Notes: Tobacco, Hay, Smoke, Orange Leaf, Siam Wood and Dirty Orange.
A project that has been three years in the making has finally come to fruition: the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is now open in Berkeley, California. Here, artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel shares her personal and unique collection of aromatic materials and antique books.
Visitors can experience over three hundred natural essences and connect with the ingredients that have inspired people over centuries, but which are sadly used much less in perfumery today.
The atmosphere of the Archive was the inspiration behind Curious, the latest release from Aftelier Perfumes. There is even an exhibit that breaks down the fragrance note by note so that visitors can see how the essences weave together to create the finished scent.
The camphor-like, leafy opening of Curious suggests bracing air and pine forests. As it settles, there is the scent of green saplings and creamy white woods over a beguiling mixture of moss and ash. ‘Dirty orange’ is a great descriptor because while the orange leaf is verdant and fresh at the start, it later morphs into a spiral of peel rubbed with earth. I think it’s the orange nuances which lift Curious and give it an extra dimension.
The drydown is a smoky botanical musk; unlike anything I’ve tried before. The smokiness isn’t tarry or rubbery the way it is in leather fragrances – or indeed the fantastic Vanilla Smoke. Imagine instead slender grey plumes twisting skywards from a woodland fire.
Mandy thinks of tobacco absolute as nature’s musk and combined with hay absolute the way it is in Curious, creates an aromatic muskiness without the laundry sheet or skanky facets often present in synthetic musks. It drapes across the skin and melds with your own chemistry.
It’s redolent of the outdoors while possessing the texture of fur and the way it plays with the animal and the vegetal is compelling. As usual, Mandy has made a composition that is as clever as it is rewarding.
Unlike many smoky/musky perfumes, Curious has an enigmatic quality that makes it beautifully mysterious.
When comparing the EdP and the Perfume, I would say the EdP is airier with more swirling smoke, while the Perfume is more potent but sits closer to the skin. Out of the two, the EdP is more my style, but I can see plenty of people soaking up the depth of the Perfume.
In either formulation, it is a fascinating fragrance in the truest sense of the word. Its complexity and presence hold my attention with ease. It absolutely does trigger your curiosity as you try and get a handle on exactly what you’re inhaling.
If Curious is what the Archive smells like then it must be a feast for the senses as well as an enthralling exploration into the history of perfumery.
Do you like the idea of a smoky musk perfume? Would you love to visit the Archive of Curious Scents one day?