Back in the 70's when I was a teenager I remember trying Calandre when it came out (a perfume that got a lot of attention in a world of only a few notable perfume releases a year instead of more than 1000 these days!) and I could barely smell the darned thing. And what little I COULD smell seemed wrong somehow, yucky and sour. I realized immediately that there were "new" perfume ingredients that I couldn't experience the way other people did which I interpreted as new synthetics, and I was right. I have never had a problem smelling Vintage synthetics properly, so I figured I wasn't missing much if newfangled ingredients eluded me. Fast forward to 2013 with everyone seeming to use the same aroma chemicals and it holds truer than ever!
It seems undeniable that natural essences have more resonance than synthetics, being olafactorily much more complex (the scent components of Jasmine are said to number over 400!) and in a way it is the job of synthetics to reduce each instrument in the symphony to its individual "notes". I suppose this serves a number of purposes, of course they are cheaper, perhaps narrower compositions are more easily perceived by the buying public, and if even 100 components of a natural scent can be isolated and synthesized then chemical companies can sell perfumers many more pieces for their puzzles.
It is clear to me that composing perfumes with natural essences is especially demanding if you want to make something that smells like more than the sum of its parts.....so often natural perfume smells like its literal components, which can be nice, but it is not at all what I am looking for in a perfume, which is what I am looking for in 'most everything else: transcendence.
Enter Mandy Aftel. Having been a fan of her perfumes for years, at first conceptually, when I read Essence and Alchemy; then concretely, when I got to enter her world on a deeper level attending her workshop at Esalen a couple of years ago. I was completely captivated by her and her work, and we began our friendship there. We have very similar approaches to our different creative disciplines, and our attitudes, values and personal histories connect over and over, stimulating and motivating me in countless ways.
To me, her work as a artisinal perfumer stands out in the world of natural perfume, her compositions always seem to be about more than nature. She is in love with her materiels as a natural perfumer must be, but when you smell one of her creations it is clear that a rose is NOT a rose as it seems to be to other people. I have always sensed that she is somehow working from a different place, which seems that it must be conceptual as well as structural. Like someone once said about the tennis player Andre Agassi "Everyone else is playing Tennis, but he is doing something else."
This weekend I will post the stimulating conversation I had with Mandy about how she works and what we are really smelling when we experience her perfume ..... until then ......