Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Bonkers Grand Tour: Travels TO Olfactoria And A Viennese Sniffing Whirl

Regular readers of Bonkers may get the impression that I am perfectly self-contained on my business trips, and don’t really need company. It is true that I am rarely lonely, but that doesn’t mean I am not very glad to meet people on my travels, especially likeminded fellow perfumistas. Indeed I positively light up - head permitting! - when I have a blind sniffing date with a virtual friend from the blogosphere, and so it proved yesterday when I travelled to Olfactoria, of Olfactoria's Travels.

We agreed to meet at 1.30pm at a tube station right by the cathedral in the city centre. I arrived ten minutes early, and dived into a branch of the perfumery Marionnaud to kill a few minutes in the welcome air conditioned interior (it was in the mid 30s C that day). Olfactoria (aka Birgit!) was not far behind me and texted to say she was in position at our agreed meeting point of the Graben exit. I recognised her instantly from her avatar. Even in the extreme heat, Olfactoria was every inch the poised, pale-skinned beauty she appears in her photo.

Throughout our sniffathon, I felt very welcome and “gut aufgehoben” in Olfactoria’s company – an expressive German phrase that loosely translates as “well looked after”. Oh by the way, we slipped into English from the off, only dipping into German occasionally in the various stores. This is because Olfactoria’s English knocks my German into a cocked hat, even though – as I learnt to my astonishment – she has never lived in an English-speaking country. Nor does she appear to have an English parent tucked away anywhere, though I did inquire. : - ) My German is “fit for purpose”, but that purpose is always in a resolutely business context. Why, I am at a bit of a loss when it comes to articulating my thoughts about perfumes in English, never mind in German!

First stop on our sniffing tour was Le Parfum, Vienna’s equivalent of Les Senteurs. It probably stocks more niche brands than its London counterpart, thinking about it. Olfactoria encouraged me to try the By Kilian oud range (Incense Oud, Rose Oud, Pure Oud), and I was pleasantly surprised by all three, not being a lover of the note as a rule. I caught up with the relatively new releases Parfumerie Générale Praliné de Santal and Tonkamande – the former reminded me of Womanity or that Thierry Mugler Miroir scent that has a popcorn note – Miroir des Envies, that’s it – while the latter smelt like furniture polish on the blotter. Olfactoria explained that Tonkamande is a lot better on skin, but I wasn’t prepared to spare any more at that point, having already wasted a spot on our popcorn friend. We agreed that Praliné de Santal was rather like SL Jeux de Peau, which I had tried with ScentScelf in Chicago and not liked either. Don’t get me wrong – I can happily scoff a 150g bag of Butterkist in one sitting as well as the next man, but I just don’t want to smell OF the stuff.

Now we did both spray PG Indochine on skin – or more exactly, my forearm was caught in crossfire when Olfactoria was applying it on her own - but I was perfectly fine with a spot of collateral sillage! It was a gourmand woody oriental on her, and disappeared rather quickly on me, sadly, but was interesting while it lasted – softly spicy and slightly foody.

Speaking of gourmands, Olfactoria introduced me to Lira, her favourite of the Casamorati 1888 range from Xerjoff (the ones in those ghastly plastic bottles). Lira was a rich, creamy gourmand – like Teo Cabanel Alahine but more so. It was rather too rich and sickly initially for my taste, but I liked its later stages.

We also dabbled in the Armani Privés (to wit, Ambre Orient), Mark Buxton (English Breakfast - or at least the orange juice starter), and the Huitième Art range, which I had systematically tested in Düsseldorf in April, and was happy to revisit. But, as the Germans would say, "das absolute Highlight" for me in Le Parfum has to be Nuda from Il Profumo, a “cold cream” skin scent – like a more refined version of Clinique Simply crossed with a de-floraled Dior New Look 1947, if that makes any sense at all to anyone.

Whilst looking in vain for a note listing, I have since read Marina’s review on PST, in which she likens this scent to “that special place on a small child's neck, right under the plump little chin- the sweetest place to smell and to kiss”, and I would totally agree with this. Apparently, though, Nuda is meant to evoke the scent of a woman in the throes of ecstasy, which is clearly complete tosh.

A short stroll from Le Parfum is Pure Day Spa, which stocks beauty products and scents as well as offering spa treatments. The four main brands stocked are Frédéric Malle, Floris, Lalique and Annick Goutal. I was pretty up to speed with FM, but had a sniff of French Lover on card and retested Le Parfum de Thérèse. French Lover was too butch for me and Le Parfum de Thérèse by no means as civetty as I remembered, but still not really my style. Olfactoria, however, seemed to be having a bit of an epiphany with it and would gladly have taken away a sample to test at leisure, but they only had Lipstick Rose left. I can well imagine why, haha...

The languidly beautiful sales assistant then suggested a few Annick Goutals for us to try, including Songes (the jasmine indole-fest I remembered) and Duel, which was new to me. Duel was a woody citrus number, featuring notes of “Green Maté absolute, Paraguay petitgrain, iris root, absinth, gaiac wood, leather and musk”. I thought I really liked it at the time, but later changed my mind - on balance, I felt it was just too masculine. We also had a sniff of original Lalique by Lalique on card, which was an unashamed white floral of some kind – quite pleasant, but not as intriguing as Flora Bella.

After Pure Day Spa, we decided a pitstop was in order, and repaired to a favourite ice cream parlour of Olfactoria’s. At this stage in proceedings it was time for the mutual tipping out of perfumes on the table, as you do, including gift samples for each other. I felt totally spoilt by Olfactoria's goody bag for me: there were countless decants and samples, including a whopping one of Guerlain Cologne du 68 and…drum roll…Elie Saab! For Olfactoria had just that morning taken receipt of a big bottle, and found time to siphon off a full 30 ml before she left the house to meet me. Well, I didn’t know where to put myself….

I recounted to Olfactoria the story of how, just two days previously, I had had another go at scoring an Elie Saab sample in yet another branch of Müller, this time in Switzerland. The sales assistant had denied stocking it, only for me to find it immediately, at the other end of the fixture. I called her over and she picked up the tester bottle with a squeal of surprise, before proceeding to spray it copiously all over her décolleté and general head area, for all the world as though it were a can of Ellnett hairspray. “Oh fein, fein!” ("Oh nice, nice!" or possibly "Oh classy, classy!" - it's rather a multi-purpose word) she exclaimed, now thoroughly impregnated with the stuff herself, though this didn’t advance my sample gathering cause one jot. And as it turned out, she didn’t have any samples. The Ingolstadt branches must have got the sample allocation for the entire Müller chain...

After a good deal of highly unsystematic rummaging and sampling, we set about the business of eating our ice creams before they melted. Just then, Olfactoria spotted a local celebrity sitting a couple of tables away, tucking into a sundae of some kind. She looked like an aging Brigitte Bardot, and Olfactoria drew my attention to her “extensive hair”. We speculated as to whether her equally “extensive lips” might have had “work” done…

Having refuelled and cooled down a bit, we headed on to Duft und Kultur, the final stop on our sniffing tour, which was in fact only a couple of doors down. This was an Aladdin’s cave of a store, selling a vast selection of ethnic clothing and arts and crafts alongside perfume, room fragrances, soaps etc. It stocked L’Artisan Parfumeur, Diptyque and Les Parfums de Nicolai, along with some - arguably less common - brands such as Eau d’Italie, Teo Cabanel, Comptoir Sud Pacifique and Miller & Bertaux. Olfactoria was keen for me to try Jardin du Poète, which I sprayed on my upper arm, though not upper enough as it turned out, for it got mixed up with the remnants of Lira. I sprayed Eau d'Italie by Eau d’Italie on the other arm around the same latitude, and thought I liked it better initially. I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but Olfactoria’s prediction that a weird note would emerge and spoil the composition of Eau d’Italie came true, and as I resniffed the spot later that day, I no longer cared for it, though I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me.

Before we knew it our three hours were up and it was time for Olfactoria to go back and relieve the babysitter. We walked to the tube station together and parted company at the top of the stairs to my line. Back in my hotel room, the whole afternoon might have felt like a dream were it not for the Ormonde Jayne box bursting with samples (not OJ samples, in case anyone is wondering), a huge bag of Gummibears courtesy of Olfactoria’s boys(!), and some parcels that I promised to mail for her from a less robdog country than Austria – which we believe will be pretty much anywhere I happen to be passing through...

Yes, I enjoyed myself so much that I went back today and visited everywhere again. : - ) Only very briefly, mind: to retry Nuda and Indochine in Le Parfum, AG Duel in Pure Day Spa, and most importantly to pick up a favourite pen that I had left behind in Duft und Kultur, where it turned out that I had left a bottle of apple juice as well. “We haven’t had a slug out of it, honest!” the proprietor assured me. On my way out, I had a quick spritz of CSP Vanille Abricot, remembering that Katie Puckrik selected it for one of her TV chat show appearances – I think as a general “yummy come hither” scent, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it is certainly yummy – I walked out of the store smelling like one of those dainty Viennese pastries you could find at any of the smart cafes in the city. A fitting way to end my happy travels to Olfactoria.

PS Mindful of confusion in a previous post over the meaning of "Jammy Dodgers", it might be helpful to mention that Viennese Whirls are also a variety of biscuit / cookie! An oblique reference to the waltz may also be inferred... : - )

All photos my own


Anonymous said...

Vanessa, your trip around Vienna with Birgit sounds like it was lots of fun. I am more than slightly jealous :)

Have you had a chance to try the Elie Saab yet? What do you think?

Vanessa said...

Hi thecandyperfumeboy,

Yes, I tried it a while back, and have been banging its drum ever since! Read your very comprehensive review and am glad to meet another fan... : - )

Anonymous said...

I just read your review, it's definitely good to find another person who enjoys Elie Saab.

I was thinking about perfume shopping trips whilst reading this post and although it's fun when I shop with my friends or partner, nothing beats shopping with a fellow perfumista. I remember the Basenotes day and how much fun that was!

Ines said...

Oh, you had such a wonderful time! Not that I have a single doubt anyone wouldn't with Birgit. :)
I do wish next time you're in the neighborhood, you're closer to Croatia. Although Zagreb doesn't have such a variety of perfume shops and those that are here are not stocked with recent releases (I think the recession is to be blamed for that).

Anonymous said...

Ageing B.B. - LOL, that must be Jeannine Schiller... (and that particular ice cream parlor is my favorite too...). Vienna is fab - isn't it ?
Looks like I should try the Elie Saab scent, finally...
lady jane grey

olenska said...

Sounds like a wonderful time had by two wonderful ladies. :)

If your work ever brought you to New Jersey, I fear your visit wouldn't be anywhere near as refined. However, with Snooki and her ilk in the vicinity, we can promise you "extensive hair".

Vanessa said...

Hi thecandyperfumeboy,

The Basenotes day was excellent, wasn't it? - and such good value for what was included. I remember you well from that event and funnily enough, got chatting to a couple in my hotel from your town!

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

I was so close on this trip, passing quite a few signs to Zagreb on my way to Velenje. Unfortunately I have a fairly punishing week ahead in the next three countries, with three times the number of appointments I had last week. So on balance I felt I needed to stay local today and get myself into gear.

Croatia is also top of my holiday destination list, as it happens, so between future work trips and a holiday, I very much hope to meet you next time!

Vanessa said...

Hi lady jane grey,

I "know" you well from B's blog, so thanks for hopping over to mine! As for the identity of the celebrity in question, my - sadly not remotely extensive - lips are sealed, but let's just say you are warm enough with that guess to have melted said celebrity's ice cream.... : - )

Tara said...

V, I SO wish I could have been there with you and Birgit at the glorious Le Parfum - not to mention the ice cream parlour - but your lovely post was the next best thing.

Great to hear that the benevolent (not to mention photogenic) B has supplied you with such a generous amount of Elie Saab, what a result!

BTW that was too funny about the SA choosing to help herself to the ES before bothering to help you! As for Nuda, I think it sounds really lovely, must try.

Vanessa said...

Hi olenska,

If I ever come to NJ (and it has been known, though not lately), I may hold you to your promise of extensive hair sightings. If necessary with adhesive and kirby grips!

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

It would have been lovely to see you, and perhaps we might hook up when I am down in London some time, whereupon - by my calculations - we would each have met the other two in this particular "fumehead triangle", though not all together! : - )

Meanwhile, we are tenuously connected in my "mail mule" capacity. Watch out for an exotic postmark - possibly even Slovenia, as I have been on a PO scouting trip this afternoon and found two!

"Benevolent" and "photogenic" are two excellent ways to sum up B.

She'll be even bonnier looking than normal if she reads this!

Anonymous said...

Not only bonny, but I am bright red by now! :) All those kind words about me...
I am so lucky to be a part of a community of such lovely people!
I loved reading this post, V, and I had laugh out loud at the fact that you went on the same little tour again on Saturday! :D
Lovely photos too!
And I did have a Therese epiphany, I have been wearing my decant from Suzanne the entire weekend, but (no surprise there) my husband hates it... :(

Thank you again for suggesting to be my mail mule, it is a great help indeed!
Big hug,
P.S. I'm in for the extensive hair watching in NJ with Olenska!

Tara said...

Please let me know next time you will be in London Vanessa, it would be lovly to meet you in person and complete the "fumehead triangle".

Thanks from me also for acting as a mail mule, much appreciated!

Anonymous said...


What a weird coincidence that you met people from my town?! I do remember you from the BN day too, it was great fun traipsing around London on our perfume pilgrimage. It's a mighty shame that they haven't organised another trip.

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

It took two visits to pluck up the courage to ask to take photos - two out of three didn't mind at all, while the Spa weren't sure if it was allowed, so I didn't push it. I also tried to find that olde worlde cafe I sent you photos of, but in vain. Though I did have a big piece of Sachertorte in a similar one in Graz yesterday afternoon!

Sorry to hear Mr Olfactoria is not a fan of Therese, but I can understand his reasons - it is quite retro in style, which is an acquired taste.

Slovenia or Italy look like the best bets for posting, subject to my making myself understood. Dinner in my hotel tonight was a bit of a pig in a poke, for example. Well, it turned out to be trout in fact, which was fine by me!

: - )

Yes, at the post office I may need to raise matters like customs forms, though hopefully I won't be grilled as to the contents, US Inquisition-style!

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

I certainly will, and meanwhile I hope B's package reaches you soon!

Vanessa said...

Hi thecandyperfumeboy,

Oh, have they stopped doing those meet ups then? I assumed I had just missed them with being less involved with BN these days since starting my own blog. I think I definitely missed one more event near Christmas, but that was the same year as we went (2009?).

angie Cox said...

I know Birgit is a lovely lady and I must say Vienna is looking fabulous. That was some day for you both .

Anonymous said...

Hi Vannessa,

I believe that they stopped after the last one at Christmas. I told my Grandmother about the day and she is desperate to come to one, but I think that may have something to do with the free champagne rather than the perfume!

Anonymous said...

Oopps, sorry for the extra 'n' in your name there!

Vanessa said...

Hi Angie,

I am still pinching myself, and I hope to make it back to Vienna some day to do it all again (and I have already sort of done it twice, but with Birgit, I mean!).

It was a remarkable day also because the heat was unreal... The high twenties today feels positively balmy. : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi thecandyperfumeboy,

Oh that is good that I only missed the one I thought I had.

And I like your Grandma's style - Mrs Bonkers Senior drinks one Babycham a year (on Christmas Day), and only with a lot of encouragement. You might say she should be discouraged from her tipple of choice, but better Babycham than a grapefruit juice, I say!

Olfacta said...

Oh, how I wish I lived in Europe!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfacta,

And we do! There certainly is an awful lot crammed into a relatively small space - I've been to five countries in 7 days, which is surprisingly easy to do.

Undina said...

Vanessa, I always enjoy your travel stories and this one is a double feature! And even your head cooperated this time!
I want some ice cream...

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks for saying so, and you are right - this is a double feature. : - )

Yes, my head held up remarkably well, despite the extreme heat. Maybe it sensed it owed me one, and behaved!

Suzanne said...

Such a great post, Vanessa. I can't imagine a more beautiful outing...a gorgeous city, an even more gorgeous hostess (I think Birgit could be a model!), and so many wonderful perfumes that you got to smell. You summed them up well, and you've got me dying to try Il Profumo Nuda, both from your description and for the reminder of Marina's wonderful review of it.

Also, glad to be reminded that I'm not the only person who doesn't care for SL Jeux de Peau. (Hate it!)

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

Ah yes, it was all of those things, and with her arresting good looks Birgit could indeed be the next Miss Austria. No, SL Jeux de Peau didn't do it for me, but then most Serges slightly miss the mark as far as I am concerned, with a few notable exceptions.

Meanwhile, B entrusted me with a package for you, which I sent from Slovenia on Monday. Am on tenterhooks until it arrives safely, as it felt like a very responsible mission!

Suzanne said...

Vanessa, I'll let both you and Birgit know when it arrives. It was wonderfully kind of you to do this, and please don't fret over its arrival: it's up to the postal service now, so just enjoy the good karma that I hope comes your way from your having done such a nice favor! :)

Anonymous said...

Oops, accidentally lost my comment. These perfumista meet-ups sound like so much fun! And it was very generous of B to satisfy your want of Elie Saab. No more sample hunting!

Vanessa said...

Hi anotherperfumeblog,

You are the reason I now love La Tulipe! : - )

Yes, it was generous of B to give me such a big decant of Elie Saab - that lemming is well and truly taken care of now!

lovethescents said...

What a wonderful adventure! I cannot wait to try Indochine! I'm also envious you tried so many of the Eau d'Italies. They generally don't work for me but I always want to try them.

Too bad you didn't care for the other two PGs. Love them both. They're cozy and long lasting,. No hairspray.

So what about Nuda? I adore it. No indoles on me at all, thankfully.

And hey, if you need any CSP Vanille Abricot, I can hook you up, sistah!

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I look forward to your verdict on Indochine. It was awfully fleeting on me, sadly. I did like Jardin du Poete quite a lot in fact, and went off Eau d'Italie as I mentioned!

I think I should have tried Tonkamande on skin - I did try the praline one and it wasn't my cup of tea.

Nuda was fab! The Nuda I was telling you about was the Nasomatto one - I got muddled up - no
indoles for me either in the one featured above!

Thanks for the CSP offer btw. : - )

Carol said...

the way you write makes me feel I was along with you for the adventure! Thank you Bonks!!!

Vanessa said...

Hi Bloody Frida!

Some day we must go sniffing together in a bigger metropolis than BloodyFridaville, though I wouldn't have missed my visit for the world. Not when you bump into the same guy called Steve every time you cross the road... : - )

Anonymous said...

Hello Vanessa,

your day in Vienna must have been wonderful and when I close my eyes I can follow you in my mind! A off-topic-question: is it a reason to be insulted that you call Austria a "robdog" country ?;))) For sure I will be now a follower of your blog. If it happens that you come in the neighbourhood of the "lower lands" (=NL) please give me a shout! Best wishes, Simone

Vanessa said...

Hi Simone,

I am glad you enjoyed the account and that you could visualise coming along with us. In this context, 'robdog' is a joky slang word for 'very expensive', so I hope Austria wouldn't feel insulted by that term. It was more of a teasing comment than anything.

I do sometimes come to the Netherlands - for work and occasionally pleasure - so I will indeed let you know if I am in the vicinity.

Did you come across this post of mine specifically about Holland? That was also meant in good part. ;-)