Aftel Archive

Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

Welcome to the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents
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Archive ExhibitsA Shelf of Exhibits at the Archive I fell in love with natural aromatics more than twenty-five years ago, and I have had the privilege to live and work in their world ever since. In my practice of perfumery, I have curated thousands of gorgeous essences from all over the world, many of them antiques themselves. They are all part of the extraordinary lineage of scent that reaches back to the beginnings of human culture and is entwined with the earliest history of medicine, cuisine, sexuality, adornment, and worship.

At the same time, my research and writing led me on a treasure hunt to hundreds of antique books and other artifacts that helped me to piece together the world in which perfumery took shape. I came to see my practice as an extension of the lost world I had discovered into the modern one. The books, engravings, essences, and raw materials I have collected have been a source of endless beauty and fascination and happiness to me, and I continue to be inspired by them every day. Cabinet of CuriositiesCabinet of Curiosities

Perfume OrganPerfume Organ Natural aromatic materials and their glorious history are constantly invoked in the service of marketing the commercial perfumes from which they are now almost entirely omitted. I decided to open my archive to the public to tell a different story – the original story of fragrance, a story that has been alive in people’s daily lives in almost every culture for centuries, and is in danger of disappearing. I thought that the best way to convey it was to immerse people in this rich sensory landscape I live in every day, and to place it in context, through words and images.

So I created the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents next door to my home. Here visitors will be able to smell more than three hundred natural essences derived from fruits, flowers, trees, grasses, and other natural sources (and take three samples home). They will be able to compare essences that have been aged for a century to their modern counterparts. They will be able to pore over more than fifty antique books from my collection, retracing the amazing history of fragrance. Every item in the Archive is authentic and original, including the hand-tinted postcards and engravings, some of which date back four hundred years. Sperm WhaleSperm Whale and Ambergris

Scents are one of the most subtle and delicate charms of life. They come to us in the solemn silence of Nature. They awaken sensibility, stir the mind, stimulate the imagination, and revive the memory. Their importance to body and soul has been emphasized by every civilization and every religion in every part of the world. They float between reality and transcendence, between matter and spirit.

Come smell, touch, read, imagine! Immerse yourself in beauty, slip into a world apart, a lost past. If only for an hour, allow yourself to step outside of time.

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Location: Cottage at end of brick driveway,
1518-1/2 Walnut St. Berkeley, CA 94709
Phone: 510-841-2111 Email:

Open only on Saturdays 11 am - 6 pm.
Limit of 6 visitors per hour.
Tickets are $20 for a 1-hour time slot, starting and ending promptly.
Tickets are non-refundable and may not be exchanged or returned.
Tickets include: 1-hour visit to the Archive, 2 pieces of dark chocolate flavored with Chef's Sprays, and 3 letter-press scent strips to dip in essences and take home.
3 Letterpress Scent Strips

Please note: because of the nature of the displays and materials, no visitors under 12 years old.

Rimmel Collection of Antique Essences Rimmel Collection of Antique Essences
All Archive photos by