A limited but more exuberant lexicon

Like a chef who only uses ingredients grown within 100 miles of her kitchen, a large part of [Mandy] Aftel’s pride and satisfaction is derived from the sacrifice that comes out of self-imposed constraints. That those constraints result in a limited but more exuberant lexicon is more than just a pleasant side effect; it’s arguably what Aftel’s business is all about — exposing the uninitiated to the world’s most precious products and talking about them.

— Read more at The World’s Most Dedicated All-Natural Perfumer at The New York Times. Hat tip to Julien!

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy

It smelled kind of like cat pee

"I shared it with Daniel [Patterson], my co-author. I did a cookbook with him, and he uses my oil in his food,” she told me. “But I didn’t have that much left, and I started to try and rebuy, and everything was dreadful. It smelled kind of like cat pee. It moves a little bit over and it’s just awful.” She spent 10 years on the hunt, sampling different crops, until she found the right kind.

If this happens to a perfume sold on a small, independent website, it’s a problem. It would be a disaster if it happened to a fragrance at Sephora, which was expected to sell millions of bottles every year.

— Mandy Aftel of Aftelier talks to The Guardian about the challenge of sourcing natural materials. Read more at 'All-natural' perfumes rarely are – but independent makers hope to change that.

From Kings to Dunkin Donuts

Realize Magazine talks to Mandy Aftel of Aftelier. It's a long conversation — about 40 minutes — and covers topics ranging from how Aftel got interested in fragrance; to her latest book, Fragrant; to her perfume organ and the basics of top, middle and base notes (they smell a 100 year old sandalwood, among others). At about the 23 minute mark, Aftel mixes up a perfume from one of the recipes in her book, and talks about how the music of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen helps her create. [Note that the sound is messed up for a couple minutes early on in the video, but it resolves quickly.]

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel ~ book review

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel, book plus kit

In fiction, an effective writer uses plot not just to move the story along, but to illuminate an underlying theme. If Mandy Aftel’s Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent were a novel, the plot would be the five essences — cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine — around which she structures the book. The theme would be beauty.

In Fragrant’s first chapter, Aftel writes about how she became involved with perfume, then says:

As I researched and thought about the deeps ways that perfume touches our most primal selves and the collective self of our species, I realized that I had the makings of an adventure story of sorts…

Read the rest of this article »