The Leather Gardenia – Olfactory Orgasm


Portia has lost the plot. Well not exactly; Portia has lost the perfume. We had scheduled a synchronized post across a continent, two islands, over the world-wide-web and into the Fragrant Stratosphere. But we will have to wait another week while she rechoreographs her collection, reorientates herself and finally reviews this ‘fume. In the meantime here are some impressions as we await hers. As with all choreography; the show must go on.


A moonless, starless tropical night so dark that you cannot see.

But at least you can smell.

You can even smell a star, but it is not in the sky. It is the star of the island jungle, Tiare, the Tahitian gardenia.

The Leather Gardenia is dense with this kind of potency. Not sticky but almost. I had been talking with young Portia over at APJ about a new perfume which is called Cuir de Gardenia.

Portia, I am blooming! ‘Tis dense, strong and full of ANTIQUE CASTOREUM ABSOLUTE! Opps, sorry for shouting. No time-wasting top notes at all thank you very much. Straight to the gardenia and jasmine heart although you may want to pause there before the terrifyingly beautiful drydown. Portia this is a strange and secret show, this scent.

Jordan to Portia

Cuir de Gardenia by perfumer alchemist Mandy Aftel does not encourage much writing because once you close your eyes and inhale that is it. I cannot call this a perfume; it is a potion.

In Japan: The Black Narcissus was so overcome that he immediately started his review via iPhone and posted a dramatic headline followed by a somewhat coherent impression on his 8th attempt to publish…


the perfume, just deliciously arrived in my postbox: immediately, for me, knee weakening. not gardenia, as in gardenia,… tiare:

a tropical, moist, neptunian, sultry white witch emerging, hair slicked to shoulders, from the sea. sweet Italian bubble bath honey. cuir: but fresh.tango’s eminently wearable younger sister, unencumbered

Neil Chapman
The Black Narcissus

I have no idea what he means but I understand his reaction and the immediacy of his response.

In New York: The Non-Blonde was whelmed in the ‘fume but able to type with precision.

a journey from flora to fauna, as the creamy gardenia becomes fattier and more animalic and the perfume embraces the skin and wraps it an unmistakable buttery leather.

Gaia Fishler
The Non-Blonde

In Sweden: Sigrun is saying…

hauntingly beautiful… If you prefer your florals fresh and clean, this is not a scent to go after.

Sigrun Olafsdottir
Riktig Parfym

In New Zealand: I am saying…

Olfactory Orgasm

In Greece this ‘fume is being described as…

… an illusion of an animal turned into a flower.

If anything, it’s more musky than leathery. It’s a daydream, a waxy memento of sensuality hidden in a drawer for a rainy day, the feeling of physical happiness. It’s a matutine moment stolen, when you can hear the stars laugh.

Elena Vosnaki
The Perfume Shrine

Via the Pennsylvanian Perfume Portal it has been said…

…a green, creamy gardenia with silk velvet edges.

Angela Sanders
Now Smell This

In the UK it is going down like…

a boatload of natural narcotics…

Freddie Albrighton
Smelly Thoughts

Breaking News – Update from Japan…

I am a white flower freak and I have this dripping on my left arm as we speak: unctuous yet zingy: alive…this smells like a sea goddess dipping her hair in jars of honey to me. resplendent; easier than many Afteliers, less psychologically dense (she is the most psychically attuned of perfumers in my view). This one is more luscious, celebratory.

Neil Chapman
The Black Narcissus

I think what makes this one so special, even beyond the real Tiare absolute (until now a synthesized aroma in perfumery) is the combination of that with an ingredient that Mandy received from an outgoing perfumer’s estate. Aged ingredients are rarer and rarer as the market for perfume consumption has grown. Some ingredients go off with age and some change and improve as the years go by. Vintage Ouds, Sandalwood, Musk and Castereum all intensify with age. In this perfume, as mentioned above, there is antique castoreum absolute which enriches the already intense smell of Tiare, the Tahitian gardenia. It also provides the smooth leather drydown.

If you would like to know more about castoreum then I can refer you to a chapter in Barbara Herman’s new book called Scent & Subversion. The relevant chapter to beaver your way through is called A Brief History of Animal Notes in Perfume.

For more about the Tiare breakthrough you can reread this post.

If you buy one natural perfume a year then this is the one. If you have yet to explore natural perfumery then try Cuir de Gardenia, Ancient Resins (contains a secret accord) and Ylang Face Elixir (not a perfume; a skin restorative applied before sleeping) from the same house.

Over at Fragrantica there are some unusual questions by Elena Vosnaki with refreshing replies by Mandy Aftel in an interview called The Viewpoint of the Artisan Businesswoman and Perfumer.

Cuir de Gardenia – notes and Mandy’s thoughts.

Book Update: according to Virginia Blanco at Té de Violetas the title of Mandy’s next book is Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent. The book focuses on five epic aromatics: mint, cinnamon, ambergris, jasmine, and frankincense. It explores their powerful connection to history, philosophy, and our most essential human appetites.

Cuir de Gardenia
Aftelier Perfumers
Perfumer: Mandy Aftel
Release Date: November 2013
Straight to the Heart: tiare (gardenia) absolute, jasmine grandiflorum absolute, benzyl acetate.
Dry Down: castoreum, ethyl phenyl acetate, malto
Solid perfume – 1/4 ounce sterling silver compact $US240

For more information on the scent of a solid wax perfume please see Cuir de Gardenia Part 3 – The Wax Solid Perfume Option.

Perfume Oil – 1/4 ml sample $US6

For the Holiday 2013 season, a limited-edition extrait version of Cuir de Gardenia is available in a mini 2 ml bottle $US55

Aftelier Perfumes – website

Further Reading
Perfume Shrine – review
Riktig Parfym – Cuir de Gardenia – review
The Non-Blonde – Cuir de Gardenia – review
Now Smell This – review
The Black Narcissus – Cuir de Gardenia – reaction
Aftelier Perfume – The Secret Accord – Ancient Resins
Olfactoria’s Travels – Tea Time with Mandy Aftel
Té de Violetas – Mandy Aftel interviewed by Virginia Blanco / Ylang Organic Face Elixir . (The English version is below the Spanish version.)
Smelly Thoughts – review – a boatload of natural narcotics…
Kafkaesque – review
Fragrantica – Elena Vosnaki interviews Mandy Aftel The Viewpoint of the Artisan Businesswoman and Perfumer.

40 responses to “The Leather Gardenia – Olfactory Orgasm

  1. This sounds divine, what I must know, is how does the extrait differ from the solid perfume? Have you sampled any of Aftelier’s solid perfume offerings? Can you comment on how they behave on the skin? Inquiring minds need to know…

    • Enquiring minds do need to know. In this case I tried the extrait not the wax solid.

      In theory wax solids are an exact rendering of the scent in a wax carrier that melts into your skin. I have found found some samples from other houses to be a good approximation only. Let’s see if any other readers know about this specific one. Thank you for your enquiring mind Reneetamara.

      I can tell you that if I had the wax solid it would all be gone in a head to toe moment of extravagance. The theory though is that a swipe or two of the wax is enough.

    • I was thinking the same thing Val. 2013 has been a great year for perfume. I think it only ends when you have 365 bottles in a purpose-built-refrigerated vitrine. Lol, no, I think this is a journey with an unknown destination. But you could stop and rest for a while on the tropical island of Cuir de Gardenia. It is like an heightened awareness holiday, full of portent in an pleasantly anticipatory way.

  2. Thank you for the mention! I’m happy to hear that there are more than me enjoying CdG! Although I’ve smelled many great scents I can’t think of a single one that had me whimpering out of it’s sheer beauty – except for Cuir de Gardenia 🙂

    • Wow! Welcome Sigrun. That is quite a reaction especially as you are not new to perfume lol. I think that we hope for something like this or at least something that moves us. What a relief it is to know that we are not jaded at all.

  3. well, Fragrant Man, I’ll have you know that I have just made a blind buy (which I rarely , if ever do) of the mini extrait, and requested a sample of the solid, so…will report back with results.

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  5. Not another beautiful gardenia! I can’t keep up with this. But I do like tatiensis (tiare) much better than grandiflora (AKA jasminoides). I am so tempted, but for the time being I’m going to have to make due with Monoi Tiare Tahiti. Despite the coconut oil I can still detect the scent of the tiare blossoms.

      • Well in that case, if you are the renown Azar, I suggest you keep up! Lol. The $6 sample will easily let you know if this will make your life complete. Usually comparisons are odious but I am tempted to say Fidji à Minuit, but I won’t.
        Different island, different feeling.

    • Aha, always good to be content with your choices rather than suffering from perfume buyer remorse. Thank you too for the Latin terms – I like to know everything. But what I still don’t know is the etymology of latiaxis.

  6. Genus Latiaxis (also known as Babelomurex) are gastropods in the family Muricidae. Latiaxis and Murex often have spiney shaped shells. The animals themselves are carnivores. I was an avid shell collector when I was young. My collection now resides somewhere in the cellar (with the perfume and the wine and who knows what else).

  7. Thank you Jordan for such a terrific review! Your personal scent notes are amazing, and I sure appreciate how you’ve covered the background & details of the materials, the opinions of the other reviewers, and the status of my book, etc. – you are a real resource to your readers!
    xo Mandy

  8. Pingback: Cuir De Gardenia – Part 3 – The Wax Solid Perfume | The Fragrant Man·

    • I look forward to your review on this site Annamadeit. If I had ordered the wax solid compact I would have figured out how to insert it on a cone on my head a la the Egyptians and then I would have sat in the sun and let the melted rivulets flow down over the course of an arvo.

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