Created in 1977 by Yves Saint Laurent, Opium was a controversial release at that time; in part because of its evocative name and that which the perfume itself represented in popular culture, released on the heels of an era of psychedelic drug use. Yves Saint Laurent came under fire particularly from Chinese-American communities who felt the name and its associations insensitive... which in turn served to publicise the perfume even more. Opium embodied exotic enchantment with its narcotizing florals, deep spices, warm woods and spiralling resinous heart. To this day, it is revered as one of the classic orientals and a yardstick against which other oriental releases are still measured.
My exposure to Opium has been life-long. For as many years as I can recall, my mother has spritzed her decollitage with this mysterious elixir, and I have grown into an adult with its perfume profile imprinted clearly in my subconscious. Few oriental style perfumes even come close to the success of Opium, whose rich heritage has been beautifully documented in advertising media for almost 40 years. In that time the packaging and striking perfume formula has been largely unchanged. Until today.
Now, just two years since Yves Saint Laurent was bought from the Gucci Group by the cosmetics giant L'Oreal, the unthinkable has occurred. 2010 has seen a new Opium flacon and packaging presentation hit the shelves, and whilst I could never fault the original, the new bottle and media campaign both succeeded in catching my eye.
Sadly, the perfume itself did not appease my nose. Nor did it live up to the olfactory fingerprint that the original formula has left on my psyche.
Ô rage ! Ô désespoir!
Why have they messed with perfection?! I find the new formulation a travesty. The EDT has suffered the most, but the EDP has also been afflicted with a mess of accords that simply have no business being there. Somewhere between the plum, cloves and carnation; the rose, the myrrh, the sandalwood and the animalic castoreum, there now resides a ghastly synthetic mess that I can only begin to describe as powdery, bitter elastic bands. As far as the perfuming arts are concerned, I feel this is every bit as repugnant as the little black moustache French artist Marcel Duchamp added to a reproduction of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa during the Dada art movement in 1919. A cheeky bit of vandalism callously applied to a master creation. Only, here the justification of such a defacement is not at all clear.
I think if Yves were still alive today, he would be outraged. The perfume that personified his name and his brand - a scent that has been cherished the world over - has also met an untimely end.
As per the terms of L'Oreal's purchase, they have taken over the long term license for not only YSL, but also Boucheron, Stella McCartney, Ermenegildo Zegna and Oscar de la Renta.