Aftelier Week: Cacao

I do not generally care to smell like food.

Gourmand fragrances are not a genre to which I tend to gravitate. That makes sense, since I do not generally care to smell like food.

There are exceptions. The yeasty note in En Passant is to-die-for, though I wouldn't consider that perfume "a gourmand". When it comes to bread, you can't beat Jeux de Peau by Serge Lutens. Now that's a scent I really adore --- but I never pick it up and wear it.

I enjoy the coffee notes in Cafe Noir by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and in New Haarlem by Bond No. 9. Those two, yeah - I'll wear them. They're fabulous. Cafe Noir is my preference, though if a bottle of the Bond scent fell  in my lap I wouldn't swap it away.

I find that vanilla appears as a listed note in many a scent I enjoy, though that doesn't necessarily make them gourmands.

I think Angel (Theirry Mugler) is a really interesting scent. I really, really like it. As with many perfumistas, though, I don't like to wear it. This is in part because a lot of people wear it and I don't want to smell like other people. I also don't enjoy wearing anything that is likely to drive people towards their migraine medicines, and Angel seems to be one of those scents that the anti-perfume crowd can recognize immediately. So, no  Angel for me in public. Truth be told, I never spray it at home, either.

To summarize:  I enjoy reeking of coffee or bread. I like vanilla swirled in my perfumes, but wouldn't like to walk around smelling like vanilla extract. I do not care to smell like any other food.

What ever possessed me to sample Mandy Aftel's Cacao?

I mean, it's right there in the name: we know we're going to get some chocolate going on. I must have bumped my head when I agreed to this...

But request it I did, and here we are.  And I'm oh-so-glad we are.

Aftelier Perfume's official description of Cacao is this:

Possibly the world’s most seductive form of chocolate, with jasmine and blood orange. I create the chocolate alcohol that is the foundation of the perfume. I tincture very aromatic organic cocoa beans from Costa Rica, hand-selected by master chocolate-maker Steve DeVries, along with some very floral Tahitian vanilla beans. Using both grandiflorum and sambac jasmines, their richness marries well with the full chocolate base.

Featured NotesTop: blood orange, pink grapefruit.Heart: jasmine sambac & grandiflorum.Base: chocolate, vanilla.
Blood orange. Grapefruit. Jasmine. Vanilla.  Chocolate. Vanilla. It seems so simple.

The first notes are akin to biting into a rich and masterfully-made chocolate candy when you haven't had one in ages. I experience that same heady feeling, that sensation of AHHHHHH....

It's a little like this...

... only add in unicorns and rainbows and orange sparkles and dark chocolate stars.*

 *No, I don't know either - just go with it.

It's not super-sweet, like a store-bought candy. It's not like those nifty chocolate oranges that you whack on the table (<---how cool are those, by the way?). It's not even like those delicious orange peels dipped in dark chocolate (<---also delectable. is anyone else getting hungry?). Nope. The opening to Cacao is the finest dark chocolate, heavily bitter and cocoa-y, wrapped around an orange cream center made with really special orange extracts.

After about 5 minutes, this heavenly chocolate-orange swirling feeling fades and you're suddenly standing on a beautiful patio with one of those orange chocolates in one hand and a glass of something bubbly in the other.

Did I mention the patio is surrounded in blooming jasmine?

It's like this.
Don't be jealous of my art skillz. It's bad karma.
The jasmine in Cacao is amazing. Simply sublime.

And eventually the cocktail party winds down and you're left with vanilla-tinged jasmine and, eventually, just really lovely memories -- and a little craving to do it all again.

Blood orange. Grapefruit. Jasmine. Vanilla.  Chocolate. Vanilla. It seems so simple. I'm sure it wasn't simple at all. If it were truly simple, it would have been done this well before. It hasn't been. Cacao is one-of-a-kind. Truly masterful.

This is a gourmand I'll wear. A lot.

sample provided by the perfumer
though the opinions here are my own


  1. Wow Jen, you have a real talent for drawing in the reader - I appreciate your entertaining review so much! I worked hard to have Cacao avoid the expected chocolate clichés, so I’m thoroughly gratified that you found this “gourmand” so wearable,
    xo Mandy

  2. Oh, wearing Cacao an amazingly easy thing to do, Mandy. It's trying to STOP wearing it that's difficult!

  3. I'm wearing Cacao right now! My old office was literally around the corner from the Tootsie Roll factory, and you could tell it was TR day (rather than junior mints or sugar babies day) by the delicious wafts of chocolate and orange on the air.

    Cacao makes me imagine I'm wearing a rich jasmine floral, and walking by the factory.


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