Reviews of Elixir by Penhaligon's

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    Way Off Scenter's avatar

    United States United States

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    Genre: Woody Oriental

    Huh? As much as I admire Olivia Giacobetti’s work, I think the mistress of the art has fallen on her face with this one. The Luckyscent web site says “Opulent, complex and mysterious, the new Penhaligon’s creation, created by renowned nose Olivia Giacobetti, is one of the most gorgeous oriental perfumes we have encountered in a long time.” I say it’s a rather thin, pale, woody rose and incense composition that takes aim at Bertrand Duchaufour’s Paestum Rose and misses by a mile. Marketing copy that promises an oriental from Giacobetti had me hoping for another Tea For Two or Idole, but it’s not here.

    13 June, 2014

    dlane1953's avatar

    United States United States

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    Subtle sensuality

    What a lovely line-up of exotic Eastern notes. A beautiful fragrance; warm, spicy, woody incense, sheer and subtle. My first few wearings left me feeling slightly disappointed, I hadn't read many reviews before I sampled, and I thought the fragrance was too soft and light. But with each wearing, I grew more impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the diaphanous nature of the fragrance. I bought a full bottle. Just beautiful.

    Sillage is on the low side, longevity over 9 hours.

    Pros: Warm, spicy
    Cons: Low sillage"

    04 October, 2013

    Buzzlepuff's avatar

    United States United States

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    Elixir is a spicey mentholated brew of woods, spices, and aromatic elements. I am sure that Olivia Giacobetti intended the mix to be deep and healing and the eucalyptus gives it a penetrating quality that I really enjoy. If you had a head cold or were starting to feel under the weather this mix would smell good inhaled in a steam bath. There is a Marakech type of spice blend mixed into incensed woods plus a little sweetness. I like almost everything about the fragrance except for the pace of the fragrance development. When first applied it is almost searing in hotness, then it is great smelling for a moment and then it withers down to a hint of itself. Giacobetti is well known for her transparent style of perfumery, but unfortunately transparency with Elixir's bold ingredients is a clash of intentions transparency becomes impotency. I love the scent but don't like the unevenness of scent silage and distribution. Rate Elixir as 2.5 stars out of 5.

    01st November, 2012

    Cyn's avatar

    United States United States

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    I own the female version of Elixer, which is in a different colored bottle than the one shown. A lovely, spicy scent which wears on all day long.

    16 September, 2012

    MimiJoy's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    Tried it in London when I was in search for something strong and spicy with a hint of (beloved) incense, got myself a travalo to test it. Few months later I was very happy to receive it as Xmas gift from my fiancé. Elixir gives its best during winter season, warming up the senses. On me it is quite long lasting, maybe because my scarves and coats still carry the scent within the fibers... I know it's a masculine frag but I would suggest it to any woman looking for a spicy oriental envelopping experience. I'd say it's a deeply relaxing fragrance inviting to meditation and calmness.

    04 September, 2012

    blood-orange's avatar

    Australia Australia

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    I love hot, spicy fragrances, particularly those along the lines of Givenchy's Xeryus Rouge with its fiery chilli notes and its raw sexuality.

    Elixir opens a little similar to Xeryus Rouge with a fiery burst of spices, however it soon settles, like a fire that's beginning to burn out.

    It had the potential to be a smoking hot fragrance, yet it has left me slightly underwhelmed, which is a massive shame. It's too light and polite on the skin for my tastes.

    During the opening notes, I can smell the cinnamon, cardamom and what appears to be hot peppers. The scent rapidly cools down into a pleasant, subtly spiced floral with a slightly soapy quality.

    The fragrance chops and changes, one minute it's spicy the next it's soft and flowery. The drydown shows some signs of the scent heating up again, but it never seems to reach boiling point. Rich woods and resins tend to dominate in the drydown, with the incense and vanilla being barely detectable to my nose.

    I guess I'm still on the hunt for something similar to Xeryus Rouge for women. For those not expecting a hot fragrance for passionate wear, Elixir would most likely pass as an interesting, soft and wearable spicy oriental, yet for me this just couldn't make the mark.

    14 April, 2012

    Harvitz81's avatar



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    This is a somewhat disappointing woody oriental. Starts out ok with a hint of some florals and spices with some deep woods in there. It then fades rather rapidly and you are left with a prominent rosewood note throughout. Longevity is rather poor and overall this one just doesn’t seem well executed.

    09 February, 2012

    suburbanites's avatar

    United States United States

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    Rather than repeat what's already been said in droves about the composition of the fragrance -- it's clearly something about which you have strong feelings -- I'd much rather focus on what this particular fragrance is and is not.

    It IS rather nice. They've done a wonderful job on combining the components into a very nice melange that blends well and seamlessly transitions through the various elements. Incense, sandalwood, tonk a, all blend well in a surprising way with the eucalyptus and florals, striking a very god balance with a refined scent that is charming, alluring, and very pleasant to wear.

    It IS NOT durable. Being an EDT, it's among the weakest EDT's I've tried. Within 2 hours, it's vanished such that you actually wish that it were a more cloying experience. To quote Harold Melvyn, "The love I lost was a sweet one," and this would be the fragrance that I'd certainly love if it had better longevity. The notes are all there, but they play in too subtle a manner for anyone but the wearer to enjoy, and only then for the shortest of duration.

    This is a fragrance my wife had gotten, noting the presence of incense, and recognizing her deep hatred of TFPC Amber Absolute. This was olfactory pleasing for the all too brief time slice it lingers, but it's too fleeting. If only this could have been done in an EDP strength versus a concentration that's barely EDT, they'd have a keeper for me.

    30th July, 2011

    Odile's avatar



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    Oh goodness. Gag. This was one of the few that I had to scrub nearly immediately after applying. A semi-competent, if generic, oriental lurking below a bile-conjuring sour soy-milk note. Revolting. Thank god for samples. I see other people find this agreeable so there must be something that just does not play nice with my chemistry.

    03 July, 2011

    cello's avatar

    United States United States

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    The opening, and heart, remind me of a specific scent memory. On a visit to California, I was fortunate enough to enjoy a convertible drive from Sonoma to the coast on a beautiful, sunny spring day. We traveled along a two lane back road, and found ourselves driving between two rows of eucalyptus trees lining the road. It was a wonderful smell that I remember to this day.

    Elixir brings that smell alive. It opens with an airy, rough bark smell of eucalyptus! It is the smell of the peeling bark, and not like any other fragrance that I have smelled. There is a small shift towards the heart by introducing the cinnamon aroma of the bark spice. This is not ground cinnamon, and certainly not the sweet candy smell. It is rough, barky, woody cinnamon. This is a beautiful transition that keeps the faint woody trend alive, but adds the spiciness that keeps this novel. The theme is continued throughout the heart as a rosewood note is introduced.

    Now, this is the only fault I see in the composition. The rosewood stands out too much, and there is not another note to play off of. It is pleasant, but I think could have been used to better effect by being used as a basis for lifting another note. In any event, it didn't really detract from the scent, but was just possibly a lost opportunity to raise the bar even higher.

    The base adds the faintest of vanilla to this rosewood note, but does not transition after this point.

    This is a soft, somewhat faint, fragrance. It never overwhelms, as many "orientals" can do. Some will find it too faint, but if you allow the fragrance to envelope you with it's breezy, airy mood, you will find a novel tale of oriental opulence tamed, and with unique notes. Let it take you where you will, or let it remind you of a great drive to the coast. Either way, it is worth a sniff!

    26 May, 2011

    Oslo-Fjord's avatar

    Norway Norway

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    A very nice spicy oriental fragrance. Warm and cozy, perfect for autumn and winter. This is the refined "niche" version of Gucci pour homme. Highly recommended if you like unique spicy orientals.

    17 May, 2011

    foetidus's avatar

    United States United States

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    I love both the softness and the Orientalism of Elixir. It is a refined and complex Oriental delivered in a translucent disguise… That an Oriental (which I enjoy but usually can’t carry off) works for me tells me that Elixir is quite an accomplishment.

    Elixir’s softness belies its complexity. The opening is a wonderfully non-aggressive amorphous accord of aromatic woods, floral, and spice; it comes off a sophisticated, non-synthetic intricate abstraction. I particularly enjoy the slightly impressionistic feeling to the accord where the balanced notes of usually dramatic wood / spice notes take on a soft, pastel texture. The opening has good longevity, which is an unexpected bonus. The fragrance moves to a floral heart grounded by some non-aggressive cinnamon and rosewood in the background, and I find it a successful exercise in delivering depth, sophistication, and discretion while still presenting it as an identifiable Oriental. For the base I get primarily sandalwood and guaic wood; the two woods center the base in a warm softness: …another pastel texture accomplished beautifully. I get no incense, and I get just barely enough Tonka / vanilla to legitimize Elixir’s Oriental claim and persona. I think Olivia Giacobetti has done yet another remarkable job of creating a sophisticated, complex-but-translucent Oriental that is genuinely unisex and highly wearable… Soft sillage and good longevity and a definite purchase for me.

    13 May, 2011

    alfarom's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    I usually love Olivia Giacobetti's creations but this one smells exactly like an indian stall at the flea market. Very cheap synthetic incense sticks! Undefined!

    27 March, 2011 (Last Edited: 04 April, 2011)

    Sharkstar's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    I bought this for my girlfriend when she was in Penhaligon's in Covent Garden with me. I loved the smell of it on her, and started wearing it myself. It's a strangely comforting scent, oriental without the pagodas and opium dens. It reminds you of a better place you visited once but have since forgotten, a place you think you'd like to go back to.

    03 March, 2011

    kbe's avatar

    United States United States

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    The opening eucalyptus/mint reminds me of the nose of a particular wine I once tasted. It was a bottle of 1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet, but Elixir is without the fruit of the wine. I detect a bit of mace also. The overall opening effect is one of a well crafted fragrance in the Penhaligon tradition, not totally unlike their Hamman Bouquet, and invites continuous sniffing..it is that good!.

    Middle notes continue the eucalyptus/mint framework adding a rose floral note with a muted cinnamon present as if braided skillfully throughout.

    Basenotes include a gentle slide into Tonka, Sandalwood and an intriguing background of incense. Again, all notes are carried along by the opening Eucalyptus/mint. Strangely now the captivating Eucalyptus/mint radiance that carries all the other notes is experienced as much in memory as in the fragrance itself and I have to re-sniff closely to distinguish it.

    Beautiful. Enchanting. Mesmerizing. I fell in love with this scent a few seconds after I spritzed it for the first time this morning. The love story is continuing as I continue to sniff its development. Definitely Bottle Worthy. This is one Penhaligon fragrance I will be adding to my wardrobe in the future.

    22 January, 2011 (Last Edited: 08 May, 2014)

    Force of One's avatar

    United States United States

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    Pretty complex fragrance - I get the menthol and the incense and every now and then a faint rose. Also hints of cedar but unfortunately more what you would line a pets cage with than firewood.

    I will say it's rather unique. Would not see myself every plunking the $ down for it, and probably wouldn't wear it all that often even if given as a gift. That said, I think it's worth a try as I could see it being somebody else's cup of tea fairly easily.

    31st December, 2010

    manicboy's avatar

    United States United States

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    Light oriental. Those two words aren't mentioned that often when talking about mens' frags. Contrary to some of the negative reviews here, I find this lightness very bearable and even refreshing. In fact, I think that Giacobetti did an excellent job to meld the spices, florals and sweet notes into a very interesting fragrance. Could Lutens or Malle ever put something like this out? I think not!

    04 December, 2010

    cheryl's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    I had to read the label on my sample twice after reading what others have posted here. Because they describe actual notes, something, try as I might, I have trouble detecting in this one. On opening I sort of get cardamon and eucalyptus. NOW that they're mentioned that is. Then a shrill soapy blanket and smother what might be a nice composition. You can nearly hear the rose calling for help. Oriental? Ha ha ha. I wish. The soap beast takes over.

    15 September, 2010

    Grand Vizier's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Upon application I am instantly transported back to the Thai beaches that I used to visit every year in my youth. The eucalyptus towers over this fragrance like a genie from a lamp and doesnt disappear for a remarkable length of time after application. When he does drift off he leaves a spicy trail in his wake, allowing cinnamon and cardamom to interact on the skin as if they where being cracked open open from their pods. The first time I tried Elixir I was caught off guard as the heart notes begin to beat through the mixture, a trio of jasmine,orange blossom and rose performing together in perfect harmony . Not an unusual heart on its own but I simply wasnt expecting such a lovely floral heart in this spiced nirvana fragrance. The most impressive part of this fragrance has to be the base, a Giacobetti masterpiece. Tonka and vanilla alongside benzoin and incense reinforced by sandalwood, cedar and guaiac woods. A masterful blend that becomes fuller and creamier with time.

    My first thoughts were tiger balm, with its menthol medicinal characteristics linking me back to the orient. Do not get me wrong this scent smells nothing like the smell of tiger balm it is simply a personal memory. This is one of my pensive scents. One that I wear in the comfort of my own home, in my own company when I need space and meditative silence to think. Elixir always reminds me of fine mature scotch whisky, warming, alcoholic, spicy and only getting better with time and age. This certainly is the fragrance for any young Bodhisattva. Would be the perfect partner whilst sitting under a bondi tree waiting for enlightenment.

    27 April, 2010

    odysseusm's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    In my estimation, this is a poorly designed scent. The reason? There is an over-emphasis on rosewood. Rosewood is a heady, *extremely potent* scent. A tiny bit goes a long way. I find that the rosewood (with its furniture-polish connotations) simply overwhelms the other potentially interesting ingredients. The opening has much promise. Languid florals, deep woods and peppery spices engage in a shimmering interplay which is fascinating! If it only lasted for more than a minute! Then the rosewood portcullis gate slams down and the scent seems one-dimensional to me. The scent remains stuck in that groove for the remainder of the time.

    16 February, 2010 (Last Edited: 31st March, 2010)

    Sir Jim's avatar



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    I tried this in our local Penhaligons shop and was amazed. It seemed to smell of lots of things at once but all in accord with one another. The stand out note for me was a ginger beer like smell which I absolutely love. This is a scent for day wear but you could get away with it at night depending on the occasion. Like I have said before I am useless at describing the different notes so I won't try in this case as to me its very complex. I received a bottle for Christmas and have been liberally dousing myself with it ever since. I love Penhaligons scents, my wife and I are both great fans. They all have an understated dignity to them. An ace scent and its just occurred to me that it is a fun scent thanks to that gingery note.

    18 January, 2010

    nenuquito's avatar



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    Of the newest fragrances by the house this is arguably the most interesting and wearable. It does share the same kind of woody base as Opus 1870 yet it is far more exotic and in the same realm as Malabah. What it has that these two sadly lack however is strength and more staying power, for it develops wonderfully on the skin having many layers and being obviously well structured by Giacobetti. It is still quite light however and has a watery quality to it, not like the full bodied Hammam or Cornubia.

    Initially what you first get is a very obvious note of incense that smells remarkably similar to an orthodox (and indeed any) church. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, its nostalgic and interesting, yet there is more to come. It then settles into a wonderful marriage of spicy cinnamon and woods, with a warm sweetness that perhaps comes from the decadent floral heart of jasmine absolute and rose otto, or maybe the orange?

    This is apparently a contemporary take on their first creation Hammam Bouquet, and it certainly works as a more modern, less obtrusive version that still captures a certain exotic mystery and likeness. The packaging could however have been a little more traditional in style, but the scent is pleasing enough-definitely worth trying other products in the range as well!

    19 November, 2009

    Not4you's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    I really wanted to like this one - I am a fan of other Penhaligon's offerings - but this one is just not for me.

    The initial blast from the bottle was first the smell of stale beer followed by a peppery spice that made my nose tingle. This quickly faded into an hour or so of cedar shavings - my wife kept commenting that I reminded her of a past pet hampster that her Dad stepped on when it escaped from the cage. To me the finish was simply Christmas season potpourri - warm, spice and evergreen trees - not what I needed on a romantic night out with my wife in August.

    It did come into its own briefly when I relaxed with a fine single malt scotch - the warm spice tones complimented the nose of the whiskey - but this was too little too late for me.

    27 August, 2009

    mikeperez23's avatar

    United States United States

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    I love the top notes and Galamb_Borong describes them perfectly in his review. The cinnamon has been melted, it seems, to the other spices, eucalyptus and the rose/incense.

    When it dries down is when it started to become a scent I didn't like anymore. I think there's a certain aldehyde Giacobetti used, that rubs my nose the wrong way. It tickles my nose when I smell it, then it slights burns it a little. The effect it gives to the fragrance is a shiny almost glossiness. I really wanted to the spice and incense to be warmer...not shiny.

    Subsequent wearings confirmed it for me that I do not like it.

    Nice, admirable and yes I agree...a wonderfully modern oriental. But, not for me.

    22 May, 2009

    Bartlebooth's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    One of the best offerings from this house, and significantly different to anything else that they have produced thus far. The balance of ingredients in the opening is expertly done, the very spicy blend of cardammon,cinnamon and mace produce an accord so smooth and edgy that one fears that this might be a one note wonder. Thankfully, this is merely the taste of further treasures to come. Added to this opening are the sweet, yet restrained rose and jasmine notes which elevate and augment the fragrance in a seemless and effortless manner. The drydown phase is perhaps the most accomplished,with the slowly fading top and middle notes, elevated by the presence of incense and woods. Finally one is afforded the luxurious splendour of the late introduction of vanilla and tonka bean. This really is a very special creation, and I will look forward to its company on many cool days in the future.

    14 May, 2009

    Sugandaraja's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    Elixir was a pleasant surprise for me. I'd ordered a sample as a bit of an afterthought, really, and wasn't expecting much after so many negative reviews. It's a bit quiet, it's true, but not much more so than Giacobetti's other work. Those expecting a voluptuous oriental will find this spare, etiolated and thin - it's subtle, subtle, subtle. Just a will-o-the-wisp of steam off of hot apple-cider dregs.

    The top notes come on warm, almost hot, a cinnamon note married to clove, cardamon, and frankincense. The rose note is warm, tart and lively, but isn't fruity.

    From the very start Elixir has a certain seamlessness I find attractive. It's as though the spices have been grafted organically on to a core of cinnamon, and despite it ostensibly being a rose soliflore, the rose isn't the star; it's the stage on which the other notes perform their magic.

    After the warmth of the top notes subside, an intriguing woodiness emerges and mingles with the persistent spices. The "official" notes mention eucalyptus, but this note is the opposite of a cough drop. What it reminds me of is birch.

    About a decade ago I was staying with some friends in Prince Edward Island. It was late March, but as is typical in that part of the world, there was still several feet of snow on the ground. Each night we'd have big roaring fires, fed by birch logs that were freshly cut and lying frozen in the yard. These logs would bubble and hiss on the fire, the sap fleeing the heat and bubbling out the top end of the logs in a syrupy stream. Elixir takes me right back to that moment in time. That smell is its smell.

    There is a faintly vanillic oriental base, but it's just a ghostly presence; a touch of velvety roundness to an otherwise sheer fragrance.

    Describing the sillage is difficult. It's very soft, but it also has a reasonable amount of spread. It's something you don't notice until it you think about it and realize you're surrounded by this faint haze of delicate spicy something.

    Longevity is decent, about eight hours, becoming more of a skin scent as it progresses.

    This is about as pared down an oriental as you're going to find, and I think Olivia Giacobetti did a wonderful, minimalist take on an opulent genre.

    05 May, 2009

    Somerville Metro Man's avatar

    United States United States

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    Penhaligon's Elixir

    Olivia Giacobetti is one of the most reliable noses out there, for me. On my personal scoreboard she has always scored a hit but for Idole de Lubin. It was with high anticipation that I sprayed on her latest creation Penhaligon's Elixir. This is a beautiful composition that on me feels just right for a winter morning. The top hits high C with a spicy mixture of cardamom, cinnamon and clove. These three notes are skillfully combined but it is the next note into the mix that elevates the beginning; as a vaporous eucalyptus joins the 3C's and give this the feel of a sauna where someone spilled a spice basket on the hot rocks. This beginning is so good I want to keep spritzing myself so I can keep experiencing it. That would be bad because the heart of this is tonka, incense and vanilla. Another trio of notes that pulls this one into a softer place from the spicy beginning. The incense keps the transition from being jarring and as the tonka and vanilla arise the transition into the heart is complete. The base is the yin and yang of sandalwood and guaiac which brings this to a woody close. Penhaligon's Elixir is easily my favorite Penhaligon's to date and Giacobetti has another hit on my scorecard.

    28 February, 2009

    saxifrage's avatar

    United States United States

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    In a lot of ways, I see strong parallels to Opus 1870. The major difference is that there's an inherent sweetness found here that isn't seen in Opus 1870. The level of rose in Elixir is ratcheted up to a rather sickening level that makes enjoyment only for the sincere rose lover. This dominance of rose puts it in the same realm as Hammam Bouquet as the powdery, sweet, spiced rose with hints of cedar tends to last... and last.

    Sillage is weak, but its persistence at skin level is admirable. Not a fragrance I particularly enjoyed, definitely not my style, and in a lot of ways feels like a rehash of Hammam and Opus 1870. I don't feel this is especially masculine; however, I felt the same way about Hammam Bouquet. I don't even know if I'd call it feminine. It just smells so dated, or like the inside of a hippie record store (Nag Champa?) Perhaps this is an trans-Atlantic or trans-centennial difference of opinion. Your mileage may vary, though.

    08 February, 2009 (Last Edited: 04 December, 2009)

    JackTwist's avatar

    United States United States

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    Fifteen ingredients go into this "oriental," but I can only detect six. Immediately the three spices are most evident (Cardamom, Cinnamon, Mace). These are supported by Rose. Affter a half hour the spices begin to fade and we are left with a lovely, warm mixture of White Cedar and Rosewood. A very nice oriental which my nose is surprised to find is actually quite light, although I am used to this mix as "heavy." Very much recommended, but I would think it more suitable for a woman than a man.

    Top Notes: Eucalyptus Steam; Cardamom; Orange Blossom; White Cedar
    Middle Notes: Red Turkish Rose; Egyptian Jasmine; Cinnamon Leaves; Mac; Rosewood
    Base Notes: Benzoin; Tonka Beans; Vanilla; Incense; Red Sandalwood; Guaicum Wood

    21st January, 2009 (Last Edited: 13 July, 2011)

    kinghamhouse's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    It seems that Elixir is now on back order. The moment it was introduced it sold out and fresh stock is not expected until end February in the UK. I did manage to get a small sample, it started off great and before I could decide what it was it turned into a rather run of the mill 'nothing special here'. Shame really, you would think that they could do a little better. Having written this I do realise that it will probably sell and sell to the middle market, if only on the packaging.

    13 January, 2009

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