The first time I smelled the raw material of benzoin, I was flush with bliss. The earthy vanillic scent wafting from the glass jar that housed pieces of the resin was pure heaven to me. I was smitten. Even though that evening was over eight years ago, I can still recall the interplay between soft vanilla and dark soil and I wanted a perfume of only benzoin. Labdanum is another cherished aroma for me, and I was able to smell its raw material that same evening. Labdanum is also a sweet resin, but it’s richer with a leathery smokiness that begs to be worn on a cold night. It probably comes as no surprise that both of these resins are frequently used together in perfumery and make up the the backbone of amber perfumes, and Amber Tapestry is no exception.
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