Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aftelier- Tango

One of the things we lost along the downwards spiral of the perfume industry is the feeling of true luxury. The vast majority of department store perfumes are generic, forgettable, oversimplified, commercialized and Mickey Mousified. It's the olfactory equivalence of made-in-china wall decor you can buy at Walmart, even if the actual juice was made in France and carries the same logo as your favorite handbag.  Sadly, that's what most consumers have come to expect.

Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes is the antithesis and the antidote. She creates natural perfumes, yes, but it's more than that. Mandy Aftel creates art you can wear. Her perfumes start with an artistic vision and come to be through exquisite craftsmanship. The bottle you get, the perfume you wear, are meant to make you see, feel and experience beauty. This is luxury.

Tango, an Aftelier creation from 2006, is as strong a statement as it comes. It stuns and takes over your senses from the very first whiff. It makes me think of an elusive smell from my early childhood, something I can' place but had something to do perhaps with treasures from faraway lands my mom kept in a drawer. Tango is spicy, heady and dark. It's a fantasy,  the mystery lives of adults for which I've yearned for without understanding from an early age. It's a stolen glimpse of a TV show you were not supposed to see, a bit of conversation not meant for your ears. Tango is that late night party you don't comprehend as you're woken up from sleep in the middle of the night, hearing the laughter of a stranger and clunking glasses. Or perhaps Tango is the idea of a naughty summer romance, barefoot on the beach at night, sharing a bottle of something way too strong.

It's all of the above. Mandy wrote:
"One of my most complicated perfumes, combining many botanicals to convey the naughty eroticism of a night of drinking, dancing, smoking."
I smell a lot more than just the notes from the list below. Tango has a leathery aspect, the warmth of skin and a lot more spice than just ginger. Sometimes I get cinnamon, other times dark chocolate. It changes with the time of day, the temperature and humidity. Tango is the opposite of a meditative perfume. It's distracting, demanding and dramatic. A drop or two are enough for the entire day or night, and the remnants on my clothes and pillows are as delicious and tempting as the night before.

Top: wild sweet orange, fresh ginger.
Heart: coffee CO2, champaca.
Base: choya (roasted seashells), blond tobacco, tonka.

See also Marina's review on Perfume Smellin' Things. That post was what sent me to first try Tango and fall hopelessly in love.

Tango by Aftelier ($150, 1/4 oz) is available at Henri Bendel and directly from Samples are also available and I highly recommend trying as many as you can and then ordering a  mini perfume trio of your choice for $125.

Art: Fabian Perez, Two for Tango.


  1. Mandy is a genius. I remember smelling Tango with you and just falling hard.

    This review was just so wonderful, and it made me want to put on some sexy heels and head out for the night =)

  2. What a beautiful review, Gaia. It's really moving because your imagery is so spot on. The unique experience for me is how, on top of what you said, it's also relaxing and soothing for me. It clears my head and eases anxiety. It's gotten to where I can't sleep without it now. So every night, I indulge, and sleep like a baby, with the most interesting and sweetest of dreams.

  3. I was going to try Haute Claire last night but opted for Tango instead, because of all the amazing reviews. It has a great depth so I think I will be spending quite a bit of time with this. I feel the same way about my first wearing Cepes and Tuberose. First impressions are overwhelming in their complexity and beauty. I have a feeling that all Mandy's creations will require time to truly appreciate their many facets. Time to get the blotters out.

  4. I'm another diehard member of the Tango fanclub, even if I don't wear it as often as Cepes and Tuberose. No day is complete without a dab of it somewhere.

    Most of all, Gaia, (apart from your compelling review!) I appreciate that you point out what struck me when I was first introduced to Aftelier. Luxury as a term in perfume and in general has been debased to such an extent, it's practically meaningless except in those rare cases when the amount of attention that goes into every aspect of a perfume makes you realize just what a difference true luxury makes - or Mandy Aftel.

  5. As a tango dancer I am very keen to try this, although if you asked me to pick a fragrance that sums up tango I'd probably pick vintage Tabu. I have heard said though that Tango smells very similar to Ojon's intensive hair treatment and that scares me rather. Can anyone comment?

  6. I believe this is the first time I've seen roasted seashells listed as a note. Color me very intrigued!

    I've been meaning to try Aftelier for some time and I think Tango may be my first leap into the company's offerings!

    - Kel

  7. Strange or not,I'm someone who loves to read about perfume more than actually wearing it. Essence and Alchemy was the first perfume book I bought. I'm pretty much still in kindergarten on the subject but I always keep that big curiosity about anything Aftel. It sounds like Tango is probably more intense than I love, but I'm thrilled to hear about the samples and the chance to try things out!

    I love your blog, and check it daily. Thanks for answering my question about the rollerballs! Do you have a good source for buying empty spray bottles?

  8. Lovely review! I love Tango too! You are right- it *is* the opposite of a meditative perfume..Though each time I wear it, it takes on a different role..

  9. Gaia, your review is amazing! I am moved by your appreciation of my art. You describe beauty so well as an experience; your writing encourages my hope, that some of the utter joy I feel when creating is transmuted into the perfume, in a way that the wearer can share in the experience. Mandy Aftel.

  10. I also appreciate hearing people's thoughts here about luxury. In writing my new book, I've been grappling with the idea of what true luxury could possibly mean anymore. It's that spirit of luxury in my head that informs what I do in my work. Mandy Aftel.

  11. GreatSheElephant: Tango does not remind me of Ojon. Tango has a slight tonka-like scent in the base, but that's where the similarity ends. Ojon is very "powdery" and reminds me of fake sandalwood. Tango is a smoky floral.
    Try a sample (available on and smell for yourself!


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