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About Mandy Aftel

My Process of Creating Perfume

I started making natural perfumes almost 30 years ago. I create 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.

Perfume Organ

Everything I make is free from synthetics, parabens, glycols, and petrochemicals. I hand-blend and bottle all my products in small batches in my Berkeley, California studio, and personally attend to every detail of the process in creating every product. I love adding a sense of luxury and well-being to people’s lives.

Collaboration with Chefs and Flavor Work

Since 2003, I have been supplying my Chef’s Essences® to the finest chefs and mixologists, along with many artisanal producers of fine chocolate, ice cream, candies, and baked goods. I pioneered the use of essential oils in home cooking, with James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Patterson in our book Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance.

I have taught about flavor at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, California; the American Museum of Natural History; 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.”


I have written 4 books on natural perfume:
- Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent explores the profound connection between our sense of smell and the appetites that move us, give us pleasure, make us fully alive.
- 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.

Recent interviews:

NY Times: "The World's Most Dedicated Natural Perfumer"
Forbes: "Startup Stories - Why Doing Something You Love Is A Great Business Plan"
ELLE: "All Your Perfume Questions Answered"
SF Chronicle: "Smelling My Way Out of a Sensual Crisis"
Bon Appetit: "Indie Perfumier Mandy Aftel"
LA Times: "History, memories and emotion waft through Mandy Aftel's 'Fragrant'"
SF Gate: "Secrets of scents: Mandy Aftel’s life of fragrance in Berkeley"
The Autumn Salon: "The Alchemy of Perfume"
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"

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


I 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 fragrances for other perfume and personal care product lines.


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. [Click here for catalog]

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.

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

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

Natural fragrance guru
— San Francisco magazine

Mandy Aftel is truly a fragrance genius
— Beauty View

Angel of Alchemy
— Vanity Fair

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

Highly sophisticated blends
— Town and Country

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

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