Neutral Reviews of Cinnabar by Estée Lauder

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


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    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    foetidus's avatar

    United States United States

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    So much cinnamon. Cinnamon is certainly not a demure spice, and here we have it full strength … with aldehydes! If any fragrance deserves the label “spicy Oriental,” this is the one. In the top accord, I can sort of tell that there is an orange note in there, and I certainly can believe that there is clove in there, too: The clove and peach are used as a slight support of the cinnamon and don’t come through very strongly to my nose. I can’t separate out the florals in the midnotes – the cinnamon is still so dominant. Actually I don’t really determine a very different accord for the middle notes, so I find this is a linear fragrance. The drydown does settle down to a much lesser potency of spice, and is quite beautiful with its incense and light woods –This base of incense, patchouli, and vetiver with a touch of the sweetness of vanilla and amber becomes a translucent skin scent.

    I do like this fragrance very much, but not nearly as much as I thought I would. Until the drydown I was rather disappointed in the quality of the accords. I don’t really object to the amount of spiciness of Cinnabar, but I find a muddiness, a lack of clarity about their use. I would have liked the cinnamon to have a sharper, less dense, less oily tone to it. I was hoping that Cinnabar would be a more economical version of JHL, and, it certainly is an option I will consider when my JHL is due for replacement, but I think my choice will be another bottle of JHL – JHL is a better fragrance.

    09 March, 2008

    oldnose's avatar

    United States United States

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    I want to like Cinnabar, I've tried to like Cinnabar, but unfortunately, I cannot wear it. It smells great in the bottle, but after the top and mid notes have gone, the cloying sweetness of the vanilla gives me a headache. I have found that I must be very cautious with anything with carnation or vanilla, because on my skin, those two scents will wipe out anything else in the mix. Maybe I'll try it just spritzed on my clothing and I might not have the same reaction.

    09 December, 2007

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