“Perfume is the nourishment that stimulates my thinking.” – Muhammad
“I miss your fragrance, sometimes I miss it this much that I can clearly smell you in the air.”
― Qaisar Iqbal Janjua
If you lose one of your senses, the others are magnified, but the sense of smell is so important to us, it also guides our sense of taste and the attraction of pheremones that guide us to love. Mandy Aftelis a natural perfumer and creator of unusual, small-batch fragrances made in both solid and liquid form from her Berkley, Calfiornia Studio. She also has a line of botanical essences for Chefs, plus face & Body products, perfumed teas, and more. While The Advice Sisters have known about her hand-made and hand-bottled scents for quite some time, we recently connected with her on Facebook, of all things. And Mandy sent us some samples of her Aftelier Perfumes, crafted from over five hundred rare and beautiful natural essences from around the globe.
Although I didn’t get a chance to interview Mandy personally, Mandy describes the process of creating her 100% natural ingredient fragrances quite well on her web site.: “Each perfume that I create starts with a concept, an attempt to capture a feeling and an aesthetic experience. With some perfumes, the first iteration is almost perfect. Others are the fruit of weeks of revisions to achieve an ideal balance.I am involved with the entire process of creation. Once I have a formula that satisfies me, I hand-blend and bottle small batches of perfume in my studio It makes me very happy when people incorporate my perfumes into their lives.”
Mandy says. Ms, Aftel didn’t grow up among perfumers (her background is in English and psychology) but she has had a passion for fragrance and has followed it for a long time. She is the author of six books, three of which are on natural perfume. Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume has been translated into eight languages and was the winner of The Sense of Smell Institute’s Richard B. Solomon Award. She co-authored Aroma with chef Daniel Patterson. That book focuses on the essential link between food and fragrance and includes recipes for both. Scents and Sensibilities guides the reader through the history and creation of solid perfumes. Mandy also has a collection of vintage bottles, books and oils collected during her travels to Paris and London.
But writing is just one part of Mandy’s fragrance accomplishments. It’s her natural essences that capture the hearts of fans. She is the Founder of the Artisan Natural Perfumer’s Guild and her 100% natural essences are highly concentrated, and categorized in fragrance by top, middle and base notes. The art of the perfumer is to blend these top, middle and base notes to create a fragrance that brings the scent from an initial impression (the top) blended through the heart, to the base where upon drydown, the blended, remaining notes will linger on your skin. In fact, some of Mandy’s fragrances don’t follow this pattern, as she manipulates the notes in different patterns to produce the effect she is seeking.
So exactly what is a natural fragrance as opposed to any other? The main difference between natural and synthetic fragrances is the method by which the actual oils are derived. Natural fragrances are built upon natural isolates, or chemicals that have been “isolated” naturally from the botanical it comes from, usually through a chemical-free steaming process. Synthetics, which may contain some natural ingredients, use artificial fragrances that are chemically derived and produced solely in laboratories.
As you might expect, when you create fragrance from rare, natural ingredients, hand-mix them in small batches and then bottle them by hand, the result is lovely and unique, but also expensive. For fragrance aficionados, price won’t matter because they are seeking something exceptional and unique, and Mandy Aftel offers it in a wide variety of fragrances choices. These are special, for a niche market of discerning clients who do not want to smell their signature scents on everyone else.
The bad news for those on a budget is that Mandy Aftel’s quarter ounce perfumes start at $170.00 each (and up) and the solid fragrances that to my nose were even more concentrated, are even more pricey. Those in gorgeous cases, of course, are higher still (but make an impressive presentation). However, for those who want to try these unique products, you can get a 2 ml vial starting at $50 or three minis in a silk pouch” Oud Luban (my personal favorite), Cuir de Gardenia, and Lumiere cost +$5 and Parfum Privé costs +$75) for $140.00.
The good news is that the fragrances are quite intense, so you don’t need a lot. Affordable, and still satisfying, are even thge smallest samples: liquid and solid samples are 1/4 ml for $6.00 and $8.00, eau de parfum 1 ml spray bottles are also $6.00 and $8.00 depending upon the fragrance you choose.
So what do these fragrance smell like? Each one is so different, it would be impossible to describe them without going through pages and pages detailing every single scent. But I’ll promote Aftel’s newest –Cuir de Gardenia. According to Aftel, what is unusual after this fragrance is that is has no top notes. The gardenia appears immediately, mixing with the leather notes. Other featured notes in organic alcohol are middle notes of tiare (gardenia) absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, benzyl acetate and base notes of castoreum, ethyl phenyl acetate, maltol. The scent was unique, but on a personal note, I’ve never really loved gardenia fragrances and loathe jasmine. The great thing about fragrance, however, is that scent is really an individual thing, A beauty colleague of mine waxed poetic.
More to my liking is the Oud Luban, a strong, exotic, spicy, resinous and incense-y fragrance with no middle note this time. I tried it in a solid form, and it is quite long lasting on your skin. Aftel categorizes this fragrance as “dry woods.” it features oud, one of the most expensive essences in the world, and in this fragrance it appears in a blend of 8 varieties to get the desired effect. It opens with fresh citrus top notes of the finest hojari frankincense (“Luban” in Urdu) and resinous notes of elemi. Followed by balsamic notes of the faintly vanilla benzoin, the spicy-balsamic opopanax, and the fine cognac-like notes of aged patchouli. The drydown reveals the smoky choya ral and precious oud – intimate and softly animal, like a lover’s body. The Extrait version of Oud Luban is in an oil-base with no alcohol. Other featured notes are Top: elemi, orange terpenes, blood orange, frankincense CO2.Base: oud, opopanax, choya ral, benzoin, aged patchouli. this one is reqlly quite unisex. it’s a blend of fancy racing car leather, tobacco, church incense, and just a whiff of orange peel. Depending upon your body chemistry, it’s really quite sexy, and it is quite addictive.
Taking a totally different note entirely (pun intended) there is a Chocolate Saffron Body Oil & Hair Elixir ($50.oo 105 ml) that smells almost good enough to eat. A base of moisturizing organic jojoba oil and fractionated coconut oil soaks quickly into damp hair, moisturizing, softening, and conditioning it, and also helping to de-frizz it. If you are dating, this is going to drive your date absolutely wild as it mixes with your own chemistry. If you wish, you can add a small amount of clean, towel-dried hair (avoid your scalp and add it from mid-lengths to ends) to add extra shine and more scent. it is the grown-up version of dessert beauty. There are other Face, Body & Hair elixers, as well.
Obviously, there is a lot more that Mandy Aftel has to offer, including some items that really are good to eat: her Chef’s Essences and Sprays (which we hope to review in another feature).
The fragrances are not going to appeal to everyone, especially if all you really want is yet another boring fruity floral from the drug store or department store. But if you love fragrance, an Aftelier Fragrance will be a special prize in your collection. They will also make exceptional holiday girfts (those holidays are fast approaching).