Smoky Poppy by The Body Shop is the latest fragrance launch by the bath and body shop. Meant to be a limited edition for Valentine's Day 2015, the composition turns out to be less than just paying lip service to fragrance-making...
If TBS can often feel like they are relying overly easily and sytematically on red fruits, shampooey scents and burnt crèmes brûlées of different ilks while their White Musk continues to perform well, Smoky Poppy is a departure from that comfort zone into a territory of exploration of dangerous smells. It is like a musing on a myth and a legend. For most, it is probably just going to smell sultry. For perfumistas, an audience more in the know, Smoky Poppy comes laced with covert references.
The eau de toilette is said to be based on a hand-picked harvest of poppies cultivated in the region of Ankara, Turkey, one of the biggest producers of unscratched poppies in the world. In Turkish, the word "afyon" means both "poppy" and "opium". What the perfume turns out to be is an impression and a study of Opium by Yves Saint Laurent but as if seen through the filter of history - and as conceptual art.
This fragrance is no mere replica. It shows thinking and re-thinking. The perfume smells first of all like a more vintage interpretation of the current Opium by YSL, albeit with added nuances which make you think that the slightly hippie roots of the store are showing. It is a smokier, but also fattier Opium evoking opium paste. The composition smells as if it had experienced the hippie era in Kathmandu without smelling straightforwardly like a headshop; It flirts with that sensation though. It is also slightly more medicinal. A nuance of Chinese star aniseed hits the nose in the beginning underlining the subtle spiciness of the blend.
Fumeuse d'opium by Léon Busy, color autochrome, 1915 - Collection Albert-Kahn
I had to ask someone who has had experience inspecting the fields of the opium trade and smelling the smoke of the legendary drug if the scent was reminiscent of the real-world sensation? And the answer is yes. The base notes are reportedly within the olfactory range of real opium smoke, which is characterized by that person as having a distinctive "sweetish" smell.
Because Smoky Poppy is more realistic than YSL Opium, but also smokier than it, and again, fattier and thicker, it calls to mind better the foggy atmosphere of an opium den.
This, to me, is a less abstract version of the forbidden narcotic, yet quite nuanced. I see it as conceptual art because it could be the fragrance found in an installation about the historical custom, or you could have expected to find it in a Comme des Garçons fragrance thriving on irony and second degree.
Smoky Poppy is a very pleasant and sensual fragrance which is very well done. It manages to offer just the right, heavy-handed dose of transgression which in a rare feat makes you consider for once that olfactory notes speak louder than words. In so many instances do we see forced discourses on danger and taboo-breaking in perfumes. It is refreshing to smell, at last, a fragrance which authentically evokes a different era and a sense of pushing the door to a forbidden zone. Even after you've analyzed it, it retains its narcotic character and an elusive aura.