One of the many sad things about the disappearance of the Prescriptives brand was the loss of Calyx: one of the freshest, greenest, light-as-a-helium-balloon fragrances ever to have been captured in a bottle. Well, it’s back, sheltering under a different part of the Estée Lauder umbrella (Aramis and Designer Fragrances). Saved for the scent-loving nation(s). Hallelujah. In 1986, when Calyx launched, it was so innovative – with a light transparency floral-fruitiness that kick-started a trend for so many me-toos. If it was a drink, Calyx would be a Pimm’s – or a spritzer of Sauvignon blanc. It really is very different – and peerless, if you ask me, in its category.
Re-encountering Calyx again at last week’s Chelsea Flower Show (where better for a landmark relaunch?), I felt as excited as the very first time I smelled it. First: a tangy whoosh of grapefruit so intense and real it almost creates the illusion of hitting you in the eye, not the nose – as if you’ve plunged your nails into a grapefruit to peel it. (For some bizarre reason, I always sneeze – just twice – at this moment in Calyx’s development on the skin. Twice. Every time. Never more, never less – but it doesn’t make me any less fond of it.)
Suddenly, it’s all ripe melon, tart passionfruit and a tiny sprig of spearmint. Then almost immediately, you’re in an orange or a grapefruit grove, at blossom-time: heady, but uplifting. And just when you start to think this is a fruit salad in a bottle, intense lily-of-the-valley and slightly softer jasmine start to creep in – making this an incredibly interesting fragrance to follow (with your nose) as it evolves on the skin.
Last of all? Officially the base notes are oakmoss, musk and cedar, but it never gets down-and-dirty, remaining clear and enduringly fresh. Anyway, most people I know who wear Calyx don’t get to experience the dry-down much – simply because they’re addicted to the zesty overture, and can’t stop spritzing. It’s impossible to smell Calyx without feeling summery, even on the dullest winter day, yet I’ve always found it works on the senses like an instant icy cool-down when you’re feeling over-heated.
In fact, Calyx’s creator Sophia Grojsman – probably the most commercially successful ‘nose’ ever (who works for International Flavors and Fragrances, a.k.a. IFF) – says she still sprays on Calyx whenever she needs cheering up. We should probably all have a bottle handy for mood S.O.S.-es. And now, once again, we can. (Has it changed from the original? My nose tells me: just a touch, probably because so many fragrance ingredients have been banned since its launch. Is it as good? Still as dew-fresh and lovely as ever, I’d say.)