Semi-comatose airport sniffing
Following the crushing disappointment of the fried bread impersonating French toast incident, I decided to self-soothe in the perfume section of the Duty Free, as you do. Mind you, at this plateau stage in my perfume j****ney and at that ungodly hour of the morning, I was a little zombified and milled around aimlessly, completely blanking the latest Marc Jacobs or Issey Miyake flanker - assuming I have even correctly remembered that it was those brands that had one. There was a flanker in a jagged bashed concertina-type bottle - you would think I would remember whose that was - but no, nothing penetrated the mental fog of a semi-saturated sniffer who had been up since before she went to bed, or so it felt.
The Eau de Narcisse Bleu, meanwhile, opened with a fresh and bracing whoosh of galbanum, but the musky woodsy drydown came a tad too quickly and the green aspect was rendered indistinct - I don't normally complain about perfumes being 'fuzzy' in character, but I wanted the narcissus note to hang around a bit longer.
Channelling Geza Schoen!
So....as noted in Part 1 of 'The travel bit', the first gig was at Monarch, a chic but smoky club in edgy Kreuzberg. I wore Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if as my SOTE, just because I reach for it more or less on auto-pilot when I am going out. Imagine my surprise when Anka, a Berlin-based reader, wrote this comment on my post:
|Monarch (upstairs) - in Geza's 'hood!!|
Whoo! I had unwittingly picked a Geza creation to wear that night, with no clue about the venue's connection to one of my favourite noses...;)
And Anka went on to tell us more about the event she attended, also confirming Monarch's offbeat charm and gloomy ambience:
"Yes, Monarch is a funny, dusky place! This particular evening with Geza Schoen was, as an exception, a non-smoking event and we all had a great laugh when the perfumer reported later on that he himself occasionally enjoys a smoke....And I learnt that his most detested smells are coriander, oysters and truffles."
Wow, if I had known that Geza Schoen - to whom I feel a particular bond because he once scented my home city of Belfast (full report on that novel project here) - was a Kreuzberg resident, I would have spent longer hanging out in the falafel parlours on Skalitzer Strasse. I did have a couscous in a tagine restaurant on Lausitzer Platz, and a mushroom pancake in a cafe on Oranienstrasse, but there was no sign of his distinctive rangy form in either eaterie.
The Méharées handover, and the focus group in a kebab shop
That first night in Berlin also saw the handover by Jane (who FYI rocked Gorilla Perfumes' heady floral, Sikkim Girls, all week) of the bottle of L'Erbolario Méharées, which they had kindly bought for me in Bologna the previous weekend. Thus it was that when I adjourned with the band to the kebab shop near their digs, I still had the bottle of perfume in my hand, and it was ceremoniously plonked on the table, next to the condiments - before I had the idea to ask them what they made of it, and passed the bottle around, inviting them to sniff the nozzle.
Guitarist: 'It's quite sweet.'
Bass player: 'It's nice - is there really just myrrh and dates in there?'
Singer (in a slightly incredulous tone): 'Whoever thought to put myrrh in a perfume?!'
Later in the week, the bass player suggested that I - or someone - should invent a perfume and call it 'Incorrigible', adding brightly: 'That's a good unisex name - you'll be onto a winner!' Givenchy take note.....
L'Occitane Eau des Baux and the fragrant Friedrich Sunlight singer
In Augsburg, at the 'secret gig', I got chatting in between sets to the singer from the support band Friedrich Sunlight, whose name was Kenji. I think I opened the conversation by boldly remarking on the fact that he smelt rather lovely, and he revealed that he was wearing L'Occitane Eau des Baux - a masculine scent that was completely off my radar - and kindly let me lean in and sniff him more comprehensively. Reader, for all vanilla fans especially, this one is utterly swoonworthy and easily wearable by a woman. I urge you to watch Katie Puckrik's video review of Eau des Baux here. It is a woody, incensey, softly spicy, warm and vanillic fragrance that I see the (mostly) men on Basenotes have also given a resounding thumbs up. Along with cardamom (which always reels me in), there is meant to be a cypress note in there which I barely detect, and on my skin the vanilla drydown is the most striking part of the scent's development. I imagine Eau des Baux might read as too sweet for some men, but I couldn't get enough of it.
|Les Baux-de-Provence ~ Source: ignis via Wikimedia Commons|
Oh, and in the course of my research about Eau des Baux, I discovered this review by a blogger who was new to me, and whose blog rejoices in the name 'Villainous Smells and other Olfactory Decadence'.
As it happens, I have actually been to the village of that name - Les Baux-de-Provence - and clapped eyes on the ruined hilltop castle which inspired the fragrance, but it was..er...35 years ago when I lived on the Riviera, and the memory is sadly dimmed with time. Kenji's signature scent continued to haunt me for the rest of the trip, and at the airport on the way back I made myself a tiny sample to take home. Should have just bought the bottle and been done with it, but there you go! For even though I picked my daily perfume throughout the tour with studied care, it is Kenji's sillage of Eau des Baux which is the standout scent highlight of the week.
Visiting Parfümerie Naegele, Augsburg, with nary a sniff
The Friedrich Sunlight guitarist - who I later learnt was called Florian, though I had been calling him Brian throughout my visit - gave some of us a lift back from the 'secret gig', and on the way I asked if he could suggest a high end perfumery in town. He was unsure himself, but promised to put out feelers. And how! The inter-band bush telegraph must have been positively humming, because by lunchtime on the following day the keyboard and bass players in Friedrich Sunlight had received messages from Florian and taken up the challenge of finding me a Parfümerie commensurate with my exacting standards. But it was Kenji who finally came up with the name Naegele, and by mid-afternoon I had struck out on my own to the humorously named Fuggerplatz area to suss out the selection of niche fragrances this exclusive perfumery carried.
Well, quite a few, as it transpired, including a whole wall of By Kilians and the bespoke line of Keiko Mecheri - which I don't believe I have seen anywhere, but at 282 euros a pop I couldn't bring myself to try any of them. Unfortunately, I was listless and tuned out to scent again, and ended up just taking a few photos, inquiring after a particular Bobbi Brown eyeshadow (predictably discontinued), and heading across to a cookware store to buy a comedy chicken for my friend's husband's birthday. He is called Chick, for one, plus I was sure I could pass it off as a poultry-shaped executive stress ball on account of its satisfyingly squidgy bottom.
But going back to my temporary indifference to perfume, I had a similar experience in Berlin in 2012, when I drifted round KaDeWe, only actually smelling the April Aromatics line in the end. I thought then - and think now - that because of the whole premise of the tour I was suffering from sensory overload already of the auditory kind, and I just didn't have the headspace (no pun intended) to focus on the olfactory as well.
|Mr Chick's birthday present ~ Source: Clare Chick|
Berlin - epic fumehead trail fail - times two!
I fully intended to make up for this lacklustre attitude on my return to Berlin. I had the whole of Sunday and half of Monday on my own after the others had gone back, which should have been ideal for a complete re-immersion in Berlin's high end perfume scene. But I had forgotten that on Sunday all the shops are closed(!), while by Monday I was so tired I used the morning to catch up on some much needed kip (as per the sign at the bottom of this post). So instead, on the Sunday I mooched around the trendy quarter of Prenzlauer Berg, whiling away the hours in a variety of eclectic cafes.
And it was in one such cafe that I had another scented epiphany - not with a perfume this time, but an 'extra extra virgin top of the range high premium cat's pyjamas' olive oil, called Ladi Biosas. It was fragrantly floral like no other oil I have ever sniffed or tasted (I had a little bowl of it for dipping the bread that came with my soup - what an inspired marketing ploy). Reader, I walked out with a 14 euro bottle proudly tucked under my arm. But this Ladi Biosas stuff is amazing - I would neck it straight from the bottle if it wasn't so darn expensive! Seemingly, the cafe in question is the only stockist in Germany, but if you can get hold of it somehow it truly is liquid gold. And that means a lot coming from someone like me who is not remotely foody, and perfectly happy with a 99p loaf with the odd pumpkin seed on it, as opposed to balsamic garlic and parmesan flatbread or artisanally hand kneaded spelt focaccia with walnuts and gohji berries and what have you.
Here is some info about the oil - I wish I could gain such 'clear-sightedness' after 'remaining undisturbed for 50 days'.