A Quintet from Aftelier Perfumes

SLOW SCENT: These perfumes speak (volumes) for themselves. “Everything I make is free from synthetics, parabens, glycols, and petrochemicals. I hand-blend and bottle all my products in small batches in my Berkeley, California studio, and personally attend to every detail of the process in creating every product. I love adding a sense of luxury and well-being to people’s lives. As the founder of Aftelier Perfumes, I have been hailed as one of the fragrance industry’s “most prolific talents” by Vogue and an “angel of alchemy” by Vanity Fair, and listed as one of the top seven bespoke perfumers in the world by Forbes. I am an advisor at The Institute for Art and Olfaction, which has created the Aftel Award for Handmade Perfume in my honor..…

HOUSE: Aftelier Perfumes
SIZE/COST: 30ml / $210
NOSE: Mandy Aftel

Embers & Musk: Mandy does not mess around when it comes to the dimensional realization of serious smoke point. This smolders dry and bracing, perhaps in effigy, in commemoration, to all those who lost livelihoods and loved ones along the Pacific in the past years. This does not, by any stretch, come off sentimental, though it does prod a host of recent and past memorials. The perfume is rather stoic and centered in the way a burnt offering is supposed to be, a tributary of great respect. “Ashes to ashes” – Bowie’s classic comes to mind as this stirs up so much, the concept of the eternal flame, the brightest of auras shrouded in variegated dappled light, and with the evergreens in the heart, these tall beauties are some of Mother Nature’s most treasured of spirits. This has a definitive stroke of peppery spice filtered through the cloudy poof of enriched smokiness. To me, right now, this is in my mind, in memory of all those who were taken too soon from our fading pandemic, their spirits have flown. (2019, 90%)

Notes: ambrettolide, pine tar, guaiacol, pink pepper, apple, red champaca, yuzu

Forest Bathing: What a delightfully radiant work of perfume art. This is likely the most realistic pear note I’ve experienced thus far (check out our recent review of Juliette Has A Gun’s Pear, Inc). It comes to the senses as if these pendulous, juicy beauties are still dangling from the tree branches, and now having been just plucked their essence is released. It’s just the right amount of freshness, however the bark and branch accords really give this a more fully realized environmental feel. This is pumped-up, enhanced and extended by some stellar synthesis for sure, though it does not trounce on the lovely fruity glow. The greens are of a leafy nature, but truly secondary to the wood nymphs and juicy fruit. I enjoy this because it is not cloying like so many that try to replicate mango, pear and strawberry – and end up with a sticky mess. Aftelier know how to bring the subtle sweetness with a hint of dew. (2019, 86%)

Notes: hinoki, fir absolute, cypress bioabsolute, Sugi wood, myrrh, pear, linalyl acetate, cypress, beta ionone

Memento Mori: A buttery bouquet with a furry glow. Oh, this is as if one of those age-old Dutch master paintings has come to life, a still life cascading vase of ebullient flowers emerging from the canvas, straight off a museum wall, a taxidermied woodland creature reanimated. That soft buttery (likely from orris) quality reminds me of the deep impasto, the layers of oil, the bright and ambery colors, oh – its all so rich. The blush of rose extends from the emergence from the bottle to the slow fade on the top layer of your skin. It’s auroral and fleeting, but like an echo in a vast canyon. This has a sense of profound intimacy. (2016, 84%)

Notes: orris, sheer rose, light amber, butter, antique civet, woody violets

Palimpsest: Flora and fauna come together in a classic antique offering. This harkens back to classic perfumes, likely this centuries old. It makes me think of lavishly designed crystal cut bottles with gilded flourishes and wax seals. This transports me to the deep past (18th-19th centuries maybe). This seems as if it came directly from a rare recipe book found in an antiquarian athenaeum somewhere in the UK and later deciphered from archaic script. It has royal vibes. It’s a strange perfume way out of time. (2014, 85%)

Notes: peachy jasmine, fruity ylang, softly animalic, a smidge of vanilla, exotic fire tree

Vanilla Smoke: A peculiar smoke rises up. After just having put together a rather large scope of tea infused fragrances for a June spotlight, this is what was missing. It reminds me of a subtle oolong souchong, steeped in a heavenly vanilla bean, sipped by the salty seashore – now say that five times fast! This definitely embodies the smell of the tide with all its coastal accoutrements. It’s like the yang to Embers & Musk’s yin, two sides of something sensational. This is a bit of a capsule of keepsake memoirs, or at least some semblance thereof. Yes, the deeper your senses take this in the more it repeats like ripples in the vast ocean. Get caught in its wake! (2015, 88%)

Notes: Madagascar vanilla absolute, tea smoked over pine, Siam wood, saffron, ambergris

Recommended Soundtrack:
Japan’s Tin Drum (1981)

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