Re-Orientation: YSL Opium Pour Homme
Most people, I think it's safe to say, think that eau de parfum is simply stronger than eau de toilette, and perfume is the strongest of them all. Devotees know that that isn't the case at all--that the three concentrations are actually reformulated, and sometimes very different from one another. This week, three cases in point.
I wonder how many people were as surprised and thrilled as I was when word leaked out that Yves Saint Laurent would be launching Opium Pour Homme in 1995, twenty years after the arrival of their iconic Opium. As soon as it hit the shelves I knew I had to try it, and I ended up buying the eau de parfum, partly because I assumed it was better than the EDT (it usually is!) and partly for the sheer novelty value of it--most men's scents are either cologne or EDT strength, and only a tiny fraction are ever released as an EDP. (Fewer still are ever launched as a perfume, something which, in the West, men simply don't wear.) Plus, the EDP had the better bottle (a lacquer-like case recalling that of the women's perfume bottle, only in blue instead of red). I couldn't resist.
It turned out that however much I liked the EDP, I just couldn't wear it. Opium Pour Homme, I decided, was too overpowering, reminding me of assault fragrances such as Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men, scents which mistake brutality for intensity, which think that attacking people's olfactory organs is sexy.
Much more recently, I had a chance to try the EDT version, which it had somehow never even occurred to me to test, and it was a revelation, almost an entirely different scent. The notes are mostly the same, but the balance--the relationship between them--was reconfigured, and what emerged was not only wearable, but delicious.
The scent is an oriental straight out of the bottle: a warm cocoon of vanilla enshrouds the whole scent from start to finish. But despite this warmth, the beginning is startlingly fresh, a cheerful bolt of orange and blackcurrant with a hint of cool anise. Unlike the EDP, in which the spices predominate right from the start, the spices here take a little while to emerge: a very soft, clean ginger scent (so unlike the harsh ginger in Bulgari Blu Pour Homme and L'Eau Bleue D'Issey Pour Homme) paired with black pepper and, according to the official notes, galingale, which supposedly smells like...ginger and pepper.
The vanilla, of course, is still there, gradually getting sweeter as the tolu-balsam note emerges. A woody note, mostly Atlas cedar and patchouli, keeps the scent from becoming gloppy with sweetness. Some still find it too sweet, but I don't: compared to the original Lagerfeld or gourmand scents such as A*Men, it's a model of restraint. What it is, though, is very modern and very, very sexy.