Yves Saint Laurent's Opium was launched in 1977 and it was a gorgeous Oriental perfume livened up with some very sparkling spice notes, but it wasn’t quite as sweet and heavy as Youth Dew. It opened in Paris and it was a sensation - everybody was talking about it…About the same time, Estee Lauder was planning to introduce a version of Youth Dew, which was going to be a lighter, she called it Soft Youth Dew.
"Everything that made Estée Lauder's original fragrance so unforgettable is still here. It is all just a little softer. Now Estée Lauder brings you her new Soft YOUTH-DEW."
The new scent named Soft Youth Dew was completely upstaged by Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume.
Estee told Women’s Wear Daily that she almost passed out at seeing Opium in September 22, 1978.
At the discovery that YSL beat her to the punch in creating an opulent Oriental perfume, Lauder promptly scrapped Soft Youth Dew. With a slightly altered fragrance, it was reborn as Cinnabar, suggestive of the same heady pleasures as Opium.
But some people started seeing the familiar Soft Youth-Dew bottle adorned with red tops and wondered why. Its because in her rush to get Cinnabar on the market, there wasn't much time to make a complete bottle change just yet. Cinnabar was not just a new look but a new and retitled version of Youth-Dew.
So what does the original version smell like? Cinnabar is classified as a spicy oriental fragrance for women. It begins with a spicy aldehydic top, followed by a spicy exotic floral heart, resting on a sensual balsamic base.
- Top notes: spice oils, cyclamen, orange, chamomile, peach, bergamot, orange blossom and tangerine
- Middle notes: cloves, carnation, cinnamon, jasmine, orris, lily of the valley, rose, ylang ylang and lily
- Base notes; civet, olibanum, tolu balsam, amber, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, incense, sandalwood, musk and patchouli
And it's predecessor, Soft Youth Dew, is classified as a floral oriental fragrance for women.
- Top notes; aldehydes, carnation, daffodil
- Middle notes: rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, hyacinth
- Base notes: patchouli, cedar, vetiver, elemi, amber, civet, musk and galbanum
An industry source said Lauder embarked on a "massive ad campaign for Cinnabar" in order to compete with YSL's Opium. LNA shows that most of Lauder's ad dollars went towards multi-product advertising which received a one million dollar campaign. Opium retailed for $100 an ounce, and Cinnabar sold for exactly half that, outselling its competition.
New York Magazine, 1980:
"Cinnabar is Estee Lauder's fragrance for the 1980's. Warmed with the deepest spice notes. Wrapped in the richest lacquer red. Discover the opulence of Cinnabar now.
Fate of the Fragrance:
Cinnabar was reformulated in the 2000s.
- Top notes: spices, peach, cloves, bergamot, orange blossom and tangerine.
- Middle notes: carnation, cinnamon, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, ylang ylang and lily
- Base notes; olibanum, tolu balsam, amber, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, incense, sandalwood and patchouli
Success spawns imitations:
To compete with both Opium and Cinnabar, an even cheaper alternative was created. It was called Ninja by Parfums de Coeur. A national ad campaign was put out in magazines like Working Woman and Good Housekeeping.
"In a national survey of beauty editors, a majority preferred Ninja to YSL's Opium or Estee Lauder's Cinnabar! A great gift at just $5 00. Experience Ninja in a special "get acquainted" .3 oz. spray cologne for only $2.50. If you like Opium ($30) or Cinnabar ($18.50) You can't afford not to try"
Even though Opium and Cinnabar are still offered for sale, some women still hunt for Ninja...