Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Aftelier- Palimpsest

Eden by François Foucras

The best gift I can get from perfume is a a strong emotional reaction. Preferably a positive one. What I received from Palimpsest, the newest Aftelier perfume, was more than that: it is a feeling of well-being, comfort, and contentment. The luminosity goes beyond the notes, beyond the incredible quality of the raw materials; it's the olfactive representation of warmth and love that come from an eternal source. The result is both soothing and encouraging, heartwarming, and utterly divine.

Perfumer Mandy Aftel defines Palimpsest on her Aftelier website as a "fruity-floral". I guess it is, because the center accord or impression is a smooth and milky peach surrounded by garlands of white and yellow flowers, the lushness of jasmine and ylang-ylang. But there's a reason this perfume is named "Palimpsest"-- just like in those ancient manuscripts that reveal their content in layer upon layer of rich history, the exquisite materials and accords create a very rich tapestry that manages to combine some very complex ideas and weave them into one coherent picture of life at its best.

Australian firetrees via Wikipedia

The gum of the Australian firetree (also known as Christmas tree), or by its official name, Nuytsia floribunda, is sweet and eaten raw by the ingenious people of Western Australia. It's not a common ingredient in perfumery (the only other one I know of was the limited edition Fire Tree by Australian brand Nomad Two Worlds, and I had a hard time warming up to its rawness). I never smelled the firetree as a raw ingredient, so it's hard for me to tell how much of what I smell in Palimpsest comes from it and what is pure imagination. But fantasy is a big part of the perfume joy, isn't it? 

Tree Palimpsest by Ned Gannon

Every time I wear Palimpsest the Husband happily exclaims: "honey!". It's a very honeyed perfume, and I do well with those. A good honey note has both woody-smoky facets as well as musk and other naughty animalics emanating from the beeswax. It's all here, but as Kafkaesque has noted in her excellent review of Palimpsest, this perfume is more about peaches and sunshine, which brings us back to the start, to that encompassing joy and effulgence.

The first time I smelled Palimpsest I immediately thought about Edmond Roudnitska's Le Parfum de Therese. Another so-called fruity-floral that I associate with love and radiance, and performs some stunning perfumery acrobatics. Unlike Mr. Roudnitska, Mandy Aftel works with an all-natural palette, which makes this achievement even more impressive. No matter if you care about the natural label or not, Palimpsest is a beautiful and enticing perfume, one of the best releases of the year, and a true feast for the senses.

Aftelier Palimpsest comes as both an EDP and a parfum. I tried and loved both. Samples of either one costs $6, and you can get a mini of the parfum ($50) or a full bottle of either concentration for $170. Available from The samples for this review were sent by the perfumer free of charge.


  1. What a wonderful, absolutely spot on review! DH actually asked me what I was reading since I was nodding in silent agreement with every sentence of it as I read it. I love this scent beyond words and I think this may be my favorite name ever for a perfume. This scent also came at the perfect time of year for me - a gift from the cosmos (and Mandy, of course) to carry me through the cold months ahead, the perfect stand in for the warmth of the sun and air to brighten less than fantastic winter days.
    You also reminded me that I need to go sniff the pure Fire Tree EO I bought from Aftelier a few years ago when she and Andy were trying to create a perfume using it via Nathan Branch's blog (was completely fascinated by those letters and collaborations - a joy to read). I remember it as being quite deep and spicy/woodsy/smoky on my skin, but I need to check and sniff closer for all the nuances, which I know I don't have a clear memory of now.

  2. Loved reading this, and was happy to see a nod to the Kafkaesque review, which I loved. You and Kafkaesque have convinced me that I have to try this one, although it has been a few years since I gave up on all-natural perfumes because of longevity problems. But sunshine in a bottle would be lovely, even if it didn't last that long. Many thanks for the review, and want to add how much I enjoy your blog even though I don't comment that often.

  3. I’m so moved to read your beautiful review Gaia - your evocative description of the intimate experience you had with it went straight to my heart, just like you do! It is so incredibly gratifying to create something that captures and conveys the layers of feeling and even love through scent. Thank you for receiving and describing my message with such depth and grace!
    xo Mandy


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