Monthly Archives: October 2016

A Scented Supper With Mandy Aftel

Last Wednesday evening, I was fortunate to attend a Scented Supper hosted by The Perfume Society in honour of artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel.

Mandy was visiting London with her lovely husband, Foster, for their anniversary. Her all-natural fragrances for Aftelier Perfumes – such as the wonderful Vanilla Smoke – are highly creative and have won her a loyal following as well as widespread acclaim. Furthermore, her beautifully written books on the topics of fragrance and food have inspired many, including myself.

The location was the North London HQ of Michelin restaurant trained Pratap Chahal known as That Hungry Chef. He explained to us that he started the Scented Suppers after reading Mandy’s book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent which brought his attention to the connection between fragrance and food. He began to experiment and his wife quipped that at first the house smelled like “A Mexican brothel!”. A couple of years down the line though and he has perfected his art. Last August he actually visited Mandy’s studio in California: there was a lot of synergy going on…

 

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The menu was scented with a perfume made up of the various scented elements used in the meal.

 

I have to be careful about what I eat and wondered how I would cope with so many strong flavours. However, each dish was subtly balanced and it was one sensory delight after another. Highlights were the patchouli pearl barley, frankincense cream with chickpea and apple crumble, chocolate tartlets with silver leaf and the most tender beef imaginable cooked with tobacco and patchouli (a l’Aftel). Even the slate the butter rested on was infused with fir oil. Not shown was a mini pistachio and saffron kulfi which somehow was in my mouth before I could take a photo.

 

Above from top left shows the beetroot starter, beef main and dessert of frankincense cream.

Inbetween courses Mandy was more than happy to answer questions from The Perfume Society’s Jo Fairley as well as other guests. What came across most strongly was her passion for the materials she works with. It seemed to me that her perfumes act primarily as conduits which allow her to express herself through her beloved naturals. She loves hunting down new materials and says she gets just as much of a thrill from them now as she did when she started out 20 years ago. Mandy feels perfume is intrinsically interesting and finds smell “primitive and sexy”. She is fascinated by all odours, whether others label them good or bad.

 

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Instagram moment of the evening: Chocolate tartlets on a bed of smoking hay infused with vetiver

 

Mandy thinks of smell as “disembodied flavour” and as we know, smell is a huge part of taste. She collaborated on the book Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance with the chef Daniel Patterson and has another book entitled The Art Flavor coming out next summer. She believes the smell of cooking is the ultimate home fragrance. Her Chef’s Essences are concentrated flavours which enliven dishes with just a couple of drops and are used by artisanal producers of items such as chocolate, ice cream and candles. The Essences include Basil, Pineapple, Peru Balsam, Frankincense and Ylang Ylang, among others.

 

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On the subject of perfume, Mandy told us that her favourite material is probably ambergris because she loves everything about it. She’s also noticed that the combination of patchouli with benzoin crops up in a lot of her perfumes and is very fond of gardenia/tiare. While she adores absolutes, Mandy doesn’t tend to work with essential oils that have a camphorous facet, such as tea tree and eucalyptus.

I admire Mandy for sticking to her personal values and not being afraid to take risks. She decided not to play it safe with her recent release Memento Mori which she acknowledged is a polarising scent “partly putrid, partly pretty”. Mandy has intentionally kept her business small-scale, turning down large orders for her Chef’s Essences and maintaining relationships with her customers.

 

 

An exciting project that Mandy is working on at the moment is her perfume museum. This will showcase the large collection of fragrant materials she has amassed over the years. It will be open to no more than 6 people at a time, by appointment. They will be able to smell the items on display and Mandy is particularly looking forward to seeing their reactions. She showed us photos of a cache of 100 year-old Rimmel perfumes she obtained from France. It is hoped that the museum, which is on Mandy’s property in Berkeley, will be open by the end of January next year.

 

Above shows Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, sniffing Pratap’s bottle of oud wood and then Nick Gilbert before and after finding out it was worth £1,500.

 

 

Mandy’s first book about natural perfumery, Essence & Alchemy, was life-changing for me when I read it about ten years ago, so it was a complete joy to be able to finally meet her. She was just as warm, thoughtful and interesting as I imagined her to be, if not more so.

 

 

Huge thanks to Mandy Aftel, The Perfume Society and That Hungry Chef for a magical evening.

 

 

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Iris Cendré by Naomi Goodsir

 

An iris rising from the ashes…

 

Notes: Bergamot, Tangerine, Orris Butter, Violet, Amber, Cistus, Tobacco

 

Earlier this year I ordered a sample of Iris Cendré from Surrender to Chance along with Vanilla Smoke by Aftelier Perfumes, which were  my two lemmings of the moment. Vanilla Smoke was a great success and is on my Full Bottle List but what about Iris Cendré? I’ve been mulling it over.

Seeing as I love the note so much, I feel there is definitely room for more than one iris in my collection and I like the atmospheric, striking style of Naomi Goodsir’s perfumes.  With so much positive feedback last year, Iris Cendré definitely got me intrigued. I was also interested to see what perfumer Julien Rasquinet’s take on iris would be as he does smoky scents so well (such as Bois d’Ascese by the same brand). I quite fancied an iris among the ashes.

 

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Iris Cendré starts a little vegetal and a little powdery, with a brief burst of chilled orange juice. As the iris comes into full focus, I’m reminded of why I love this material as much as I do. I read on The Candy Perfume Boy that one perfumer described orris as “a perfume in itself” and that sums it up its complexity perfectly.

Here, it strikes a nice balance being not too carroty, cosmetic or floral. The mood is subdued and candlelit. As iris often does, it evokes a wistful feeling in the wearer.

Iris Cendré is powdered but in a very gentle, smooth way and I’m relieved that it’s not sweet.  It’s true to iris’s nature but adds something new in its sprinkling of cinders. It doesn’t smell of billowing smoke or incense to me, but more like powdery charcoal which turns to dust at the slightest touch.  The effect is subtle and sophisticated.

As time goes on, to my surprise the backdrop turns from grey to green. I enjoy this transformation into mossy suede a great deal. In this way, Iris Cendré turns the typical perfume progression on its head. The deep, resinous, bold accords are at the start, moving into soft greenery as it develops. This makes it an unique iris fragrance. Although it may disappoint those who aren’t fans of green accords and who want those indigo/grey tones all the way through. 

The base sounds like it should be heavy, being made up of amber, cistus and tobacco but it’s not. As with other creations by Rasquinet, it’s a sheer, clean, woody/ambery blur.

The projection is weak but maybe that’s the result of dabbing rather than spraying. The other aspect that gives me pause is what I can best describe as a kind of persistent musky fuzziness. My mate and fellow blogger Tina G noticed something similar so at least I know I’m not imagining it.

Personal niggles aside, Iris Cendré is an original and distinctive take on the note and worth trying if you’re an iris fan.

 

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Please share your experience in the comments if you’ve tried Iris Cendré.

 

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Fragrant Fictions – Perfume Lovers London, 29th September 2016

I loved Odette Toilette’s Imbibliotheque event earlier in the year, so I was really looking forward to another evening of perfume and literature.

This time, Lizzie (Odette) told us we would be looking at perfume in movies and TV as well as books. She mentioned that two perfumes seem to come up more than others; Chanel No.5 and Guerlain’s Shalimar. No.5 seems to feature in tales of coming-of-age while Shalimar is worn by the seductress. Natalie Portman’s ballerina-on-the-rise in the film Black  Swan takes the fading prima ballerina’s bottle of No.5 from her dressing room. While in the British film The Education, a 1960s schoolgirl dates an older man who brings her back a bottle of No.5 from Paris.

We’d also be getting a preview (or presniff?) of the forthcoming fragrance by Papillon Perfumes and hearing from Sarah McCartney about the new Four Mysteries collection by 4160 Tuesdays.

 

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Meticulous Murderers

Zagara, Santa Maria Novella

Notes: Bergamot, grapefruit, petit grain, lime, sweet orange, verbena, lavender, orange blossom, carnation, jasmine, geranium, oak moss.

Laurin read us an extract from Hannibal by Thomas Harris; the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter is at Santa Maria Novella in Italy where he buys an almond soap for Clarice. He is on the run and has undergone extensive cosmetic surgery to conceal his identity. However, he has not altered his nose to protect his much valued sense of smell. He really knows his perfumes and is quite the connoisseur.

The book doesn’t mention him wearing a particular scent but Laurin chose Zagara from Santa Maria Novella for him. It’s classy but not too flashy . As Laurin said “It’s probably a bad idea for a murderer to have a signature scent”. Lizzie commented that the manager of SMN told her “men in Armani suits like Zagara”.  She also quipped that “because of its laundry facet, the orange blossom is good for after you’ve done the murder”.

 

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Menthe Fraiche, Heeley

Notes: Mint leaves, Sicilian bergamot, mate, green tea, lotus leaves, white cedar

The second murderer was someone with no identify: Patrick Bateman from the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Laurin read an extract which details his very extensive grooming routine. However, he never reaches for fragrance because this would denote an identity and he doesn’t have one.

Lizzie told us that in the film version you see L’Occitane products and the now discontinued YSL Pour Homme.

For Patrick Bateman, Laurin chose Menthe Fraiche by Heeley. She could see him sipping green tea at a sushi restaurant and the minty toothpaste note fits in with his meticulous grooming. Callum said he always thought he’d wear Creed’s Aventus in order to fit in with what the other investment bankers were wearing.

 

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Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman

James Bond

Limes, Floris

Notes: Lemon, petitgrain, lily of the valley, lime blossom, neroli, musk

Lizzie told us Limes by Floris was a fragrance from the 1830s meant to cool the wearer down in the heat. However it’s unlikely to have stayed the same over the years. Bond is obsessed with British brands such as Floris and Limes is mentioned in the 1957 book, Doctor No. Bond is captured by Doctor No who has gone to great lengths to learn Bond’s tastes. Therefore when Bond is shown to a bathroom he finds Limes Bath Essence.

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Vent Vert, Balmain

Notes: Lime, orange blossom, green notes, asafoetida, peach, basil, lemon, bergamot, neroli, violet, freesia, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, rose, galbanum, marigold, spicy notes, iris, sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, sage, vetiver, styrax, cedar

Lizzie: “Vent Vert is so tart it’s like being zapped. It used to be a lot more sappy with green stems but it’s still worth a buy at under £35 online”. It’s mentioned in Goldfinger and in Live and Let Die. In the 1973 film of the latter, Bond is investigating a Tarot reader, Solitaire. When he finds Vent Vert in her bathroom, he is reassured that she can be trusted. He seems to like fresh, green scents and finds them appropriate for women.

 

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Identity Theft

We then turned to the theme of perfume as a marker of identity. You can use it to try on enhance your personality or take on the identity of someone else.

Poison, Dior

Notes: Coriander, tuberose, opoponax

In the 1992 film The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Rebecca de Mornay’s character takes the job of a nanny to get revenge on the mother of the family. She uses her perfume, Poison, to try and seduce her husband. Lizzie felt that Poison wasn’t a good choice to represent the nurturing housewife. She’d wear something more unthreatening. A suggestion from the audience was Estee Lauder’s White Linen. 

 

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Bal a Versailles, Jean Duprez

Laurin informed us that apparently Bal a Versailles was worn by Michael Jackson. He’d send assistants out to buy up bottles of the stuff. However, we’d be focusing on its appearance in an American TV show form the 1980s, Dynasty.

Lizzie gave us a run-down of the perfume’s significance in terms of character and plot. Krystle Carrington, wife of Blake, receives a bottle of Bal a Versailles in the first series and exclaims “My favourite!”. Krystle is the good woman who is pitted against Blake’s ex-wife, Alexis (played by Joan Collins). In series two, Alexis sprays on Bal a Versailles and attempts to seduce Blake. She fails and can’t understand why because she doused herself in Krystle’s perfume. As far as she’s concerned, Krystle has no identity beyond her fragrance.

Lizzie felt it was a good choice for Krystle as it was very much a perfume of the time. Laurin described it as a sophisticated, complex perfume made of hundreds of ingredients although it’s hard to pick out anything other than the civet.

 

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Alexis, Blake and Krystle

Shagging and Seduction

Lizzie hosted a perfume event for The Jilly Cooper Book Club and found that although the books are set in the 1980s, Jilly usually mentioned perfumes from the 1940s-1960s.  She was very fond of peppering her prose with brands so specific perfumes are mentioned quite regularly.

Caléche, Hermes

Notes: Citrus fruits, aldehyde notes, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, to wood chypre silage underscored by noble irises.

Lizzie described Caléche as a mossy, musky scent and summed it up as “outdoor sex”. Jilly Cooper uses it in scenes of seduction, “Caléche rose from her cleavage like morning mist from a ravine.

In Riders, on her way to an assignation, Helen puts on so much perfume in the taxi “it fights with the diesel fumes“.

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Fracas, Bobert Piguet

Notes: Tuberose, jasmine, violet, gardenia, orange blossom, sandalwood, vetiver, musk

According to Lizzie “Fracas is a monster of a perfume. It says I’m ready and open for business” . It’s the one she felt 75% of the members of The Jilly Cooper Book Club went out and bought after the event. Another perfume mentioned in the books a number of times was Jolie Madame, which one woman throws a bottle of at a cheating partner.

 

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Happy, Clinique

Notes: Fresh apple, plums, bergamot, fresh-air accord, freesia, lily, rose, morning orchid, musk, amber

 

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1997’s Happy was worn by Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. She is an eternal optimist so it’s a good match with her happy-go-lucky attitude. It’s also in the film Juno. The wife of the couple hoping to adopt Juno’s baby wears Happy and again, she is eternally optimistic, even in the face of adversity.

Lizzie views it as “uplifting – positivity in a bottle”. For Laurin, Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers has the same effect because it was worn by an upbeat friend when they were growing up.

Diorissimo, Dior

Notes: Lily of the Valley, jasmine, white musk

Laurin introduced us to the second Desperate Housewife – Betty from the TV show Mad Men. Betty Draper is a bland trophy wife who is supposed to be seen and not heard. She’s very prim and proper so Laurin picked a lily fragrance for her, namely Diorissimo. She saw it as a good fit with Betty’s coldness and rigidity.

Lizzie felt Betty wouldn’t seek out something different, she’d probably just wear what her mother wore. Unlike Don Draper’s hip next wife, Megan, she wouldn’t wear a fragrance of the time or a power perfume like the va-va-voom redhead Joan, who wears Shalimar.

 

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Mystery Fragrance from Papillon Perfumes

We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview of the upcoming fragrance by artisan perfumer Liz Moores. She has already had great success with her three inaugural releases, Anubis, Angelique and Tobacco Rose and recently won several Basenotes Reader Awards for her last release, Salome, which Lizzie described as “a filthy carnation leather”.

Laurin said that autumn is her favourite season and the fragrance echoes the feeling that something good is going to happen as the leaves begin to fall. Lizzie shared that it made her think of a woman who was ready to turn her back on the finer things in life and retreat into the wilderness.

When Lizzie asked people to attach a fictional character to the scent one person said “A sprite from A Midsummer’s Night Dream” which is exactly what I thought. At the moment there is no release date for the perfume and the name has not been announced.

The Four Mysteries, 4160 Tuesdays

We finished the structured part of the evening with a reading by perfumer Sarah McCartney from two of the four short stories she is releasing in conjunction with four perfumes. Sarah is a fan of what she calls “1920s and 30s cosy crime”, where the details of the murder are totally glossed over.

We got to try two of the two perfumes . Flora Psychadelia is about two botanists in search of a rare flower which only blooms every couple of decades. It’s a psyhcotropic flower whose scent has the power to knock you out. She included lots of materials that are supposed to intoxicate including absinthe, hemp, black pepper and mushrooms, against a fleshy background.

Captured by Candlelight tells the story of two stage performers who perform at a Stately Home at Christmas and the scent is the rich aroma of Christmas pudding. The other two perfumes are Up The Apple & Pears and The Buddhawood Box.

 

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Thanks to the PLL team and everyone else involved for bringing us such a fabulous evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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