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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Perfume Review: Aftelier Tango

"Oh, Orlando!
Remember the night we danced
quietly on the sands where music
was played? Your words were
wonderers, said quietly
in the pockets of my ears."
Dancing Tango by Sheema Kalbasi

Tango by Mandy Aftel is perhaps one of the most unusual fragrances I have tried this year. One of a few that really, really touched something inside me, that made my heart beat faster in excitement and strange, acute and pleasurable, sorrow, the kind of excitement and sorrow that I feel when listening to Piazzolla's music. I find that, as my olfactory discoveries grow, the realm of what I accept and like expands, to the point when I can actually say that there are hardly any perfumes that I find disagreeable. I started on this perfume-obsession path with a long list of notes I hated, and in the last couple of years or so the list has shrank to maybe just a couple of ingredients (anise, almond, and...I guess, that's it!). But as the amount of fragrances I like or perhaps better to say, tolerate, increased, paradoxically, the number of the scents that I truly love shrank to an extent that I hardly ever consider anything full-bottle-worthy anymore. As my perfume-mania progressed, I moved from wanting to own everything I thought likeable to finding myself coming back to just a small "core" of scents and thus desiring to own only the things that really and truly move me, that haunt me, that speak to my soul in a language my mind can't even understand. Tango is one of those scents.

I have been postponing writing about it, because I can't seem to find a way to put in words what it is like. Tango is indescribable. If I said it was softly floral, slightly bitter, almost medicinal at times and smoky in an odd, non-woody sort of way, would it give you any idea of what it was like? If I said that it smelled as if the sea became a being, and that being danced with you all night the dance of passion, would that help ...or would you just think I have finally gone completely mad? Choya Nakh, the aroma of smoked seashells, is in the center of the composition, and it is an ingredient that is fascinating and incredibly appealing to me. I find it to be erotic in the same way that ambergris is erotic (although they don't smell similar at all) has an insinuating, subtle sensuality that is much more effective in making my knees week than any sort of obviously come-hither notes. Aftel's scent is dark, devastatingly sexy and, for a reason that I can't explain, heartbreakingly tragic ...just like real tango.

Tango is available at, $140.00 for 1/4oz.

Image source,


Blogger Gaia said...

Marina, what a wonderful, sensitive review! I know how hard it is to put into words what we really think and feel when it comes to those few perfumes that take us there. It seems like the perfumers knew all of our secrets when they created the scents.

11:36 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, now I call that an enticing review! I agree that the more perfumes you try, the broader your tastes become (I used to say I hated powdery scents, now I love many of them!) - yet the true loves become more rare indeed. This one sounds like a keeper. And the name is perfect.

12:21 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I've been almost afraid to try Afteliers concoctions in fear of falling hopelessy in love. I now know that fear is justified

12:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Erin said...

Ack - I've really wanted to try this and Crepes et Tuberose for a very long time, but the sample set on her website costs about $15 and then $36 or something for shipping. I just love your description of this, though, and the notes sound so appealing. Am I really daft enough to order?

2:10 AM EDT  
Blogger leopoldo said...

*fans self*

Beautiful review. Jouissance, innit?

3:09 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...


I've been gaga about this for months- it's worth every penny.
Along with Cepes, I find it her most exquisite and un usual scent- very wearable.

I've sent bits of these everywhere- [even to Andy and Vero, last month].

Smoky,intense , insinuatingly lithe.
Notes of the hidden, living sea with heartbreaking blossoms at the peak of ripeness.

[Be very afraid, Tom.]

What a fabulous review, Marinochka.

5:57 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much!
Another perfumer who seems to know all the secrets is C.Brosius. The darkest secrets, really. That's why I can't wear most of his scents. :-)

6:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

And I used to say I hated white florals, ha ha. Funnily enough, I have always loved Fracas.

6:50 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Be afraid, be very afraid. :-)

6:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oy, the shipping is high! But, yes, I'd say they are very worth the price. It will be an Experience., you know? They will make you think and some will challenge you.

6:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


*stomps foot*

Here I was, laboring over this review for months, trying to find The Word to explain how it makes me feel. And here you come and just toss The Word out there nonchalantly. Jeesh! :-) Jouissance. Yes. That is it, exactly.

6:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I know you would support me with this one :-) I loved Cepes & Tuberose too.

6:56 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

7:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


*laughs diabolically*

You've got to try this.

7:11 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Oh, lord. Like so many of us, I've been in sort of a perfume slump lately. Unlike some, I've been pretty happy to be there. I've become annoyed with the number of perfumes I have, the difficulty sometimes involved in finding a sample or decant that I know is SOMEWHERE, etc. (I am not even mentioning the money). But you always manage to enitce me out of it. First it was Yosh Kismet, which I ordered unsniffed (well, I mean, you get a bag full of more junk I don't need with it,so it made sense), but I haven't received yet. And now this. It sounds amazing. Do you know if Bendel's carries it (I believe they have Aftelier fragrances ). If so, I will hold off until I go to NY next month and sniff it then!

7:51 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Thanks, I've been needing something new to lust over! This sounds perfect.

8:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While listening to Piazzola's Preludio No.1 (gorgeous! I read your review. I'm never moved to want to sample anything lately, but, Ms. Columbina, you moved me! This sounds so very sample-worthy. Isn't jouissance a great word?

8:05 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your review is so lyrical & evocative today that I feel anything I'd post would fall flat. Just know that now I need to try this. Soon. I have mused over the Afteliers at Bendel's twice, each time too overwhelmed by the range to settle on one or two to try on. Very soon I must go uptown again & remedy that.

8:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah ! Finally ! I wasn't that wrong with this one !
I've found her some 1,5 years ago and were on on&off basis with her Cepes&Tub., Pink Lotus, and Cacao. Now it's obviously high time to try Tango...

8:37 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I'm w/ you on not absolutely loving much these days, so it's enough for me that this one strikes you as being so compelling. I crave compelling - despite my recent return to certain gourmands for the sake of comfort. I have to admit that, despite my love of skank, none of the Aftelier scents have won me over so far. Maybe this will be the one. I'm very intrigued by the smoked seashells. "Smoked" anything in a scent tends to serve as a clarion call for me.

9:01 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

I can relate to the business of contracting the inner circle of loves. It is beginning to happen to me. I believe I will always want to smell something I haven't smelled before but even if I like it, these days, unless I am sure I will wear it once a week I don't buy (just beg, borrow, steal samples!). I had a moment a few days ago when a bottle of Deneuve turned up which I had won on ebay at not inconsiderable cost and then I had to pay duty and handling at this end. It kept me awake one night but once I got my hands on it I knew I would wear it regularly. It was a lesson though. A beautiful and intriguing review of Tango thanks Marina. I'm off to find out if sniffing possibilities exist in the UK.

9:20 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, so the key to keeping myself from spending too much money on perfume is spending lots of money on samples? Excellent. =D

Beautiful review. I love ambergris; this sounds like a must-try.

10:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

What an utterly seductive review... and the fragrance sounds captivating. I'm going to have to sniff this one just to experience it.

Wonderful, Marina-- and nifty picture, too.

11:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, it's fascinating to hear you describe the arc of of your perfume obsession, how it has broadened your appreciation of all kinds of scents while at the same time refining your core tastes.

Oh, and your description of Tango is exquisite, especially with the photo you chose. You're too good -- I'm off to order samples now.

11:25 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an enticing review, Marina! I have been intrigued by Aftelier scents since I discovered her dense, prickly Fig, which I love beyond all reason. But I've never been motivated to explore her line more fully until now. Smoked... seashells...? Well, I will reserve judgment until my sample pack arrives; but I strongly suspect that if my soul had a scent, it would be that of smoked seashells. Thanks for some world-class enabling--er, uh, matchmaking.

11:40 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds fascinating! How would you compare it in style to other Aftelier fragrances?


11:42 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I really liked Tango very much -- that & Cepes/Tuberose seem to me to be her 2 best.

12:25 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so...have you tried the Boronia solid? I have been lurking, and enjoy your lyrical descriptions very much...

12:34 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't tried this yet but coming back to the small core of scents has been my thing lately, too. And I'm also way more open-minded, like you said, than I used to be (recent example: Outrageous). I've also noticed I don't search for a potential HG any more. Interesting what time and experience does to us...

1:40 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

What an incredible review! I have been a huge fan of Mandy Aftel's since I read her book "Essence and Alchemy" when it was first released. I love it that she can create such amazing fragrances using only natural ingredients. In her book "AROMA" there is a recipe for a white truffle solid perfume that I have been dying to make. I think that you really captured in your words the magic of what she is able to do, the spells that she can weave with fragrance. I am haunted by your description and am obsessed with experiencing the smell of "smoked seashells". I don't think that I will rest until I order!

1:46 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh gosh, I feel a terrible burden of responsibility. I so, so hope you like Kismet!!
I am almost 100% sure that I saw Tango at Bendels.

7:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Glad to have been of service :-D

7:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I only wish that you have been smelling the scent whilst listening to Piazzolla! Now that would have been a powerful experience.
I am so using jouissance in every other glowing review from now on :-)

8:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Compared to some lines that I won't point any fingers on :-), Aftelier is not that large. Just go straight for Tango and Cepes & Tuberose :-) Oh and Boronia solid perfume.

8:02 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Tell me, what is Cacao like for you? Because sometimes it is unspeakably indolic for me, more than even I (the indole fiend) can bear, and sometimes it works just fine. The reviews of this scent on Makeupalley...lets just say they are a must read :-)

8:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh you haven't tried this one yet? I am practically certain you will love it.

8:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Congratulations on your bottle of Deneuve! What a rare gem you got!!

8:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Money find the way of spending itself one way or another, so why worry :-D

I just want to note again, that smoked seashells do not smell like ambergris, smell-wise. At all. The two ingredients just have a sort of a similar ...spirit to them, you know?

8:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much! I was laboring over this review for so long, trying to find words, and then I saw the picture and it was like- OK, have got to do it now :-)

8:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! Please share the impressions when you get to try Tango!

8:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

*gasp* How lovely to see you here!!
Yes, my soul has the same smell :-)

8:10 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Mandy Aftel herself said that she considers Tango the most complicated of her scents. But, complex as it is, there is also lightness in it and "unclutter-ness" that to me is a sign of something very harmonious. When I say lightness, I don't mean "weight" of the scent, as in, En Passant is lighter than Musc Ravageur, you know? :-)... but just the feel of the composition.

8:14 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh my gosh, then we agree on both of them!

8:14 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Mystic Vapor,
I did try it, it is gorgeous. Truly heaven on earth, to mis-quote Essence & Alchemy.

8:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

What on earth is happening to all of us? Everybody is in a perfume slump :-) I wonder why.

8:16 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You are, as always, very kind!
I would love to hear what you think of Tango, when you get to test it.

8:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Marina,
Concerning perfumes I'm a "robust" type (otherwise I'm rather petit), very fine scents don't work for me - my skin immedietely "swallows" them and they're off within seconds. (Sorry, I think this is an important part of my explanation to Cacao.) Lighter scents don't show much change on my skin either. (I think this is the reason why Dzongka works so good for me, undergoing changes the whole day long, lasting for ever - it's "robust" enough itself...).
Mandy Aftel's perfumes are strange on me : they don't change within the day - but they can be absolutely different from one day to other (sometimes that's even pretty annoying!) Now, I have to confess that I don't really like jasmin, but I found the combo with cacao interessant. There are days when the jasmin is too much, and then the thing is almost unbearably indolic. And some days the jasmin is hardly there, and a strong sweet chocolate dominates the scent. You know, I have a foible for certain "edible" scents - see Louve... - and if it has to be Cacao then I prefer JoMalone's one with Blue Agave..., though that's sometimes one of those light scents I mentioned above, sigh, ... (BTW, I've read the reviews on the MUA... :-) )

4:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That is very interesting. Very fine scents don't work for me either. That's why I am incapable to fully appreciate Ellena's latest creations, for example :-(

8:01 AM EDT  
Blogger ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Ah, heartbreakingly tragic! Love it! As one who has danced the Argentine Tango that is such a beautiful description. Isn't it amazing how our addiction progresses to the point where we don't want to own much? I'm so glad you found love with this one. It sounds incredible.

10:55 AM EDT  

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