When Mandy Aftel makes perfume it’s often about a discovery or a facet of nature that Mandy wants to celebrate. Her scents evoke scenes and visions so vividly that I can’t shake the feeling that she is more alchemist than perfumer. There is magic in her fingertips the way some people have green fingers and some people don’t.
Curious was inspired by Mandy’s new museum of scent in Berkeley California. Here she invites you to explore the curiosities of olfactory natural history. The museum is very much hands on. You don’t just look at stuff- this is an all-round sensory journey: touch it, smell it, sniff it, try it. I haven’t been there yet, but in a year’s time, I will be visiting. I’m booking flights very soon and boy, will my blog have coverage!
Curious lives up to its name. It opens intriguingly, with a green note that smells almost medicinal, with a herby clary sage style bitterness. It reminded me of the glorious smell I once caught as a child, watching a neighbour creosote his fence. Many of my friends wrinkled their noses but I loved the tarry earthy scent and it remains one of my favourite aromas today.
Curious contains hay and tobacco: two notes which are not often as you might imagine in fragrance. Tobacco can veer from green and soapy (think Givenchy Amarige), to dry and oaky (think Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan). Hay can smell sweet, grassy, musty, honeyed or dry, or a combination of all of them. In Curious, it smells damp to me, and coupled with woody tobacco it reminds me of a hot damp green field as the sun dries everything out. There is a deep earthiness to Curious which reflects its roots as a product of nature. After a while, the drying- out-in-the-sun feeling became an autumnal smokiness, like a bonfire in the distance.
Curious unfurls its layers like a tree in all seasons, merging from fresh bud to green bitterness, to dried leaves to twiggy stem, but always grounded by the earthiness from whence it came. It brings out the pagan in me. There’s nothing like it. Mandy has made a beautifully unique scent that I urge you to try should you ever get a chance. As with all of Mandy’s creations, every ingredient is natural.
Curious is available from the Aftelier website. There is also an excellent sample service. The museum details are also on the website. If you live within a ten-thousand-mile radius, it’s definitely worth a visit. My sample was kindly sent to me by Mandy, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own.
Off the top of your head, how many pin numbers do you need to remember? How many passwords and usernames? How many social media accounts do you have? How many text messages do you need to respond to? How many emails remain unanswered?
The digital age has done us all huge favours, such as Netflix and Facebook. But there’s a downside isn’t there? The digital age is both a privilege and a curse.
The cost of living has rocketed, house prices have gone insane, roads are congested, everything is conducted via a screen and more seems to be expected of us these days. Our modern lives are tough. No wonder relaxing has become a life skill that many have forgotten.
Which brings me nicely to the new range of fragrances from Sarah McCartney at 4160 Tuesdays. Yes, that introduction was a bit of a transition, but if you nodded even once, then you’ll know where she was coming from with this collection: “Our Modern Lives.”
Alongside creating perfumes (usually on Tuesdays, hence the name), Sarah is also a yoga teacher. She knows how to stop the white noise.
Our Modern Lives is intended as a soothing balm to your soul. There’s a scent for when you need to look away from the damn screen (after you’ve read my blog, of course) and scents that uplift, energise and revitalize, without you having to go to a spa or anything. I would call them Mood Scents.
Here are my impressions of them, and at the end I’ll tell where you can get hold of them. They’re not expensive either. By the way, you can mix them all up if you like and make your own blend.
Butch and woody are two words that I would use to describe this, but they would also make good names for a duo of male strippers. The woods are dark and rich with lots of amber. It might be Butch and Woody (hi guys!) but it is, like all scent in my opinion, unisex, as are all of these fragrances
Tricky to type, but gorgeous to sniff. This starts off with a crystalline vodka scent and smells as pure as an icicle. It reminded me a little of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia, so if you like that, you might like this too.
Creating scent out of solely natural ingredients post IFRA bans and regulations is a bit like riding a unicycle whilst crossing the road, knitting and saying your five times table. But that’s not your problem to worry about. When you feel like screens are sucking your eyeballs out of your face, switch them off and sniff these.
This is beautiful. There are red berries and raspberries and roses. Rather than being like candy, it reminded me of my childhood and of cherries. It may give you different emotions and memories, but I am sure it will evoke happy thoughts.
Of course, there’s going to be orange in this, and there is, but there are also neroli (steam distilled orange blossom), peaches and a hint of beautiful geranium. This may be my favourite.
This gave me a boost of feel good citrus, like freshly squeezed orange juice, but also something else that I couldn’t initially put my finger on. Then it hit me: what goes with fresh orange juice? Fresh coffee! Genius. I can smell the narcissus in this one too, giving you a little posy of flowers to go with your juice and coffee.
As you may know, green is my favourite genre so I was bound to love this one, and I do. It’s so green it’s even got spinach in it, not that I could smell it, unless you count the sort of lush damp vegetal scent that hovered in the background. This has lime and mint and green mandarin essential oil. Do you know what? After ten minutes, I could smell spinach. This is beautiful and foresty. The Popeye muscles are up to you.
You may recall my recent gushing reviews about Aquamarine Waves. It’s working nick name was Sea Goddess prior to its launch.
This is a marine scent with no cucumber and melon accord- that would be too easy and lots of people have aloready done that. Not here, no Sir. Sarah used seaweed to get this right. She did filter it out afterwards, you’ll be pleased to know.
Blue Screen/Blue Horizon- Perspective
Equally good on skin or in the air around you, this is designed to aid meditation. We spend too long on screens, and it’s not always our fault in a digital dependent society. Many people use screens for their work and that goes round the clock now. This beautiful scent helps you to look up and see the blue of the sky instead of the screen. Frankincense, lavender, vetiver, mint and eucalyptus all help to transport you somewhere else for a bit.
Indigo-Into the Night
This is the strongest and richest in the collection. Indigo has definite 4160 Tuesdays fingerprints over it. This is the smell of that 3 a.m. Cognac when you can’t sleep- yes, there’s cognac in it but please don’t drink it, no matter how good the party was. There’s something dark and slightly rubbery about this one. It reminds me of cannabis and vinyl records. No bad thing. There’s also osmanthus absolute, cedarwood, rum and leathery labdanum.
It’s a mood in a bottle: after all, 3 a.m. is often called the darkest hour of the soul.
This is a crowd funding project and it’s still possible to bag your swag by following this link. Personally, I reckon they should come in phials like a pencil case so you have a colour for every mood. It would be hard to stop at one. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have mood swings, mood slides and a mood roundabout in your head. My samples were kindly sent to me by Team Tuesdays and Sarah, for which, many thanks. Opinions are all my own.
Check me out! I’ve been experimenting with editing sites. The world is my lobster. Watch this space for disastrous pixellated pics and clumsy graphics until I get the hang of stuff. I’ll soon be running with the pack.
Well, dear readers, it’s time for me to sum up a busy fragranced year and award plaudits to my favourites from 2016. These are purely based on my opinion, which is therefore The Law.
Not all of these are actually 2016 launches: some have just impressed me so much after four years of blogging that I have declared that they deserve accolades. Now, we’d’d best get on before all this power goes to my head and I start doing villain’s laughter.
The IScent Award for Best Longevity
This has to be a three way tie between
4160 Tuesdays Midnight in the Palace Garden
Andy Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange
Papillon Perfumes Tobacco Rose
I sprayed 4160 Tuesdays Midnight in The Palace Garden into thin air yesterday and 24 hours later it is still there. This is despite eating a roast dinner in the same room and trying on various perfumes throughout the day. It smells like I have been burning very expensive incense among church pews and I love it.
I sprayed two sprays of Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange on my neck three days ago. Since then I have had three showers and changed my bedding. This morning when I woke up, I could still smell lily of the valley. This is a bottle I purchased in May 2015 and it has barely gone down. I think a genie keeps refilling it.
Made by the delightful Liz Moores in her compound in the New Forest, Papillon Perfumes Tobacco Rose lasted over fifteen hours on me. Rich, woody roses that just stay put. I could bask in it. Two sprays and you’re wrapped in spiced, woody roses until bedtime.
So all three of these niche brands get the Iscent 2016 Award for Longevity. Isn’t it interesting how they are all niche and not mainstream? Just sayin’
Best Summer Perfume – Art de Parfum Gin &Tonic
Gin &Tonic by Art de Parfum stopped me in my tracks with its new take on Gin &Tonic. So much more than just refreshing juniper, I wore this until my sample ran out and had compliments every time. A full bottle is in my sights in 2017. Check out my reviews on the rest of the range here.
Most Original Launch –REEK perfume Damn Rebel Bitches
This has to go to Reek Perfume for Damn Rebel Bitches. It’s a scent that smacks of rebellion. Rustic touches speak of the heritage of the strong women it pays tribute to. With notes of malt, blood orange and herbs, you won’t be surprised to learn that Sarah McCartney was the nose behind the scent Her fingerprints are all over it! (NB That is not her hand in the illustration).
Best Celebrity Launch-Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP
This one was easy. It goes to Sarah Jessica Parker Stash SJP. Breaking the mould of the usual celeb fare, SJP goes down the niche-style route of a churchy sandalwood incense unisex scent with not a hint of fruity floral fruitichouli in sight. It’s superb quality and I hope it will set the tone for other innovative celeb launches.
Best Flanker-Chanel No 5 L’Eau
It’s got to be Chanel no 5 L’Eau. Not a diluted version of the original, but a twiddling of the tuning knobs to bring out the lighter and muffle the darker. It’s divine and light and deserves classic status already.Oh, and lightness doesn’t mean a lack of longevity either: this really sticks around. Full marks to the beautifully simple marketing campaign showcasing the lovely Lily-Rose Depp.
Another three-way tie. I simply couldn’t choose! Here are the turkeys, the raspberries, the No-Nos. I don’t want to be mean but I’m going to be anyway. Dior Poison Girl,Estee Lauder Modern Muse Nuit and YSL Mon Paris left me wishing I’d never even taken the lid off. The prices are steep for what they are and the money seems to be going on the marketing rather than the ingredients (what’s new?) Least said soonest mended. Moving on!
Best Winter Fragrance- Le Jardin Retrouvé Sandalwood Sacre
This one has to go to Le Jardin Retrouvé. When I smelled Sandalwood Sacre for the first time, it was like cupid had shot me with an arrow. I simply had to own a bottle and now I do. You can read my review here. Don’t just keep it for winter though. I’m not.
Best Gourmand: Library of Fragrance Chai Tea and Library of Fragrance Tomato
Trust Library of Fragrance to come up with the goods once again. This was a tie between Chai Tea and Tomato. I am sure they won’t mind sharing the award with um…themselves.
Chai Tea combines lightness and spice to bring a new angle on the word “cosy.” if you don’t like your gourmands too sweet ( like me) then Chai Tea will win you over. Meanwhile, back in our very short summer of 2016, (it was a Tuesday afternoon as I recall) Library of Fragrance Tomato took me back to my grandfather’s greenhouse in the 70s faster than a Tardis. As fresh as a new bud and with accents of verbena, Tomato became one of my very favourite warm weather scents.
Best Chypre: DSH Mata Hari
Over the ocean in Boulder Colorado, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz brews and macerates her beautiful perfumes with skill and passion. I was floored by DSH Mata Hari Extrait and in a blind test I would have thought it a priceless original 1920s vintage. It made me want to wear long gloves and arch one eyebrow at people. Glorious! You can read my DSH reviews here.
Best New Scent 2016: Beaufort London Fathom V
Beaufort London Fathom V turned an unassuming day into a vivid montage of sea faring adventure. It transported me to the slimy flanks of a London ship and the distant calls of pirates in one sniff. This stuff is like letting a genie out of a bottle. It’s green times a thousand, with sea notes that you can almost hear. It’s the best sea scent ever, and I can’t see that anything will make me change my mind about that. You can read my love letter to Fathom V here.
Best Natural Fragrance 2016: Mandy Aftel – Aftelier Amber Tapestry
Using only natural ingredients ( and that takes some doing!) Mandy’s instinctive connection to nature transports you to another place, via taste and even flavour. Amber Tapestry unfurls, layer by layer, enveloping the wearer in the kind of warmth that has a uniquely human touch. You can read my review here.
The IScent Fellowship Award: The Perfume Society
I’ve invented a Fellowship Award because The Perfume Society defies other categopries. Not only do they provide white boxes of treasure that even the most jaded perfume palate would salivate at, but they’re a sort of Mothership that we can all turn to when we get a bit lost in the murky depths of fruity-florals-chypres-colognes-my-nose-is-confused-help! Ever had a day like that? I have. The Perfume Society Scented Letter magazine also makes me settle down with a contented sigh and think “I’ve found my tribe” as I read what other perfume obsessives are up to. Fumeheads, you are not alone.
I was delighted to receive a little parcel via Fed Ex all the way from Berkeley California recently. It was from master perfumer Mandy Aftel and was wrapped like a piece of precious treasure. Mandy is a fragrant and flavourist expert who has the worldwide respect of customers and peers alike.
I received my sample spray phial of Amber Tapestry last week and I have been taking my time in getting to know it before reviewing it. After all, Mandy didn’t rush making it, so I owe it such courtesy in return.
Amber Tapestry is suitably named. Each component makes up the overall picture with splashes of colour and vibrancy that make this scent a constant unfolding enigma.
The heliotrope, which my nose mistook for lilac, speaks of springtime optimism. There was a note of pollen in there too, that reminded me of the dust you get on your nose when you sniff a daffodil (I should know, it’s the National Flower of Wales). The orange and the jasmine together give this a creamy and alluring opening act. The combination of the two makes for a sort of exaggerated orange blossom.
The middle phase is where this gets more tapestry like. The resin-y incense tones of benzoin (often used in cough mixture) seem to add a faded grandeur to the big white flowers that start so brightly. The heady white blooms are toned down by the warmth of golden amber as the base notes cast a sunset over this evocative scent. There is a subtle touch of animal in the finale, but rather than being a body odour animalic, its more of an intimate back-of-the-neck scent- if you’re familiar with my review of Aftelier Memento Mori, you’ll know the honeyed skin scent I mean.
Each note is interwoven to give an overall accord of a resinous, leathery vanilla. It was a real grower on me. The longer I have worn it, the more I like it
Amber Tapestry is a scent for all seasons. From Spring to Autumn in one fell swoop, the floral optimism of its opening gives way to a cosy richness that ends with the feeling of being hugged by an amber blanket of warmth.
Mandy uses natural ingredients and to my nose, these have an authenticity that makes for a deep and rich olfactory experience. It is my ambition to visit her perfume museum in Berkeley one day. Like Aftelier fragrances, I just know it will be unforgettable.
Looking through my blog I found it hard to believe that I’ve never done a Spring round up. Since I am a devoted fan of hesperides and green notes, this seemed nothing short of a shortfall. Spring is that time when you can leave the heavy hitters behind and start to wear the scents that reflect a cold earth coming back to life. Many of my favourite flowers are Spring flowers: daffodils, bluebells and hyacinths. I love them in real life and I love them in my garden.
1. 4160 Tuesdays Ealing Green
This brings to mind a madrigal I can sing (the only one actually) “Each with his merry lass/Upon the greene grass”. This is, as that quote might suggest, green and grassy and a little chalky and violetty in the base, like a mossy white cliff. I adore it. You can buy it from 4160 Tuesdays. I reviewed it here.
2. Aftelier Palimpsest
Dear Mandy Aftel sent me a lovely sample of Palimpsest and my first thought was “she has captured the daffodil!”. It is an exact capture, and being Welsh, I know my daffodils. My review is here. You can buy Mandy’s wonderful (and all natural) creations from her website.
3.Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange
I could not leave out a lily of the valley scent in a Spring line up. I am attempting to grow lily of the valley for the first time this year and I hope my late grandmother’s green fingered genes will live on. I have a full bottle of Carillon Pour Un Ange on my dressing table and believe me when I say a little goes a long way. Here’s my review. You can buy it from the Tauer website or you could try Les Senteurs.
4. Shay and Blue London English Cherry Blossom
What could be more springlike than blossom? Here you really get the cherries as well as the petals. I have a full bottle of this and the packaging alone is worth owning. It’s a joy to look at and to wear. You can read my review here. You can buy Shay and Blue from trusty Marks and Spencer.
5. Friedemodin Vertine
A delightfully green and refreshing scent with hints of mint and basil. It is as gentle as a watercolour. This is one of four beautiful scents in this small but superb capsule range. You can read my review of it here. You can now buy Freidemodin in TK Maxx as well as instore at Harvey Nichols.
6. Library of Fragrance
There are two Library of Fragrance scents that sum up Spring for me: Wet Garden has a touch of earthiness and bags of fresh hyacinth. My review is here. It smells like total heaven on my friend Alison!
Library of Fragrance Tomato proved that if ever it was worth smelling something blind it was this. I was sent it as a surprise and I fell for it hard. Replete with green shoots, leaves and that rhubarby/lemon scent of a true greenhouse tomato, this is an uplifting scent that deserves it place in any Spring list. My recent review is here. You can buy Wet Garden and Tomato from Library of Fragrance or Boots.
7. Penhaligon’s Bluebell
How can it be Spring unless there are bluebells? Bluebells are one of my favourite flowers. Penhaligon’s has captured it better than anything else I have tried. My review is here. You can buy Bluebell from Penhaligon’s, Amazon UK or allbeauty.com.
8. Carven L’Eau de Toilette
I reviewed this beautiful green scent recently ( see link here) and it was light, airy and clean smelling. This is a delight to wear on a spring day and reasonably priced too. You can buy it from Amazon UK or from Fragrance Direct.
9. Miller Harris Coeur de Jardin
Miller Harris, ever reliable, comes up with the goods yet again. Coeur de Jardin is a beautifully spring like fragrance that teams pear, tuberose, jasmine and moss together for the scent of a garden straight from your childhood. My review is here. I also recommend Cassis en Feuille (review here), which is blackcurrants and tomatoes, but a realistic greenhouse version. You can buy these from the Miller Harris website.
10. Jo Loves No 42 The Flower Shop
No 42 The Flower Shop is named after Jo Malone’s first workplace. Jo Malone MBE of Jo Malone fame (does that make sense?) has created a second, more personal perfume house. Using fragrance notes she is passionate about,No 42 the Flower Shop has that lovely accord of a florists that is as much about stems and leaves as it about fresh petals and buds. My review is here. You can buy this from Jo Loves.
Photos: Top photo of cherry blossom from www.brambleberry.com. Tomato photo from www.westmillorganics.co.uk. Miller Harris photo from Miller Harris. Jo Loves photo from Jo Loves. . Library of Fragrance photo from Library of Fragrance. Photo of Mandy Aftel from www.aftelier.com. “Wet Plants” photo from Pinterest. All others are from Fragrantica