The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents
Aftelier founder Mandy Aftel has opened a new museum in Berkeley, CA called The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, where visitors can smell more than three hundred natural essences derived from fruits, flowers, trees, grasses, and other natural sources (and take three samples home) and will be able to compare essences that have been aged for a century to their modern counterparts.

A Shelf of Exhibits at the Archive

Cabinet of Curiosities

Perfume Organ


Sperm Whale and Ambergris

Aftel says:

I fell in love with natural aromatics more than twenty-five years ago, and I have had the privilege to live and work in their world ever since. In my practice of perfumery, I have curated thousands of gorgeous essences from all over the world, many of them antiques themselves. They are all part of the extraordinary lineage of scent that reaches back to the beginnings of human culture and is entwined with the earliest history of medicine, cuisine, sexuality, adornment, and worship.

At the same time, my research and writing led me on a treasure hunt to hundreds of antique books and other artifacts that helped me to piece together the world in which perfumery took shape. I came to see my practice as an extension of the lost world I had discovered into the modern one. The books, engravings, essences, and raw materials I have collected have been a source of endless beauty and fascination and happiness to me, and I continue to be inspired by them every day.

Natural aromatic materials and their glorious history are constantly invoked in the service of marketing the commercial perfumes from which they are now almost entirely omitted. I decided to open my archive to the public to tell a different story – the original story of fragrance, a story that has been alive in people's daily lives in almost every culture for centuries, and is in danger of disappearing. I thought that the best way to convey it was to immerse people in this rich sensory landscape I live in every day, and to place it in context, through words and images.

Aftel has also launched a new fragrance, Curious, to coincide with the opening of the new venue. Notes include tobacco, hay, smoke, orange leaf, siam wood and dirty orange.

Tickets are available for the museum here.