Aromatics Elixir (Perfume) by Clinique

Aromatics Elixir 1971 Perfume

06.01.2013 - 03:26 AM
Top Review

The Mouse that Roared

Clinique's Aromatics Elixir has been somewhat of an oddity since its launch in 1971. At the time, perfume houses were splashing out with big ad campaigns that featured either a celebrity or a supermodel. Chanel No.5 had Deneuve, Charlie had Shelley Hack, Ciara had Lauren Hutton, Tigress had Lola Falana and Chantilly had Kim Alexis.

Meanwhile, AE's advertisements consisted of a bare bones photo of the product itself with no slogan, no artwork and no humans to be seen. However, behind the scenes in the Clinique marketing department some genius hit upon the brilliant idea of promoting AE by inclusion of a small bottle as a "Gift with Purchase" when the customer bought Clinique cosmetics. The gesture was bound to generate good will, as few if any of us can resist a freebie. Although Estee Lauder and other houses soon adopted the GWP strategy, they continued to advertise their perfumes in catchy, colorful fashion while AE stubbornly maintained its plain Jane approach. Fast forward 40 years, and Chantilly, Charlie and Ciara are now languishing on the drugstore shelves while AE still enjoys its cult status from behind department store counters.

This improbably successful fragrance is distinctive and unmistakable, characterized by one of the most bizarre openings in fragrant memory. AE's top notes have been compared to everything from nail polish remover to Chinese herbal medicine. The one thing everyone can agree on is that for better of worse, AE grabs your attention straight out of the bottle with its unusual combo of chamomile and sage. Perhaps Mr. Chant was attempting to tap into the early 70s nature vibe that celebrated the likes of macrame and earth shoes when he crafted those herbal top notes.

After the challenging start, AE rewards the wearer's patience with a blissful floral heart in which a dark rose is the standout but jasmine and ylang are also featured. The earthiness has been replaced by sophisticated elegance, only to cleverly revert back to earthiness with the patchouli and oakmoss dry down. Throughout the perfume's development, the sillage is so enormous that sales associates advised the customer to apply AE by spraying it in the air and walking through the mist instead of putting it directly on the skin.

If AE were launched by a mainstream house today, it would probably flop, as most mainstream fragrances cater to the need for instant impulse gratification with lovely but fleeting top notes. On the other hand, as a contemporary niche release, AE would probably flourish at twice its current modest price. In any event, I suspect that forty years from now, AE will still be part of the fragrant landscape. It is one of those unique perfumes that every fragrance lover ought to try at least once.
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