“Memento Mori is about the tender memories of the skin and body of someone with whom you have been intimate, and the ways that you treasure and long for that which you remember when they are lost to you. We want to hold the vanished beauty close even as we experience the piercing quality of memory” -Mandy Aftel
I am hugely honoured to be on Mandy Aftel’s mailing list when it comes to receiving new samples of her work. Always gracious to all she deals with, a friendly handwritten note in a shiny Fed Ex parcel from Berkeley California never fails to make me feel special.
Memento Mori follows in the tradition of relics worn as jewellery for a lost loved one. Everyone knows that life consists of light and shade and that you can’t experience joy without grief nor grief without joy. After all, if you hasn’t felt the pleasure of love, then you would not grieve its loss.
The most memorable piece of Memento Mori jewellery that I ever saw was in Keats’ house in Hampstead, London many years ago. It was a locket, kept by his grieving lover Fanny Brawne ( see photo, below right). Inside the locket was a glass pane and inside that glass pane was a lock of blond hair from the head of the poet himself. It blew me away to think I was looking at an actual lock of hair from such an iconic artist. It seemed especially apt since one of Keats’ most famous lines was “A Thing Of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” Via the wonders of the digital age, I was able to Google the exact piece I remember (see left).
Fast Forward to 2016 and I have in front of me a tiny phial of Memento Mori from Aftelier perfumes- the memory of a love now gone. There is an intimacy to this, as you would expect. It’s the kind of smell you will only pick up if you nuzzle someone you know very well. Mandy has used orris, butter and beta-ionine (woody/violet), as well as organic, less acidic alcohol as a suspension. Mandy only ever uses natural ingredients, which is an incredible feat, involving much innovation.
The scent does not jump off skin, but begs that the skin be sniffed more closely. This is not because it is weak, it is more because it does not project. There is musk, but an animalic musk, rather than a pretty clean laundry musk. This is very much NOT the place for clean laundry. As the skin warms up the scent, a subtle miasma of patchouli peeks out, making this richer and sexier. I don’t actually get any civet, but I think I am anosmic to that. Let’s face it, if I don’t get civet from Bal a Versailles, there’s no hope for me.
There is a curious smell of “human” to this, as if the person wearing it (in this case, me) hasn’t bathed for a few days. (Disclaimer- I have!). It kind of smells of hair. I don’t know how Mandy does this- it’s so evocative and clever.
When you love someone, you know their scent at all times of day: first thing in the morning, Day Three of a camping trip and the “after-work” smell. This is what Memento Mori is tapping into. This is the scent of love without adornment. When your beloved gets up and leaves the bed, this is the scent you’re looking for when you sniff their pillow for one more memory.
With warm thanks to Mandy Aftel for my sample. Opinions are my own.
You can purchase Memento Mori from Aftelier Perfumes here.