My love of camping came from being a Boy Scout. The camping trips we took throughout Florida every summer were transformative. I learned to love the geography and wildlife of my home through spending time in it. If there is something which reminds me of those days, it is the smell of the Florida pine. We would hike all day through forests of them and camp at night underneath them; sentinels from the darkness outside our campfire. It is one of the beautiful things about perfume when I smell something for the first time, and it connects to a memory. When I received my sample of Aftelier Perfumes Embers & Musk I was back in the woods of Florida surrounded by pine trees.
Mandy Aftel is one of our greatest independent perfumers working with an all-natural palette. She has been one of the most important members of the American indie perfumery community. Every new perfume from her is a new opportunity to learn what the possibilities are for natural perfumery. In Embers & Musk she chose pine tar to represent the embers and ambrettolide as the botanical source of musk. I am a fan of the pungency of pine tar in perfume. I was worried that the delicate ambrettolide would get stuck in the stickiness of the tar. What happens is why I write about perfume and Ms. Aftel makes perfume she knew exactly how to give both room to shine.
When I climbed my share of Florida pine trees as a boy, I always came away with some of the resin on my hands and legs. If I got enough on me, I could roll it up into a pea-shaped ball which I would roll around in my fingers. That fresh scent comes forth in the earliest moments of Embers & Musk. Yuzu and apple add a crisp framework for the pine. This is the fresh smell of the pines at sunset. Baie rose comes along to begin to modify the piney keynote nudging it in an herbal direction. This sets the stage for the smoke to arise. So many perfumers go right for the cade oil and often unbalance their perfume. Ms. Aftel has alternatives to that. Here she uses guaiacol as the source of her smoke. Guaiacol is a component of whisky and if you really focus on it you will get that. Ms. Aftel is not after a boozy effect she wants that smell of campfire clinging to clothing. The guaiacol is threaded through the pine tar with a precision to achieve just that. This is where the ambrettolide comes in. It adds a clean sweaty skin scent underneath the smoke. It would remind me of sitting in my tent before going to sleep. The remnants of the smoke from the campfire over the smell of my skin.
Embers & Musk has 10-12 hours of longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Aftel has created a perfume with a large presence while adding in the subtlety you might not think possible in a perfume where pine tar is the keynote. It is why she remains one of my favorite perfumers. Embers & Musk took me back to those summer nights hiking into the pine woods of Florida.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Aftelier Perfumes.