Aftelier’s Mandy Aftel: Learning, Creating & The Love of Scent

We all start somewhere when it comes to perfume, even masters of the craft like Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes who has been making fragrances for more than 20 years and is the indisputable doyenne of American natural perfumery. She, too, began somewhere, and she graciously took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her journey, as well as how she learnt about the building blocks of perfume-creation, her methodology, her favorite materials, her books, the world of food, and more. I’m extremely grateful for the glimpse into her world, and cannot thank her enough for patiently answering some very long questions. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

Source: aftelier.com

Source: aftelier.com

Mandy Aftel in her studio. [Photo cropped by me.] Source: Aftelier.com

Mandy Aftel in her studio. [Photo cropped by me.] Source: Aftelier.com

  1. I’m very interested in people’s perfume journeys, particularly what it was like for a perfumer when they first started, especially someone with such vast knowledge as yourself. You were originally a therapist with degrees from the University of Michigan in Psychology and English. A 2005 profile article on you in SF Gate says that your practice “specialized in helping musicians, writers and artists realize their creative potential.” You even wrote a book in 1982 on one of the Rolling Stones entitled, “Death of a Rolling Stone: The Brian Jones Story.” Then, in the early 1990s, you started making fragrances. Was there anything beyond a general interest in scent and aromas that triggered the leap from being a therapist and published author to creating perfumes?

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Holiday Gift Ideas 2014

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

The holiday season is upon us and many of you have already started shopping for gifts. I thought I’d present a few ideas, whether it’s for the fragrance lover in your life, or merely an office coworker for whom you have to get a “secret Santa” gift. A few of my suggestions are suited for those who don’t even have a serious interest in perfume. For example, a book of poetry by 100 contemporary American poets who were each sent a different vial of unnamed perfume (ranging from Jo Malone to Tom Ford, Creed, Kilian or others), and then wrote a poem in response to the unknown scent.

As you will see, very few of my ideas have to do with buying actual perfume. I think it’s a truly terrible idea to gift someone fragrance unless you know them and their tastes extremely well or, ideally, have a precise shopping list of the exact perfumes that they want. Otherwise, it’s a potential disaster and, quite possibly, a huge waste of money. Given the vagaries of skin chemistry, you simply can’t know how a perfume bought blindly will actually turn out on their skin and if they’ll like it.

So, it’s far better to leave the choice up to them. For example, you can send an e-card, even on the day of Christmas if you’re a procrastinator who is truly behind schedule. Some people may see gift certificates as a sign of laziness or lack of thought but, for a perfumista, they’re the best thing ever! Even small amounts give one the freedom to sample new things, each a potential passage to olfactory Nirvana. Non-perfumistas might also enjoy certificates to places that sell luxury candles, men’s beauty products, or home fragrances. Or, you can go another route, and opt for fragrance-related things like books, foodie essences, or perfume-making kits. Here are a few suggestions.

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Roja Dove “The Essence of Perfume”: Review & Giveaway

Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. It is not a hobby. Those who do it must do it.” Jeanette Winterson

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

That quote about books might well apply to perfume, too. For those poor souls like myself who suffer from both forms of madness, there is a new temptation on the horizon: Roja Dove‘s “The Essence of Perfume.” It is a fantastic book with gorgeous photos ranging from exquisite old perfume bottles to vintage posters. Much more important, though, is the fact that it is incredibly informative with sections that would appeal to perfume lovers of all backgrounds and levels of expertise. From the history of perfumery to explanations of all the key raw materials, a detailed breakdown of perfumes by decade, and so, so much more, this is an incredibly useful book to own.

The Essence of Perfume originally debuted in 2008, but a completely updated, re-worked version has just been released in the U.K. and will launch worldwide in early/mid September. I will have a giveaway at the end of this post, giving one of you the chance to get an early copy, but the main purpose of this post is to explore The Essence of Perfume‘s contents in detail. One reason for that is because of my own reaction when first hearing about the book. Continue reading