eyeliner on a cat

eyeliner on a cat
beauty, scent & style scrutinized for pleasure

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perfumed Panacaea: Aftelier Haute Claire [and a draw]

 In this world in which we all live, it's not always very easy to feel good- physically or emotionally. Relief, happiness and pleasure is in short supply. This is why fragrance is so important to me. It has the capability to transform: my body will feel tired or painful, my spirits low, yet I can spray myself with Mandy Aftel's newest creation, Haute Claire, and a buoyancy returns to me, along with a Mona Lisa smile.

Haute Claire was born out of a desire to experiment with two scent elements that don't traditionally go together: ylang ylang and galbanum (you can read about its creation on the blog of Nathan Branch, who also named the perfume, HERE). It was hard for me to imagine what it was going to smell like when I read the fascinating correspondence between Mandy and Liz Zorn (another spectacular independent perfumer who also participated in the galbanum/ylang experiment). Frankly, there is nothing that could have prepared me for the happy reality of inhaling Haute Claire's sweet aroma, redolent of crushed, creamy ylang petals, the light-handed touch of high-pitched galbanum, earthy but clean vetiver with the persistent low hum of top-shelf vanilla absolute. This fragrance makes me feel small and happy to be alive. It reminds me that as a human being, I should be humble in the face of what is really worthy of my awe and reverence: nature. And humble, I am.

notes: galbanum, Mexican lime, wild sweet orange, ylang ylang Co2, honeysuckle absolute, ylang ylang extra, clary sage, ethyl phenyl acetate, vetiver, vanilla absolute

Haute Claire is a revelation in gold and white, milky peach and green. It starts out with a vaguely edible quality like a fragrant tea made of herbs and dried flowers, its wild beauty gently contained within an impossibly chic floral heart. The slightly bitter galbanum is used to great effect, never coming across as pushy. What is discovered once you emerge on the other side of Haute Claire is refined, delicate and comforting, and very long lasting. The trio of ylang ylang, vetiver and vanilla stick it out together for the long haul- equal parts sweet and salty with a bit of indole for good measure, and what feels like a whisper of vegetal musk that stays close to the skin.

In the extreme drydown, I detect a hint of Madonna lily with a touch of spice. I honestly don't know where the spice would be coming from. Nothing about Haute Claire is heavy. It is a very imaginative exercise in contrasts; a demonstration of how opposites can complement and enhance one another. This is a perfume I would not hesitate in recommending to someone who thinks they don't like natural fragrances. Hours after first spraying, I'm not thinking about natural or synthetic; I'm thinking about how it smells like a sweet kiss, like laughing so hard that you start to cry. I'm thinking, there is hope and kindness inside this little vial, and I could always use more of that in my life.

I will be holding a draw for one lucky winner to receive a 5ml atomizer of Haute Claire EDP (shown below). Just leave me a comment and tell me if you have a fragrance that you love for its soothing, energizing or healing effects. Is there a scent that just makes you feel good? I will choose one winner at random this Friday afternoon at 1pm US Central time, and the winner will be announced here on this blog shortly thereafter. I will provide the winner's mailing address and name to Mandy Aftel, who will then ship the prize directly to the winner. This draw is open to anyone, anywhere in the world.

[Haute Claire is available at Aftelier.com in EDP form only. A 30ml bottle is available for $150, and samples for $6. My sample was sent to me by the perfumer for review.]

photo credits: (top) vivainstitute.com and Mandy Aftel


  1. Haute Claire could equally well have been titled 'Joyous Garde' (just to mix my troubadour epics! ;) ). Because Carrie - you're right, of course - it IS happy, and yet it's such a contradiction and such a near-impossible feat to pull off - and yet, she did! I loved your review to bits and pieces, you saw what I saw and smelled what I smelled, and yet, the words were so different! That is all the joy of reading perfume blogs - and precisely why I do! :)

    No need to enter me in the draw, obviously - but what a review - and such a perfume!

  2. Thank you Sheila! You and I are birds of a feather, but with different colored plumage, each with our place in the world. The Rainbow Posse.

  3. I'd love to be entered into the drawing - thanks! My happy scent is Hermessences Vetiver Tonka which is a wonderful gourmand vetiver, and it is my husband's favorite fragrance for me. In second place is SL Fleurs d'Oranger for the happy orange blossom which straddles the line of bright, cheerful and overpowering!

  4. Thank you for the review, I have to try it! Among the few I smelled until now, Un Jardin en Méditerranée has a calming effect on me, while Dzing! makes me really happy. It makes me want to laugh a little, but mostly it's just a real feel-good smell. Although on a day like today, only Un Jardin sur le Nil and Ninféo Mio can help me deal with the scorching heat, they're so refreshing!

  5. Kathy- Hermessence Vetiver Tonka has been on my "to try" list for some time. It's nice to know you consider it one of your happy scents!

    Alnysie- I'm in the same boat as you on the scorching heat, it's left me lethargic and grumpy. I ought to see if I can find something really refreshing to wear... maybe Tauer Orange Star?

  6. I just tried my first Mandy Aftel frag today (Shiso) and I'm floored by how cool it is, so I'd love to be included in this draw.

    If I'm to say one scent that soothes and grounds me that would be SL Iris Silver Mist. One that energizes me is Tauers Zeta. I feel happy just thinking about it :)

  7. The transformative power of perfume is what I love too. Great review. this sounds very special. Must get round to learning more about Liz Zom too.

    My soothing scent right now is CdG Kyoto, my favourite calming incense. Many thanks for the draw.

  8. "I'm thinking about how it smells like a sweet kiss, like laughing so hard that you start to cry. I'm thinking, there is hope and kindness inside this little vial, and I could always use more of that in my life."
    You blog is fantastic!! i love reading every review!
    My soothing, energizing & healing perfume of choice would be Liz Earle Botanical Essence EDP No.1. Trish, from scenthive reviewed it and that is how I got introduced to it.

  9. I've really wanted to try Atelier perfumes for a while; the reviews all make me drool. This is no exception.

    All my perfumes make me feel good! Right now a sample of L'Artisan Ananas Fizz is making me happy. It's so cheerful.

  10. By gods Carrie, if this fragrance is half as uplifting as the words you've used to describe it, then I'd sell my soul to get a bottle!

    It' so true that perfume can lift your spirits---I use it for this reason (to manipulate my brooding demeanor) regularly, and my arsenal of spirit lifting scents include:
    1. Puredistance Antonia
    2. Tauer Reverie au Jardin
    3. Chanel no. 19
    4. Chanel Bois des Iles

    So, it would appear that galbanum, lavender, or aldehydes do that job for me!

    Beautiful review Carrie---I can feel your sincere affection for HC, and that's what this is all about, right?


  11. Hey Carrie- did my comment get eaten??- If so I'll post again..

  12. Lavanya- yes, I think it got eaten! Sorry about that, please do post again. :)

  13. No problem! reposting my comment (whatever I can remember of it):

    Wow Carrie- this is definitely going on my list to sample, even if I don't win the draw! I have been wearing Cepes and Tuberose (sweet,warm and yummy) on one wrist and Shiso (green,incisive) on the other wrist; alternatively sniffing these one after the other immediately pulls me out and puts me in a quiet, happy place. Haute Claire sounds like it has a similar kind of contrast which I am sure must be very uplifting.

  14. Carrie, I don't fully understand how you do it, but you always seem to draw me in so deeply with your evocative descriptions that I am beyond mesmerized: I am figuratively paralyzed until I've read the last word. If I breathe in deeply enough, I can almost smell this scent and it smells....GOOD! I have personally never been too loyal to any one scent, but I am drawn over and over again to anything with vanilla or musky undertones. The only time I deviated from this, was when I was gifted with a bottle of Hermes' Voyage, which I appropriately took with me on a trip, and hence after that, just a mere whiff can transport me right back to a tropical beach....and bring peace to my soul.

  15. It sounds like this one went through the glass ceiling!
    Thank you for your lovely & evocative rendering.

    (and if I may, I like wearing my own 'Amberleah' for sheer sensuality) :)

  16. I love love your review.
    I especially love your saying that Haute Claire made you happy . I have always believed that what is happening for me when I am creating the perfume should be happening for the person when they are wearing the perfume.
    As though the perfume was a gift from me to you. Your image of the sweet kiss is is like a sweet kiss to me. Thank you Carrie.

  17. Thank you everyone, for your lovely responses!

    Mandy: The positive intention you used when you made Haute Claire came through to me loud and clear, it's just one of those inherently good things that practically defies explanation with words. I'm so happy that my words touched you!

  18. Once again, I must comment for Isayah (stupid Blogger!):

    My ultimate soothing perfume is also the first one I bought:
    Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. It warms me up when it rains,
    making me feel meditative and centered. It transforms me
    into a blooming desert flower iwhen the weather gets hot.
    It cuddles me in soft cashmere in winter time.
    It never fails making me feel smooth, alive and grounded.

    A million thanks for your wonderful posts and generous draw,


  19. Wow, Haute Claire is inspiring some beautiful reviews, including this one. So evocative--it goes right to the heart of why people become passionate about scent. Thank you for writing it with such care and love.

    It's hard to choose just one scent that makes me feel especially good, so I'll list two. Providence Perfume's Chiffonade's tender greenness makes me feel both soothed and vulnerable, open-hearted. And Illuminated Perfume's new To Bee stops time, stops internal chatter, just brings me to deep, wordless place.


  20. Olive and Oud- thank you for your kind words! I just ordered a To Bee sample set today, I am so excited to try it. :)

  21. Wonderful review. This sounds like <3! An energizing scent I like is B&BW Eucalyptus. Thanks for hosting the draw!

  22. A very moving review. "A revelation in gold and white, milky peach and green" is definitely calling to me. I'd love to see how this study in contrasts plays out.
    When I'm feeling in need of a boost, especially in bleak weather (too wet, too cold, too humid) or when the bones are tired, I reach for Diorissimo. It's instant spring, youthfulness, regeneration.
    Thanks for the draw opportunity.

  23. The only soothing perfume I can think of at this moment that really works for me is Timbuktu by L'Artisan.
    But feeling happy to be alive and with the world is something I yet have to discover in a perfume bottle. :)

  24. No.19 is my soothing and centering scent, which is in its own way evenutually energizing. :)

  25. Well... I don't know... I guess it depends on my current mood. Sensi (Armani) is something I find relaxing. Noa (Cacharel) as well... still, I am not sure I found The Perfume which can be categorized as healing...

    H.C. sounds so interesting. I must confess I don't like ylang (when I make perfumes) so this would be sooooooo interesting for me. :)

  26. I love Malle's Carnal Flower...in the infernal weather, it just smells better the hotter it gets, which makes it all bearable...and it makes me feel sexy like no other fragrance- reason enough to adore it...LESLIE ROBINSON

  27. A wonderful review, it makes me even more eager to try Haute Claire! Thank you so much.

    I would have to pick Profumo's Oakmoss as the fragrance I go to for a calming, centering influence. It definitely moves me to that feeling of being surrounded in nature, which is very peaceful for me.


  28. I'm just now getting into perfumes... It sounds silly now, but I had decided that I didn't like perfume at all, period -- this after smelling a million of them right out of the bottle. I had no idea that fragrances actually change once you sprayed them. The one that changed my mind and now has me devouring all the samples I can get my hands on was Lostmarc'h Lann-Ael. A 1 mL vial was sent to me with something else I ordered, so I dabbed it on just because it was there. A lot of people say it smells like Fruit Loops, but I don't get that at all. I was shocked when this sharp, grandmotherly floral abomination hit my skin and transformed into airy buckwheat pancakes, apples and creamy honey & vanilla. I just want to melt every time I smell it - after the drydown it is so soft and soothing. Out of everything I have tried since then, it is still my favorite.

  29. The drawing is now closed, thank you everyone for entering!

  30. I love reading about how perfumes make different people feel. I've recently stopped trying every new scent under the sun and have spent more time with the ones in my collection I know and love, deepening my relationships with them. So instead of looking for the next thing, I'm self-medicating in a way, mood-wise. There is one scent I will turn to when I need to feel good. Not "happy" or "joyous", but buoyed against a tough day, like having someone at my back. It's Ayala Moriel's Palas Atena. For some reason the combo of cinnamon, jasmine and patchouli makes me feel secure, strong. She describes it somewhere as bringing together both masculine and feminine strengths, and I feel that scentiment exactly whenever I wear it.

  31. What a review, Carrie! I know the draw is over, but I really want to comment on your words.

    This sentence really caught my heart: "What is discovered once you emerge on the other side of Haute Claire is refined, delicate and comforting..."

    I never thought of perfume as a journey, but in a way, it is! Fron top notes to base; from page one to the end; from morning to night...

  32. Joanne, thank you so much for your kind words... j'adore!

  33. Late to the party but I'm putting this on my list of To-Try!!! It sounds scrumptious.

  34. You know, you're right. This is a perfume that I would recommend to anyone that thinks they dislike natural perfumes.

    With the notes, I was very surprised at just how much I love Haute Claire. It's exotic to me, like being at an Indonesian resort. It's intoxicating heady tropical florals, greens, and yes, salty vetiver that conjures up the ocean. It's beautiful and so is your review :)