Saturday, May 25, 2019
Estee Lauder Aliage, Vintage Formulation-Review
The women in my family were devoted Estee Lauder consumers from the cosmetics, to skincare, to fragrance. At Christmas, they would offer a generous "Free Gift" of a makeup set with the purchase of a fragrance. This was great marketing for recently launched scents and it didn't take my sister long to discover Aliage.
In the early 70s we lived in a home where four people shared a very tiny bathroom. Toilet, pedestal sink, and a bathtub completely unsuitable for anyone over 5ft tall, and a window that was hopelessly stuck. I don't remember a fan. Enter Aliage and my teenaged sister who applied fragrance with the enthusiastic spraying of youth, and a nose permanently numbed by the cosmetic surgery my parents forced her to get at 16. Well, she could smell Aliage, anyway.
I suffered from asthma as a child, but in hindsight I think it was probably living in a home with three smokers, a cat I was allergic to, and a bathroom that routinely stunk of Lysol foaming spray cleaner, Herbal Essences shampoo, and Aliage. My lungs didn't stand a chance, and that window just wouldn't budge. My sister had the largest bedroom (my room was practically a cupboard re-purposed into a bedroom when I came along a decade after her) which would have been a perfectly appropriate place to douse herself in Aliage-and the bedroom window opened too!
We all hated Aliage. It gave my mother headaches, my dad coughing fits, and made me wheeze. At least being in a car with her wasn't terrible as you could open the window. And it lasted. Unlike other fragrances that settle down after the inital blast, Aliage's staying power meant gasping from that oakmoss and vetiver assault hours after. I like oakmoss and vetiver. I enjoy green notes, with a bit of nuance. Aliage hits you over the head to stun you and keeps the blows coming long after it should have just grabbed your handbag and run off. If you could bottle a mugging, it would be Aliage.
I have a rather good scent memory. Where others might remember a scent as "floral" or, kind of "spicy", I can recall notes with an almost physical sensation. In my memory I can taste the accelerant from cleaning products sprayed everywhere around me as a child (how any of us survived the 60s and 70s is a miracle). I saw a very vintage bottle of Aliage online at a price I was willing to spend on something I knew I hated, and went for it. Sometimes (not often, mind) I miss my sister.
Yeah. If I was expecting the last 45 years or so to soften the edges on Aliage, or at least the topnotes, that was wishful thinking. The satisfaction of being able to proclaim, "I told you so" when being confronted with my fragrance nemesis again after close to a half century, was quickly interrupted by the rush to open the window. My windows open. Thank God.
The urge to scrub...I'll tell you...
"Sport spray?" Do be a sport and spray it far away from others. Do you suppose Aliage was the fragrance that finally convinced the regulators to ban natural oakmoss from fragrance production? I wonder how many others, not typically bothered by oakmoss found themselves making terrible noises at the back of their throats to stop the itching, unable to simply reach a hand down there and scratch their tonsils to pieces. We didn't have liquid Benadryl in the 70s-you had to panic chew a Chloretrimeton and wash it down with a glass of water if you needed to treat a severe allergic reaction. The allergy pills were small and bitter, like me.
The official notes list Rose, but I can't detect any. There's nutmeg in there as well but who'd be able to detect it under all that oakmoss and vetiver? Ordinarily, I like Bernard Chant's fragrances (Aramis, Azuree, Cabochard, Aromatics Elixr) but Aliage is a green note too far. It feels chemical. The Army could weaponise it. A cloud of Aliage over enemy lines would make quick work of a surrender.
My jasmine anosmia that frequenly "turns off" my nose after a few minutes rendering many fragrances odourless (I've yet to be able to smell Chanel No. 5) doesn't seem to be bothered by the jasmine in Aliage. Because the Universe hates me. Thanks, Universe. That said, I still don't catch anything floral in Aliage. This is a power-green fragrance for people that like to smell like a tree. A very, very, mossy tree. It could be a great fragrance for Morris dancers, at least for for the person playing the Green Man. I don't suspect that's the "Sport" Estee Lauder had in mind when marketing Aliage.
Official Notes: Rose, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Cedar, Jasmine, Citrus, Nutmeg, Artemisia.
Eventually, my sister moved on to Chanel No 19 and we could all breathe again. I don't love No.19, but it was such an improvement over the Aliage that I didn't dare say a word. Aliage is still made, but it is a completely different fragrance, so much so that Estee Lauder really ought to change the name. The new one isn't anything I'd wear, but if I had to share a small bathroom with someone applying it in abundance, I wouldn't complain.
I don't know that I'll ever want to wear Aliage, but it is an interesting thing to have in my collection, if only to remind me that my scent memory is accurate-acutely so. I could make a determined effort to wear it for a week in a better attempt to understand it, but that's unlikely. This one's going in a box with a latch lest it get any ideas of escaping.