When I was in my early 20s, I’d spend the holidays in Ireland. The trips would be the first of many that would bring me out of the States for extended periods of time, as well as the first of many that would have me out of town for the holidays. But my early 20s was also when I began to really carve out my own sartorial identity, and one scent in particular summarizes this period of my life.
Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir was in the midst of a mini-renaissance of sorts. It was the 90s and “grunge” style ruled even the runways. Alternative music dominated the charts. Ugly was the new pretty and all conventions were being tested. Calvin Klein’s CK One was everywhere: between an ad campaign that perfectly epitomized the sexual ambiguity in pop culture and simply being a very wearable scent, it was hard to go anywhere without smelling CK One. For this reason, I found it tiresome. Aromatics Elixir was, to me, very much an androgynous scent, but not nearly as clean as CK One.
To be honest, I have no idea why I had a bottle of Aromatics Elixir. It must have been a gift because I was struggling to finish my bachelor’s degree and pay rent, so there’s no way I would’ve laid out cash for such an extravagance. Regardless how it came into my possession, I quickly realized I loved it. It was unlike any women’s perfume I’d ever smelled: it was earthy, spicy, and very strong. There were no sweet edges to it, no powdery clouds, no fields of flowers… and yet, it was very sexy. Now when I think of it, I remember smelling it on my thick striped sweater that I’d gotten for a song in Galway. The patchouli and cedars fit the wooly lanolin perfectly. I’d catch the scent as I Christmas shopped in Dublin, stopping into Bewley’s for a coffee before continuing on to Trinity to troll the halls and fantasize about studying there. The day would end finally next to a peat fireplace, breathing in the smoky air, feeling the wild excitement of being so far from home and waiting to see what would come next.