One of the books I used to broaden my knowledge of perfume was “Essence & Alchemy” by Mandy Aftel. A combination of history and how-to it was part of my introductory library as I sought to understand more. It was a short step to trying some of the author’s perfumes. Ms. Aftel is one of the most successful independent perfumers because of the foundational knowledge she brings to making her fragrances. The first perfume for her brand, Aftelier Perfumes, was a solid perfume called Alchemy. Like so many independent perfumers it was a rich perfume experience based on one-of-a-kind materials. It is this which makes independent perfumery as exciting to me.
Ms. Aftel recently discovered the remnants of those materials and has decided to bring Alchemy back as a limited edition. This time it is as an oil formulation instead of a solid perfume. What makes this something to be sought out are the presence of three materials, two of which are no longer available. They are aged versions of labdanum absolute, vanilla absolute, and ylang-ylang concrete. These three ingredients are like early Holiday presents to perfume lovers. They are what creates the magic in Alchemy.
Alchemy opens on a spicy citrus accord of orange and black pepper. This is reminiscent of the spiced orange which is prevalent around the Holidays. It is an ideal Seasonal opening. It then transitions into the rich floral heart I recall from the original. This is where the ylang-ylang concrete becomes the star. Ylang-ylang has this fleshy quality which I find appealing. The concrete brings that out. It adds a sensual depth which is amplified with absolutes of Turkish rose and jasmine. The spicy rose captures the pepper and orange from the top accord. The jasmine adds an undercurrent of indolic flower. I’m not sure I can overstate the beauty of this ylang-ylang being used here. This is the kind of complexity which comes from the finest ingredients plus it has been aged for an additional fifteen years or so. This moves toward a comforting base accord where the labdanum and vanilla come together over benzoin. The two aged ingredients provide subtle grace notes throughout the later stages especially the vanilla which finds just the right balance of sweet to contrast the resins. Once Alchemy is all together it is the same opulent floral I remembered.
Alchemy has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Experiencing Alchemy again after so many years it reinforces all of what I think sets independent perfumery apart. The singular vision of an artist like Ms. Aftel. The use of unique small-batch materials. Finally, an appreciation of history applied to today. Alchemy is a special experience by returning to the beginning.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.