I remember trying Clinique Aromatics Elixir1 in my early twenties (didn't like it then) and forgetting it existed till I met someone 13 years later who wore it all the time. When I first met her, I said: “You’re wearing Aromatics Elixir, aren’t you?” How could I remember a perfume I had tried so long ago and never wore again? (I was proud of myself…what a memory! what a Nose!) But I can take only partial credit for this feat; Aromatics Elixir is distinctive, and one of the few perfumes with a strong oak moss note that I now enjoy.
Last week, when I reviewed Aramis (a fragrance that shares Aromatics Elixir’s perfumer, Bernard Chant), I admitted oak moss is not one of my favorite fragrance ingredients — an understatement. Oak moss is something I imagine as a brittle, sticky thread that takes over other ingredients as a virus overwhelms a host. Because of its use in older perfumes, it also imparts vintage character to fragrances that makes many men and women say words like “grandpa’s cologne” or “old lady scent.”
Aromatics Elixir is almost 45 years old and it was created when oak moss was a major player in the fragrance world. I never got the chance to try Aromatics Elixir when it launched; my review is based on a brand-new sample of today’s formula (that still smells very much like the Aromatics Elixir I first encountered).
Aromatics Elixir has a beautiful opening, a soft herbal tea note mingling with fast-receding aldehydes and crisp moss. What happens next is a 'floral arrangement' in the brash, American "country-house" style: everything but the garden troll thrown into a vase and producing a mingling of leaf, wood and floral aromas (creamy rose, jasmine and lily of the valley are stand-outs). Ylang-ylang makes a late entrance and ushers in Aromatics Elixir’s base notes: musk that does not really “bite” but certainly nibbles the nose (no candy-floss white musk here) and a woody amber accord with noticeable patchouli. The final phase of Aromatics Elixir smells like a fancy sandalwood-infused cold cream with a drop of camphor added for zing.
Aromatics Elixir has great diffusion and lasting power; I would characterize it as a semi-exotic, refined perfume with a vintage touch.
The Clinique counters are always brightly lit and use colors that don’t appeal to me (springtime pastels). I wonder how many people ignore Aromatics Elixir (almost always on a bottom shelf) as they buy lipsticks, sunscreen, moisturizer, or more contemporary, mainstream fragrance offerings like Happy and its “positive attitude” clique of flankers. Men: if you haven't already, do sniff Aromatics Elixir next time you are near a Clinique counter; its potent mix of ingredients is completely suitable for you. Aromatics Elixir had a limited edition flanker of its own three years back, Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve, and I missed it! This November a new Aromatics Elixir flanker debuts: Aromatics In White. I think a smoky/incense Aromatics Elixir flanker is in order. If you have a long history with Aromatics Elixir…do comment!
Clinique Aromatics Elixir Perfume Spray is available in 10, 25, 45 and 100 ml sizes, $31-70; the 100 ml floral-design bottles at the top of the post are limited edition, buy now or (perhaps) forever lose your chance.
1. Listed notes of: chamomile, rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, moss, patchouli, musk, sandalwood, amber.