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Around the Industry: One Beautiful Thing

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Rather than being anti-synthetics (she is not), Aftel says she merely prefers naturals.

She has culled a range of natural materials from numerous sources—vintage stocks from perfumers’ estates and pharmacies (sandalwood, for example; Aftel also has sourced some old Fritsche Dodge & Olcott materials) and small African herbivores. This latter source, the hyrax,* produces waste matter that can be tinctured to produce the civet-castoreumlike Africa stone (also known as hyraceum). Whatever the material, Aftel’s focus remains on quality: “I’d rather have one beautiful thing than 10 mediocre things,” she says.

Aftel came to her form of fragrance creation via a career in psychology and writing. Researching a novel that would never come to be, she began to collect old volumes on perfumery. It was this research that led her to a love of naturals. Aftel’s scents are constructed very simply compared to “traditional” contemporary perfumes, on average using just 18 materials. She formulates “in 10 mL,” using her generally expensive materials. (Aftel’s fragrances sell for around $150 per 0.25 oz; she also operates a premium custom fragrance business for private clients.) The finished scents are typically 30% essence and 70% undenatured 200-proof alcohol. Aftel’s fragrances have low tenacity because she uses only naturals that largely disappear after a couple of hours. 

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Passing around blotters of materials, including the grassy-fecal Africa stone, Aftel showed off the building blocks of her scent Fig.** The formula, starting from the base and moving up, includes: 

  • fir absolute (“like strawberry jam”) 
  • tonka 
  • (sweet) oakmoss 
  • tolu balsam 
  • lavender (from Seville, Spain; slightly cough medicinelike) 
  • jasmin sambac 
  • blue chamomile 
  • pink pepper absolute 
  • organic grand fir 
  • bois de rose 
  • pink grapefruit

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