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The Museum of Scent

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The Museum of Scent: Exploring the Curious and Wondrous World of Fragrance

By Mandy Aftel

Mandy Aftel is one of the world’s preeminent natural perfumers. Eschewing the synthetic molecules that dominate commercial perfumes, Aftel creates her complex and subtle fragrances using only natural essences. For her, each of these essences is a gateway to a lost world of scent, stretching back to the beginnings of human civilization and intertwined with the history of medicine, cuisine, adornment, sexuality, and spirituality. In 2017, Aftel opened a one-room museum, the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents - in her backyard in Berkeley, California. 

Her book is illustrated with treasures from her museum’s collection so that readers can immerse themselves in the world of scent. She guides you through the different families of botanical fragrances (including flowers, woods, leaves, grasses, and resins), depicting each plant while revealing its olfactory notes and lore. Special chapters are devoted to the most rare and precious fragrances—such as ambergris (formed from a rare secretion of the sperm whale) and to antique essential oil bottles, handwritten recipe books, and other evocative artifacts. The Museum of Scent, which includes a bookmark subtly scented with a natural essence, invites you on a sensuous, imaginative journey.

Mandy Aftel, an internationally known artisan perfumer and authority on natural fragrance, is the owner of Aftelier Perfumes and the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in Berkeley, California. Her other books include Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, which helped spark the natural perfume renaissance and has been translated into eight languages. 

Abbeville Press, 2023, hardcover, 9.4 x 9.4 inches, 264 pages.