“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.” -Gwyneth Paltrow

My Introduction to Natural Perfumes: Aftelier Cepes & Tuberose

Image courtesy of Flowers-cs.com

Once in a while, a woman makes a beauty discovery that truly rocks her to her foundation. It's exceedingly rare in these cynical, over-saturated times, where everything cosmetic tends to morph into a blur of indistinguishable products bent on saturating us with mediocrity. However, there are those moments when, quite as a surprise, the stars align, serendipity takes hold, and a new avenue leading to true beauty appears. For me, one such moment was the discovery of natural perfumes. Completely unlike their synthetic, mass-marketed counterparts, natural perfumes have the ability to transport the wearer to another time or place, to evoke emotional responses that are visceral and animalic. Done correctly, a truly artistic natural perfume has the ability to bring forth long dormant emotions. Natural essences do not sit on the skin the way that synthetics do; rather, they meld perfectly with the skin, bringing forth constantly changing notes, making the experience a roller-coaster ride for the senses. I've never written a fragrance review, but in this case, I felt compelled to share my experience with an incredibly complex and truly compelling fragrance from master perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes. 
My interest in natural perfumery is, of course, a result of my recently launched quest to discover more beauty products consisting of more natural ingredients and fewer synthetics. As I spritzed myself with my big-name department-store fragrance last month, it occurred to me that it, too, was full of the very synthetics I was attempting to decrease in my life. I embarked on a search for more natural perfumes, starting with my local Whole Foods Market, only to find the "natural" fragrances there to be sorely lacking. Back to the drawing board I went, heading to the internet for help.

I first stumbled across Aftelier Perfumes while reading a review of Aftelier's "Secret Garden" from the incomparable Gaia over at The Non-Blonde. Her description was so intriguing that I found myself immediately heading to the Aftelier site to see what I could find. As Aftelier offers samples of every fragrance, I chose a handful and waited to see what the fuss was about. 

In all, I purchased 6 fragrances, all of which I intend to eventually review here. Gaia was dead-on in her description of "Secret Garden"; I delighted in its floral complexity and the layers of notes that came alive on my skin. However, it was ''Cepes & Tuberose" that truly caught me by surprise. An unconventional marriage to be sure, I wasn't certain at first what to make of it. Mushrooms and tuberose? How is that even possible? As offbeat as it seems, it's a pairing that works in amazing and unexpected ways, creating a truly unique fragrance that takes its wearer on a truly surprising--and delightful--journey. 

"Cepes & Tuberose" opens with intense herbaceous notes surrounded by earth. It's rather jarring at first if, like me, you aren't used to such things. I was actually worried for the first few moments that I'd bitten off more than I could chew with this one. I'm not typically one for the earthier fragrances, and had assumed that what I'd be getting was a nice, warm floral. This wasn't it! 

However, within moments this perfume began to warm on my skin and led me on an hours-long journey that took me to places no fragrance ever has. As the initial bite subsided, the mushrooms and tuberose began their dance, with one taking the lead from another until they finally surrendered to one another, performing a perfect duet on my skin. The result was a warm, intoxicating tuberose with a nearly animalic undercurrent brought forth by the earthiness of the mushrooms. As "Cepes & Tuberose" continued its transformation, the tuberose again took the lead, bringing forth a heady sweetness accented with notes of vanilla. On final dry-down, I was left with a creamy floral that lingered on my skin for hours. 

"Cepes & Tuberose" changed the way I view fragrance. Never again will I be content to wear mainstream EDP's that start bright, then fade into banal obscurity without the slightest hint of inspiration. No, from here on in, I intend to search out those rare perfumes that take me on a mind-boggling ride, changing with every sniff into something more delightful or unexpected than they were the moment before. I am still reluctant to totally eschew the less natural perfumes out there, though, as there are some advantages to the synthetics, notably the sillage and staying power. Natural perfumes are worn close to the skin; you will not enter the room in a cloud of fragrance, and sometimes, frankly, that's the kind of entrance I like to make. They are also sometimes fleeting, lasting only a few hours as opposed to the 12+ common with their more man-made counterparts. However, what I will be more discerning about in the future is the complexity of my fragrance and the emotions it brings forth. "This smells pretty!" will no longer be enough for me. I'm looking for sensory transformation in my perfumes, something that evokes a reaction more visceral than "this smells good." 

The ever-changing quality of "Cepes & Tuberose" is evident in every one of Mandy Aftel's creations. They are alchemy at its best, bringing forth the true nature of the essences one by one, until they finally harmonize into a totality that is complex and intriguing. Each fragrance I have tried has taken me on a journey to some new and undiscovered place, and for that I am grateful. 

TOP NOTES: Bois de Rose
HEART: Tuberose, Moroccan Rose
BASE: Cepes absolute, benzoin

Aftelier perfumes can be found online at www.aftelier.com.


mandy said... .

This review is terrific Shannon! You’ve captured and expressed your personal experience wonderfully - nice work.

January 23, 2012 at 3:19 PM
PerilouslyPale said... .

Beautiful review! Mandy's scents are an incredible experience aren't they?!

January 24, 2012 at 1:12 PM
Shannon (Lipstick Musings) said... .

Thank you! Yes, I'm afraid I've fallen in love with all of the Aftelier creations I've tried...and I had to send away for even more, since I don't want to miss a thing! I have a sneaking suspicion that one of Mandy's incredible fragrances will soon become my "signature" scent!

January 24, 2012 at 3:45 PM

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