This winter I read Mandy Aftel’s Essence and Alchemy and not only learned a great deal about natural perfumery and its history, but I also found myself reveling in its mystical and spiritual aspects. Ms. Aftel’s book takes you on a journey of the natural perfumer as alchemist. Converting raw matter into something more pure and divine; potentially enabling us to connect the material world with the spiritual. This may or may not be the intention of a natural perfumer, but her book lays a convincing argument that botanical transformation or solve et coagula, to dissolve and combine, just might lead to a transcendental encounter.
Reading her book was informative and moving, but I had never actually worn one of her fragrances. And frankly, I was reluctant to do so after having such a wonderful experience with her writing. I was worried that I would have too many expectations of her perfumes, and if they weren’t met, the let down would be enormous. So I waited.
Two months passed until I filled my shopping cart with some samples at Aftelier.com which I must say is no cheap endeavor. But the time had arrived to experience the alchemist at large. I have started my personal Aftelier foray with the Orchid Solid Perfume. What does an orchid smell like you might ask? I really don’t know. After a little research I found that some have no smell, some are putrid, and some are akin to jasmine, honeysuckle, gardenia, rose, violet, etc. Additionally, the flower’s oil is very difficult to distill, so the perfumer must attempt to approximate what she/he has envisioned for the orchid’s fragrance. Whatever Ms. Aftel envisioned for her Orchid Solid, was utterly gorgeous.
Aftelier’s Orchid is an interesting fragrance that might take a little time to grasp, but it’s also one that you can surrender to immediately. The initial spicy peppery, cinnamon topnotes made my nose twitch with delight and curiosity. But I accepted the culinary twist and remembered the first time I inhaled a deep purple plumeria that smelled of cinnamon and simply let the fragrance evolve. The floral/spice mix melted into my skin and after my introductory puzzlement, I realized I could not imagine Orchid unfolding in any other manner.
The true beauty of Ms. Aftel’s creation is the orange blossom absolute. The interplay between the tropical narcotic, and the youthful fresh qualities of this blossom are perfectly balanced in her Orchid Solid. It’s green, heady, lush, citrusy, and vital. In Essence and Alchemy, Ms. Aftel describes absolutes as “floral essences at their truest and most concentrated.” That is certainly how the orange blossom of Aftelier’s Orchid flowers on the skin, truthfully.
Of course I had to do some research and find out what the spiciness was all about that I was perplexed and captivated by. I found Ayala Sender’s review of Orchid on her blog, Smellyblog, and she mentions that shiso is used in this fragrance. I have to plead ignorance in this regard, as I don’t know much about shiso except for what I have recently read and unknowingly consumed. Shiso, also known as perilla and many other names depending on if you are in Korea, Vietnam, India, etc, is a culinary herb. (Here is an informative article from the LA Times on its many uses). Clearly, shiso is responsible for the peppery, cinnamon opening and elegant transition to Orchid’s heart.
I will echo Ayala’s sentiment that Orchid does not last on the skin as I long as I would have hoped; approximately two hours. This is such a stunning fragrance that I would love for it to last all day. Yet, while I only have a sample of Orchid, it’s a pleasure to dip my finger into the perfume solid and reapply, and I can only imagine that doing so with the sterling silver compact feels like a precious ritual. And precious it is, as the compact is $175 for 1/4oz.
Many of you may know, but some of you may not, that Mandy Aftel has an exhibit in her honor at Bendel’s in New York City, Living Perfume: The Natural Alchemy of Mandy Aftel from April 18 – May 11. If you are in the New York area, this is not to be missed.
Aftelier’s Orchid Solid Perfume is available at Aftelier.com and Bendel’s in NYC. Aftelier products do not contain artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, phthalates, or parabens. This is clearly stated on the website.
Posted by ~Trish
11 thoughts on “Aftelier’s Orchid Solid Perfume”
This winter I discovered one of Mandy Aftel’s books, Scents & Sensibilities Creating Solid perfumes for Well-Being. It’s a pleasant book to read. The book holds info on the history of cream perfumes from around the world and step-by-step instructions on making your own cream perfumes for well being. Hope in the near future i can test her recipes out.
Sounds like another lovely book by Mandy, Alyssa. Thanks for the rec. I will check it out. Let us know if you ever try out your own perfume skills!
That book has made several people WANT to become perfumers. It’s a wonderful resource. And I bet the line is as interesting too, although haven’t been exhaustive.
The Living Flower exhibit is a must-see too!
Hope you’re well 🙂
I am well and hope you are too 🙂
Her book is a fabulous resource. I will go back and read it again I am sure.
i have had that book on my Amazon wishlist for ages, sounds like I need to order it asap and start saving up for samples!
I am about to post the catalog from her upcoming exhibit. That might give you a little flavor for the book.
Hi Trish, your review makes me want to reread the Aftel book, perhaps it would be a good summer read. I did some very interesting perfume experiments after I read it. I loved it as you do, although I found that her Scentsability was very different from mine, from her first scents that is. Her more recent scents seem a bit different, plus I’m sure I’ve changed! Someone sent me a sample of Tango, which I loved, and the Orchid sounds fantastic, with the Shiso leaf, she does have a gift for contrasting complementary scents!
When I went to a demo as part of a show she put together at USC here in LA, she said that the longest you can expect a completely natural scent to last on your skin is 3 hours, that you’ll always have to reapply. Apparently only synthetics “grab” on for the long term. I wonder if that is your experience?
Luckily I’m going to an event with Ayala Sender here in LA in a couple of weeks, and I think they have the Afteliers there, at Blunda Aromatics too, so I can try them again!
I’m sure I will reread it as well at some point.
You know, I just knowingly ate shiso for the first time last night. It was a garnish with some miso paste/sauce, and it was so good. It was at a terrific Chinese restaurant. Anyway, it was very mild, but I could sense the smell that Mandy used in her Orchid Solid. What an interesting and successful choice (IMO) she made.
And how lucky you are to go to Ayala’s event at Blunda. I am envious beyond words. I wish I could meet you there 🙂
My experience w/ longevity of naturals is incredibly varied. Typically from an hour to three though. Some can last all day, like Ajne’s Fleur Blanche and I catch whiffs of In Fiore’s Dayala and Maia all day long as well. SIP’s new one, Epic Gardenia lasted a good 6 hours when I gave it a whirl the other day, so you just never know.
Shiso is interesting because it is one of those rare things that tastes just as it smells. Get a bunch at an Asian market and experiment with, the Times article was inspiring. Have you tried Anya’s Kaffir Lime scent? It has a similar quality, it’s really quite amazing.
I wish you were joining us at Blunda’s too! Alaska Air has nice sales ; )
I’ll let you know what happens there, if I’m a good girl I’ll do a blog, but I’ve been very bad lately!
I wish I could jump on a plane, family and work obligations you know…
I do have a sample of Kaffir Lime, I need to spend some time w/ it 🙂 I did get Mandy’s Shiso as well. Will write about it later possibly.
After eating the shiso, and the Times article, I will definitely be cooking with it now. It’s such a pretty leaf.
So please do blog about the Ayala exhibit if you have the time. That would be lovely!!
I did get the opportunity to see the exhibit at Henri Bendel in Mandy’s honor, it was small, but her work is very large. It’s like sitting down to a wonderous feast.
I wrote a little bit about at Therapeutate.wordpress.com
She is a living legend as far as the revolution of natural perfumes goes.
Her cooking essences were equally as nice, the pairings done with Chef Todd English’s tasting made for a very nice event at the W hotel in NYC.
I was really glad to have the opportunity to hear her talk in person about her love of this ancient art form.
All in all her contribution to the world of perfumery is Alexandrian.