Tag Archives: Mandy Aftel

Fragranced Organic Teas by Aftelier Perfumes

After I shared a surprisingly popular post about tea a couple of weeks ago, the wonderful indie perfumer Mandy Aftel kindly sent me samples from her own tea collection. I was thrilled and had a fine time trying each one.

 

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I drank them without milk and without sugar (on my first cup at least) to get the true taste. All four teas are organic and use edible essential oils and absolutes on a base of premium tea leaves. Depending on what method of infusion you use, on the first steeping you can watch the leaves unfurl in the water. You can also re-infuse them several times, which is great. Below are my impressions of each variety.tea-roseginger-2tOolong Tea Rose & Ginger 

This organic Tieguanyin oolong tea from Taiwan is infused with Mandy’s Chef Essences of Turkish Rose and Fresh Ginger. I thought I didn’t like floral teas, however either rose is an exception or this tea is so subtly flavoured/scented it’s a joy. I was also concerned the ginger might be overpowering but it added a lovely gingerbread background warmth. I think I might struggle with straight-up oolong but this combination of flavours gives it body and make it work beautifully for me. Now I’m looking forward to trying more rose flavoured teas.

Black Tea Cardamom & Orange

I love the scent of black tea, cardamom and orange so it’s no surprise that this turned out to be a hit with me. The cardamom comes through more than the orange but it’s a gentle backnote to the tea itself which is full, rounded and satisfying in the way black tea usually is for me. According to the website this is “Organic Red Pearls Black Tea, a rare tea from Fujian, is fully-oxidized Mao Feng tea leaves that have been rolled into small black pearls. They are then pan-fired where they develop a burnished sheen, toasty caramel-like aroma, and spicy, assertive — yet wonderfully sweet — flavor.”

Oolong Tea Frankincense GABA

An incense tea! I love incense so this was a novel and fun experience for me. The scent is fantastically resinous, rather than smoky and it’s the fullest oolong tea I can imagine.  The oolong tea from Taiwan has fruit and honey notes and is infused with hojary incense. GABA is a natural enzyme that calms and relaxes which is a definite plus. You’d think it might feel strange drinking incense but doesn’t. It’s perfect for de-stressing after work on a cold winter’s evening.

Aged Pu’erh in Tangerine Peel

Until late last year I hadn’t even heard of Pu’erh. It’s actually a fermented tea from Yunnan, China. Here, the leaves are packed into the rind of a whole tangerine.and aged for four years. They take on the flavour of the tangerine and the citrus is enhanced further by the addition of Mandy’s Yellow Mandarin Chef’s Essence. I found the unique scent very comforting.  It’s earthy and rubbery and laced delicately with citrus. Perhaps surprisingly, this tea is really refreshing and I found it easy to drink without sugar, which is rare. I also love that it comes in the tangerine peel.

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Each tea composition is expertly balanced with essences and absolutes that complement and enhance the leaves; never overwhelming them.  They are clearly created with the same care and artistry as the Aftelier perfumes. They’ve brought home to me just how closely smell and taste are connected and how making a cup of tea can become, in Mandy’s own words, “a time-stopping pleasure” during a demanding day.

 

Do you like the sound of any of Mandy’s teas? Are there any scented teas you currently enjoy?

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Amber Tapestry by Aftelier Perfumes

What the world needs now…

Top Notes: Heliotropin, Yellow Mandarin
Middle Notes: Jasmine Grandiforum, Jasmine Sambac, Pear, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Ambreine, Labdanum, Maltol, Benzoin, Castoreum, Ambergris, Coumarin

 

At the fabulous Scented Supper in October, I learnt that before becoming an accomplished artisan perfumer, Mandy Aftel trained as a weaver. She continues to intuitively apply this skill when working with natural aromatics; intertwining them to create balance in terms of aroma, texture, weight and vibrancy. She has certainly done a masterful job of weaving together the various fragrant strands in her new release, Amber Tapestry.

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There are so many leaden ambers in this classic oriental category however Mandy breathes new life and light into the form.  Ambers don’t normally sing on my skin but this one does. I find lift and luminosity where I normally find flatness and opacity.

The smooth yellow mandarin in the opening of the EdP is simply gorgeous and just as Mandy tells us, it is the most floral of all the citruses. The amber accord is an enticing combination of fuzzy labdanum,  ambreine (a derivative of labdanum resinoid) and the salty tang of ambergris.

The amber accord is liberally embroidered with jasmine from start to finish and it’s the silkiest jasmine I’ve come across. It’s never screechy or uncomfortably indolic. The two varieties used here interlace wonderfully with the amber, adding floral interest, contrast and radiance.

The cinnamon is super soft and I only pick up slivers of the pear if I lean in close. Amber Tapestry also contains maltol and benzoin but I don’t find it too sweet or gourmand.

Coumarin and heliotropin give it a plush, powdery finish. The texture feels like the fur of a rust coloured cat or even dusty golden suede, thanks to the inclusion of castoreum. It stays fairly close to the body, wrapping itself around my skin. However, when you’re within its sphere, it’s enveloping. I’m struck time and again by how meticulously well blended Amber Tapestry is. It feels seamless.

There are no pointy edges; all is softness and comfort. However the ambergris and castoreum prevent it from being too safe. Amber lovers will need a pillow to cushion their fall as they swoon but non-amber fans, such as me, are likely to be taken with it as well because it is so lustrous and floral.

We all need some warmth, beauty and light to console us in these dark days of winter (not to mention these troubled times) and it’s just the thing to lift our spirits as we go into the festive season.

Memento Mori came to jangle our senses but Amber Tapestry has come to soothe them. It’s just what the doctor ordered. Using perfume to self-medicate is a regular practice of mine and this is the perfect remedy for what ails many of us right now.

 

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Does the idea of a floral amber appeal to you?

 

 

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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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Memento Mori by Aftelier Perfumes

 

Love and loss…

 

Top Notes: Butter, Orris, Phenylacetic Acid

Middle Notes: Turkish Rose Absolute, Phenylethyl Alcohol

Base Notes: Beta Ionone, Ambreine, Ambergris, Antique Civet, Patchoulyl Acetate (a patchouli isolate)

 

Memento mori, “remember that you have to die”, is a Latin expression that dates back to Ancient Rome. We can get so wrapped up in the trivial trials and tribulations of our day to day lives we forget that life is short and most of what we worry about is not worth the torment.

A memento mori is something that reminds us of our mortality, inspiring us to make the most of life. The concept has been translated into many art forms including paintings, music, ceramics and literature.

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Since the Middle Ages people have worn memento mori mourning jewellery to remind them of lost loved ones. Rather than being morbid, these were tokens of love which allowed the wearer to hold on to the memory of their dearly departed.  In the perfume Memento Mori artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel portrays this idea in the form of fragrance.  It’s a thought-provoking concept which has been just as  thoughtfully executed.

Memento Mori captures the aroma of the lost lover. Mandy uses musk, butter, the doughy facet of orris and the earthy, mushroom-y facet of woody violets to create the idea of skin. The soft rose adds a pink blush.

She manages to give the scent an unusual lived-in, very human, quality with the warm, ripe smell of an unwashed body. It’s about body heat and someone’s unadorned natural smell rather than anything sexual.

As time ticks on and the pain of grief begins to fade, the fragrance reveals a tender layer of powdery pastel florals. The retro combination of iris/rose seems to reflect the sweet memories the separated lovers shared.  While I find the first stage challenging, this is a classic accord I really love.

In the base, warmth radiates through amber and patchouli while the musk gently lingers on and imparts a feeling of comfort. The bereaved is consoled by the realisation that though we must die, our love does not.

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The carrier for the fragrance is a blend of fractionated coconut oil and organic alcohol so that it is fittingly clinging.  I found it has more lift than many all-natural perfumes and that the lasting power is actually better than most synthetics.

Mandy says that Memento Mori was a deeply personal creation for her and I can understand why. It takes courage for any artist to share something so intimate with the world but I find that when they do it is all the more meaningful for it.

Memento Mori is a meditation on love and loss you need time and space to fully experience and appreciate it.  It’s an evolving art-piece as affecting and detailed as any of those other wearable tokens of remembrance and just as emotionally charged.

 

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Memento mori optical illusion painting “All Is Vanity” by Charles Allan Gilbert

 

Do you have a perfume that reminds you of someone important to you?

 

 

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Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel plus Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir By Aftelier Perfumes

 

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent

Mandy Aftel’s 2001 book Essence and Alchemy had a profound effect on me, as I know it did on many others in the perfume community. It cast a spell that seems to have enchanted me for life and even led to short-lived experiments with my own  oil-based perfumes.

While Essence and Alchemy intended to  give people interested in a perfume a grounding in natural perfumery, Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent  is aimed at everyone.  Mandy was moved and inspired by witnessing the effect re-connecting with scent has on people who didn’t think they liked perfume.

 

 “Watching them discover authentic aromas and their sensual pleasure is profoundly thrilling, like watching a starving person feast on a delicious smell.”

 

That’s not to say that those already addicted to fragrance won’t find plenty to love and learn in this meticulously researched book.  Mandy has collected a large array of antique books and we get to benefit from the knowledge she has accumulated over the years.

 “Indeed entering the world of fragrance is like falling through the looking glass and finding on the other side an everyday miracle, a mystery, a source of wonder. It is truly a transformative experience and one I am passionate to share”.

 

Mandy is beguiled by natural materials and she transmits that feeling so well. You don’t just get the facts in Fragrant but an intimate explanation of why these materials matter to us as human beings; how they connect with us on a deep level and have the potential to transform us. The fact that Mandy has not lost that sense of wonder or passion comes across on every page.

 

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Fragrant goes into much more depth than Essence and Alchemy and cleverly uses a different fragrant material to tell the multi-layered story of perfume and approach it from a number of interesting angles. “Cinnamon” tells the history of the spice trade which is entwined with that of perfume, while “Mint” goes into the use of remedies within the home and the intriguing Books of Secrets. “Frankincense” explores incense and spirituality,  “Ambergris”  focuses on animal derived essences and finally “Jasmine” is a thoughtful meditation on perfume and beauty.

There are recipes at the end of each chapter for very simple oil and alcohol based perfumes and I shall definitely be trying out a few for body oils as I’m mildly obsessed with those.

Aside from the content, the writing is beautiful.  Each sentence has its own gentle rhythm, which makes reading Fragrant an almost meditative experience.

Mandy manages to reignite the passion I felt when I first discovered the world of essential  oils and then perfumery. She has reconnected me to the visceral reason why perfume captivates me so much.

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent is a gorgeous treasure trove of a book.

 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is something I’ve wanted to try for ages so I reverently tipped some of the sample onto my fresh-from-the-bath skin.  I was intrigued to read that Mandy created it as an ode to singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

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It’s built around resins that have been prized since ancient times for their spiritual and healing properties. Ancient Resins contains frankincense, Balm of Gilead (poplar buds). benzoin, elemi and labdanum in a base of jojoba and fractionated coconut oil.

Frankincense is a distinctive material and I expected it to dominate but in Mandy’s seasoned hands it practically purrs on the skin, taking a back-seat to the balsams.

Ancient Resins is a seductively balsamic body oil with a subtle vanilla undertone.

What I was particularly pleased about was how quickly it was absorbed by the skin. The oil is not at all greasy so you don’t have to linger for long before dressing. It leaves the skin thoroughly moisturised and softly fragranced. 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is a real sensual pleasure both to apply and wear.

 

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Have you read Fragrant or tried any of the Aftelier body products?

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Vanilla Smoke Eau De Parfum by Aftelier Perfumes 

Per fumum…

Notes: Yellow Mandarin, Siam Wood, Saffron Absolute, Vanillin, Vanilla Absolute, Lapsang Souchong, Ambergris, Coumarin

Shalimar, with its gorgeously smoky opoponax, is the closest I’ve come to loving a vanilla-focused perfume. The usual straight-up vanillas are just too cloyingly sugary for my taste and are often very simplistic.

The only problem with the Guerlain was it just felt too dressy most of the time. Reluctantly, I found loving homes for my little used bottles of the EdP and Shalimar Light.

So my interest was more than piqued when I read about the 2015 creation Vanilla Smoke by talented indie perfumer Mandy Aftel. Could this be the vanilla fragrance that works for me? An order from Surrender To Chance later and I was about to find out.

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On application, I get a shot of black tea but this is quickly overtaken by bright orange splashes of mandarin and saffron. Saffron is such a striking note with a luxurious feel, but I don’t like it in overdose. Here it’s mellow, savoury and sophisticated.

With usually weighty ingredients like vanilla and smoke at its core, you’d think Vanilla Smoke would be a heavy fragrance but it’s actually surprisingly sheer. This is what helps to make it incredibly easy and enjoyable for me to wear.

The smoke is provided not from incense but by lapsang souchong tea essence which has been extracted from tea leaves smoked over pinewood. This deep, complex accord wafts up beautifully as if from a piping hot cup and provides a lot of interest and depth in this deceptively simple composition. The lapsang souchong creates a definite fireside effect; it’s not an conflagration like Bois d’Ascese but smoke that rolls off a campfire in the darkness.

Rather than being upfront, the vanilla acts more as a backdrop, providing a beautiful contrast to the overlay of soft, smooth smoke. As well as the more typical vanillin, Mandy uses Madagascan vanilla absolute, with all its nuances. This natural material has facets of spice and woodiness, making it a thousand times more exotic than your run-of-the-mill vanilla fragrance.

While it lasts well, it’s pretty low-key, although there is also a Parfum concentration.

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I find the smell of smoke grounding and add some unsweetened vanilla to the mix and you have my ideal comfort scent. It’s just the kind of thing I wish I had in my collection on drab days when I need a bit of soothing but want something with more warmth than incense can provide. It’s not just a scent to ease your worried mind though, it feels incredibly sensual too – I want to bathe in it.

Vanilla Smoke is more than just a  grown-up vanilla, it offers me the perfect smoky fragrance, being sensuous and wearable rather than austere and masculine. For this reason I feel more than justified in putting it on my Full Bottle Wish List.

Just when I’d got it down to zero too…

 

Have you tried Vanilla Smoke? Any Aftelier favourites?

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