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About Mandy Aftel

My Process of Creating Perfume

I started making natural perfumes in the 1990's. The products from my first perfume company partnership Grandiflorum Perfumes were sold in Bergdorf Goodman's and Neiman Marcus. I created all the liquid and solid perfumes and the facial oil. Later I launched my own company Aftelier Perfumes, where I now hand-blend each of my perfumes from the comprehensive collection of strikingly beautiful natural essences that I have assembled over the years from hidden corners of the world. Finding these essences is a quest that I enjoy as much as the act of creating with them. Often I smell a dozen versions of the same oil, searching for one that surpasses all the rest. Some of the essences in my palette are antiques that have aged for many decades, like fine wines.

Each perfume that I create starts with a concept, an attempt to capture a feeling and an aesthetic experience. With some perfumes, the first iteration is almost perfect. Others are the fruit of weeks of revisions to achieve an ideal balance.

I am involved with the entire process of creation. Once I have a formula that satisfies me, I hand-blend and bottle small batches of perfume in my studio It makes me very happy when people incorporate my perfumes into their lives.

It is my hope that wearing them imparts a feeling of luxury and well-being.


I also formulate fragrances for individuals and companies who are committed to all-natural products, such as CleanWell, the manufacturer of unique hand sanitizers and soaps. I also have created perfumes for other brands.

Collaboration with Chefs and Flavor Work

Since 2003, I have been collaborating with some of the finest chefs in the country to explore the synesthetic relationship between taste and smell. With James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Patterson I co-wrote Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance, which pioneered the use of essential oils in cooking. I have helped to create scented dinners at Patterson's restaurant Coi in San Francisco, at Daniel Barber's Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Foundation in Pocantico Hills, New York, and at the American Museum of Natural History.

I have conducted classes and demonstrations involving scent and food at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, California; the James Beard Foundation; the French Laundry in Yountville, CA; the London Design Festival; and in conjunction with the Slow Food movement. I have made food-related media appearances on CNN, the National Geographic channel, and PBS's “Diary of a Foodie.”


In addition to my work as a perfumer, I am the author of six books, three of which are on natural perfume. Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume has been translated into eight languages and was the winner of The Sense of Smell Institute’s Richard B. Solomon Award. Aroma, the cookbook I co-authored with chef Daniel Patterson, focuses on the essential link between food and fragrance and includes recipes for both. Scents & Sensibilities guides the reader through the history and creation of solid perfumes.

I am also the author of The Story of Your Life: Becoming the Author of Your Experience; When Talk Is Not Cheap; and Death of a Rolling Stone: The Brian Jones Story.


The Possible at the Berkeley Art Museum (2014), featuring makers and craftspeople, included a Cabinet of Fragrant Curiosities culled from my collection of perfume artifacts.

Living Perfume: The Natural Alchemy of Mandy Aftel (2009) showcased my perfumes as well as my extensive collection of perfume memorabilia at Henri Bendel’s Fifth Avenue store.

The Foul and the Fragrant: Creating Natural Perfume (2004), which I curated at the University of Southern California’s Doheny Memorial Library, featured turn-of-the-century perfume books and vintage memorabilia from my private collection.

Constructing Perfume: Scent, Space, Color (2005) at 3A Gallery in San Francisco included architectural renderings of my fragrances and interactive explorations of the relationship of color to scent.

In 2004, I was invited to create a perfume for a two-thousand-year- old child mummy in conjunction with the Stanford Medical Center, the Rosicrucian Museum, and Silicon Graphics.


My work has been featured on CNN and in Vogue, Vanity Fair, In Style, Time, Body and Soul, Natural Health, Alternative Health, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, W, Self, O: The Oprah Magazine, Allure, Health, Elle, Forbes.com and 7 by 7. I was chosen as one of the twenty-five most influential people in perfume by Basenotes.net and was named one of the top seven bespoke perfumers in the world by Forbes.com.

[Click to download a PDF of the above profile of Mandy]

Recent interviews with Mandy:

SF Gate: "Secrets of scents: Mandy Aftel’s life of fragrance in Berkeley"
ELLE: "All Your Perfume Questions Answered"
LA Times: "History, memories and emotion waft through Mandy Aftel's 'Fragrant'"
Handful of Salt: "Profile: Mandy Aftel"
AltLux: "Lessons on pleasure from Mandy Aftel"
The Girl Who Knows: "Get to Know Mandy Aftel"
Epoch Times: "Mandy Aftel’s Cabinet of Curious Scents"
Bon Appetit: "Indie Perfumier Mandy Aftel"
Kafkaesque: "Aftelier’s Mandy Aftel: Learning, Creating & The Love of Scent"

Mandy Talks on Arts & Ideas with Daniel Patterson at the JCCSF

Visit Mandy's Studio with
The Daily Cal

Yahoo! Second Act Studio Visit and Interview with Mandy

Mandy on Entrepreneurship & Creativity for Accomplished Minds

Mandy Aftel is a recognized authority in Natural Perfume and a true pioneer in the modern field of Naturals
— Rochelle Bloom, President, Fragrance Foundation

The Queen of Green...she started a revolution that we now take for granted as part of our environmentally conscious culture.
— Beauty News

Mandy Aftel is one of the fragrance industry's most creative thinkers, not to mention one of its most prolific talents.
— Vogue.com

Mandy Aftel is an indisputable icon in the world of perfumery, and quite arguably, the Mother of Natural Perfumery.
— Cafleurebon

Mandy Aftel is the perfumery guru and pioneer who managed to alight an all naturals aromatics Renaissance with her body of work and especially her seminal book, Essence & Alchemy, the cornerstone on which the naturals movement has flourished.
— Perfume Shrine

Aftelier is for me and many others the gold standard of natural perfumes.
— IndiePerfumes

The trend toward using natural ingredients was pioneered by perfumer and author Mandy Aftel.
— Allure

Mandy Aftel is like the Alice Waters of American natural perfume
— Indieperfumes

Mandy Aftel has spearheaded the artisanal natural perfumery movement in the United States
— Now Smell This

One of the great living masters of natural perfume
— Affluent Lifestyle magazine

Natural fragrance guru
— San Francisco magazine

Mandy Aftel is truly a fragrance genius
— Organic Beauty View

Winner of Perfumer's Lifetime Achievement Award as "The Last of the Alchemists"
— Perfume Smelling Things

Angel of Alchemy
— Vanity Fair

One of the perfume industry's best noses
— Jack and Hill

A natural perfume maker with a media dossier that rivals any A-list celebrity
— Body and Soul

An Exquisite line of Perfumes
— Alternative Medicine

Highly sophisticated blends
— Town and Country

Couture fragrance...one of Hollywood's chicest secrets
— Vogue

Aftelier Perfumes: most wanted...perfectly chic
— Harper's Bazaar

Perfumer to the Hollywood A-List
— Cooking Light

Ms. Aftel's work as a natural perfumer has been trendsetting...Essence and Alchemy...became a corner stone upon which the contemporary natural perfumery movement was built.
— Bois de Jasmin

Essence and Alchemy is in no doubt partly responsible for the current growing interest in natural perfume. You would be hard pressed to find a natural perfumer without a well-thumbed copy of this book on their bookshelf.
— Basenotes