Monday, October 15, 2007

Aromatics Elixir by Clinique: fragrance review

If you have ever wandered in a dark, damp forest you know the smell of dead leaves trampled underfoot and grasses soaked with bog water. But do you know what trolls smell like? Do you know what the enchanted forest vibrates of? You feel it in the air, you know it in your flesh, the waters speak of it in hushed murmurs...
Elixir. Aromatics Elixir.

The old scent by lab-coated cosmetic giant has nothing clinical about it. Except perhaps for its potency which is phenomenal, accounting for it being immediately recognisable and perceived within a 10-mile radius. It is the one singular scent, a very characteristic chypre, I always compliment on its wearers yet find stifling when I wear it myself. Maybe this is why it introduced the infamous "spray and walk into the mist" technique. It had to! But then "walk into the mist" is so evocative a phrase anyway.

Composed in 1971 by master perfumer Bernard Chant, the same man who created the headstrong Cabochard, a personal favourite for all the right reasons, it bears the powerful signature of intense patchouli and moss in the arms of sandalwood and vetiver. With a base like that it brings to mind the german forests of the brothers Grimm and the scandinavian mythology. The sudden entrance into an apocryphal cave where creation must have begun, in the guts of the earth, fans out powdery notes of coumarin and rose and the bitter taste of good soap. Humble chamomille is mocking you as you bend to pick up some to only come face to face to poisoined mushrooms.

With its dramatic, sad and intense tonality, it reminds me of Aase's Death by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, from "Peer Gynt" (Suite No. 1, Op. 46)
Click to listen to it.

(Uploaded by skszyp on youtube)

This is no laughing matter! No fairies or elves lurk in the dark corners, no Shakespearian lightness, no redemption for the frail of heart. It takes bravado and cojones to wear it and to be prepared to burn in its embrace. Into the embrace of the Dragon, where all things meet their opposites. The future and the past; desire and regret; knowledge and oblivion; and love....oh yes...
Excalibur came as a most welcome shocker to my novice eyes back in 1981, when it introduced me to what later became an obsession and almost a thesis. With its ingenious choice of thespian extraordinaire Nicol Williamson, its ravishing villainess in Helen Mirren alongside other wonderful choices following the masterful baguette of John Boorman it filled my mind with the beautiful, magical imagery of the emerald isle where it was shot and with the gruesome realism of medieval battle coupled with the romanticism of Morte d'Arthur.

Click for a quick taste.

(uploaded by kipesquire on youtube)

Recently there has been a Velvet Sheer version of Aromatics Elixir out (a seemingly oily gel that does contain alcohol nevertheless per Clinique, in a beautiful clear splash bottle with a clear glass top). Lighter, younger, much more wearable, playing up on a more subtle approach of more chamomille and a less animalic base, minus the civet and deep moss.
So if you have qualms, maybe now is the time to step into the enchanted forest and reap the aromatheuraputic benefits it has been purported to have on the psyche since its creation all that time ago. The body products are also an excellent choice as their scent really lingers.
However the old version in parfum is still something to hold in awe, even if you do not like it.

Like Merlin says: "A dream to some, a nightmare to others". Couldn't be more aptly said for Aromatics Elixir.


  1. I unearthed -- the term seems adequate -- a mini of Aromatics Elixir recently during a closet excavation. My first experience was scary, but I'm willing to give it another go just because of your reference to Excalibur, a much-beloved film. I'd watch it just for Helen Mirren and those spectacular, vibrantly green, primeval forests...

  2. Yes, it is scary; I agree!
    But then it's also primeval like those forests. (please compare with the sample I sent from the local brand)

    Glad you love this film as well

  3. Helg--
    AE is one of those scents that I want to love and wear so badly, but simply can't. It develops this strange metallic tang on-skin that I can't get accustomed to. But on others! it's beautiful...I love the darkness you evoke, although to me, it's more warm than anything else...

  4. Anonymous08:17

    Lovely evocation, my dear! I'll have to go sniff AE with that in mind. I've always loved it, but without any specific associations. I love it on others, on myself, the perfect winter scent - a weapon against the cold and melancholy, against the loss of colour on overcast winter days (i.e. most winter days here). Not a comfort scent. A scent to straighten your back, square your shoulders, raise your chin, boost your confidence and dare weather and melancholy to do their best (or worst) to get you down: you know they can never succeed!

  5. Juvy dear,

    I know the feeling. On me it's a typhoon! Omnipresent.
    It's not easy to pull this off and in fact most of the time I love to get whiffs of it on passing strangers. Of course it would be kinda difficult to drag along someone wearing it just for reveling in the sillage, LOL!

    I think you get the animalic element in it well, since you refer to its warmth.

  6. Dear Z,

    thank you.
    I hope your re-sniffing brings back lovely memories.

    The feeling you desrcibe so well wearing it is typical of a true classic chypre I always thought: confidence, strength, determination. Not comfort. Isn't it amazing how a perfume changes our mood?

  7. Confusion03:39

    Aromatics Elixir was the first perfume I fell in love with, the start of my passion for perfume. I was thirteen years old, when I tested it for the first time. Couldn't get it out of my head after that. A few weeks later I bought the 10ml-bottle with money I got to confirmation. The shop assist tried to sell me something ...younger, that this wasn't the scent for a girl like me. No chance.
    I am 40 now, I own more than 600 perfumes (AE was my first love, but not the last or only one), Aromatics Elixir has been with me all the time. Although it's been reformulated, a shame, I have two bottles - a vintage, the fluid became dark brown, it still smells wonderful, and a new one, so I can compare, it is still strong. A little girl, age six years, at the primary school I work, sitting on my legs, hanging at my neck, whispering: Mrs. ..., today I like your perfume, because you're smelling like you." That's the point. AE is "me", it's the "scent of my soul", I feel at home wearing it, it is the perfume I will always come back to.


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