my merch selling duties acquitted and a free day stretching ahead until a late evening flight home. I had plans to go sniffing in at least three different outlets, but in the end only managed a flying foray to KaDeWe, an upmarket department store with a large selection of designer and niche scents, which I also visited on my previous trip to Berlin a year ago that week.
And in KaDeWe I only sniffed scents from one brand: April Aromatics from Berlin-based artisanal perfumer, Tanja Bochnig. April Aromatics is a range I had been curious to try ever since reading Asali's glowing review of Unter Den Linden on All I Am A Redhead. And now here I was in Berlin in April - not exactly ON Unter den Linden, even though it is on the long side as boulevards go - or UNDER linden trees on any street, even, but just being in Berlin felt quite fitting!
April Aromatics sums up its ethos on the company's website:
"Working only with natural extracts enables us to experience the true soul of a plant and April Aromatics captures these essences in its perfumes."
Well, the topic of whether plants do in fact have a soul is perhaps moot, and best left for another time. The brand also proudly states that it doesn't use "animal derived ingredients that involve the killing and torturing of animals". Now I didn't think any perfumery ingredients were sourced by killing or torturing animals nowadays, though please do leave a comment if you know otherwise. But there again, if plants have a soul, by the same token they may well also have a body that isn't too keen on being slathered in grease and having the living daylights pressed out of it. Or being scalded in a hot alembic or whatever. You can't have it both ways, surely?! Okay, so I was being facetious there, but selective anthropomorphism when it suits your purpose strikes me as a bit cheeky. : - )
Notes: orange, sandalwood, patchouli, incense, vetiver, vanilla
"Very spicy" was my rather terse verdict on this one. I know that isn't much to go on, but the subtext will be that it smelt more like the jumbled contents of a kitchen spice rack than a perfume you might care to wear.
Notes: jasmine flowers, ylang-ylang, pink grapefruit
Jasmine in 3D - this was seriously indolic to my nose. I was reminded of Gorilla Lust, which also features a vampy ylang-ylang note.
Notes: rosa centifolia, rose otto, neroli, mandarin, vanilla
"Weird, spicy, sour" is all you're getting on that one!
Notes: sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, buddha wood, cistus
All I have written is "very woody". Even the sales assistant apologised for the extreme woodiness of this scent, saying that it might appeal to men. Or extreme wood-loving women, obviously. An 8 out of 10 on the "trapped in a tea chest" / "planky" scale.
NECTAR OF LOVE
Notes: tuberose, neroli, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, yuzu
"Spicy, honeyed, a bit like Amoureuse?" As anyone who knows me will realise, a comparison with Amoureuse is not a good thing, the DeRae scent in question being a sticky, indolic, veritable Venus Fly Trap of a scent as far as I am concerned. Or was concerned in 2008 when I last tried it. I may be feeling a shade braver now, you never know.
Notes: rosa damascena, rose absolute, orris root, tonka bean
"Very true rose" is my bald comment on Rosenlust, my second favourite. They definitely "expressed" the souls of the petals in this one - in every sense of the term!
Notes: lemon peel, narcissus flowers, osmanthus petals
This one was "very light, almost aquatic", and would have made a pretty day scent, but it didn't move me particularly, or smell recognisably niche.
Notes: lindenblossom, mimosa, honey, bergamot, gardenia
My favourite of all - the linden note was very pretty, with a slightly indolic aspect that was well within my comfort zone. I was reminded of Ajne Printemps and its dewy, bright, photo-realistic linden and gardenia notes. Just a minute though - I thought that gardenia couldn't be directly captured in natural perfumery, but only evoked through cunningly circuitous routes? Presumably Tanja Bochnig combined natural extracts of other flowers to create the illusion of gardenia - a fusion of other white floral "souls", if you will. Yes, I think that must be it, for here is a telling commment on the Ajne website:
"Printemps is a complex, soft floral reminiscent of the blossom-filled Parisian air after spring rain. Jane began with subtle top notes that mimic soft gardenia, followed by deeper heart notes of intoxicating flowering lime."
Well, I would say that that description applies pretty well to the Unter den Linden scent too, if we substitute a windy, sunny yet rainy day in Berlin - just like the weather I experienced that Saturday.
my earlier KaDeWe post - I simply wasn't up for trying a bunch of things I had never heard of - that would have been too random. And generally I felt a bit dazed by the noise and the bright lights and the Saturday afternoon crowds, so I headed out again after as little as 10 minutes, even though it had taken me a good half an hour to get there!
Does anyone else have those days when you don't feel like shopping (of any kind), though there are things you need and you find yourself in a place that is the perfect hunting ground? When the term "retail therapy" is a misnomer and the "therapeutic" course of action is to be outside pounding the pavements?
Well, I guess that was how it was for me that day, though I felt suitably guilty for "wasting" a perfectly good sniffing opportunity in a major European city. But having spent a lot of that week on trains or sitting at a table in a gloomy venue, I just fancied being out in the fresh, damp air, kicking the blossoms strewn on the pavement by the blustery winds. And though I set off in the direction of one more store - independent perfumery, The Different Scent - I developed a sudden urge to track down a secondhand clothes shop where I had scored some bargains last year. I did eventually find the place but it was shut, so, having blown my chances of making it to The Different Scent before closing time, I wandered along the Berlin wall instead, taking photographs and pausing every now and then to watch the world go by.
And in my world I was preoccupied with such important matters as rubber band stocks for the posters, ensuring that I correctly distinguished between one euro coins and the twos!, and that the sizes and designs of T-shirts sold were correctly logged, along with any requests for vinyl. I had all but tuned out to the rest of my life with its sundry other roles and personae, interests and concerns. I was "Head of Merch etc, Germany" and that was that.
Also, I had gained a fair bit of satisfaction from doing what was essentially a favour to the band. I was being useful, and felt appreciated. They even presented me with a gift of a travel pepper mill, because I had previously complained that when you ask for black pepper in Germany you mostly get given white pepper and a weary look. Pepper mills are even a bit hit and miss in Italian restaurants, though those are undoubtedly your best bet. Well, speaking for the calibre of restaurant I frequent, certainly.
I will give the last word to the band - from the same track ("On my balcony") that contained the gratuitous perfume reference noted in my merch selling post.
For it just so happens that a few of the lines later in the song tie in rather neatly with my Berlin sniffing experience, such as it was...
"Imperious linden, saplings in tow
Nobody knows if she will ever see them grow
And I'm too weak to want to know
Yes, I understand, there's no rush"
No, there's no rush...I will be back in Berlin some day, with my sniffing head on next time, hopefully...?