The Union of Heaven and Earth

– a review of Aftelier Perfumes ‘Cepes and Tuberose’

Serendipity and miracles have been known to happen. When I say that this blog was one such serendipitous idea that occurred one late, late night during my summer vacation last year after the third glass of wine and staring off into space, I had no idea what wonders would happen, what connections I could make, or what sensual journey I would embark upon, but I can tell you this – I am no longer that woman who had that seemingly hare-brained idea, no longer that writer who had found her voice and wanted to sing it all out as loudly as she could.

The writer has grown stronger, the woman has grown bolder, walks taller, talks back – all thanks to perfume. So many wonders have I met upon my long, winding road, so many marvels have I seen, and as my universe expanded and my tastes grew broader, I reached out and found readers, found those scented miracles, and somehow, some way, through some alchemical process I didn’t even fully understand, found the words to convey what those scents made me feel.

Because that’s what perfume boils down to for me…a bottled mood or emotion, a liquid glimpse of joy, caught as it flies in one fleeting, breathless instant, and one very mortal woman is no longer what she was the moment before but something…other, something different and richer and better.

Even with all of this, I wasn’t quite prepared for yet more serendipity. To she who gives much shall be given, say the Vanatru, and so there was. Marvels I wouldn’t be able to try otherwise were sent to me, connections were made that did so very much to restore my faith in friendships with common passions, and all along came the words, trying to grasp at the ephemeral and visceral art of…perfume.

Being a child of the Sixties and Seventies, natural perfumery to my mind brought up associations of cheap patchouli and badly made essential oil blends that never did impress me much.

Yet once upon a time not even that long ago, all perfumes were natural. Someone, somewhere, had picked those flowers, let them breathe their last sighs in tallow or oil, distilled their essences in alembics to drops of divinity a man or a woman could wear. Louis XIV’s glittering, decadent court was known as The (naturally) Perfumed Court, and courtiers swooned on hot summer days when the tuberose hedges bloomed at the Grand Trianon so extravagantly, even Madame de Montespan complained.

So you can imagine my excitement when one of my Great Facilitators, Lucy of Indieperfumes, with no doubt a few devious ideas of her own, introduced one of the very best natural perfumers on Planet Earth to my humble, subterranean blog, and one bleary-eyed morning, I woke up to an email from Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, asking if I would like to try some of her creations?

I promptly plotzed (sometimes, only Yiddish will do!) all over my keyboard. Oh, would I…

I had read of her collaboration with Andy Tauer (in my personal Pantheon of Greats) on linden blossom, I knew she was rightly nominated for FiFi Awards on both sides of the Atlantic, I had heard…things about this perfumer extraordinaire, and I couldn’t wait.

Now, I sit with my tea, my iPod, a few Q-tips for application and my little bottle of Cepes and Tuberose, and I’m…speechless. Speechless with admiration, astonished and with the kind of cold, numinous chill up my nose and down my spine I don’t often experience in everyday life.

Cepes and Tuberose reminds me of what I’m likely to forget – that in natural perfumes, you are dealing with…soul. The kind of soul never found in any clinical lab of formulae notebooks and abstract concoctions of abstruse concepts. Someone, somewhere, tended these flowers, herbs and woods, someone harvested them when the time was precisely right, someone cared enough to encapsulate the soul of these plants, the sunlight off the leaves, the scent of a rain shower, that marriage of sunlight and sustenance, moonbeam and mineral, heaven and earth.

I can honestly say I have never known anything like it.

Porcini, with their meaty texture and earthy, multilayered aroma can seem like a strange ingredient in a perfume, never mind allied with that diva of all flowers – the heady, sensuous tuberose, once deemed so dangerous by prim Victorian ladies, they actually forbade their daughters to smell it, lest they get… ‘ideas.’ The kind of ideas where the glories of the great British Empire was the very last thing on your mind – or your mother!

Take my word for it, Cepes and Tuberose is indeed very full of precisely those ideas that made those mothers nervous for their daughters. I read of leather and old books, I’ve read all sorts of contradictory opinions, but I get something else entirely…I get myrrh and autumn and spice, I sense cinnamon and pepper and cardamom and mushroom. It is sweet but not gourmand in the slightest, it is breathtaking, and then the diva tuberose makes her entrance, but this is no flowered sledgehammer, this tuberose plays just nice enough with everything else, not dominating but dancing in tandem with yet more wonders…a suggestion of incense and labdanum, a dream of patchouli unlike any other patchouli I’ve met. It’s so seamless, it’s hard to pick apart and dissect. So strange, it shouldn’t work and yet it does, so primal, only one association comes to mind – one very important in my world.

Once, says the Voluspa, there was a great war between Vanaheim, home to the gods of earth and sea and magic, and Asgard, home to the gods of air. A truce was called, the war ceased, and the Vanir took their place of honor among the Aesir. So it came to be that one goddess won the right to claim first pick of the fallen warriors of the battlefield, and that was Freya, embodiment of all desire and sensual pleasures and also – equally important – of magic so potent and arcane, only Odin of all the Aesir had the courage to learn it.

I can well imagine that when Freya dons her falcon cloak and ventures out into Midgard, she would surely wear Cepes and Tuberose. Primal and earthy, animal yet divine, and always with that fateful magic to her hand, the secrets of seidr and all of heaven and earth itself wrapped in the scented air just above the feathers in her cloak.

It is not for the faint of heart, not for the timid or unassuming. There is a mighty soul in that little bottle, a soul unlike any other, with a magic…like no other. It fades away slowly to a whisper, fades back to that earthy, carnal porcini, before it’s gone.

Desire and magic, secrets and all sensual pleasures, the power of the earth aligned with the might of the sky, all of it contained in one tiny bottle sparkling gold in the light on my desk, gold as the amber you can sometimes still find on the beaches here. It’s magic and mojo, sacred and earthy, and one of the most unapologetic, sensual perfumes I’ve had the privilege to smell.

What is magic but another tool to my hand? What is this perfume but a magic that I can wear?

What happened when Heaven joined with Earth? This perfume, and this magic.

Cepes and Tuberose is available from the Aftelier website.

Disclosure: My sample of Cepes and Tuberose was provided for review by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. For which I can’t thank her enough, but I tried.

22 thoughts on “The Union of Heaven and Earth

  1. Why, gods, why?

    I spend ages writing a worthy response, and, oh the agony of fate! Disappears. Into no (wo)mans land.

    Tarleisio, I love what perfume does for me—the things that you said deeply resonated with me. I also love the community that I've found with my fellow perfume lovers. We're a clan (or a coven??) of sorts—my very first! And I am so happy to be a part of it, even in my defective way. 😉

    When Marina reviewed this fragrance, I determined that this must be the tuberose for me, and your review seems to confirm that.

    Must acquire samples.

  2. This review is lit from within —

    Thank you Sheila for this beautiful writing about something I care so deeply about. Your writing about it and my feeling making it are a matched set!
    Mandy Aftel

  3. I'm loving your review !

    C and T is definitely plotz-worthy;-0
    I think it smote me first, before any others, with Tango nipping at its heels….

    You nailed it.

  4. I get so emotional when I see others so moved by Mandy's perfumes. I'm happy that I'm far,so far from being alone when I talk about how her art has changed not only how I view natural perfumery, but perfumery as a whole, and her perfumes have changed ME, enhanced me and made me better, more. Her gift is unique in the truest sense of the word, no one else can do what she does.

    Tango is my drug of choice, I could drown in buckets of it. The others I've tried (and loved) are Shiso, Honey Blossom and Memento. Cepes and Tuberose is definitely on my list to try next, along with Cacao, Tres Vert and Parfum de Maroc.

    A perfume I adore that uses a mushroom accord is DSH Perfumes Cuir et Champignon, it was my favorite new release of last year.

    Excellent and impassioned review, Tarleisio, a true pleasure to read!

  5. Where to start?
    I love pretty much all embodiments of tuberose but none so far has been magical for me. I guess then I'll have to add one of such properties to my collection.

    P.S. I just wanted to add that I got the idea for a blog on a spring night filled with wine. 😉

  6. I love how you express the joy of perfume and the compulsion to write about it. How you describe the human connections it engenders with people we never met, yet still know better than many we share physical space with.
    The fact that perfume is invisible sharpens our other senses, and writing may just be our sixth sense.
    I have not tried this perfume by Mandy yet, but I love others she made and what you say about them having a soul, a complex living presence, I feel as well.
    Another magical review.

  7. I knew it! I'm so excited! Yes yes yes cepes and tuberose is a perfect marriage of opposites. Miraculously keeps both qualities of earthy and ethereal. I had that lightening flash feeling – it struck me immediately.
    I am so glad to have found you online, it encourages me to read a perfume soul mate pour out her all on the art that perfume is becoming. I knew you had to have more exposure to naturals and especially to Mandy, immediately, if not sooner.

  8. Ah, Dee..the Case of the Disappearing comment…I've learned the hard way to copy everything before I hit 'publish/post'…

    Since I first dipped my toes in the perfume community not even a year ago, I've been blown away by not just being privy to so much beauty, but more than anything by a sense of community so strong and so welcoming and so cohesive, that 'coven' describes it best of all! 🙂

    I looked for Marina's review of C&T, and didn't find it listed, but she's reviewed other Aftelier creations, including the one I'll review in two days…

    You must, indeed, acquire samples! I'd love to read what YOU think about them!

  9. Mandy – if anyone at all knows just how hard that sometime miracle can happen, when you sniff and you are instantly transported, you have a visceral, instinctive, emotional reaction, I'm sure it would be you.

    I have had precisely four in this momentous year, not because the other perfumes I've tried and reviewed have been bad, but because only four found my jugular without even trying…;-) Of them all, the most primal was…your 'difficult love child'. If I managed to lock into that reaction or even your experience in creating it, then it is a testament to your prodigious talents that the combination of 'souls' knew exactly which keys to turn and doors to unlock.

    And this journey is just begjnning…

  10. Carrie…I was quite blown away! If my passion came across, then I did something right, because C&T is truly unique, and so is Mandy!

    I'd wax more eloquent, but I'm quite overwhelmed…by your responses, by Mandy's and by a very long day on no sleep and a very eerie sensation of momentum and something Really Big…just over the time horizon.

    I can almost…smell it! 😉

  11. Ines, as the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said…'In vino veritas!' When inspiration strikes, it can be found, even in a bottle of wine…;-)

    I have to warn you about C&T, though. This is No Ordinary Tuberose. Expect…the unexpected!

  12. B, thank you. I know that I'm a certified perfume nutcase when I spend so much time staring into space thinking of such things – and then writing about them, too!

    I'm so, so glad you liked this review!

  13. Of course, Lucy, being one of the Great Facilitators, you do realize…this is all!! your fault! 🙂 Just as it did with you, C&T hit me with an immediate 'coup de foudre' – that fatal, instant lightning bolt that bypasses all reason and all words.

    Then, there are those moments when 'thank you' seems so ridiculously inadequate for what I feel I want to say. It seems I did pour out my all for this review, because today, I'm exhilarated and I'm…exhausted in a good way.

    Perfume soul mates, soul sisters, 'fume aficionadas…we are all of these, because we well know the truth that is…
    a) Perfume IS an art and
    b) Art – and beauty – can make all things possible!

    Thank you for that, too!

  14. Tarleisio, I am just FLOORED by this review, it is truly wondrous! I want to write like you do when I grow up… 🙂

    Obviously, this perfume really needs to be on my list of things to try!

  15. So beautifully, lovingly stated, Tarleisio. Not just the review of Cepes and Tuberose (which sounds amazing), but your acknowledgment of what perfume means to all of us who take the time to write about it. ❤

  16. Dee – I stand corrected! Thank you for posting the link to Marina's review! She had things to say that I didn't, things that sent me right back to my bottle, but I said what no one else did, so it's all good! 🙂

  17. Flora – I have an infinitely better idea…when you grow up (and I rather hope you never do, since I didn't! 😉 ), write…like yourself. Some day, some way, you will look the other way and your own voice will creep up on you and refuse to leave!

    It's all uphill from there! 😉

    I've written full-tilt since childhood, in fits and phases, but not until the millenial year did the first intimations of a voice arrive. I've been refining it ever since.

    If you were touched by those words and by what Mandy's perfume evoked in you, then I've done it right. I can't do reviews like everyone else, and I suspect – in fact, I know – that's why I have readers!

    I'm so very glad you liked my review! There will be, always…many more to come, for my journey is just beginning and I'd like you to join me along the way, if you'd like.

    There are wonders to be found and marvels to smell…

  18. Well, Suzanne, go right ahead and…make my day! Isn't it interesting, though, that sometimes we can get so sidetracked by the main attraction – perfume – that we sometimes forget all the fringe benefits that come with it?

    Since finding my own Fellowship of 'Fumies, my life has become inordinately richer on all levels in my life. For your own contribution and everything else we've shared so far and will in future…you get this right back at ya:

  19. And now I am plotzing all over my keyboard!

    Whatever enchantment Cepes et Tuberose wove around you I must have for myself. After watching Bell, Book and Candle the other night, I've decided I need a little fun “magic” in my life!

    Since I was not born with magic entwined in my DNA, bottled magic will have to do and it looks like Ms. Aftel has it available on her site!

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