The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
My base would be built around tonka absolute and costus. Warm and sweet like caramel, tonka is the ultimate powdery note. Costus, with its complicated aroma of a wet dog crossed with crushed violets, retains the alchemical ability to transform every other essence. To create a watery and shimmering base, I would dose heavily with costus to cause the other essences to give up their rough edges, like an apparition.
For the middle I would choose broom absolute with its honey rose-like aroma with a back note of hay and wood. To this I would add the rich and heavy aroma of dark coffee to create a dirty floral reminiscent of the "petals on a wet, black bough."
For the top I would focus on the precious sugi wood of Japan. This light but rich wood has an aged and precious aroma. I would balance this with the slightest hint of a very creamy but sweet and clean peppermint; using only enough to shed light on the faces in the crowd.
It is fitting that we begin this project with Mandy Aftel's evocative contribution, since it was with her Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume that I began my exploration of perfumery as an art. I have read it numerous times, owned several copies and have given many away to friends. It is an exceptionally well-written book and is the single volume I most often recommend to friends who ask what my "perfume thing" is all about.
Among her many distinguished and critically acclaimed works of authorship, I especially love Scents and Sensibilities, a tiny book on crafting solid perfumes which holds much more inspiration than it would seem possible in such a small volume. It makes a wonderful gift for anyone who's interested in perfume on any level.
Also of particular importance to me is Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Foods and Frangrance, which she co-authored with Daniel Patterson. Aroma is a book to alternately savor and devour, and I'm doing just that. It is filled with recipes for sublime perfumes (such as Cepe and Tuberose liquid perfume as well as Vanilla-Licorice solid perfume) and delicious dishes using ingredients such as black pepper essential oil, cepe (mushroom) absolute, and saffron absolute. If you have any interest at all in the alchemy of aromatic cooking, this is a book for you. You can purchase many of these absolutes and essential oils at Mandy's website, aftelier.com.
Mandy's perfume blends are legendary and have garnered a great deal of well-deserved praise in media such as The New York Times Style Magazine, Vogue, Bazaar, and Allure, to name just a few. My personal favorite from her line is the dramatic and gorgeous Tango, a mesmerizing and truly original fragrance, which contains notes of "smoky ... roasted seashells and champaca; a heady floral with spice and honey notes." Her Boronia solid perfume, smelling "like sunlight on the trees in the forest" is so beautiful I can't bring myself to wear it and use up the sample. I know, that's bad, but her perfume is just that beautiful. I want to wear it and yet I don't want to be without it. What a wonderful dilemma to have.
Our exciting giveaway on March 31 (selected from the names of all those who contribute comments to the posts in this project) will include a sample of Mandy's newest release, Parfum Prive, which "smells like the night air in Hawaii -- redolent of sultry flowers, warmth and light. It almost shimmers. Created from the rarest and most costly essences: osmanthus, orange flower absolute, ambrette seed (a botanical musk) and the legendary ambergris. A limited edition."
All images in this post were provided by Mandy Aftel and are used with her permission. Credit for the photo of the perfume organ is given to Joel Bernstein. All quotes are from aftelier.com.
Comments are encouraged! Please read the initial post in this series for the details on our extraordinary giveaway which will take place on March 31.