When I was in high school as soon as the days got longer and the days warmer in the spring (no, it was not here, in the Atlantic Northeast) my friends and I liked to cut the last two hours of school and hop on the bus to the beach. Afternoons stretched endless in those days, like the blue horizon, like our unwrinkled and smooth skin. The air smelled of mysterious possibilities that mixed with salt, pink deodorant, melting lemon popsicles we bought from the beach vendors, and the blooming trees in the streets above the sand dunes.
Parfum Prive, a study of ambergris and florals by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, takes me back there. It's a private moment just as much as it's a fragrance first created for the personal use of the perfumer. Parfum Prive walks the line between pretty and animalic, contrasting elements of both to show how quickly the heady blooms can become dirty as well as how clean is the essence of sea and skin.
Parfum Prive opens with sunshine and orange blossom. The floral element expands on my skin, becomes sweeter and thicker. It fills the air and creates a beautiful scent bubble in one's personal space. It's not as trailing as a full blown sillage, probably because you have the dab the precious liquid carefully and mindfully, but Parfum Prive is noticeably there. It is then that small grains of salt make their presence known. Slowly and delicately at first, like sea salt seasoning a dessert, then fully there: crunchy, sharp with a touch of iodine. But sweetness prevails. The salty ambergris merges with a beautiful vegetal musk-- ambrette seed at its best. It's all warmed skin, a bit sticky from sea-spray and popsicles.
Parfum Prive like all Aftelier fragrance is 100% natural. It's made of some incredibly precious and pricey essences that a small independent perfumer can't afford to buy in huge quantities (as in $10,000 per kilo-- about $4500 per lb.). This translates into haute couture and is priced accordingly. I dab it onto my skin carefully and reverently and take it in slowly. The lasting power isn't the greatest-- I get about three hours before Parfum Prive retreats into a soft skin aroma that only whispers. It can be trapped longer under clothes, and I highly recommend not wearing it on a windy day that makes the fragrance scatter quickly. It's better indoors, when no nuance is lost-- a wonderful fragrance for staying in, hosting an intimate gathering or just keeping it as a private delicacy and pleasure to only share with those truly deserving.
Notes: bergamot, pink pepper, orange flower absolute, osmanthus, pimento leaf, ambrette, ambergris.
Parfum Prive by Aftelier ($125 for 2ml extrait de parfum) can be bought from aftelier.com (samples, larger size and a solid version also available).
Photo of silent era actress Olive Ann Alcorn by unknown artist, circa 1925. The colored version was created some time later.