|Made by me - a rare gift TO my elderly friend!|
Then something happened recently to ignite a spark of interest in naturals again, namely an email from Mandy Aftel, explaining that she had spotted my comment on a blog post by Tara of A Bottled Rose, expressing an interest in trying Amber Tapestry and Vanilla Smoke, both of which Tara had reviewed. Mandy invited me to pick a couple more samples to go into the package, and after an enjoyable evening spent reading the reviews of fellow bloggers with tastes congruent to mine, I settled on Wild Roses and Honey Blossom (which I may feature one day).
But before getting to my impressions of the scents themselves, I must devote a paragraph or two to the packaging, which greatly contributes to the 'devotional' aspect of my response to them - though not before mentioning the lightning speed with which the package arrived. It took an astonishing three days to come by FedEx Express all the way from Berkeley, California (including a brief pitstop in a depot in Cannock!). Why, I have known Christmas cards take longer to get from Littleworth to the other side of Stafford.
After the speed, I was completely smitten by the packaging...the golden Jiffy bag, the dear little cardboard box with its charming country scene and the tiny scent pots nestling in paper 'straw' at each corner.
Oh, and the distinctive use of priestly purple as Aftelier's 'house colour'. (Which reminds me of the time my father - not known for his largesse - bought me a colour TV on a whim, purely so he could watch a televised procession of bishops in New Zealand in all their ecclesiastical finery.)
Then there are other dainty touches to savour: the mysterious motif of a long stemmed retort, like a spindly garlic bulb, and Mandy's characterfully spiky calligraphy on her little note, enclosed in a glassine bag to protect the ink from the elements.
How much did I love all these thoughtful trappings? It activated whatever part of my brain - somewhere deep in the amygdala, perhaps? - is excited by miniaturisation, and brought back happy memories of dolls' houses and advent calendars of yore.
And there is something very significant too about the little pots; the Ajne samples were similarly presented, though it was all so long ago. I do believe these tiny receptacles predispose one to a mood of solemn reverence when applying - nay, anointing oneself with - the perfumes. And Vanilla Smoke in particular had the meditative quality of Ajne Om, or the Om at least of my distant recall.
So without further ado, here are my impressions of these two - I must stress that they were both written without reference to the note list!:
I was not too sure about the first few seconds of Vanilla Smoke, as it was all about the smoke initially. A resinous puff of something like birch tar - or gunpowder? - in a quiet register, but still a bit too 'medicinal smoky' for me, if that makes sense. Very slightly like burning Band-Aids. But I was not at all daunted, having read enough reviews to be confident of a more seductive sequel, and so it proved. Soon a veiled sweet note emerged, like jaggery sugar or a dark, veering to treacly, vanilla, and smoothed out the smokiness. The texture of the scent was now silken and soft and comforting, the stern opening quite forgotten. Who knew a bonfire (for there is smouldering wood still going on in the base) could be so cosseting? If anyone knows Om, cross it with Mona di Orio's Vanille and you would be in the right general ballpark. Vanilla Smoke is a judicious blend of austere smoky backbone and yielding vanilla vulnerability, if I may lapse into purple prose for a moment. Given the purple livery of Aftelier, I am hoping this may be excused! Vanilla Smoke is at once haunting and calming, and unlike any take on vanilla I have ever smelt - and vanilla being my favourite note, I have made it my mission to sample as many of its incarnations as I can find. I am not religious, but as I intimated earlier, dabbing a drop of this on my wrist borders on the spiritual. Hmm, I sense the dabbing part is key. Maybe Aftelier perfumes should only be available in tiny, dabbable quantities to foster this association. Now there's a radical idea... Or if my reference to transcendental experiences sounds a bit un-bonkerslike of me, at the very least Vanilla Smoke would be the perfect accompaniment to one of those Headspace apps where you sit still in a chair, scan your body parts one by one, and generally try to feel floppy. I loved it, and wouldn't mind if I never smelt any of those 'straight up gourmand' vanilla scents (of which I have so many iterations in my collection) again.
Notes: yellow mandarin, Siam wood, saffron absolute, vanilla absolute, lapsang souchong tea essence (for which the tea leaves were smoked over pinewood), coumarin and ambergris
Now although I didn't peek at the note list before marshalling my thoughts on this one, I remember reading somewhere that Amber Tapestry had jasmine in it - very likely in Tara's review - and was also waiting for a cosy, more amber-forward drydown. Instead I got a whoosh of fresh, green, vaguely mentholated, mahoosive and slightly bubble gummy phantom tuberose! And I promise I mean this in a good way! It was really, really interesting, and transported me back to the Palm House of Belfast's botanical gardens, inhaling the dewy, fleshy, otherworldly scent of some unspecified and faintly triffid-like plant. Think the blowsy Vero Kern Rubj crossed with Tubereuse Criminelle and you won't be far off, though I have only smelt the latter once. I see Tube Crim contains jasmine AND tuberose, as well as orange blossom and vanilla. And an eclectic collection of spices. And it is amber coloured to boot! So yes, those two...and maybe lob in a soupcon of Nuit de Tubereuse for good measure.
|Source; Wikimedia Commons|
Amber Tapestry is a highly unusual scent: odd and shapeshifting and not at all what I expected. Now that I have spied the note list, I reckon the faux-tuberose effect may in fact have been created by the combination of heliotrope (which can read big and 'plasticky') and the jasmine. And how intriguing that both Vanilla Smoke and Amber Tapestry should contain yellow mandarin and coumarin, not that I could have picked either of those out unaided. I suspect the coumarin could also be amping up the heliotrope and helping it stage this surprise tuberose stunt. I can't honestly say I get amber. Or even a drydown as such. The compelling tuberose chimera simply becomes more attenuated and finally fades away.
To compensate for my strange take on this scent, which I realise is way off the reviews I have now caught up with(!), I am inserting pictures of tapestries I have made - or co-made with my mother in the case of the footstool. Both feature an orange colour that could loosely be called amber.
Notes: heliotrope, yellow mandarin, jasmine, jasmine sambac, pear and cinnamon, amber, labdanum, benzoin, castoreum, ambergris and coumarin
|The full footstool!|
*Ajne did of course famously mark their card by unexpectedly closing early on the day I said I was coming to visit, hehe.