The Clarimonde Project, Part II

If you read my last post, you know there’s an exciting blog project swirling in the ether, inspired by the darkly romantic short story, Clarimonde. Romuald, who despite his passion for the priesthood, entered into an illicit love affair with the hypnotic Clarimonde, only to regret it for years to come. At the end of his tale, Romauld implores the reader,  “Never gaze upon a woman, and walk abroad only with eyes ever fixed upon the ground; for however chaste and watchful one may be, the error of a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity. Lose eternity.”

My heart ached for poor Romauld as I read of his love literally vanishing into dust before his eyes. His subsequent deep anguish regarding that love made me feel even more despondent. Thankfully, I was soothed by the post at ScentLessSensibilities, as Sheila picked up the story where the author Théophile Gautier left off. Her continuation of Clarimonde centers around Romauld’s housekeeper at the presbytery and a mysterious perfume she finds during a posthumous sorting of his chamber. The perfume that Sheila was inspired by, Immortal Mine, was created by Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl for The Clarimonde Project. It is rich and floral, inky and dark, but I’ll stop there. Go read ScentLessSensibilities‘ review as it is far more inspired than anything I could attempt.

My sadness for Romauld has also been assuaged by a gloriously comforting oud and frankincense based perfume by Mandy Aftel. Mandy’s Clarimonde-inspired Oud Luban smells of wooden pews and altars suffused with incense that has burned for centuries and centuries. Oud Luban is a solid perfume that holds eight different types of oud in its midst. Surprisingly, it is a subtle and supple oud that caresses with suede, etherial smoke and a smoothly aged patchouli. It is both sensual and reverential, and I hope Romauld found comfort in such an aroma in the wake of Clarimonde’s departure from his life.

The Clarimonde Project Part I
The Clarimonde Project Part III

Oud Luban is available at Aftelier Perfumes.

Samples of Immortal Mine will be available for purchase by contacting Maria and Alexis at

Image from

Disclosure: Samples were sent to me for consideration by the above perfumers. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.Share


The winners of the Aftelier giveaway!

The lucky winners are Amy H, Carly, Lisa BTB and Linda of I’d like to say thank you so much for everyone’s input. I know Mandy appreciates it greatly.

Posted by ~Trish

image from Mandy Aftel’s collection


A Visit to Mandy Aftel's Studio

A visit to Mandy’s work space/living space in Berkeley, CA was exactly what I hoped it would be. She was a gracious host, accommodating my almost-due pregnant friend Mary and her cutie-pie 16 month old boy with a charming ease. Mandy served us delicious tea that she perfumes herself, let us dawdle in her vibrant garden, and of course guided us through her dazzlingly extensive  perfumer’s organ. Our meeting was a last minute plan and just to add to the extemporaneous feeling of that morning, Avery Gilbert was leaving as we walked in. Yeah, that Avery Gilbert of What the Nose Knows. He too was incredibly kind and considerate and I almost asked Mary to pinch me as I stood amongst Mandy’s books and fragrances while chatting up Avery Gilbert.

As he left, Mandy proceeded to make us tea. One was an oolong infused with jasmine and mint, the other an oolong perfumed with hojary frankincense. A large glass bowl, as big and round as a sink basin, was filled with hojary frankincense from Oman that beckoned me with its resinous radiance. With a slow genuflection, I lowered my head and took in its aroma while Mandy let the jasmine and mint tea steep.

I love jasmine infused tea. I have had many different kinds, and can’t get enough of its floral taste and smell being experienced simultaneously. Not until sipping Mandy’s jasmine and mint tea though, have I ever experienced the indolic nature of jasmine in a tea. It was bold and sensual and instantly relaxing. Mandy chose to blend the jasmine with mint absolute in order to cool the jasmine and play with its indolic edge without eclipsing it. For this reason, mint absolute was chosen over mint essential oil, which would have taken over the floral quality. The mint absolute is rounder, and like jasmine is a middle note, as opposed to mint essential oil which is a top note. As a result, they work in concert with each other, complimenting each other even though jasmine is the more prominent aroma. Mandy also brewed her GABA oolong that is scented with her hojary frankincense. It’s called GABA because this particular oolong is grown to enhance its GABA content, a neurotransmitter that has a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect. Its taste was smooth and delicately aromatic, and definitely calming.

As we sipped tea, Mandy had me smell essences from different sources. For instance I smelled the mint absolute and the mint essential oil, and as Mandy described, the absolute was not sharp in the slightest. It was round and warming and incredibly beautiful. I smelled sandalwood from her new, sustainable source in Indonesia which was buttery and smooth as compared to her vintage Mysore sandalwood which smelled of an antique drawer filled with stories for days. Mandy has a gorgeous chest of drawers filled with her perfumes and colorful pouches that house those fragrances. (I’m sure this chest has many of its own stories to tell!) These pouches are made in Vietnam by disabled craftspeople, and Mandy has worked with this organization to achieve the details she wants in these lovely pouches, down to the size of the strings to the type of knot she prefers.

Aesthetic details clearly mean a lot to Mandy, and this is evident in her garden overflowing with roses. The roses were stunning, and I could have spent all my time at her studio learning about the varieties and their origins. They were all incredible, but my favorite was the Golden Celebration Rose which was particularly noteworthy due to its golden hue, like that of an antique brocade.

But what was most memorable, was Mandy herself. Her humility and wealth of knowledge are admirable. She is also very earnest in her desire to connect with her customers. She has recently entered the world of Facebook and Twitter and is enjoying how it enables her to make those connections. Emails are palpably important to her. She responds to every email (and comment), and feels very strongly about maintaining that relationship with her customers. She wants to know how people respond to her work, and what her fragrances mean to them. Additionally, she exudes contentment and pure joy in her work and her business. In her own words Mandy states, “I’ve gotten to do what I want to do, on my own terms. I have resisted growing my business too big because I like the whimsical nature of being able to create what I want to create, while also enjoying being in control of every aspect of Aftelier Perfumes. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that would be better, for me.” Amen to that.

Below is a sneak peek at the new Aftelier website which is aesthetically lovely, and most importantly, easy to navigate. Mandy’s revamped site will be launched soon and I will keep you up-to-date on that.

Posted by ~Trish
Photographs by ~



Aftelier Perfumes Fig EdP

Mandy Aftel, creator of Aftelier Perfumes, is a true artist. Her fragrances are interesting, thought provoking, and ultimately beautiful, and each time I wear one I adore her fragrances just a little more. I’m certain Mandy’s Fig has more than the listed notes of fir absolute, jasmine sambac and yuzu in its blend, but knowing this triad provides the foundation for this stunning perfume gives me much to ponder, even without having the scent on my skin.

The juxtaposition of something so deeply green and reminiscent of winter festivities like fir against the intensely lush and heady floral quality of jasmine intrigued me greatly before I had the chance to sample Fig. I wasn’t expecting Fig would smell like figs, but rather Mandy’s interpretation of the fruit. And indeed, I’d liken it to an impressionist’s take on what figs smell like, but not the watery Monet’s that typically come to mind; more like a Manet where you see the image quite clearly, but with an edge, albeit a softened edge.

Fig speaks of contrary alliances. It’s musty yet sharp, balsamic yet sweet. It’s indolic and resinous, earthy and powdery. Mandy’s Vintage Patchouli essential oil might be in Fig because it possesses a rich, earthy base that resembles the aged patchouli. But the overriding beauty of this fragrance is the merging of fir and jasmine sambac. Somehow the two create a sap-filled and organic scent that is dark and jammy with a subtle spicy flourish only jasmine sambac can offer. The chewy aroma of Fig is so unique and alluring, I had to put it on my holiday wishlist.

And Yay! I received a bottle of the new Fig EdP as a Christmas gift from my husband, and what a thrill it was to find that treasure snuggled up inside Aftelier’s signature purple box with her orange and purple floral label. Both the parfum and EdP have the same formulation, yet I do prefer the EdP as it is lovely to spray Fig on your skin. I do love to dab, but it is exhilarating to spritz such a gorgeous perfume which fortunately lasts all day.

Posted by ~Trish

Aftelier Fig was picked as one of the top 9 natural perfumes for summer on! Check out their site for beauty and fashion tips.

Fig EdP is $150 for 30ml at Aftelier Perfumes. Aftelier products do not contain artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, phthalates, or parabens. This is clearly stated on the website.

Figs by Serinissima on Etsy