Beauty Without Fuss

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Aftelier Perfumes - Haute Claire

 A couple of weeks ago, my good friend (and evil perfume enabler) Nathan Branch decided to do a little perfume matchmaking because he'd decided it was time Mandy Aftel and I got acquainted.  I was delighted, as I've been following the reviews of Mandy's perfumes for months, and had spent many happy hours filling imaginary shopping baskets on her website.  Then not ordering any of the samples I had because I simply couldn't choose between them.

For those who don't know, Mandy is a self-taught perfumer, specialising in all-natural perfumes.  She has an uncompromising approach to ingredients, demanding the best, and using only those things she feels are right in every one of her fragrances.  And what fragrances they are ... Mandy sent me a box of tiny sample bottles of her fragrances a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that I love them all, very much.

But, for me, so far, there has been one fragrance out of all that I selected (including Fig, Tango, Lumiere and Cepes & Tuberose) that stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is Haute Claire.  Put simply, I sprayed one spray and my heart was gone, there was nothing else I wanted to wear.  Which is a difficult position to be in when one is eight months into a year-long perfume project!

Conceived during Nathan's Letters to a Fellow Perfumer series whereby both Liz Zorn and Mandy Aftel came up with a fragrance using a similar theme, Haute Claire is a marriage of resinous galbanum and tropical ylang ylang, or, if you want to be reductive, a smoky-floral-green-banana (my description, not Mandy's!).  It is exceedingly difficult to describe the scent - Mr Lippie describes it as "sharp", and as the meaning of "Haute Claire" is "High and Clear", I think he's onto something there.

However, Haute Claire is also soft and rounded under the sharpness, and it is this constant interplay between a sharply resinous scent, and a rounded banana-vanilla -which doesn't actually exist, Haute Claire doesn't smell of banana at all, but there is a definite creamy note to this fragrance, chocolate-y even, but it doesn't smell of chocolate either. Not exactly. - that makes this interesting. It doesn't smell like anything else, it smells precisely of itself.  That makes no sense written down, but it makes sense from over here.  Well, in my head it does.  So there.

I've found that Aftelier Perfumes tend to whisper rather than shout, staying close to the body, but they're very longlasting overall, and Haute Claire has been no exception to this, it's office safe, but very distinctive. 

Haute Claire is a playful fragrance, it likes to play hide and seek on my skin.  When I go hunting for it, sniffing at the spots I've sprayed, I can never find it, and yet, a few seconds or minutes or even hours later, I'll get a little hint of it, seemingly out of nowhere, and it makes me smile.  Every. Single. Time.

In a nutshell, if perfume were available on prescription, Haute Claire would be Prozac.  Haute Claire costs $150 for a 30ml bottle from Aftelier Perfumes. But you can also buy a 0.25 ml sample for $6, which would be good for at least a week's worth of daily wear.

Now, if you've made it this far in the review you probably think I've gone mental - and you'd be right, but it's not because of this, I assure you - but if you're intrigued, even a little, then Mandy and I would like to offer you the opportunity to try the fragrance for yourself. If you leave a comment on this post, alongside your email address, telling me what your favourite "unusual" smell is, then you're in with a chance of winning the 5ml spray sample vial you can see pictured.  Mandy will ship the fragrance worldwide, so this giveaway is open to everyone.  Good luck!  I'll draw the winner at random, on Wednesday of next week.

The Fine Print: Samples provided by Mandy Aftel for review.  Links, as always are for informational purpose only, and are not affiliate links.

This post originated at: All rights reserved.


  1. How exciting! I find it so hard to describe scent, but the most unique I've worn was a sample of one that smelt of sweetened condensed was bicuity, almondy almost, and very comforting. I did feel like a big rum ball or biscuit after a while, which can never be a bad thing!
    In my limited perfume world, that is definitely the most unique scent I have personally encountered, and I loved it.

    Email address is
    Emma xx

  2. I love your perfume reviews so much, even if they do make me want to buy things!

    What a wonderful opportunity to try the scent! My favourite 'unusual' smell would have to be... the smell of petrol when you fill the car up at the garage. Seriously, I love it!

  3. The smell of the inside of my 10 yr old son's kitbag left for a week with a damp pair of rugby boots...come on, give me the sample, I so obviously need it! Seriously, I am loving your blog, love the way you combine glamorous products with a great sense of humour ...have popped you on my blogroll

  4. I do adore reading your perfume reviews!

    My favourite unusual smell is leather, I have a room spray which features three of my favourite scents, leather, cigars and cognac and I would love to wear it as a fragrance but I fear wearing room spray is not the best idea I've had!


  5. This will sound odd, but I guess that is the point...

    I love the smell of my cat's fur when she has been outside. I notice it when I pick her up - the fur on the back of her head smells of concentrated fresh air. I can't describe it any other way. It's only a fleeting scent but it always surprises me and makes me happy.

    Best wishes,


  6. One of my favourite smells is freshly extinguished match. I love all smoky smells (apart from day old fag) but matches are top of the list.

    Kathrine x

  7. Great review, it's really obvious that you love this scent!
    The most unique scent that I have tried and loved is Ormonde Jayne Woman - when I first tried it I just instantly fell in love and I didn't try to search for certain notes in it, it was just perfect as a whole. My favourite weird smell would probably be the smell of onions on my fingers and hands -it's just delicious and I can catch myself sniffing my hands the whole day after I've been chopping the onions. I know, weird.

    Thank you and Mandy for hosting such a lovely giveaway, I would love to try the Haute Claire (after all, my name is a part of the name of the fragrance).

    mookieonthebench at gmail dot com

  8. Now I have to try this. It sounds... astounding and amazing.

    Email is


  9. Old books - that slightly dusty, almost vanilla sort of pipe tobacco smell of aging newsprint in a venerable paperback.

    Ever since Nathan named this thing, I've been lusting after it. Fingers crossed!


  10. Haute Claire sounds stunning.

    My favourite 'unusual' smell is petrol.

    On a baking hot summer day, the smell of a petrol station forecourt reminds me of trips in the car with my parents as a child that invariably started with a tank of petrol and an ice lolly for me!

    I get the same evocative feeling when I smell aviation fuel, one smell of an airport runway and im transported to a hot balmy country in my head... whether i'm flying to london or LA, it still makes me think of sunnier climes.

    Of course the smell of petrol / aviation fuel in a foreign country is just truly amazing.

    As odd as it is, i love the smell and you can usually find me taking a slow walk from terminal to plane taking huge long deep breaths to breath the smell, and memories in.


  11. Thank you Louise, I love reading your interpretations of Haute Claire! You have a wonderful knack for putting scent into words, while giving very valuable details for your readers. I’m so grateful to have met you through Nathan, and excited to read what you think of some of my other perfumes! Mandy Aftel.

  12. So great that you discovered Mandy! I am in love with many of her perfumes too, though I haven't tried Haute Claire yet- so would love to be entered in the draw!

    MY favorite unusual smell...hmmm..maybe the smell of black salt (it has a pungency similar to parts of Tango which I absolutely LOVE)


  13. Oh goodness and here I was hoping to give a complimentary comment on how lovely your perfume reviews are and how I have missed reading them - I had a cup of tea and a slab of bournville to accompany my reading and now I have to revisit an unusual this is not an unusual smell but it is one of the most distinctive to me, when I smell Chanel No5 all that I can smell is friction, heat, hot stuffy old books, like going up in a the loft in the heat of the afternoon. How lovely to have found a fragrance that you truly relish. Jan x

  14. Haute Claire sounds divine!! I too love fragrance and am often accused of loving "old lady" scents! This makes me happy because I don't smell like everyone else!
    I love the smell of leather, rubber and pipe tobacco, exotic spices and absinthe.

    My email is

  15. I love the smell of pumpkin after it's been slightly burnt from jack-o-lantern candles. Yum!

    Thank you for the drawing.

  16. Haute Claire sounds Divine!! I love all kinds of fragrances but often I am accused of liking "old lady" fragrances. I'm happy with this because I usually don't smell like anyone else!!

    I love the smell of leather, rubber, pipe tobacco, exotic spices and absinthe!

    My email is

  17. How I crave for a sample of this ! I think this would not be Mandy's first perfume to be compared with an antidepressant.No doubt her background as a therapist is showing in her work.

  18. My favourite scent was always the original Chaos by Donna Karan. It was my signature scent for years and then it was withdrawn :-(
    Then it supposedly came back, but the new one doesn't smell like the old one at all :-(

    triciahill1502AT gmailDOTcom

  19. I am so happy I found your blog! I love perfume and I love to hear others stories, experiences and responses to perfume. It is beyond fun, it's an obsession really. Old, new, simple, complex... each new sniff holds such possibility.
    I really like the subtle smell of freshly washed and sun dried linen, fresh picked oranges, iris and labdanum.
    I love smelling old leather scents on others.
    I am so excited to try Haute Claire. It will be my first Mandy scent.

    Thank you.


  20. My favorite unusual smell is urine. I like a few rose + jasmine scents that drydown kind of "urine"-y and there are also honey scents that have a urine vibe to them (though I can't stand Miel des Bois...). We just moved and my cat is having difficulty adjusting and is peeing on the wooden floors in our upstairs hallway. I have to admit it also smells kind of good (not like ammonia at all, more like slightly sweet and floral -- I know, it's weird!)

    Amy (ahsu78 at gmail dot com)

  21. I'm very envious of your ability to describe different scents. I have a couple of perfumes I'd like to review but I couldn't do them justice!

    My favourite unusual smell is wet concrete/asphalt, the smell you get in summer just after it has rained. It's not the same in winter either, it only smells good in the summer.


  22. I'm very envious of your ability to describe different scents. I have a couple of perfumes I'd like to review but I couldn't do them justice!

    My favourite unusual smell is wet concrete/asphalt, the smell you get in summer just after it has rained. It's not the same in winter either, it only smells good in the summer.


  23. I'm so happy to see all the petrol lovers, nobody has ever confessed that to me before (despite my always saying it smelled good!). I also like rubber cement (do you have that in the UK?)! Also the smell of dirt after it rains, but not mud. I hate mud. It has to be just the right kind of earthy smell, once it gets too rainy and gross I'm just cranky and unhappy. It's a delicate balance! Matches are a good one too, and campfires. Or burning paper! I also love the smell of almonds. I keep wanting to drink CND Solar Oil because of the delicious almond smell.

    And apparently I love the smell of dill pickles because I'm convinced Poivre smells salty. But nobody else agrees!

    I am really getting into trying perfumes, this would be brilliant! sara @ dailypolish . com

  24. My favourite unusual smell is the rain in summer, especially when its on grass and flowers.

  25. WoW! cat pee and petrol! I am so impressed with your readers -- seriously. Thank you

  26. Just too add to the eyebrow-raising list:
    My all time favourite smell is rain on hot ground - that lovely fresh but warm smell. But my current favourite smell is baby poo - there I said it. But it has to be my breastfed baby's poo - it smells like yogurt - which it kind of is being a fermented milk. And could just be of course that I don't get out much - but hey - it's now out there.

    I also love fennel, licorice or aniseed.


  27. Wonderful review! Favorite unusual smell....and this will be vague...are the smells that carry memories. Especially ones from childhood. I was walking around the lake last night and was flooded with all of these memories, from the smell of dead dish. (yeah I know) but It was the slight salty smell of the ocean on the air that came through never thought I'd enjoy that!

  28. Wonderful review! Unusual sent, is any smell that is associated with memories. Just yesterday, was walking around the lake, it was slightly humid & cooler out & there were a lot of dead fish. But, it smelled like where grew up, salty and delicious! Haaha gross.

  29. The sample box looks delish!!

    Someone has already submitted one of my favourite unusual smells - rain on hot bitumen. Instantly takes me back to my childhood.

    Wonderful draw - many thanks!

  30. whoops, sorry I forgot to leave my email address!

    hollyjae at gmail dot com


  31. I've heard that it's all but impossible to accurately describe a scent, but I think you've got it! Haute Claire sounds wonderful.

    I like quite a few different unusual scents. One of them is the smell of dried shiitake mushrooms -- a savory, rich, wintry smell that I grew up with because my mother often had some soaking in the kitchen. I also like the combination of rain, cherry blossoms, and just a little diesel -- one of my sharpest scent memories from a year in the UK. And one of my favorites, the smell of my cat's fur after she's been lying in the sun all afternoon.

    ailanna at hotmail dot com

  32. I love your ability to describe a perfume!

    My favourite "unusual" smell would have to be cow pat. I don't like the smell of stale muck spreading (cos that would be weird, obvs!) but fresh cow pat has a real countryside feel about it :) I also quite like the smell of my cat's fur after she's been chilling near the cat mint in the garden, it's right next to the curry plant we have and she smells like a curry!

    Rebecca :)

  33. Gosh you've made this sound nice! I must investigate. I think my weirdest favourite smell is fresh sweat - slightly sharp but with a hint of musk, sometimes almost sweet but with a tang... mmmm! It has to be fresh though, stale sweat is quite vile.

  34. Unusual-I am not a big drinker overall- however I do have a serious weakness for FINE tequila. And a large part of that weakness is the SMELL of it. Fine sipping tequila smells of the roasted blue agave plant heart (which I LOVE the smell of that component-it's earthy, herbal, fresh , complex-both warm and cool smelling!)But many other smells and flavors are usually in a fine tequila: fruit, smoke, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar,oak, etc. Good example would be Don Julio Tequila- the 1942 is best but even the regular Don Julio anejo or reposada would give you an idea. I'd love to find a wearable scent that would make me smell like a fine tequila. I would also love to win this sample. I've enjoyed reading your evocative scent descriptions.Thank you for blogging them!
    from S.D. email: serena . d @

  35. Ooh thanks for the tweet -the kids were still off when you posted this and it was one I saved for you do.

    Odd smells - well the one that comes to mind is cannabis! Never tried it but that odd catch where you walk through a crowd and recognise it. That and freshly extinguished matches.

    Loveing the perfume exploration.

    sparklzandshine at yahoo dot co dot uk

  36. Mmmmm, unusual smells, what an invitation! I enjoy aroma of most things, god and bad...but I think probably the most unusual smell is the aroma of a spent party popper. Now in case that translates badly in any language, let me define party popper! A plastic container with a string, pull the string and masses of paper streamers fly out. There is some sort of mini-explosive device that shoots the streamers far across the room. But leave me the empty plastic cartons with traces of the explosive to smell and I'll be happy for hours.

    Thank you for letting me confess that!
    Sally at plushfolly dot com

  37. I love the home-smell at my grandmas house. It's mostly based on boiling fish, roasting lamb in the oven and old plastic and carpets. None of these smells are particulary lovely in themselves but when they come together, they make me so homesick I nearly get tears in my eyes.

  38. I love the smell of Valerian tincture. Clients and friends think it smells of rotten socks!


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