Aftelier’s Lumiere, Tango, and Antique Patchouli

There’s nothing quite like the majestic beauty of the Oregon Coast. The rugged terrain of the evergreen forest meeting the water’s edge. New spits being created almost overnight. A continual reminder of nature’s enduring force.

I hadn’t been to the coast in a while, and took a quick trip with my family this weekend. When I first stepped out of the car and breathed my first breath of the evening’s coastal air, I was taken aback by the rich coolness of my inhalation. The redolence of the driftwood, the salt-kissed flowers, the bitterness of old seashells and the sweet anticipation of ordering ice cream had me reeling.


Now that I am home from our quick jaunt, I have Mandy Aftel’s Lumiere on my skin. It smells like a beachy scent…an Oregon beachy scent. Blue lotus is one of the floral notes in the fragrance, and its East Asian origin could lean towards tropical imagery if it were paired with a white floral. But instead, boronia was chosen which lends to Lumiere a rustic tea-soaked fruit scent more in line with the Northwest Coast. Green tea absolute is also in the blend which of course enhances the tannic quality of boronia and augments the overall richness of the fragrance. Frankincense, which is present from the beginning and then fades upon the drydown, bestows elegance upon Lumiere and interestingly given the name, a darkness as well. Melancholic darkness that one frequently experiences at the Oregon Coast. Yet, morning clouds often give way to the bright luminescence of an afternoon sun. Just as Lumiere’s frankincense burns off to allow the floral fruits of boronia to shine a little brighter.

Tango, another Many Aftel creation, has an oceanic essence within its blend, roasted seashells. I’ve never had the opportunity to smell roasted seashells on their own, but I’d like to. In Tango, this essence creates a sexy, smoky aura that would most certainly be requisite for a fragrance bearing such a name. Champaca, along with delicious spices heighten the sensuality of the experience. Lest you think this fragrance is all about romantic desire, there is tension created with an intense inky note. Bitterness is present within the passion… a strong tango should convey such contrast. Tango the fragrance, unlike the dance, is allowed to evolve over many hours. The bitterness wanes, the smokiness fades, and Tango ends on a bed of honeyed sweetness and floral delicacy.

Antique Patchouli is one of Aftelier Perfume’s essential oil offerings. It hails from France and according to the Aftelier website, it has been aged for a few years and is the only patchouli oil Mandy Aftel will use in her blends. While I do not fall into the devoted patchouli-lover camp (although I do adore many fragrances that have patchouli in them) it’s not difficult to discern why Antique Patchouli has become the One Patchouli at Aftelier Perfumes. It possesses a highly unique minty quality that I have not yet experienced from patchouli, and its earthiness is so genuine I feel like I am hiking through an old growth rainforest after a storm when I smell it on my skin. It’s all about dark rich soil and herbal aromas, and it makes me want to pack my bags and go camping in the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula. (OK, for those who know me, maybe if there were a shower with warm water and a mattress to sleep on).



Aftelier Perfumes are available at 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

photo by jphillipe at


Aftelier’s Orchid Solid Perfume


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 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.


single_solid_smallI 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 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

Green Orchid by thecrookedstreet on