How could Cinnabar smell like Pino Silvestre ?

This is the sort of thing we might expect a “newbie” to say, but I think many if not most aficionados would admit that they have had these kinds of thoughts even beyond their freshman year. Recently I sampled what I think is a vintage bottle of Cinnabar (1978) with a half spray just above the ankle. I didn’t wear any scent normally that day because I was waiting for one to arrive in the mail, and went over to a neighbor’s house for a short while. When I was there I thought I was smelling a woody scent with herbs and spices. I asked if they had put out Christmas potpourri, but I was told no. I asked if anyone was wearing fragrance, and mentioned Pino Silvestre, but again the answer was no.

When I got back home I smelled the same thing and realized that it was the Cinnabar. Smelling it up close on the skin is a bit different, revealing an odd animalic incense note that reminded me of a store a few miles away that sells ethnic items of India, including cheap incense sticks. Smelling it a few inches away from the skin led me to think of it as similar to the vintage Opium EdT I have. I think it is the textural quality of Cinnabar that is so interesting, perhaps mostly coming from the orange blossom. I usually associate that tingly “texture” with herbal notes. Moreover, my guess is that the citrus notes function in similar ways in Cinnabar and Pino SIlvestre, generating a kind of background “sparkle.”

While Cinnabar is more complex, they both possess citrus, wood, spice, amber, and floral (carnation) notes in common, but the construction is what is similar in particular, beyond the top notes at least. Of course if you want an obvious oregano/thyme type of note, Cinnabar will not supply it, but if you want something that smells a bit more complex (and to me, interesting) from a distance, Cinnabar is worth sampling. I don’t know why the dry down shouldn’t be considered “unisex,” especially if a niche company were to release something very similar today, and many women might in fact find this formulation too “masculine.” However, if you are on a budget, you might want to try Cafe by Cafe (1978) instead.

Here are the notes for Cinnabar (first) and then Pino Silvestre (taken from, and for those of you who are not aware, I try to avoid most of the top notes, which might explain why I don’t get strong lavender from PS nor strong peach from Cinnabar:

Top notes are spices, peach, cloves, bergamot, tangerine and orange blossom; middle notes are carnation, cinnamon, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, lily-of-the-valley and lily; base notes are tolu balsam, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver and incense.

…bergamot, lavender, basil, shiny lemon and juniper berries in the top notes. The heart carries an explosion of spicy notes of carnation, nutmeg, geranium, thyme and fir tree. The base contains accords of amber, cedar, musk, Tonka beans and moss.

As is often the case, there are claims about bad reformulations (even with Cafe by Cafe!), but to be fair some have said that reformulated Cinnabar is still not too far off the mark. The bottle I purchased is a 1.75 ml spray. The cap has no markings and the box was no longer present. There is a round label sticker on the bottom that is paper and not transparent. It says “Fragrance Spray,” and not Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette. The number is E A68E. There are two symbols, one is the “e” estimation symbol and the other is a red one with an arrow that I think means something about recycling. The color of the liquid is similar to the vintage splash bottles you can usually see on ebay (a rich red), and not the pale yellowish new one, which is pictured above.

I look forward to a normal wearing. which will be one spray to the center of the chest, and intend to report back with an update about whether my perception is different with that application. If you are not sure about whether to choose this one, Cafe, or Opium (assuming vintage in both cases), I’d say Opium is clearly more “feminine” (with floral notes more pronounced), whereas Cinnabar is more like a unisex niche scent, though more complex than most niche. Cafe by Cafe is for those on a tight budget; it’s simpler and doesn’t have the odd but interesting animalic incense of Cinnabar, but does have a kind of dry herbal quality and is natural smelling, just as the other two are. If you are used to mild orientals, you may not like any of these, but Cafe would be the one to try first, and you may also want to read my recent post here about “stonking” orientals !


Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

3 responses to “How could Cinnabar smell like Pino Silvestre ?

  1. Tim

    Thanks for this enjoyable read. Yeah, Pino does strange things. The late drydown of my Pino (short ingredient list) smells precisely like that one of the 90ies Jicky EdT I own. Okay, both may be classified as Fougère so it`s not as surprising as what you found out with the Cinnabar. But I didn`t either expect this at first from a bold fragrance like Jicky is. There`s a certain radiating lavendery bitterness to both of them (hard to describe as non-native speaker). Bye bye.

  2. hlmenken

    Have you compared Cinnabar to Aramis JHL or EL Youth Dew?
    I have read that Cinnabar was originally marketed as “youth dew light,”
    and JHL is by the same perfumer and considered a “twin” fragrance.

    • My grandmother had some old YD and from what I remember (a few years ago) it seemed a lot more floral. I have some vintage JHL but haven’t worn it in a while. From what I remember, that one doesn’t have the same herbal-type texture and the sandalwood qualities are more obvious, without that animalic incense. With JHL, it’s like the strong wood is playing off the floral/powdery/spicy elements, whereas in PS and Cinnabar there is that texture upon which the other notes are clinging. Nor does JHL have citrus playing the role that it does in PS and Cinnabar, which may be a main reason why I think of those two as having similar construction (along with the herbal texture), at least beyond the top notes.

      On the other hand, it may be that one’s “nose” is primed to experience certain scents as similar at a given time, perhaps largely due to sensitivities. For example, lately I’ve been really sensitive to certain aroma chemicals and I’m having a lot of difficulty wearing designer ones that are less than twenty years old or so. The interesting thing is that the top notes don’t bother me that much (as they used t0), though I try to avoid at least some of them, but rather the persistent notes are now quite irritating to me, which is a new development. By contrast, castoreum notes in old scents, which really used to bother me, are now not a problem at all (I should be publishing a post on the castoreum “monsters” of circa thirty years ago soon, for those interested).

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