An Alchymistic Veil

– a tale and a review of Aftelier Perfumes‘Secret Garden’

Tonight would be a night to remember. Tonight, she had decided, it was time to move past those effervescent champagne conversations that somehow lasted until the waiters began to close the restaurant. Time to move past those promising goodnight kisses at her door.

It was time to show him what he had yet to learn about her, that other woman who hid waiting just beneath her skin, that woman he had yet to know. That woman she wanted him to know and not forget.

So here she stood in her bathrobe and her dizzying state of anticipation, preparing to be picked up at 7:30. Her seduction kit was laid out in order on her bed – her luckiest, laciest garter belt, the 10-denier stockings, the sinful silk satin slip and the perfect little black dress to give just enough of an intimation of the wonders beneath it, nothing more nor less than her skin…and a perfume, but which one?

All her bottled divas clamored for attention. The ones she wore for her own pleasure, the ones he said he’d liked, the ones she had yet to find the courage, the audacity to wear with him.

Audacity would have to wait until some unsuspecting, rainy Sunday afternoon, when it would be so much more effective.

No. She wanted something different, something new, some other perfume he had yet to know, something…like that woman who would peel off all that sultry lace and satin to reveal the volcano underneath. Yet it had to be a little less …obvious, a little mysterious, a breath of that clandestine self she so wanted him to find.

There was a purple box stashed among the divas, a purple box with a beautiful orange and purple label and nestled inside in yet more purple-printed orange tissue paper, another bottle full of possibilities and a name containing anticipation, and what could be better for a night like tonight?

She sprayed the air and sniffed. Oh, yes. This was the one. ‘Secret Garden’ it was called, and it was perfectly named for a perfect night.

This green, fruity, woody startling shock of beauty and bergamot and a satin touch of orange would be the light she knew she would see in his eyes when she opened her door, it would be that lift of his eyebrows, that tug at the corner of his mouth and that widening of his pupils that told her he liked what he saw, but that wasn’t all she was and certainly not all this perfume was, either, for an electric heartbeat of otherworldly animal pulsed below it, pulsed with promises and moonlight under a wild midnight sky.

It beat through and around a floral heart as peerless as the charmeuse skin that soon would hide her heat, so seamlessly blended it was a thankless task to tease the bouquet out beyond a helpless shrug of surrender to a floral otherworld. They might have been rose, a rose to inspire a legend, an idea of some forbidden fruit, jasmine, that most devastating of blooms, and ephemeral flowers opening up just beyond a garden gate in some eternal Eden.

In her more cynical moments, she sometimes thought the perfumer’s art was dying out, replaced by facsimile approximations of what perfume could be, should be, had once upon a time always been…a way to breathe in and be inspired by the divine.

Every time that threatened to occur, she was surprised in her soul again, surprised that somewhere, a perfumer’s master hand created yet another marvel, yet another fervent promise that beauty still lived and all one had to do was breathe with an open heart and a burning soul.

She did that now, and that suggestion of animal twitched its tail and purred its furry purr against her senses. Could this really be civet, this mischievous wink that tugged in her mind? This, ah, how could it be…castoreum that added so much velvet deep and devilishly rich, a sweet-scented fever touch of desire? Patchouli…ah, no one did patchouli like this any more, no one at all, this was the purple soul of patchouli, this was simply all in all an unapologetic, decadent, thick, vanilla-tinged, superheated sable pelt of a perfume.

She had to sit down for a moment on her bed. Her clandestine skin, captured in this bottle. Anticipation and promise, wonder and fire, caught within the weightless liquid filigree of essence and absolute, animal and anima and all she wanted only him to know at last.

She knew what would happen, she knew that later, she would be wrapped in that anticipation and promise lurking underneath its sheath of silk and satin skin, and he would breathe in this alchymistic veil of perfume that would utterly transmute this woman he only thought he knew.


Top: Bergamot, bois de rose, geraniol, blood orange

Heart: Jasmine sambac, raspberry (compound isolate), Turkish rose, blue lotus

Base: Civet, castoreum, vanilla, deer tongue (a plant), benzoin, aged patchouli.

‘Secret Garden’ is available as an Eau de Parfum from the Aftelier website. A sample was provided for review by Mandy Aftel.

Image: Katarina Silva. Used by permission.