Calyx (1986), the one and only, was referred to several times on Smellyblog, but never received its own spotlight. It was the fact that it has tagetes that renewed my interest in it, even though it has been in my possession for over two years. I was gifted a vintage bottle (from the days when it still belonged to Prescriptives) in winter 2020. The circumstances where unusual: I was invited by Daphna Margolin to sniff her osmanthus bushes, a smell she's obsessed with and is fortunate to grow in her garden in the humid coastal belt, despite all expert opinion on where osmanthus could and should grow; and to experience her womb sculpture, which she assured me would be a safe sensory haven for my daughter.

Daphna is an Eco-Tech artist whose work explores the intersection between ecology, technology, science and art. Many of her pieces are interactive and question our sensory world, and the way we perceive and process sensory information. Wonderfully, she is also a perfume connoisseur, and has a huge collection that fills an entire room. It was so special to meet a kindred spirit, enjoy her vegan persimmon mousse in the middle of a cold spell of winter that even affected the usually mild-weathered central Israel, and share our passion for fragrance, art and out-of-the-box sensory processing. She made my daughter feel welcome and comfortable, and gifted her with one of her Calyx bottles, which we both agree smells a lot like fresh osmanthus flowers. 

Since then, Calyx holds a special place in my heart, as a memory of that special evening visiting Daphna. Admittedly, I don't ever wear it, but simply remove the cap and smell the bottle every once in a while. It has such a distinctive scent! 

Calyx was in some ways a pioneer, and inspired so many other fruity-florals, including countless ancillary products with fruity-floral fragrances, the most recognizable of all being Herbal Essence. So it is hard now to think of Calyx out of this context, and taking it seriously takes some thinking out of the (shampoo) bottle.  

To be fair, it is not exactly the first of its genre, it was preceded by almost a decade by Anaïs Anaïs (1978), with which it shares many points. But like everything that comes out of Sophia Grojsman's hands, no matter how fresh it may be - it always oozes warmth and coziness, as if it's a well-wrapped hug, sealed with a hot matriarchal kiss. 

Grojsman's work is an example for how a perfumer's personality comes through their creations, and how when a perfumer - no matter how large is the corporation they belong to - remains authentic and true to themselves, their perfume can also be popular at the same time. I love the story behind this fragrance, which is a visit to Israel, the scent of grapefruit blossoms and that explains a lot about both the sheer cheer that this scent exudes, as well as its connection to this culture. Fragrances that are fresh yet strong are a very characteristic of what you'll smell around here on people and in their homes. 

Calyx opens with that distinctive fruity and burst of freshness. It is very juicy but isn't any particular citrus; it's comes across as very sweet, but it is not cloying in any way. When a perfume with everyday references (such as gourmand or fruity notes) is done right, it gives suggestions and hints, and is not an obvious fruity. This is a long lost art, in a world filled with new perfumes of very loud and obvious fruit statements. Smelling Calyx reminds us how a fruity perfume can be both sophisticated and fun. 

While many of Grojsman's fragrances are monolithic (AKA linear), Calyx goes through a few phases throughout its skin performance. It starts very fruity, which is my favourite part (and perhaps why I like to just sniff the bottle over and over again). It continues to be more of a floral-green, alluding to its literal meaning, which is the part of the flower anatomy that holds the petals in place (at least for some time). 

So just like a flower that is bright and showy and fragrant, Calyx begins very colourful and fruity and juicy, intriguing and sensual. There is a long list of fruity players in this harmony (passionfruit, mango, guava, melon raspberry and perhaps even papaya). However, I'm not really picking out any of them. There is a feeling of the idea of a fruit but its identity is vague. And of course it is an olfactory illusion created by pairing some unusual notes together - grapefruit, tagetes (marigold), rose and spearmint of all things.

The fruity phase, which is adorable and uplifting, fades out in a blink of an eye, and feeling is that you've drank its nectar too fast and greedily plucked all the petals within minutes. What remains in one's hand is a shiny green goblet of greenery, with a nice long stem as a handle, and this is the phase that lingers the longest. Green floral, with the minty notes coming to the forefront, creating a feeling of a dewy garden on an early summer day. Walking on the moist grass barefoot, and greeting the flowers and herbs. There is a pretty lily of the valley that is quite dominant, the other flowers (rose and jasmine) are more subdued, acting only as harmonizers. I am renown for having a difficult relationship with pretty florals dominated with lily of the valley and greens - part of me craves the loveliness and prettiness, and another part of me feels undeserving; Then it all gets to my head and becomes too sharp and screechy to bear, as if doused with too much euphoria. Calyx somehow stays balanced with a warmth whose source is invisible and inexplicable. 

Calyx lingers on my skin for hours, and the dry down has some continuity of the middle phase, maintaining the green for a long time, before it mostly boils down to oakmoss, cedar and musk.

Top notes: Grapefruit, Mandarin, Bergamot, Passionfruit, Guava, Mango, Papaya, Spearmint

Heart notes: Lily of the Valley, Tagetes, Rose, Jasmine, Melon, Neroli

Base notes: Cyclamne, Raspberry, Oakmoss, Cedar, Musk 

Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve: Scented Tragicomedy in Three Acts

Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve was created as a limited edition for this cult fragrance's 40th anniversary in 2011, by IFF perfumer Laurent Le Guernec. With the wonderful rendition of the scent in the Velvet Sheer formulation, I was confident this would capture my heart, and the reviews I read on reputable blogs supported that naive assertion.

With the first incensey swirl of resinous myrrh and fruity plum-like roundness and a mysterious floral back-note, I was intrigued for exactly three minutes. The intriguing opening, true to Elixir's heritage, was unfortunately succeeded by  a generic, run-of-the-mill Egyptian musk accord. It was lovely in Lovely (co-created by Le Guernec and Clement Gavary), but completely out of place in this reinterpretation of a classic in the caliber of Aromatics Elixir. It takes over and dominates with a very superficial, scrubbed-clean "sensuality" that will taint my pleasure of this perfume for the remainder of it's duration on the skin.

Put the musk distraction aside (if you can), and this is what you'll smell: Opening notes true to the Aromatic Elixir herbaceous powerhouse, a melange of flowers and herbs over dark woodsy patchouli and vetiver - but with a twist. Smouldering myrrh is the first hint that this is a different story altogether, and quite promising at that. Salicilic florals come to the fore, hinting only vaguely at a velvety-fruity tuberose and a dark orange blossom absolute, but never clearly smelling like either, and this is the point in which the composition disintegrates (only a few minutes into the show). What becomes more apparent is dusky alpha ionone, reminiscent of dark plum, black violets and cedarwood. There is only a suggestion of tuberose and orange blossom, without fully developing that idea, and once the violets subsides, the perfume seems to disintegrate entirely, being taken over by the most generic and to my nose rather vile Egyptian Musk accord in the likes of Narciso Rodriguez Musc for Her Oil (a silicone formulation).

Slowly but surely, you realize that perhaps it's not all that bad (meaning: not only musk pervails here, though it certainly predominates from the 3rd second): vetiver has in fact won the supporting role. And that is rather good news. It's a cleaner and leaner vetiver than that of the original, making me think that it's probably not vetiver at all, but rather vetiverol - the vetiver alcohol that gives it the distinctive green-woody-tart aroma. And sadly it is not as satisfying as the complex, smoky Bourbon vetiver of Aromatics Elixir, which gives the original its otherworldly, almost spiritual character.

After several hours of very confusing development, the most surprising note of all emerges. As if by a process of reverse osmosis, lemon verbena, otherwise a rather fleeting bridge note (between heart and top) is what occupies the dry down, and for hours on end. This is definitely not something I could have predicted, and while it is a nice surprise (and much more welcome than the sickly Epygtian Musk) - it does not justify the Aromatic Elixir title. It's such a sharp shift in the plot - opposite to, say, "An Affair to Remember" which begins as a comedy and ends up dramatic if not tragic. Rather, this Perfumer's Reserve plays like a drama ending up as a comedy - a triple somersault performed by a juicy acrobat dressed up in bright orange colours alluding to Clinique's other best-seller, the ever citrusy, lighthearted and non-demanding "Happy". 

Cons: Despite its very characteristic opening, it is not truly worthy of the Aromatics Elixir lineage. 
Pros: I am probably going to keep it for the bottle regardless, and hope that it grows on me eventually - enough to run out of it so I can fill it with the real elixir.

Top Notes: Musk, Myrrh, Vetiver, Sage, Patchouli, Plum, Chamomile
Heart Notes: Musk, Violet, Orange Blossom, Tuberose
Base Note: Musk, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Lemon Verbena

Aromatics Elixir

From time to time, revisiting a perfume that I didn't quite connect with right away proves to be a worthy endeavor. Aromatics Elixir is case in point: a perfume that I sought out on the recommendation of a customer, and found to be quite impossible to handle. That was probably sometime in 2003. I found it overbearing, medicinal, over-the-top herbacous and densely earthy; the type of perfume that when a student shows me something similar I would dismiss as "muddy".  And I won't even tell you how many times a similar mud-brew came under my own hands before I thought I knew better... So the mudiness was not anything new to me, in case you wondered; only that in Aromatics Elixir case, the sillage was amplified beyond control, bringing to mind Nigel's nifty amplifier that goes up to 11; and as he stated in a later interview in the mockumantary This Is Spinal Tap, "you want more loudness, you want more damage".

I eventually warmed up to the idea of Aromatics Elixir with their limited edition Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer (2006). Partly because of the bottle, which has a dabber, so even if the scent is still strong - the discreet application tones it down. Coming across another limited edition from 2011 that was created to celebrate the perfume's 40th birthday, titled Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve (which I'm determined to track down and review as well) peaked my interest in this fragrance again. So here I am revisiting the big bombshell from the 70's; and as it turned out - it really does go beyond.

While still having the earthy and medicinal qualities I remember, there is more of a spicy oriental quality to Aromatics Elixir than I recalled. It opens with very resinous, almost smoky and medicinal notes, vetiver and myrrh being the most dominant.

Aromatics Elixir knocks you down first with a thick veil of smoke, sweaty spices (coriander) and pungent herbs (sage). Than it just works its magic on you, with soothing aromatic oils that are known for their aroma-therapeutic calming effects and beautifying qualities (as Grain de Musc points out, citing the first ad copy for this perfume). Roman chamomile initially calms the nerves, geranium leaf energizes and tones the skin, and mingled with soothing rose; yet the juxtaposition with contrasting bitter-resinous analgesic myrrh and groovy patchouli it creates a mysterious fruity-mushroomy effect.

Once this subsides, the smokiness of vetiver comes in (it smellls like a rich, woody-nutty Bourbon vetiver), which goes hand-in-hand with clean, masculine sandalwood and musk. There is a dry, woody, diffusive appeal to this triad. And it makes a perfect foundation for the spacious yet erogenous jasmine that is at the core of Aromatics Elixir. With the addition of orange blossom and ylang ylang's ability to soothe anxiety and lifts the spirit, Aromatics Elixir walks a very fine line between a medicinal brew and a love potion. Furthermore, it has such a unique composition, which is very base-heavy, non-compromising and yet beautiful in a non-pretentious kind of way.

Top notes: Geranium, Chamomile, Coriander, Sage
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Cedarmoss, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Musk

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