Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Bonkers "On Tour" In Germany: The Perfume Bit Proper - Part 1: Mußler Beauty, Stuttgart

Back in January I received a request from a fellow blogger for tips on perfumeries in several countries which I routinely visit for work. I was able to help out up to a point, but explained that Germany itself was more regional in nature and that I lacked a complete overview.

"Frankfurt, Cologne(!), Stuttgart, Leipzig, Kassel, Dortmund and Bonn are uncharted territory for me as far as perfume goes..."

Fast forward three months and where should I find myself but in Stuttgart, with a free day and no clue what high end sniffing options the city might harbour! The thought flitted through my mind to contact the blogger and inquire whether they had visited the city in the interim and could advise me on where to go. : - )

But email exchanges take time, so in the end I decided to walk a bit and follow my nose. I figured I could start with a decent department store and take it from there. I had a back up plan of making inquiries at the tourist office or in upmarket dress shops, but none of that was necessary. For after a cursory scope of Galeria Kaufhof - where I sampled Casmir by Chopard on skin and concluded that its amber-y vanilla warmth might bother me in a bit - I hadn't wandered more than a few yards when I struck gold in the form of Mußler Beauty, at Hirschstrasse 22.

That is something to watch out for in Europe in fact - shops that from the outside may just look like a beauty salon or a cosmetics store often carry a fine selection of perfume brands as well. And so it proved with Mußler Beauty, one of a franchise comprising five outlets: three Perfumery & Beauty Lounges (of which the branch I visited was one), and two stand-alone perfumeries, all within the greater Stuttgart area. Two more branches are scheduled to open later this year.

Inside, I more or less tuned out to the cosmetics and body care side of things - notwithstanding my newfound love of luxury lippies! - so overawed was I by the incredible range of niche scents, including several brands I knew but had never come across in store, plus a few complete unknowns.

Here's the list of niche brands I jotted down, which may not be comprehensive: Farmacia SS Annunziata, Carner Barcelona, Tann Rokka, Tocca, Atelier Cologne, Korres, Memo, Bond No 9, Organic Glam (Citron & Oud), Bois 1920, Heely, Vero Profumo (extrait and EDP!), Serge Lutens, Etro, Ineke, Creed, Les Parfums de Rosine, Linari, Il Profumo and a better than average selection of Mugler.

So given this cornucopia of scents, what did I actually sniff? Well, I reacquainted myself with Il Profumo Nuda, which Birgit and I sniffed in Vienna, for the first time in my case. The 50ml bottle was going for half price at 47 euros, and I nearly texted Birgit to see if she fancied going halves, before realising that I didn't have her mobile number in my new phone. Are you by any chance getting the impression that this was a day of "nearly" doing things? : - )

Here is Birgit's review of Nuda, with which I agree completely - it is not the fruity musky number it might appear from the note list, but a delicate, silky, cosseting wisp of a thing.

I also tried Vaniglia de Madagascar from Farmazia SS Annunziata, and it was a very fine quality vanilla, but nothing groundbreaking - in similar vein to Sublime Vanille from Creed, maybe, ie not as "hardcore poddy" as Mona di Orio Vanille or that CB I hate Perfume one the Candy Perfume Boy kindly sent me recently - 7 Billion Hearts - yes, that's the one.

And then I sampled Atelier's Vanille Insensée, which was exactly as I imagined from the reviews, and not really my thing. Too rich and too butch basically. Stylistically, I would describe it as the vanilla equivalent of PG Cozé.

The only other scents I tested on skin were Vero Profumo's Rubj and Onda, in extrait this time. The Rubj wasn't vastly different from the EDP I will have tried with Tara in January in Harrod's - a bit more heady and intense maybe - but the Onda was an altogether different proposition. As in beast, even. Seriously animalic and oily and generally terrifying is about the size of it. It was only dabbed on one knuckle, but like Green Lantern's Power Ring it packed a radiant punch that left me feeling a bit sick for the rest of the day, and worried that I might repel potential punters at the merch table that night. So between the Casimir, whose sickly hum was gathering momentum at this point, and the "tidal wave" of civet in Onda, I wasn't feeling particularly inclined to test any more scents, and instead got chatting to an older sales lady in the store (or possibly the proprietor - I didn't find out her name).

This SA spritzed a couple of the Memos optimistically in my direction - her two personal favourites of Moon Safari and Sundance - but my tolerance was seriously impaired by now, and I was beginning to visibly recoil at the sight of a tester bottle. So I countered by taking some photographs of the interior, which the lady gave me permission to do. I had explained about being a blogger, and how I travel a lot and feature foreign perfumeries on my blog. To which she replied: "I understand exactly where you are coming from. You like to keep abreast of the newest things, to try them and write about them. It's all publicity for us at the end of the day, isn't it?"

And somehow we also got onto the subject of perfumes going off, and the SA said how to her mind scents on the turn smelt of the herb "Liebstöckel", which I now know to be lovage, though I am not sure if I have ever sniffed it.

Sadly, not all the SA's colleagues shared her enlightened view of bloggers, and a little while later she came up to me again and said that the others didn't like me taking photos and that she was sorry, but that that was enough now. And this despite the fact that there was only one other customer in the store at the time, who was browsing in the beauty section before moving towards the till, and never came near me. Which also tells me that this lady was probably not the proprietor after all, to have had to tell me to desist in such unequivocal terms. I felt I had outstayed my welcome and didn't therefore ask for a sample of anything to take away (which she had previously offered). Nor did I buy the bargain bottle of Nuda on an impulse in case Birgit had fancied a split after all...Sorry, B!

So I scurried out and headed back towards the main shopping area, though not without first taking a photo of the exterior, over which they had no jurisdiction. In the next hour I ambled in and out of a couple of branches of Douglas, the department store Müller and I think also Globus, but the Onda in particular had well and truly done my nose in for the day, and I just wanted to get back to my hotel and scrub it off. Yes, sadly I could not summon up any more lovage for my favourite hobby, or not for the rest of that afternoon, anyway...

Instead I stopped by Zara, where I bought a fine pair of black jeans, which I am happy to say smelt of nothing at all.

Photo of Zara jeans from (because mine are in the wash), other photos my own


Anonymous said...

Fun adventures! Sorry to hear that Onda extrait put you off sniffing for the rest of the day. Weirdly, I love the stuff. It is very odd, and I wear it just for me, as no one around me has ever liked it. Ah, well.

Everything has scent to me, even new jeans. It's like there is a smell of the dyes and the fabric treatments that cling that say "new clothes" to me.

I look forward to hearing more of your travel and perfume notes. Love your blog. Best wishes.

Vanessa said...

Hi HemlockSillage,

Lovely to hear from you! I have long admired your splendid screen name, and am chuffed to learn you are a reader of Bonkers too. : - )

And with such a robust name as HemlockSillage, why am I not surprised that Onda is water off a duck's back to you - or mother's milk - or is that gin?

Anyway, I know Onda has its fans, and I didn't mind it in the EDP version, on card certainly. I thought it rather elegant in fact, and have no recollection of the animalic aspect that was so prominent in the extrait.

And you are absolutely right to point out that new jeans have a scent of their own: I may have deployed a little poetic licence in my ending... : - ) Though relative to the radiant civetfest emanating from my knuckle, you could say the jeans were as good as odour-free!

Undina said...

Vanessa, I know exactly how you felt about Onda! After trying it twice I gave away my samples: I do not think I'll ever want to try it on my skin again.

I'm collecting links to the perfume shopping articles from all the blogs I read so this one is noted, waiting for others.

BTW, you should probably add a tag "shopping" (or the one you used here "European perfumeries") to your other posts about your trips.

Cymbaline said...

Oh, I just loved this story!

When I walked into Space NK, during my recent trip to London, I felt the same way. It looked like a beauty supply store up-front and then there were all these wonderful perfume lines to play with in the back of the store : )

I was hoping you'd spent more time with the Memo line. I really wanted to try these at Harvey Nichols, but didn't have time so I just ordered a few samples yesterday. It's too bad Onda got in the way! I love Onda, but don't have the nerve to wear it in public so I take it on camping trips instead. Maybe it works as mosquito (or bear) repellant!

Olfactoria's Travels said...

Wow, Stuttgart sounds amazing! Who knew there would be such fragrant treasures in this city?
I love how a city immediately gains attractiveness for me, when I hear about its fragrant secrets. Thank you for unveiling them!
My roommate wore Chopard Casmir for years, and then switched to Allure, no wonder I initially only craved the meek and soft. ;)
So sorry that Onda and you didn't get on. I love it, but not because I find it beautiful as such, but it is so protective, I only wear a dab and it steels my spine like nothing else can.
No worries about the Nuda. :)
But you should definitely put my number in your phone again, we need to be able to connect, when I'm in London!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Good to meet another Onda-shy person. - )

And thanks for the tip about adding back tags to my previous posts. That is rather a good idea - I don't think I have been consistent in doing so up to now, if at all!

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Yes, Space NK is a very good analogy - you did cover a lot of ground in your sniffathon with Michael!

Regarding Memo, I did studiously work my way through the whole line on my visit to Berlin in April last year, and have just dug out that post to see what I thought of them. Sadly it seems the okay or good ones were a bit of a blur - even shortly after the event - and I only list the ones I definitely didn't care for, plus a few whose names appealed for their own sake!

'I thought the Memo scents were rather fun because their names were situation-specific ("I Miss Miami", "Ibiza Buzz", "Paris Passion" - and my personal favourite, "Kinky Kyoto"), and the main notes were helpfully listed on the bottle. I couldn't tell you which ones I liked best now, though I do remember a few scrubbers: "Mad about Gstaad" (too piney?), "Back to Dubai Amber Ambush" (self-explanatory!), and the tuberose bombshell "Sexy St Tropez"'.

I would be interested to know which ones you would recommend - preferably not in approximate Onda territory... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Your number is most certainly going back in my phone! I clearly haven't got the hang of this synchronising lark...

Stuttgart is surprisingly blessed with perfumeries, I agree! For the chain to have so many branches in that area is impressive I think, though Stuttgart is quite sprawling I suppose.

Onda as armour I do understand. And knowing your magic skin, it probably smells nicer on you anyway, with no fear of it repelling punters - or bears!

: - )

Tara said...

I'm really wishing I had B's magic skin! There's not much that she can't wear. I fear Onda is a little much for me too but I do admire it and would love to have a perfume to wear as armour.

Enjoyed reading the list of brands available as usual. Doesn't make sense really as I will never visit but there's something fascinating about reading what is on offer elsewhere.

I was very taken with B's review of Nuda. I think that would be more wearable for me than it's Nasamotto jasmine namesake (as well done as it is).

Very interested in your take on Vanille Insensee. I didn't realise it was so macho - as Sinita would say :) It appealed to me as a summery vanilla and I remember B got so many compliments on it. A vanilla version of Coze is not me either, though.

Cymbaline said...


I'm wondering if there are 2 Memo perfume lines? None of the names you listed are on their website (mymemo dot com). I ordered Shams, Manoa and Sundance. It looks as though there are about 9 perfumes in all. Some of the other names are Siwa, Granda, Moon Fever, Lalibela.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I know, B is so lucky to make everything work on her skin. Or more things than the rest of us, certainly!

You and I smelt that Nuda together in Harvey Nicks as I recall, though we had both shot our sniffing bolts by that stage, and I remember thinking it was a bit on the diva-ish side for me. Yes, this other Nuda is a different proposition, but in my haste to get out of the shop, I didn't move on what was an undoubted bargain!

LOL re "so macho"! It was a fairly fleeting impression of the Vanille Insensee, so please don't take it as gospel, which you wouldn't anyway, I'm sure. Also, I didn't follow it through on skin to the drydown (because I forgot where I had put it, basically), and was majorly distracted by the raging Onda issue at the time.

: - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I think I have solved the mystery - some of the wackier named scents from Memo are part of their "scented spray" collection, ie are in fact room sprays. But the bottles are very reminiscent of perfume bottles - like the orginal style of bottle in Roja Dove's range, in fact - and they were all cheek by jowl in Berlin, so I just worked my way through the lot! Tbh, I didn't notice they weren't proper perfumes at the time, and maybe they could be worn? : - ) With such great names, seems a shame not to!

Anonymous said...

Blush! Thanks for your encouraging reply. I lurked on the perfume blogs for years before ever posting, and debated long and hard before choosing my moniker. . .so thanks! My other more obnoxious choice was Skankincense, which is revealing in its own way.

Your blog is such fun. You have a great mix of travelogue, photos, 'fume reviews, and slices of your life. I love to learn, and had to look up "chuffed." :D Your travels amaze me. I read about your perfume shopping as you travel for work and think, I'm in the wrong industry. Travel is my passion, and I have so little time to indulge it. Perfume pilgrimages in cities give me a mission apart from cultural/historical things to explore.

Though you have very different taste in perfume, I look forward to your reviews. You have a unique voice. I loved your post on the London Sniffa. Leather has been a recent note for me to explore. Ok, I've rambled enough, but know you have a reader many time zones away, who sends warm wishes for further fragrant exploration. Be well.

Vanessa said...

Hi HemlockSillage,

"Skankincense" is a great name, albeit one that is a tad concerning to my delicate sensibilities! Though I could easily see it featuring some time in a Bonkers post title... ; - )

And now it is my turn to blush, and be chuffed all over again, following this second kind comment. I am keenly aware that my blog isn't overtly interactive in its format, so I am all the more pleased when readers take the time to comment without the benefit of an obvious invitation in the form of a question or a poll, say.

Most months, as I reflect on my write ups of wanderings in foreign countries - or the previously foreign countries that are high end make up counters - I will hold a conversation in my head along the lines of: "Is this stuff interesting to anyone else but me?" and carrying on writing it anyway... : - )

It is indeed a privilege to have a job with built-in travel, though with the advent of Skype and Face Time I fear its days may be numbered.

Well, thanks for your warm wishes from many time zones away. My curiosity may lead me to try to pinpoint that a little more closely...for as you may know, some of my "fragrant exploration" has been quite far flung!

Dionne said...

Oooh, Germany! (And in my case, ooooh, England!) Just when I think I'm starting to get the hang of this perfume-thing, I read a list of niche brands like you provided and shake my head at how many I still don't recognize.

SA's are all over the map, aren't they? I've had some be incredibly helpful and others beyond rude, which is something I've never encountered in any other service industry. I wonder why that is.

Vanessa said...

Hi Dionne,

Well, it definitely works both ways : - ) I read some US blogs and marvel at how many of the brand names I have never heard of, NST being a case in point. Not all niche brands, necessarily, but unknowns to me by the dozen!

And I reckon you are right about the perfume SAs..."When they are rude, they are very very rude". Something to do with the air of exclusivity they may feel is conferred upon them by the upmarket ambience of the store? Not that this lady was like that or anything - she just bowed to the consensus of other SAs, which was uncomprehending of how I might actually be useful to them.

Suzanne said...


Even though Onda and Casmir did you in, and even though you eventually had to stop taking photos, it seems you stumbled on a very exciting store. And it's nice that the first SA was so sweet and encouraging, as you did get some good photos.

I love Onda in extrait and would thrill to wear it anywhere if I owned a bottle (something I should remedy). But I can certainly understand how it did you in, as it's not an easy scent and quite frankly, I was surprised to hear you liked the edp version, knowing your tastes. :-) You're getting braver, methinks. At any rate, thanks for letting me know where to go shopping should I ever find myself in Stuttgart. (And I wouldn't mind finding myself there someday!) :-)

Cymbaline said...

I'm feeling a little silly about not doing my homework by investigating the Memo website more thoroughly : ( Being that the SO is not fragrance friendly, I'm not in the habit of looking at the room sprays and candles on offer. Thank you for getting back to me about all this and I'll let you know what I think of the samples I've ordered - if you're interested : )

London was fantastic and yes, Tanya, Michael and I did cover a lot of perfume-ground! We covered a lot of shops even without Michael. Have you ever checked out the Angela Flanders line of perfumes? They're quite good - I bought "Parchment" - and are located in the Brick Lane area in east london.

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

You are right - it was a great store, and I did get some cracking photos, including a few others I haven't room to post.

I am becoming braver, it's true - I recently tested Opus VI and after getting over the initial herbal hump it wasn't nearly as scary as I had feared. While where Onda is concerned, the EDP - on card, and held at a little distance - seems to be about my level for the moment!

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

Oh yes, I would be interested to hear what you think of your samples in due course. I definitely smelt every one of the proper perfumes and the perfume-look-alikey room sprays when I was in Berlin, but sadly it is only the bad 'uns that lodged in my mind.

I shall also go back in and edit my Berlin post to clarify this distinction between the two product ranges.

I have not tried Angela Flanders' range actually, with one exception, which I think was rather herbal and lemony, and may have been Melissa? I wouldn't mind exploring that area of London sometime so will look out for the store when I do!

Sun Fontaine said...

I'm super late to this party but I've just discovered your blog (I'm still new to the perfume world) and though I haven't yet the opportunity to smell a lot of things - it looks like we may have some similar tastes/opinions on some of the scents I have tried. Oolong Infini is by far my favorite of the Atelier scents that I've tried - and I was so looking forward to Vanille Insensee (after finding that I *love* Eau Duelle EdT), but found that I didn't care for it. The woodiness in the dry down somehow evoked bug spray for me... Also, your love for Volutes has inspired me to try a sample. I'm curious - do you prefer the Eau Duelle EdT or EdP? I'm tempted to get a sample of the EdP as well.

I've also been curious about Eau Claire des Merveilles after reading a brief description of it somewhere. I requested a sample from Hermes and unfortunately they sent me Eau des Merveilles and L'ambre des Merveilles, both of which I dislike fairly considerably. This discouraged me from trying Claire. You seem to have a higher opinion of Claire, so perhaps I'll still look out for a sample!

I also giggled at your impression of La Fille de Berlin (sorry I'm commenting on several posts all at once) - I too found it a bit strong initially but the dry down was lovely.

Anyhow - I've been enjoying your posts and look forward to reading more ! Thanks!

Vanessa said...

Hi Sun Mi Fontaine,

Am happy you are enjoying my blog, and thanks for taking the time to comment - will answer each point in turn...

Ref the Eau Duelle query, I haven't tried the edp, but here is reader Anka's view on the two versions:

"I love the edt as much as the edp, it's so interesting, they smell really quite different! The edt is more airy and transparent, the edp is luscious and opulent. I get way more olibanum from the edt and more spices. The black tea note, which I find very tempting in the edt, is in the far, far background of the edp. Victoria from BdJ once pointed out the Guerlain reference of Eau Duelle and I guess, she meant the edp by that - the edt to me has an Atelier Cologne reference (or vice versa, the AC came out later...), it reminds me a bit of Vanille Insensée minus the limette-cedrat note, plus the spices.

To me the edt is ideal for spring, summer and early autumn, whilst the edp is great for autumn and winter. "

Vanessa said...

Hi again,

I think you might be fine with Eau Claire de Merveilles as it is very light and brighter than the others. That said, it is now ages since I tried it so I can't remember it very clearly. And meanwhile I have actually fallen belatedly for Eau de Merveilles(!), though not the Ambre one so much. I think my hormones have changed to enable me to appreciate the Eau de Merveilles as I now am able to do, because it was all wrong on me before. :)

Re Volutes, I have a clear preference for the EdT, if you are wondering which to sample first.

Vanessa said...

And yes, we seem to be of one mind on Fille de Berlin. :)

Sun Fontaine said...

Ah - thanks so much for Anka's take. I've been reading BdJ TONS and was interested to try the EDPs for several of the Diptyques as it seems that Victoria general prefers them - but its great to see how different the EdT and EdPs can present! Perhaps I'll pass on the Claire and give Eau another shot in a month or so (but probably not L'Ambre - haha - it was a revolting scrubber for me). In the meantime I'll definitely pick up the Duelle EdP and the Volutes EdT... and probably the EdP too just to keep developing my nose. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Sun,

BDJ is a great resource - one of the cornerstones of my own blog reading habit when I first got into perfume.

I can't promise you'll like Eau de Merveilles second time round, but I certainly did a 180 on it - or my skin did, as I say. Volutes EDP is also nice, but has less of the dry, tobacco-ish feel that I like in the EDT. It is sweeter too.

Happy exploring!