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Bombay Duck London

Clinique Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve

The Scent Critic always wanted to be older than she was.  (Until recently, anyway:  that ambition’s definitely lost its allure.)  So, looking back, my fragrance choices were ludicrously sophisticated for a teenager.  While my friends were swathing themselves in Avon Honeysuckle, my tastes were distinctly more mature – and that’s where Clinique Aromatics Elixir, currently celebrating its fortieth birthday, came in.

There are some scents that, worn by younger women, are the equivalent of stepping into Mummy’s high heeled shoes.  For a 15-year-old, Aromatics Elixir wasn’t akin simply to slipping into her shoes, but borrowing her fur coat, nicking the car keys and her Balkan Sobranie cigarettes and going for a long, illegal drive, topped off with an illicit back-seat snog (with a cigarette chaser) in a wooded clearing.

Although I don’t often wear Aromatics Elixir, nowadays, every few years we have a bit of a reunion and I’m invariably thrilled – upon re-encountering what has gone on to become one of the all-time classic chypres – to rediscover its confident refinement.  It’s the silk lining to a couture coat.  The snap of a vintage alligator evening bag closing.  The click-click-click of heels on a marble floor (Mummy’s, Bette Davis’s, Suzy Parker’s, anyone’s, actually), to me.

Our latest assignation was triggered by the unveiling of a ‘special edition’ to mark Aromatics Elixir’s aforementioned big Four-Oh.  Rather scarily, I not only remember the original launch, but recall saving up weeks of  pocket money for an early bottle.  (Waiting till there was a gift-with-purchase, I think – a concept pioneered by Clinique and other Lauder brands – to make it worth my while to bundle a bottle of the golden juice with one of Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion.)  This new version – a little ‘tweak’ on the original (though very, very slight, if you ask The Scent Critic) – is Limited Edition Perfumer’s Reserve, a ‘modern reinterpretation’ as they put it.

Now, Aromatics Elixir, were it a person, would probably be celebrating its 40th birthday with lunch at Le Cirque.  Or perhaps a getaway to Florence with some skinny-hipped girlfriends for a private art tour of some Palladian villas.  It is that grown-up:  a swirl of sensuality that virtually drifts from the bottle like the smoke from Aladdin’s lamp.  (And it’s the limited-edition bottle that will entice Aromatics Elixir fans back to the counter, actually:  a dark, amber, flower-etched collectible flacon.  Although do beware:  this is not a spray, as I discovered when I unstoppered it while sitting at my desk, and wound up with deliciously fragrant… knees and skirt hem.)

It’s a ‘woody-floral’, technically, with lashings and lashings of patchouli giving that smoky character, without unbalancing the composition.  Allegedly, this reworking is fresher, but it still has the exotic chypre tones of the original.  Definitely exotic from the kick-off:  sandalwood, and rose, with a white flower that never quite tips from woodsiness to florabundance, in my book.  Really, it’s the boom-boom-base of Aromatics Elixir that I love (and which is perhaps a little more understated, in this version):  the thump of musk, amber and vetiver, alongside the patchouli.  Actually, if Aromatics Elixir were a woman, she’d be my kind of chick:  deep, intelligent, bookish, but not too much of a bluestocking to understand the power of lipstick and perfume.

Clinique like to portray it as ‘aromatherapeutic’ (it was the first time I remember reading those words), confected to work on the emotions and moods.  It does have the slightest medicinal quality, in my opinion – those aromatic herbal elements – but all I know is that Aromatics Elixir in all its incarnations makes me feel instantly dressed-up, even in denims.

Nowadays, of course, I have my own rather large collection of high heels, my own car – and heck, even my own wooded clearing, where I’ve been known to go in for a kiss or two.  (With my own husband, FYI.)  But part of me knows that even when I’m tottering on my (leopard-print-covered) Zimmer frame, I’ll still be re-encountering this, with delight.

Aromatics Elixir’s 80th birthday…?  Bring it on.  (But just don’t ask me to help blow out the candles.)




3 comments to Clinique Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve

  • Anna in Edinburgh

    Thanks for reviewing Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve – I saw it in a department store, skidded to a halt, and hesitated; then I scuttled off.

    Now I know that they haven’t tinkered too much with it, I’ll look for it and risk a sniff next time!

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  • dp

    Thank you for a laugh-out-loud, tear-in-the-eye review of not just a fragrance but of memory of fragrance. 40 years has flown by, yet I can still feel the wobble of my mother’s borrowed heels, the thick coating of menthol lites in all our clothing, and the way AE seemed to actually take that tobacco smell and launch a swooning mysterious atmosphere.Hate cigarettes, love AE!
    (I also have always enjoyed Youth Dew and Azuree. Decided I wanted to understand why,where and how they were created and went on a years long perfumery learning binge. Addicted now!)

    Love the new bottle, anxious to try the new juice. Somehow nothing ever lives up to the memories we create!

    Glad to have found your blog.

  • Maruska

    Do any of you know if there was an earlier “limited edition” of the Aromatics Elixir released? Recently I’ve seen several “limited editions” for sale in the typical clear frosted glass bottle on ebay. The contents appear darker than the original. Can anyone confirm or deny these claims? Thank you!

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