Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Trio Of Bonkers Trips: No 1 (Germany & Switzerland) - Parfümerie Bauer, Rüdesheim

Apart from the duty free fragrance section at Birmingham airport on my outward journey, I didn’t expect to have any other sniffing opportunities on this trip - my itinerary mostly took me to rural areas, where you would struggle to find a McDonald’s (my go-to tea, toilet and wifi pitstop), never mind a quality department store or an independent niche perfumery. What I could count on though were Christmas markets – or Weihnachtsmärkte as they are known here. I encountered no fewer than three in fact: in Rüdesheim, Heidelberg and Rottenburg am Neckar. I wouldn’t say I am “marketed out” now, but let’s just say that if I see another pair of olive wood salad servers, felt wrist warmers, chunky candles in every shade of lurid, guardian angels fashioned out of wire and wisps of fluff, and stalls selling Glühwein and currywurst, I will scream.

Imagine my delight then to discover – tucked away behind the serried ranks of wooden huts lining the Rhine promenade in Rüdesheim – a perfumery called Parfümerie Bauer carrying an eclectic selection of niche and designer scents.

When I say eclectic, I mean things like the Les Notes Gourmandes range from Reminiscence, which I have only ever come across in Budapest. There it was, in all its pastel finery, next to the more usual suspects like Creed and Serge Lutens.

But what caught my eye immediately on entering the store was the enormous collection of miniatures, and I mean enormous. I have never seen so many gathered together in one place, and it took me a full forty minutes to get the measure of the selection, and to realise it is high time I got myself some reading glasses, for the labelling on some of these bottles was minuscule.

And at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I might also point out that the proprietor, Herr Bauer, complimented me on my competent handling of the glass fronts to the display cabinets, saying that I slid them back and forth "like a pro", and would be welcome to work there. : - )

Herr Bauer also asked me if I was by any chance related to the German perfume company called Mouson. I said I didn’t think so, and on seeing a poster for this brand at the back of the shop I realised that Mouson was spelled differently, though my name is pronounced just like that in German, with a round “u”, so I could see why Herr Bauer should think to inquire. I have since found a listing of the company's scent launches, starting around the turn of the last century.

Herr Bauer pointed out another curio in the shop, namely part of a collection of scent bottles belonging to Hugh Parsons, a British perfume house known better overseas than in its home markets – the fragrance equivalent of Beefeater Gin, if you will, which is another well known export brand.

A lone bottle of Amouage in a glass case on a plinth was another talking point, and I learnt that Parfümerie Bauer has some very exclusive customers in the Middle East and Africa, amongst them royalty and other dignatories. Herr Bauer drew my attention to a group photo in which he is posing – in some form of ceremonial dress - alongside his distinguished clientèle.

Things were getting more surprising by the minute! I also learnt that Parfümerie Bauer is one of only eight stockists in Germany of Lancôme Climat. By my reckoning that equates to one for approximately every 10 million inhabitants. Now is that a reasonable ratio, do you think? I have not tried Climat (I didn’t spot a tester), but it certainly sounds on the light side to me...

Oh, and I also did that picking up and fondling routine with a bottle of Après L’Ondée, but at 99 euros for 100ml (the only bottle size, sadly), that is more than I wanted to spend, and more perfume than I could ever use.

Finally, after much peering, I ended up buying minis of Private Collection parfum(!), Knowing parfum(!) and vintage YSL Paris EDT (I wanted to give those violent violets another crack of the whip, as it were). In return, Herr Bauer showered me with an assortment of unexpected gifts with purchase: a box of chocolates, a pen shaped like a lipstick bearing the name of the shop, a mini of Dior J’Adore, and a clutch of other designer samples.

So that was another example of "scent-related serendipity" on my travels... Oh, and on my way back through the market stalls, I succumbed (to the cold as much as the sales pressure!) and bought some wrist warmers too...

Photo of Lancôme Climat from, all other photos my own.


angie Cox said...

That shop looks fabulous .

Anonymous said...

MINIS! I love them. I'm impressed by your restraint, and the proprietor sounds adorable.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love Minis! They are ideal for people like us! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Angie,

It was an Aladdin's cave for sure!

Vanessa said...

Hi anotherperfumeblog,

Yes, I think I was restrained, though this was partly due to being overwhelmed by the sheer choice available, and not being able to identify so many of them!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

I do wish more niche perfumes were available as minis. Perfect for portion control, and they just look so cute!

Tara said...

Vanessa, I have quite a romantic idea of German Christmas markets but maybe the real thing is a little different. I'm intrigued by the wrist warmers though!

How nice to find such an eclectic perfume shop instead of all the usual suspects. Glad you picked up a few of those minis and in parfum strength too!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I realise I may have downplayed the charm of the German Christmas markets, and in fairness I was as excited as a kid in a sweet shop - or a perfumista in Selfridge's, say - in the first market I visited. You notice a certain identikit nature to the stalls the more markets you visit, that's the only thing. My wrist warmers - or Stulpen, as they are called there - are spectacular looking, in fact. I may have to put a photo up on Facebook!

And yes, I was lucky getting those parfum minis.

JoanElaine said...

Oh, I am just drooling over those minis! I adore them.

The Private Collection and Knowing parfum are fabulous. Enjoy!
I scored an Estee Lauder mini parfum collection last Winter. I had fun comparing and contrasting the eau and parfum.

Vanessa said...

Hi Joan Elaine,

I am glad I picked those minis in the end, though it was option anxiety as you can imagine! I keep wondering what gems I missed because they had no labels or simply didn't catch my eye in the melee... : - )

lovethescents said...

How exciting! Your travels take you to the most interesting and hidden of perfume shops.

I can't believe you didn't leave with bagfulls of minis. Were they mostly designers?

Undina said...

I always thought that those bottles of Climat EdTs were fake - but maybe I was wrong and they were produced for some specific market.

In general, I like mini bottles only if they contain parfum or have a spray mechanism. I see no use for 5 ml of EdT (and for most perfumes EdPs as well) with a stopper. But your haul sounds interesting (and I just love GWPs! :) ).

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I think most of the minis were designer, yes, but that said, I think quite a few were vintage versions of the scent in question. And all ways round I bet there were more treasures tucked away that I didn't get to!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

There may be fake Climat about somewhere, but this stuff must be genuine if Bauer is one of only a few stockists in Germany.

I know what you mean about minis and stoppers not being ideal for application. But I think they fulfil a role if you want something a bit bigger than a sample, and what they lack in spray mechanism they often make up for in cuteness! : - )