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.
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 (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.