One Thousand Scents

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cast a Spell: Dior Midnight Poison

Christian Dior's Poison is one of the landmark scents in modern perfumery, and I mean to write about it one of these days, but not yet.

Once you have an established brand, you leverage it: that wasn't particularly common in 1985, when Poison was released, but it's entirely unavoidable nowadays as companies launch an endless stream of flankers, scents that refer to an earlier, successful scent in much the way that movie sequels refer to their predecessors. In the case of Poison, the flankers had nothing to do with the original scent except the name and the bottle; this is extremely common in the world of perfumery, where companies throw out new fragrances like sparks off a fire, hoping at least one of them will set the world ablaze. (As an example, Givenchy launched the men's scent Insensé in 1993: there have been twelve other variations of it since then, and that doesn't even include the women's versions.)

The first Poison flanker was Tendre Poison, which appeared in 1994 in a bright-green bottle: entirely unrelated to the original fruity-ambery Poison (except in its strength), it was a fresh, pretty green-floral scent.

Hypnotic Poison followed in 1998, and you could say that it captures the spirit of the original: in a rubber-clad blood-red bottle, it smells of bitter almonds (finally, some real poison!), vanilla, and jasmine. It, too, is extremely strong, and while I get it, I can't wear it--it's ferocious, and a few minutes after smelling it, I want it to go away.

In 2004, Dior launched Pure Poison, and while I'm sure it must have its fans, it strikes me as dull and uninspired: the bottle is striking, in its brilliant opaline white glass, but the scent is not much different from all the other clean floral scents out there.

This year, Dior released Midnight Poison, and just from hearing the notes I was dying to try it: a scent made of rose, patchouli, and ambergris is clearly right up my alley. I didn't assume that I'd be able to wear it, or that I'd even like it, but it showed promise. The minute I smelled it, a few weeks ago in London, I knew I had to have it. It was the rose scent I've been looking for for years. It's what L'Artisan Parfumeur's rose scent for men, Voleur de Roses, ought to have been on my skin.

Midnight Poison starts off with the patchouli, and there's a lot of it, a monolith of the stuff; but rather than being the dense, earthy, rather mucky patchouli of Voleur de Roses, it's clean and fresh. (Most everything with patchouli in it nowadays uses this version, and I can't complain; some people smell good in the dirty head-shop patchouli, such as a co-worker of mine, but on my skin it's disgusting, another tribute to the strange metaphysics of body chemistry.) Wedded to it are the usual citrus top notes, a mere fillip, because scents are supposed to have them; they're quickly gone, and what replaces them is the deep bloom of the rose (supposedly a black rose, but I couldn't tell you how it differs in scent from a regular red rose). The patchouli remains: in fact, it stays right to the very end of the scent, when the rose, hours later, dies away and is replaced by a warm, vanillic, almost buttery ambergris. Despite its pervasive warmth, it's dry rather than sweet: it seems like a deliberate step away from the sugary scents that dominate the market these days.

The exceedingly lovely website is full of the usual nonsense about Cinderella and femininity and suchlike, but trust me: Midnight Poison doesn't smell out of place on a man. It could almost be considered Poison for Men, and is without a doubt the most unisex of the five Poison scents.

When the original Poison was launched, there were two bottles.

The esprit de parfum came in an apple-shaped bottle (how appropriate!) with sinuous ridges suggesting the vapours from a poisonous cauldron snaking up the sides, while the eau de toilette

came in a taller, less apple-like shape. (There was also a later version, an eau de cologne, in the same bottle as the EDT only in a clearer, more transparent amethyst glass. I believe it's been discontinued, more's the pity.) Tendre Poison also used the taller bottle, but with the introduction of Hypnotic Poison, the taller bottle was retired; I suppose that in the larger sizes, the tall and slim bottle was easier to hold, but the apple bottle is iconic, and I'm glad to see that it's being used for all the scents now.

Although I loved the original Poison EDP bottle, the Midnight Poison bottle is the most beautiful of all of them; in a medium blue glass with a pitch-black cap and a silver collar, it looks like something that would appear at midnight and entice you into untold wickedness. (The front and sides of the bottle are perfectly clear, but the top and the ridges are subtly speckled with a dark-blue pigment, making it seem as if it's hiding in the shadows.

The perfume bottle, which you can read more about here, is even better: it has wisps of darker blue threaded through the blue glass, giving the whole object a feeling of mystery and danger.)


  • As usual, what a fabulous review.

    I agree, Hypnotic Poison is a scrubber. I purchased it after quickly inhaling it's lethal juices at the counter, furiously opened the package in the car and sprayed without abandon. To say the least, the 30 minute ride home was a disaster.....I promptly returned it the next day!!!

    I guess I will be making another trip to the fragrance counter today....Midnight Poison sounds great - but I think this time I will wait until I get home to try it out.



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:38 PM  

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