|Photo by Mandy Aftel|
Her use of the highest quality fully natural materials available to build her perfumes, sourcing these precious and rare materials from all over the world, is an integral part of their character and mystique. She is so familiar with the unique qualities of each perfume substance that she can be playful with them, and can bring out aspects not traditionally familiar.
This sense of play results in luxurious perfumes in a very personal style. These perfume interpretations of place and memory and feeling are both modern yet also may plunge you into the pleasures of historical forms of beauty.
Natural perfume materials have their own deep past, and storied lore, which Aftel brings in as elements to combine with her own life experience.
The magnificence of this perfume’s material quality, combined with an imagination steeped in affection for the past is unique. This type of hand-made, highly luxurious yet very earthy and natural perfume must be directly experienced first-hand over and over to acclimate to a different form of perfume beauty than most are used to. These perfumes must be fully appreciated on their own terms.
|Photo by Nathan Branch|
|Photos from Mandy Aftel|
For eyes that have a taste for such worn antique beauty, those ramshackle ghost town buildings grow more and more gorgeous as they fall apart. Their essence is now part of the continual aging blasts of sun and sand and wind and the cold at night, as the elements react against wood and metal. The aging process shows the passing of time and increases their strange charm.
Especially poignant are the few ornamental flourishes that are left, from the late Victorian style we all still hold dear within the deepest part of our private hearts. Those times and people, though physically ephemeral, as is perfume, still managed to have such a big effect on our history and cultural identity. We’ve framed those extraordinary experiences within sepia toned memories about the Gold Rush and those who first tried to make it out there on their own, in the farthest of the western states of America.
The perfume itself is strong, yet still wears as a sheerness on the skin, like a memory or ghostly presence, of something once vividly alive but now living on only in legend and a few physical traces, made of the strong old time natural materials, wearing down gracefully over time.
The perfume itself grew from a project where two perfumers exchanged insights and letters on their creative process with each other, online. This was hosted by Nathan Branch on his site in a series of such events, all with Mandy Aftel, and various other perfumers. The perfumers take a theme and then develop a perfume to express it, and review with each other and the public how they do it and what they are thinking about. These letters can be accessed on the site and range across many notes and styles.
Sepia happened to involve both perfumers from California (the other was Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scents). The result for Mandy was a perfume shaped by road trips around California to the places that still show some traces of the Gold Rush. The photographs she took were reference to the perfumes, as a portrait might be based on some snapshots of a face.
The notes are unusual, and include cedarwood, yellow mandarin, pink grapefruit, pink lotus, strawberry, jasmine grandiflorum, cocoa, coffee, tobacco, oud, indole, ambergris, cepes, and labdanum.
|Sepia might be what the Sundance Kid smelled like|
Sepia is just one of the rich and complex Aftelier perfumes, and if you are not yet familiar with them, I refer you to the site and to her books, which are a great pleasure to slowly browse through and read.
There is a sample program where you can try small amounts at a small cost.
1/4 oz $150, a mini perfume $45, samples $6
The sample was sent to me by the perfumer.
Above photos, top by Mandy Aftel
Second photo by Nathan Branch
Third photo set from Aftelier
Forth photo from a site on the history of gold
Photo of the Sundance Kid from Famous Dead Mormons
Music to listen to perfume by:
The National: All the Wine
Mojave 3:Bluebird of Happiness - with a beautiful except from Sukarov's Mother and Son
An expertly edited version of these effusions:
"'Sepia - A Perfume of the Wide Open Spaces of the Past' was first published in the spring issue of Tugboat Magazine (www.tugboatmagazine.com). All rights reserved."