Yin and Yang on Fire: Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum, Review & Photos

It was 1977 when House of Yves Saint Laurent released Opium, a spicy and floral fragrance on an incensey oriental base of myrrh, vanilla and amber. It is told that the bottle designer Pierre Dinand asked Yves Saint Laurent about what he saw when he thought of orient, his answer was "flowers of fire". Hence the opening had to be sharp and the rest was a statement in a bottle, like a match lighted near an opium pipe and the explosion. Opium was not for everyone but it was a beautiful work of true art and surely made its place in the history of perfume. 

It was not only the notes of Opium which spoke out loud but also the media and public as well as some authorities who demanded a change of name. Opium was the name of a drug after all, and the society was not ready for a juice named after it.

More than a decade into 21st century, we welcome "Black Opium", right after the return of Opium a few years ago.

Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum

Yves Saint Laurent's Black Opium's bottle looks similar to the new Opium which is designed by art director Fabien Baron and Stefano Pilati. Black Opium comes in a black flacon which is opaque and decorated with a rough surface. It has a beautiful blue sheen under strong light. In contrast to Opium's sprinkle integrated inside its stopper, Black Opium's spray is under the cap, which can now be removed. The middle part of the flacon is transparent featuring an orange coloured glass. It pays an homage to the original bottle and Yves Saint Laurent's image of "flowers of fire".

The note pyramid of Black Opium is given as follows:

Top Notes: Pear, pink pepper and Orange Blossom
Heart Notes: Jasmine and Coffee
Base Notes: Vanilla, Patchouli, Cedarwood

White Side of Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum

I have selected two pictures to describe my personal olfactory experience. Both are photos of the same woman (Mitzi Martin), taken from a book which I recently purchased, One Woman 100 Faces (not affiliated). In the white photo she gives her seductive gaze in an inviting scene. For the black one her eyes are closed, her muscles are relaxed, it is cosy and comfortable. My journey with Black Opium cannot be summarized better than that, a journey from white to black and seduction to comfort.

Fruity top notes pronounce a fresh pear accompanied with a touch of pink pepper. On my skin, pink pepper only tones down the fruitiness while Orange Blossom adds a hint of freshness. Soon after a wind blows on the Jasmine bush, carry the best of its sharp note with care. At this point, Black Opium is a white floral composition with spicy undertones, inviting and sensual. Soon after the comforting coffee note comes to stage. How beautiful is the dance of these two, and the balance, almost suggestive of a black and white in yin and yang.

The beautiful dance of jasmine and coffee is only interrupted after an hour and half as the woody base starts to take over. Very well blended base is not too masculine (patchouli) nor too gourmand (vanilla) but rather woody (cedarwood) on me. A touch of coffee lingers on this base as you can close your eyes and embrace it like a blanket.

Black side of Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium Eau de Parfum

Final thoughts: Yves Saint Laurent's Black Opium is a beautiful duet of jasmine and coffee. It lasts moderately around six hours on me. Since the winter arrived to our shores, I enjoy its warmth and cosiness even more. After I got to test many linear perfumes during the last months, I appreciate it even more that Black Opium has a story to tell and it does it slowly, taking its time. As opposed to its loud sister Opium, Black Opium can be worn more casually, during a cold winter day when your soul needs a warm blanket but nothing over the top.

Availability & Price: YSL Black Opium is available since September. Prices are around 59€ for 30 ml, 84€ for 50 ml (pictured above) and 112€ for 90 ml.

Have you checked out Black Opium yet? What is your favourite winter fragrance at the moment?

The product in this post is provided free of charge for my consideration.   
I am not paid for this review, all opinions are honest and my own.


  1. Hey Sara, this one sounds interesting! I keep meaning to take a whiff but I haven't so far. Glad to hear it's rather woody on you: I like woody, too!

    1. Hi Sunny,
      I would love to hear your thoughts on this one. Keep sniffing though because it develops so beautifully by time. Yeah my fav ones are also all woody!

  2. hi Sara, after we last chatted, I went back and had another whiff of Black Opium... this time it turned all white floral on me, and too sweet. It's really odd... or my nose is playing tricks. Can't complain though, I really shouldn't be buying more fragrances!

    1. Hi Linda,
      this one changes a lot over time. So I can understand you picking up one note once and another note another time. It is only sweet in the beginning and like half an hour you have white flower dominance. Keep on smelling, coffee would balance. Maybe last time you smelled at that time. I like the development very much. I will search for the sample (in this mess) to send you one.

  3. Hmmm...sounds amazing. I am so curious on its scent. I hope I could get samples of this in the nearest mall. I also love the packaging.

    1. Hi Ana,
      here if you ask they provide a sample, hope you can find one, it is really nice.

  4. Wonderful review Sara! I've been interested about this new take on an icon, but sadly it wont reach our counters till next year. On papar it def looks like something I'll love!

    1. Oh I thought it is released world wide, I didn't know that it will take longer for some countries than the others. Next year is not so far away, so let's hope it is the beginning of next year. It is rather a winter fragrance, so it should better be winter ;-)


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