Monday, December 1, 2008

Frequent Questions: The Difference between the various Christian Dior "Poison" fragrances

Christian Dior has a stable of fragrances all tagged Poison, encased in similarly designed packaging and bottles (but in different colors), often creating confusion to the buyer who wants to know how the various fragrances compare. This article aims to explain the differences and similarities between Poison, Tendre Poison, Hypnotic Poison, Pure Poison and Midnight Poison and their Elixir versions henceforth. Short descriptions of how they smell, perfumers, fragrance notes, color schemes on bottle and box packaging as well as comments on concentration & body products available, longevity and sillage are included.

The Poison series:

To begin in chronological order, first came Poison, the original, in 1985. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the original Poison was instrumental in the "loud" reputation that 1980s fragrances acquired. It is a powerhouse tuberose oriental with a berry-spicy-musky interlay, very characteristic of the time, quite excellently-made by Edouard Flechier and smelling great if used in moderation. Purple bottle in dark green box.
Notes for Poison original:
Top: orange blossom, honey, berries, pimento
Heart: cinnamon, coriander, tuberose, pepper, mace, plum, anise, ylang-ylang
Bottom: ambergris, labdanum, opoponax

Available in Eau de Toilette 30/50ml, Esprit de Parfum refillable flacon, deodorant spray, body lotion and shower gel. Some of the body products seem to be discontinued in certain markets.

Tendre Poison was the first "flanker" that came out 9 years later (1994), again composed by Edouard Flechier. It is a light green floral with freesia, a bit sharp and soapy in character. The base is pale woods, with a lightly powdery undertone that backons you closer. Although often referenced as a lighter version of the original Poison there is no comparison really. Tendre Poison is well-behaved, quite pretty and prim outwardly, a little unsmiling and cruel up close. Wears well and easily all year round and has good sillage and longevity. Light green bottle in green box.
Notes for Tendre Poison
Top: mandarin, galbanum
Heart: freesia, orange blossom, heliotrope
Bottom: sandalwood, vanilla

Available in Eau de Toilette 30/50ml, deodorant spray, body lotion and shower gel. Some of the body products seem to be discontinued in certan markets.

Hypnotic Poison came out in 1998, composed by Annick Menardo. The packaging reverted to something more daring, in crimson and a rubbery feel for the Eau de Parfum, so Hypnotic Poison is an almond gourmand oriental with a bitter edge at the start and a smooth vanilla base that contributes to a bewitching scent. Extremely popular (reports say it's a perennial bestseller in south Mediterranean countries, but also the US). Red bottle in dark red box.
Notes for Hypnotic Poison:
Top: bitter almond, caraway
Heart: jasmine sambac, jacaranda wood
Bottom: tree moss, vanilla, musk

Available in Eau de Toilette 30/50ml, deodorant spray, body lotion and shower gel.
There was an Eau de Parfum version previously available which seems to have been discontinued in favour of the Hypnotic Poison Elixir Eau de Parfum Intense.

Pure Poison coming out in 2004 was composed by Carlos Benaim, Olivier Polge and Dominique Ropion. Pure Poison is a radiant, expansive sharp floral with lots of white flowers (yet non indolic, meaning it's not in the least "dirty"), citrus essences and white musks/woods. The overall character is one of a clean, opalescent scent that is quite feminine in contemporary way. Pure Poison has an amazing sillage and is quite wearable year round. Pearl/opal white bottle in deep purple box.
Notes for Pure Poison:
Top: jasmine, sweet orange, Calabrian bergamot and Sicilian mandarin
Heart: orange blossom, gardenia
Bottom: sandalwood, ambergris

Available in Eau de Parfum 30/50ml, deodorant spray 100ml, body lotion and shower gel.

Midnight Poison is a modern "chypre" (in the vein of Narciso, Gucci by Gucci etc.) with subdued roses over a clean patchouli base, producing an abstract cool effect that is very modern. Composed by Olivier Cresp, Jacques Cavallier and Francois Demarchy, it is quite pleasant, if not very remarkable, with a dark green background that has a mysterious vibe aimed at the modern seductress.
Midnight-blue bottle in dark blue box.
Notes for Midnight Poison:
Top: mandarin orange, bergamot
Heart: rose
Bottom: patchouli, vanilla, amber

Available in Eau de Parfum 30/50ml, Extrait de Parfum, deodorant spray, body cream, body lotion and shower gel.

The Poison series Elixirs:

The various Dior Elixirs composed by Francois Demarchy came out with the aim to offer a more intense sensation blending the opulent base notes of the original Poison, along with individually selected flavours. The packaging is adorned with bulb atomisers on the bottle, boudoir-style. Each bottle replicates the colour scheme of the original fragrances they're named after. The formula is not silicone-based, but alcoholic, meaning it is sprayed like a regular Eau de Parfum.

Pure Poison Elixir was the first Elixir version for Poison and came out in 2006. Although the notes denote a quite different scent, the truth is there is no major difference with the previous Pure Poison, except for a sweeter, a tad powdery and warmer base that stays on the skin for an extremely long period of time.
Notes for Pure Poison Elixir:
Top: petitgrain, orange, green mandarin
Heart: orange blossom, jasmine sambac
Bottom: sandalwood, amber, almond, vanilla, cocoa absolute

Available in Eau de Parfum intense 30/50ml, body cream.

Hypnotic Poison Elixir came out in 2008. Based on the original Hypnotic Poison fragrance it includes a licorice-star anise combination. However it smells quite similar to the regular Hypnotic Poison, although the tenacity is even more phenomenal.

Available in Eau de Parfum intense 30/50ml, body cream.

Midnight Poison Elixir (2008) is based on the original Midnight Poison, enhanced with "intense, voluptuous, flavorful notes of caramel -fruity and toothsome, with an appetizing "toasted" fragrance - and the mellow, enveloping aromas of vanilla". It quite similar to the regular Midnight Poison apart from the sweeter caramel base which seems to kilter it off balance. Extremely tenacious as well.

Available in Eau de Parfum intense 30/50ml.

Special Valentine's Editions (2008) exist for Hypnotic Poison, Pure Poison and Midnight Poison in Eau de Toilette concentration in specially designed 40ml (1.38 fl.oz.) bottles.

Pics courtesy of


  1. Anonymous05:18

    Thank you for this post! I was getting befuddled and intimidated by all the different Poisons. All I am familiar with is the 1985 Poison - it is hard to forget.

    I just found your Greek blog too - how exciting! Perfume and greek, two of my favorite things. Off to find that Greek-English lexicon of mine..

  2. I am not a big Poison fan but if I had to pick one to wear it would have to be the white bottle , pure poison. To me its the most "liveable" . LOL

  3. Anonymous08:59

    Thanks for the overview. I especially liked your description of Tendre P as "cruel up close"! I once had a bottle of it, was attracted to thye scent, but also had ambivalent feeling about it. Probably it was the flowery part I felt was a bit dull/sweet, but the cruel part I liked. And it belongs to the ones I have used that generated most compliments from others.
    Because of overloads of it on a friend that shared apartment with me when I was a student, I can't even think of re-smelling the original one. She also used in abundance Opium, which I really enjoy wearing now, so that probably tells me that it was the Poison itself that I didn't like (I think the tuberose is the "problem". Can't think of any tuberose perfume that doesn't make me want to breathe fresh air! its like being affected by some kind of aenesthesia, and still conscious wanting to escape from the sleep..)

  4. Elizabeth,

    glad you liked it! I thought some clarification was needed after all these editions, so many people seemed to be confused (the new Elixirs managed to create even more chaos, didn't they?)
    And enjoy ;-)

  5. M,

    can you believe it: I think so too! The others demand a certain mood and frame of mind to pull of, not that I am knocking them but they do.

  6. S,

    you're very welcome. TP is somehow a puzzle: seems so tender and prim first, then you realize that it's not all flowers and laughs, isn't it?
    Have you tried Tubereuse Criminelle by Lutens? I think it has the softest, loveliest tuberose note drydown if you can get accustomed to the camphoreous opening (which I am liking all the more, the more I wear it).

  7. Anonymous10:08

    Have tried it only as wax sample, and then the tuberose-part was not "larger-than-life", but the menthol prominent. Yes, perhaps I should try it the normal version next time possible!
    (tried Fracas for the first time this autumn, and the tuberose got to my head, and I just wanted to escape! Bandit I immediately fell in love with (very high on my wish list now!))

  8. What a useful post, E. Now do this for all the flankers out there! (Just kidding--what a mammoth undertaking that would be.) I have never been able to wear any of the Poisons, though I do like Hypnotic Poison on other people.

    Note to Stella P: Have you ever tried Creed's Tubereuse Indiana? It's just about the gentlest, quietest tuberose perfume I have ever encountered.

  9. Aha...what a handy reference. Thank you! I love that it doesn't mince words, yet still carries your voice.

    Hooray for the new feature!

  10. S, I think the regular version of TC is very worthy of testing.
    And I agree with Bittergrace above that Tubereuse Indiana is another great choice for a more "behaved", less bombastic tuberose. Maybe even Do Son? (it performs much better in really hot weather though, mind you)

  11. M,

    thanks for saying so, honey :-) Well, indeed that would have been superspace-mammoth, but I aspire to do it for the more confusing lines hopefully.
    I like many of the Poisons on other people, but then I adore Aromatics Elixir pure perfume spray on them as well: when it's on me I become a little suffocated...(maybe that technique playfully described by Accolon of spraying a Q-tip with them and waving it in front of you could work!)

  12. S,

    thanks for your kind words :-)
    I think those two features will be handy and enjoyable as well. I have some interesting things in store for you.

  13. Hi, E! Thanks for posting this. I must say I've been mystified and confused by the stable of Poisons, but have felt that I should at least sample them to know what they are like. Now I can print out your post and use it as a guide. :-)

  14. J, you flatter me in saying so. It's a humble little guide, but if it proves useful to you in your exploration, I'd be very happy!
    (I suggest taking a lot of blotters pre-written with the names with you for home comparison and having pre-chosen skin spots to test those: it can get really confusing after a while!)

  15. Anonymous14:58

    Thank you for clearing this up! I think I'll try these now. One hears so many negative things about "Poison," but it's got to be the 80's one. (I still love 80's scents and I don't care who knows it.)

    P aka O

  16. P, I think those are definitely to be sniffed, if only to see the progression of ideas in perfumery (they map them out for 2 decades very well!)
    Poison is now appreciated for what it is, rather than how big a radius around its wearer it creates ;-)

  17. H., according to an inside document that was passed on to me, Hypnotic Poison is the only one of the franchise whose sales have actually increased with no advertising support -- until now. This, is believe, is the reason why they've launched the new ad campaign with Monica Belucci as well as an Elixir.

  18. D,

    I'm extremely willing to believe so and thanks for providing info to that effect. It's a perennial favourite here (the Tendre is almost extinguished)but it needed some reboosting of the images etc. ~especially now that Jovovich has been featured in so many other ads of different brands, while Monica has signed a contract with Dior maquillage ;-)

    PS.I owe you a detailed mail on what I promised, I was just so busy! Will do, haven't forgotten.

  19. My favourites are Tendre Poison and Hypnotic Poison. TP is indeed slightly cruel up close, a very good way of putting it. I never feel I can totally put my finger on it. It's more complex than it makes out to be.

    HP on the other hand is quite clear in it's intention I think! I love the almond.

  20. Anonymous10:14

    Now I think I will retry the Tendre Poison (but also some of the others)! (the bottle I had was a tiny one & it must be at least ten years ago that I had it). The "cruelty" of it, can that somewhat be explained? the listed notes seem innocent!

  21. K,

    good point! HP is straightforward: comfort and seduction, the old fashioned way (through his stomach, most probably!). It's one I enjoy smelling too.
    TP is a bit more difficult to decipher: what is its message really? Seems lady-like, gives you a stiletto wound in the ribs while smiling... :P

  22. S,

    I think the whole series is interesting to sample, for educational purposes and for gauging the evolution of trends.
    As to Tendre Poison being cruel, see above: "what is its message really? Seems lady-like, gives you a stiletto wound in the ribs while smiling"... :P
    To the risk of sounding Turin-ian, it's "screechy" yet beckons you to try to unravel it. A sign of an intriguing composition. (I can picture it on the mercenary-type as well).

  23. What a brilliant idea for a series! I'll be looking forward to the next instalments.

    I've been terribly curious about HP. I really should smell the original to remind myself what it's like.

  24. Thank you Dorothy, hope you will like all the other articles just as much. :-)
    Like I said above, all the Poisons are worth sniffing if only to see how tastes and trends progresed. HP and original are two of the best compositions in the line.

  25. Anonymous19:37

    I was and am a user of Poision, loved it for many years and of couse am now running out of all of the original products. Does anyone know where I can still get original poison? I've tried Dior's website to find out if they still have anyone making it and all the fragrance websites, they only carry "knockoffs" I know becasue they look like poison, but when I open them they are not. If you know where to get it respond to thanks

  26. My favorite is Pure Poison, which I wear and love for its beautiful sweet and feminine smell. I consider a woman should smell like flowers do :) I also like what you define as " clean musk/clean patchouly' and have never been a fan of "animalic' fragrances... I couldn't imagine a man would want to kiss and make love to a woman smelling like leather,fur or intimate body parts... And I admit that when I put on perfume on me I always do it to trigger in the men I meet the " sex reaction". Perfume is to me the projection of the "female" concept.

    Noe, coming back to the Poison saga - I also like Hypnotic, for its almond aura and Midnight for its elegant feel. From the moment I have smelled Midnight Poison I thought of Y by YSL which is also a green ,elegant and lady like fragrance. If I close my eyes and I sniff Midnight Poison I see a woman with a perfect silhuette , all dressed in black, wearing stilettos and spreading around her an intimidating yet feminine, ambigous fragrance :)) as for my own ' darling, Pure Poison, this is a fragrance I can't have enough. My only problem is that, while everybody on sites speaks about its sillage and tenacity, I can honestly say that on my skin it barely stays alive for 2 or 3 hours ( at its best). Its sillage is indeed impressive on fabrics and clothes but on my skin it fades incredibly fast. I wonder why ?! ( If anyone has experienced the same problem with it, or knows why it happens I would be grateful for an explanation... Is my skin "absorbing" ONLY this perfume while ALL the others last ?? I am very intrigued and cannot understand why it happens, especially to a perfume I love so much ) .

    The original Poison, which is largely available in Romania, both on e-shops and on counters in retails , tells me absolutely nothing. I have "revisisted" it from time to time and I keep coming to the conclusion that it is not a nice wearable fragrance, at least not for me. All the other flankers are way more interesting and appealing.

  27. Very late to the party, but...I just made a discovery about my Pure Poison.

    I have a colleague that is the sort of the person that gives the perfume lovers a bad name. As in, there is a cloud of it around and trailing behind him - and he refreshes it.

    But today, I wore a shirt that a little bit of PP remained on...and when the colleague passed, I smelt nothing. In bewildrement, I stretched my neck and sniffed hard - and there was but a trace. (And I have a nose so precise, I can detect what kind of drink father drank at the bar and how much.)

    Then I recalled the time a few of us met on a weekend (event organisation), and I actually wore Pure Poison on skin - and was baffled that he wore no perfume, considering his usual M.O. Could it be Pure Poison - or any perfume - can neutralise/completely cover/suck in particular fragrances? We've all hear about layering/blending and clashing scents, but what about this effect?


  28. Anon,

    incredibly late, but hey, thought I might reply.
    The "original" Poison is still being made (somewhat tamer in effect) and available on the Dior website and the major department stores who carry Dior fragrances (that varies depending on where you are).
    It's still very much in production.


  29. Rosabell,

    thanks for the detailed comment and sharing your experiences with the various poisons.

    I can understand what you're saying, not that I agree 100% but yes, men are attracted to a clean woman, that much is true. But what constitutes a feminine ideal is largely variant on the man himself and in the culture he's brought up (and so applies to a woman).
    Therefore with your proclivities, I'm not surprised that the super musky and somewhat rubbery tuberose leaning core of the original Poison feels too much. To be totally honest, it feels too much for me too and I am not that wary of animalic notes. It used to be HUGE. Now it's a bit tamer and feels more wearable...well, relatively. LOL!

    I like Pure Poison. It's a typhoon all right, but a more tame one than the original (there is no pungent note in the Pure). I think that your problem isn't tenacity on skin, it's your nose being accustomed to it from wearing it a lot. Try switching to the body range if you can for a while, then back to the edt. The subtle change of the formulation for the body products might rejog your sense of smell to this one. Or else, if you continue to perceive it on clothes, use on clothes. Just be sparing! ;-)

    Thanks again for commenting!

  30. Helen,

    that's a fascinating phenomenon if true, but honestly I don't suppose it's what really happened. If only good perfume could suck out bad perfume out of the room!! That would be worthy of a patent and a seriously loaded bank account and retirement plan, would't it?

    Perhaps he didn't wear cologne for once and perhaps your remnants of Pure Poison were delicious enough that your mind was directed into smelling only that (and not his other scented products, such as soap, hair gel, deo , or even body odor etc.)

    I suggest you turn him onto Pure Poison. Decant some in a manly looking glass vial and present him with a challenge. Say it's made with "bits of real panther so you know it's good"* :-D

    *(I'm laughing out with it, obviously, this is a line from "Anchorman", a hilarious scene, do watch it if you haven't yet).

  31. Anonymous11:27

    This needs updating. There are even more Flankers now.

  32. Hi there.
    I still have an old bottle of Hypnotic Poison when Dior was still ‘Christian’ Dior on the bottle. It must be about 20 years old!
    Thanks for the article. I found it when I went searching to find out more info on the old bottle I’ve got!


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

This Month's Popular Posts on Perfume Shrine