Lumiere – Aftelier Perfumes (& Phenyl ethyl acetate)

The opening note of Lumiere is listed as “Phenyl ethyl acetate”. I always though that was an aroma chemical not derived from natural plant extracts, but there we go I learnt something new – it is in fact a natural isolate. Now, when I first saw this note listed I thought – “What the hell does that smell like” – but rummaging around in my perfumery draws full of samples and other random bits, I find a big bag of aroma chemical samples I have diluted in perfumer’s alcohol. Thankfully, I found it! So I thought I’d include my individual thoughts on this aroma chemical firstly, so I don’t have to explain it in-depth and clog up the review:

Phenyl Ethyl Acetate smells initially of honeyed pears. It has a perfect pear note that so few fragrances that actually attempt it, succeed at. The honeyed notes are floral, clear and clean – with a cool aroma that makes the fruit almost smell glaced. The floral notes are heavily pollinated (I say heavily although the aroma is light and ethereal), and dominated by rose. There is a slightly creamy, white floral aroma too that reminds me of magnolia – with that slight citric edge. The most simplistic way to describe it would be “pear drops”, but simplified and more pure smelling – it’s lovely.

Lumiere opens exquisitely rich – with the phenyl ethyl acetate aroma amped up to become denser and more exotic. The honeyed notes remind me a little of linden blossom, spiked with a dash of pepper. The honeyed floral notes begin to settle quickly, as Lumiere becomes clearer and lighter on the skin. All of a sudden a completely smooth, floral canvas lies underneath the evaporating remains of the opening – the texture is like that of clear water – but not at all thin or overly transparent.

The honeyed pears of the opening are a mere memory after ten minutes or so, but the sweet residue is carried to the heart by a tiny smidge of honeysuckle which in honesty I’d struggle to notice if it weren’t for the nudge by the notes. Lumiere’s heart is almost impossible to describe, it is a clear, translucent, semi-sweet aroma, whose base isn’t oriental, floral, vegetal or woody – it’s presence is almost a sensation rather than a scent – which leads me to believe the ambergris is at play a little bit here!

The listed blue lotus makes sense when I think about Secret Garden (my Aftelier true love!), Lumiere is like the scent of the pond in the secret garden – ever so slightly floral, aquatic without being chemical, salty or ozonic. The scent of green tea is also calmed to a point where it merely adds a colour, and I feel like I smell I little osmanthus in here, maybe even a tiny hint of jasmine grandiflorum, but I may be wrong. A slight, citrus floral keeps the fragrance light with a little texture – and I find myself typing this slowly as though any abrupt movement will shatter the development of Lumiere on my hand! It’s extremely delicate and refined, to a point where it’s making me nervous writing about it - that shouldn’t be perceived as a negative by the way. This fragrance is unlike anything else in the Aftelier line and it’s amazing how much light the perfumer has managed to give these often overwhelming natural essences.

Lumiere reminds me of the sort of perfume By Kilian were trying to achieve with their Asian Tales series (which was a massive flop in my opinion); where those fragrances were overlaid with hideous attempts at bamboo, tea and imaginary flowers but ended up as aquatic colognes, Lumiere manages to hold on to it’s clarity and remain captivating throughout.

A subtle smoke finishes Lumiere - a trail of incense to signal it’s disappearance, but it will slip underneath your nose over the next couple of hours when you least expect it. I’m not sure how comfortable I am wearing Lumiere, it’s light and translucency is something I’m not normally attracted to, but I can’t help but say this is one of the most impressive examples I’ve seen of this style of perfumery – and I know it was a huge change for the perfumer having sniffed so much of her other work. It’s exquisitely composed with such an understanding of the materials that I find it a little too delicate for someone like myself to pull off, but how beautiful it could smell on someone elses skin!! – it’s a haunting perfume that has an almost invisible presence but an exquisite aroma – one that has even left me stumped for words on how to describe it. One of a kind.

Lumiere 30ml Aftelier – $210 www.aftelier.com

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11 thoughts on “Lumiere – Aftelier Perfumes (& Phenyl ethyl acetate)

  1. A future chemist in the works? Thanks for the education! I really need to check out Aftelier. You have raved about their perfumes now for quite some time.

    • smellythoughts says:

      Lol! I did some posts a while back that were just exploring aroma chemicals, I should keep them up to date and list them under the full list of reviews so they can be accessed, it’s always helpful to know some of them – they become easy to detect then. I have a big sample bag of loads of chemicals, they’re just as fascinating to sniff as full perfumes!
      I know I just love every one I try, this one is the least to my style so far, but it’s still great to sniff (when you have more familiarity with her other work). But yes, please get a sample bag soon – haute claire, secret garden, sepia, fig are the standouts for me! :)

  2. hajusuuri says:

    I have a number of the Aftelier samples, but alas, not Lumiere. I like the idea of linder blossom and honeysuckle.

    • smellythoughts says:

      The problem is with describing this one – it is almost invisible… but it isn’t. If you break it down and pick out florals, people will think “oh so it smells like this…” but it really doesn’t. Lumiere is almost the smell of one of the Aftelier’s in a distance but mellowed out close up – it’s wierd, you gotta try it, but it’s unlike anything else in the line.

  3. Mandy Aftel says:

    What a marvelous review Freddie! Such a superb combination of very artful aesthetic commentary with some behind-the-scenes chemistry — I appreciate your talent so much!
    xo Mandy

    • Thanks for reading as always Mandy – I’m ridiculously excited to try Wild Roses so eagerly awaiting my new sample bag soon. Will be placing an order with your soon – going all out with the chefs essences, body oils and fragrances :D Can’t wait! Indulgggeeeeee.

  4. I was so intrigued after reading your review that I sought out samples of phenyl ethyl acetate and Aftelier’s Lumiere. Have you tried Mandy’s Honey Blossom? Now I know what phenyl ethyl acetate smells like, its honeyed and diffusive notes run all through Honey Blossom.

    As a relative noob to the world of perfumery, the first time I tried on Lumiere I thought – is this what people mean by the transcendent power of scent? or the grandeur of classic perfumes? It has a sort sophisticated timeless quality. One of my favorite so far.

    Thanks for the thoughtful blog and for the sharing of much perfume love!

    • Thank YOU for reading :D
      I actually have a sample of Honey Blossom on it’s way to me as we speak. I know I’ll love it becuase the notes listed have been used in other of my favourite Aftelier fragrances.
      Lumiere is not something I would wear, but I thoroguhly loved to sniff it. Be sure to sniff out the rest of the line – Haute Claire is one of my absolute favourites, and I own Secret Garden which I adoreeeee. The whole Aftelier line produces the most consistently exceptional fragrances I have smelt – true love :)
      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed my review and that my little chemistry lesson was of use to you! If you’re interested in the world of aroma chemicals there are some fascinating ingredients to sniff amongst them – some of my favourites being Methyl Benzoate (a narcotic note added to tuberose fragrances for example that smells like medicinal, cold, feijoa), Rose Oxide (pure grease and oil – very chemical and metallic, with a sharp rose note cut through it), and Leaf Alcohol (fresh cut grass and petrol/metal – it smells like a lawnmower just been used – the fumes and machinary included)!

  5. I’ll have to confess that I briefly sniffed (but didn’t actually put them on) samples of Haute Claire and Secret Garden months ago when I first caught the perfume bug. They smelled NOTHING like the fluffy commercial scents I knew up to that point – so I turned up my snub nose and stashed them. Time to actually try them on! I would like to think that after months of sniffing my olfactory senses have become a little more refined. :D

    Oooh! Would love to see you do a series highlighting interesting aroma chemicals! To the layperson (i.e. moi) they’re just stick diagrams and unpronounceable words. Your description of experiencing the aromas gives scent associations to help decode all those ingredients on the label. (Hmm…Rose Oxide, I wonder if it’s in Le Labo’s Rose 31?! I sprayed it once near a very sensitive nose – he immediate recoiled and said it smells like flux and solder…)

    • Yes you must try them again soon – it sounds like already your nose is more refined from your response to Lumiere. Both those two (SG and HC) are standouts – absolutely beautiful fragrances, and amongst my favourite florals of all time.
      I did start doing that! But then didn’t take it much further, I’ll be sure to pick it up again soon, here’s what I wrote about so far (more traditional and commonly used aromachemicals): http://smellythoughts.wordpress.com/category/educational/
      :)

    • Oh, P.S. If you want to try a fragrance with a strong rose oxide note – try Damascena by Keiko Mecheri if there is a stockist near you :D It is one hard hitting metallic/oily/rose.

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