Sunday, January 22, 2012

Aftelier Lumiere Eau de Parfum

Even the bottle is pretty! Lumiere Eau de Parfum ($8 for a 1-ml sample, $195 for a 30-ml spray) by Mandy Aftel, founder of Aftelier Perfumes, is a beauty. The sheer, elegant floral took its inspiration from a fine green tea absolute and sacred frankincense.

The top notes open with phenylethyl acetate, a natural isolate from France that occurs in fruit, wine, and whiskey. This floral fruity top note features rosy, honey-like aromas of peach and pear, but with incense. Normally, I'm not an "incense fan," but the incense in Lumiere leads you into a holy place - one where nature's glory emerges. The exquisite heart features honeysuckle (as addictive to me as it is to hummingbirds); Tasmanian boronia, which grows in open forests and woodlands; and the transparent watery floral blue lotus. The base notes are green tea and ambergris. Restrained yet sensual, calls this fragrance "addictive.” Apparently, there was widespread agreement. Lumiere was a Finalist for the Fragrance Foundation's 2011 FiFi Award for Fragrance of the Year - Indie Brand.

Mandy generously sent me a sample of Lumiere with a candle I won in a drawing at her Aftelier Facebook page. Now I know how excited my weekly contest winners feel. I never imagined I might win.

The first night I applied Lumiere to my wrist, it was late, and I knew I might be sleepless. I wanted to follow the progression of the fragrance. I had no problem completing my test. I awakened about once/hour. Normally, that would be irritating, but it wasn't that night. I was able to continue my trip with Lumiere.

Wearing Lumiere the first time is like walking though a forest - dark, padded with leaf mold, and dotted with evergreens wherever the light shines through. Somehow, mid-way through the journey, you stumble into a burst of light, where an unlikely honeysuckle arbor leads to an algae-covered pond rimmed with lotus flowers and a serene scene. Beautiful fish are nibbling on the flowers, occasionally jumping out of the water to reveal their iridescent colors.

When I tried to retrace to retrace my steps to go back to the pond, I couldn't exactly. My second journey took me through a different, more complex route. The memories lingered, though, and soon I found the beam of light that led me to the sunlit pond. The journey takes about five hours from start to finish. At its end, the light is extinguished, and the vision dims, leaving a sense of wonder. Did I really go there?

Sheer and reflecting light, Lumiere captures the experience of fine silk on the skin.

Everyone has their own metaphors for describing the experience of a scent. Others may find Lumiere like a visit to a chapel, seeking a holy light that brings answers to life's mysteries.

Mandy Aftel, a perfumer in Berkeley, California, and the creator of Lumiere, used words that suggested a transcendental experience in describing ambergris, a Lumiere base note, for Bloomberg Businessweek. "It's beyond comprehension how beautiful it is. It's transformative. There's a shimmering quality to it. It reflects light with its smell. It's like an olfactory gemstone." Lumiere Eau de Parfum offers an opportunity to experience the magic of ambergris.

I'm sure many of you already know Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Pefumes. She was a pioneer in creating fine, artisan, natural fragrances that intoxicate with their beauty and complexity. There is a community of natural perfumers and their advocates/customers who appreciate the art of making fine fragrances with pure, natural ingredients, employing "uncompromising standards." It you would like to learn more about Mandy, I'd recommend starting with her "About" page at Aftelier Perfumes. If you're a "Facebook person," spend some time on the Aftelier Perfumes page.

I have to admit that I don't select fragrances because they are natural - or not - even though I consider myself a strong environmental advocate and love green products. I've purchased more than a few natural fragrances that I expected to love and didn't. One expensive tuberose fragrance (that was extremely expensive for the teeny tiny volume) reminded me of a flower arrangement that had stood for weeks after it had given up its beauty, turning to straw as it dried. Mandy's fragrances aren't like that. I like Aftelier fragrances, not because they are natural, but because they smell great. Incidentally, great natural fragrances have opened my eyes to the beauty of nature's essences as only great perfumers can blend them.

The Non-Blonde featured Lumiere Eau de Parfum last year. She's so much better than I am in describing fragrances. She loved Lumiere too. You can purchase it at Aftelier Perfumes.

Photo at top courtesy of the Fragrance Foundation


Monique said...

The packaging ruins it for me

Carrie Meredith said...

You are so wonderful at describing fragrances! I'm intimately familiar with all Aftelier perfumes, and I think you have really hit on every major point of why I'm such a big fan of them. Mandy's "only the best will do" credo of her craftsmanship really shows in her work and sets her apart not only from other natural perfumers, but all perfumers.

For me, the combination of green tea and ambergris really gives Lumiere a marine feel(without any messy or tiresome "aquatic" associations that some mainstream fragrances have). When I wear it, I imagine myself as a beachcomber, hoping to find a little piece of ambergris that has washed up on the shore. Just the mental image of that is so relaxing to me.

You are an incredibly well-rounded writer, CG. You never fail to surprise me in some way!

Unknown said...

hey:) nice work again

Charlestongirl said...

It's a minimalist bottle, Monique. More specifically, I love the label design and color.

Have you had a chance to smell Lumiere?

Charlestongirl said...

Many thanks, Carrie! When I was a beachcomber, I didn't know what ambergris was. Imagine, in all those searches for shark's teeth and pretty shells, there might have been treasure from the most magnificent creatures in the sea.

I can feel the breeze as I think about it. Warm sun, sand, and a fragrance that etches salt water into the psyche...

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Mahwish! Thank you!

Liz said...

I need to order some samples. There are some really talented people working in natural media right now and I want to experience more of it! This sounds really lovely.

lovethescents said...

I haven't tried any Afteliers yet. This sounds really pretty. The leaf mold doesn't sound like me, though. Kind of like that Cepes & Tuberose perfume everyone loves, but I'm afraid to try.

Charlestongirl said...

If you order a sample, Liz, please let us know what you think!

Charlestongirl said...

Sorry, Lovethescents,

I don't "smell" leaf mold, I see a forest floor, which "has" leaf mold. Big difference. :)

mandy said...

This review is wonderful Charleston Girl! I found your “walk in the woods” with Lumiere quite compelling – It matches the journey I love to go on when creating with these gorgeous essences. I’m moved by your personal, imaginative imagery, and appreciate your terrific writing.

Shannon (Lipstick Musings) said...

What a lovely review! I adore Lumiere, and if I thought for a moment I could review it as well as you and Gaia have, I'd jump all over it. For now, though, I'm going to simply sit back and enjoy the experience of wearing (and sniffing) it.

I agree completely with your imagery for this perfume. What a great way to express it!


Charlestongirl said...


Thank you so much! Your creative "juices" are inspiring. :) Thank you for your gorgeous fragrances.

Charlestongirl said...


You are so sweet - thank you. I read your feature about Mandy and natural perfumes. I think it was beautiful. Great writing!

Liz said...

I ended up buying a sample of this, along with several other items and Mandy definitely has a new fan. Lumiere was one of the nicest perfumes I think I've ever had the pleasure of wearing. I hope to own a full size bottle one day.