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.