Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
It is my firm belief that all great fragrances are polarizing, eliciting a strong response. Whether you love Clinique Aromatics Elixir or find it detestable, it cannot leave you indifferent. Among the legends of American perfumery, it is a fragrance that deserves a chapter of its own. It is bold and confident, with an unusual combination of sultry darkness and austere elegance that marks the best of American chypres such as Estée Lauder Azurée, Private Collection and Knowing. Some fragrances should be smelled simply to know that they exist, and Aromatics Elixir is one of them.
The creator of Aromatics Elixir, the renowned perfumer Bernard Chant, must have been inspired by Christian Dior Diorella, because he used a similar hot-cold accord of patchouli and hedione to weave the structure of this perfume. The end result is very different in character though, with Aromatics Elixir possessing a languid, voluptuous darkness contrasting with the honeyed sweetness of rose and ylang ylang. It opens up on a bitter herbal note laced with lemon, which immediately evokes both Chinese medicinal concoctions and Indian beauty preparations.
After this exotic prelude, the fragrance begins to take on an elegant, dry character with amber, patchouli and vetiver becoming more prominent. The floral layers lend a radiant quality to the orchestration, lightening its heft and smoothing out the rough edges. The sweetness is very minimal in Aromatics Elixir, which functions well as a masculine fragrance. Chant went on to explore a similar idea in Aramis 900, and those men who like this leathery chypre might find Aromatics Elixir equally interesting. It is also related to Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum and Jean Couturier Coriandre, the dark, femme fatale compositions.
Aromatics Elixir was not an immediate love for me. My favorite chypres are lush and velvety a la Guerlain Mitsouko, rather than dark and medicinal. I could appreciate the beauty of the composition, but it seemed like some kind of gorgeous garment that simply did not suit me. As time goes on, I find myself falling more and more under the spell of Aromatics Elixir. Instead of spraying, I dab it on my skin, an application that allows me to enjoy it at a softer volume. Next to the bland florals and sugary gourmands that crowd the Sephora shelves today, it stands out as something otherworldly. While Clinique may not have the cache of some impossible-to-find French niche label, the quality of Aromatics Elixir is such that it can rival most of them.
Those who have been wearing Aromatics Elixir faithfully for years will, no doubt, notice changes in the composition which have become more dramatic over the past few years due to various restrictions on the use of oakmoss, eugenol, Lilial and other important materials. Nevertheless, I find that Aromatics Elixir has weathered all of these changes beautifully, and while it is not identical to the original formula (and to be honest, few fragrances are these days!) it is still splendid.
Clinique Aromatics Elixir includes notes of rose, chamomile, oakmoss, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang ylang, patchouli, musk, amber, and sandalwood. Available widely from various retailers and online.
Sample: my own acquisition