When I wrapped up my favourite perfumes for 2017 one of the olfactory adventures that needed to be ticked off the list was the exploration of the Aftelier Perfumes collection. So many lovely words are written about Mandy Aftel‘s natural range of perfumes that I really felt the need to experience them as I had the rare condition of Fragrant FOMO.
Out of the blue Aftel must have psychically heard my thoughts as a box of scented delights arrived in the post. Believe it or not I have actually been wanting to smell some of these perfumes for a couple of years now. I’d also read a fantastic article from Mandy in the now defunct (but fantastic) ODOU magazine about ambergris that intrigued.
Mandy Aftel is considered the doyenne of natural perfumery, she’s influenced many to start creating their own natural scents, and I admire how she’s created a world of fragrant finds to experience at her base in Berkeley, whether that’s through the training she offers or her Aftelier Archive of Curious Scents.
Mandy told me in an interview published on these pages (where you can find out more about her wide-ranging creativity) that she takes time to source her raw materials and the quality translates to the overall feel of the fragrance compositions. Her considerable skill at creation then makes the magic happen.
“I think of them all as poems in a book or different chapters and that they are for different times and moods and aspects of life.” (Mandy Aftel)
I have been working my way through the contents in my box of treats and fairly quickly one literally jumped out at me and become a favourite in the selection. Not that I didn’t like the other perfumes. Far from it, they are all very well done, and of high quality. Each fragrance is interesting and smells other worldly and have all now grown on me to the point where I’m never sure which one I prefer to wear for the day. I knew they were going to be good but I can now see why Aftelier has such dedicated fans and a cult following.
And now for the perfumes … Here are my thoughts on : Vanilla Smoke, Velvet Tuberose, Palimpsest and Cuir de Gardenia.
Vanilla Smoke : Notes : Madagascar vanilla absolute, tea smoked over pine, Siam wood, saffron, ambergris
The tobacco and vanilla combination is not new or unique but it is a theme that can be teased out in many different directions. Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille is one of the most well-known perfumes in this genre. Vanilla Smoke is better in my opinion, a more subtly shaded fragrance with a perfect balance between the smoke and the sweet that calls my name. It’s smokier at the beginning then the balance gains equilibrium and tends to do the Libran balancing act going one way then the other. The vanilla is not a sugared sweetie pie but the more languorous natural Madagascan, a spicier and to my nose, far more delectable variety. The smokiness is akin to a delicious brew of Lapsong Souchong – a tea that I adore that usually smells more potent than it tastes by the way. A spiciness is apparent too and then the scent settles into a floral, woodsy vanilla. Vanilla Smoke is exceptionally well done and a perfume to fall for if you enjoy a smoky blend or a quality vanilla or just a damn fine fragrance.
Velvet Tuberose : Format : Solid : Notes : Pink grapefruit, grand fir, transparent florals, tuberose absolute, heady white flowers, creamy sandalwood, damp earth, spun sugar
I know tuberose can be too shrill and spell drama queen for many and it can be difficult to find a perfume that takes a quieter more subtly shaded approach to this multi faceted flower. Now with Velvet Tuberose you will find a much more approachable, natural tuberose that is sweet, very creamy in texture, but one that also has a green grassy tint. An earthy undercurrent also sows the perfume together. Recent tuberose perfumes have summoned the weird and wonderful, like Nuit de Tubereuse from Naomi Goodsir. Velvet Tuberose takes a different path and one that I think many of you will fall for.
It comes in the solid format that I personally really enjoy wearing. For some reason this feels like a more natural way of wearing a fragrance and seems to suit natural perfumery well. Smoothing a balm like substance on skin to me actually feels more fluid than spraying a perfume.
Palimpsest : Notes : Yuzu essential oil (like grapefruit), gamma dodecalactone ( a natural isolate extracted from apricots) Peachy jasmine, fruity ylang, woody notes, ambergris
This perfume has a gorgeous sounding name – Palimpsest. This word refers to a document where the original writing has been erased and new text is written on the top, but there is still evidence of the older writing underneath. I like this reference to layers and life and those that have gone before us and the traces they leave behind.
Palimpsest the perfume brings to mind a vast garden bathed in golden light. I imagine walking at leisure amongst trees laden with fresh stone fruit and the radiance of light glancing through in honey coloured tones. This smells like peach and apricot mixed with fragrant white florals. It’s a beautiful perfume and I don’t think jasmine and ylang ylang have smelt this good. Ever. It has a similar happy feel as Bombay Bling, another perfume that works brilliantly to pop a smile on the dial.
Cuir de Gardenia : Notes : Tiare (gardenia) absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, benzyl acetate, castoreum, ethyl phenyl acetate, maltol
Gardenia leather – I like the sound of this and what it conveys. There’s a melange of light and dark elements in this perfume that for some reason conjured scenes of overgrown leafy dark areas with old, decaying mansions and eccentric characters. Think Grey Gardens or Ann Bancroft‘s character in the 90’s version of Great Expectations.
Cuir de Gardenia is a fragrant, faded beauty full of ripe florals with an almost grape like fruity element. A definite whiff of animalics are present too, not overbearing or marking their spot, they feel seamlessly blended. This is not your run of the mill perfume, there’s character and drama playing beneath the surface that you will want to give your attention to.
Come back next week for Part 2 featuring : Cêpes and Tuberose, Oud Luban and Amber Tapestry. Do you have an Aftelier Perfume favourite?