[Update: in 2013, Prescriptives Calyx became Clinique Calyx, the Prescriptives brand having now been phased out by Estee Lauder. It seems to be much fresher and less sparkling than it was, but I have no idea when that happened. Likely it's been reformulated more than once over the years.]
Calyx was the debut fragrance from the skincare and color cosmetics line Prescriptives. It was created by perfumer Sophia Grojsman and launched in 1986; the notes include mandarin, bergamot, passion fruit, mango, guava, spearmint, muguet, lily, jasmine, marigold, melon, rose, cyclamen, raspberry, musk, moss and cedar.
Calyx, along with Eau de Givenchy, was one of my favorite fragrances of the late 1980s, and there were times when I wore it exclusively enough that I might have considered it my signature fragrance had I known that such a concept existed. Later, when I became interested enough in perfume to start looking into which perfumers made what, I was very surprised to discover that it was not only made by Sophia Grojsman — it seems so radically different from her other fragrances — but that she considers it one of her favorite creations:
"It was very crazy, very wild and it opened a whole new category of fragrances," she said. "The company requested something sparkling, exhilarating and new..."
Grojsman recalled that IFF had discovered a fruity new accord — a complex made up of several notes — at about the time she received the assignment. Shortly afterward, she took a trip to Israel, where her room overlooked orange and grapefruit trees. Subsequently these citrus scents infiltrated the fragrance.
"Calyx is my most expressive fragrance," she said. "It showed another side of me. Sometimes when I feel lousy I spray it on and I perk up immediately." (via Women's Wear Daily, 9/4/1992)
Calyx is classified as a fruity floral, but I think of it as a green citrus: it smells mostly like grapefruit and green leaves, with a blur of flowers and fruits in the background and a grounding of mossy pale woods. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that it evokes all of those things, as it has a decidedly synthetic edge and doesn't really smell like anything but itself. To quote Sophia Grojsman again:
"Perfumers are always trying to imitate nature," she said. "But what's natural? God did not produce Chanel No. 5. A perfumer did." (Ibid.)
I would agree that its artifice is part of its charm. Not infrequently I spray on a new perfume and dismiss it as overly synthetic, but I suppose the real problem is that whatever I am trying simply doesn't smell good. Calyx smells wonderful.
At any rate, it starts off quite sharp; as it dries down it softens slightly but it remains very crisp and fresh. It is a casual, day-time fragrance, and as Grojsman notes, it has something very refreshing about it (Prescriptives touted it as "the exhilarating fragrance", and so it is). I was rather worried about trying it again — it is not likely today that I would be attracted to a fragrance with such a preponderance of sweet fruits — but wearing it was like greeting an old friend. It is great stuff.
The lasting power is so-so, as is to be expected, and as I remember it, its shelf-life was not much better: more than once I had to throw out what was left of a bottle and replace it because it had gone stale. Whether this is still true I can't say, but as I had some trouble finding a fresh tester at a Prescriptives counter so that I could try it again, I suspect it might still be a problem.
Calyx can be found at Prescriptives counters at most major department stores, and is also carried at a few of the online perfume discounters.