Fig – Aftelier Perfumes

I have discovered now that I need to write this top line AFTER my review. My opening line initially read “It’s been a while since I’ve tackled an Aftelier – so here is Fig”. Now that I re-read that back, it was so blasé!
When I first sampled Fig (as a quick sniff on the back of my hand when my Aftelier box of goodies first arrived), I liked it, but instantly considered it my least favourite of the bunch. After sampling it again and writing up this review – it has leapt upwards, to a point where I feel like I NEED a bottle, and it will hopefully be a future purchase when I can stop spending and start gathering my pennies.

I feel like a complete stuck record when I go on about my appreciation of the Aftelier line, but I honestly didn’t expect much from this review – yet again, I’ve been completely bowled over by this. So, sorry for the horrendously long essay, but – here is Fig…

Fig opens with a bright, indolic jasmine, paired with a sour slice of grapefruit. Underneath? – a deep, jammy greenery that can only be fir. I was confused by fir the first few times I tried it, expecting a bitter evergreen scent – fir is sweet, dense and resinous, it’s an exceptional note.

The fir paired with the jasmine is a fantastic combination. It is almost unbearably rich and fruity; with the grapefruit cut through it, the aura is of an almost medicinal sweet fruit that reminds me of a feijoa –  natural methyl benzoate of the rich jasmine? It is further exaggerated by the surrounding essences and clever combinations:

A pink pepper prickles the heart with a tangy spice and for a moment I find it difficult, with its acutely complicated medley of textures, colours and sweet/savoury balance. Whilst for a few minutes it is difficult, it is also (as with all Aftelier’s) fascinating! Bizarrely I get a similar vibe to Exquisite Corpse by Smell Bent, with its bergamot/tuberose/pink pepper/animalic musk concoction that becomes shockingly repulsive. Here however, the bergamot is replaced with a much richer/sharper grapefruit, the synthetic tuberose replaced with an exquisitely rich jasmine, the pink pepper handled with a lighter touch and all wrapped in jammy fir needles replacing the animalics. As a result – Fig is much more complicated than first meets the eye but, gorgeous when you begin to follow it.

So, this is all happening within the first few minutes, and I don’t mean to make comparisons – the Smell Bent fragrance mentioned is merely the only thing I can grasp on to as a point of comparison and explanation – these two are nothing alike – in execution as well as story.
The story here with Fig is hard to discern. At first I mistook Fig as one of the most simple of my group of samples, but wearing it and understanding it is proving more complicated than any of the other Aftelier works.

In the heart, the jasmine sambac still glistens strong, sharp indoles wither the florals with slight decay whilst the dense fir needles pulverize into a thick marmalade. It is inedible but fruity, with a sour note prickled with spice. Fig gets darker and darker as it sits on my skin, overlaid with what to me is a melancholy sheen – devoid of the iris and heliotrope which make up the classic heavyhearted compositions from Guerlain and the like; here, the blue hue is replaced with an emerald greenery, speckled with amber and dusted with grey. If my colour expression doesn’t make sense – Aftelier  has basically created something with depth, darkness and a somber atmosphere, using such rich joyful notes of jasmine and fir, uplifting essences of grapefruit and pink pepper – it is heartfelt, and effortlessly clever.

Something in the heart of Fig strikes me, and suddenly an emotional surge of sadness falls over the composition. Sniffing again, and I’m filled with upset, in the most positive way I can describe. The melancholy aura I described before, clouds with full body; its passionate subtlety doesn’t change the volume of Fig, and instead works its way into you quietly and emotionally, sucking you into this complicated encounter.
I don’t want my upset to be perceived as a negative thing, because for me it is not a negative reaction. Instead, inhaling and appreciating Fig makes me feel that something great is to come – and for some reason it brings on that familiar emotion that I can only describe as “a sad relief”. Fig makes my heart ache. It sounds ridiculous I’m sure, and I’ve been left speechless after trying to figure out how to explain this. I guess it’s best to try to leave this part out, as I’m sure for others, Fig will be an exciting and uplifting experience of the rich notes in nature. However, I can’t help but include this part of my Fig encounter.

Painting by Cameron McIntyre

I guess I should get back to the fragrance itself. Fig mellows, the rich fir and withered jasmine fragrant the base that reminds me of the wonderfully animalic Secret Garden. I read on the Aftelier site about an included ingredient: Africa Stone:
“The by-product of the symbiosis of the environment and the excreta of the Rock Hyrax, a small mammal from East Africa. Stone collecting hinders neither the animal life nor the habitat and is subjected to fair trade practices. The odor is a cross between civet and castoreum.”
And yet again Aftelier teaches me something new – an ingredient I have never discovered before. It’s odour is beautiful, warm, human, with a furry texture that so many fragrances promise but never achieve.

The deep base of Fig is completely captivating – melted with the decayed compote of the jasmine/fir, the outcome is heart-breaking, with a lonely depth and somehow a warm clutch. Yet again – full of contrasting descriptions I know, but the fragrance has so many aspects to it, that on my skin at least – merge into something that is difficult to understand, but so wonderfully embracing that it no longer feels like a perfume. This seems to be a recurring theme with the Aftelier fragrances.

I get little specks of numerous mirages throughout the drydown, hints of cardamom, the warmth of resinous amber, even a delicate waft of smoke and a breath of myrrh. Fig becomes a shapeshifter, constantly and delicately distorting until it becomes an unfamiliar memory of the heart, and leaves with an almost gloomy farewell. It’s beauty leaves me silent and stunned, ambivalent even, and a little bit emotionally drained.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this essay – I applaud you for your patience. If you have tried Fig I’d love to hear your thoughts, even more so if they are drastically different from mine.
Just to be sure that this write-up hasn’t made me sound like an emotional train wreck:
Has a fragrance ever left you so emotionally confused? What was it?…

Fig 30ml EDP Aftelier Perfumes – $150

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8 thoughts on “Fig – Aftelier Perfumes

  1. ginzaintherain says:

    No patience was needed; this was a very compelling read.
    Just one question: is there no actual sense of fig itself in this perfume?

    I live in Japan, and have no access to Aftelier perfumes, though I have read her wonderful book. Is this an all natural one?

    • Thank you, that means a lot :)
      Nope – according to Mandy Aftel – there is actually no natural fig essence! I didn’t know that. So she compiled the jammy textures of fir and the ripe juiciness of jasmine sambac to sweeten it – it is basically an abstract fig, like a picasso painting :)
      The Essence and Alchemy book? It is wonderful isn’t it!
      Yes it is natural – she is a strictly all natural perfumer. I was sceptical at first – I shouldn’t have been, her work is without a doubt some of the best I’ve ever smelt. Every one has blew me away.

  2. aftelier says:

    I’m simply amazed – and so pleased – by your eloquent, perceptive review, thank you so much Freddie! There is no actual natural fig extract available for perfumery, but I did make my Fig perfume to convey the sense of ripe figs using other natural essences.
    xo Mandy

    • Oh Mandy you are kind to us bloggers! :)
      Whilst I completely understand the relation – the jammy texture, sweet over-ripe character and sharp yuzu (which I have no familiarity with so couldn’t mention it honestly) – Fig to me was about so much more and moved me so so much, I couldn’t believe it.
      I’m sure it even sounds silly to yourself, but I’m almost a little scared to wear it again! I’ll treasure my sample and I’m sure a full bottle will be ordered from you soon, I’ve never encountered anything like it.
      Thank you for reading my work :)

  3. LindyK says:

    I felt a sense of déjà vu reading this. I also received a batch of samples and instantly dismissed fig. I just didn’t like it. But I went back, during my testing, and it is by far my favorite. It is evoking something primal. I understand your reference to sadness, but it isn’t sadness. It is uplifting. But it’s like it is reaching into the depths. It is a very comforting, promising scent. I know exactly what you are trying to say. To say it speaks to my soul is corny, but it is something like that.

    • LindyK thanks so much for getting in touch :D I hadn’t read this essay since I wrote it – I still haven’t got my bottle of it (I have bought Secret Garden, Sepia and Haute Claire since though…). This has to be next!
      Totally, re-reading it back “like something great is to come” summed up how I felt about it – not literally in the perfume of course but it was a very sad/happy smell, I hadn’t experienced it before. It’s amazing that you had a similar emotional experience with Fig – I love that! :D
      Thanks again x

  4. Frédéric says:

    very similar to my nose at Tropic of Capricorn by Olympic Orchids (who is twice cheaper)
    one of my top5 favorite perfume.

    • I therefore HAVE to try it – will order samples soon :D Might get my bottle of Lil too finally. Thanks for the heads up. May even have to blind buy the Tropic, you think it’s safe if I like this?

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