Monday 14 November 2016


The New York Times described her as "The World’s Most Dedicated All-Natural Perfumer" and she has certainly inspired a generation of independent brands, both independent and commercial. Based in Berkeley, California, Mandy Aftel still creates and blends by hand using a stunning collection of ingredients which have been amassed over her thirty year career. On her recent visit to Britain I asked her "Stephan's Six" so we could learn a little more about the creator of Aftelier Perfumes.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
The impolite smells of my own body, they fascinated me.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
As with most people, my earliest memories and deepest emotions are saturated with, and inextricably bound up with, scent. The aroma of Jean Patou's Joy, for example, evokes my mother kissing me goodnight before she went out with my father on Saturday nights. A cloud of her signature perfume enveloped me, along with the animal undertones and infinite softness of her mink.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
I didn’t wear any, I was a hippie!

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
I was teaching one of my first perfume-making classes and it was very large class and I didn’t realise how strong the very beautiful fresh essential oil litsea cubeba was in a perfume. It smells like a lovely lemon drop. Many people used it in their perfume, and although it seemed friendly and easy to use, it took over! Most students’ perfumes smelled like furniture polish.

You can only choose one perfume?
My perfume Sepia which was inspired by the California Gold Rush of long ago, a period I am in love with and am fascinated by. It smells like old wood, and memory and the richness of the old West.

What perfume should I try?
The perfume in my line called Palimpsest, it captures the feeling of being in the Garden of Eden at midnight: lush, wild florals, forbidden fruit, and majestic creatures in hiding. The perfume undulates down through florals to its ambergris-laced, other-worldly drydown, and the base notes shimmer up through the top and middle notes in a seamless, scented wave. A palimpsest is an old document on which the original writing has been erased and replaced with new writing. Sometimes the older writing can still be read under the new, resulting in a complex and beautiful layering. I wanted to evoke the richness that you feel when you experience the past as alive in the present, creating the gorgeous complexity of life.

For more information about Mandy Aftel and her perfumes you can visit the website at or go to Amazon to purchase her latest book, Fragrant: The Secret Life Of Scent

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