Aromatics Elixir was the perfume of other people's mothers. My mom used to walk in a cloud of white flowers, wafting tuberose, orange blossom, and jasmine with a tropic flair that stood out among the billowing green chypres of the 1970s. Aromatics Elixir by Clinique was one of the most recognizable and persistent fragrances I remember from those years, a scent that lingered in hall closets and teachers' lounges. My mom couldn't stand it (she dislikes chypres in general), and I was sufficiently intimidated by Aromatics Elixirs that it took me decades to stick my nose in it again, and by that time it was not what it used to be.
I've recently got back to this classic Clinique, after a friend had asked me if it was still a good perfume. Surprisingly or not, I've fallen in love. It's true that Aromatics Elixir has lost most of its bite. If you remember it as a patchouli, oakmoss, and even more patchouli monster, you'll find that the beast has been neutered. The patchouli has been power-washed and smoothed, and as oakmoss as a raw material has been reconstructed, the modern use of it is tamer and lighter. It can be disappointing (it often is), but in the case of the current Aromatics Elixir version, the reformulation allows other notes to shine without being smothered.
Take rose, for example. It's the heart and soul of AE, and is now more clearly defined by a crunchy, thorny, and green spiral of leaves and herbs. It's the first time I fully get the Aromatics part, and it's a bracing and rather wonderful. Vetiver is more dominant, making the scent dryer and probably even less gender-specific than it's ever been (I've always thought that in a blind testing Aromatics Elixir would be pegged as unisex). Herbal, peppery, and very much alive, the only nod to my childhood I smell is in the abundance of red geranium. I'm being reminded of the way crushing juicy geranium stems between my fingers used to feel and smell, and how I used to rub them all over my hands. There are far less secrets hidden in Aromatics Elixir as it is today. It's more open, and easier to approach. Kind of like meeting an intimidating teacher or neighbor from your past and discovering you can have an adult conversation of equals.
One thing that hasn't changed at all is the perfume's longevity. Aromatics Elixir is still incredibly potent, and it lingers on clothes and bedding. It's a proper perfume, even with all the sunshine that was let in. It's as sophisticated and layered as one hopes to find in a good perfume, and amazingly, you can get it at Ulta.
Aromatics Elixir by Clinique ($54, 1.5 eau de parfum) is available anywhere Clinique products are sold.