Friday, December 2, 2011

Aftelier Secret Garden: fragrance review

The velvet feel of rose, the sweet nectar of jasmine, the tartness of raspberry...the human presence, felt subtly like the paws of furry animals trailing amongst the fallen leaves of an unattended garden...feelings, memories, awakenings, scattered; brought back like the rays of spring sun after a long, torturous winter. The endless repetition of the cycle of life just a snapsnot in the all too ephemeral space of childhood. This is what The Secret Garden stands for.

Secret Garden the perfume is named after the homonymous 1910 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. In it a young girl blossoms herself, after discovering a barren secret garden and bringing it back to life.This coming of age story and the metamorphosis of a sour, unaffactionate brat into an empathetic human being. The garden motif serves as the symbol of living things being spiritual healers. And how could this not be, as all natural perfumery, as represented by Aftelier, focuses exactly on the life force of essences derived from outdoors.

All naturals guru perfumer Mandy Aftel used two truly precious ingredients into the formula of Secret Garden, much like has been her practice in her opus, exploring the length and the breadth of the natural world. These two natural animalic essences are all but vanished from modern perfumery (except for very, very specific and far between cases): a batch of old civet, which she bought from a retired perfumer, and castoreum tinctured from the beaver. These bring out the warmth, the candied aspect of the floral notes, opening them up, citrusy honeyed backdrops of newly-discovered joy, a glimpse into a new world full of colour, of aroma, of pleasure. Jasmine and rose are the chief magicians, mingled into a duality that represents the heroine's, Mary Lennox's, past and present: jasmine sambac ~humid, narcotic, languorous, candied~ for India; rose ~satin-like, sentimental, feminine~ for Enland. The floral notes take more than a supporting role in this typically floriental composition, a classic aimed at everyone who loves perfume, boosting the generosity of the heart; hesperidic and seemingly spicy up top, vibrating with passion on the underside. The underlying sweetness is akin to opening up yourself to the wonder that is life.

Notes for Aftelier Secret Garden:
top: bergamot, bois de rose, Geraniol, blood orange
middle: jasmine sambac, raspberry (compounded isolate), Turkish rose, blue lotus
base: civet, castoreum, vanilla, deertongue*, benzoin, aged patchouli

*NOT an animal ingredient

The lasting power is quite good for an all naturals scent, no complaints there. 

Aftelier's Secret Garden is available in a 1/4 oz. bottle ($150), a 30 ml Eau de Parfum spray ($150), a 2 ml Mini bottle ($45), and a sample size ($6).
Available directly from

Painting by Marc Chagall, The Three Candles


  1. Wow Elena, what an incredible review! I am so glad that you liked Secret Garden – you certainly understand & describe it like it’s a close friend. You writing shows such feeling *and* thought – it shines with a poetic radiance that makes me feel quite honored.
    xo Mandy

  2. Anonymous15:40

    Could you tell me the name of the music used here? So beautiful.....

  3. Thanks Mandy, I thought it was among your best.

  4. Anon,

    it's by Zbignew Preisner (great Polish composer), this is called "the first coming-out" I think, from the soundtrack of The Secret Garden film.

    Check out:


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