Estée Lauder touts Aliage as the first fragrance for sports. One sniff, and my guess is hockey and motocross aren’t the sports Ms. Lauder envisioned. A round of bridge or maybe an hour in the cutting garden are more like it. Nonetheless, Aliage is fresh, tart, and clean — the perfect accompaniment to tennis whites.
Aliage hit the market in 1972 when a bevy of delicious green chypres graced department store shelves. Yves Saint Laurent Y, Givenchy III, and old-timers Carven Ma Griffe and Balmain Vent Vert jostled for the attention of the woman looking for unfussy modern elegance. Aliage stands apart in its G-rated playfulness.
Perfumer Francis Camail developed Aliage, and the Estée Lauder website lists its notes as jasmine, citrus, nutmeg, rose, armoise, oakmoss, vetiver, and cedarwood. To that list I’d add a whopping dose of galbanum.
The result is a bright, spring-like fragrance. Bursts of soap and powder lather its sugary rose. I really can smell the pinch of nutmeg complicating Aliage’s galbanum-vetiver body for its first twenty minutes. As Aliage wears, it becomes almost a spa fragrance. Not as sheer as, say, Cartier Eau de Cartier, but with a galbanum-wood-moss that smells like cold water on rocks. Cold, soapy water, that is.
Aliage’s green isn’t as floral-stemmy as Y or as mossy-elegant as Givenchy III. Instead, it’s optimistic, uncomplicated, and unabashedly American. Think of Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, but a little OCD about hygiene. Or maybe Reese Witherspoon doing her junior year in Paris. She might have worn Aliage well. Aliage would be a terrific fragrance for people working professions where they're supposed to smell clean but not wear perfume. I defy anyone to distinguish a light misting of Aliage from a top-of-the-line guest soap.
Aliage in its “sports fragrance spray” formulation (the only formulation available now) lasts a respectable four hours on my skin. My new sample of Aliage smells lighter — in the lofty sense — than my vintage bottle from the 1990s, but the juice in my older bottle has darkened and oxidized to a more caramelly first few minutes. (Note to vintage perfume scavengers: green chypres don't seem to age as well as other fragrances.)
I love it that Estée Lauder hasn’t discontinued Aliage, but in the end I prefer Estée Lauder Private Collection (released a scant year later than Aliage), Yves Saint Laurent Y, Givenchy III, and the occasional Niki de Saint Phalle for my green chypre fix. But then again, I’m not particularly sporty. If I were, it would probably be something like horseshoes or lawn darts — sports that skew trashier than Aliage merits.
Finally, is it Aliage or Alliage? I’ve seen it spelled both ways, and a google search turns up photos of bottles with both names. From what I can tell, in the United States, Estée Lauder’s trademark on “Alliage” expired in 1992. (It’s available now if you hanker to own it.) “Aliage” with one “l” is currently registered to Estée Lauder, and that’s the spelling the company currently uses.
Estée Lauder Aliage is widely available at department stores, although you might have to ask the sales associate to find the tester behind the counter. A 50 ml bottle of sport fragrance spray is a bargain at $42.