Sunday, April 15, 2007

Aftelier's Orchid

The star of the show in Aftelier's Orchid is orange blossom, masked by a contrasting olfactory context to reveal an imaginary fragrance of an exotic orchid hidden in the midst of a tropical swamp. The flowers are floating above musty jungle-dust of toxic purple mushrooms and thick marsh water that is bubbling with silent life and violent decay. The euphoric and intoxicating fragrance lures us through the deadly water to find out more about its mysterious source and become illuminated by its beauty.

There is no true orchid essential oil (except for vanilla, of course, which is produced from the fermented pods of the vanilla orchid). In fact, orchids have a long history in perfumery of being "faked” by the perfumer using what is often referred to as a "compound" - an array of natural essences and synthetic molecule to portray either an imaginary scent or to replicate a scent in nature that cannot be distilled from the original plant or flower.

Mandy Aftel, one of the pioneers of Natural Perfumery, does it with her Orchid solid perfume. While I can't say that this scent reminds me of any particular orchid I’ve ever smelled - I can attest to the originality and imagination that shines in this perfume.

In Orchid, Mandy Aftel artfully paired the sunny, cheerful and spring-like floral note of orange flower absolute with the mysterious and deep aroma of shiso leaves. Shiso (aka Perilla) is a Japanese herb used to flavour meats, soba noodles and sushi. It has a strange and unique scent - warm, herbal and powdery all at once, green and with a slightly cumin-like undertone. The result is stunning and unusual. The base is a subtle sweet vanilla. The only problem I have with this scent is that it doesn't last on my skin for as long as I’d like it to; yet the immense pleasure of dipping my fingers in the elegant silver compact makes up for that, and exemplifies Mandy’s infectious passion for solid perfumes.

Images from the film Adoptation, courtesy of

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