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Monday, June 01, 2009

Facing Down the Beast: Dior Hypnotic Poison

By Donna

Ever since the release of the original Poison by Christian Dior in 1985, I have been mystified by the attraction of this perfume. Everybody either wore it or smelled it back in the Eighties, if they were not wearing or smelling Giorgio Beverly Hills. Perhaps I was permanently scarred by a rather terrifying woman who wore Poison to the office every day – a lot of it, spreading its heady spell over the entire department. She wore tight skirts, stiletto heels and a contemptuous attitude toward whoever did not meet her standards, which was pretty much all of us. She read Vogue on her lunch break and never made a friendly gesture toward anyone that I was aware of. One day she punched a hole in the carpet with one of her weaponized heels and took a hard fall; there was zero sympathy for her among the employees as she was that unpopular. So of course I can’t smell Poison without thinking of her.

Hypnotic Poison came out in 1998, the second Poison flanker after 1994’s Tendre Poison (unless I have missed one), and I have studiously avoided it until now, when I came into possession of a sample of the Elixir strength scent. Okay, it was now or never; could I exorcise the demon of the past and appreciate this on its own terms?

As soon as I sprayed it on I felt the presence of the original, in the heavy, bitter almond opening standing in for that famous camphoric tuberose-anise-incense blast. I was determined not to scrub; I had to get through its development somehow, even with visions of Stiletto Woman dancing in my head. Pretty soon the sweetness chimed in and it got a little bit milder – whew! The tag line on my sample card says “The sensuality of jasmine exalted by a liquorice, star anise accord.” Well, I got the star anise all right, but the poor jasmine is desperately trying to get noticed, and failing. Caraway is there too, adding to the delirious gourmand feeling of the bitter almond. This must be the kind of hallucinogenic “food” that’s served in an opium den.

With two of my favorites, jasmine sambac and moss, listed as the heart notes I was really hoping for some of the top notes to die down so I could smell them; good luck with that, there was no respite. Instead it seemed to go right into the base of jacaranda wood, vanilla and musk – lots of vanilla, turning this into a dessert of Chinese restaurant style almond cookies, which I happen to love, but I am not sure I want to smell like them all day. (Would it surprise anyone to learn that all parts of the jacaranda tree are poisonous, and that it has very sharp spines that can cause allergic skin reactions?)

One this happened I found this fragrance to be very linear, with not much else going on once settled into the sweet phase. The constant throat-burning presence of the bitter almond defines this perfume. If that could have been dialed back just a little I would have liked it more, but then it would not have shown its Poison lineage so clearly, and that of course is the point. Bottom line: I could wear this in public if I had to, unlike the original, but I would never buy it. I intend to test the other Poison flankers in the near future, and perhaps I will find one to like. Until then, I can finally cross this off my list.

Image credit: European magazine ad for Hypnotic Poison with actress Monica Bellucci from (Love the purple snake!)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypnotic Poison gets a lot of love, but on me, it's the Pudding From Hell. (Remember Monty Python's Killer Blanc Manges??)
Glad to find out I'm not alone in my dislike of HP.

5:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

I really detest this stuff......I want to love it, I really do but it makes me want to vomit whenever I smell it...There is one wierd variation of it though that comes in a mother of pearl type bottle that is "okay"...but not on me:)

10:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Tammy said...

I don't particularly dislike the scent of any of the Poisons, but I have a hard time taking a breath when I'm around it. Something sort of catches at the back of my throat ....

10:38 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't for me either. Waaaaaaaay too cloying on my skin.


3:58 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Never smelled it. Couldn't bear the original (which caused an argument at Marshall Fields once, the SA tried to correct my Fwensh pronunciation from Pwa-ZON to Pwa-Son. I pointed out the Pwa-SON was French for fish, which would smell infinitely better than this crap, even after three days in the sun)

Jacaranda are beautiful, but a big pain the the a$$- the pretty blossoms turn to sticky goo on the sidewalks. Just sayin"

6:25 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I actually love the original - in microscopic amounts. Seriously microscopic. Am not sure whey Hypnotic doesn't work on me, but it doesn't. Still, I got a bottle at some point and am waiting for the time when it will work on me. I have huge faith in these things. :-) Wasn't even aware there are more flankers. I don't know how I manage to ignore these things, but I do.

7:38 PM EDT  
Blogger Tammy said...

Tom, have you ever parked underneath one??? I don't think the sap ever truly comes off.....

10:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Masha, LOL, that's it exactly! :-D

11:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Beth, it took a lot for me to work up to trying this! Normally I am pretty intrepid, but it's in the Poison family after all.

11:55 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tammy, I get the same effect, it's a kind of claustrophobic thing, like don't put me in a room alone with it!

11:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Lovethescents, this stuff clings like a vine, cloying is exactly right.

11:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, I think it's safe to say that you don't ever need to try it - I did it for you! ;-)

I would love to see a jacaranda in bloom, I have a thing for beautiful but deadly plants. Not sure what that says about me...

11:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Elle, I am not exactly sure how many there are now, but I do know that there are some I have never tried, including Tendre Poison, the first flanker. Do I dare?

12:01 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I lucked out with parking in the back when I lived on the street that had them.


They are really, really lovely in bloom. Masses of beautiful color. The two streets over from me are awash in soft purple flowers. But they ruin your carpets and make the sidewalks a sticky mess.

This isn't even the best photo..

12:27 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jemi said...

Beth, I think the pearly bottle is Pure Poison, right? I've never tried it -- maybe I should. The original is like suffocation in a bottle for me.

12:42 AM EDT  
Blogger klavaza said...

Talking about vomit: a friend of mine, back in the 80's, received a very large, I mean, very large, bottle of Poison as payment for a debt. She rarely used it, but kept it atop in one of her chests. It had to happen one day, her maiden while sweeping sent it flying to a wall. The smell was so terrible that she vomited and loathed and kicked and so on. And of course, she never wanted to smell Poison again in her life. Therefore: Poison is toxic.

2:31 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe there is a Midnight Poison out there. This one isn't really any better than any of the others. But then again I suppose if you love the original you may be able to appreciate it's charms. I can't.

6:46 AM EDT  
Anonymous Lizzie said...

I agree with Flora and the claustrophobic thing, it spits me out from a room, and makes me feel suffocated. I want to like it, but its doesn’t agree with me, and gives me a heavy head.

7:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Leon, I cannot begin to imagine how that would be - ack!

1:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, they are really beautiful - they remind me of Empress trees, but the purple is darker. Gorgeous!

1:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Anonymous, I think I sniffed the bottle on that one not too long ago, but I did not spray it. Maybe I will get brave soon....

1:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Jemi - suffocation in a bottle, that's perfect!

1:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Lizzie, I think that all of the Poisons are probably either love or hate, with no in-between - no one seems to be neutral about them!

1:30 AM EDT  
Anonymous N said...

I avoided this one for years, it smells so plastic when initially sprayed. But I gave it a try on my skin and let it mellow and found that on me, it ends up being a very soft sweet comfortable scent. I wear it in public, I wear it to work and have no problem.

And when I wear it out dancing men seem irresistibly drawn to it. It doesn't smell of perfume on me, it just makes me smell good. I love it.

11:46 AM EDT  
Anonymous Classy Fragrances said...

My girlfriend entirely enjoys the original poison perfume but has never liked the smell of any of the other types of poison perfumes included in the Christian Dior collection. I've noticed here in the blog that not to many people like the smell of the poison perfume. I guess it must simply smell different on other individuals.

12:45 PM EDT  

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