Where to begin with this trio of redolent treats? Each one is a unique creation of Mandy Aftel’s, who is probably well known to you if you frequent perfume blogs or have an interest in *natural perfumes. You might also be familiar with her book, Essence and Alchemy, which has influenced me a great deal in my blogging and personal love of perfume. Her evocative way with words and firm grasp of history makes it an incredibly inspiring and educational read. I believe she was able to write so poetically about the history of fragrance because she has an innate talent in creating fragrance herself. This expertise is exemplified quite remarkably in the gems pictured above.
After an absolutely beautiful, sunny summer here in the Pacific Northwest, the rain has finally set in, and that means it’s time to cozy up with your deeper perfumes. Fortunately, Mandy Aftel’s latest creation, Vanilla Smoke, fulfills the hopes for those of us who love vanilla fragrances for the fall and winter. The beauty of this new perfume is its nuanced balance between sweet and smoky. The vanilla absolute used in Vanilla Smoke is in no way sticky sweet, but rather like an aromatic liquor that lulls you into a cushy nap. Coumarin, which is derived from tonka beans and cinnamon, heightens the vanilla note as it too adds dimension to the perfume’s smokiness while not making it sugary.
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.
Oud Luban is available at Aftelier Perfumes.
Samples of Immortal Mine will be available for purchase by contacting Maria and Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image from Augustiniancanons.org
Haute Claire is a hyper-real perfume. A turn-up-the-volume-to-11, bordering on psychedelic perfume. Its galbanum is the most vibrant kelly green you’ve ever smelled and the ylang ylang buzzes at a fever pitch. It would be safe to assume that these two powerhouse essences might engage in a battle of wills, but they don’t. They join forces and hum along at a high frequency, one that is spirited and very intriguing.
As expected, galbanum is sharp and intense, but Haute Claire’s creator, Mandy Aftel, has ramped up its musty side which gives some density but in no way mutes the excitement of the ylang ylang merger. Mandy has used ylang ylang co2 in Haute Claire, which according to her allows it to be a top note which explains the nearly electrifying burst of this blossom right out of the bottle.
The concentrated galbanum/ylang duo gives way, but not fully, to the emergence of yet another commanding aroma, honeysuckle. Now I like galbanum, and I’ve learned to appreciate ylang ylang’s place in perfume, but I truly adore the scent of honeysuckle. Mandy has sourced a very rare, Italian made honeysuckle absolute which breathes even more magical realism into Haute Claire.
Imagine the blossoms the moment before they fall upon freshly cut grass. The weight of nectar, dew, and the beginnings of decay aid gravity in their descent. Now imagine that you can feel the pulsating of the blossoms and you wonder if you’re hallucinating. It’s like that.
Haute Claire is as fecund and heady as a stargazer lily, but doesn’t consume the air like that flower is wont to do. Haute Claire wears amazingly close to the skin and even though it might cause its wearer to feel mild intoxication, one would have to step in close to share in the experience.
The drydown doesn’t seem to occur until many hours after application when a downy, almost powdery scent comes to life. It smells a bit like burnt sugar and rose. Mandy has used another intriguing ingredient, *ethyl phenyl acetate, which I have never smelled on its own, but I imagine it, as well as vetiver, contribute to the final softer and gentler Haute Claire.
Mandy Aftel has generously offered a 5ml purse spray to a lucky Scent Hive reader. Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered. Follow Mandy on Twitter and you get an extra entry. Follow Scent Hive and that’s another one. Please let me know about your follows in your comment. Drawing Closed.
*If you are curious about ethyl phenyl acetate, Mandy’s is an isolate from fruit, wine or whiskey. I do believe it can also be derived from petroleum, but not in this case. There is much discussion about the use of natural isolates in botanical perfumes, and at this moment, I feel comfortable with it. I might change my mind, but I encourage you to do what feels right for you. Below is a guide from the Ayala Moriel Foundation of Natural Perfume Course which she posted in her What is Natural? post on SmellyBlog. It is really helpful in sorting out the ingredients.
Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by Aftelier Perfumes. Opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.
Image: Le Chevrefeuille by Marc Loret on etsy