I usually try to find inexpensive things to do in the Bay Area. So I was reluctant to go to this little museum with a $20 entrance fee. But the sensory experience was totally worth it!
I’m talking about the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in Berkeley. You can get tickets for this museum of scents online but they also welcome walk-ins. We were greeted warmly by Devon, who equipped us with some instructions, some strips to sample our own smells, and a wool cloth to neutralize our noses.
There are two apothecary cabinets with dried resins, woods and flowers. We spent most of our time here rubbing things and putting others up to our noses. The Elemi Resin, a dried tree sap, reminded my husband of the smell in an art studio.
Book aficionados will enjoy the hundred year old books on fragrances and creating perfumes, and the window bench to relax and carefully turn the pages.
Not all smells are pleasing here – some Hyrax poop anyone? – but you learn that to create a perfume you have to have three levels of depth.
The centerpiece of the archive is the perfume organ, hundreds of little flasks filled with natural essential oils. You can dip your three strips into some oils to take home.
The last experience is Mandy Aftel’s creation of edible essential oils that you spray onto chocolate, e.g. raspberry. These create the most amazing burst of flavor from the dark chocolate that is the baseline to the more floral or fruity oil.
The family business is only open Saturdays 10 am – 6 pm. Admission is $20.
During the week Mandy Aftel is a perfume composer. You can buy her creations online or on your visit.
Have you been to the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents?