Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Cinnabar by Estée Lauder

Total Reviews: 55
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
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
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
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This is how I'd hoped Opium pour homme would smell, spicy with a bit of funk in a way that recalls Kouros.
07th June, 2016
bFlay Show all reviews
United States
Cheap cinnamon air freshener and vinegar/floral feminine deodorant spray! Foul all around...
18th May, 2016 (last edited: 21st 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 (last edited: 27th 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,timeless,Rich,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.


Longevity?Very good on my skin.

13th June, 2015
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
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 scent
Cons: Too similar to Youth Dew and Tabu, both less expensive

21st June, 2013
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
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.
03rd September, 2012
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.
24th March, 2012
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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.
22nd September, 2011
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.
03rd July, 2011
I love the exotic-chypre classicism of Cinnabar and its touch of flamboyant " antiquity". Cinnabar is a delicious spicy-oriental dramatic aroma based on the combination of spices, animalic oakmoss, fruits (mellow, spicy and salty/sweet) and ambery "smoothness" with the support derived from airy aldehydes that push higher and higher the exotic sophistication exhaled from ylang-ylang, sweet spices and jasmine. Cinnabar is one of the classiest luxurious feminine fragrances of all time on the same range like pillars as Youth Dew (the older, more mossy-balsamic and complex sister), Mitsouko, Knowing, Cabochard, Azuree, Tabu, Aromatics Elixir, Opium, Beautiful, Coco Chanel, L'Heure Bleue, Jicky and other gems. Its (peachy/plummy/honeyed) aristocratic and vintage-chypre boozy/mellow spiciness is divine, massive and enigmatic. The beginning is puzzling with a blast of cloves, cinnamon and citrus linked with the fruity notes of peach and orange and with a "tornado" of molecular aldehydes. This opening is quite ripe, somewhat viney-fruity. Lot of cinnamon, a huge amount of cinnamon. Some mystic exotic/boozy/fruity piquancy is in the air with its charge of almost incensey-mouldy 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 soon 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 aroma towards a lighter and delicious sweet, slightly dusty, viney, spicy fluid. The mossy outcome is surprisingly exotic, intriguing, temperamental and smooth with a dominant undertone from orange-cinnamon-peach, the misured roothness from patchouli and vetiver and the controlled mildness from light woods. I see the association with Ysl Opium (vanilla, resins, floral notes, amber, patchouli, spices and more) which is basically more eastern, rough (rooty-earthy-spicy), mystic and austere (probably less sweet too). In my opinion while Cinnabar is a classically chic aristocratic fragrance of this "lofty world", Vintage Opium is the attempt (I don't know if actually matched) to appoint 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. The great Coco Chanel jumps on mind as well for several of its aristocratic chypre-oriental hallmarks. Roccobarocco immediately follows. Cinnabar will always be a favourite of mine in this wonderful olfactory universe.
26th June, 2011 (last edited: 31st October, 2017)
It's nice but overpowering. The only time I might use it is in a smoke-filled casino...and I rarely go to those.
06th June, 2011
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...!
18th March, 2011

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.
15th November, 2010
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.
18th October, 2010
Smells very classy, perfect evening perfume
27th March, 2010
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.
26th March, 2010
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.
14th December, 2009
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-
03rd December, 2009
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.
28th October, 2009
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.
28th October, 2009
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.
23rd October, 2009
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.

13th October, 2009
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...
07th October, 2009
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.
26th April, 2009