Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Clinique Aromatics in White: fragrance review

It's easy to get immersed in the White Bear Problem while reading Clinique's laconic message for their newer fragrance Aromatics in White.

 Pretty. Intense.

 What does your mind "read"? Pretty intense, right?

As Dostoevsky wrote in 1863, "Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute."

In a way Aromatics in White is both things; both at once, but not one stressing itself upon the other.
It's a quite decent and very contemporary modernization of what has been the Great Dragon of the Clinique stable of thoroughbreds, Aromatics Elixir. The company is of course owned by the Lauder Group and the same IFF perfumers, like the legendary Bernand Chant have worked for both outfits ~the archetype is his handiwork, as is Aramis for men -another Lauder offshoot-, Lauder's own Azuree perfume and Alliage.

The classic Aromatics Elixir, is the scent that half of Athens, Greece, smells of. (The other half smells of car exhaust, lush jasmine vines, roasted coffee and charcoal smoke from diners. It'd make a pretty intense and pretty great perfume; indie perfumers take note!) Its commercial success is uncanny, for decades on end; it can't be just a generational thing, but something much more ingrained in the country and its cultural "chypre" heritage. After all history is a hard subject to shoot down...

Hardcore chypres are nothing if not head-strong, and thus the original is much derided, polarizing its audience; from mad love to "old lady" slurs of disgust, "a dream to some, a nightmare to others!".
The need for what I call "chypres nouveaux" was therefore latent all through the 2000s and the smashing success of Narciso Rodriguez for Her recalibrated what we consider a "modern chypre fragrance". (It's basically a floral woody musky and if you have guessed by now that Aromatics in White is one, you'd be more or less correct).

Consequently the senior Aromatics, with its dynamite rose-n'-patchouli core, had already been lightened with Aromatics Elixir Sheer Velvet Philtre Sensuel (try saying that quickly three times) from 2006 and Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve from 2011. The arrival of the new edition couldn't skip the sophisticated contemporary style that recently begat things like Si perfume by Armani or La Panthere by Cartier.

"I have always been fascinated with the magic of Aromatics Elixir and its attraction on the skin. I wanted to convey that feeling with a new, modern composition," stated perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu on the occasion of creating Aromatics in White.

Aromatics in White is particularly musky (and I'm glad fellow blogger Persolaise agrees), intensely patcoulisized and quite sweet in a sort of arabesque way, though not quite (no leaden "amber note"). Notice the prolonged, very pleasant powdery-soapy drydown that is simple but not simplistic. Its volume is turned down, yet its impact is keenly felt. And if you think you're not smelling it after a while, lean in cause it keeps itself alive on clothes like crazy.
All of these definitely put Aromatics in White into the contemporary map of worth-whiles (and the fluid, mother-of-pearl like austerity of the bottle is a bonus), but it might never really surpass the Sacred Beast that speaks the Charm of Making. Some things are immortal, even if they're not for everyone.

Fragrance Notes for Clinique Aromatics in White:
Top: Sichuan pepper, violet leaves, labdanum
Heart: rose, orange blossom, patchouli
Base: leather, musk, grey amber, benzoin, vanilla. 


  1. Interesting.
    The most popular scents here in India for women are jasmine, rose, and sandalwood. Rarely have I ever detected patchouli alone or in any combination on anyone in India. Strange, because patchouli is commercially grown from the Tamil states in south India to the far northeastern Assam. I'm originally from California & I've smelled far more patchouli on Californians be they old 'hippies', teenaged 'mall rats', or fashionably upscale 'Tori Burch' types than on Indians.
    There seems to be a recent trend in these perfumes with 'new, modern compositions' of taking classic Oriental/Arabesque combinations like rose & patchouli and 'westernizing' them by adding vanilla & musks or even super sweet fruit notes creating the 'candy corsage' effect so popular with the under 30 crowd. Recall the last few years when we went through many such permutations with the classic Oriental/Arabesque ingredient Oudh.
    The scent of patchouli varies so much I wonder if it's mostly due to growing conditions, methods of preparation, or individual body chemistry? Patchouli can be camphorous, almost cannabis like, woodsy, powdery, musty, sweet, resinous, & probably more that I can't think of now!

    1. Thank you Bibi for your illuminating comment. I hadn't imagined that India was bereft of one of its prime materials! (and one which is so beloved all over the world). It does have a hippy association, very true.

      I love your description and naming of this sweet trend as a "candy corsage". I think you're on to something! Two main directions is exactly this patchouli candy corsage trend and the rose-oudh one (inspired by the Middle East and probably aiming at the westerner-leaning buyers in the Middle East, since it's mostly luxury companies issuing the latter).

      Patchouli like all natural products does vary with terroir. But I also think that its place in a composition can render it more or less camphoraeuous, more or less sweet, more or less chocolate-like. Context, I mean, accounts for the end effect, probably as much as the variations in the batch used.

  2. "The other half smells of car exhaust, lush jasmine vines, roasted coffee and charcoal smoke from diners. It'd make a pretty intense and pretty great perfume; indie perfumers take note!"

    I thought exactly the same!

    1. Ha, glad you did!! :-)
      If only someone would exploit this idea further!

  3. Clover01:52

    This post made me want to revisit my bottle of Aromatics Elixir. I do that every once in a while and then can't decide if I love it or will never touch it again. Inevitably, I do come back to it and repeat the cycle of confusing feelings all over again. It is such an intriguing scent. Today was a totally love it day! It was hot in Boston and I found that AE really bloomed in the heat. I'll be wearing it more often this summer for sure! At least that's how I feel today. . . I will have to check out Aromatics in White next time I'm near a Clinique counter.

    1. I can totally see that. It's a great typhoon of a scent and it's not easy to love it on one's self all the time, all day long. I absolutely adore it on strangers, find it sometimes engulfing on myself. I highly recommend you use the body products, which give great scent volume without too much sillage, it's not like jet exhaust trailing for hundreds of miles.... :-D

      There's something to what you say about heat opening up the scent too. I find that among heavy perfumes it's one which performs surprisingly well during the hot Greek summers. It just seems to mingle with the surroundings, you know? Telling since "chypre" does lend itself to the Eastern Mediterranean; one can't escape history, though they try.
      For that reason, and its commercial success, Apivita (a Greek company) have made a very friendly and very accurate "dupe" that is competitively priced (and is easier to wear) called Earth; you can find it at Amazon I believe. I had done a comparison on this link, in the (distant) past.

      AiW is worth sampling: if you like sweetish (but restrained, classy) patchoulis with that prolonged musky feel it's very easy to like. Not sure you'd invest, but do try it all the same.

  4. I have never liked the original Helg but this new one is OK . Would I plonk my $ down at the store for it - no.

    1. I can see what you mean on both accounts. The former is love it or hate it, but the new one is milder and therefore those who like it might hesitate to invest. Cuts both ways, I guess.


  5. Do you have Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon with you? Spray both and you will see an interesting quotation of LBDD in Aromatics In White :)

    1. Very astute observation. I should compare (I have a mini parfum extrait).
      They both go back to the "Cola" accord, I guess. I just love that they did this for a modern creation.


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