A couple of weeks ago, my good friend (and evil perfume enabler) Nathan Branch decided to do a little perfume matchmaking because he’d decided it was time Mandy Aftel and I got acquainted. I was delighted, as I’ve been following the reviews of Mandy’s perfumes for months, and had spent many happy hours filling imaginary shopping baskets on her website. Then not ordering any of the samples I had because I simply couldn’t choose between them.
For those who don’t know, Mandy is a self-taught perfumer, specialising in all-natural perfumes. She has an uncompromising approach to ingredients, demanding the best, and using only those things she feels are right in every one of her fragrances. And what fragrances they are … Mandy sent me a box of tiny sample bottles of her fragrances a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that I love them all, very much.
But, for me, so far, there has been one fragrance out of all that I selected (including Fig, Tango, Lumiere and Cepes & Tuberose) that stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is Haute Claire. Put simply, I sprayed one spray and my heart was gone, there was nothing else I wanted to wear. Which is a difficult position to be in when one is eight months into a year-long perfume project!
Conceived during Nathan’s Letters to a Fellow Perfumer series whereby both Liz Zorn and Mandy Aftel came up with a fragrance using a similar theme, Haute Claire is a marriage of resinous galbanum and tropical ylang ylang, or, if you want to be reductive, a smoky-floral-green-banana (my description, not Mandy’s!). It is exceedingly difficult to describe the scent – Mr Lippie describes it as “sharp”, and as the meaning of “Haute Claire” is “High and Clear”, I think he’s onto something there.
However, Haute Claire is also soft and rounded under the sharpness, and it is this constant interplay between a sharply resinous scent, and a rounded banana-vanilla -which doesn’t actually exist, Haute Claire doesn’t smell of banana at all, but there is a definite creamy note to this fragrance, chocolate-y even, but it doesn’t smell of chocolate either. Not exactly. – that makes this interesting. It doesn’t smell like anything else, it smells precisely of itself. That makes no sense written down, but it makes sense from over here. Well, in my head it does. So there.
I’ve found that Aftelier Perfumes tend to
whisper rather than shout, staying close to the body, but they’re very
longlasting overall, and Haute Claire has been no exception to this,
it’s office safe, but very distinctive.
Haute Claire is a playful fragrance, it likes to play hide and seek on my skin. When I go hunting for it, sniffing at the spots I’ve sprayed, I can never find it, and yet, a few seconds or minutes or even hours later, I’ll get a little hint of it, seemingly out of nowhere, and it makes me smile. Every. Single. Time.
In a nutshell, if perfume were available on prescription, Haute Claire would be Prozac. Haute Claire costs $150 for a 30ml bottle from Aftelier Perfumes. But you can also buy a 0.25 ml sample for $6, which would be good for at least a week’s worth of daily wear.
Now, if you’ve made it this far in the review you probably think I’ve gone mental – and you’d be right, but it’s not because of this, I assure you – but if you’re intrigued, even a little, then Mandy and I would like to offer you the opportunity to try the fragrance for yourself. If you leave a comment on this post, alongside your email address, telling me what your favourite “unusual” smell is, then you’re in with a chance of winning the 5ml spray sample vial you can see pictured. Mandy will ship the fragrance worldwide, so this giveaway is open to everyone. Good luck! I’ll draw the winner at random, on Wednesday of next week.
The Fine Print: Samples provided by Mandy Aftel for review. Links, as always are for informational purpose only, and are not affiliate links.
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