Reviews of Cinnabar by Estée Lauder

    Find out more about Cinnabar by Estée Lauder in the Basenotes Fragrance Directory


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    Infini's avatar

    Wales Wales

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    A very similar type perfume to Opium, but sweeter, softer and sickly. I remember that when Cinnabar was first made, it had the subtitle "Soft Youth Dew", on the box and bottle. (I haven't smelled Youth Dew for a long time, and I remember it as almost identical to Opium, but less sweet; and not cloying like Cinnabar).

    Though I used to love Opium in the 1980s, I have never been fond of Cinnabar, despite their similarities. Pungent and not very pleasant - I'm afraid I have to give Cinnabar a thumbs down.

    31st July, 2014

    Way Off Scenter's avatar

    United States United States

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    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

    JackTwist's avatar

    United States United States

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    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

    21st June, 2013

    anomie et ivoire's avatar



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    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.

    01st October, 2012

    Cricketkitty's avatar



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    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.

    03 September, 2012

    blood-orange's avatar

    Australia Australia

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    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.

    24 March, 2012

    Bartlebooth's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    The haughty Lauder ladies club countenance is swiftly discarded to display a distinctly wanton side. Cinnabar may well be the couture wearing executive from the top floor, but she is not averse to being pressed against a filing cabinet and manhandled by some clammy-handed salesman.

    Cinnabar takes a little time to slip the tether of the opening,but its classical seventies construction is certainly no chore to endure. With its clipped aldehydes and antique grade bergamot notes, it’s a high horse formality it quickly climbs down from. The conventional and indeed expected opening is supplanted by a world weariness, subtle cynicism and desire to be much more approachable. Latterly,Cinnabar is allowed to cascade into an accessible, perhaps simplistic, soft, buttery cinnamon experience.

    JHL, the male counterpart from Aramis is more anally retentive, and when I want the same sartorial formality, but with the odd casual flourish, Cinnabar is a viable alternative.

    22 September, 2011

    Fleurine's avatar

    United States United States

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    I ordered an 11 scent Estee Lauder collection of miniatures, and Cinnabar was one of them. What a little treasure! Like a Youth Dew from another era, Cinnabar is one of those transformative fragrances that will put you directly in touch with the past. You can read through the notes listed, but when you smell this wonderfully abstract elixir, so many emotions rush in.

    03 July, 2011

    Darvant's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    I love the classicism of Cinnabar and its touch of " antiquity". In my opinion Cinnabar is a delicious spicy-oriental based on the combination of spices, fruits (mellow, spicy and salty/sweet) and smoothness with the support of the airy aldehydes that push higher and higher the exotic sophistication from ylang-ylang and jasmine. Cinnabar is one of the classiest womanly fragrances of all time on the same range of pillars as Mitsouko, Knowing, Aromatic Elixir, Opium, Beautiful, L'Heure Bleu, Jicky and others. Its (peachy/plummy/honeyed) aristocratic and vintage boozy/mellow spiciness is divine and enigmatic. The beginning is puzzling with a blast of cloves, cinnamon and citrus linked with the fruity notes of peach and orange. Some mystic exotic/boozy/fruity piquancy is in the air with its charge of almost incensey vintage (Backstage kind of) background and the deliciously stuffy feel is exuded by a wonderful bergamot/aldehydes/honey/mellow fruits/patchouli/spices interaction. In this phase the fragrance is still powerful and earthy with the dominant appeal from the cinnamon-neroli-orris combination. As well as the blast of spices starts losing its strength leaving the scene to the fruity-floral notes, the honeyed and vanillic incense starts to embrace the elements leading the smell towards a light and delicious sweet, slightly dusty, spicy cream. The outcome is surprisingly exotic, airy and smooth with a dominant undertone of orange-cinnamon-peach, the misured roothness of patchouli and vetiver and the controlled mildness of light woods. I see the association with Opium ( vanilla, resins, floral notes, amber, patchouli, spices) that is more eastern, rough and less sweet. In my opinion while Cinnabar is a classically chic fragrance of this world Opium is an otherworldly spiritual potion. I smell a further association with another lovable fragrance, the more boise', liquorous and aromatic Le Baiser du Dragon because of the combination of neroli, spices, flowers, amber, benzoin, patchouli and vetiver. Cinnabar will always be a favourite of mine in this wonderful olfactory universe.

    26 June, 2011 (Last Edited: 09 November, 2012)

    wyldaeval's avatar

    United States United States

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    It's nice but overpowering. The only time I might use it is in a smoke-filled casino...and I rarely go to those.

    06 June, 2011

    Francop's avatar

    Spain Spain

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    Love the potent and decadent opulence of the amber, vanilla and patchouli notes; does remind me of holidays in the sun by the sea...

    Very well done...

    Big thumbs up...!

    18 March, 2011

    Nile_Etland's avatar



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    Having been a fan of Coco since it was first released I thought it may be interesting to try Cinnabar as it is very much in the same genre – spicy orientals – and l thought it might be a useful addition to my wardrobe. Most all the Lauder fragrances get good reviews and I have tried (and liked) Beyond Paradise so it was worth a gamble.

    The similarity to Coco is actually remarkable – Cinnabar is deeper (darker) and the drydown is heavier with notes of patchouli (never one of my no.1 favourites) and quite a lot of vanilla, whereas Coco manages to be spicy with relatively little actual spice and more in the way of floral notes and is, to me, more attractive.

    I was very grateful for the smelling-strip (because I had to share my train home with a man who had probably not had a shower since the Flood) but will remain faithful to Coco after all, however for anyone who finds Coco too light or not oriental-spicy enough Cinnabar is an attractive fragrance and may be worth a try.

    15 November, 2010

    trace1221's avatar



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    I recently had a bottle of this given to me, a friend bought it and hated it. I used to wear it as an evening perfume back in the eighties, it brought back some fun times when i was first dating my husband. I don't think i'd wear it again now as it seems so heavy, I'll keep it and just smell once in a while.

    18 October, 2010

    The_Entity's avatar



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    Smells very classy, perfect evening perfume

    27 March, 2010

    Jean Patou Fan's avatar



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    I love oriental fragrances, especially of this era, but Cinnabar is one of very few exceptions: it smells like a cheap Opium rip-off. Much sweeter than Opium and quite sick-making.

    26 March, 2010

    MsNancy's avatar



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    I just bought a bottle on Saturday and I love it! I first wore this in high school. It was my introduction into grown up scents after wearing Wind Song and Love's Baby Soft. In college I moved on to Opium. More recently I wore Omnia by Bvlgari. I looked down on Cinnabar as unsophisticated. I wasn't even sure they still made it. I was at the Estee Lauder counter buying some lipstick and I made a joke about Cinnabar. The clerk said it is still very popular, especially in winter around the holidays.
    Then I began to remember how much I loved this scent and all my fond memories associated with it. All of a sudden I had to have some. I ran back to the department store and bought a fragrance and lotion combo. I wore it to a fancy holiday party. It is a winner. I love spicy orientals and this certainly suits my body chemistry. I guess enough time has passed and this old fragrance seems new again to me.

    14 December, 2009

    pansylady's avatar

    United States United States

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    a real spice box of a fragrance- i'm not much of a spice girl, but i kinda liked it back in the 80s- wearing it made me feel like someone who should be taken seriously- it certainly can't be ignored-
    but I agree with vintage* red- it isn't nauseating like Youth Dew (which is hard to connect with youth- most of the women who wear it are 70 plus, in my experience!)
    So v*r, I'm curious to know which over the top spice scents you prefer-

    03 December, 2009

    lookingglass's avatar

    United States United States

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    Launched the year of my birth, this scent takes me all the way back and into the present-bohemians getting dressed up. I remember this scent filling the house when company was comming over. It is approachable, friendly, and earthy.

    28 October, 2009

    lookingglass's avatar

    United States United States

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    Launched the year of my birth, this scent takes me all the way back and into the present-bohemians getting dressed up. I remember this scent filling the house when company was comming over. It is approachable, friendly, and earthy.

    28 October, 2009

    arabesque's avatar

    United States United States

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    This seems to work for some people. Honestly, I always thought of it as being rather cheap smelling out of the bottle. The drugstore cousin of Opium... Some women seem to be able to make it seem like something else, something more elegant.

    23 October, 2009

    Grrlscout's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Oh, how I love this scent. It's bold, it's sexy, it's unashamedly seductive. It lasts and lasts. You need a bit of attitude to wear this perfume. I used to wear this and Byzance in my rocker girl days, and this was always the more rock and roll of the two scents. Warm incensey, sandalwoody, patchouli, floral, WOW kind of scent. It makes a strong statement. I used to wear this with my boots and my black leather bike jacket, and a whole heap of rock chick attitude. I still wear it from time to time, even with more, er, classically elegant clothing. I only wear it when I'm going out, though... this is an evening and into the next morning sort of fragrance. Definitely not for the office or anyplace you want to blend in a bit, or to feel a bit demure. But when you want a scent that's strong, a bit flamboyant, feminine without a hint of sweetness or strong floral, this is your first choice.


    13 October, 2009

    vintage*red's avatar

    United States United States

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    I don't know what to think of this fragrance. On my mother & on a friend, this stuff is a 4 star beauty. On my sisiter & me, it's a 2 star heavy handed oriental. It doesn't sicken me the way that Youth Dew does, but I can think of at least a dozen other over the top spicy juices that I prefer. If you like spicy oriental scents, it is worth a try. But don't get your hopes up...

    07 October, 2009

    kaylenehelen's avatar

    United States United States

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    On the right woman, this would surely be rich and exciting. On me, it was much too heavy, and actually burned my skin. It made me think of anointing oil, which is not a bad thing, but never settled down into my skin.

    26 April, 2009

    winterdaisy's avatar



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    I tend to confuse this one with Youth Dew, neither of which I like. I found both to be strong and repulsive. Youth Dew, even more so than Cinnabar, but Cinnabar not much better. I see someone compared this to Opium. I didn't like that one, either, but found it to be at least more unique than the other two.

    24 April, 2009

    jredman's avatar



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    My close friend in h.s. used to wear this when we would go out to parties. It was her mother's. I am thinking of buying it for her just because. It smelled so sophisticated on her.

    06 December, 2008

    shuzkelly's avatar

    United States United States

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    i am no expert, but smelling this forever would equal HELL to me... i literally have to move away if someone is wearing it?!!! odd, huh? i have been familiar w/ Cinnabar since the 70's when it was introduced (and had the dramatic reaction from the Get-GO) Luckily for me, no one in Southern California wears this anymore...

    17 November, 2008

    Smauglius's avatar

    Lithuania Lithuania

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    Unfortunately - no clear and pronounced cinnamon. Reminds a little of YSL Opium ir a more simple version. Nothing I've expected.

    13 November, 2008

    colormechris's avatar

    United States United States

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    Cinnabar was clearly created to compete with the wildly successful Opium which debuted a year before it. They are both heavy spicy Orientals. But if Opium is of The Air, then Cinnabar is of The Earth. Opium floats above your head like the remnants of incense from some Xanadu. Cinnabar seeps up from the spice mines. Cinnabar's musty sweetness manages to outsex Opium (if that's possible) in a very literal way. Cinnabar has always put me in mind of a womans panties after a long day at work, under her panty-hose and tweed skirt. Good heavens Miss Sakamoto! You smell beautiful...

    25 October, 2008

    chatnoir's avatar



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    My mother's signature scent in the early 80's was Cinnabar. I remember it being deep, exotic, and very spicy. It just screamed "grown up" to me, and I used to sneak a spritz on occasion. I would love to revisit it today and see if it still smells like the quintessence of sophistication.

    21st July, 2008

    2scents's avatar

    United States United States

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    For years this was my favorite fragrance, but I don't wear it anymore.
    Now it just feels too heavy and intense. Even the lotion seems too heavy.
    Guess my taste has changed because I used to adore it.

    09 May, 2008

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