When Mandy Aftel releases a new perfume and generously sends me a sample, the first thing I do is adjourn to the privacy of my office and listen to Eminem. Soundtrack in place, I cautiously apply a little bit to the back of my hand and prepare for the ride…
Sepia was created by Mandy Aftel and includes notes of blood cedarwood, pink grapefruit, yellow mandarin, pink lotus, jasmine, strawberry, cocoa, coffee, indole, ambergris, tobacco, labdanum, cepes and oud.
Mandy’s perfumes have serious impact on me, they tend to stealthily approach, seemingly innocent at first, only to throw me a curveball later, to disarm me, strip me of my defenses and go right to my core. The biggest hitter so far was Cepes&Tuberose, a perfume I can only wear very rarely, but when I crave it it hits the spot like nothing else can.
Therefore I am almost a bit weary when I sit in front of that cute little sample vial, not knowing what will happen, but certain that something will.
Something always happens when you get involved with an Aftelier…
I inhale deeply and feel myself get sucked in, I get drawn into Mandy’s world and things are decidedly different there.
My reviews of Aftelier perfumes are different too, different from my regular way of doing things. It is hard for me to stick to a formula, even just listing the notes, as I always do, feels off here.
Sepia does not want to conform to my ideas of how a review should look like, Sepia refuses to be put into categories and schemata.
It sounds very strange, but if you have tried Mandy’s perfumes, you probably know what I mean. Her creations are not to be taken lightly. They are not “apply and go about your day” fragrances, there is nothing functional, practical or sometimes even wearable about them. Mandy’s perfumes are experiences, bottled emotions, liquid messages she sends into the world from her paradisaical garden and lab in Berkeley.
For me, Mandy’s creations are more than perfume, they are potions, they hold a bit of magic and as much as the skeptic in me wants to roll her eyes at such a corny statement, the part of me that smells and feels Sepia right now, knows that it is true.
I can’t tell you how Sepia smells – or I could, but I’m reluctant too, there are many great reviews out there already, describing that part much better – but I urge you to go and feel the magic if you can.
Put your nose close to your wrist, inhale and just let go. Dream, fly, dance, be free. Let your memories guide you, let your feelings take over. For that hour that Sepia is going strong, use it to escape.
Sepia is like a window to another world, a means to get away, a portal to your inner world, a safe drug.
You are shaking your head at me? I would too. But I dare you to smell Sepia and tell me you still don’t know what I mean.
A few thoughts on technicalities (added now that Sepia has blown away like a tumbleweed and is fading in sepia tones of memory):
Sepia is available in Parfum and EdP, the parfum is stronger and more dense, and while I love the EdP’s lighter beginnings, I prefer the greater power and longevity of the extrait. Like all natural perfumes it starts to fade after about two hours.
It is available at Aftelier Perfumes.
Sepia makes me curious. I read the reviews out there and Sepia seems to be very complex (difficult?) – but what else one can expect from a parfum pairing strawberries & indole with cocoa and coffee. Still, am very curious.
You’ll only have to be curious until tomorrow morning.
Cocoa, coffee and strawberries sound very breakfast-y actually, so it fits. 😉
looking forward 🙂
Thanks for the review Birgit, will add this to the list. I will go and put some cepes and tuberose on for my SOTN. I find I need a quiet space to appreciate Mandy’s creations and yes, there is something indefinable in her fragrances, a depth that speaks to the inner core.
Glad to hear so see it similarly, Sharryn.
Wow, what an intriguing post. I always love the way you write about Mandy’s creations. I think that’s a really helpful tip – to think of them more as experiences because the normal rules of perfume don’t apply. It’s so true! A great of new way of approaching them. Thanks.
I don’t wear Mandy’s perfumes as I wear others, and I write differently about them too, so that makes them a truly different thing for me. I wouldn’t want to miss that…
This article has reminded me how many from this line I really want to try (Tango and Cepes especially), but the website really doesn’t seem to like me. This might just be the push I need to sort it out (despite the cocoa).
Those two are my favorite Afteliers. If you have trouble ordering, just email, Mandy has excellent customer service!
Don’t worry about the cocoa, it is evident in the jumble of the first minute and then blends in wonderfully.
When I first started reading the last batch of Letters to a Fellow Perfumer, it was because of Laurie Erickson’s involvement, since so many of her perfumes work for me (and since I got the chance to try one of her Forest Walk mods, I can say, “This one’s going to be amazing.”). But it was fascinating to read about Mandy’s process as well, and Sepia sounds amazing. I haven’t tried her line yet at all, but the lemmings have awoken.
Mandy’s creations are something you have to try! Sometimes it takes a while until it “clicks”, but when it eventually does… heaven.
You’re not in the habit of listening to Eminem either, are you?! 🙂
I am in that habit indeed. 🙂
I love Eminem (uncharacteristically so, as many say).
I need to smell this and Aftelier scents in general – still a virgin to her line but I’m dying to smell Cepes&Tuberose!
C&T is truly transporting.
If you get to sample the line, include Sepia too, it is so worth it.
Once again, I am so moved by your wonderful writing Birgit! You share such a deeply personal and yet sophisticated vision of my work, it is a complete treasure.
Thank you for that lovely comment, Mandy and for sending your magic my way.
I crave for complexity Mandy is achieving with her perfumes. Just by reading all reviews about them makes me so courious, I wan’t to feel, not just smell ….well I don’t have words…
I know what you mean, I think. Maybe it is what I described as an experience, not just a smell.
This review was the singular one that pushed me to the limit of desperation in contacting Mandy’s team regarding her fragrances.
I cannot wait to have the opportunity to try them, but I haven’t known where to begin, and confused as to whether I would fully understand and click with the whole natural perfumery aspect.
I have just finished her book (read in two days) Essence and Alchemy and am now even more excited to sample these.
Thanks for a wonderful review, one of the best fragrance reviews I’ve read.
Thank you very much, smellythoughts!
I’m glad I could inspire you to try Mandy’s perfumes, they are something else…
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