Yves Saint Laurent Belle d’Opium ~ fragrance review

Yves Saint Laurent Belle d'Opium advert

On first smelling Yves Saint Laurent Belle d'Opium, two words came to mind, and they weren't "must buy." No, they were "hairspray oriental." I like some of Opium's flankers — the lovely Fleur de Shanghai* is a treat on a summer's night. But rather than referring to Belle d'Opium as a flanker, YSL calls it the "next generation" of Opium. If that's the case, somebody please talk to Opium about birth control.

Perfumers Honorine Blanc and Alberto Morillas developed Belle d'Opium, giving it notes including Casablanca lily, sandalwood, gardenia, white pepper, jasmine, and narguile accord. After a generous spray of Belle d'Opium, I smell a hint of orange before gardenia takes over. The gardenia isn't the wet, tropical gardenia of Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia or even Jovan Jungle Gardenia, but is a thin, synthetic flower coated in Aqua Net. A thread of tobacco and fruit run through the gardenia. The tiniest bit of jasmine hums along, too. Because of a little resin and amber, Belle d'Opium does smell like a high-pitched relative of Opium, but without Opium's drama and deep, clove-y spice.

Just when I thought I had Belle d'Opium pegged as a synthetic, screechy gardenia-based oriental, a thin, woody musk asserted itself. The fragrance began to reorient itself to what some perfume companies have been calling a "modern chypre," smelling more to me like bug spray than bergamot-oakmoss-patchouli-wood-labdanum of a real chypre. This foul accord has torpedoed too many department store launches over the past three years, and I hope it ends soon. For me, it's a one-way ticket to a migraine. I've read reviews of Belle d'Opium lamenting its lack of persistence, but on me it lasts a good four hours.

In an article in Elle magazine**, perfumer Calice Becker compares mainstream perfumes to formulaic romantic comedies. "With mass perfume, it's the same: We go for the stars that we know everyone likes." But the same article goes on to quote Vera Strubi, the former president of Thierry Mugler perfumes. About Angel's launch, she says, "That's when I realized that if you want a fragrance to be memorable, it can't please everybody."

Yves Saint Laurent Belle d'Opium perfume bottle

Opium took a bold stance over 30 years ago, and it still sells well, offending and delighting across the globe. Belle d'Opium, on the other hand, tries to be a romantic comedy, if with a vaguely oriental feel. I doubt Belle d'Opium will never win an Academy Award. Heck, I'd be surprised if it made it to Dancing With the Stars.

Yves Saint Laurent Belle d’Opium is available in 30, 50 and 90 ml Eau de Parfum.

*If anyone at Yves Saint Laurent is reading, please bring back Fleur de Shanghai!

**April Long, "As You Like It." Elle, November 2010, page 242.

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  1. Dolly2 says:

    Great article Angela! I am going to give this one a sniff anyway to try out your” Aqua Net theory!” I wonder since Yves passed on in 2008, would this have been any better if he were still alive? Hard telling. Anyhow, I don’t care for Opium anyway- I liken it to getting hit by a train.

    • Angela says:

      Who knows? Maybe it will work better on your skin. If you really want a sultry gardenia, though, I’d look elsewhere.

      • LaMaroc says:

        I almost had my sister buy this for me when she went to Chicago this past weekend. Instead she sprayed a pretty peakcock feather designed promo card and brought that back for me to try. I have to admit, I really like it! I have no doubt it’s screechy hairspray upon first application. I don’t really get a lot of gardenia on the card which is good because gardenia (and tuberose) and I do not have good chemistry. I may be in luck though, because hairspray-like accords seem to work well on my skin. Go figure!

        • Angela says:

          I hope it works for you! Maybe you have the skin it was tailor-made for. I hope you’re able to try it on skin before you buy, though. (Love the idea of a peacock feather to test on.)

  2. Bear says:

    Thanks for taking one for the team, Angela ! ;)
    I still love that d*mn bottle, though.
    Tell me its not as attractive in REAL life, so I can move on :))

    • Angela says:

      The bottle is nice, I admit, and I like the mood of the ad campaign even if a photo of a woman emitting smoke and light from her crotch is disturbing. But if you want a fragrance with a really gorgeous bottle and a fine (if not inspiring to me, at least) fragrance, try Narciso Essence.

      Maybe I’m just cranky today!

      • JolieFleurs says:

        “photo of a woman emitting smoke and light from her crotch ”

        You owe me a new keyboaord, OMG! I snorted my Dr. Pepper all over it!

        • Angela says:

          Doesn’t the photo look like that to you, though?

          I’m sorry about your keyboard! Maybe the Dr. Pepper will act as a cleaning agent.

          • Joe says:

            Once you see it that way, you can’t NOT see it that way! LOL

            Her legs look they’re in seriously odd positions when you dissect the pose.

          • Angela says:

            It is pretty freaky that they chose that pose for the marketing photos.

        • Winifrieda says:

          Waahhhhhhhh hahah – did you see the pizzling this ad got on Photoshop disasters!!! I was alerted to that site by this very ad on a perfume blog!!
          But yes, smoke and light too!!! The p-shoppers were going for the disconnected leg – you would wonder why they would not just let the photographer create an amazing image with the extraordinary Karen Elsen, in fact they have managed to homogenise her…it beats me, you are absolutely right, its all dumbed down to the seven o’clock sitcom spot!

          • Angela says:

            Is that Karen Elsen? I can’t even tell!

            I bet they paid a bundle for this image, too. That’s the saddest part.

          • ladida says:

            It’s like her leg grows stright from her waist. Weird and jarring and incredibly noticeable. It also looks like there might be a weak flashlight occupying a …place… that’s sending it’s beam out to the right. So odd.

          • LaMaroc says:

            Actually the model pictured in the ad featured is not Karen Elson…I think it’s Natalia Vodianova but I’m not positive. Anyway, there is a version with Karen Elson that I do like better. It is actually the first ad displayed in this month’s Vogue (Ann Hathaway on the cover) and I definitely like that one better. She just exudes mystery and seduction, where as Natalia to me just always looks like a pre-adolescent girl playing dress up.

          • Angela says:

            I saw the Karen Elson ad, and that one looks like it’s for Opium rather than Belle d’Opium. I like it much better.

  3. boojum says:

    “But rather than referring to Belle d’Opium as a flanker, YSL calls it the “next generation” of Opium. If that’s the case, somebody please talk to Opium about birth control.”

    Love it! Truly made me LOL (at work, no less…oops).

    • Angela says:

      At first I wrote “tie Opium’s tubes” but I thought that was kind of harsh with other birth control methods available….

    • Warum says:

      This is a great line, yes, about the birth control!

      • Angela says:

        What I wonder is, who is the father?

        • Joe says:
          • Angela says:

            I believe he might actually be too sexy….

          • AnnS says:

            Joe – that is too funny. I love retro stuff!

          • nozknoz says:

            Oh, the true source of the hairspray oriental – Joe, that’s like discovering the source of the Nile!

  4. Alyssa says:

    Ha, ha, ha, ha! Remind me never to get on your bad side, Angela. This was a great pan–I almost feel sorry for poor BdO–then I look at that utterly loathsome ad and my feeling goes away…

    P.S. Someday, I will have to get someone to tell me what aromachemicals are in Aqua Net. It is the scent of my maternal grandmother, and all my backstage theater days…

    • Angela says:

      You’re safe!

      I think one of the things that bother’s me about Belle d’Opium is not just its obvious pandering for dollars but its identity crisis. Is it an oriental? A modern chypre?

    • Winifrieda says:

      Y’know, I often wondered about Luca T’s ‘disastrous hairspray and noise’ piece about the topnote in Insolence…surely a genius perfumer like Roucel would be quite deliberately aware of the power of a blast of hairspray getting ready for the Big Nite Out and the enormous scent psychology association…

      • Angela says:

        Well, if we assume the best, that the perfumers are in complete control of their fragrance and everything they have produced in Belle d’Opium they intended, then their target market is a hairspray-wearing, probably blonde-streaked woman (thinking of the chemicals) in her 30s who hasn’t ever smelled a real gardenia and who is impervious to the migraines set off by the faux chypres.

        • AnnS says:


          • Angela says:

            I really am being foul about this.

  5. Dolly2 says:

    Ahh..Aqua Net! The the hairspray that can take on any and all that come before it and after! I am truly afraid of what is in there as it could hold together anything!

    • Angela says:

      It’s true. A good coating of that stuff could hold together the space shuttle as it breaks through the atmospheric barrier.

    • AnnS says:

      My sisters and I used to use Aqua Net to kill the spiders that got into our bathroom. The poor things – I won’t describe what you can possibly imagine as their legs got stiffer and stiffer….

      • I have done the same. I usually feel that spiders and I can co-exist in harmony so long as they remain outside of my personal space and more importantly out of my shower. When that line is crossed, it is Aqua Net time.

        • Angela says:

          I don’t like them anywhere I’ll be naked, tub especially.

        • boojum says:

          I was terrified in college when I heard there were fiddlebacks spotted in the showers in the dorm. Without my glasses, I’m 5x legally blind, so if one came up the drain on me, I’d never see it. I switched to contacts, pronto!

          • Angela says:

            Smart move! I’m sure the spiders are just as interested in staying away from us as we are from them, but I went to the emergency room once with a Hobo spider bite, so I’m extra careful these days.

      • Angela says:

        I’ve grabbed a bottle of 409 cleaner to kill a bug in a pinch.

      • Winifrieda says:

        OMG that’s as bad as the lit can of flyspray on the wasp nest – an awful old Oztralian trick…

  6. zara says:

    Well put, Angela. I had high hopes for Belle d’Opium as I love the original Opium (there have been rumors, that even the original has undergone some slight reformulation, the new packaging may be a hint) and it was the first thing I sampled during my visit in Paris, and it was a huge disappointment. What bugged me most, was the ending, generic, boring and quasi chypre. In fact, it’s boring all over, no distinguishing spice note, no interesting aspect. Too ‘safe’ for me.
    And you are right about the hairspray note!

    • Angela says:

      I can see its relation to Opium, but B’O really doesn’t have its spirit, originality, or presence. Maybe I expected too much of Opium’s spawn and if this were some other department store launch I wouldn’t be so crabby about it. But I wouldn’t wear it in any case.

      • Dilana says:

        Oy Vay! A perfume whose nickname is B.O.!

        • Angela says:

          Yikes! I meant B d’O! (But that’s a hilarious comment.)

    • RuthW says:

      Opium has been reformulated and it is truly a tragedy!
      There are a lot of discussions on Basenotes about this and other blogs about it, if you are interested.
      I suggest stocking up on older bottles if this is one that you love.

      • Angela says:

        I do have an older bottle of the EdT, but I discovered when I was doing this review it had gone bad! I still have a little parfum, though.

      • zara says:

        So it’s true. Thanks for sharing. I have to stock up. Opium is a scent I don’t wear very often but love very much nevertheless.

  7. Dilana says:

    I haven’t smelled Belle’ d’Opium, but I sense some brilliant writing in this review.

    • Angela says:

      Don’t kill yourself tracking down a sample.

      (I am ridiculously mean today! I hope no one involved with the fragrance is reading this. I’m sure they tried their darnedest to please everyone, and I have lots of respect for that.)

      • zara says:

        and we love it when your mean 8-)

        • zara says:

          when you’RE mean…ofc

  8. Tama says:

    Haha! Ouch. Well, I did pick up a sample of this the other day – they had them actually sitting out on the display, which I have never seen. A sample free-for all?? Unheard of. But I’m a bit trepidatious to try it now – will definitely be a before-bed experiment.

    I hate that ad. I think when it came out I said it looked like she was blowing really noxious farts.

    • Jaimie D says:

      Yup, her leg placement is unfortunate indeed!

      • Angela says:

        You’d think they would have thought of that, but no.

    • Angela says:

      I’m not sure I’d want to sleep with it on. Maybe if you tried a little, but had Carnal Flower on hand to cover it up.

    • amber_coleman says:

      that’s exactly what i thought!

  9. Jaimie D says:

    “Hairspray Oriental!” I love it! It’s right up there with “room temperature IQ” on the dry wit scale. Frankly, Opium hasn’t appealed to me since I sprayed all over a bunch of kleenex and pipe cleaner flowers I made for my teacher in the second grade. As a scent, I find it too dated, and I think tweaking it would only make it worse. It says 1983 to me, and always will. This new one would be hairspray in 1983; not an improvement, unless you’re Joan Jett!

    • Angela says:

      How sweet! I love the image of a lovingly assembled mass of pipe cleaner and paper flower squirted with perfume.

      • Jaimie D says:

        When I gave them to my teacher she left them on her desk for the afternoon, but I think the smell overpowered the classroom and she did the right thing and threw them out! :-(

        • Angela says:

          I hope she kept it! Maybe she put it in her basement as an air freshener or something.

    • mals86 says:

      HEY. I like Joan, don’t saddle her with this.

      • mals86 says:

        But I still have some egg carton flowers with pipe cleaner stems, given to me for Mother’s Day several years ago… I still love them.

      • Jaimie D says:

        I love Joan too, but her early eighties spiky shag was one of the only high maintenance hair-dos I could remember at the time. Looked a bit crusty, no? Maybe I should have used Crystal Carrington as an example instead . . ! LOL

        • Angela says:

          Crystal! Talk about worlds apart. At least she had a similar hairdo most episodes. Alexis, on the other hand, changed her hair at least three times a show. (I’ve been getting the DVDs from the library, so this is all fresh in my mind.)

      • Angela says:

        I see Joan as more of a Bandit gal, but you never know.

    • Winifrieda says:

      yeh, its true about dating, but at least the big whammys back then had style, wit, character, power, individuality….really Paris, Poison, Opium, are art statements….and they were blockbusters as far as sales went presumably.
      I wonder what changes perceptions – the perfume ‘zietgiest’…
      To me those babies are quite immortal, like Mitsouko and Shalimar.

      • Angela says:

        They do seem immortal–and yet they’re relatively easy to pin to an era. Maybe the blockbuster ’80s fragrances are like the broad-shouldered suits of the 1940s. They’re easy to date, but they will always have style and regularly influence fashion, too.

  10. ceelouise says:

    Very funny – birth control, hairspray oriental. Admittedly, I wasn’t paying all that much attention, but I took a quick sniff and my two words were “Angel again”. Well, sort of, you know, sweet and all that.

    • Angela says:

      It doesn’t have the upfront patchouli of Angel, but I can see where the combination of the gardenia and touch of fruit might lead you to that comparison.

  11. Joe says:

    Great scathing review, Angela.

    Just wondering: who would you say the target market for this is? Women over 30 who are either familiar with the old Opium (even if it was their mothers’) and just want it updated a little? Or could you see a nightclub full of 22-year olds wearing this as the Next Big Thing? (Admittedly, even though I work with them, I don’t have much idea what college-aged women wear other than fruity fresh stuff that I smell in the daytime now and then.)

    Hairspray Oriental is an excellent category.

    • Angela says:

      When I was at Nordstrom talking someone into giving me a sample of Belle d’Opium, a woman in her early 30s (my guess) was really interested in it. She said she didn’t much like Opium because it was too strong, but she was obviously fascinated by the whole Opium idea. My guess is she’s the target audience.

      To me, Belle d’Opium doesn’t smell very fun or fun-sexy like I’d think a fragrance meant for a women in her early 20s would be. It’s too, well, hairspray like and not fruity enough or identifiably floral or fresh enough. I’d love to see the brief on it, though.

      • AnnS says:

        The “spread legs” campaign makes me think it’s an answer to the Beyonce fragrance released last year, which I’ve not smelled yet.

        • Angela says:

          Maybe a little more upscale, though.

          • Jaimie D says:

            I actually just looked at that Beyonce ad for her scent, “Heat.” All I could think of was, “that kind of heat looks a wee bit, um, itchy.” Horrible! I don’t think I’ll even bother to smell it.

          • Angela says:

            It does kind of taint the experience of the fragrance to think about it.

      • Roland says:

        Based on the picture, the target market is guys who want their woman to be a little slutty and steamy, on a sort of disney-esq level opium den adventure, rather than on a real one. Like we’ve heard of opium, but let’s just have a few drinks, instead, and we’ll light up some incense and toss some pillows on the ground…

        • Angela says:

          But do the guys actually buy much perfume? I’m guessing not. A miscalculation by the marketing folk, I guess.

          • Roland says:

            And the guys who really do buy don’t buy based on a photo, although it might get them to google a review. But most guys would probably never see the ad in the first place.

            I’m out of the loop. Where would these ads show up? Women’s fashion magazines? I only see the ads for women’s scents if I see them on your blog.

          • Angela says:

            Oh yes. Vogue, Harper’s–fashion magazines are chock full of fragrance ads.

    • Winifrieda says:

      Well my nineteen-year-old (how did she get THAT old!!) is actually turning into a bit of a perfumista, and to judge by my quiet analysis of how she is taking to perfume, she is going through the same sort of musk-chypre-oriental thing I did. Maybe its genetic (but she’s much more like her father really< a soap man, not even scented shaving foam).
      Something really interesting after she stole my decant of Musc Maori for a weekend away with girlfriends – she said the girls all went 'whew who sprayed chocolate'… which makes me wonder about the supposed rule that the young all like sweet goumands.

      • Angela says:

        You are a great mom to let a daughter take off with your Musc Maori! I can see that one being good for just about anyone over 17. Hey, maybe she’ll get you a bottle for Christmas!

  12. SiameseCat says:

    Great article! I love the comment about the birth control. Actually I thought that when reading of the previous summer versions. But on sniffing I found them to be faithful to Opium’s spirit.

    This on the other hand is pretty pathetic for something with the word Opium in it. And I used to have faith in Alberto Morillas. His creations were much tamer than Opium but still well made.

    The only other time I saw samples on display it was for the women’s Armani Code. Another letdown. Maybe that too says something.

    • Angela says:

      Alberto Morillas is a master, so I have to think he wasn’t given free reign to do what he wanted. Plus–who knows?–he may have had only the most fleeting connection with the fragrance. But I doubt he’s bragging about this one at dinner parties.

      • SiameseCat says:

        Well, based on your reassurance I’ll still give A.M. the benefit of the doubt in the future.
        Isn’t YSL part of L’Oreal now? Naturally it’s no longer up to standard. I’ll try to stock up on the original Opium before it’s to late.

        • Angela says:

          Are they owned by L’Oreal? That doesn’t sound as glamorous as YSL deserves, yet I’m sure your right.

          I seem to remember reading somewhere that Opium never had a very expensive formula to begin with. I suppose the IFRA is restricting some of its ingredients (eugenol, E.G.) but it’s sad to think they’d cheapen it.

  13. AnnS says:

    For as much as I like deep orientals, the original Opium never quite worked for me. It’s wishful thinking on my part that I was originally hoping this BdO (“BO”, ha ha) would be a sheer, transparent version of the original. Well, on to the next!

    • Angela says:

      I thought that’s what it might have been, too. Really, though, I’m more of a Coco gal, although I do have a tiny bit of Opium parfum I wear from time to time. I sure like Fleur de Shanghai, though. It has the spirit of Opium, but lighter, with a spring-like floral heart.

      • AnnS says:

        Yes, I’m a Coco girl too. I’ll just sit here an mock BdO with everyone and hold my Coco bottle close to my heart. I did test Fleurs de Shanghai a few years ago, and should revisit. At the time I didn’t care for it, but my curiosity has the better of me now. I remember it smelling like Opium, but more sheer or floral. Something…

        • Angela says:

          Both more sheer and floral to my nose, plus just more like a garden.

  14. I was lusting after this bottle the other day in Nordstrom & almost bought it for the bottle alone — I like the original Opium well enough but don’t have a FB of it. I’m saddened to hear it’s not that great. Oh well, I didn’t really need a bottle any way. I need to just find a nice vintage bottle of the original somewhere. I’m in the mood for bold 80’s orientals right now. Wearing some vintage Coco at the moment.

    • Angela says:

      Coco! Such a nice perfume. Maybe Belle d’Opium will work on you, who knows?

  15. maggiecat says:

    “…it lasted a good four hours on me.” Shouldn’t that be “a bad four hours”? :-)
    I was intrigued by the notes and used to wear Opium, so I tried this as soon as I found it. Not impressive at all, I’m afraid. Loved the review!

    • Angela says:

      Yes, you’re right!

      I had high hopes for Belle d’Opium, too, darn it.

  16. Owen says:

    I was wondering what aqua net was, but I googled it and it’s hairspray

    I smelled Belle D’Opium by the bottle but not on skin because then I couldn’t figure out if the top was a cap and I was trying to pull it off but in the end gave up, now I know it’s the actual spray. :/ and I thought it was a very rich spicy musky oriental, and it must be strong if you could smell it from the cap!

    I’m going shopping on saturday so I’ll try it then. and I must remember to go in House Of Fraser and see if they have Vanilla Shalimar :)

    • Angela says:

      Do let me know what you think of Belle d’Opium! Maybe it sings on someone’s skin. I haven’t tried the vanilla Shalimar yet, either, but I’m dying to.

      • Owen says:

        I might have a change of plan. I had my bedroom decorated last week so we might be going for a new carpet :) oh well, they can wait til next thursday.

      • Owen says:

        Angela I tried Belle D’Opium today in Boots. I like it, I don’t see why it’s not a likeable fragrance to nearly everybody? but I detected the hairspray accord within ten minutes and I can see why that put people off.

        I just from it, a nice, classy mix of YSL juice with some added spices and fruit. It does smell like the perfect fragrance to sum up YSL(minus the hairspray), that’s probably considered an insult to most people. I didn’t mind the hairspray but YSL doesn’t smell like that.

        am I right in thinking this smells like Elle but more grown up? I can’t remember Elle other than it being sweet but this surely rang a few bells (no pun intended). there’s the kinf YSL sparkle in the base of all the(very few) YSL’s I’ve smelled.

        It smells like a night out where everybody looks glamorous and there aren’t any drunk people about to ruin the night and the music isn’t too loud and your just that right amount of tipsy where you feel great and laugh at everything and despite it being winter you would feel warm. (not that I’ve ever been on a night out but thats what Belle D’Opium brings to mind). but I definitley think it’s a fragrance to wear at night and that would fit.

        • Angela says:

          It sounds like you liked it better than I did, which is good! I like getting other views.

          • Owen says:

            yes I did lol. it’s not something I’d wear but I did like it.

  17. FOandW_oh_my says:

    I don’t know. Normally I am up for a challenge after I think about things for a bit. You know, mull them over, maybe even change my mind. But in my youth I was regularly punched in the face (nose) by both Poison and Opium. Since then, yes I am a chicken, I try to not to go anywhere near them. Do you think I’ll have to forgo shopping in malls altogether for the forseeable future?

    • Angela says:

      Belle d’Opium isn’t as hard hitting as Opium, but in my mind it’s equally aggressive, but in a different way. Hopefully at the malls they won’t be spraying people!

  18. FragrantWitch says:

    Excellent review, Angela, as always. The line about birth control cracked me up! I love the original Opium- but only on others. It goes sour on me, sadly. I smelled this hoping that whatever soured on me with Opium would be absent and was disappointed. I completely agree about the ‘Hairspray Oriental’, – perfect. Incidentally, I am in my mid-30’s so I am probably the target market but I wouldn’t wear this even if it were given to me.

    • Angela says:

      That’s two of us, then, who wouldn’t keep a free bottle of it. Fortunately, there are lots of terrific fragrances out there for us.

  19. Endymion says:

    Very interesting article. I didn’t have high hopes for this scent and this article only reassures my feeling.
    I don’t like the name “Belle” d’Opium, it’s too girly, doesn’t suit the Opium heritage. Opium Fleur of anything would have been better.

    IMO YSL company should have hire Jacques Cavallier (and Alberto Morillas) to make this fragrance. Cavallier always does something extraordinary (also to YSL Opium pour homme, NU, M7, Rive Gauche pour homme…)
    I bet if Cavallier would have done this fragrance it was much-much-much better and more original.

    Since YSL is my favourite house I wished they would hire Cavallier as their in-house nose (as Hermés did with J-C Ellena, Dior with F Demarchy, Chanel with J Polge). But this dream never comes true, they rather make fragrances like Belle d’Opium or Parisienne…

    The house of YSL is heading to popularity and loosing its original boldness.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      I was sorely tempted by my bottle of NU today, so so gorgeous, but as I took up March’s challenge I can’t touch it! This is going to be a tough week…

      • Angela says:

        I would have done the challenge, too, if I didn’t have this darned fragrance to review! What scent did you settle on?

        • FragrantWitch says:

          Oh no! Missing the challenge to review a crummy fragrance- we appreciate your sacrifice, Angela, you’ve no doubt saved some people from wasting valuable skin real estate on BdO. Since I would have given myself stress (I am an overanalyser, par excellence ) I went with my Halloween fragrance Czech and Speake 88. Will report back!

          • Angela says:

            I’ve never tried that one! I look forward to your report.

    • Angela says:

      I also like YSL a lot–especially Y, Yvresse, and M7. It would be terrific if they hired an in-house nose, but it doesn’t seem like they’re that committed to being known for excellent perfume. Sadly.

  20. Merlin says:

    My first reaction to it was nice – another nice vanilla-comfort-type and the next moment I was hopelessly searching for some sign of personality and – alas – not finding any.

    • Angela says:

      It was a little too high-pitched and synthetic to be comforting to me. It’s a rainy day, too–a comfort scent sounds nice.

  21. helenviolette says:

    Thanks for the review! Fun read. I have been hearing this wanker (cough- um- FLANKER)- was gawdawful…and I think you are right about the target market being 30’s-ee. I saw the ad and thought- hmmmm- a toned down Opium might be just lovely :) oh well- I am doomed to mostly like too expensive for my county job stuff this year.

    • Angela says:

      I hear you. A county job would be a step up for me pay-wise, so we’re perfume-lovin’, penny-pinchin’ sisters.

  22. lilyboy says:

    great review for what seems like an awful review..

    i got to try this a few weeks ago as i was looking to purchase one of the original opiums.. i almost bought it unsniffed when i saw the bottle.. good thing i tried it.. can remember the smell.. but thats the problem, i couldnt remember it!! all i remember thinking was “oh no, is that how it smells like now??” i thought they had reformulated the original opium.. i am making a mistake aint i?? i just hope this is indeed a flanker or next gen or whatever, and not a replacement.. i am hunting for the summer editions which are quite rare now, coz the EDP i got was exquisite if not a tad too difficult to wear on a regular basis..

    the ysl perfume counters get lesser and lesser these days at our place here, so i dunno whats happening to ysl.. their m7s are getting rare and rumors (and proofs) of reformulations have started.. the new perfumes for men are not very exciting to me.. so not sure whats next.. i just hope they dont discontinue or mess with the classics.. i used to really love quite a number of their older scents and just come up with something more — YSL-ey??

    • lilyboy says:

      the last line should have read:

      “i used to really love quite a number of their older scents.. i just hope they dont discontinue or mess with the classics.. and just come up with something more — YSL-ey??”

      • Angela says:

        I know what you mean!

    • Angela says:

      I wonder if YSL had more glamour at some point, and now has become just another Lauren or Hilfiger? I don’t know, but neither Belle d’Opium or Parisienne have moved me to purchase.

  23. mals86 says:

    I HATE Opium. I mean, hate into infinity. I don’t think of myself as holding grudges, but apparently I do… Overspritzed Opium ruined so many captive-audience situations for me in my youth and early adulthood (movies, concerts, the like) that to this day I still hate its d*mn guts. To me it smells like nausea and helpless rage.

    Whew. Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

    Anyway, I suppose I’m not the ideal customer for Belle d’Opium. But this is one the most fun reviews I’ve ever read, Angela, so thanks so much for that!

    • Haunani says:

      Ditto most of this. And I always thought Opium was a dumb name.

      • Jaimie D says:

        Yup, not at all soothing, like you’d assume Opium would be!

        • Angela says:

          That’s so funny! I never even thought about that. You’d think something called “Opium” would be supremely relaxing.

          • Merlin says:

            I like the name in so far as it suggests the juice is intoxicating! Unfortunately the smell just frightens me – kind of a bad trip – tee hee!

      • Angela says:

        It really sucks when you don’t even like the name!

    • Angela says:

      Opium tends to be like that! People seem to love it or hate it–and I think that’s why it has stuck around so long. I doubt Belle d’Opium will do much for you, either.

      (I’m always happy to act as a perfume therapist, by the way. Feel free to get your perfume hates off your chest! I prescribe a delicious spritz of Chamade parfum to ease the pain.)

      • Haunani says:

        Chamade is the *perfect* antidote to Opium!

        • Angela says:

          That’s what I thought!

        • mals86 says:

          Chamade is bootyful indeed. And I do feel better… but I’m doing that “signature scent challenge” for the Posse, so I’m suffering through in vtg Emeraude (cue the world’s tiniest violin playing a lament…).

          • Angela says:

            Oh, that’s right. I guess the Chamade will have to wait.

  24. Bela says:

    I had this short exchange with the YSL SA at Harrods last month:

    SA: Would you like to try our new fragrance?
    Me: Yes, please. In what way does it differ from the original Opium?
    SA: It’s *completely* different!! The notes are… blah blah blah
    Me: If it’s completely different, why is it called Belle d’Opium? Why does the name Opium figure at all?
    SA: Well, Opium is our bestseller. It’s an iconic perfume.


    • Angela says:

      There you have it. What can a perfume lover do?

    • annemarie says:

      Wonderful. You could have the same conversation about Miss Dior and Miss Dior Cherie. Bleh!

      • Bela says:

        Indeed! Or Lanvin Rumeur – although the original Rumeur was not on sale any longer by the time the new one came out and could not have been called ‘iconic’ (Arpège is). Still…

        I was stunned by that candour: the SA was telling the absolute truth.

        • Angela says:

          Yes, the truth! She might as well have said “We’re stealing its name since no one would buy this thing otherwise.”

  25. ol rait says:

    I didn’t mind this on the card but I don’t feel a driving urge to put it on skin. I do have to say, though: that bottle makes me happy.

    And I scored a sample vial of Opium parfum (I probably wasn’t even BORN when they stopped making samples for parfum) and it spooked the horses. It definitely has (had?) backbone.

    • Angela says:

      A good-looking bottle is nice to have on the dresser. Now if they’d only fill it with something else–maybe Shalimar? Or some Tom Ford Oud Wood?

      I like the parfum, but it’s truly and definitely Opium.

  26. annemarie says:

    Just adding my thanks for a wonderfully sharp, frank and intelligent review. How on earth did we all survive in perfume-land until NST and the other great blogs came along!? I recall that the build up to Belle d’Opium was unbelievable. There was a website dedicated to counting down to the launch. You’d think someone had found a cure for cancer or something. Okay, so the launch of the original Opium was a huge event too. Still, in that case the hype was actually justified!.

    • Angela says:

      I’m afraid I’ve been too mean! I have to watch myself. It’s just too easy a target.

  27. AmyT says:

    Haven’t smelled this (and doubt I’d like it as “florientals” aren’t my bag, baby), but I have to say this “modern chypre” thing really bugs me. A mildly patchouli-esque base does not a chypre make, especially if the remainder of the scent is goopy sweet as so many of these so-called chypres seem to be. Plus THEY ALL SMELL THE DAMN SAME. I think I liked the first one I smelled (forget now what that would have been) but enough already!

    • Angela says:

      I have had a horrid time with them since something in them jumps out and travels straight to my head in a way no other accord does. I first smelled it in Rumeur and had to open all my windows and take a few Advil. Then it started spreading until it showed its ugly head in all sorts of new releases, especially the department store variety. It must be a cheap, easy way to toss together a drydown, but I hate it.

      Give me a real chypre any day.

  28. Isa says:

    I have never tried Fleur de Shangay but I love my Opium Poésie de Chine, which I read that was quite similar to FdS. It’s a lovely soapy smell that I love wearing all year round.

    Belle d’Opium is anything but memorable. It’s a patchouly mess. I don’t like it at all.

    • Angela says:

      I haven’t tried that one, but what a lovely name!

    • Joe says:

      Very interesting. There are several bottles on eb*y of Opium Poésie de Chine, and also Orchidée de Chine (Eau d’Orient) and Légendes de Chine. They really worked the flankers, and of course I’m curious.

      • Angela says:

        All such great names! Of course I haven’t smelled any of them.

      • nozknoz says:

        Somewhere a seller is thinking, I’ve had these things for three years, never sold a one of ’em until today – WTH?!?

  29. pam says:

    Loved your article, Angela. Haven’t tried BdO, but have half a bottle of Opium that my mother bought years ago and it’s still good. Didn’t realize how good Opium was until she gave it to me. Too bad about the flanker, since I really like a lot of the YSL line – Nu, Yvresse, Y. Will be on the lookout for the Shanghai version.

    • Angela says:

      I like lots of the classic YSLs, too. I’m glad you discovered Opium!

      Cute beagle. They’re such darling but naughty dogs.

  30. nozknoz says:

    Ha, ha – I think what that photo represents is Belle d’Opium’s meretricious derriere scorched by the light saber of righteous crabbiness! ;-) Thank you, Angela!

    • Angela says:

      I just reread the review to respond to a comment below, and righteous crabbiness really describes how I felt when I was reviewing it!

  31. nv2010 says:

    hey Angela…just saw Fleur de Shanghai on scentiments..

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for the tip!

  32. I’m happy and comforted to see others find this fragrance to be similar to hairspray/bug spray/random chemical as well, I’ve been confused when friends explain to me how great they think this scent is. There is nothing remarkable about this scent to me- if it were distinctive or odd, I’d at least give it credit for being interesting, but to me, it just smells synthetic and somewhat loud.

    • Angela says:

      Gosh, I just reread my review, and I really did lambast it. Sadly, I bet it’s selling like hotcakes!

      Yes, you can take comfort with me, at least, in not being transported by Belle d’Opium.

  33. OVincze says:

    You write some of the best reviews Angela, your remark about birt control made my day, that was something else ROFL.

    • Angela says:

      It’s been a while since I looked at this review, and I was embarrassingly snarky! I’m glad you enjoyed it, though.

  34. OVincze says:

    I have no idea how you come up with these reviews because they are simply brilliant.

  35. Clarina says:

    All I can smell from this fragrance is sandalwood and something else I can’t really detect but it makes me feel sick I really felt that I will throw up not a nice feeling! Beautiful bottle though my favourite shade of blue.

    • Angela says:

      It’s really not my favorite, either! But I agree–the bottle’s nice.

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