Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Aftelier- Secret Garden

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Secret Garden, the new perfume by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier is named for the 1910 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of my favorite books of all time. The Secret Garden tells the story of a little English girl, Mary Lennox or "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" who was born and raised in India but sent to her uncle's house after losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. Spoiled, pampered, selfish and completely emotionally stunted, Mary has a lot to learn before she can find herself, learn to love, give and make things grow. She comes into her own after discovering the key and the door to a locked garden on her uncle's estate. It's the garden that brings Mary and her sickly cousin back to life .

Mandy Aftel's Secret Garden is about life, love and an innocent sensuality. It's also a natural perfume, like all Aftelier fragrances and products. But unlike many perfumes in this genre, Secret Garden is very accessible and doesn't have that raw jagged edge in the opening notes that can be scary at first to those who aren't used to it. The first burst of Secret Garden is both floral and warm. It's sunshine and anticipation.
"Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine..."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The floral heart is big, full and generous. As Mandy Aftel notes: "The jasmine sambac heart of the perfume, with its spicy indolic kick, paired with the jammy raspberry, lends the illusion of spice where there is none". One can spend days wearing this perfume and trying to pinpoint the spicy notes- you can almost taste them, so certain you'll also be able to identify and name them- but, no. It's rose and jasmine in such a seamless blend that it forms its own color, something new and unique.

"And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Secret Garden comes fully alive on warm skin, the way a real perfume is supposed to do, feel and smell. And "alive" is a key word here. Mandy Aftel used some truly rare and treasured natural materials making this perfume: an old batch of civet, castoreum tincture and aged patchouli. The former two are, indeed, from animal source, even if very vintage one, so take that into account if you're looking for fully vegan perfumes. The animalic base is what gives Secret Garden its sensual feel. It smells magical, feminine (my perception. I'm sure men can wear and enjoy it), like something one would wear to perform an ancient ritual on a full moon night.
"As she came closer to him she noticed that there was a clean fresh scent of heather and grass and leaves about him, almost as if he were made of them. She liked it very much and when she looked into his funny face with the red cheeks and round blue eyes she forgot that she had felt shy."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Top: bergamot, bois de rose, Geraniol, blood orange.
Heart: jasmine sambac, raspberry (compounded isolate), Turkish rose, blue lotus.
Base: civet, castoreum, vanilla, deer tongue (plant, not animal), benzoin, aged patchouli.

Secret Garden by Aftelier is priced at $150 for either 1oz EDP or 1/4 oz extrait. Samples and other sizes are also available for purchase on A sample was sent for my consideration by the perfumer.

Top image: The Unwinding Tree by Kelly Louise Judd.
Deconstructed garden photo from


  1. Beautiful review! I love the Secret Garden!

  2. What a wonderful review, thank you so much Gaia! I love your skillful blending of ideas from the Secret Garden book with facets of the perfume. I feel lucky to have my work be the subject of your sophisticated, evocative writing!
    xo Mandy

  3. beautiful piece on a beautiful perfume

  4. I adore this review, Gaia. The Secret Garden is a magical book from my childhood that an aunt gave me a leather-bound, gilded-edge version of, and I still have it. I feel that Mandy's perfume has made it come full circle for me.

  5. Great review. Makes me want to both sample this perfume and reread the book.


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