I Was Warned: Aromatic Elixir by Clinique

The only downside of having such fun writers on this blog is that I immediately want to run out and buy whatever they’re writing about. The latest one that hooked me was Portia’s review of Aromatic Elixir by Clinique. It’s not like I wasn’t warned: the phrase “it’s not in fashion to smell like this anymore” was used, and it isn’t. But it should be.

Aromatic Elixir on me starts with aldehydes and bitter herbs. Clary sage and coriander and bone-dry vetiver. It could be something that Germaine Cellier did- it’s almost like the love child of Bandit and Miss Dior. There are florals in there but on me nothing is going to beat back the herbaceous undergrowth. Even the patchouli musk drydown never strays far with the vetiver and oakmoss.

The crazy thing is that this came from Clinique- that lab-coated bastion of clean that’s been hawking skin stripper face products since I was a spotty teen. All of us dutifully went over to that counter and got one of their soaps and one of those Krud Kutter astringents, (at least me) skipping the “dramatically different” moisturizer which looked like pudding, because we were of the benzoil-peroxide generation who thought that your skin in order to be clean must be as devoid of natural oils and squeaky-clean as a newly laid congoleum floor.

Aromatic Elixir doesn’t smell like it came from the lab, it smells like it came from the cauldron.

And for that I love it.

Aromatic elixir is available on the internets and I assume at Clinique counters, where you will pay full price and no doubt have it handed to you with tongs. I purchased my bottle from eBay. Surrender to Chance has samples.

Images: Mine and Wikimedia Commons


  • AnnieA says:

    AE took me back to summer camp: damp canvas tent. In short, not the right kind of nostalgia…

  • Maya says:

    It seems it came from the cauldron has piqued everyone’s interest! Could a bunch of us have been part of a coven of witches and warlocks in a previous lifetime? If so – Hi again everyone. Now I know what I’m going to wear next Halloween. 😉

  • March says:

    Posting from vacation to say YES it always fascinated me that Clinique would have this fragrance with their “clean” aesthetic of the time.

  • Alison says:

    AE when I was younger and find the current version (wait for it) not as strong as it was in the ’80s! Or maybe it’s my nose that’s not as strong. I agree it’s very similar to Bandit.

  • Rina says:

    I tried to love it sooo many times but it HATED me. Then, I met its way more loving and gorgeous Perfumer’s Reserve daub bottle and it was game on! Thanks for reminding me.

    • Tom says:

      It’s funny how that works- remember People of the Labyrinth? Luctor et Emergo? Everybody was crazy about it but on me it was straight-up Play-Doh.

      • MzCrz says:

        Oh, that PoTL was a scrubber! I just about sold my soul to get some, and yeh…Play Doh.

        Remember Dinner by Bobo?!

      • Musette says:

        Play-D’oh: Anne Pliska ( which I shouted out at 2am ( the PD part – had been trying all day to parse that note). Testament to my ongoing insanity.. neither El O nor any of the dogs even noticed… just kept on snoring

      • Maya says:

        PoTL was awful on me too.

        • Tom says:

          I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone really stand up for it that I know. Maybe an emperors new clothes situation?

          • MzCrz says:

            That was back in the day when there was no Luckyscent or Surrender to Chance. Makeupalley was a very popular site then, and when a new scent came out, there was an insane scramble to be the first to have it. I always thought people who raved about some of the (awful) hard to get stuff were doing so with all their fingers crossed as they secretly sighed with regret.

          • Tom says:

            You’re right. LuckyScent came along after Anne P (pardonnez-moi, “Anné”) already had some buzz. Long after I guess.

            I see you can still get it at LuckyScent.

  • Dina C. says:

    I went to my local Macy’s the same day as Portia’s post, and at their Clinique counter, the AE was hidden away behind a little cabinet in the gleaming white shelving unit. The strength of it on the blotter strip was nuclear powered, and it continued to scent my straw handbag for a week until I finally took it out and trashed it. I appreciate it, but I couldn’t wear it.

    • Tom says:

      I’m wearing it after a hot shower with Mrs Meyers Tomato Leaf soap and I think I smell gorgeous! I also would not be surprised if you could smell me from your house.

  • Jennifer S says:

    Ok. I will admit. Even tho I really like AE, I’m pretty much a wuss when it comes to application as I do the spray and walk thru with this one. Yep…

    • Tom says:

      Do you walk through while you’re wearing clothes? That’s a big myth of application- that that’s the way to be the most effacing. It’s not. Spray on your body and allow it to dry before getting dressed. It stays far closer that way, I’ve found.

      • Jennifer S says:

        More like spray and wave my bare arms through the mist!

        • Tom says:

          You are a careful applier! Good for you! I had a dear friend who used to drench herself- 20-30 sprays. She did it once in Agent Provacateur with their original one and I had to leave.

          And another friend asked me to never buy her then-husband Guerlain Vetiver because he would put so much on when dressing for his film location at 4am the smell would wake her up.

  • rosarita says:

    AE has been on my sample list for ages as I think I would love it. You convinced me with the word cauldron.
    As for Clinique, does anyone remember Simply? It smelled like tea with a little cream. Sadly discontinued.

    • Thomas Pease says:

      Was that a Clinique? I don’t remember, but honestly I didn’t really pay attention to skin care lines scent lines. I know Erno Lazslo had one back in the day as well but I never smelled it. Might have to research that.

  • cinnamon says:

    This does not sound like it would be me but I am going to try it anyway due to it being ‘almost like the love child of Bandit and Miss Dior’ and because it ‘smells like it came from a cauldron’. I’m all in with that.

  • Musette says:

    LOL! Honeydoodle! Aromatics of Dooooom! is one of my betes-noire. In fact… other than Opium (which is like yellowcake on me) it is the one scent that has the half-life of plutonium – I can smell it for months after – probably because it has permeated my deepest organs.

    And not in a good way.

  • alityke says:

    Aromatics Elixir was from the amazing nose, Bernard Chant. Cellier’s creative twin. His work for Lauder/Clinique/Aramis was phenomenal. You must check out all his creations. All out of fashion. More fool fashion IMHO!

    Back to enabling. I FOUND THE ALVAREZ GONEZ THE WAITRESS WAS WEARING!!! Have a look at alitykescents for my thoughts

    • Tom says:

      Ooooh, yay! Can’t wait to read!

      • Tom says:

        Love the blog, love the read. Sadly, the orange one isn’t on Amazon here. I’ll have to make a trip downtown and see if there are any bodegas left on Broadway or have they all been turned into espresso parlors and microbreweries where you have to wear ironic hats.

        • alityke says:

          Try makeupstore.com ship to the US, thesoapbar.com
          Sobelia.com even Walmart seem to stock it!
          I need to try the Barberia version now

  • Portia says:

    “Aromatic Elixir doesn’t smell like it came from the lab, it smells like it came from the cauldron” GENIUS!! and so freaking true.
    Glad to have enabled you Tom.
    Portia xx

  • Kathleen says:

    Your posts are so much fun to read Tom, thank you. I also wore Aromatics Elixir after being inspired by Portia’s review. I hadn’t sniffed it in awhile and am sure glad to be reminded of its beauty. Me the vintage perfume fan always thinks it should be in fashion to smell like this!

  • Maya says:

    March did to me what Portia did to you. So to eBay I went for Clarins Eau Dynamisante and found one I wanted. And now you are finishing what Portia started. You mentioned both Germaine Cellier and “it came from the cauldron” so Aromatic Elixir is next. Sigh! 🙂

  • Richard says:

    Overall, it is a very strong contender for IYCOHOF (if you could only have one fragrance), IMHO. Masterpiece.