Saturday, May 25, 2019

Estee Lauder Aliage, Vintage Formulation-Review

I don't know what you smell like playing tennis, but my personal pong after a few sets wouldn't be improved any with the addition of Estee Lauder's 1972 fragrance, Aliage in the mix. A heavily chlorinated pool probably wouldn't be a good idea either as I've heard mixing chemicals can be dangerous.

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.


Beth Waltz said...

For once, Goody, I am able to share your fragrance memories!

No, nothing so elegant as a recitation of non-drugstore scents in beautiful packaging. What I remember well is the Lysol foaming spray cleaner, Herbal Essences shampoo, stale cigarette smoke, and ancient air in a small bathroom with a stuck shut window. Ah, those glorious days in the upstairs apartment of an old house in a small college town!

May I also add Comet cleanser "soaking" on the stove, a blast of Oven Off, and a whiff of a PBR beer can someone's boyfriend left on the floor beside the sofa (which would have benefited from Febreeze, but we made do with baking soda and a strong vacuum).

Aliage was beyond us -- and that was probably a blessing we didn't know we had. All of our windows were painted shut around 1939.

Polyester Princess said...

You have definitely found your writing voice again, and I am so glad! This was such a brilliant read. Scent is such a powerful memory trigger, isn't it? I could totally picture the bathroom, as we had its twin, only we shared it with five people. And I was the teenage sister (there's a decade between me and my sister as well, my brother is seven years younger). Without the Aliage, though. I sometimes tried on my mother's perfumes and although I have no idea what they were, I think I'd be hit with a bout of nostalgia if I were to smell any of them again. I don't think I used any scent until I was 20 or so. Unless you count a sickly, smelling of violets concoction I friend gave me for my 16th birthday as perfume ... Thank you for sharing your poignant and hilarious trip down memory lane! xxx

Emily from Etsy said...

Your review had me laughing so hard that I almost cried! You've crammed so many zingers into one review that it feels like I sat through a stand-up comedian's routine. Great job!

Vix said...

Have Herbal Essences been going that long? We're so behind the times here!
I loved reading this and your memories of your bathroom. I think my childhood memories are doused in Mum's 40 a day smoking habit. xxx

JanF said...

I agree with Emily from Etsy, you are SO funny. Have you ever done stand up comedy? You must be a hoot for your family and friends. We are lucky to share some of your humor.
I think I mentioned some time before that I still love the perfume Brigand by Jacques Esterel. I still have about half of a fair sized bottle of the Eau de Toilette bought in Paris in the 60;s! I do use it but not often.
I noticed this

bahnwärterin said...

not the scent - your writing is!!
you should send your fragrance rewievs to vanity fair or elle.... if they still exist ;-D did not look at glam mags in the last 10 years.
but - i got a 3.(!) scent on my powder table - the BW presented me with 4711 aqua colonia blood orange & basil - kind of "manly" from the bottle but on my skin its fabulous!

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

I did enjoy reading this, Goody! It was such a wonderful review.

Alas, I never got to sniff 'Alliage' back in the day so have no memories of it all. Was it pongier than 'Youth Dew'?

I liked and still like Estee Lauder perfume for its staying power. I like Azuree and 'Sensuous' and 'Beautiful' and they all smell good on me. I recently donated half a bottle of 'Modern Muse' to my middle grandson's mum as I was finding it too heavy and heady.

Next time I'm in a place that sells EL perfume; I'll check out 'Alliage' and mourn that I never got to smell the original...

Goody said...

I still leave Comet soaking in the sink overnight! Those household cleaners had the same chemical companies doing their fragrances as the designer perfume houses. Makes sense, I guess.

Thank you. For whatever reason I am able to match time and place to fragrance. Some people it is music, or fashion.

I've thought about doing stand up, but I'd probably not respond well to heckling and it is still illegal to beat the crap out of hecklers, even if they deserve it!

The bright green Herbal Essence is gone, though they still use the name for some other shampoo. It wasn't great on my hair, but I loved the packaging.

Yeah, that's a little steep! If you want a 1/4 oz. I found one!68134!US!-1

Might be a bit more in your price range ;)

All of 4711 fragrances are good stuff! I haven't tried the blood orange, but it sounds lovely.

I wish the UK post wasn't so fussy about sending perfume, or I'd decant you some. It ius very, very sharp without the slightest floral softness. You really aren't missing much.

I can't stand Modern Muse either. Danny likes it and has some samples but ugh, instant nausea for me, particularly in the heat. Some of the MM flankers are supposed to be good but I'm loathe to try them. Vintage Azuree was great in the summer.

Bibi Maizoon said...

All Estee Lauder fragrances have some synthetic musk in their base that smells nauseatingly animalic and rank to my nose- sweaty buttcrack is the closest thing I can think of to compare it too. EL's fragrances start off okay, but within an hour I have to scrub them off or wretch continuously.
Loved your review - my sister wore Enjoli by Charles of the Ritz, a slight improvement over Aliage.

JanF said...

Thank you, Goody, I did notice that small bottle which appears to be unused. So far I still have almost 1/2 my bottle left which ( since I bought it in my 20's and am now in my 70's, should see me out!).
Have you ever smelled it, it is simply glorious. I could mail you a cotton ball doused in it!
The only other person I ever ran into who even knew of it and also loved it was the wife of the French chef who started Le Francais in Wheeling IL. They lived in the high rise ( Malibu East, Sheridan Rd, Chicago, with us). I used to subscribe to a French magazine and would pass it along to her.

Mim said...

"If you could bottle a mugging, it would be Aliage."

Now I *need* this. My go-to 'pissed off' perfume for work was a blend of Bandit and Shocking - basically grubby leather knickers - but I reckon Aliage might also work.

Goody said...

I wonder what note it is that you react to? I'm not a fan of the women's fragrances but Aramis will always be my favourite men's fragrance. Sometimes I wear it. Enjolie is revolting. I have a small bottle from the 70s and just, ewwww.

Better not send me any scented cottonballs-the postman is a gossip ;)
So funny story about "No Man's Land" where you lived. My parents married in 1956 and were looking for a place to live. My dad earned a good living and they could afford to live there but the agent told him he would have to ride up the service lift when he got home from work because he was wearing his work clothes (that is, not a suit). Well, long story short, he wasn't having it and they moved to a nice place in Rogers Park about a block from the lake.

I really like Bandit, but I don't know about combining it with Shocking. I should try it. I wish I could send the Aliage to you, but the Post would just confiscate it. I think that's what must have happened to the samples you sent me.