Whether we really need any more nerolis in a recent almost oversaturation of the note is another question, but Quentin Bisch’s new take on the orange blossom branch for Van Cleef & Arpels is certainly bright, uplifting, and rather lovely : a mandarin-centred citrus with almost tea-like facets that is good for the spirits and for me just emanates happiness.
Rather than the glittering smorgasbord effect of the Tom Ford Neroli Portofino range or the greener and raspier more photorealistic renditions of the flower such as Annick Goutal or Sana Jardin’s Berber Blonde, this ‘bitter neroli’, part of Van Cleef’s enjoyable Collection Extraordinaire range, is actually anything but: it is rounded, forthright; fresh but full-bodied – a clean and fresh summer orange that is an immediate mood enhancer and perfect for the sunnier warmer weather. Me likey.
Probably I would have been wearing the For Men variations of Eternity, Obsession, or Herrera; or possibly Eau Sauvage Extreme. I can’t quite remember ..
Mandy Aftel has an intuitive knack for the inner. These are not perfumes for show, for vapid concept nor clawing for attention but intimate, interior,: : often sensually perturbing creations that go within you, touch the nexus. Amber Tapestry is such a scent: a cinnamon-gifted, very Aftelian citric floral beginning that cedes quickly into an incredibly dirty, yet uncorruptededly animalic accord of castoreum, ambergris, labdanum, coumarin and benzoin: all the classic ambery, musky business we associate with this kind of perfume – without the caramelised Frenchness – at just the right balance for a private show: I cannot ever imagine wearing this scent out in public (and, for that reason, I like how contrarian this perfume feels in the current climate: you definitely could); but once that end accord settles down on my wrist – a dirty amber musk which reminds me somewhat of a natural version of the end notes of my beloved Parfum D’Hermes – I just can’t stop sniffing. One of those ‘it’s not right, but it’s okay‘ types of dirtinesses not for public consumption. But magnetic. Potent, and uninhibiting (in short, this perfume turns me on).
Velvet Tuberose and ‘Jasmine Single’ are both expensive solid perfumes that you can dab and smear, rub, at your leisure, on the skin without the fear of a chemical, liquid sillage, housed in pleasing metal square containers that I can imagine concealing in a pocket like a childhood secret friend.I have experienced what tuberose absolute smells like, in essential oil form; green, strange, and you smell it up front in Velvet Tuberose: white-petalled, quixotic; that is, before the earthier, less obviously white flower components take over; an essence of sandalwood from India fused with the smell of baked earth (mitti attar) that leads the perfume into quasi-vintage Caron Narcisse Noir territory – on my skin, at least. This is sultry stuff, unquestionably carnal, mature, but I think I am by nature more instinctively drawn to the basenoteless other perfume solid floral solifore in this collection, Jasmine, which strikes me as rather incredible and which I would like to own a full perfume of. To wear by itself, or jazz up my other jasmine centred perfumes. A clean wrist on a summer’s day: an almost hallucinogenic conjuring of the flowers at will. Yes, Aftel chooses, perhaps oddly, it might seem at first, to mitigate the sheer beauty of the jasmine essence she has sourced here with a strong dose of blood orange and ruby grapefruit in the initial impressions, making you feel at first glance that this is more of a ‘pleasant sunny rendition’ of the jasmine yellow citrus variety, rather than a paen to the queen of flowers, and wonder, perhaps, why she could not just let that jasmine grab you by the, seat of your pants from the very first moment you try the perfume on, but this ‘masking’ is also for me like a fun-filled overture of sorts: an anticipatory drawing back of the curtains. Once the glorious, fully natural jasmine fully reveals itself on the skin, and it does, from even a small smudge of the solid perfume on the back of the hand within ten minutes or so, it is possibly the most true-to-life rendition of jasmine flowers on the bough I have ever encountered, as if someone had wrenched down a branch of jasmine in full flowering with the leaves from the garden outside and put them down on the table in front of you (Olivia, if you are reading this – mum said that you had been looking to find the ultimate true to life jasmine: I feel this might be it…).
This is very idiosyncratic natural perfumery. It is nothing like commercial ‘fragrance’, not like niche, nor even like other perfumes that are linked to the classic aromatherapy. I have always felt that with Aftelier. The perfumes have their own particular energy that will strike some people as being odd: Memento Mori, for instance, doesn’t really square with my (possibly conservative?) olfactory tastes: I can’t take anything too off-kilter or ‘challenging’ when it comes to perfumes – I like an easier seduction, ultimately, and yet there is always a very obvious integrity here, a love of the essences combined with an at times very saucy sensibility (some of her perfumes are filthy!) that is provocative, but which feels that it is being done not for the sake of mere provocation but for the prospect of genuinely sensuous enjoyment and pleasure. With these three especially (I also really loved Fir, her exceptionally intriguing coniferous solid, but might save that one for another time, maybe winter, which I don’t even want to think about right now), I feel she is pushing something, pressing buttons you like being pressed, but didn’t necessarily even know that you wanted to. A skinship of the id ; an intimacy.
Photo: the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in California, which I would definitely like to visit one day.
This is perfect for today. After a morning of gorgeous dappling sunlight and a long bath listening to Joni Mitchell, I am now on the train to work smelling delicately of white and yellow lilies; ylang ylang, and vanilla. More natural than Vanille Galante, less musky and enveloping than Songes, this perfume is delightful; soothingly tropical and sensuous as the urban countryside goes by and I delve into Ian Buruma’s fascinating memoir, A Tokyo Romance: the life of a Dutch writer and photographer in the artistic underworld of seventies Japan. A different era: but so many echoes and essentialities of our own experiences here in this weird and wonderful land; he encapsulates much of what I feel but am sometimes unable to pin down. Fixated on beauty and aware of his own ‘othering’ of the exotic, Lys Soleia is a beguiling, heat-suffused softness in the backdrop of my solitude, and does nothing to detract from the intricate eroticism of his story.