I keep meaning to review this, but I feel like I don’t know the Aftelier’s well enough. Each time I try them I’m a little intimidated, but always excited!
Working my way through writing about this batch of samples is taking a longggg time, but, it’s helping me write my favourite posts so no complaints So, on to the learning…
Secret Garden has an almost muted opening at first – a delicate, refined orange peel begins to give way to the softest rose and smooth wood. As it begins to re-arrange itself, everything becomes a little clearer. The bitter juices of the citrus fruits stain the skin whilst allowing the warm, elegant bois de rose to radiate in a hazed glow. Before Aftelier - I was not familiar with bois de rose at all. I’ve noticed it in almost all the fragrances I have tried of hers so far, and it really is a beautiful note. It is warm, extremely smooth and refined with an almost tea-like texture, and a savoury rose aura.
The orange remains and floral woods, smooth into a translucent sheen whilst a true Turkish rose emerges. Paired with the delicately powdered rose, a rich, indole heavy jasmine pushes to the foreground where it remains. In perfect proportion, the jasmine imparts its syrupy sweetness – counterbalanced by the unrecognizable rich base, yet to come out.
The jasmine sambac is truly beautiful, never cloying but heady and sensual – partnered with an exotic jammy fruit that Aftelier lists as “raspberry isolate”. Although not easily identified on its own, it seems to melt with the floral duo to create a whole new dimension to them. The raspberry turns a simple (but exquisite) jasmine and rose heart, into something that is so alien and perplexing, it makes me frown in confusion, and sniff again… and again…
Whilst being recognizably a fruit accord, engulfed in the heart it is practically indiscernible turning almost animalic. It morphs the heady florals into a singular accord of a phantasmal flower – so appealing it makes me a crack out a thesaurus to find ridiculous words like “phantasmal” to describe it.
Gracefully underlying this bizarrely animal flower, is what I initially perceived as a true to life gardenia, with the faintest trail of it’s instantly recognizable creamy/cheese facet that makes it so fascinating. Noted by Mandy as “blue lotus”, a flower which I have no familiarity with – she describes it as a “watery gardenia aroma”. The word “watery” should definitely not be taken as aquatic, it is perfectly detectable and wonderfully appealing. It imparts this delicate almost lactonic effect, adding a further white floral edge along with the jasmine, only calmer and more savoury. All together, this floral trio and animalic raspberry create a thoroughly narcotic but perfectly tamed sensual bouquet.
So, before I get overwhelmed with attempting to describe the clever partnerships in the heart, I almost forgot that the base came into play a while ago on my skin. The base is just another wonderful piece to Secret Garden. A mature vanilla and plush benzoin, cushion a civet/castoreum duo on earthy patchouli. The animalics seep a textured heat, that merged with the indolic jasmine, raspberry and lactonic lotus create something that seems harmless at first… then suddenly “SWEET JESUS!” You realize exactly what’s smacking you between the nose. It seems so restrained and refined, all warming into something that you makes you think “What a beautifully elegant floral” but it is sooooo much ruder than that and all the better for it. Don’t get me wrong, this IS a beautifully elegant floral – the harmonies are outstanding and the unsual notes distort expectations (as with all Aftelier fragrances). But the “secret” in Secret Garden is that just when you are completely lulled into a luscious floral bouquet, you are suddenly slapped with an animal hide and buried neck-deep in a bestialized flower patch, with only the merest hint of vanillic notes keeping your nose above the ground. It’s wonderful. I’ll also add that a listed note is “deertongue”, it is a plant that I am completely unfamiliar with, but for now I’ll let my imagination run wild as I think the scent of a tongue would just slip in here nicely…
Hopefully those who blush at the thought of wearing something civet heavy haven’t run off screaming yet, as Secret Garden is completely wearable. To a nose unfamiliar with some of these animal notes, it will probably be identified as a terrifically deep pollen scent (in a kind of Manoumalia style). For those of us who are in with the secret, it is great fun to wear!
Secret Garden is ever-changing, and the accords are fascinating – starting out simple and identifiable before throwing your sideways with the introduction of something completely alien but alluring.
To be honest, when I first sampled Secret Garden, yes I loved it, but perceived it as I described just – “An elegant floral, deep pollen, narcotic, very nice!”. But as I keep repeating like a stuck record: sniffing and writing opens a fragrances’ many doors to me, and Secret Garden has suddenly become one of the most fascinating white florals I’ve ever encountered.
Update: 26/08/12 I have since bought a full bottle of this – absolutely wonderful fragrance
Secret Garden 30ml EDP Aftelier – $170 aftelier.com
Passion Flower photograph from Daleys Fruit Tree Blog.