Cinnabar (Estée Lauder)

Cinnabar is an oriental that reads as a balsam-and-spice incense composition, closely related to Lauder's own Youth Dew. It's been a long time since I smelled Youth Dew, but my recent sampling of Cinnabar immediately reminded me of something I'd smelled before, and when I read up on its history I found that indeed, Youth Dew "evolved" or "morphed" somewhat into Cinnabar - or perhaps a more accurate way of describing their relationship is to say they got "smooshed" as a marketing tactic that Lauder tried out in the mid seventies.

As you can see in the picture above, there was a point in the fragrance's earlier history where Lauder printed the names of both scents on the box, defining Opium's competition as a "Soft Youth Dew Fragrance." It's hard to say why this was done, but one theory is that they created this to appeal to Lauder buyers who wanted something similar to Youth Dew, but more modern. Lauder played it safe by giving the fragrance the brand name of "Cinnabar," perhaps for those who wanted a sense of departure from the older oriental in the line. They seemed to want to have it both ways. It's a bit of a mystery really, and gets more fully hashed-out on I Smell Therefore I Am.

The current fragrance is a reasonably natural balsam composition, with dark-green resins framing a crisp incense on a dry amber base. There's a pert citrus lift to the woody notes on top, and a genteel duet of sandalwood and benzoin on the bottom, with a subtle melange of cinnamon-dusted floral notes connecting them through the heart. Cinnabar more closely resembles Opium EDT nowadays, and I think Opium is more complex and perhaps more unique (Cinnabar smells a bit "standard" and reminds me of Lagerfeld's relatively unadventurous masculine orientals), but I couldn't easily choose between the two. This fragrance isn't really my thing, but it remains a beautifully-constructed classic that every oriental enthusiast should try.

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