Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes has made a habit of delighting us just when we need it most, in the dreary days of winter. This season we are presented with a new perfume, a different version of another, and a long-awaited addition to her line of organic artisan teas.
All new for 2015 is Vanilla Smoke, which through some sleight of hand actually smells more like real smoke than many fragrances with synthetic ingredients; the effect comes from a special extract of Lapsang Souchong tea that has been smoked over pine wood. I have to admit that smoky perfumes and I do not always get along, and when I first put this on, I smelled just like Henri Bendel's Firewood candle – one of the best there is, but not something I would want to wear on my skin. Fortunately this effect subsided as it warmed up and the vanilla note began to expand. It is a decidedly non-foody Madagascar vanilla absolute, deep and dark and woody, the perfect mate for the smoke. The composition is wrapped in a veil of real ambergris, which acts as the binder to make the whole thing seamless and velvet-smooth and gives it extraordinary longevity. This new introduction is available in both eau de parfum and extrait; the latter is almost supernaturally rich and dense and a bit less smoky to my nose than the eau de parfum; it's a showcase for the vanilla and ambergris. Wear it for the most special of occasions; it stays close to the skin, but those who do get close will be mesmerized.
I tested the fabulous Bergamoss when it was launched in solid form, and now it is available as a liquid perfume for a limited time. I may even like it better in this formulation, if that is possible; it is opened up, sharp and distinctive, punched up with a shot of bitter-green the way I like my chypres, yet still imbued with the beauty of the florals and the marvelous essence of the aromatic flouve grass. The bergamot is very forward in this version, while the solid is softer and mossier, with some sweetness added from the creamy base itself. The eau de parfum is striking, exhilarating, and vibrant, the perfume equivalent of a beautiful woman in a daring green dress who turns heads the moment she enters a room. We are so very lucky to have American perfumers making real chypres at a time when European firms are hobbled by EU/IFRA restrictions - I say bring it on, and since this is a limited edition, get it while you can, it is superb.
And the tea – oh my, the tea! It has been two years since the launch of the original three perfumed teas from Aftelier, which are wonderful, and the new Orange & Cardamom black tea, using flavorings from Aftelier's wonderful Chef's Essences, was worth the wait. Cardamom is my favorite of all the sweet spices, but dosing is key; too little and it can be overpowered by other aromas, too much and its highly pitched woody character can do its own overwhelming. This is judged just right, blending the sharp brightness of cardamom with a sweet and inviting blood orange, which also happens to be one of my favorites so far from the Chef's Essences line. The tea itself is top shelf rolled black tea pearls of exceptional quality, of course. This is a treat for cold mornings curled up on the couch and relaxing, savoring every sip, and a worthy addition to the lineup.
Image credits: “Golden Smoke” wallpaper from 99wallpapers.net, art by T Glow. One of my favorite photos of actress Elizabeth Taylor, in a publicity shot from 1951's “A Place In The Sun.”
Disclosure: The samples of all the products in this review were sent to me by Aftelier Perfumes.