– 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.