Curious is the name of Mandy Aftel’s new perfume and it was immediately reminiscent to me of another perfume she created, the sophisticated Sepia from 2012. Sepia was composed in conjunction with the blogger Nathan Branch and was inspired by the brown tints of old sepia prints.
I have to say that I was probably in the minority then because I liked Sepia which was a divisive love it/hate it kind of scent. The perfume had a sophisticated heart full of unexpected elements like strawberry (that is Fragrantica’s listing) and coffee (again I did not smell this). Here I will dismiss the notes and describe what I smelled. What I caught from Sepia was a scent very like Lapsang Souchong tea. This was entirely accidental and probably wasn’t the takeaway that other people had, but was my impression. Curious strikes me as having a similar central accord as the earlier work. Sepia was more complex, and had a wonderful ambergris drydown, which I still love, but Curious is drier, more woody, and has a smokiness which reminds me of Lapsang Souchong all over again, or possibly Russian Caravan Tea.
Caron fan and small time collector that I am, Curious also reminds me of some Carons, particularly the masculines Yatagan and L’Anarchiste. This is not because of the construction or notes, but because of the signature fullness, the three dimensionality of the Carons, which is also a hallmark of Mandy’s work. If you opt to use naturals, as she does, the crowded molecular picture that emerges is rather more like a Rembrandt than a Matisse. There is a good deal of tone in there, and a good deal of depth. Having said all that though, I think with Curious she is doing something simpler and more straightforward. This is musk and wood and smoke, and something which reads almost like licorice to me, as well as the tea. This is perfume that almost crosses the line into umame. Curious is nearly savory, and if you love that line between meaty, smoky, and woody, you may really like Curious.
This perfume will probably appeal more to men than to women. I could be wrong, but like L’Anarchiste, or even Caron’s Eau de Reglisse, there is a bright slightly confusing beginning, over a very appealing heart with lots of wood, and in the case of Curious, smoke too. There is a darkness and a smokiness to Curious which should blend well with male skin. This is a scent that will be a nice addition to many men’s wardrobes, and if you like this sort of scent as a woman, then it is outdoorsy, a good choice for Fall, and Curious- like a number of Mandy’s compositions- grows on you.
One last word on the subject of Aftelier. Mandy is now a master perfumer. I remember only some few years ago when there were complaints that natural perfumes were “muddled” or that they did not last. A number of natural perfumers are addressing those issues, and they are rediscovering the lost art of making a non synthetic work for twelve or more hours on skin, but Mandy has been ahead of that game.* Already, Vanilla Smoke lasts on me for eight hours, Sepia overnight, and both make clear statements. Curious has a shorter life span on my skin, maybe only four hours, but is sprightly while alive.
I think there are already some lovely perfumes in Mandy’s repertoire. Honey Blossom is beautiful, Vanilla Smoke is better than Opium in my book, and Secret Garden is a sensual floral chypre that could be anyone’s signature perfume. Sometimes when I feel sorry for the decline of Caron, I remember Aftelier exists, and frankly, that cheers me up.
- This has to do with the “animal” fixatives. Many can make a perfume last a really long time, but dosage is extremely tricky-this is where skill and experience come in.