From the Editor’s Desk: Legendary Scents – Clinique Aromatics In White review

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     It recently occurred to me that I almost never write about Clinique, and it got me wondering why? When I was working in retail it was one of the top brands I recommended for skincare products, but I’ve never really written about anything Clinique on this blog (save for this winter beauty feature). So in today’s Legendary Scents review I want to talk about one of their most iconic fragrances, or rather its successor, Aromatics in White.

The original Aromatics Elixir from 1975. Image courtesy of FragranceNet.com

     Aromatics in White arrived 43 whole years after the original Aromatics Elixir stole the hearts of a whole generation (my own grandmother included). It was revered the world over for its intensity and longevity, and it is of little surprise that original perfumer Bernard Chant also created the equally adored scents of the time Estée and Aramis (all three labels owned by the Estée Lauder Companies). Elixir was a powerhouse of retrospectively old-fashioned ingredients, such as aldehydes, carnation, geranium, orris root, patchouli and musk. It was love it or hate it, and for me it was definitely hate it. Every time I smell it I feel attacked. My nose can only take so much, and besides when you have a scent representing a whole generation it is only natural for the young things to reject it.

     Therefore Nicolas Beaulieu, perfumer from International Fragrances & Flavors, saw it fit to reinvent Elixir for a modern woman (or man). At the time he was a relatively unproven choice for the task, with only two mainstream releases under his belt. To assign such an important and heavy project on the man seemed dangerous. They ran the risk of alienating fans of the old juice and ruining the franchise name for the new generation. He had to tread carefully or fall through the fragile ice floors of the high street. Nobody would look at him again if he failed to treat the elderly perfume with respect.

Clinique Aromatics In White

© Gil Segev 2016

     Housed in the same bottle as the original with subtle changes, Aromatics in White is beautiful to look at. The tall and elegant glass bottle, in pure milky white, reflects light in the likeness of mother of pearl. The gold rim of the cap sits atop the smooth shoulders of the bottle, which is slimmer than the original and reversible. It was released in 2014 in 50 and 100 ml sizes, and today can be found at FragranceNet.com for $45.49* for the pictured bottle. The tagline at the time of release was “Pretty. Intense,” which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways but never in a way that actually reflects the juice (more on that in a moment).

     What Beaulieu ended up doing was picking only the most vital elements of Elixir to incorporate in its new iteration. The goal was, apparently, to make it resemble its former identity by only a long shot. When it sits on the skin is it hard to draw a connection between the two, though it somehow still evokes the old classic. For his top notes he built an accord of labdanum, violet leaf and Sichuan pepper, showing that Clinique has grown not only in size but also international appeal since 1975. Patchouli, rose and orange blossom make up the surprisingly uninspired heart of the perfume, with vanilla, amber, musk and benzoin making up the base. It would seem that in the base in particular the notes are designed to play off one another and not shout in your face. Perhaps that is the trick to taming the beast.

     Aromatics in White is, first and foremost, powdery. If you don’t like powder scents, you will not enjoy it. Think baby powder, or maybe expensive baby soap, with a touch of clean laundry in the sun (that’s the musk speaking). The rose in combination with patchouli form this bizarrely attractive balmy scent that’s been coated in this powder, and is topped only by a nose-tickling sweetness rising from beneath with the benzoin and vanilla. Words such as creamy, luxurious, and soft come to mind to describe the smell. It bears resemblance slightly to Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison and maybe more than a little to Puredistance White. I think of chocolates in brittle pastel candy shells when I smell it.

Aromatics In Black, the counterpart to In White. Image courtesy of FragranceNet.com

     To conclude, I think Nicolas did more than a fine job in reinventing Elixir, but I’m left wondering whom the intended audience for In White might be after all the admittedly necessary changes. It is not attractive to fans of the original for it is, if anything, a skimpy version of the elaborately clad aroma, yet it is hard to imagine anyone younger than 40 years of age slipping it on casually. Perhaps, then, it is not meant to replace Elixir at all, but to provide an alternative to its haters, a way to stick it to those who turned up their nose. In that case, job well done, Clinique. I am now a believer. Expect more reviews to follow, especially once I get my paws on the just-announced Aromatics Black Cherry.


*Prices true at time of writing.


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