Fragophilia Friday–YSL Belle D’Opium
This week’s scent review is on one of my all-time favorite fragrances. Belle D’Opium is…
The critics-be-damned elixir:
Belle D’Opium gets a ton of flack from proponents of YSL’s iconic original, Opium (which was first launched in 1977 and has been lauded as the gateway perfume to the “power fragrances” of the 80s and 90s). This is probably because comparing the original to its completely reworked, modernized descendant is like comparing a Gala apple to an Apple iPhone: all they really have in common is a partial name match. Though it seems like fans of Opium and its MANY, MANY incarnations were anticipating the release of the line’s most recent scent, I don’t really remember Belle being advertised as aggressively as Opium, and I only stumbled upon it myself due a stroke of dumb luck.
First Impressions and Appearance:
I first smelled Belle D’Opium at Bloomingdale’s with a friend. An overzealous SA stopped us in the middle of the white marble floor, spritzer in hand, and demanded that we try out YSL’s latest offerings. Being a brand loyalist, I shrugged and told the bubbly man in the impeccably tailored suit to spray away. He doused me in Parisienne (a fragrance which had already been on my to-buy list for months, and which I’ve mentioned here); my friend was blitzkrieg’d in Belle. While the former sat nicely and was a soft, beautiful, floral blend of roses and Parisians, the latter smelled like nothing I’d ever experienced. It reminded me of a huge Byzantine church, or some exquisite exhibit on ancient civilizations at the Met, or a really, really classy and radiant lady in a fur coat and iconic Gucci knee-high boots. Odd juxtaposition, I know. I took the samples of both scents home with me, couldn’t stop smelling either of them, and ordered both Parisienne and Belle immediately. Both have been staples in my fragrance library for over 2 years now, and they reinforce the amazingness of the noses behind YSL’s perfumeurs! I’ll have to do a Parisienne review soon, but Belle has the floor today!
Notes & Composition:
Belle really is a worldly scent, and the notes certainly serve as proof of this. The composition is listed as: Peach, White Pepper, Casablanca Lily, Jasmine Absolute, Incense, Resins, Sandalwood. One of my favorite things about this fragrance is that all of the notes are so closely and congruently woven that the notes literally produce a very full unison from application to dry-down. There’s not much of a beginning or an end, though, I guess if I had to get super technical, I notice the peach and white pepper dissipate off the top somewhat quickly, and the resins and sandalwood stay until the very end. But for the majority of the wear (and the fragrance does wear majorly), one could pick out most of the individual notes from the scent, though they are all blended perfectly. Actually, this is one of the most beautifully blended fragrances that I’ve ever come across, as there is an unexpected interplay between the fruity, sparkling, and addictive top/heart notes with the grounded, earthy, spicy, smoky, resinous base. Every individual note in this fragrance is captivating and delightful enough to stand on its own, but when they are combined, they create one cohesive supernote, and I can’t get enough. Belle shares its similarities with the intensity of Angel, the sweetness of Tresor, the creaminess of Nuits de Noho, and the resinousness of a good amber extract. The one-two-three punch of incense, resins, and sandalwood smells like what you’d imagine an exquisite, exotic, faraway land to smell like (hence my “huge Byzantine church” reference earlier), and it literally transports you to places you’ve never been (unless you’ve been to Morocco or Babylon or something). The scent is addictive, bewitching, captivating, strange, strong, sensual, and a thousand other things. Oh, but I guess it’s still a fruity floriental so it’s panned by critics as a big fat no.
Application and Longevity:
I don’t say this often because it doesn’t happen often, but it is possible to over-spray the Belle. This is a strong scent. It lingers far and for hours, and a little bit can go a long way (depends on body chemistry and weather, of course). I get a solid 10 hours of wear from this perfume, sometimes even longer than that. The only thing that I don’t like about it is that Belle is clearly not a year-round fragrance: it only works in the cooler months, which is a shame because I want to wear it 24/7 (or at least when I’m not busy dousing myself in Bulletproof). I guess what makes this exotic elixir special is its limited use. I’ve also noticed that even after 2 years, the fragrance still smells just as lovely as when it was first purchased, so it doesn’t go bad like some other strong perfumes do. Absolute A+ in this category!
When I first bought this perfume, I could not get enough of it. My husband loved it too, which didn’t hurt, and I happily wore it all winter and half the spring, lugging the bottle with me everywhere I went because I couldn’t bear to be away from it. To me it was olfactory perfection. It was also unique, little-known by most people around me, and always made me feel confident and put-together and super fabulous. Curious about how others felt about it, I did a little fragrance review research and was absolutely SHOCKED to discover that it was almost universally panned across the web, by fragrance critics and casual users alike. How could this be?!? As it turns out, many people were hoping for yet another version of Opium, YSL’s most isconic (heck, the 1970s’ most iconic) fragrance ever made. As it also turns out, proponents of Opium are kind of like a pack of rabid sports fans: they are fiercely loyal to their home brand, and very antagonistic toward anything other than what they already know, love, and support. Seeing as how Belle is a completely new take on its predecessor, the Opium “lifers” saw it as a blasphemous denigration of their beloved HG scent. This is kind of understandable: while the original targets a certain [over-the-hill, polyester-clad] demographic, Belle is clearly meant to appeal to a younger, hipper, edgier group of women. Where Opium is dry, spicy, and quietly bold, Belle is moist, juicy, explosive, loud, and alive.
However, I personally disagree with the notion that Belle is just a cheaply mixed floriental that belongs to the same category as celebrity fragrances and drugstore gags. I don’t think that it’s “overly” sweet or “cloyingly chemical.” Such words can be just as easily applied to classic heavy-hitters like Shalimar, Poison, or Chanel No. 5, depending on who is doing the sniffing. Maybe Belle lacks the deep sophistication that only a connoisseur could identify that is apparently omnipresent in classic weighted scents, but I find it sophisticated on a different level. If Opium is a Beethoven symphony then Belle is a Gerswhin piece. If Opium is a Michaelangelo fresco then Belle is a Dali sculpture. There’s beauty to be found in all things, and I don’t think that it’s particularly fair to judge the new so harshly against the old.
In sum, Belle is truly unique, and, while it is not pleasing to all noses, I am absolutely mesmerized by it. As I was researching the future of Belle for today’s post, I learned that it will be discontinued by YSL, apparently because the core Opium demographic [I'm still picturing militant moms in high-rise but exquisitely tailored sweatpants] was so deeply upset and offended by this perpetration, this ruse, this gross marring of a lauded name that the YSL brand had to issue a mea culpa by pulling this delight off the shelves. Time to stock up!