Honeyed Blooms and Meadows Sweet

– Reviews of Aftelier Perfume‘s ‘Honey Blossom’ and ‘Wildflowers’

Last night, trying to ground myself after a frantic Saturday that completely conspired against me, I went out for a walk in the summer twilight, which this time of year is well past 10 PM. As I walked around my neighborhood on a Saturday night, noting the honeysuckle blooming on walls, the elderflowers with their musky, earthy scent that my compatriots like to convert into a favorite summer drink, breathing in all the ghostly aromas of a summer night in July, a luminous, intoxicating ribbon of something green and unmistakable wove its way into my awareness.

High summer is finally here, and the linden trees are blooming, and if ever a high summer night had a signature scent, linden blossom would surely be one of them. There could be no better time to review Aftelier Perfumes’ ‘Honey Blossom’.

‘Honey Blossom’ was created as part of a unique perfumer’s collaboration with Andy Tauer to highlight a linden blossom CO2 extract. Last year as the project unfolded, readers of Nathan Branch’s blog were able to get a unique look into the process of perfume making and the challenges both Andy Tauer and Mandy Aftel encountered along the way.

Andy Tauer created ‘Zeta’, which I reviewed in late April, and although I can certainly appreciate its beauty, I couldn’t wear it at all. I had no choice but to dub it the Honey Monster, because it very nearly ate me alive.

So I was more than slightly apprehensive when I opened up that tiny vial of ‘Honey Blossom’, wondering if this one, too would devour me whole and entire.

In a word – no.

‘Honey Blossom’, I’m thrilled to say, is an entirely different perfume, for all that it highlights the same linden blossom CO2 extract. Mandy Aftel chose mimosa, with its particular sunshine-yellow sweetness to highlight it, and these two, the mimosa with its almond/marzipan facets and the linden blossom with its green, heady character dance a perfect waltz in tandem, seamlessly whirling on towards a dizzying orange blossom heart that never dominates or takes over. The orange blossom opens up its doors and joins in that mimosa and linden blossom waltz and this somehow becomes linden blossom but better, a unique twist on a beloved summer perfume accord that normally tends to take the alternate name for linden – lime – a little too literally.

There is no lime in this linden, just the near-narcotically addictive, sweetly dripping nectar of the blossoms themselves that teeter towards honey but never do fall into the beehive, waltzing their sweet, joyous ménage à trois with the mimosa and orange blossom on my skin in dizzying figures that whisper of warm summer twilight and puffs of sunshine caught in thousands of creamy yellow blooms. As it dries down, a downy accord of ambergris and benzoin with its vanilla touch wind down the waltz and slow down the linden blossom to a glow that fades away like the stars above in a high summer sky that never gets completely dark at this time of year.

I’m reminded of those lines from William Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’, although here, the angels are the blooms of a linden tree…

“Unseen they pour blessing.
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom.”

It was a privilege to be privy to the process of creating a linden blossom perfume through Nathan Branch’s blog, and an even greater privilege to be able to compare the two different interpretations of the same CO2 extract. Both ‘Zeta’ and ‘Honey Blossom’ share that same soft yellow glow, but the similarities stop there. I can admire ‘Zeta’ for the beauty that it is, but I can never wear it. Unrequited love is so over-rated! ‘Honey Blossom’ sings in a different key with a different pitch, pouring its joy and blessing on all things good, waltzing around in a summer twilight beneath the blooming linden trees.

‘Honey Blossom’ was one of three of Mandy Aftel’s creations (The others were ‘Lumiere’ and ‘Candide’, which I reviewed here) to be nominated as a finalist in both the European and American FiFi awards as Fragrance of the Year, Indie Brand.

Meadows Sweet

There was a moment back in January I can clearly recall on a July afternoon, a moment I stood outside my work on a lunch break on a dismal, cold, foggy day and thought to myself…this cold, this damp, this gray…is all you will ever know, and winter will never end. When summer seemed an all but impossible concept, some delirious fevered dream of light in a month that has so little at my latitude in January, and heat that seems so outrageous on such a chill, gray day.

I can remember I went home and wrote a perfume review that night, the kind that would remind me of what I knew but could scarcely believe in January…sooner or later, summer will return and the flowers bloom again, sooner than I always think it will be summer, and I will feel that delicious kiss of sunlight on my skin that makes me think of things I can so easily forget..like hope, like possibilities, like feeling every inch alive.

The review was for Olympic Orchids’ ‘A Midsummer Day’s Dream’, but where Doc Elly’s perfume takes you out on the grass and beneath the fig trees, from the bark of the wood to the leaves and the fruit in all its stages, Mandy Aftel’s ‘Wildflowers’ takes an entirely different tack.

‘Wildflowers’ is a solid perfume, a delicious way to wear perfume entirely for yourself and no one else. It has little sillage and an understated presence, but when something is this beautiful, I don’t much care. The feel of the solid on my skin is probably the best I’ve ever encountered in a solid perfume, smooth as silk charmeuse, and if this were a body butter, I’d buy it by the tub, it’s…that good.

Instead of grass and a whole fig grove, this is a meadow full of flowers, all the flowers of a hot, perfect summer day of sunshine and blue skies, the larks singing high in the air and the buzz of bumblebees in the flowers, some of which you know, and many which you don’t.

So lie back in the meadows and watch the world from the ground as you breathe it all in….the verdant kick of lime awakening your senses to your surroundings, a whole bouquet of heedless, fragrant flowers blooming in random profusion and careless, elegant abandon by nature, all if it spelling the kind of peerless beauty artifice can never know, and as that meadow seeps into your consciousness, draining away all worries and cares, the demands of your day and the weeks ahead, a sweet scent of hay, some of it fresh-cut, some of it dried gathers force, and you become, as so often happens with Aftelier perfumes I’ve noticed, one with the moment, the flowers far too many and too beautiful to pluck and take with you, the larks in the sky above you and that sugary hay that is nothing more or less than the quintessence of every summer-blooming, sunshine-soaked grass that ever grows.

Maybe I should just amend that to…every summer day that lives forever in our memory, the kind we need to be reminded of on dismal, foggy January days. A memory, a recollection of S-u-m-m-e-r, period.

If summer somehow eludes you, if you need a reminder that some day, heat and light and sunshine will return, the wildflowers will bloom and hopes and possibilities will be every inch alive, that even you will be every inch alive and aware in a perfect meadow moment, then you need to try ‘Wildflowers.’

Meadows should always be so sweet, and flowers should always bloom in such plentitudes, just like those possibilities that seem such a distant, nebulous dream on a dismal January day.

Notes for ‘Honey Blossom’:
Top: Mimosa, linden blossom CO2
Heart: Orange blossom absolute, phenyl ethyl alcohol
Base: Ambergris, benzoin

Notes for ‘Wildflowers’:
Hay, wildflowers, Mexican lime

‘Honey Blossom’ and ‘Wildflowers‘ are available from the Aftelier website, from Scent and Sensibility for UK customers, and from Sündhaft.