Aromatics Elixir by Clinique (With a Footnote on Context)

Does anyone smell a scent like Aromatics Elixir for the first time and actually like it? I am not so sure, and I continue to be dubious. But why? Aromatics Elixir, to me, represents the pinnacle of good classic perfumery in a number of strong ways.

Aromatics Elixir is a perfume. It’s not a scent – it’s a composed perfume! It smells like how I have always thought a real perfume ought to smell: largely abstract for the most part but also saturated with natural smelling herbal qualities, which lend a deeply balsamic feel with a dusky darkness, riddled with different shades of deep earthy tones approaching black. It is not at all saccharine either, but reservedly stoic and seemingly unapproachable on the outside with an aching confidence. Grand without being opulent. It’s a mature smell – strikingly distinguished in the way that one can smell a handful of contemporary works and be well assured that none will capture the same herbal moodiness or oily voluptuousness of patchouli the way Aromatics Elixir has. It’s a glorious thing.

Aromatics Elixir reminds me to consider the pull of context. Aromatics Elixir is divisive. Sales assistants don’t want to spray this (Kouros suffers the same infliction). It is at odds with what a contemporary market considers to be a fragrance; it reads as unapproachable to the uninitiated. But Aromatics is a tonic for the perfumed soul. It is a chypre enhanced with generous brushstrokes of herbs: the flat yellow-green of chamomile makes a strong appearance as a top note, as does a tinge of clary sage, and the fulsome, length-giving breath of coriander seed. These notes connect immediately to the base note of oakmoss, which provides a firm foundation to the pyramid. Bergamot is pushed to the extremity of tarriness retaining a pungent freshness, it is almost petrol-like and thickly viscous.

Photo by Clinique

To me, Aromatics bears a comparable intensity of green as Chamade – whilst Aromatics moves down to earth with its grounding base of incense, the big robustness of animalic patchouli, and the long oily quality of ylang ylang it develops earthy tones of olive and brown. In contrast, Chamade hovers upwards – closer with the celestial quality of iris rather than the salubrious growl of rose and patchouli in Aromatics. And in that way, Aromatics reads like a chypre affixed with a middle accord of rose and patchouli that adds a depth which grows darker over time. The fresh solar tenacity of muguet and sultry orange blossom keeps things interesting in Aromatics Elixir, while you can also find reverberations of spicy carnation.

Aromatics Elixir represents a period of taste in perfume that is no longer mainstream today, but as a composition, it reflects a healthy construction. It has a timbre that is fiery and serious. It is completely and passionately perfumed. Meditative in small dosages and enormous when generosity is focal. It is well worth close inspection. It is not at all dated either. A good perfume like Aromatics transcends the lock of context.¹

Fiery Herbal Chypre.

Subjective rating: 4.5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

¹ On Context: As fragrance is explored and viewed with intellectual intention, it becomes much harder to draw the boundary lines which lump time and place (context) and composition and form (style) together, because perfume becomes objectively appreciable in itself. They must be separated in the interest of analysis. For instance, young and old become a highfalutin myth, and also consider the following historical categorical markers: nineties aquatics, soft orientals from the late twentieth century, Jicky as the first Modern perfume, pre-modern Eaux de Colognes, and so on. They are locked into a certain period of time. My problem? If Bernard Chant produced Aromatics Elixir not in 1971, but on the same day L’Eau d’Issey (1992) or CK One (1994) was released, is its value then diminished? I just can’t stomach that possibility, especially when looking at beautiful and structurally sound fragrances.
Context is inescapable (as established in earlier posts), and despite the prior examples being good historical categorical markers, fragrances ought not to be judged on the basis of its period. The lumping of context and style attaches and locks a stylistic framework with a period, and that is utterly erroneous. In essence, I urge to consider fragrance in itself and beyond its historical context. Rather – as notes in a specific arrangement.
This, of course, is not always so easy in practice, in fact – I do not know if this is even achievable. Do I presuppose context when I refer to fragrances as classical or Modern in its analysis? Classical, for instance, implies a period and a new originating style within that period. Indeed, I do presuppose. But, as said before, it helps.

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