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Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review

YSL Black Opium EDP launched five years ago this month and since then it has become one of the best-selling women’s fragrances of the decade.

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Originally launched in 1977 and created by Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac, YSL Opium will always be a 20th-century classic. But after more than three decades on the market, the French luxury brand was looking for a fragrance that would capture the imagination (and wallets) of a younger generation.

Modern perfume lovers were looking for something more contemporary, yet equally addictive. So it took the bold (some might say sacrilegious) risk of taking this oriental icon in a gourmand direction with YSL Black Opium EDP.

It’s been such a success that the Black Opium line now numbers several flankers and limited editions, the most recent of which is YSL Black Opium EDP Intense.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review


To keep continuity with the original YSL Opium, Black Opium is presented in the same bottle as the classic, which itself had undergone a makeover in 2009. Black Opium comes in a black bottle covered in sequins that’s very much in tune with its rock ’n roll inspiration.

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

Scent Notes (According To

Pink pepper, orange blossom, pear (top notes); black coffee, jasmine, almond, liquorice (heart notes); vanilla, patchouli, cedar, cashmere wood (base notes).

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review


“A rock ’n roll interpretation of the classic that should highlight the dark, mysterious side of the YSL brand.”


A team of top perfumers was assembled to produce this fragrance. Nathalie Lorson (Dolce & Gabbana Sicily EDP, Giorgio Armani Cuir Noir EDP, Le Labo Another 13 EDP) and Marie Salamagne (AlaÏa EDP, Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica Cologne Intense, Roberto Cavalli Florence EDP) collaborated with Olivier Cresp (Dior Midnight Poison EDP, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue EDT, Mugler Angel EDP) and Honorine Blanc (Jimmy Choo Fever EDP, Ralph Lauren Midnight Romance EDP, Sarah Jessica Parker SJP NYC EDP) to create it.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review
The carton and bottle design complement each other with their stylish glam rock looks.

Personal Impressions

Pear is the first note to stand out in this fragrance. Juicy and sweet, it sets the tone. In the background, pink pepper and orange blossom also make their presence felt and introduce spicy and white floral facets to the scent.

These notes quickly give way to a potent dose of black coffee. It gives YSL Black Opium a dark and rich kick. Building on the white floral theme, there’s no missing the jasmine note, which adds to the heady sweetness. A touch of almond enhances the gourmand vibe.

Apart from the pear, black coffee, and white floral notes, the other unmistakable element of YSL Black Opium is its hit of vanilla. A staple of gourmand fragrances, it gives the scent smoothness and, yes, more sweetness. A good helping of patchouli completes the effect.

While Black Opium EDP is certainly sweet, its creators skillfully avoided the worst excesses of the genre by balancing the sweetness with floral freshness. It’s a cozy, chic, crowd-pleasing fragrance that’s earned its modern classic credentials.

Unlike the original (that is, vintage versions of it) which was renowned for its staying power and sillage, Black Opium EDP is a tamer beast and might require more regular re-applications.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review
The cap was lighter weight than I expected from the look of it. The sprayer worked well and seemed to give a moderate spray, which is good as this is a fairly heavy scent. You don’t want more than 1-2 sprays.

Who Would Like It

When YSL Black Opium was launched in September 2014, many fans of the original were horrified that their classic had been treated in such a trendy, youthful way. Some of them have grown to love the new version.

More importantly, though, the fragrance has ridden the crest of the gourmand wave and in the process has gained a whole new market of those who like their fragrance addiction sugar-laden.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review
In this close-up, you can see the texture of the bottle. The shimmer is small sequins on the surface of the bottle and has they give the bottle a tactile feel.

Where to Wear It

YSL Black Opium is a fairly versatile fragrance but is at its best at night and in the cooler months. Suss out your colleagues’ scent preferences before wearing it to the office. This fragrance might be popular, but it also invites love-it-or-hate-it-reactions.

Similar Fragrances To Consider

Keeping in gourmand territory, you can also try Prada Candy EDP, Lancôme La Vie Est Belle EDP and Mugler Angel EDP. If your budget allows it, make sure to invest in a bottle of the EDP or Extrait de Parfum versions of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540.

Where To Buy It

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review
The perfume appears to be a reddish pink similar to the touches of rose gold on the packaging.
Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Perfume Review

Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.