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…
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 scent
Cons: Too similar to Youth Dew and Tabu, both less expensive
Thumbs up for a small vintage Cinnabar perfume--a very dark juice that smells like a smiling (American) version of original Opium.
Thumbs down: I found a just-before-the-most-recent reformulation of the edp on a dusty bottom shelf of an Ulta in the middle of nowhere and excitedly tested out the still oakmoss-laden classic hoping to score a large bottle to use with abandon. While the original radiated warmth and depth and a deceptively wholesome sensuality, this formulation came on with no subtlety. The top notes: a cacophany of citrus and citronella. The drydown grew stronger by the hour somehow, wilting into Christmas potpourri. I believe synthetic sandalwood was mixed with the still real oakmoss extract to dissonant effect. Or perhaps the known enforced reduction of oakmoss content created an imbalance in the formula? At any rate a jarring asymmetry made this Cinnabar unrecognizable.
The neutral: the newest formulation with more synthetics is in fact more cohesive and post-drydown is recognizably some kind of take on the original Cinnabar, but best of all vintage Cinnabar remains a retro-70s comfort scent for a siren; this penultimate formulation, though, needs an ambulance and is better left unsought. In any incarnation, this is remarkably long-lasting (all day), large (fill a room), fire and spice, and ideally for cold weather and dramatic personalities. A diva doing fondue at a ski lodge.
Great big old bottle of spices, especially cinnamon. Use a heavy hand and everyone will know where you have been and if you are almost there. If you wore this on a secret tryst, it wouldn't be a secret very long, as it also clings to the clothes of people near you. Not bad, just extremely heavy, and most of the people I knew bathed in it.
Cinnabar is one of those strong, bold and spicy orientals that emerged along with YSL's Opium and Chanel's Coco way back in the 80's. At the time they were all the rage, however these days they've fallen out of fashion and tend to get labelled as 'old lady' scents.
I have a great appreciation for these sillage monsters. They may have been made long before I was born, however I find them incredibly hypnotising.
Cinnabar at first spray is incredibly strong, like a fierce punch to the face. I thought my nose was going to fall off as I felt my eyes water with its strength.
As the scent settled, I began to find the resemblance to Opium. I expected this fragrance to have a stronger cinnamon note, however I do believe Cinnabar was named after a mercury ore, so perhaps it is not supposed to be primarily cinnamon.
The scent is very complex and rich, which is both a pleasing and disappointing quality in my opinion. In a way there is too much going on in this fragrance's composition with particular notes clashing with one another. For this reason, I tend to prefer Youth-Dew over Cinnabar as my spicy oriental choice.
Cinnabar has a rather exotic charm, it's what I imagine an ancient Chinese temple to smell like. The touch of incense in the base, gives Cinnabar that slightly religious feel.
While I would never term a fragrance 'old lady', I must say that Cinnabar is for a more mature crowd. I just can't imagine a woman under the age of 30 wearing this, especially since soft ambers and fruity florals dominate this age group these days.