When I was still writing for Fragrantica, I received a tiny compact sample of Aftelier’s Velvet Tuberose for purposes of a review. Perfumer Mandy Aftel’s creations are outstanding in the world of perfumery–natural or otherwise. They’re costly, but they’re absolutely worth every penny. I’ve had the honor and privilege of testing several of them over the years, and I plan to treat myself to a full-size Aftelier solid someday.
I thought I had lost my Velvet Tuberose sample, or perhaps even used it all up, but I found it again not long ago, when going through a box of samples and small bottles I was going to pass on to a friend. Aftelier solid samples are generously poured, and for this particular perfume, only a couple little swipes are needed for a pleasant sillage and long-lasting fragrance experience. My little compact still had about half the original amount remaining when I found it, and I had been saving it (and savoring it) for special occasions these last few months.
Until recently, I shared my home with a scent-loving husband and two cats, one of whom was also a scent-lover. My male tabby, K., was more like a dog than a cat in his desire to smell everything. He had trained us over the years to accommodate him, such that any piece of mail, package, groceries, new shirts, new bath towels, etc., plus any bag or box these items arrived in, were immediately laid on the sofa or the floor for K. to give them a thorough sniffing. He wanted to smell every single perfume I received, most of which he didn’t like and immediately recoiled from, except for the natural perfumes. Naturals earned a good close sniffing, with nose pressed to bottle or wrist.
We learned in May that K. had developed oral cancer. If you’re a lifelong cat lover like me, you have likely dealt with this devastating issue in at least one of your cats. It’s very common, very aggressive and even when caught early enough for surgery to remove the tumor (which was not our scenario), the prognosis is about the same. Most cats die within a few months of diagnosis. Our vet helped us provide hospice/palliative care at home for our little fur man, but we knew the time would soon come when we would need to let him go.
That day arrived in July 2020, in the midst of our Covid quarantine. It was clear that K. was on his last reserves and the time to plan his peaceful exit was upon us. It was a difficult decision to make, eased somewhat by the fact that in Pennsylvania, a veterinarian can come to the home when it is time to euthanize a pet. There are entire veterinary practices that specialize in this, and their work was considered an “essential service” that was still available during the lockdown. It was a relief to know we could send him off at the home he lived in, on the sofa where he loved to nap, surrounded by his family, and free from the fear and anxiety produced by a car ride and a visit to a vet’s office.
It might seem strange to think about perfume on such an occasion, if you’re not a fragrance lover. But if you are a fragrance lover, you wear a scent every day and it wouldn’t occur to you to NOT wear one on a day like this. For folks like us, choosing a scent is a comforting ritual on both good days and bad. I gave it a lot of thought that morning, hovering for several minutes at my perfume shelf to make a selection.
I didn’t want to wear a loud fragrance, one that might disturb my cats or disturb the vet who would be visiting that day, even though she and all of us in the house would be wearing masks. Perfume, especially a strong one, can easily be smelled through a cloth mask and probably a paper one, too.
I also didn’t want to wear one of my usual “office” fragrances. This was a special occasion, after all, even if it wasn’t a happy one. I was concerned that the scent memory might someday be triggering for me, in a good or bad way. I don’t want to be triggered at my workplace by a whiff of one of those everyday fragrances.
I wanted to wear a distinctive scent that wouldn’t overpower, but would comfort me with its beauty and soft presence, as my sweet K. had done every day for the decade we had him. It seemed most appropriate to wear something precious, that I don’t wear often but that I could sniff in private moments when I wanted to remember our last day together.
In the end, the scent I chose was my Aftelier Velvet Tuberose. The softer sillage provided by a solid was perfect for this occasion, when my husband and I would be quite close to each other and close to our cat. The beautiful floral bouquet in the fragrance was also spot-on in another way: K. had loved smelling (and trying to eat) flowers.
My cherished sample compact has just a few swipes of fragrance remaining, which is fine at this time. K.’s passing is a recent and painful memory that I am still dealing with in small doses by necessity, like the last little bit of my perfume. But someday, I will be able to remember him and the lovely life we had together, without feeling the pain of his loss, and I can have Velvet Tuberose to reach for when that time comes, too.
All photographs by me.