New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Curious- Another Roadside Attraction

The essence of curiosity is to look around the corner, walk through the door, open the book, or look inside the drawer. A life where one avoids these things is one where something inspiring is most likely missed. When we went on family road trips I had some of my most fun poking around in the roadside shops. The ones which had signs like “If you break it, you bought it.” Each place was an undiscovered country where possibility could present anything to me. I still have some of the items from those road trips on my desk. Those early discoveries remind me of what I might still find today.

Mandy Aftel

I wonder if the curious, today, spend too much time swiping and clicking their way through the electronic roadside shops. A step away from experiencing things on the electronic highway is something perfumer Mandy Aftel just opened recently.

Ms. Aftel has been a consistent source of reference for perfume lovers. Her first book “Essence and Alchemy” was one of the earliest essential fragrance references. Through her work with the Natural Perfumer’s Guild, in its early days, along with the classes she has taught her knowledge has been easily shared with many who want to try their hand at perfume making. I have no interest in making perfume myself although Ms. Aftel, through her books, has explained the basics I should be aware of. What all of you who have read my words know has been a consistent fascination for me are the ingredients. The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is a museum of over three hundred natural sources of perfume ingredients. I don’t know how or when but I am going to go spend an hour inside this magnificent collection.

Until then I have to satisfy my curiosity with Ms. Aftel’s latest perfume inspired by her museum called, Aftelier Perfumes Curious. The idea behind the perfume is what it might smell like if you stood in the middle of The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents and inhaled. What comes to life in that breath is a mixture of smoky muskiness contrasted by spicy citrus.

Curious opens with a full-spectrum orange accord. Ms. Aftel combines the green leaf with a bitter orange. In the sour, the green finds some purchase to form an accord which feels rounded out. It gets roughed up a bit with some spices cutting through the citrus. The heart is smoke over wood. The wood is identified as Siam wood. It smells like an exotic hardwood after being charred a bit. This is a light smoke not the obtrusive kind you more often find. Out of the smoke comes tobacco absolute. Ms. Aftel calls it the ultimate botanical musk. I have never looked at it from that perspective. It is made more malleable by also using hay absolute as a catalyst to spark the development.

Curious has 8-10 hour longevity and minimal sillage.

Come Inside My Friends To the Show That Never Ends….

Curious is like the carnival barker enticing you closer to the attraction just through that door over there. Like those family road trips, I want to take a drive to Berkeley to visit this newest of roadside attractions wafting Curious the entire way.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Amber Tapestry- Threading It All Together

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Mrs. C is a cross stitcher. As a result, I have spent a lot of time at exhibitions of different types of fabric art. One version I have come to have an appreciation for by attending these shows is that of tapestry. In a funny way, my affection for it comes from a line in a biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson by author Robert Caro. In the introduction to the third volume “Master of the Senate” Mr. Caro describes LBJ’s use of power like this; “Throughout Lyndon Johnson’s life, there had been hints of what he might do with great power, should he ever succeed in attaining it-bright threads gleaming in a dark tapestry: hints of compassion for the downtrodden, and of a passion to raise them up; hints that he might use power not only to manipulate others but to help others-to help moreover, those who most needed help.” That sentence caused me to look at tapestries more closely looking for the contrasting threads to the larger themes because it was there one could find illuminating surprises.

MandyAuthorPhoto

Mandy Aftel

There are few perfumers who I would expect can truly create a fragrant tapestry on purpose, although if asked Mandy Aftel would be one of the first names I would think of. One reason is that throughout her fragrance career she has thrived by creating extremely layered compositions. When Ms. Aftel sent me the press release for hew newest, Aftelier Perfumes Amber Tapestry, I expected something which would live up to its name.

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"Maize" by Sheila Hicks

Ms. Aftel used as an inspiration piece a tapestry by artist Sheila Hicks called “Maize”. The piece pictured above is one of her miniature works which she calls “minimes”. As you look at the piece and begin to let your nose imagine the way that could become a perfume you get a glimpse into what Ms. Aftel has achieved with Amber Tapestry. While you look at the larger blocks of color, just as with the quote above, I want to draw your attention to the thinner strands. Amber Tapestry has a prominent set of olfactory blocks, as well, to which Ms. Aftel adds some impressive thinner perfumed threads which bring it all together.

The first layer of this consists of the sweet vanilla cherry of heliotropin mixed with the brightness of yellow mandarin. Each manages to stay distinct from the other not forming a greater accord; much like the first two blocks of color in the inspiration piece. In the heart two sources of jasmine form the main color blocks. Jasmine sambac provides the transition from the mandarin to the floral as each carries significant aspects of the other. Once that movement is completed jasmine grandiflorum comes forward to add in the more traditional sweet and indolic contrast of jasmine. The thin threaded layers here are courtesy of pear to tease the fruitiness of the sambac out a bit more and cinnamon to keep the indoles just a tad more behaved. Now we come to the large yellow block of amber. Ms. Aftel builds it from labdanum and ambreine. This is really a recapitulation of the two jasmines because ambreine is a more refined version of labdanum which accentuates the sweeter aspects. It is one of the reasons labdanum is so versatile because it can be altered by the method of isolation used. In this case the two forms of labdanum mesh together to form a greater accord with the ambreine connecting to the sweet floralcy of jasmine while the labdanum itself provides the required depth and presence. Alongside the amber accord, Ms. Aftel matches maltol to amplify the sweet which transitions to coumarin to elevate the toasty warmth and finally benzoin to pick up the resinous nature of the labdanum.  The final layers of castoreum and ambergris add a whiff of the animalic for the final color block.

Amber Tapestry has 10-12 hour longevity and low sillage.

Ms. Aftel has created a fittingly complex perfume in Amber Tapestry which lives up to its name. Just as when I look at an actual tapestry it is those complementary filaments which thread it all together.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Memento Mori- Facing Loss

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It has been said that there is nothing certain except for death and taxes. Death is a certainty we all face to be sure. The entire experience of dealing with death in your personal circumstances might seem to be an odd choice to make a perfume about. Perfumer Mandy Aftel has chosen to take this uncertain path in her newest release Aftelier Perfumes Memento Mori.

Memento Mori translates from the Latin as “remember you have to die”. Memento Mori has also been used to describe types of funerary art or literature focused on death. In her press release Ms. Aftel was thinking of Memento Mori jewelry where a memento of a recently passed loved one was placed in something that could be worn. It was a tangible method to hold on to the memory of whomever had passed on.

For Memento Mori Ms. Aftel mentions, also in the press release, that she wanted to “capture the musk-like smell of skin”. If that was her goal she missed that completely for me. My experience with Memento Mori was much more personal than that. It touched me deeply evoking many different aspects of the loss in my own life. I didn’t quite go through the 5 stages of grief but some of those emotions did bubble up on the days I wore Memento Mori.

MandyAuthorPhoto

Mandy Aftel

The top accord of Memento Mori is where Ms. Aftel wanted to create this skin accord. As I mentioned that was not my experience. The three notes she used butter, orris and phenylacetic acid provided something which evoked a deep sense of becoming unmoored as when a loved one passes away suddenly. The orris is not that comforting powdery friendly iris it is the desiccated root of the rhizome which the butter coats in an unctuous layer. On top of all of this the faux-animalic nature of phenylacetic acid carries a whiff of decay. This is a confrontational top accord which asks the wearer to examine their mortality. It is not pretty. It is an opening stanza in an olfactory memento mori. The second stanza is that attempt to try and build the piece of memento mori jewelry. Phenylethyl alcohol which carries with it the shadow of rose is paired with a full Turkish rose absolute. Here you have the real thing as represented by the absolute with phenylethyl alcohol representing the memory shadow. This simple duet within the heart of Memento Mori is that moment when you finally accept the loss. The final stanza carries this rose into the beta-ionone behind the smell of violets. To me it represented the beginning of life after loss. The violet performs a subtle transformation of the rose and its shadow into something which has more life to it washing away the elegiac tone. The rest of the base accord reaffirms that death may be inevitable but life goes on. Ambergris, ambreine, patchoulyl acetate and actual antique civet. When a perfume turns towards a more animalic tone I often describe it as being alive, growling perhaps. This is the moment of stepping forward from the shadows back into the light where life is moving along.

Memento Mori in parfum strength has 10-12 hour longevity and very little sillage. It is a perfume for you alone to meditate upon.

I had a hard time with Memento Mori because of the emotions it called up for me. There have been a lot of recent loss around me which might have had something to do with it. As I wore it for the second time this past week I realized Memento Mori had also been therapeutic in that it allowed me to reflect upon my personal thoughts about death. Which also makes me think of it as a companion to the literary memento mori which asked a reader to do the same.

Memento Mori as a perfume is a piece of artistic construction. It definitely creates separate phases which are expertly constructed to have a defined impact. It is a perfume that could only have been successfully completed by a few. Ms. Aftel has made her most complex perfume, to date. Which only seems appropriate considering the subject.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

The Phases of Mandy Aftel’s Bergamoss

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When it comes to physics there are three phases of matter: liquid, solid and gas. In perfumery there are two phases solid and liquid. Almost all new perfumes are made as liquids. There are very few brands which make solid perfume versions of their liquid perfumes. Even rarer is the perfumer who composes with a solid formulation as their preferred form. One perfumer who has always considered the form her perfumes will take as part of the creative process is Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes.

Ms. Aftel and I had an e-mail conversation sparked by her sending me a sample of her Eau de Parfum version of Bergamoss at the end of last year. Bergamoss in its solid form was one of the perfumes I considered for Perfume of the Year. It is a shimmering modern chypre revolving around a unique focal point of flouve absolute. When translated to a liquid form Bergamoss becomes more expressive. Instead of shimmering it feels more like a sunbeam of focused light and energy. The flouve, so mobile in the solid formulation, feels more like a pivot point in the EdP as the bergamot switches to the chypre. I was interested in Ms. Aftel’s take on how, as a perfumer, she approached a solid versus a liquid perfume. The conversation provided a unique insight into Ms. Aftel’s considered creative process.

Mandy working on Bergamoss

Ms. Aftel at work on Bergamoss

To start I wanted to know in the most basic way how Ms. Aftel viewed her solid perfumes and her liquid versions. She related to me, “I started making solid perfume over twenty years ago and they were the first perfumes that I made. They have a very special place in my heart. I always carry one with me in my purse and use it when I am out. In the beginning of my career, there was no overlap between my solid and liquid perfumes, in other words, a perfume I created was either a solid perfume or a liquid perfume. Whenever I am creating a fragrance the form and carrier of the fragrance are a part of my creative process and I create for something to be in a specific form.”

Also part of conceptualizing a solid perfume is the very different way it is applied. The very act of dragging a finger through the solid and applying it to my skin provides what I consider a unique tactile experience. Ms. Aftel also feels this adds to a perfume in its solid form as she says, “I think of my solid perfumes as simpler, denser, and easier to layer.  I also see them in my mind’s eye traveling with my customer to various and sundry parts of his or her life and bringing some beauty and comfort there. I love the different ways that you can apply perfume, to dab, spray or smooth on a solid perfume. To me these ways of application are intimately connected to the total experience of the perfume on the body. I always think about how a person will experience putting on a perfume of mine and this impacts how I create the perfume and how I package it.” 

I was very interested in the concept of creating for a specific form and asked her to use her two most recent releases, Bergamoss and Vanilla Smoke, as examples to clarify this, “Bergamoss was intended to be a solid perfume because I liked the way that the soft heaviness of the oakmoss revealed itself in a base of wax and oil.  I think of solid perfumes as better for layering.  The drydown on Bergamoss felt like a beautiful foundation upon which to layer liquid perfumes. Vanilla Smoke needed the lift of the high proof perfume alcohol to spread out into and reveal the different levels of wood and smoke and vanilla.”

bergamoss solid

With that in mind I had to know why release Bergamoss as an Eau de Parfum. Ms. Aftel said, “I always thought Bergamoss would make a beautiful liquid perfume — perhaps more beautiful than the solid version — but I wanted it to be a solid perfume. The richness and history of vintage chypres called out to me have the substance of a solid perfume —  and I liked the shimmering aspect of the solid on the skin. But when the holiday came around I wanted to offer another version and was concerned that perhaps it wouldn't make the leap from solid to liquid form with grace. I knew it would be much lighter and brighter and was relieved to find that it still has the substance of the forest coming alive at dusk.”

Ms. Aftel sees Bergamoss as a solid perfume and as such the Eau de Parfum is a limited edition which will be discontinued in February 2016. Her reasoning for offering it as a liquid at all is, “My solid perfumes are expensive and I wanted people to have a chance to experience Bergamoss without having to purchase a solid case.  I love having a small line of perfumes and will stop offering a perfume even when it is selling well and in demand.  It has to do with my interest, as an artist, in the whole of my perfume line being coherent to me and not growing too large. I think of my fragrant offerings as chapters of a book that should create a whole.”

I had to finish our conversation about Bergamoss asking Ms. Aftel to describe this particular chapter in her compendium of perfumes, “My book of perfumes is ever changing with the introduction of new perfumes and the phasing out of old ones. It is something I do intuitively: There is a beautiful and alive “rightness” that I strive for in the whole of the offerings of Aftelier Perfumes.  I don’t want any perfume in my line to be too close or repeat a creative idea that is central in another perfume.” When pressed on Bergamoss EDP she chose a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “Bergamoss EDP is a brief character — “that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”

I want to thank Ms. Aftel for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. It is always interesting to hear an artist find a way to describe something which is at heart an intuitive process.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke- Modern Oriental

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There are times when I hear a new vanilla perfume is coming from one of my favorite brands I get a nervous feeling. What I should remember when this happens again is these perfumers and brands are my favorites because they don’t do what is expected. Even so when I received an e-mail from perfumer Mandy Aftel announcing her new release Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke that nervous feeling returned unbidden.

What it is that I worry about is that especially in the case of vanilla there is a tendency to use vanillin as the source. This ingredient is where most of the vanilla focused perfumes go over the top in overdose and leave me wanting something more, or more correctly less. Ms. Aftel gives me that extra something I am looking for as she eschews vanillin for a Madagascar vanilla absolute as one of two keynotes in Vanilla Smoke. I will admit I am also tiring of perfumes which layer on the woodsmoke and incense. As with the vanilla source Ms. Aftel shows she is not a perfumer who trods the expected path. The source of the smoke here is Lapsang Souchong tea. Together they form the titular notes for this perfume.

MandyAuthorPhoto

Mandy Aftel

Vanilla Smoke opens with a wry knowing smile as Ms. Aftel brandishes many of the components of a more pedestrian construction in the early moments. A bit of sunny mandarin, a touch of light wood and some vanillin. The first couple of minutes had me worried but like a trickster Ms. Aftel rapidly shifts gears into her very clever version of vanilla and smoke. The interstitial note is saffron absolute as it imposes itself on the top notes and immediately makes them more interesting. It provides a bit of camouflage for the keynotes as they begin to rise up in prominence. Real vanilla absolute has the sweet you are familiar with but it also contains much more. There is much more complexity as gentle facets of spiciness and woods make this something more easily found in a jungle than on a baker’s sheet.  I say it every time I review a fantastic independent perfume that the ingredients they use are what set them apart. Ms. Aftel’s Lapsang Souchong is an extract of the tea leaves that were further smoked over pinewood. This allows for this Lapsang Souchong extract to have the heft necessary to stand up to the vanilla absolute as an equal. This ingredient captures the strong black tea and the smokiness inherent within it without ever smelling like a campfire. It is an exotic source of smoke. The final ingredients are coumarin to help accentuate the sweet vanilla qualities and ambergris which adds its unique foundation forming an incandescent veil over the final stages.

Vanilla Smoke in the Eau de Parfum concentration had 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage. In the Perfume concentration it had 16-18 hour longevity and almost no sillage.

Ms. Aftel sent me both of the concentrations available: the Eau de Parfum and the Perfume versions. The Eau de Parfum is much more expansive and the notes which particularly shine in that are things like the saffron and the coumarin as they have more obvious effects. The Perfume concentration is much more contained in its development and it is the keynotes which are mostly in evidence throughout. I thoroughly enjoy both concentrations as I could say the Eau de Parfum is more smoke as it expands to fill up the space around it. The Perfume is more vanilla as the absolute has more influence over the Lapsang Souchong. I think it will all be personal preference which to choose as both are spectacularly good.

I had to laugh when I was looking on Ms. Aftel’s website to see how she categorized Vanilla Smoke. Right at the top of the page it says “gourmand”. I could not disagree more with that as I think of gourmands as something entirely different than what I experience in Vanilla Smoke. If I was categorizing this I would call it a Modern Oriental. Ms. Aftel has taken the traditional Oriental tropes and transformed them into something that feels like an update to that family. It is as satisfying as anything I own in that genre.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Hail To a Founding Mother of American Independent Perfumery

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It is July Fourth in the US. It is the day we Americans celebrate our Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers who formed that document. If there is anything that makes an American stand up straighter it is that sense of wanting to do things our way.

When it comes to perfume there has been a huge expansion in the American independent perfume movement over the last 5-10 years. There are multiple factors which have contributed to this growth. I also believe there is a person who could be considered one of the Founding Mothers of this movement, Mandy Aftel.

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Mandy Aftel

Ms. Aftel began making perfumes for commercial sale in 1995 under the brand name Garandiflorum Perfumes. Two years later she would found her current brand Aftelier Perfumes. Right from the beginning Ms. Aftel wanted to change the perception of natural perfumes. Prior to 1995 they were sold mostly at health food stores and head shops. They had an unfortunate association with being seen as both low in quality and lacking in style. Ms. Aftel would take the time to seek out materials and understand their nature before using them in a perfume. Nowhere is this more evident than in the fragrance with which I became aware of her with, Cepes and Tuberose.

cepes-tuberose

According to an interview Ms. Aftel did on the blog Kafkaesque wherein she talks about her love for working with difficult ingredients. While she was working on her 2004 book Aroma with Chef Daniel Patterson she decided she wanted to incorporate mushrooms, or cepes, into a perfume. The choice to pair it with the most boisterous white flower on the planet tuberose could have been disastrous. Instead this single perfume represents so much of what is right about Independent perfumery; the ability matched with the desire to take crazy chances which pay off in perfumes that stand among the best of the best. Cepes and Tuberose is a spectacular example of this. If I was just going to call Ms. Aftel a Founding Mother for her portfolio of perfumes that would be justified. There is another reason I think of her this way.

Ms. Aftel has been the teacher, inspiration, and confidant to so many independent perfumers it is difficult to make an accurate count. In 2002 she founded the Natural Perfumers Guild so she and the other people who wanted to see natural perfume elevated from the poor perception it had banded together. They would spread the word that Natural Perfumes were something to be celebrated. They would provide outreach to budding independent perfumers to give them a place to come together and learn from each other.

That sense of teaching extends to her book Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume. It is many young independent perfumers’ key reference. I believe it is a part of the essential perfume library for anyone interested in perfumery in any way. The aforementioned Aroma which explores scent and taste along with last year’s Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent which delves into the history and use of five perfume raw materials show her desire to share her experience through writing.

Beyond that Ms. Aftel is extremely giving of herself. She teaches classes out of her home studio on a regular basis. She is one of the key figures in the West Coast Perfume movement. She will invite people into her home to visit her garden and studio.

In science we have what we call “family trees” where we trace ourselves back through the people we obtained our degree from. Eventually we all end up springing from the tree labeled “Newton”. I would venture to say if the same method was applied to independent American perfumery that original tree would be labeled “Aftel”.

All of the above is why I consider her a Founding Mother. While I am watching the fireworks tonight and thinking about the founding of this country I will also take a moment to think of Ms. Aftel. I will send out a silent toast as a chrysanthemum firework explodes in a circle of color far above my head and thank her for all that she continues to do to support the American independent perfume world.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Bergamoss- Intimate Chypre

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One of the great things about Facebook is the anticipation it builds in me for upcoming perfumes from many of my favorite independent perfumers. Early this month Mandy Aftel posted a picture with the caption “Working at my organ on a new chypre perfume!” In a response to one of the comments she promised, “it has all the “real” stuff in it.” It would be barely a week later when Ms. Aftel contacted me to let me know a sample of her new solid perfume for Aftelier Perfumes, Bergamoss, was on its way.

Mandy working on Bergamoss

Picture from Mandy Aftel's Facebook page of her working on Bergamoss

Ms. Aftel often releases her perfumes as solids versus liquid applications. The biggest difference I notice is how wearing a solid perfume might be the most intimate experience one can have in perfume. The act of taking a finger and dipping it into a pot and choosing where to apply it only adds to that feeling.

Bergamoss is indeed a chypre with all of the “real” stuff. It is also a chypre made personal which is a side effect of it being produced in a solid form. By making it in this form Ms. Aftel takes something well-known and transforms it into something more transparent. Because it has all of the appropriate components it makes one lean in looking for more. Bergamoss makes me take what it is willing to give. Once I stopped chasing and actually accepted the level of engagement it became much more compelling than it was on first sniff. By the time I had worn this a couple more times it was all about the compulsion to bring it closer.

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Botanical drawing of flouve

Bergamoss opens with the promised “berg” of bergamot. The citrus quotient is doubled with orange added which provides a juiced up “berg” to start things. The heart is where things really come together. Ms. Aftel employs a particularly juicy peach in combination with citronellol and nutmeg for the heart. Nutmeg has a wonderful spiced sweetness which opens up the sweeter qualities of the citronellol and peach while also providing necessary grounding effects. After the first two acts we finally get to the “real” stuff. The base of Bergamoss is the “amoss” from the name and much more. The note which leads you into the base is called flouve absolute. Ms. Aftel says in the press release it is from the tops of French sweet grass. She also says it can be chameleon-like in a fragrance and the base of Bergamoss does have a seemingly shifting frame of reference and I am going to chalk that up to the flouve. The core of the base is real oakmoss and antique civet. Coumarin provides a bridge between the muskiness and the woody green. That leaves the flouve to provide the grace notes which it does throughout the great majority of time Bergamoss is on my skin. It goes from narcotic sweetness to intense greenness. This makes Bergamoss feel in constant motion.

Bergamoss lasts 6-8 hours and has almost no sillage to speak of.

Bergamoss is going to be one of those perfumes where my already high estimation of it only climbs higher the more I become familiar with it. Ms. Aftel has put the “real” stuff in a really excellent perfume. Dip your finger in and find your personal olfactory bliss in its intimate excellence.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

Book Review: Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel- Essential Oil Reading

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When I reviewed Mandy Aftel’s recent release Palimpsest she mentioned it was inspired by the research she did for her new book, “Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent”. I received my review copy a little over a week ago and spent this past weekend completely enthralled by Ms. Aftel’s new book. This is Ms. Aftel’s fourth book on scent and it is by far her most accessible.

Ms. Aftel starts off with an introduction on how she fell in love with making natural perfume after a number of previous careers. She realized that scent was important to her and that she wanted to learn how to create perfume. She immersed herself in the history of perfumery and after her years as a perfumer she has come up with a simple truism, “Scent is a portal to these basic human appetites- for the far-off, the familiar, the transcendent, the strange, and the beautiful-that have motivated us since the origins of our species.” That sentence encapsulates what great perfume does for me and what it aspires to.

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Mandy Aftel (Photo: Foster Curry)

For this book Ms. Aftel decided to focus on five raw ingredients: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine. Each ingredient gets its own chapter. It starts with a history of the ingredient but there are delightful tangents as well. One of my favorites comes from the Cinnamon chapter where she found a set of five rules for perfumers in ancient Constantinople. It directs where the perfumers can ply their trade so the pleasant smells will drift up into the Royal Palace nearby. They are also directed that, “They are not to stock poor quality goods in their shops: a sweet smell and a bad smell do not go together.” I think there are some modern perfumeries which could be reminded of these old rules.

The last section of each chapter is dedicated to experiencing the ingredient as a raw material and it includes recipes for different fragrances and ways to use it in cooking. For an even richer experience for these last sections; on the Aftelier website there is a Companion Kit which has all five of the ingredients to allow you to actually play along as you read. I received one of the Companion Kits and it greatly enhanced my experience. Plus there is enough to allow the reader to choose to use some in whatever way seems apt.

Ms. Aftel’s previous career as a writer along with her experience as a natural perfumer allows for a perfect synergy as the author is also the expert. It is an important distinction when it comes to describing a sensory experience in words. I believe it is Ms. Aftel’s intimate relationship with these materials which allow for her to communicate about them so effectively and beautifully.

There are very few books which can reach outside the small circle of those of us who are obsessed with perfume. I believe Fragrant is going to be a book which does have a much wider reach because it is as easy to read as a true-life adventure. For those of us who love perfume and the raw ingredients within them Fragrant is going to give you new perspective on these ingredients. I learned so much I didn’t know about ingredients I thought I knew a lot about.

The section of my bookshelf which houses the books on scent and perfume that I think are essential is pretty small. With the publication of Fragrant it just got one volume bigger.

Disclosure: This review was based on a copy of Fragrant provided by Riverhead Books.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Aftelier Perfumes Palimpsest- Layers Upon Layers

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I love words. I love words which roll off my tongue carrying meaning. One of my favorite words is palimpsest. I was introduced to this word in the novel by astronomer Carl Sagan, “Contact”. In that novel an alien race sends a message to Earth on how to initiate first contact. The message is a palimpsest. A palimpsest is not a science fiction concept it was actually born of necessity during the beginning of the written word. Because paper was so precious when new parchment was needed often an old page with writing on it would be washed and the faded text written over. What would result is a piece of writing which would have hidden layers of older meaning underneath the surface. It also has an odd sort of intricate visual beauty to it. The page below is from The Archimedes Palimpsest on which a prayer text has been written over the words of ancient mathematician Archimedes. Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes must also like the word because her newest release is named Palimpsest and it also carries the same captivating power as The Archimedes Palimpsest.

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The Archimedes Palimpsest (Photo: Scientific American)

Ms. Aftel is one of the founders of independent perfumery and in particular independent natural perfumery. In science we refer to a family tree which springs from our graduate research advisors. When it comes to natural perfume Ms. Aftel’s family tree is a huge oak which spreads widely. I have always admired her passion at sharing her knowledge. Towards that end she has just finished a new book, “Fragrant, The Secret Life of Scent”. During her research she came across old texts which had palimpsest pages within. She “wanted to capture the richness that you feel when you experience the past as alive in the present, creating the gorgeous complexity of life.” Ms. Aftel has done an outstanding job at creating a perfumed page of differing layers which together create something as delightful as The Archimedes Palimpsest.

mandy aftel

Mandy Aftel (Photo: Handful of Salt)

The modern text on top of the fragrance is written in honey and citrus. Ms. Aftel uses yuzu and phenylacetic acid to combine the grapefruit-like quality of yuzu with the slightly honeyed character of phenylacetic acid. The honey effect is slight but it is persistent which will come into play later on. The heart is a floral scented love letter written in flowery notes of jasmine and ylang ylang made richer and creamier by the use of gamma- dodecalactone. The lactone is two carbons bigger than the well-known peach lactone and those two carbons impart an apricot and pear facet along with the peach, all suspended in a creamy matrix. This makes the heart of Palimpsest a luscious fruity floral. The base is an ancient text written in the aboriginal ingredient of firetree oil. Firetree oil is an indigenous ingredient used in the outback of Australia. The aboriginal people have used it for millennia medicinally and the flowers are edible. The oil is one of the more fascinating ingredients I have encountered in the last couple of years. It is almost a palimpsest all by itself as it moves from lightly floral, sugary sweet, a bit of leather and often it exudes a golden glow of honey. The latter allows the phenylacetic acid from the early development to come back into play closing the loop on the layers.

Palimpsest has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

There are few perfumers who could have set out to create an olfactory layer of styles and have them all mesh together so beautifully. Ms. Aftel has created an intricately crafted piece of perfumery that gives the wearer hours of layered development as it constantly evolves on the skin. Each layer reveals something in relation to the others making it a true palimpsest.

Dioisclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.

Mark Behnke