A few years ago, when the Powers That Be at Estee Lauder (the corporation, not the brand) decided to do away with the underperforming Prescriptives, they made the wise choice to keep producing and selling Calyx, Prescriptives' perfume, that had a loyal following since it was launched in the late 1980s. Thus, while Prescriptives counters were folded and a core of leftover makeup/skin care items was exiled to an online-only shop, Calyx was relocated to other Lauder counters, often Clinique or next to bottles of Aramis.
Calyx, a Sophia Grojsman creation, is a fruity green perfume, centered around guava fruit. And that, my friends, spells trouble. Guava trees have a very distinct stench. They smell like decaying and rotting fruit even before the guavas start to ripen. A bowl of these fruit left on the counter make me want to jump out of the window. Which means I really shouldn't mess with this perfume, right?
But I did.
The first blast of guava in the opening of Calyx is always a bit trying, but I keep an open mind about it, because at least it's unusual, interesting and not a melon. Then things become neon green, sharp like a blade of grass that gives you the garden equivalent of a paper cut. Still, it's green and greener, even if not quite natural smelling. It reminds me of a former neighbor who fed her kitchen garden some radioactively-looking hyper-green fertilizer. Her green beans were humongous and scared me out of my organic mind*.
I can deal with lots and lots of greens. I actually like it. But Calyx become unbearably synthetic and so unpleasant it gives a physical reaction and turns my stomach. Between the rotting fruit, artificial greens and plastic muguet, the current formulation of Prescriptives' semi-classic is unbearable to me. There is a quick respite before the perfume disappears into the ether (about 40 minutes after spraying), when I can actually smell real vetiver and marigold, but then it's all gone and leaves me with a slightly off taste in my mouth.
I don't know how Calyx used to smell way back when. The official notes include oakmoss, so you can bet your vintage perfume collection that things have changed significantly since 1987. I also have no idea about the fragrance's concentration: all it says on the packaging and various websites that sell the current Calyx is "Exhilarating Fragrance". I'm guessing the current concentration is weaker than the guidelines for an EDT, but Lauder/Prescriptives feared that an eau de cologne label might confuse their customers as the word "cologne" is usually reserved for men's fragrance. By the way, I don't think Calyx is particularly feminine. It's an equal opportunity scrubber.
*In the end, both my neighbor's hyper-beans and my modest organic broccoli were eaten by Steve the groundhog.
Notes: grapefruit, mandarin, passion fruit, mango, papaya, guava, freesia, muguet, neroli, rose, lily, jasmine, marigold, oakmoss, orris, sandalwood and vetiver.
Calyx by Prescriptives ($52, 1.7 oz "Exhilarating Fragrance") is available at Macy's. The sample I used was sent from Estee Lauder for my consideration.
Art: Maria Sibyla Merian, Branch of guava tree with leafcutter ants, army ants, pink-toed tarantulas, c. 1701-5