Momento Mori - by Mandy Aftel for Aftelier

I'm obsessed with The Day of the Dead because it celebrates life rather than focusing on loss. Similarly, momento mori jewelry and art are meant to remind the wearers/viewers of their mortality while often also using relics (hair is a common one) of departed loved ones as a way to remember their lives fondly. 

Honestly, I'm always drawn to ornate and beautiful momento mori jewelry when I see it in antique stores, but am also repelled. This perfume captures the beauty and earthiness of these precious rings, lockets, and brooches well, and I'm at once entranced and put off by it. At least, I was the first time I wore it.

Mandy Aftel's tribute to these unique pieces of mourning jewelry is simply called Momento Mori

A natural perfume, as all of the Aftelier scents are, based on "the musklike smell of skin," is a tricky one. And it was a labor of love for the perfumer.

In Mandy's words:
"This was a deeply personal perfume for me to create. Memento Mori is about the tender memories of the skin and body of someone with whom you have been intimate, and the ways that you treasure and long for that which you remember when they are lost to you. We want to hold the vanished beauty close even as we experience the piercing quality of memory."

Momento Mori opened with a fiercely animalic pulse on my skin. It's buttery, intimate flesh, and there's no getting away from it. 

After a half an hour or so, the scent settles on my skin and becomes more translucent and diaphonous. 

Don't be mistaken! It's still animalic and raw, but to my mind Mandy's showing us how grief morphs and becomes a little easier to stomach.  

The heart of the perfume is softly floral, more gentle yet. You're leaning in to catch the intimate smell of a loved one's skin. Your memories are fond, if still slightly unsettling. 

I find myself pressing my nose into my skin at this stage, really enjoying the unusual interplay of notes: rose, often used in funerals, dances with more skinlike notes as the scent morphs again towards its drydown. 

Hours of drydown ensue, leaving us with more skin, more intimacy, more memories. 

While patchouli and civet are present, neither dominates the scent, which keeps it still in the more intimate, personal realm rather than veering toward the barnyard. This stage of the scent is almost transluscent, like the veil of a memory. 
Momento Mori is a masterful show of perfumery. Intricate and yet blunt, much like the jewelry it's meant to represent.

The journey taken from top to bottom of Momento Mori is delightful, though this scent isn't going to be for everyone. The daring perfumista/o (this scent is not gendered) may enjoy this fleshly ride through love and loss, just as only certain people are going to enjoy momento mori art and jewelry.

I, personally, love the journey. 

Top: butter, orris, phenylacetic acid.
Middle: Turkish rose absolute, phenylethyl alcohol.
Base: beta ionone, ambreine, ambergris, antique civet, patchoulyl acetate.

Now available at 
Sample provided by the perfumer.