponax, tolu, benzoin, styrax, vanilla, patchouli, labdanum, musk.

[Fragrance group] oriental.

Perfume creators are Jean Amic, Jean Louis Sieuzac, Raymond Chaillan and Antoine Maisondieu.