The first time I smelled the raw material of benzoin, I was flush with bliss. The earthy vanillic scent wafting from the glass jar that housed pieces of the resin was pure heaven to me. I was smitten. Even though that evening was over eight years ago, I can still recall the interplay between soft vanilla and dark soil and I wanted a perfume of only benzoin. Labdanum is another cherished aroma for me, and I was able to smell its raw material that same evening. Labdanum is also a sweet resin, but it’s richer with a leathery smokiness that begs to be worn on a cold night. It probably comes as no surprise that both of these resins are frequently used together in perfumery and make up the the backbone of amber perfumes, and Amber Tapestry is no exception.
Where to begin with this trio of redolent treats? Each one is a unique creation of Mandy Aftel’s, who is probably well known to you if you frequent perfume blogs or have an interest in *natural perfumes. You might also be familiar with her book, Essence and Alchemy, which has influenced me a great deal in my blogging and personal love of perfume. Her evocative way with words and firm grasp of history makes it an incredibly inspiring and educational read. I believe she was able to write so poetically about the history of fragrance because she has an innate talent in creating fragrance herself. This expertise is exemplified quite remarkably in the gems pictured above.
After an absolutely beautiful, sunny summer here in the Pacific Northwest, the rain has finally set in, and that means it’s time to cozy up with your deeper perfumes. Fortunately, Mandy Aftel’s latest creation, Vanilla Smoke, fulfills the hopes for those of us who love vanilla fragrances for the fall and winter. The beauty of this new perfume is its nuanced balance between sweet and smoky. The vanilla absolute used in Vanilla Smoke is in no way sticky sweet, but rather like an aromatic liquor that lulls you into a cushy nap. Coumarin, which is derived from tonka beans and cinnamon, heightens the vanilla note as it too adds dimension to the perfume’s smokiness while not making it sugary.
If you read my last post, you know there’s an exciting blog project swirling in the ether, inspired by the darkly romantic short story, Clarimonde. Romuald, who despite his passion for the priesthood, entered into an illicit love affair with the hypnotic Clarimonde, only to regret it for years to come. At the end of his tale, Romauld implores the reader, “Never gaze upon a woman, and walk abroad only with eyes ever fixed upon the ground; for however chaste and watchful one may be, the error of a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity. Lose eternity.”
My heart ached for poor Romauld as I read of his love literally vanishing into dust before his eyes. His subsequent deep anguish regarding that love made me feel even more despondent. Thankfully, I was soothed by the post at ScentLessSensibilities, as Sheila picked up the story where the author Théophile Gautier left off. Her continuation of Clarimonde centers around Romauld’s housekeeper at the presbytery and a mysterious perfume she finds during a posthumous sorting of his chamber. The perfume that Sheila was inspired by, Immortal Mine, was created by Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl for The Clarimonde Project. It is rich and floral, inky and dark, but I’ll stop there. Go read ScentLessSensibilities‘ review as it is far more inspired than anything I could attempt.
My sadness for Romauld has also been assuaged by a gloriously comforting oud and frankincense based perfume by Mandy Aftel. Mandy’s Clarimonde-inspired Oud Luban smells of wooden pews and altars suffused with incense that has burned for centuries and centuries. Oud Luban is a solid perfume that holds eight different types of oud in its midst. Surprisingly, it is a subtle and supple oud that caresses with suede, etherial smoke and a smoothly aged patchouli. It is both sensual and reverential, and I hope Romauld found comfort in such an aroma in the wake of Clarimonde’s departure from his life.
Oud Luban is available at Aftelier Perfumes.
Samples of Immortal Mine will be available for purchase by contacting Maria and Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image from Augustiniancanons.org
Haute Claire is a hyper-real perfume. A turn-up-the-volume-to-11, bordering on psychedelic perfume. Its galbanum is the most vibrant kelly green you’ve ever smelled and the ylang ylang buzzes at a fever pitch. It would be safe to assume that these two powerhouse essences might engage in a battle of wills, but they don’t. They join forces and hum along at a high frequency, one that is spirited and very intriguing.
As expected, galbanum is sharp and intense, but Haute Claire’s creator, Mandy Aftel, has ramped up its musty side which gives some density but in no way mutes the excitement of the ylang ylang merger. Mandy has used ylang ylang co2 in Haute Claire, which according to her allows it to be a top note which explains the nearly electrifying burst of this blossom right out of the bottle.
The concentrated galbanum/ylang duo gives way, but not fully, to the emergence of yet another commanding aroma, honeysuckle. Now I like galbanum, and I’ve learned to appreciate ylang ylang’s place in perfume, but I truly adore the scent of honeysuckle. Mandy has sourced a very rare, Italian made honeysuckle absolute which breathes even more magical realism into Haute Claire.
Imagine the blossoms the moment before they fall upon freshly cut grass. The weight of nectar, dew, and the beginnings of decay aid gravity in their descent. Now imagine that you can feel the pulsating of the blossoms and you wonder if you’re hallucinating. It’s like that.
Haute Claire is as fecund and heady as a stargazer lily, but doesn’t consume the air like that flower is wont to do. Haute Claire wears amazingly close to the skin and even though it might cause its wearer to feel mild intoxication, one would have to step in close to share in the experience.
The drydown doesn’t seem to occur until many hours after application when a downy, almost powdery scent comes to life. It smells a bit like burnt sugar and rose. Mandy has used another intriguing ingredient, *ethyl phenyl acetate, which I have never smelled on its own, but I imagine it, as well as vetiver, contribute to the final softer and gentler Haute Claire.
Mandy Aftel has generously offered a 5ml purse spray to a lucky Scent Hive reader. Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered. Follow Mandy on Twitter and you get an extra entry. Follow Scent Hive and that’s another one. Please let me know about your follows in your comment. Drawing Closed.
*If you are curious about ethyl phenyl acetate, Mandy’s is an isolate from fruit, wine or whiskey. I do believe it can also be derived from petroleum, but not in this case. There is much discussion about the use of natural isolates in botanical perfumes, and at this moment, I feel comfortable with it. I might change my mind, but I encourage you to do what feels right for you. Below is a guide from the Ayala Moriel Foundation of Natural Perfume Course which she posted in her What is Natural? post on SmellyBlog. It is really helpful in sorting out the ingredients.
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by Aftelier Perfumes. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Image: Le Chevrefeuille by Marc Loret on etsy
What a gorgeous tobacco scent this is! That was my first thought when I applied Memento to my skin as its sweet smokiness curled toward my nose. I quickly emailed Mandy Aftel, creator of Memento, and shared my quick affection for her luscious tobacco perfume. The response I got was quite unexpected. There’s no tobacco in Memento.
Mandy did however, feature an enticingly rich antique clove on a base of sweet and sultry tonka beans that creates the impression of a pipe freshly packed with aged tobacco. Along with the richly redolent clove essence, nutmeg and cinnamon enhance Memento’s spicy character, but not in a culinary sense. These spices take on a very sensual, smoldering temperament that leads you away from the kitchen and to a comfy couch for some nuzzling.
Rose and jasmine sambac are listed in the heartnotes, and their presence provides a full, round quality to the clove/tonka duo. Specifically, rose lends its powdery softness and jasmine sambac bestows its piquant petals upon the inherently aromatic aforementioned spices. But rather than shift Memento into the floral perfume category, rose and jasmine augment the sweet “tobacco”, making it even more sumptuous and distinct.
Memento was originally created for “The Alchemy of Taste and Smell” event in NYC this past November. Mandy’s culinary aromatics and perfumes were used in the evening’s dishes, but the focus was the intentional pairing of select Aftelier perfumes with specific dishes. Memento was experienced with dessert, a cinnamon smoked apple with buttermilk and hazelnut. In this moment as the drydown becomes a touch sweeter, and even more alluring, all I can think about is getting my hands on that dessert while wearing this alluring tobacco perfume.
Memento is available at Aftelier.com, $45 for a 2ml mini flask.
Image: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” by René Magritte
Posted by ~Trish
Mandy Aftel, founder and creator of Aftelier Perfumes is a busy gal. She writes, creates gorgeous scents, collaborates with chefs, and has just revamped her website. The above image is from her art collection and greets the visitor at the Aftelier homepage. Mandy’s new site is visually lovely with beautiful art and stunning images of her products. The best part of the website is its elegantly simple design that makes it so easy to navigate. At the left of every page, you’ll find a list of the website’s pages such as liquid perfumes, solid perfumes, perfumed teas, and my favorite, the samples page.
Since the Aftelier website is much more user-friendly, it’s far easier to discover all of Mandy’s previously hidden gems like the Face Elixirs, found at the Face-Body-Bath page. I have the Violet Leaf, Neroli and Chamomile Face Elixir and I use it as Mandy suggests, which is to apply it to my clean face before bedtime. The Violet Leaf, Neroli and Chamomile Face Elixir smells exceptionally leafy thanks to the violet leaf absolute. I find this essence to dominate the Face Elixir with its damp earthy greenness. Neroli gives the slightest hint of citrus and the chamomile boosts its herbal tones, but violet leaf is the heart of this Face Elixir. The 7ml bottle is a petite thing, but I find I need only a drop or two added to my nighttime moisturizer of choice, typically Kahnia Giving Beauty’s Organic Argan Oil, for an aromatic lulling to sleep.
Another tiny bottle that packs a wallop is Aftelier’s Bath Oil. I’m used to bath oils in large bottles, so when I first laid eyes on the diminutive 15ml bottle, I was taken aback by its size, but once I learned that these Bath Oils are made only with pure essences and no carrier oils, the dainty size made perfect sense. The Bath Oils have droppers to ensure you’ll never use too much in one steeping. And believe me, one dropperful is all you need to create an unbelievably redolent bath. Mandy recommends adding the bath oil after your bath is drawn rather than under running water since the natural essences volatize immediately when exposed to hot water. After I squeezed my Forest Flower Bath Oil dropperful into the tub, the entire bathroom was filled with the camphorous and piney trail of Black Spruce essential oil. Relaxing in a Forest Flower bath soothed my sore muscles, and replenished my mind with a calm energy.
You all are probably wondering about the giveaway part of this post, so let’s get to it. There will be four winners in this drawing, and each winner gets to pick out one of the following: a Face Elixir, a Bath Oil, a Body Oil, or a perfume Mini (except Parfum Privé). You need to do two things to be entered, so read carefully! 1). Go to the Aftelier website and give a little feedback in your comment about the new design. 2) Let me know what item you want if you are one of the winners. You can get extra entries if you follow Mandy at Facebook or Twitter. Extra entries as well if you follow Scent Hive on Bloglovin, Twitter, Google Friend Connect,Facebook’s Networked Blogs, or subscribe to Scent Hive. Please let me know in your comment what you did so you get the entries you deserve! Drawing is closed, we have our winners!
Here are my past Aftelier reviews if you need help picking out a fragrance.
Posted by ~Trish
image from Mandy Aftel’s collection
A visit to Mandy’s work space/living space in Berkeley, CA was exactly what I hoped it would be. She was a gracious host, accommodating my almost-due pregnant friend Mary and her cutie-pie 16 month old boy with a charming ease. Mandy served us delicious tea that she perfumes herself, let us dawdle in her vibrant garden, and of course guided us through her dazzlingly extensive perfumer’s organ. Our meeting was a last minute plan and just to add to the extemporaneous feeling of that morning, Avery Gilbert was leaving as we walked in. Yeah, that Avery Gilbert of What the Nose Knows. He too was incredibly kind and considerate and I almost asked Mary to pinch me as I stood amongst Mandy’s books and fragrances while chatting up Avery Gilbert.
As he left, Mandy proceeded to make us tea. One was an oolong infused with jasmine and mint, the other an oolong perfumed with hojary frankincense. A large glass bowl, as big and round as a sink basin, was filled with hojary frankincense from Oman that beckoned me with its resinous radiance. With a slow genuflection, I lowered my head and took in its aroma while Mandy let the jasmine and mint tea steep.
I love jasmine infused tea. I have had many different kinds, and can’t get enough of its floral taste and smell being experienced simultaneously. Not until sipping Mandy’s jasmine and mint tea though, have I ever experienced the indolic nature of jasmine in a tea. It was bold and sensual and instantly relaxing. Mandy chose to blend the jasmine with mint absolute in order to cool the jasmine and play with its indolic edge without eclipsing it. For this reason, mint absolute was chosen over mint essential oil, which would have taken over the floral quality. The mint absolute is rounder, and like jasmine is a middle note, as opposed to mint essential oil which is a top note. As a result, they work in concert with each other, complimenting each other even though jasmine is the more prominent aroma. Mandy also brewed her GABA oolong that is scented with her hojary frankincense. It’s called GABA because this particular oolong is grown to enhance its GABA content, a neurotransmitter that has a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect. Its taste was smooth and delicately aromatic, and definitely calming.
As we sipped tea, Mandy had me smell essences from different sources. For instance I smelled the mint absolute and the mint essential oil, and as Mandy described, the absolute was not sharp in the slightest. It was round and warming and incredibly beautiful. I smelled sandalwood from her new, sustainable source in Indonesia which was buttery and smooth as compared to her vintage Mysore sandalwood which smelled of an antique drawer filled with stories for days. Mandy has a gorgeous chest of drawers filled with her perfumes and colorful pouches that house those fragrances. (I’m sure this chest has many of its own stories to tell!) These pouches are made in Vietnam by disabled craftspeople, and Mandy has worked with this organization to achieve the details she wants in these lovely pouches, down to the size of the strings to the type of knot she prefers.
Aesthetic details clearly mean a lot to Mandy, and this is evident in her garden overflowing with roses. The roses were stunning, and I could have spent all my time at her studio learning about the varieties and their origins. They were all incredible, but my favorite was the Golden Celebration Rose which was particularly noteworthy due to its golden hue, like that of an antique brocade.
But what was most memorable, was Mandy herself. Her humility and wealth of knowledge are admirable. She is also very earnest in her desire to connect with her customers. She has recently entered the world of Facebook and Twitter and is enjoying how it enables her to make those connections. Emails are palpably important to her. She responds to every email (and comment), and feels very strongly about maintaining that relationship with her customers. She wants to know how people respond to her work, and what her fragrances mean to them. Additionally, she exudes contentment and pure joy in her work and her business. In her own words Mandy states, “I’ve gotten to do what I want to do, on my own terms. I have resisted growing my business too big because I like the whimsical nature of being able to create what I want to create, while also enjoying being in control of every aspect of Aftelier Perfumes. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that would be better, for me.” Amen to that.
Below is a sneak peek at the new Aftelier website which is aesthetically lovely, and most importantly, easy to navigate. Mandy’s revamped site will be launched soon and I will keep you up-to-date on that.