Last month I finally found a wonderful Estee Lauder SA with whom I can talk makeup and fragrance without feeling like a freak (and who didn't try to spray me to death with the latest summer spawn of Pleasures). We were discussing the classic Lauder perfumes and I enjoyed the way she described Aliage as an elegant, confident and very womanly. It's not that I disagree with her, but my, how things change! When Estee Lauder launched Aliage in 1972, it was marketed as a "sport fragrance", and as you can see above, the entire 1970s campaign was built around outdoorsy casualness. What we now call "young, clean and fresh" and expect it to smell like fruit and noxious chemicals.
Lauder's Aliage is a grassy green chypre in the familiar 1970s style (Scherrer, Silences, Coriandre and many more). What I'm reviewing here is the recent juice, not vintage, and it's still surprisingly oakmossy, even though it lacks some bite and the development of the fragrance is an almost introverted one and not very Estee Lauder-like.
The opening of Aliage is bracing and cool with green citrus and a hint of spice. There's some remnants of galbanum that I wish were more prominent, or maybe I just compare all 1970s green chypres to Chanel No. 19. This is not No. 19, of course, as Aliage warms up just a little and has a certain soft roundness that is lacking from Chanel, for better and for worse. It's more easy-going, I'd say, even if I don't really subscribe to Tanya Sanchez's assessment of No. 19 as a dominatrix in the boardroom. Aliage is more friendly in its quiet way, though it is very crisp and ladylike.
Incense doesn't appear in any official list of notes for Aliage, but I think there's a shadow of that somewhere in the woodier part of this fragrance. Older breakdowns mention pine needles and the two can sometimes enhance each other, so maybe that's what I'm smelling. In any case, there's a green theme running throughout Aliage's wear, changing from the freshest just-cut grass to the deeper forest hues. It's lovely and if sprayed enough lasts all day without being too obnoxious. And best of all: Aliage is still in production and readily available, even after all these years (go hug your Lauder rep).
Aliage by Estee Lauder ($42, 1.7oz) is available at the counters (you might have to ask for the tester as the display is usually crowded with current bestsellers) and from esteelauder.com.
Aliage ads (1973-1979) via paperpursuits.com
Notes: citrus, jasmine, nutmeg, rose, artemisia, oakmoss, vetiver, cedarwood.