Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dior's Hypnotic Poison

Contrary to its reputation as a smouldering, heavy-lidded weapon of seduction, Dior's Hypnotic Poison is actually a first-rate comfort scent, a pillowy blend of vanilla, marzipan, jasmine, and sandalwood that barely hints at intentions less than spotless. It's also arguably the most distinctive of the current Poison line, what with the 1985 original having its fangs filed down and its stilettos traded in for office-friendly pumps sometime in the last decade, its 1994 followup Tendre Poison discontinued, and the other two - 2004's Pure and and 2007's Midnight - barely worth mentioning. Hell, Hypnotic is probably the most distinctive scent in the current Dior lineup, its olfactory signature and overall effect bearing no connective tissue or evolutionary links to any other perfume before or since. It's not a fruity floral, it's not an Angel clone, it's not a leathery chypre or a spicy oriental. It contains no citrus, no resins, no patchouli, no rose. It doesn't screech, but it projects; it doesn't sit on the skin like a wet carpet, yet it has depth and presence. It's sweet, but not candied or juvenile, and it has a gourmand feel without smelling literally edible (that's too easy, and also boring). It's not overtly feminine, but neither does it bear ostentatiously masculine tics, shoehorned into a classically feminine composition in order to lazily "sexify" things. (See Calvin Klein's Euphoria for the best of this rather tired lot.) It smells rich and sophisticated, but about as far from a typically "perfumey" scent as you can get without dragging in headshop oils. Basically, Hypnotic Poison is a singular, almost alien being, delicious and legitimately mysterious in an industry that promises such mystery routinely and delivers rarely.

The mystery arises from its unique olfactory effect. Sprayed on the skin and smelled up close, Hypnotic Poison is a bit flat, slightly bitter from the almond note, and rather nutty (the topnotes include caraway, but I detect a bit of hazelnut in there, too). Stand back, though, and the entire composition unfolds and practically dances in the air, splaying streams of silky jasmine, boozy vanilla, crisp sandalwood and sensual musk all around, glossed over with the aforementioned bitter almond sheen (this is not the cherry-almond of DiSaronno liqueur or that almond extract gathering dust in your kitchen cupboard) and delightul hints of creamy coconut and baking spice. The composition feels unusually dense and solid, almost muted in its color palette, yet it diffuses effortlessly and isn't the least bit suffocating.

It's also an uncommonly no-frills venture. Hypnotic Poison hits on an idea - almond/vanilla/jasmine, dark and velvety - and basically serves it up as is, with no bells and whistles. When the "as is" is this delectable, who needs garnishes? Hypnotic Poison is confident in its quality; it knows it has the goods. It's also remarkably, almost maddeningly addictive. One of the few women's perfumes I can pick out of a crowd with pinpoint accuracy, Hypnotic Poison more or less drives me to distraction every time I smell it in passing. (Another one that stops me in my tracks? Calvin Klein Euphoria. Maybe I shouldn't have backhanded it up top.) Once I learned the name of that ambrosial smell wafting from various friends, coworkers, and passersby, I stormed department stores and sprayed their testers like they were hits of heroin. Eventually I broke down and bought a bottle so I could sleep at night. It's serious business, this perfume hobby.


  1. Darryl, I really enjoy your perspective on HP...and everything you sniff. Thanks for your clarity and laser focus and sense of fun.

  2. I myself do not care for Hypnotic Poison. Smelling it on someone else would make me happy, but I don't tend to like edible frags.

    However, I did steer a very nice lady I know towards this one and she is in love, so yay!

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Katie, and right back at ya. :)

    Nora, Hypnotic works for me because it borders edible without quite crossing over. It has the drool-triggering "ooh!" factor of a delicious smell wafting from a pastry shop, but the velvety jasmine and woods make it clear that this particular specimen is for admiring, not eating. (Reeeeeally skirting that border, though, I'll admit.)