Friday, June 30, 2017

Aftelier- Memento Mori Perfume Review

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere, photo by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874*

The sample of Aftelier's Memento Mori has been sitting on the side table for many months. I'd carefully open it, take a whiff, and quickly put the cap back on. Occasionally I'd dab the smallest droplet I could manage onto my wrist, usually when the husband wasn't around to protest. Something about the dirty bodily butter smelled offensive to him from the very first moment. I'm all for butter. Danish butter, Irish butter, orris butter- they're all good. Do all of them belong in a perfume? Perhaps. When the perfume is a personal more or less bespoke item that becomes part of the wearer and a signature statement.

Memento Mori is not a condiment to go with your fresh baguette. It's too disturbing for that because of a strong animalic thread that goes through every stage of the perfume's unraveling. The dying violets heaped upon the butter here and here contribute to the forlorn atmosphere. There's a lot of skin here, but not the one of a present person you can touch and see. I picture going through the personal belongings of a loved one that have been stored and preserved in a clean and undisturbed attic. As you open an old leather suitcase you find a jacket you've borrowed countless times, letters bound in a faded blue ribbon, a book that you open to find a press wildflower from that summer long ago.

As the memories creep in with scents you haven't smelled in years the emotions also rush in, overwhelming you. You have no idea why they call it bittersweet. It's neither bitter nor sweet. The taste in your mouth is of salty tears and the scents you recall are rich and thick. You go outside and walk the all too familiar path until you reach the spot that used to bring you much solace. Today you see that someone has rearranged a handful of stones and scattered violets on the ground around them. You pick one up, the petals no longer fresh or bright. You'll press it and save it in the old book, adding the scents of this day, the air, the present, to the vault of memories upstairs.

Memento Mori ($180, 8ml) is available from Aftelier's website. The sample for this review want to me by Mandy Aftel.


* This was one of those times I knew immediately which image I was going to use for the review. I've been fascinated for decades with the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, a Victorian era photographer, whose often staged scenes have a ghostly atmosphere. This was long before the internet brought another Victorian photographic "memento mori" genre to my attention (don't google if you don't have to). The parting of Guinevere and Lancelot has all the sorrow, doom, love, passion, and regret encapsulated, as we the readers know what the future will bring them,while they only have their grief and perhaps a premonition. Valar Morghulis.

4 comments:

  1. Dear Gaia, you have been missed. Thank you for this 'bittersweet' review. Poetically, it couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. Warm regards, Jane

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  2. It's rather interesting, reading this review I feel both melancholic and nostalgic...it sounds like a very unusual perfume worth trying. Beautiful photo as well, speaking volumes without words.

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  3. Great artist of the camera JMC, but did she manage to transcend Victorian sentimentalism to produce really great art? I'm not so sure.
    Wild Gardener

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  4. Dear Gaia, I have been setting this wonderful piece of yours aside to read when I could take the time to fully appreciate your writing. How glad I am that I waited for a moment to savor it. Some scents have a way of disturbing and penetrating our thoughts, opening wells of melancholy we have been walking carefully around and swallowing us up whole. As much as I love it, Coriandre sometimes has that impact on me. I approach it, therefore, with caution. Thank you for providing a place for those of us who share this way of perceiving and for giving us such wonderful experiences of your prose and the perfumer's art. Sincerely, Vicki

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