Cinnabar fragrance notes

  • Head

    • aldehydes, bergamot, peach, spices
  • Heart

    • cinnamon, ylang ylang, clove, orris, jasmine
  • Base

    • amber, patchouli, vanilla, vetiver

Where to buy

Latest Reviews of Cinnabar

Essentially a floral version of Opium or Youth Dew. I still prefer Opium and Youth Dew for leaning harder into the cinnamon and smoky notes. This is still worth a sniff if you're a fan of the cinnamon and clove genre.
11th May 2023
Well, here I am, reviewing Cinnabar. I am at that point in the fragrance journey.

I hesitated for so long to even so much as imagine owning a bottle, having admired it discreetly for so long, as it was deemed strictly a woman's fragrance. I mustered the courage several years ago to sneak a spray of it from the Estee Lauder counter and I was immediately smitten. However, at the time, I never thought I'd actually WEAR it.

I have a bottle now (as pictured above, older formulation), I am wearing it—and I am loving it. Perhaps some of it comes from memory association, having recalled smelling it during what seemed to be simpler times; after all, I had a simpler brain and the last time this was worn in abundance I had yet to enter adolescence). However, as I now wear it, I don't immediately have the association with a matronly type or a 70s femme fatale, even. In 2021, the anxieties of gendering don't seem quite entrenched, and I do not feel emasculated in the least by wearing Cinnabar (as if that should be a concern anyhow). After all, there is Aramis JHL, the less floral counterpart that was geared to men (also marvelous but steering more into pines and woods direction) and there are other spiced orientals such as Jaipur Homme (the EDP is especially similar to Cinnabar). However, Cinnabar has its own exoticism and intrigue that sets it apart.

Aptly named, there is a red energy to Cinnabar; it is warm cinnamon, clove and carnation, and most notably tolu balsam. Tolu is a terrific ingredient that's historically been a staple in orientals: tapped from the living trunks of Myroxylon balsamum , it is a brownish, sticky, semisolid mass. Diluted with the solvent properties of alcohol for ease of use, it imparts a cinnamic quality, but almost as if it imparts raw cinnamon bark, with it's uh...'barkiness?' It is woody, rich, vanillic, somewhat phenolic, but there is a je ne sais quoi that makes it stand out on its own. (Fun fact: the resin is still a component in common cough syrup formulas!). So, yes, there is this tolu that is so prominently featured, flanked by all matters of spice and flowers, but it stands out the most to my nose and is sheer pleasure.

The dry down is bliss. The aforementioned tolu balsam is accompanied by incense, benzoin, sandalwood, and accents of patchouli and vetiver. All are detectable to my nose, but the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. I am not known for pontificating over 'performance', but let's just say there is zero issue, at least with the formulation in my possession. No issue at all whatsoever. It performs well on everything with I come into contact as well, if that helps.

I sampled the more recent formulation in the newer bottle, and as with performance, I don't endlessly quibble over formulations but I must say the newer formulation is, while still beautiful, a bit more thin and feminine in the dry down (perhaps in a feeble attempt to modernize it). Still decidedly unisex, however. If you can afford it, go for an older bottle that has been stored and handled with care by the seller.

8th March 2022

Warm, spicy & gorgeous!

I've been wearing this one recently and I must say, it has certainly left an impression on me!

Cinnabar is a very unusual and beautiful fragrance. It is based around cinnamon and deep spices like benzoin, tolu balsam, amber & other resins. These are combined with slight floral notes of rose, lilly and carnation. This gives it a very deep, warm, spicy, slightly powdery smell. It reminds me of red dust. Shimmering red dust with powder and spice.

It is a very opulent perfume. People will notice you in some way or another. I don't think it's loud, but if oversprayed it will project at least 6 feet around you.

It is said that Estée Lauder launched this one to coincide with Yves Saint - Laurent Opium released within months of each other. Other sources say that YSL copied her in releasing Opium. However I find differences between them. This one has a higher concentration of cinnamon, whereas Opium has a whole blend of spices.

Overall, I think Cinnabar is a wonderful fragrance, and an example of a beautiful, warm, emotional type of perfumery which has an old, classic feel of class and sophistication. I imagine the woman wearing this to also be wearing fur and pearls and a hat. I don't imagine an old or middle aged woman either. For me this fragrance would suit anyone in their the late 20's and above. Of course it can also be worn by someone younger, but I think it has a "grown-up" kind of confidence to it which you need to have as well to pull it off. I wear this, and also the men's version Aramis JHL.
26th March 2018
Spicy, resinous amber perfumes are a feel-good genre in perfumery. The individual components (vanilla, benzoin, labdanum…) are like prefab bases and can single-handedly provide the blueprint for an Oriental perfume. The risk is the kitchen-sink syndrome.

Cinnabar's topnotes juxtapose a bright, aldehyde/bergamot accord against a boozy amber mix, a trick learned from Youth Dew. The segue from citrus to sweet brings out the matte, rubbery side of amber, but it doesn't jibe well with the vanillic undercurrent and the custard doesn't quite settle. Despite aldehydic jazz hands the topnotes don't have nearly enough torque to dig the spices out of the trenches. Little light escapes the cinnamon/clove event horizon and wearing Cinnabar gives me olfactory claustrophobia. It's a quick journey from the topnotes to the perfume's next and only other phase, drydown, which lasts from the 30 minute mark until about 24 hours later. Cinnabar does grow less dense as the half-lives pass but it never becomes any less opaque.

Cinnabar might have cribbed some tricks from Auntie Youth Dew, but it should have studied history more closely. The pairing of citrus/aromatics and balsams was the compositional coup of the 1920s. Shalimar and Habanita steered the pairing toward leather and Nuit de Noel and Bois des Isles went the cozy fur-coat route but they all share a similar design concept.

The perfumes of the 1970s and the 1920s had a lot in common. Aldeyhydic florals were chic as hell and bitter chypres were all the rage, but the voluptuous orientals were the shit. Cinnabar and its exact contemporaries Yves Saint Laurent Opium and Lancome Magie Noire reinvented animalsim via spice and opened the door to a new style of oriental perfume that Chanel put on the map with Coco, Bois Noir and Egoiste.

The identity of the perfumer of Cinnabar is not 100% certain, but rumor has it that it was Bernard Chant. For the life of me I can't imagine that the perfumer of Cabochard and Aromatics Elixir didn't know how to square the bergamot/amber circle. If he is in fact Cinnabar's author, I have to imagine that the fault lies in reformulation. Chant was just too good to be credited with the murky version of the perfume available today.

The proof will be in the pudding. I've just found an unopened bottle of the original Cinnabar ("Soft Youth Dew") on ebay and it's en route. It'll go head-to-head with a pristine bottle of YSL Opium that I recently found. More to follow.

20th July 2017
Review of the original Eau de Parfum:

A peachy-peary fruity start is given a spiciness as if boiled in a spice soup for several hours. A cautious but definite addition of aldehydic undertones add some sparks such as to prevent is from being all too dark.

In the head notes sweetness arisies, a mix of a rich and scrumptious cinnamon that is never too thick or cloying. This is nicely combined with a rich ylang-ylang, and this dyadic partners work together exceedingly well. Jasmine - with a touch of verdant vibrations - is present too.

A pleasant tanginess leads into the base, and it turns out to be derived from clove with a well-placed component of some ambery orris. This turns into a gently crisp spiciness owing to an underlying layer of darkish patchouli. The ylang-ylang sweetness, however, stands its ground and is now fortified by a dense but not too heavy tonka impression.

I get moderate sillage, excellent projection and a superb twelve hours of longevity on my skin.

A rich oriental and wintery creation, less heavy than Opium and never too overwhelming. This is well-blended out of ingredients of a very respectable quality. The aldehydic notes as well and the spicy-tangy aromas are incorporated in a very balanced fashion. At times it lacks vibrancy and can be a bit dull though. Overall 3.5/5.
24th May 2017
This is how I'd hoped Opium pour homme would smell, spicy with a bit of funk in a way that recalls Kouros.
7th June 2016
Cheap cinnamon air freshener and vinegar/floral feminine deodorant spray! Foul all around...
18th May 2016
The current version is a will-o'-the-wisp compared to its original self. I recently bought a bottle for old times' sake, and expected to like it in spite of reformulation, but no. It's pleasant, but it barely even smells spicy to me and I can't differentiate any of the dissonant notes that used to make it interesting. Very little remains of the storied olfactory resemblance between Cinnabar and Opium or Youth Dew. Such a shame.
16th December 2015
Another great fragrnce by Estée Lauder. CINNABAR is a mysterious realm of temptation and intrigue. everything about it says of seductive.It is similiar OPIUM but less strong and hypnotic than it.a real head turner for a femme fatale. complex,heady,spicy, bewitching,rich, timeless,sensual, and classic.

A heady and strong opening of spices, peach,bergmot and Orange blossom into a floral heart of rose,lily,jasmine, ylang-ylang and cinnamon,can reveal some of its alluring potential.finally an sensual base notes of incense,vanilla, amber,patchouli and sandalwood bring sex appeal to this perfume.

This sensual timeless classic is for a cold evening in a dark cabaret as this perfume is absolutely intoxicating.I absolutely love this perfume and recommend it to any woman who wants to leave a lasting impression on those she meets.sensuality in a bottle.
13th June 2015
I quite liked Cinnabar when I was in my teens and early 20s in the late 1980s; though it always seemed to be a poor imitation of Opium, so I never actually had a bottle. In the early 90s, I had a horrible boss who always wore Cinnabar, which put me off from trying a tester of it again until today: and I'm wishing I hadn't:

It no longer reminds me of my boss, which is good, but, I don't know if I smell Cinnabar differently now (it is nearly 30 years since I've smelled it), or if it has been reformulated (or both), but I'm afraid it now reminds me of an overly sweet, sickly, and cloying synthetic mixture of Youth Dew and Chanel's Coromandel (I don't dislike Youth Dew, but for me, Coromandel is one of the most horrendous fragrances ever created).

Sadly, any fondness I ever had for Cinnabar has now finally gone.
31st July 2014
Genre: Oriental

Cinnabar is a product of the same grand scale oriental aesthetic as Opium and Chanel's Coco. Which is to say that it's a dense, sweet, spicy scent with a heavy amber foundation. The heart is an opaque blend of cinnamon, clove, jasmine, patchouli, and vanilla with a highly uniform texture and a syrupy olfactory consistency. Like Opium and Coco it is extremely potent, but of the three it is perhaps the least angular, with more emphasis on floral notes in the heart and a more powdery vanilla, amber, and opoponax drydown. While it is a measure less garish than Opium, it can also feel somewhat dull or nondescript by comparison. Prettier in conventional terms perhaps, but leaving less of an impression once it's gone. On the other hand, Cinnabar is decidedly more dense than Coco, next to which it strikes me as a little bit blocky, crude, or awkward.

I've read it posited on Basenotes and elsewhere that Cinnabar may have been the template for Aramis's JHL. If that's the case, more conspicuous woods and more differentiated spices lend JHL a sharper and more distinctive profile, and now that it's once again available, I recommend JHL as a viable alternative to Cinnabar for both men and women. For a more nuanced approach to the spicy oriental, I also advocate Parfums de Nicolaï's Maharanih and Maharadjah or Diptyque's magnificent Eau Lente. Then of course there's still always Shalimar…
11th June 2014
Spicy Oriental similar to Lauder's own Youth Dew and Dana's Tabu Like her own Youth Dew of the early 1950s, and the darker Tabu of Dana, this is a spicy oriental, perhaps an attempt to cash in on YSL's classic 1976 oriental, Opium. Cinnabar, from 1978, does manage to float a light peachy, plum, clove, cinnamon cloud over its solid amber, patchouli, vanilla base that differentiates it from the more linear Youth Dew. Its only drawback, and this is slight, is its price. Not terrible, but twice as much as what Youth Dew and Tabu are asking for in the current market. I see Cinnabar as a middle ground between Youth Dew and Opium, straining to duplicate the classy sophistication of the latter, but using the former as its starting point. Recommended for any lover of spicy orientals.Pros: Wonderful spicy oriental scentCons: Too similar to Youth Dew and Tabu, both less expensive
21st June 2013