By Nicole Cornella
The sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses to the human body. Scents influence our memory, affect our moods and define our personality. That is why finding just the right perfume can be such a struggle. How many times have you walked into a department store, tested a perfume on your wrist and quickly wanted to run to the sink and rid yourself of it’s awful scent as soon as possible? But, what if you could concoct a scent that includes the richest of handpicked natural herbs, oils, and other essences?
Most perfumes that are on the market are made from synthetic essences. Mandy Aftel, a pioneer and artist in the world of perfumers for her natural solid and liquid perfumes and founder of the Natural Perfumers Guild, creates artisan natural perfumes that are based on the quality and integrity of the ingredients.
Getting her start over ten years ago, Aftel hand-creates natural fragrances, named Aftelier Perfumes, from over five hundred of the most magnificent natural essences that are found all over the world. “The smell of natural essences will transport you. It is like beauty in a bottle,” says Aftel.
Essences are categorized in relation to how long the scent will remain noticeably fragrant. They are classified into three categories: top, middle and base notes. Base notes are exactly what they sound like. The base of the fragrance is often thick scents that evolve over the course of hours or even days. These are usually intense and profound such as sandalwood and other barks or grasses such as patchouli. The middle notes, also known as heart notes, provide body to the formula and help to bring out the other essences. These middle notes are often sweet flowers such as rose, violet or orange flower. Top notes, or head notes, are those that will reach the nose first and provide that first impression. Many of the head notes are also the same essences found in cooking: herbs or spices such as coriander, spearmint, basil; citrus such as lime, tangerine or grapefruit.
One of her most recent perfumes called Lumiere, features essences that do not overshadow one another. She used a sacred form of frankincense, which she defines as a “complicated” note, Tasmanian boronia and a light base note of green tea. She then used blue lotus to perfect the mix that evolved into a beautiful green color. She thoroughly enjoys the process of creating and mixing, and her fragrances are always changing.
Ironically, Aftel does compare her art of mixing to the art of cooking: the integrity of each ingredient makes the meal, or in Aftel’s case, makes the perfume. This past spring, she teamed with up Todd English at his Olives Restaurant here in Union Square for an evening of small plates utilizing some of her essences in his dishes. She has even worked with renowned chef, Daniel Patterson, also using some of her very own essences. Her cookbook, Aroma, co-authored with Patterson, links food and fragrance and provides recipes to experiment and include natural essences. In August, Aftel spoke about perfumed teas at The New York Botanical Gardens during their Edible Garden series. This fall, Aftel will also work with the Museum of Natural History and an exhibit about scented dinners. Additionally, she’ll be working with multiple renowned chefs including a pastry chef. Yum!
Although her background is in English and psychology, she was brought up to always pursue what was captivating to her. Her passion and enthusiasm for her work is contagious. Her book, Essence of Alchemy, has ultimately unleashed the natural perfume movement. In addition to being an author and connoisseur of essences, her collection of vintage bottles, books and oils also span the world, many of which she found during her travels to Paris and London.
Aftel bears no sense in labor or pricing when mixing and mastering her fragrances. Although she doesn’t travel to collect her ingredients, she knows exactly where to find her essences that come from around the globe. She runs her business solo, and has opted not to expand. Aftel enjoys her niche market and her devout clients who are equally as passionate about her fragrances as she is about creating them.
Her clients appreciate what she does for them and although the economy is struggling, and spending has decreased, Aftel has seen little to no difference in her sales. She has created custom perfumes for consumers in her studio and has also customized scents for celebrities.
Mandy Aftel’s quarter ounce perfumes start at $100 each or a miniature 2.2 ml vial start at $30. A great way to test some of the scents is to purchase a sample package. Choose three samples from her perfumes, essences, liquid soaps, solid perfumes and oils for just $20.
Aftelier perfumes are sold at their boutique in Henri Bendels on Fifth Avenue in New York City (www.henribendel.com). For more information and other retail locations, please visit http://www.aftelier.com.
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