American Independents Week Perfume Reviews – Part One: Aftelier Perfumes’ Bergamoss

Today is American Independence Day. I live in Australia and while this holiday has no significance here, it struck me as interesting that several new fragrances by American independent perfumers have been released recently and sent to me for review, all in time for Independence Day! So much of what’s interesting and innovative in perfume these days is coming out of the American indie perfume scene, and as the Fourth of July is upon us, I thought I’d devote the next week to reviewing three new releases by American perfumers. Today’s review is of Aftelier Perfumes’ new solid fragrance, Bergamoss. Over the coming week I will also review Anya’s Garden’s Enticing, and the brand new Frida from En Voyage Perfumes.


Mandy Aftel’s parcel containing Bergamoss. A gorgeous treasure waiting to be opened.

When opening a parcel from Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, you are always in for a treat. Not only did I feel like I had won the “golden ticket” when this beautiful golden parcel arrived complete with whimsical sticker, but the tiny little purple-and-orange-patterned box inside, complete with handwritten note, made me feel spoilt, like this was a very special gift just for me. And what a gift Bergamoss is!


bergamossparcel3As you can see, Aftelier Perfumes’ new solid perfume, a chypre, comes in the most fantastic shade of pale olive green. I’m easily suggestible to such things, but this fragrance really does smell like the colour. Bergamoss smells quite herbaceous and fresh, like plants and grasses, and showcases the fresh lightness of bergamot. But this greenness coexists with a syrupy-sweet orange, a smidge of a very natural peach note, and loads of oak moss.

Bergamoss is slightly bitter-sweet when it goes on. It reminds me a little of chinotto, that refreshing, sweet, yet bitter Italian soft drink, made from the juice of the fruit from the myrtle-leaved orange tree (Citrus myrtifolia). I suspect this bitter-sweet effect is created by the amalgam of sweet orange tempered by the bitter oakmoss. Like chinotto, this perfume also has a subtle effervescence, a fizz and a tang created by the citruses and green notes. Yet it is also rich and solid, grounded and anchored by the oakmoss, a subtle waft of earthy, warm nutmeg, and is rounded out by coumarin.

Bergamoss also includes a couple of very exciting ingredients that I’ve not had the pleasure of smelling before: flouve, a rarely used grass that smells of sweet hay, coumarin and green notes, and antique civet. Unless real civet lurks in one of my antique fragrances (I only own a few), I’m not sure ever I’ve smelt this either: synthetic civet is used much more often in perfumery these days. In any case, I’m not sure I can detect the civet (not as a fecal note, anyway) and to me, the flouve blends in to the general “greenness” of the fragrance, without being particularly distinct. However, as I’ve never smelt flouve in isolation, I’m not quite sure of the exact smell I’m trying to detect.

Bergamoss has a classical character and smells like a vintage fragrance of a bygone era. No doubt the antique civet and the other high-quality ingredients used in this all-natural solid perfume contribute to this impression, as well as Aftel’s adherence to a traditional chypre structure that pairs citruses with oakmoss. Even the name “Bergamoss” is a clever play on words with two of this chypre’s key ingredients: bergamot and moss.

Bergamoss is a solid perfume and as such does not beam and shout its presence to all and sundry. It does however radiate beautifully from my skin, especially when I sit and knit or type while wearing it on my wrists. The movement and the heat from my body gently warms the fragrance, creating a halo that sits 1-2 feet from the skin. It is an intimate fragrance, and if you want it to last longer than about 2 hours, you will need to reapply. Bergamoss is unisex and really does sit right in the middle of the gender spectrum: I genuinely think it would wear very well on either sex.


Bergamoss in its sterling silver Aftelier Perfumes case. Photo sourced from

Bergamoss retails for $240 USD for 8ml of solid perfume in a sterling silver case, and is available direct from Aftelier’s website. You can also request that the perfume be poured into one of several unique, antique cases (including watch cases, snuff boxes and compacts), for a little extra.

You can read more about Bergamoss at the Aftelier website, and I strongly recommend reading Mandy Aftel’s own description of the fragrance at this link, as she describes the ingredients and the role each of them plays in this very elegant composition.

Warmest thanks to Mandy Aftel for providing the sample of Bergamoss for me to review.

Scent Mapping: Diagrams and Aroma Wheels

Scent mapping tries to make sense of the smells in the world around us by mapping them in a variety of ways. This can take the form of various diagrams, tables, and aroma wheels. Usually such diagrams contain categories that classify and group individual smells, but they can also tell us other things, such as how we relate smells to gender, and also how similar or dissimilar certain smells are to one another. They can also tell us something about how we react – both physically and psychologically – to certain smells. There are a number of famous scent maps, including Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram, and Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel from his Fragrances of World book. In this post I’ll be introducing you to some of these wheels and diagrams, which are fascinating to look at in their own right. In a future post, I will be discussing some of the findings of a study by Manuel Zarzo and David Stanton, in which they compared various odour databases, scent maps and wheels and drew some interesting conclusions about our perceptions of scent. Paul Jellinek’s odour effects diagram (a later version here has been modified by his son Joseph Stephan Jellinek and Robert Calkin) originally dates from 1951. Jellinek’s map proposes various categories or types of smell, and also the various effects that such smells have on us, e.g. stimulating, erogenous, calming or fresh.

Jellinek’s Odour Effects Diagram

Michael Edwards’ fragrance wheel, from his Fragrances of the World book, comprises a number of fragrance categories, showing the relationship between one category and the next. In Fragrances of the World, which is released every year, Edwards groups thousands of commercially available fragrances into these categories. The book is intended for industry use so that sales assistants can recommend new fragrances to customers, based on similarities with a customer’s favourite perfumes.


Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel. c. Michael Edwards

Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Natural Perfume Wheel consists of categories of scent families, sub-categories within these (like Jellinek’s diagram, labelled with subjective descriptors such as fresh and heavy), and individual notes/ingredients within the sub-categories. The Drom Fragrance Circle is similar to Aftel’s, complete with subjective descriptors, and aligning some scent categories with gender.


Drom Fragrance Wheel

The aromachemically-literate among us might be interested in Givaudan’s very beautiful scent ingredients map, which reminds me of a stylised subway diagram.


Givaudan’s Scent Ingredients Map

There is a well-known connection and cross-sensory interrelationship between the senses of smell and taste, so the following wheels are provided for your interest and comparison with the fragrance-specific diagrams provided above. It’s interesting to me how much overlap there is. First up is Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel, originally devised in the 1980s.


Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel

Below is the Beer Flavour Wheel invented in the 1970s by Dr Morten Meilgaard. wheel

And finally, Niki Segnit’s flavour wheel from her brilliant book The Flavour Thesaurus.


Flavour Wheel from Niki Segnit’s “The Flavour Thesaurus”

What do you think of scent mapping? Do you have a favourite map, diagram or scent wheel that I haven’t included here? Does scent mapping help you to understand smell, fragrance ingredients and fragrance better? I’d love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Polly Technic